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Ten Video Games That Helped Sell Their Systems

  • May 6, 2011
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I was on the bus on my way to work when I overheard two gamers talking.  They were discussing the 3DS and whether or not it was worth getting one.  One man turned to other and simply said, "I'm going to wait.  There's nothing good on it right now.  It's launch lineup was bad."  To which the other replied, "but the system itself is so cool!"

And hey, I can agree with both of them.  The system itself IS cool and all, but the first man was right.  The launch line-up is subpar.  This isn't unusual, however.  Most video game systems have a bad launch line up.  Generally speaking there is at least ONE game worth getting at launch or close to it, but for the most part that game is supposed to tie you over for a bit.  The original DS didn't have a stellar launch either, mind you.  It sold a ton on it's launch day because it happened to be released on Black Friday of all days.  But the original DS only had one game that was fun to play at launch: Super Mario 64 DS.  We got Advance Wars Dual Strike a few months later, but the DS wasn't one of those systems I regularly picked up and played until a full year after it's initial launch.

Want another example?  The Playstation 2 is a great one.  In the year 2000 when it launched I can't think of a single game everyone said they just HAD to play.  From time to time someone would mention a game that would be alright to try, but that was usually about it.  It wasn't until sometime near the holiday season of 2001 when a slew of games dropped down at the same time (Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X, Grand Theft Auto III are all among the best selling PS2 games of all time... they all also dropped down around the same time). 

Why does this sometimes happen?  For a couple of reasons.  The first and most obvious is that the system is, at that time, new and developers don't know the system yet.  So some of the best games are actually undergoing development (this explains why in most cases you have to wait a year before something that blows you away comes out) while there are other times when developers are still trying stuff out with the system.  The second is that usually when one system launches the previous systems aren't exactly dead.  Focus didn't shift to the Playstation 2 immediately because the original Playstation was actually still performing well.  Remember, most systems die after the successor shows up.  Case in point, the original Nintendo was still going strong in 1993... despite that the Super Nintendo had been around in America for two years and in Japan for three (the original Nintendo stayed strong in Japan until 1998!).  In some cases they'll still make games for the previous system too.  Despite the Super Nintendo being around, HAL still released Kirby Adventure on the original NES when the Super Nintendo was right there.  CAPCOM continued to produce Mega Man for the original Nintendo before finally giving us Mega Man X. 

And in some special cases the game might come out on the previous system and the new one.  The obvious example here is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

I think you understand my point.  A system usually doesn't hit the ground running with fantastic games.  I can't recall the last time a system had an awesome launch (it might have been the Gameboy Advance).  So looking back, I wondered what were games that really helped sell a system?  Or in some cases, save a system?  Most of them weren't launch titles (though there are three launch titles which cannot be ignored), but even a good launch title it might've taken another game.  The Nintendo 64 had Super Mario 64 out of the gate but there was a certain agent that really made it worth getting. 

