Before the reveal of the Nintendo Switch, there was a lot of hype being generated from people in the media about how its launch lineup was gonna blow the Wii U out of the water. Now that the system has been out for just over five months (EDIT: It has now hit the Switch’s one year birthday and courtesy of that I am now updating the article to reflect this!), and Nintendo has given us a lot of info on its upcoming games, do these claims hold up? While this article might make more sense at the end of its first year, I wanted to do it now in order for us to try and gage the system’s future before the winter holidays hit. I was also partly inspired by an image created by a fan of Source Gaming called @ToniCodrea who came up with this fancy infographic.
This image shows each month this year and what first-party switch games have been/will be released for it. It looks pretty good with twelve titles (fifteen in the end) and with the promise that there are more unrevealed games for just 2017 still to be shown (this was actually not true lol), the Switch might just live up to the claims. After all, the Wii U’s first year looked like this:
NOTE: The order is the first time it was released anywhere in the world, not just one region.
Now there are actually eighteen pieces of software here. Notice how I didn’t say games. Four of these titles aren’t really games but apps, such as Miiverse and Animal Crossing Plaza. I included them because they were still first-party apps that took up resources. Then with the remaining fourteen you have a preview for Art Academy, a free to play Wii Sports, two karaoke games and DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U that they released standalone. So really it’s roughly around what the Switch has right now and when you compare the quality of some of these games, there is no contest that the Switch is doing much better.
But I didn’t want to just stop with this comparison, I wanted to see how well the Switch is doing compared to every system Nintendo has ever released. So, with a bunch of research, compiling and graphic-making later let’s take a look at the first year of every Nintendo system, home and portable, starting with the worst. And this might shock you.
Bottom of the Barrel
If there is one system everyone loves because of its amazing back-catalogue, it was the Super Nintendo. It is many people’s favourite Nintendo home console so it might come as a shock that its first year was pretty meh. After all it only had four games! Don’t get me wrong, Super Mario World is great and the other 3 are also pretty good, but are they good enough to keep you occupied for a whole year? Probably not. There could be reasons for this lack of software. They were still supporting the NES and there was also a bunch of 3rd party support. But from the Big N themself it is pretty lackluster.
Doing a bit better, but still not amazing we have the next system that Nintendo released, the N64.
Having seven games in its first year, the Nintendo 64 had a decent showing. Super Mario 64 was a great summer game and Mario Kart 64 at the end of the year was a highly anticipated sequel. Capping it off with Star Fox 64 gave the Nintendo 64 a balanced, if light, year. One noticeable element is that two of the games here are by Rare. Without them it would almost be on the level of the SNES.
Continuing this trend of slightly more titles but increasing in quality, we have to go to another fondly remembered home-console, the Gamecube.
Now we have nine games launching for the system, and arguably they are mostly major titles. Beginning and ending on a Mario game definitely helps, and Super Smash Bros. Melee is a classic. Then we have some new IP with Pikmin and Eternal Darkness, as well as Animal Crossing for the first time in the west. With nearly one game every month this is a pretty decent lineup. It is also the final home console that did worse than the Switch but, before we get to the good ones, we have to remember that the Switch is also portable, so let’s jump over to Nintendo’s portable systems, starting with the original.
Ending its first year with eight games, the Game Boy had a very lopsided start. It had a ton of titles in the beginning with Mario Land and Tetris but then went silent and could only offer up a port of Golf for the holiday season. Nowadays this would look pretty bad but remember, this came in a simpler time where games like Alleyway were considered brilliant.
At least in the transition to color the games get a bit better.
The Game Boy Color also ended its first year with eight games but, many of these are pretty solid titles. You have some remakes with Tetris, Zelda, Game & Watch, and Mario Bros. Deluxe but these are all proper remakes with a lot of extra stuff. Then a Wario game, two Pokémon spin-offs and a golfing RPG with Mario, and you have a good year. It could also play old Game Boy games, although none were released.
I wasn’t even sure if I should include the Game Boy Color. It’s not a full generational gap, comparable more the Nintendo DSi and New Nintendo 3DS which I didn’t include in this article. I decided to do so, though, because its launch killed off any new classic Game Boy games from Nintendo, whereas they still released DS and 3DS games after the new version of those systems released. They also didn’t have a lot of games anyway.
The Virtual Boy also had eight games in its first year with a pretty strong start. In fact, it was 100% the best year the Virtual Boy had! Not that this says much though, after all it was the only year it had. So here is all of the games Nintendo made for the Virtual Boy.
