Let’s Compare Every Xbox Console’s Launch Lineup

Let’s Compare Every Xbox Console’s Launch Lineup
Photo: Jeff Christensen / Stringer, Getty Images

New consoles are coming soon and that means people are starting to look at what games will actually be available at launch. Both Microsoft and Sony have finally revealed which games are launching alongside each console in November. Some are disappointed by all the ports and cross-gen games. But is this any different than previous Xbox launch lineups?

Note that I’m only looking at the games that were available at launch in the United States. It makes things easier and for Xbox launches the differences were minimal.

So here’s the list of brand-new games that will be available on Xbox Series X/S when it launches on Nov 10. (Note that Gears Tactics is new to consoles.)

Launch Xbox Series S/X games that are new: 

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Destiny 2: Beyond Light

Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition

Gears Tactics

Scorn

Tetris Effect: Connected

The Ascent

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

At first glance this might not look like a big list. But remember that games like Watch Dogs: Legion, Avengers, and Rainbow Six Siege, to name just a few, will technically be playable on the Xbox Series X and S at launch. Some of these games will just be backward compatible with no enhancements, while others will enjoy technical upgrades on the next-gen Xbox consoles. It’s a little confusing, but the list above includes all of the new games that are launching with the console.

So how does this list compare to previous Xbox launch lineups? Well, it depends on if you care more about quality or quantity. For example, here is the full lineup from 2001’s original Xbox.

Launch Xbox games:

4×4 EVO 2

Air Force Delta Storm

Arctic Thunder

Cel Damage

Dark Summit

Dead or Alive 3

Fuzion Frenzy

Halo: Combat Evolved

Mad Dash Racing

Madden NFL 2002

NASCAR Heat 2002

NASCAR Thunder 2002

NHL Hitz 20-02

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee

Project Gotham Racing

Shrek

Test Drive Off-Road Wide Open

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2X

TransWorld Surf

Just looking at the number of games, 19, you might think this is a better launch lineup. It is bigger, but if we dig into this list a bit we see it ain’t great. For example, Shrek. Not sure I need to say more, but I will. TransWorld Surf, Arctic Thunder, and Mad Dash Racing are all games I (and you as well) forgot existed until this very moment, which isn’t a ringing endorsement.

There is some great stuff here, like Halo, Dead or Alive 3, Project Gotham Racing, and a good port of THPS2, but it’s mostly a bunch of games nobody was playing the following year.

One other difference between this lineup and the current Series X/S lineup is the number of console exclusives. The Xbox Series X almost has one, Scorn, but it is also coming out on PC. In comparison, the original Xbox launched with about 11 then-exclusive games. (Cel Damage, Dark Summit, Shrek, and TransWorld Surf would hit other platforms later.)

Image: Microsoft / Rare Image: Microsoft / Rare

2005’s Xbox 360 launch lineup was a bit bigger, 28 games, thanks to some Xbox Live Arcade games launching with the console.

Launch Xbox 360 retail games:

Amped 3 

Call of Duty 2

Condemned: Criminal Origins

FIFA ‘06: Road to FIFA World Cup

GUN 

Kameo: Elements of Power

Madden NFL 06

NBA 2K6

NBA Live 06

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

NHL 2K6

Perfect Dark Zero

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Project Gotham Racing 3

Quake 4

Ridge Racer 6

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland

Launch Xbox Live Arcade games:

Bankshot Billiards 2

Bejeweled 2

Gauntlet

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved

Hexic HD (pre-installed on the hard drive)

Joust

Mutant Storm Reloaded

Outpost Kaloki X

Smash TV

Zuma

The Xbox 360 also launched with a lot more sports titles. I’m not against sports games, but most of these are infamously bad, lacking many features seen in the previous-gen versions. There were also more cross-gen games in this lineup compared to the original Xbox, which we can now see was a sign of things to come.

Games like Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, all those sports games, King Kong, Need for Speed, and GUN were all available on PS2 and Xbox, too. In terms of console exclusives, early adopters enjoyed about nine games launching on Xbox 360 only. (A few, like Condemned and Quake 4, would hit PC too, but were console-exclusive to Xbox 360. Another trend that has continued into 2020.)

Screenshot: Capcom / Microsoft Screenshot: Capcom / Microsoft

Finally, here’s the launch lineup for 2013’s Xbox One, the most recent console launch from Microsoft.

Launch Xbox One games:

Angry Birds Star Wars

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Battlefield 4

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Crimson Dragon

Dead Rising 3

FIFA 14

Fighter Within

Forza Motorsport 5

Just Dance 2014

Killer Instinct

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes

Lococycle

Madden NFL 25

NBA 2K14

NBA Live 14

Need for Speed: Rivals

PowerStar Golf

Ryse: Son of Rome

Skylanders Swap Force

Zoo Tycoon

Zumba Fitness World Party

Hey look, it’s the first Xbox to launch without a Tony Hawk game! Anyway, this lineup is smaller than the Xbox 360’s, with only 22 games. Like the previous lineup, the Xbox One launched with a good amount of sports games, including two NBA games. It also had Angry Birds Star Wars, a mobile game, and a terrible Kinect fighting game, Fighter Within. But it wasn’t all bad! Ryse was a bit bland, but fine. Dead Rising 3 was surprisingly fun and showed off how powerful the new console was with all its zombies. And Call of Duty: Ghosts had that dog everyone loved for a few months.

Eight games were truly exclusive to the Xbox One including Fighter Within, Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse: Son of Rome. (The last two received PC ports about a year after launching on Xbox One.) There were also more cross-gen games, like Zoo Tycoon, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Skylanders. In fact, 14 of the 22 Xbox One launch games are cross-gen releases.

Let’s wrap this up with some stats!

Original Xbox Launch Lineup

  • Total Number: 19

  • Exclusive Games: 11

  • Cross-gen Games: 3

Xbox 360 Launch Lineup

  • Total Number: 28

  • Exclusive Games: 9

  • Cross-gen Games: 9

Xbox One Launch Lineup

  • Total Number: 22

  • Exclusive Games: 8

  • Cross-gen Games: 14

Xbox Series X/S Launch Lineup

  • Total Number: 8 (sort of… )
  • Exclusive Games: 1 (kind of…)
  • Cross-gen games: 7 (in a manner of speaking…)

One of the big complaints floating around online is that the new Xbox consoles are launching with mostly cross-gen and non-exclusive games. Some have even suggested that this might cause some folks to skip buying these consoles anytime soon. But the reality is that cross-gen games have always been a part of launch lineups.

Photo: Microsoft Photo: Microsoft

The big difference between this lineup compared to previous ones is how messy and confusing it is. Everything is coming to PC or Xbox One or both. It gets more confusing when you factor in all the games receiving day-one upgrades and backward compatibility for Xbox Series X and S. The lines between exclusive and launch games are blurring in ways we’ve never really seen, which makes it harder to accurately and concisely explain what is and isn’t a launch game in 2020.

But does any of this matter? Maybe to folks who frequent sites like Kotaku. But I think the general public is just looking for a new box that plays new games. When they get it home they might be surprised how many games on their new console were also on their old console, but I’m not sure that’s completely a bad thing, Destiny 2 and Gears Tactics are great games and better than dreck like Shrek or Perfect Dark Zero.

Maybe the real question is if you prefer shiny new games of middling quality or old, reliable favourites with improved visuals. Answer that, and you’ll have a better idea of whether you’ll find a given console’s launch lineup worth the early cost of admission.

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