So here, we take a look at some games that totally sold their systems.
Super Mario Bros.
To deny Super Mario Bros. on this list would be like admitting one doesn't play video games.  Sure, it was a pack in, but that's not the point.  The point is after the video game crash of '83 (when a little game called E.T. ruined gaming for everyone!) people needed to know that video games were back to stay instead of just repeating a fad that people thought had died out.  Enter the original Super Mario Bros.  A game that more or less revived gaming and caused people who were skeptical of the future of video games, to jump back in.  It also introduced gaming to scores of people for the very first time.  
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog is, for lack of a better term, the reason why this list exist!  Contrary to popular belief, Sonic the Hedgehog was NOT a pack in for the Sega Genesis... at least not at first (the Genesis launched before Sonic was ever released).  In the beginning of the console war, the Super Nintendo had the edge thanks to games like F-Zero and Super Mario World which were causing tons of people to continue to stick with Nintendo for the time being.  But in 1991, Sega got a game on their console that more or less made the Sega Genesis a worthwhile system: Sonic the Hedgehog.  The game became such a huge success that Sega made Sonic their mascot.  It became such a system seller that for a while the Sega Genesis was taking 65% of the market share... meaning it was leaving the Super Nintendo in the dust.  And all thanks to a little Hedgehog.  Roughly one in every three people who owned a Sega Genesis owned Sonic the Hedgehog (even more owned it's sequel).  Case in point, if you had a Sega Genesis it was probably because of one of those Sonic the Hedgehog games.
See the full review, "One of the Definitive Games of the 16-Bit Era".
Wii Sports
If there was any game which we could say caused people to actually play video games as opposed to just looking at them with utter curiosity it's Wii Sports.  Getting non-gamers to see what the fuss was about, Wii Sports was one of those games people had to try before investing in a Wii.  There's probably no system seller quite like Wii Sports.  Sure, it was a pack in, but you had to actually have someone experience it before they would say, "That's it, I'm getting a Wii!"  And boy did they respond.  Thanks to how Wii Sports demonstrated the Wii's motion sensor controls it pretty much caused a total shortage of the system for over a year!  Game stores had to make waiting lists and so did any other place that sold video game systems.  And what did we find out?  A lot of them were kicking back and playing Wii Sports!  Wii Sports became so big and effective that they put Wii's in nursing homes because it was a game even Grandma could play.
See the full review, "A New Way to Play".
game cover
If you were around when Final Fantasy VII was released, then you know it was notorious for popularizing the original Playstation.  Sure Crash Bandicoot was around, but it wasn't pushing Playstation sales yet.  When Final Fantasy VII came out it more or less caused gamers and developers to start looking at CD based consoles in a new light.  Originally scheduled to be an N64 title, they couldn't do it thanks to cost.  As a result Final Fantasy VII went to the Playstation and showed just what the Playstation could do.  Though primitive now, the graphics were some of the best we'd ever seen in 1997.  It took storytelling to new heights and popularized the JRPG in the west.  Case in point, Final Fantasy VII caused people to be curious about the Playstation and what else it could do.  For the longest time nothing could stop Final Fantasy VII in its tracks.  Some went so far as to say the game saved the Playstation.  Who knows for sure.  What we do know is that it is the second bestselling Playstation game of all time and continued to sell until they stopped production on the original Playstation.
See the full review, "One of the Greatest Games Ever Made".
Cover Art
It's hard to imagine if the XBOX would've had much marginal success WITHOUT Halo.  When the XBOX was originally announced it suffered mockery from the gaming world who didn't believe Microsoft could pull it off.  Even worse, the game they used to promote their XBOX at first was an adaptation of the film Shrek... and that was a joke.  But those who bought and XBOX were largely attracted to one of its launch titles: Halo.  And from there the XBOX more or less survived off the heels off this one game for a while.  For the longest time it was guaranteed that if you bought an XBOX... you bought it for Halo.  Not only did Halo sell the XBOX (with Halo 2 causing even bigger sales later) it pretty much gave us our modern conception of games.  For better or for worse, Halo made the First Person Shooter popular on the consoles and it's something we haven't really gotten over just yet. 
Grand Theft Auto III
Before Grand Theft Auto III there were pretty much two uses for a Playstation 2.  The first was just to gloat that you actually found one when no one else could.  The second was to use it as a DVD player.  Plagued by a bad launch that included few games and hardware problems aplenty, it was hard to convince people to buy the PS2.  It was, at the time, a good DVD player and plenty of games made use out of it, but the game that pretty much made people jump into the next generation of console gaming was Grand Theft Auto III.  All the controversy and such aside, Grand Theft Auto III singlehandedly changed gaming.  It showcased the power of the Playstation 2 by demonstrating just how BIG you could really make a game and gamers responded in kind by buying a Playstation 2.  Sure, the game eventually went to the XBOX, but no one was aware that it would...
Goldeneye 007
The Nintendo 64 is probably most well known for giving gamers The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  But that game was delayed... a lot.  On the other hand, when the Nintendo 64 launched it didn't have a ton of fantastic games that were totally worth getting.  And while Super Mario 64 was a fantastic game and Star Fox 64 kept us glued, the game that probably jump started sales was Goldeneye 007.  In part because not that many people knew what the hell a First Person Shooter was.  What did it have?  Some of the most fun split screen multiplayer you could find in 1997.  It sounds odd to say in 2011, but Goldeneye 007 was the Call of Duty of the 90's.  Your console didn't go online back then and you were actually forced to sit in a room with people to play video games (how horrible, yes?).  Goldeneye was that multiplayer extravaganza.  You got together with friends to play it and suddenly there was more reason to have a Nintendo 64.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
There is no system recently that has had nearly as much of a rocky start as the Playstation 3.  Coming out of the gate at the expense of $600 it was already a tough sell.  Even worse?  It was losing games that originally going to be exclusive titles.  Games such as Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 5 were announced early.  This caused more people to simply dismiss the PS3 when they realized some of its killer app titles were going to the 360.  And then Hideo Kojima announced that Metal Gear Solid 4 was going to remain on the Playstation 3 and that it wasn't going anywhere.  And gamers immediately dismissed the claim saying, "Metal Gear Solid 4 will go the way of Devil May Cry 4, Resident Evil 5 and Grand Theft Auto IV," and they waited, but Kojima never actually changed his mind.  Saying the 360 wasn't going to be able to handle the game as it was too big.  Taking up an entire dual layer Blu-Ray disc.  This doesn't mean much to non-gamers... but what this basically means is that you'd need several discs just to play it on the 360... which is why so many continued to believe it would eventually go multiplatform.  After all, it's not like there weren't games on the 360 that didn't have multiple discs (Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey were both two good examples).  And people pointed to the PS3's low sales as proof that Metal Gear Solid 4 would go multiplatform.  Because that was the reason Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 5 did. 

