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The Google Stadia launch games lineup isn't nearly as bad as you think it is

In fact, it’s a perfect showcase for Google's Stadia ambitions.
By
November 19, 2019

Video game systems live and die by their games, and if you’ve read any of the backlash against the Google Stadia launch games lineup, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s dead already.

Of the 42 games confirmed to be coming to Google’s ambitious game streaming service, 22 are available to stream for Stadia Founder’s Edition and Stadia Premiere Edition owners.

The lineup has been branded “weak” and “lackluster,” with criticism continuing even after the total expanded from 12 to 22 in the days before launch.

Here’s why I don’t think the lineup is all that bad. In fact, I think it’s exactly what Stadia needs.

Our verdict: Google Stadia review: This is the future of gaming, if you have the data for it

Respect your elders

Tomb Raider reboot art
Square Enix

One of the prevailing criticisms of the launch games list and the upcoming Stadia library as a whole is that these are all “old” games.

Out of the 22, only 12 are technically games from 2019. The rest originally launched in 2018 on PC and consoles, though the oldest game of the bunch — Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot — first hit shelves a whole six years ago in 2013.

Read more: You can now download the Google Stadia app from the Play Store

I’ll state the obvious: the age of a game has no bearing on its quality, especially when the title is less than 12 months old.

Of the 21 games launching on Stadia that have already been released on other platforms, 13 of the games scored 80 or above on review aggregate site OpenCritic. Likewise, games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Destiny 2, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Rise of the Tomb Raider were all showered with well-deserved game of the year awards from all corners of the gaming world.

The age of a game has no bearing on its quality.

What we’re really dealing with isn’t a question of quality, but a sense of familiarity.

With the exception of the Stadia-exclusive GYLT, anyone with at least a passing interest in games will already recognize the vast majority of titles on Stadia’s launch games list.

It’s certainly fair to want a more original lineup packed full of fresh experiences, but I’d take quality over quantity and/or timeliness every single time, especially because system launch games are often… well… terrible.

Reminder: Console launch games are historically pretty bad

knack ps4 launch title
Sony

There are so many examples of awful launch games that I could pick on basically any console generation, but let’s go with the most recent one for the fairest comparison to Stadia.

Here’s the Stadia launch games list compared to the PS4, Xbox One, and Switch launch offerings:

Google StadiaPS4Xbox OneNintendo Switch

Google Stadia
Attack on Titan 2: Final Battle (Omega Force)
PS4
Angry Birds Star Wars (Rovio)
Xbox One
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)
Nintendo Switch
1-2 Switch (Nintendo)

Google Stadia
Assassin's Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft)
PS4
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft)
Xbox One
Battlefield 4 (DICE)
Nintendo Switch
Fast RMX (Shin'en)

Google Stadia
Destiny 2 (Bungie
PS4
Battlefield 4 (DICE)
Xbox One
Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)
Nintendo Switch
Just Dance 2017 (Ubisoft)

Google Stadia
Farming Simulator 19 (Giants Software)
PS4
Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward)
Xbox One
Crimson Dragon (Grounding Inc.)
Nintendo Switch
Human Resource Machine (Tomorrow Corporation)

Google Stadia
Final Fantasy XV (Square Enix)
PS4
Contrast (Compulsion Games)
Xbox One
Dead Rising 3 (Capcom)
Nintendo Switch
I Am Setsuna (Tokyo RPG Factory)

Google Stadia
Football Manager 2020 (Sports Interactive)
PS4
DC Universe Online (SOE)
Xbox One
Fifa 14 (EA Sports)
Nintendo Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)

Google Stadia
Grid 2019 (Codemasters)
PS4
Fifa 14 (EA Sports)
Xbox One
Fighter Within (AMA)
Nintendo Switch
Little Inferno (Tomorrow Corporation)

Google Stadia
GYLT (Tequila Works)
PS4
Flower (thatgamecompany)
Xbox One
Forza Motorsport 5 (Turn 10)
Nintendo Switch
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment (Yatch Club Games)

Google Stadia
Just Dance 2020 (Ubisoft)
PS4
Injustice: Gods Among Us (NetherRealm Studios)
Xbox One
Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft)
Nintendo Switch
Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Yacht Club Games)

Google Stadia
Kine (Chump Squad)
PS4
Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft)
Xbox One
Killer Instinct (Double Helix)
Nintendo Switch
Skylanders: Imaginators (Toys for Bob)

Google Stadia
Metro Exodus (4A Games)
PS4
Killzone Shadow Fall (Guerilla Games)
Xbox One
Lego Marvel Super Heroes (TT Games)
Nintendo Switch
Snipperclips (Nintendo)

Google Stadia
Mortal Kombat 11 (NetherRealm Studios)
PS4
Knack (SCE Japan)
Xbox One
LocoCycle (Twisted Pixel)
Nintendo Switch
Super Bomberman R (Konami)

Google Stadia
NBA 2K20 (Visual Concepts)
PS4
Lego Marvel Super Heroes (TT Games)
Xbox One
Madden NFL 25 (EA Sports)
Nintendo Switch
World of Goo (2D Boy)

