Greatest Portable Launch Games
Behind every system is a wonderful launch title. Or three.
Without quality video games, a shiny new handheld is a paperweight. Being able to watch movies and play music are nice perks, but we don't shell out $200-$400 just for that.
With this in mind, it's especially important to have excellent games at the system launch, where titles can sell at a 1:1 ratio with the hardware, thus earning the lucky publishers a ton of cash right from that start.
With this in mind, we dug into the history books to find the greatest portable launch games of all time, a list of hits that not only thrilled audiences, but also defined the respective systems.
We'll kick things off with arguably the most influential handheld game of all time.
Tetris (Game Boy, 1989)
Nintendo's Game Boy would have sold well without a phenomenal version of Alexey Pajitnov's classic puzzler, but let's face it, this outstanding title helped the portable go mainstream. It was common to see parents (even grandparents) buying a system to carefully maneuver falling blocks to create lines. Both smartly designed and addictive, Tetris was a perfect fit.
Super Mario Land (Game Boy, 1989)
In addition to Tetris, the Game Boy also received a new entry in the celebrated Mario franchise, and it managed to stand apart from the critically acclaimed Super Mario Bros. on NES. Super Mario Land sent everyone's favorite plumber to Sarasaland to rescue Princess Daisy from a nasty alien. Along the way, Nintendo's mascot piloted a submarine, an airplane, collected gold coins with fireballs and dodged exploding koopa shells.
Despite these features, it retained the classic Super Mario formula, which made it a great mix of old and new.
Tetris DX (Game Boy Color, 1998)
Tetris was so well received on the first Game Boy that Nintendo hoped to duplicate that success with a new DX version for Game Boy Color. In addition to a new single player mode, players could also enjoy Ultra Mode (score as many points as possible in three minutes) and 40 Lines (clear 40 lines ASAP).
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Game Boy Advance, 2001)
Rest assured, this won't be the last time you see the GBA in this article. Nintendo and various third parties created a stellar launch lineup to help make the system more appealing. Case in point, Konami's Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. This gripping 2D adventure plays like the epic Symphony of the Night, with players exploring a huge castle in non-linear fashion. What separates it from that remarkable game is the option to combine cards to create magic attacks.
Super Mario Advance (Game Boy Advance, 2001)
Unlike the more recent 3DS launch, Nintendo made sure Mario showed up for the GBA with a port of Super Mario Bros. 2, based on the SNES hit Super Mario All-Stars. Instead of just shoehorning the game into a tinier cartridge, the company made some enhancements, such as the ability to find Yoshi eggs, digital voice acting and a point-scoring system.
F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (Game Boy Advance, 2001)
GBA strikes again, this time with a fast-paced and technically impressive (at least in 2001) racer inspired by the critically acclaimed console series. For Maximum Velocity, Nintendo showed off the system's sweet Mode-7 like effects, giving the illusion of 3D despite using 2D graphics, but this game was more than just eye candy. It was an intense arcade thrill ride around tight corners and brutal opponents.
Super Mario 64 DS (DS, 2004)
Although the DS launch was by no means as cool as the GBA's, it did have one shining gem in the form of Super Mario 64 DS, a pint-sized port of the beloved N64 original. Controlling Mario with the awkward thumb strap failed to match the old analog stick, but there was no denying the game's quality, and the inclusion of mini-games, wireless multiplayer and new characters made it irresistible.
Lumines (PSP, 2005)
Tetris may be the undisputed king of puzzle games, but Lumines definitely gave it a run for its money. This brilliant title merges addictive block falling play with quality music. It was a huge hit among the hardcore crowd, the same bunch of players that were disappointed when the game didn't make the jump to PlayStation Network and PSP Go.
Ridge Racer (PSP, 2005)
We go back and forth concerning the best launch game for PSP. Lumines is a favorite, but there's also Ridge Racer, without question one of the greatest racing games of all time. Namco outdid itself with eight person wireless racing, 24 courses, 58 new vehicles and nitrous boosting. Most importantly, it looked phenomenal stretched across the PSP screen.
Wipeout Pure (PSP, 2005)
Wipeout's futuristic courses and tracks served as a nice compliment to the more modern day Ridge Racer. That made Pure an absolute joy, with speedy gameplay and cool special effects. Even better, it was one of the first PSP games to support free downloadable content.
Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition (3DS, 2011)
Mario was noticeably absent at the 3DS launch, but at least Ryu, Chun-Li and 33 other world warriors showed up in what instantly became the most technically impressive handheld game in years. Capcom managed to bring the Xbox 360 and PS3 experience to Nintendo's handheld system, complete with a new over the shoulder perspective, 3D graphics and StreetPass support. Quality all the way.
Pilotwings Resort (3DS, 2011)
Nintendo fans had a blast with Pilotwings Resort, the first portable entry in the series. This time around, players imported their Miis and explored the tropical themed WuHu island to complete a series of tasks and find secrets using a hang glider, rocket belt and plane. If they grow tired of that, there's always the more relaxing Free Flight mode.
Ridge Racer 3D (3DS, 2011)
Once again, Namco Bandai comes through with a stellar Ridge Racer, but with glasses free 3D. The effect adds a new level of depth to the series, as dirt, confetti and water fly towards the screen. Visuals aside, it's a fun, pulse pounding game that'll keep you glued to the screen for weeks.
Nintendogs + Cats (3DS, 2011)
People sure love Nintendogs. The DS version went on to sell over 15 million copies, and the newer 3DS edition was the first game to crack a million. Must have something to do with those cuddly puppies and kittens.