But Kojima stuck to his guns and when gamers realized that it was never coming to the 360... but so many fans really wanting to finish Snake's story, they began to figure out how they could get a Playstation 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4.  Yes, the fact that MGS4 stayed exclusive caused some people really consider the PS3.  Mainly because Metal Gear Solid had such a strong built in fanbase.  Realizing that Sony had a chance to boost sales of their system they started offering PS3's bundled with Metal Gear Solid 4.  And these things sold... and they sold A LOT.  So much so that Sony had to actually CONTINUE doing this for a while.  Even more?  Metal Gear Solid 4 caused Playstation 3 sales to double when it was actually released.  The game quickly became the bestselling PS3 game in Japan and it became the second bestselling PS3 game in America at the time (right behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare).  As it turned out, Metal Gear Solid fans couldn't resist seeing the end of Snake's story and they were willing shell out $400-$600 to do it.  It boosted sales alright.
See the full review, "One of the Best in the Series".
Pokemon Red
There is no game that was nearly as big a system seller as Pokemon Red and Blue (case in point, the game has sold over 30 MILLION copies).  The original Gameboy was already popular.  It had a couple of games, but for the most part, it wasn't a system a ton of people necessarily cared about.  Several people HAD a gameboy but didn't do anything with it because there weren't that many games out there to do much with.  In 1995 Pokemon dropped down in Japan and was causing a stir over there by selling several million copies.  It wouldn't find its way outside of Japan until 1998 where it became a worldwide phenomenon.  Suddenly the Gameboy was a relevent system... NINE YEARS AFTER IT LAUNCHED!  Despite that Tetris had really sold the Gameboy as well (boy did Tetris ever) Pokemon was like Wii Sports for the handheld.  Suddenly people who had never had an interest in the Gameboy had it.  Suddenly people who didn't even play video games were playing them.  When I went to school back then (I was twelve) EVERYONE had this game, a gameboy and a link cable.  So Pokemon didn't just push Gameboy sales... it pushed Gameboy accessory sales as well!  If you have kids who talk about the Pokemon craze now... this is nothing compared to what it was in 1998 and 1999.  This is where the phrase "Pokemania" came from.  And when Pokemon came out, suddenly the Gameboy was relevant again.

How big was Pokemon?  It helped the original Gameboy become the bestselling system of all time for a few years.  Pushing sales of the Gameboy up to over 120 million units.  It wasn't until the Playstation 2 came around that this changed (and it took years for the Playstation 2 to catch up to the Gameboy).  Pokemon apparently still has the power to boost sales.  Every time a new game in its series comes out sales of whatever handheld it appears on... that handheld gets a boost in sales.  Even if it's already sold hundreds of millions.  Case in point, DS sales shot up when Pokemon Diamond and Pearl came out despite that the DS was already selling like hotcakes. 

What did you think of this list?

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May 13, 2011
Good calls with Pokemon and Donkey Kong Country. I never would have thought of them.
May 09, 2011
I bet you'll never guess what the only three I've played are. Give up? I'll give you a clue: they're the three oldest games on here. LOL!
May 07, 2011
My faves here are 4 and 9. I never owned the Nintendo 64 but I know Goldeneye was an awesome game. Sean, did you own all the consoles at one point? I owned the Genesis, PSOne, PS2, and 360. May buy the PS3 again, since a friend needed it so I gave it away. Awesome list!!
May 07, 2011
I still own all these consoles now.  Some of these games I don't really have anymore, though.  I never actually owned Goldeneye, though.  A friend of mine did and we used to party at his place all the time.  It was amazing!  I'm admittedly not a big fan of Halo or Grand Theft Auto, but I still think they're relatively good games.  Currently I still have my NES, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, Playstation and Playstation 2.  I've also got a Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Nintendo DS, PSP, Gamecube, XBOX, Playstation 3, XBOX360 and a Wii.  Uh... have I left anything out?
May 06, 2011
I never thought of consoles and games in these terms before, but this is an awesome list and you make some really good points!
About the list creator
Sean A. Rhodes ()
Ranked #7
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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