10 years ago today, the Xbox 360 improved upon Microsoft’s original console in every way imaginable. It wasn’t perfect at launch, but a steady flow of improvements evolved the console in to what we know and love(d) during the last console generation. The best online gaming, the best social features, the focus on playing games with friends, and the birth of downloadable indie and arcade games helped the Xbox 360 sell more than 85 million units worldwide.
And here we are 10 years later. Some of us, like Miles, adopted the Xbox 360 at launch. Others, like Brad, picked it up later on. Wherever you stand, join us in celebrating 10 years of the 360, as our staff picks their top 5 Xbox 360 games of all time (in no particular order).
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is one of those games that I can pick up and sink hundreds of hours in to, and I’ve done so on numerous occasions. It’s a huge world with a ludicrous amount of content to explore, and to this day there’s still places on the map I’ve yet to visit.
I initially played Skyrim on PS3, since that’s where I had Oblivion (and my gaming OCD prevents me from blending console families). After beating the game, my girlfriend and I waited for the DLC packs to exit their Xbox 360 exclusivity stage. And then we continued to wait. And wait.
Eventually we gave up and picked it up again on Xbox 360, investing another 200 hours or so–having just as much fun as we did the first time. The Dawnguard DLC was incredible, so I’m glad we didn’t wait around for it. Serana was the perfect companion in an epic expansion, and I don’t think I could live without the crossbow anymore.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Giant dinosaurs draped in Tron lights? Check. Terminator and Aliens star Michael Biehn voicing Sgt. Rex “Power” Colt? Check. Retro Konami style cyborg sex scenes? Check!
Far Cry 3 was an amazing game. There’s no doubt about that. But Ubisoft took a turn for the weird in one of my favorite games of 2013, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. I loved it so much that I platinumed it on PS3 and promptly unlocked all of the Achievements in the Xbox 360 version. The weapons were fun (sniper rifle that shoots grenades, anyone?), the dialogue was hilarious, and it was the perfect length to kill a weekend with.
I’ll never forget beating the game and being treated to the most bizarre ending theme, Friends (Forever) by Dragon Sound. The fuck?
It’s still one of the most absurd shooters I’ve ever played, and I hope to see a sequel some day.
My experience with the Xbox 360 was pretty uneventful at launch, mostly due in part to my on-again/off-again
addiction relationship to World of Warcraft.
It wasn’t until 2007’s BioShock that I began to give it my full attention. Irrational Games’ single-player, story focused shooter blew me away with its awe inspiring underwater city of Rapture at the forefront. The M. Night Shyamalan twist near the end is also one of the most memorable moments of the last console generation.
BioShock did eventually make its way to the PS3 a year later, but made its debut on the Xbox 360 to widespread acclaim, winning multiple Game of the Year awards and receiving perfect scores from major critics.
To this day it’s still one of my favorite games of all time.
Mass Effect 2
The Mass Effect trilogy is one of my favorite series in all of gaming. The original game introduced me to BioWare’s choice with consequence method of storytelling, a memorable cast of characters, and one of the most annoying vehicles I’ve ever driven in my life.
Mass Effect 2 took everything great about the original and somehow made it better. It removed the different armor classes and agonizing MAKO missions, instead focusing on developing a new cast of characters, improving gameplay for each of the different classes, and even allowing us to import our character from the original Mass Effect.
Although I’ve already completed the game numerous times on both consoles, I could still go back and play again. It’s that good.
The Final Fantasy series hit a bit of a dry spell after the 10th entry, and a lot of that may have to do with the departure of its producer and creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. With the financial backing of Microsoft, Sakaguchi founded Mistwalker Corporation in 2004, who developed two fantastic RPGs exclusively for the Xbox 360.
Of the two, Lost Odyssey is my favorite. The magical industrial revolution setting took me back to Final Fantasy VI (III), and the timing element in its turn-based battle system recalled other personal favorites like Final Fantasy VIII, Legend of Dragoon, and Shadow Hearts.
