Yesterday Nintendo laid out their Wii U launch plans in detail, and the Internet has done what it does best (aside from porn) -- complain. 350 dollars?! Only a Mario platformer and Nintendo Land from Nintendo at launch? This is the worst Nintendo launch ever! Or according to hardcore Nintendo fans, actually one of the best! Where's the truth lie? I decided to answer the question (kinda) definitively.
I compared Nintendo's six major console launches using six criteria (price, launch titles, launch window titles, pack-ins, innovation and hardware power). I should note I wasn't trying to decide which Nintendo console is the best overall, just which one had the best birth. So which Nintendo console burst into this world in the most glorious manner? Hit the jump to find out...
The Rules - I rated each console first through sixth in six different categories. Getting first place in a category is worth 3 points, second place is worth 2 points, third is worth 1 and fourth through sixth aren't worth anything.
Gamecube: $200 ($260)
Wii: $250 ($286)
Nintendo 64: $200 ($294)
Super Nintendo: $200 ($338)
Wii U: $350
Nintendo Entertainment System: $200 ($420)
I took inflation into account when deciding the rankings in this category. Since it's the one with Nintendo Land included, I consider the Wii U $350 "deluxe set" the standard Wii U bundle. So yeah, at $350 the Wii U is near the bottom, but once you take inflation into account the humble NES was actually by far the most expensive.
Interestingly the two most economical options, the Gamecube and Wii are Nintendo's least and most successful consoles respectively. So clearly, price isn't the only thing that matters.
Top 3 So Far
Gamecube - 3pts
Wii - 2 pts
Nintendo 64 - 1pt
NES: Super Mario Bros., Baseball, Clu Club Land, Donkey Kong Jr., Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Golf, Gyromite, Ice Climber, Kung-Fu, Mach Rider, Pinball, Tennis, Wild Gunman, Wrecking Crew (and 3 others).
SNES: Super Mario World, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Gradius III, SimCity
N64: Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64
Wii U: New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land, Rayman Legends, ZombiU, Trine 2, Toki Tori 2, Nano Assault Hero, Mass Effect 3
Wii: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Madden NFL 07, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Red Steel, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam, Trauma Center: Second Opinion, Wii Sports, Call of Duty 3, Excite Truck, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Need for Speed: Carbon and (8 others).
Gamecube: Luigi's Mansion, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II, Super Monkey Ball, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Wave Race: Blue Storm, Crazy Taxi, Madden NFL 2002, SSX Tricky (and 5 others).
I'm fudging this one a bit since we don't know the exact North American Wii U launch line-up yet, so I'm basing this on the European line-up, which I figure will be very similar to what we get in North America.
NES walks away with this one. How can you not give it to the original NES 18? Some may argue with the N64 taking third seeing as it only had two games at launch, but one of those games was Mario 64, which counts for a helluva lot in my book.
Top 3 (or uh, 5?) So Far
NES - 3pts (tie)
Gamecube - 3pts (tie)
SNES - 2pts (3-way tie)
Wii - 2 pts (3-way tie)
N64 - 2 pts (3-way tie)
Launch Window Games
SNES: ActRaiser, Darius Twin, Final Fantasy II, Final Fight, HAL's Hole in One Golf, John Madden Football, Paperboy 2, Populus, Super Bases Loaded, Super Castlevania IV, Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, Super Off-Road, Super R-Type, Super Tennis, U.N. Squadron
Wii U: Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, Lego City: Undercover, Wii Fit U, Game & Wario, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, 007 Legends, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Transformers Prime, Skylanders Giants, Cabela's Dangerous Hunts 2013, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Epic Mickey 2, Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Darksiders II, Rabbids Land, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition.
N64: Cruis'n USA, Killer Instinct Gold, Mario Kart 64, Wave Race 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Gamecube: All-Star Baseball 2002, Fifa Soccer 2002, Pikmin, The Simpsons: Road Rage, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, Super Smash Bros. Melee
Wii: Elebits, Metal Slug Anthology, Pokemon Battle Revolution, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Wii Play, Kororinpa: Marble Mania, Medal of Honor: Vanguard, Sonic and the Secret Rings
NES: Uhhh, nothing really.
