Following the disappointing performance of the WiiU, Nintendo needed to ensure the Switch had a strong first year to prove to consumers the console was worth their money. By all accounts, they appear to have succeeded in this goal. The general consensus among gamers on message boards is positive, and overall the Switch seems to have a level of buzz surrounding it that the WiiU never really achieved.
However, measuring the amount of "buzz" for a console to extrapolate success is one thing, but all gamers know that the most important factor for any console is its library of games. With so many fantastic titles coming to the Switch in its first year, I was curious whether the quality of the console's biggest blockbusters were the best of any console released until now.
Using Metacritic's legacy review scores, I looked at the top five highest rated games for each console's first year, and then averaged out the scores to determine which console had the greatest launch year. Who will win? Let's find out:
3rd Place: GameCube (Average: 93%)
The Nintendo GameCube was outsold by the PS2 by a massive margin, but those who owned one remember it fondly for its plethora of excellent games - many of them exclusive to the system.
The GameCube's first year contained a number of titles that went on to become hugely popular franchises (eg. Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metroid Prime), as well as fresh new takes on old favorites (eg. Super Mario Sunshine).
With the inclusion of a mini-DVD drive in an era rapidly moving towards DVD storage, and lacking important 3rd party support as a result of Nintendo's rocky relationships from the N64 era, the GameCube was destined for a niche audience of Nintendo fans. At least those who did purchase the system early were treated to some of the best games ever released in a console's first year.
Top Five GameCube Launch-Year Titles:
- Metroid Prime, 97%
- Super Mario Sunshine, 92%
- Super Smash Bros. Melee, 92%
- NFL 2K3, 92%
- Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, 92%
2nd Place: Nintendo Switch (Average 93.2%)
Looking at the title of this article, you might expect the Nintendo Switch to be placed first on the list - and I did too before collecting together the data! Regardless of this, it is impossible to downplay the fantastic collection of titles available for people picking up a Switch in its first year (clearly a well-known fact, considering how difficult it is to buy one in some regions!)
Some were skeptical about whether combining a handheld and a console would give us some awkward hybrid that doesn't provide the best of either world. After all, it did sound an awful lot like the gimmick Nintendo already failed to sell through the WiiU.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the game Nintendo needed to demonstrate the potential of the Switch. Critically praised for a good reason, BotW gives players a fully open world for the first time in the series, and being able to explore Hyrule in bed or on the go is a fantastic technical feat.
With Super Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 arriving later this year, both looking fantastic, it is clear Nintendo went all-out for the launch year line-up, understanding that a high install base is what will encourage third party developers to make games for the system further down the line.
Top Five Nintendo Switch Launch-Year Titles*:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, 97%
- Super Mario Odyssey, 94%*
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, 92%
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2, 92%*
- Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, 91%
*Note: the Switch hasn't completed its first year yet, but we do know about the biggest upcoming titles for it. I am confident that these games look at least as good as previous ones in the series, and so have taken the average scores of similar games in their franchises to predict their scores.
1st Place: Dreamcast (Average 94.4%)
I knew that the Dreamcast - much like the GameCube - was a console that didn't see a great deal of financial success, but was loved by the people who owned one due to the quality of titles on the system. I never owned one myself, so I was looking forward to seeing how the Dreamcast did when averaging out its top five launch year titles.
As it turns out, it did incredibly well.
The Dreamcast saw a large number of well-reviewed titles in its first year of release, and those in the top five were often nothing short of masterpieces. Indeed, SoulCalibur, a launch title for the Dreamcast, is tied second for highest rated game on Metacritic.
It would have gotten an even higher score, but Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 fell just outside of the first full year, though it clearly didn't need help to top this list.
Top Five Dreamcast Launch-Year Titles:
- Soulcalibur, 98%
- NFL 2K1, 97%
- Jet Grind Radio, 94%
- Quake III Arena, 93%
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2, 90%
The full list of consoles and their average scores are listed below for those who are curious about how their favorite systems fared:
As you can see, it is very close competition towards the top of the list, and in some cases the positions could have been changed if a game was released just a couple of weeks earlier to make it into the first 12 months!
Looking back at the original purpose of this article - to put the Switch's first year into perspective - it is clear why there is a positive buzz about the console. There is a great collection of critically acclaimed titles arriving for the Switch in its launch year, almost (but not quite!) enough to declare it the best ever launch year for a console.
It is truly an exciting time to be a gamer, and I'm looking forward to seeing what announcements will emerge for all consoles in the coming years.
How do you feel about the Switch's first year? I look forward to reading your comments!