The game features a pretty fleshed out cast of characters, like the immortal Seth and Kaim, while Jansen provided some much needed comic relief. Along with Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, Lost Odyssey is my favorite JRPG of the last console generation. I really hope to see it playable on Xbox One at some point.
We’ve had 10 years to dive in to the Xbox 360’s diverse catalog, but these are the five that stand out the most for me. I had a great time playing through the original Borderlands with my friends, and spent countless hours with other games like Dragon Age: Origins, Bastion, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Infinite Undiscovery, Dragon’s Dogma, and Fable 2. I rekindled my love of the Tales series with Tales of Vesperia, became introduced to Platinum Games with Bayonetta, and played more Gears of War and Halo than I care to admit. It’s been a great 10 years, and hopefully I’ll be this enthusiastic about the Xbox One when that anniversary strolls around in 2023.
Very few games of the last generation had anything close to the cinematic polish Remedy delivered with Alan Wake. It was like playing an episode of the Twilight Zone that was directed by Stephen King.
The unique combination of intense mystery and obscure horror was beautiful presented with some of the best visuals on Xbox 360. Some folks criticized the game’s length, but for me the short and sweet experience encouraged multiple playthroughs, and I found myself playing this adventure 3 or 4 times.
I’m just patiently waiting for Remedy to release Quantum Break so they can hurry up and get working on Alan Wake 2.
This was my first foray into “next gen” gaming (from the original Xbox of course) and it was the reason I purchased an Xbox 360. When this first hit the scene, I had never played anything like it.
Capcom fully embraced their fans’ love for zombie slaughter and offered an absurd playground to satiate our desire to destroy the undead in creative ways. I vividly remember exclaiming “Damn! There are so many enemies on the screen!,” which for its time was a huge feat.
The slight RPG mechanics basically demanded multiple playthroughs and rewarded the player for massacring thousands of zombies. The controls are a little stiff by today’s standards, but the genuine fun is still there.
Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary Edition
The original Halo campaign is the best of the franchise, even with the painful backtracking. 343 Industries did a phenomenal job giving this classic a fresh coat of paint and reliving Master Chief’s debut was as satisfying as ever. Having the option to switch between the updated and original graphics really made you appreciate how far video games had come in ten years.
The addition of skulls and improved multiplayer almost made this feel like a completely different game. Halo: Combat Evolved will always hold a special place in my heart and there is no better way to celebrate this masterpiece.
Gears of War 2
Gears of War was the shooter that defined a generation. First-person shooters had dominated the playing field for a very long time, but there wasn’t a third-person experience that could truly replicate the accuracy and intensity of it’s first-person counterparts… well, until Gears of War blasted on to the scene.
The original game delivered fantastic gunplay and introduced one of the best cover systems ever designed. Gears of War 2 improved on this winning formula in almost every way.
With an insanely epic campaign and some of the best multiplayer on Xbox 360, it is easily one of my most-played games of all time. If you haven’t played through this trilogy, definitely make it a point sometime in the near future.
Left 4 Dead 2
Valve! Where is Left 4 Dead 3!? Seriously! Left 4 Dead 2 is possibly the greatest co-op game ever made. What started off as an experimental mod for Counterstrike, eventually became one of my all-time favorite games. The addition of melee weapons made the zombie bloodbath way more intense and way more real.
The simplistic human vs zombies campaign was executed flawlessly and playing against AI or human opponents delivered the same fantastic experience. There was just enough basic story to push your characters along, but not enough to distract from the stellar gameplay.
Left 4 Dead 2 quickly became a nightly ritual for my group of friends, and even without PC mods we easily put over 1,000 hours in the game. If HalfLife 3 never exists, I’ll most likely be just fine, but if we never get a Left 4 Dead 3, I’ll probably be devastated.