Google Stadia
Rage 2 (Id Software)
PS4
Madden NFL 25 (EA Sports)
Xbox One
NBA 2K14 (Visual Concepts)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar)
PS4
NBA 2K14 (Visual Concepts)
Xbox One
NBA Live 14 (EA Sports)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Crystal Dynamics)
PS4
NBA Live 14 (EA Sports)
Xbox One
Need for Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Samurai Shodown (SNK)
PS4
Need for Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games)
Xbox One
Powerstar Golf (Zoe Mode)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Eidos Montréal)
PS4
PlayRoom (Sony)
Xbox One
Ryse: Son of Rome (Crytek)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Thumper (Drool)
PS4
Resogun (Housemarque)
Xbox One
Skylanders: Swap Force (Vicarious Visions)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (Crystal Dynamics)
PS4
Skylanders: Swap Force (Vicarious Visions)
Xbox One
Zoo Tycoon (Frontier Developments)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Trials Rising (RedLynx)
PS4
Sound Shapes (Queasy Games)
Xbox One
Zumba Fitness: World Party (Zoe Mode)
Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia
Wolfenstein: Youngblood (Machine Games)
PS4
Super Motherload (XGen Games)
Xbox One

Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia

PS4
Trine 2: The Complete Story (Frozenbyte)
Xbox One

Nintendo Switch


Google Stadia

PS4
Warframe (Digital Extremes)
Xbox One

Nintendo Switch

With the exception of the stellar Resogun, the PS4 launched with a bunch of under-optimized cross-gen games, PS3 ports, and underwhelming exclusives like Killzone Shadow Fall and Knack.

The Xbox One launch wasn’t much better with the excellent Forza Motorsport 5, a fun Killer Instinct reboot, and the forgettable, but technically proficient Ryse: Son of Rome the only real standouts among a sea of sports games and Kinect titles (remember Kinect?).

Related: Google Stadia Founder’s Edition unboxing: What do the gamers get?

The Switch suffered from a severe lack of variety, though honestly if you bought Nintendo’s home-handheld console with anything but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild it should be confiscated from your possession.

Stadia won’t have a brand new, all-time classic among its ranks at launch unless GYLT turns out to be a world-beater, but honestly, it doesn’t really need one.

A showcase for Stadia

red dead redemption 2 stadia 1
Rockstar Games

Stadia is essentially an ambitious proof of concept that game streaming services can actually be viable in 2019.

The grisly specter of OnLive looms large over all the current cloud gaming propositions, be it from Google, Microsoft’s xCloud, Sony’s PlayStation Now, and Nvidia’s GeForce Now. We’ve seen spectacular failure before, but we haven’t seen anything come even close to pulling off cloud gaming on a grand scale.

Dive deeper: What is cloud gaming?

One of the biggest concerns for the latest wave of cloud gaming propositions is how they will tackle inevitable latency issues. Google’s technical wizards say they’ve apparently developed a predictive model that can anticipate player inputs, but the proof will be in the playing and Stadia’s launch games lineup is a brutal testing ground.

As we noted in our Stadia review, there are definitely some input lag issues on lower data speed connections at launch, as well as occasional latency spikes when streaming in 4K. This is expected to improve over time as Google’s machine learning algorithms evolve, though even with these minor niggles, Stadia still represents an impressive feat of engineering.

By proving that Stadia can handle Rockstar’s ultra-demanding western opus Red Dead Redemption 2 and Destiny 2’s epic, iconic six-player co-op raids (for free and with no online fee to boot) all from day one, the launch roster has done exactly what it needed to do.

An uncertain future

Google Stadia Black Controller Logo

I still have some serious reservations about Stadia moving forward. Google is notorious for its embarrassingly huge number of failed projects and Stadia may just become another name in the Google Graveyard.

One early potential nail in the coffin could be the bungled messaging in the run up to launch. There’s still a lot of confusion about Stadia’s actual content strategy even now. I’ve seen plenty of chatter on social media still positioning Stadia Pro as the long-coveted “Netflix of games” where a monthly subscription gives you access to an ever-growing, vast library. But that’s just not the case.

Related: Here’s how much Google Stadia launch games cost 

I’m also apprehensive that Stadia’s audience won’t stretch beyond a niche audience that doesn’t own a modern console or a capable gaming PC and doesn’t care about exclusive games (at least until those Stadia studios start delivering).

Unfortunately, that’s not me, which is why, after much deliberation, I cancelled my Founder’s Edition pre-order before the bundles began shipping. With a PS4 and Switch on hand, the harsh reality is I just don’t need Stadia right now for my gaming needs at home or on the go, and until there’s enough of a reason for players with existing systems to jump on board, I can’t imagine I’m alone in that feeling.

That could all change when the next-generation rolls around as both the PS5 and Xbox “Project Scarlett” are expected to be hella pricey when they launch in 2020. At that point, Stadia’s hardware-free pitch may sound a lot more attractive than shelling out upwards of $500 for another big black box.

I cancelled my Stadia pre-order, but not because of the launch game selection.

xCloud and whatever streaming service Sony brings to the table will both be serious rivals to Stadia, especially the former as Microsoft could easily use the popular Xbox Game Pass as a springboard with a ready-made library of games. However, if Google’s tech is as great as it says it is, it could still win the streaming wars through sheer attrition. After all, we’re already hearing about gameplay features that are only made possible through Stadia’s unique architecture.

When viewed through this lens, Stadia’s safe, star-studded launch games lineup makes far more sense. By showcasing that Stadia can run critically-acclaimed, highly demanding games on the same level as its hardware-based rivals at launch, Google has made a strong early statement of intent.

Stadia may be missing a whole bunch of promised features out of the gate, but it isn’t lacking for great games to play.