According to Nintendo the Wii U "launch window" lasts until the end of March, so for the purposes of this comparison "launch window" means around four months from the day the system came out. I didn't list every launch window game for every system here -- only the good and/or important ones.
So, this is probably the Wii U's best category. Nintendo's actually put together a pretty killer line-up of stuff for the few months following the Wii U launch. Still, it can't match the SNES' launch window line-up, which was f--king amazing.
Oh, and in case you're wondering what's up with the NES -- the NES launch was a long, drawn-out affair that saw Nintendo rolling out the console in different parts of the country throughout late 1985 and 1986. The first batch of 18 NES games were published in late 1985, and new games didn't start arriving until late 1986 when the NES release was finally complete. So the NES didn't really have any "launch window" titles.
Top 3-ish So Far
SNES - 5pts
NES - 3pts (3-way tie)
N64 - 3pts (3-way tie)
Gamecube - 3pts (3-way tie)
NES: Two controllers and Super Mario Bros. or R.O.B, an NES Zapper, Duck Hunt and Gyromite
Wii U: One GamePad, console stand, GamePad stand, GamePad charging dock, HDMI cable, Nintendo Land, Nintendo Network Premium subscription
SNES: Two controllers and Super Mario World
Wii: One Wiimote, one nunchuck, console stand, Wii Sports
N64: One controller
Gamecube: One controller
The NES' pack-ins forced kids into a real 8-bit Sophie's choice -- they offered two bundles and both were awesome! Did you want the bundle with Mario and two controllers or the one with the cool gun and a frickin' robot? Truly it was the glory age of the Nintendo pack-in.
The Wii U deluxe set actually stacks up not badly though. All sorts of stands, chargers, a free game and an HDMI cable (Microsoft and Sony still don't offer that)? I like.
Top 3 So Far
NES - 6pts (tie)
SNES - 6pts (tie)
Wii U - 4pts
Wii: Motion control, IR pointing, Miis, games that target on non-traditional gamers
N64: Analog control, rumble, made 3D gaming actually work
Wii U: Tablet controllers, Miiverse, Nintendo TVii
NES: The original GamePad and it's D-pad, R.O.B., The Zapper, the Nintendo Seal of Approval and the concept of quality control
SNES: Improved 6-button controller
Gamecube: Uhhhh...hmmm. Um, handles?
No contest, the original Wii takes this one. The NES of course changed gaming in a big way as well, but it mostly did it by just being awesome, not necessarily through innovative hardware.
Top 3 So Far
NES - 6pts (tie)
SNES - 6pts (tie)
N64 - 5pts (3-way tie)
Wii - 5pts (3-way tie)
Wii U - 5pts (3-way tie)
NES: Pretty much in a field of it's own at the time
SNES: Cutting edge, but not the first console to do the 16-bit thing. Extra chips that boosted the SNES' abilities would come later
N64: Cutting edge when it came to pushing 3D polygons. Small cartridges limited sound and texture capabilities
Gamecube: Slightly more powerful than the PS2, less powerful than the Xbox
Wii U: On par with its competitors, but it likely won't be for long
Wii: Significantly less powerful than its competitors
The NES, SNES and N64 were all pretty ahead of the curve in terms of power. That tradition would come to an end with the Gamecube and Wii.
So, which Nintendo console had the best launch? Hit the last page for the final scores!
1) NES - 9pts
2) SNES - 8pts
3) N64 - 6pts
4) Wii - 5pts (tie)
4) Wii U - 5pts (tie)
5) Gamecube - 3pts
So, there you have it -- the NES with its great launch titles, awesome robot buddy-filled bundles, and powerful hardware takes the top spot. The SNES with its fantastic launch and launch window line-up isn't far behind in second, and the N64 with its combination of innovation, power and Mario 64 at launch squeaks into third.
The Wii U sits comfortably in the middle of the pack along with its predecessor, the Wii. The Gamecube, as always, brings up the rear.
So, what do you folks think? Do I have them in the right order? If you disagree, feel free to show me your overly elaborate multi-category analysis.