With that we’ve covered every system that did worse than the Switch, so let’s count down the remaining 6 Nintendo systems until we get to the best. These all had more games than the Switch currently has confirmed, but that could all change in seven months time. Let’s begin!
6. Game Boy Advance
So actually I lied. The Game Boy Advance had twelve games in its launch year, meaning it has exactly what the Switch has now. It may end up worse than the Switch then when we get more info on future titles. This is a pretty good line-up though, all things considered. Two remakes of classic Mario titles, along with new F-Zero, Mario Kart, and Wario game.s Four brand new RPGs (three were Japanese exclusives, unfortunately) and the first localized Advance Wars game. All in all a good year. Now onto the actual high scorers.
5. Famicom Disk System
I was a little iffy on including the Famicom Disk System here. It fits into the same category as the Game Boy Color, in my opinion, as it had more power and required extra development time but it still runs on the same system as the previous console (apparent as many of these titles came to the NES in the West). In the end, I decided to count it and what a lineup it had! Three Mario games, the first two Zeldas, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Murasame Castle and many sports titles. It is wonderful with a total of fifteen games, although one of the Mario titles was a special contest game, so it’s kind of really fourteen. Hence why it is below…
4. Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii also had fifteen games, and all of these were available to the public, so it goes above the Famicom Disk System. The Wii was a massive success to Nintendo, and this line-up definitely helped. We have a bunch of sequels and Gamecube titles that got moved over such as Zelda, Fire Emblem, Paper Mario, Wars, and Donkey Kong. Throw in a new Metroid, Wario, Pokémon, and two Mario spin-offs and you have a lot to do. And this was just from Nintendo. It had games appealing to all demographic and covering a wide-variety of genres. This is the line-up the Switch has the closest chance of reaching in my opinion. Heck, it already launched with a Zelda port and some sequels to past gen games.
So, only one more home-console left, is it next? Spoilers: Yes.
The NES is a weird one. Nowadays, we are use to simultaneous releases, but back in the 80s this wasn’t the case. When the NES launched it had a lot of games ready because it came out in 1985. The Famicom, however, launched in 1983. The NES had a big back catalogue when it launched, but those in Japan only had sixteen games in their first year, and many are basic. Graphically and mechanically inferior ports of arcade titles like Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. along with a bunch of sports and edutainment games. But hey, three Donkey Kong games, with two at launch. Who was the mascot again?
2. Nintendo 3DS
I bet this one comes a surprise. The Nintendo 3DS was infamous for its terrible launch with no major titles until June with the launch of Ocarina of Time 3D. It probably should have waited until then to launch as then it could’ve launched with the eShop as well. The thing is, the 3DS only has about 8 boxed games, but it made up for it with a lot of smaller eshop titles. This leaves it with eighteen games and it could’ve had more, but it is let down by the fact it launched in Japan the final weekend of February. Had it launched worldwide in March, then I could’ve added the next year’s February games on here and it would’ve shot up to twenty-one! That still doesn’t beat number one though, the best launch Nintendo ever had.
1. Nintendo DS
Talk about the best way to kickstart your new line of systems. Nintendo’s dual screen phenomenon began its success with a fantastic first year. You can see that Nintendo knew exactly what it was doing here with twenty-two games in total. And for the only time in the company’s life cycle it got a piece of software out every single month (albeit one being a glorified MP3, but it still counts). Despite having no Zelda game, Nintendo aimed to strike with many of its key IP like Mario, Wario, Yoshi, Metroid, Kirby, and Pokemon. It also introduced many successful new IP like Another Code and NintenDogs. We had a lot of genres covered from shooter to simulator to pinball. Edutainment and visual novels went into the mainstream here, and rhythm games got a surprising amount of love, at least in Japan. I don’t think Nintendo will reach this height again for its first year, but if the Switch can get even close to this then it has done a good job.
So that does it for all of Nintendo’s first-party launch years. The results here are quite quantitative focused and it is up to you to decide which launch was really the best. I for one think the Wii’s launch had higher quality titles than the 3DS and NES, hence why I hope the Switch makes that its target instead. EDIT: In fact, the Switch did hit fifteen titles as well, just like the Wii. Incredible. There is one problem with these results though and that is the fact it only looks at what Nintendo made/published. So in the future, I think I will look at the third parties and see how their support was in the first year of each systems life and see how this compares to the Switch. Until then though, have a great day!