Crackdown was the first sandbox type game available on “next gen” and it was the only thing we had to hold us over until GTA4 released the following year. This was long before I actually had Xbox Live Gold, so I never really got to enjoy the online portion (that came later with Crackdown 2).
The reason this one makes the list and not the later is because of one thing: Agility Orbs. If you came to my house while I was playing, you would have been disgusted by my lack of focus on the main story; but you bet I had every one of those hidden little suckers.
The game required you to collect green orbs to increase your jump height. Higher jumps meant you could bypass entire strongholds by just jumping to the top and defeating the kingpin. They built in fail-safes to the sequel that prevented this unfortunately, but you could fly… so I can let it slide.
Gears of War 3
Gears of War will always have a special place in my heart. Everybody has that series that brings everyone together. For my friends and I, it’s Gears.
As Miles stated earlier, we played A LOT of Gears 2. Honestly, Gears 2 probably spent more time in my console then 3 did, but that doesn’t count actual play time.
One of worst/best parts of Gears 2 was that it had very mediocre matchmaking, which would cause a lot of downtime before matches. Gears 3 had actual working online, so you got to play the game much more often.
This is the definitive Gears experience. The graphics have never been smoother and you have a cast of great characters boasting from both the COG and the Locust. Let’s all agree to forget the sawed-off shotgun existed though. GNASHER4LYFE!
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
While maybe not exclusive, I can’t write a list of my favorite Xbox 360 games without including this one. One of the best fan-service games to ever exist outside of the fighting genre, you have every main protagoinist from all the pre-Lords of Shadows games.
Play as Simon, Alucard, Richter, and many more in 6 player online co-op as you work together to conquer iconic stages from the franchise. Everything is portrayed in the beautiful Symphony of Night–style painted backgrounds and character models, and is rendered perfectly.
To help fit all six players on screen the stages are HUGE. To give you an idea, one stage is comprised of the entire Castlevania game from NES. All the way from the opening of the gate, you fight each boss and climb every staircase before finally defeating Dracula, all in about 15 mins.
Oh man. If you were my friend in 2006 you were probably there rocking alongside me.
Guitar Hero took the world by storm and while I thought it was really dumb at first (being a guitar player in real life), after playing a demo of the game at my local game shop I was immediately hooked and picked up the game with guitar. Then beat the entire game on medium that afternoon.
I honed my skills and eventually was good enough to finish songs on expert. By the time Rock Band came around I was already a pro plastic-guitar player, so I bought the bundle with the drum set and began a new journey.
Hundreds of hours (and dollars) later I had built a pretty massive library of music. I have great memories of rocking out with my friends and Rock Band will, to this day, still be my favorite party game.
Two Worlds 2
This game makes the list solely because of its multiplayer mode. Two Worlds 2 is an open-world RPG that really wanted to be Elder Scrolls, but just didn’t have the chops.
The main quest is quite expansive and you can find a lot to do, but honestly, why are you playing the single player of this game. Grab a friend and let’s go online!
The first thing you’ll notice is a great character creator where you can choose from many different classes and sub-classes. Once you jump into the game world you’ll find that everything is just a little off. Voice actors don’t quite match their in-game likeness. Your first NPC is clearly a Merlin-type warlock…but has a southern twang to his voice for NO REASON.
While in combat you have great spinning/casting animations, but once the enemy is dead you see the amazing rag-doll physics the game has to offer.
If you have this game: Make a wizard. Get the air cards for a whirlwind spell. Cast Whirlwind on a pile of dead bodies. NOW ATTACK YOUR FOES WITH A TORNADO OF CORPSES. You can even climb the corpses to get on top of houses and break the game. Its just magical a time.
There’s no doubt that a plethora of stellar games graced the Xbox 360 over the last ten years. As you can see, our tastes vary from staff member to staff member.
What were some of your favorites? Share your Xbox 360 memories (both good AND bad) in the comments below!