After looking at the Playstation 3′s best games last week, it’s time to do the same for Microsoft’s seventh generation console. The Xbox 360 is one of the most popular consoles in history, slightly outselling its Playstation 3 rival over the years.
Admired for its solid online services and iconic exclusive titles, the Xbox 360 has fast become one of the most influential bits of kit in the entertainment world. It’s also one of the most long-lived consoles ever and, by the time Microsoft ends support for the console in 2016, it will have been entertaining gamers across the world for over a decade.
As well as featuring some incredible AAA releases, the Xbox 360 was also remarkable for its support of indie titles. The Xbox Live Arcade focused on smaller titles at a budget price, and over 670 titles have been released on the arcade as of 2014.
Totally outdoing its predecessor in almost every regard, the Xbox 360 managed to push Microsoft to the forefront of the video game industry, ahead of several established competitors. While Microsoft have made some questionable decisions over the years, such as the half-baked Kinect releases, their console will primarily be remembered as one of the greatest ever, thanks to its colossal library filled with high quality titles.
This list takes a look at the absolute best games ever released for the Xbox 360, from exclusives to multi-platform releases that were best played on the console. If your multiplatform favourites aren’t featured on this list, don’t despair, as they might just be on the Playstation 3 top 20!
20. Burnout Paradise
The fifth game in the racing series, Burnout Paradise thrust the franchise into a new era by introducing a large open world and vast amount of content. Ridiculously fast, Burnout Paradise is an arcadey racer that never takes itself seriously.
There were initial concerns that the game’s open world might have been a simple gimmick, to capitalise on the success of games such as Grand Theft Auto. However, critics were proven wrong as the massive Paradise City was a joy to traverse, filled to the brim with fun races and challenges.
Burnout Paradise’s greatest stroke of genius though, was its multiplayer. As well as a well-implemented, open world online mode, the pass-the-controller-around local multiplayer was just about the best unconventional fun you could have with a racing game.
19. BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite represented a brave new direction for the acclaimed BioShock series, which had until now taken place in the claustrophobic confines of the underwater city of Rapture. This time set on the floating city of Columbia, BioShock Infinite managed to take many great features from the first two games and include them in a brave, exciting new world.
Putting players in the shoes of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, BioShock Infinite was a strange, darkly humorous epic that had several exciting tales to tell. Primarily, the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth tied the game together, and the final moments of the game have been labelled equal parts genius and convoluted.
Gameplay mechanics such as the Vigors and Elizabeths ability to open rifts managed to just about keep the combat fresh throughout, and many of the side plots and characters proved to be hugely memorable. The real star of BioShock Infinite was the city itself though, to the extent that sometimes we just wanted to explore its wonders without worrying about the steady stream of fights.
18. Trials: Evolution
One of the biggest hits of the Xbox Live Arcade, Trials: Evolution is the ultimate test of patience and skill. It’s also extremely addictive, and the online leaderboards were the cause of many rivalries within friendship groups.
The player controls a motorcycle while traversing along a series of increasingly difficult tracks, filled with a variety of obstacles. Although Trials: Evolution featured 3D graphics, the gameplay was entirely based on a 2D plane, bringing the focus entirely on the bike’s pitch and acceleration.
The multitude of online features, challenging levels, and ability to make and download user-created content made Trials Evolution a fantastic package. It might have resulted in more than one broken controller, but Trials Evolution was one of the deepest, most replayable downloads ever available on the Xbox Live Arcade.
17. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
There was no way that Deus Ex: Human Revolution could possibly live up to expectations, with the first game being one of the greatest games ever released. And yet, somehow, developers Eidos Montreal managed to pull it off. Just.
Set in the year 2027, Deus Ex: Human Revolution follows the story of Adam Jenson, a security manager at biotechnology firm Sarif Industries. After being granted almost superhuman powers thanks to advanced prostheses, Jenson gets dragged into a tale of espionage, ethic morality and conspiracies.
Criticism was drawn to the unavoidable boss fights, which required players to use deadly force in a game that otherwise allows for a completely silent approach. Fortunately, the Director’s Cut fixed this issue, making Deus Ex: Human Revolution an extremely well-made cyberpunk adventure that allowed players to approach it in almost any way they wanted.
16. Halo 4
Nintendo has Mario, Sony has Nathan Drake, and Microsoft has Master Chief. The Halo franchise has been one of the most consistent FPS franchises in history, and totally exclusive to windows platforms only.
Halo 4 is a direct follow up to Halo 3, set four years afterwards. The game is primarily set on a forerunner planet, and sees the Covenant forces returning as enemies. Although it featured similar gameplay to its predecessors, Halo 4 introduced a number of welcome additions, such as armour abilities and Promethean vision.
Above all, Halo 4 managed to bring the series’ online multiplayer back to form after the disappointing Halo: Reach. Crammed full of content, such as the competitive Capture the Flag and Oddball modes, as well as the co-operative Spartan Ops, Halo 4 is one of the best multiplayer experiences available on the 360.
15. Forza Motorsport 4
Burnout Paradise might have been a brilliantly arcadey racer but, for the true racing fans, there’s the Forza series. Exclusive to the Xbox 360, Forza Motorsport 4 was an incredible release, featuring detailed vehicle physics, beautiful visuals and exceptional audio.
With a focus on realism, Forza Motorsport 4 attempted to make each of its 500 cars look and feel as accurate to their real-life counterparts as possible. Despite this, the game was also highly accessible for newcomers, aided by its high degree of polish and exceptional tutorials.
With the huge library of vehicles, variety of tracks, and even commentary by Jeremy Clarkson, there aren’t many racers that offer a more complete package than Forza Motorsport 4. An absolute dream for fanatics of the genre, Forza Motorsport 4 may well have been the generation’s greatest racing simulator.
14. Dead Space
Taking inspiration from the world of cinema with its visual references to Sunshine and Event Horizon, Dead Space was a terrifying experience. Set on the ravaged Ishimura mining ship, Dead Space introduced gamers to the Necromorphs, one of gaming’s most horrific enemies.
Dead Space was all about immersion. There was no traditional HUD, with Isaacs health instead being a physical glowing bar that was part of his suit, and messages being displayed from a 3D holographic device. The combat was also unique, with the player required to systematically dismember the enemy Necromorphs, rather than just pump them full of bullets.
If there’s one thing that Dead Space did best though, it was scaring you senseless, particularly in its opening few hours. The game’s nail-biting tension, punctuated by terror filled chases, made for one of the best survival horror games of the seventh generation.
13. The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings Enhanced Edition
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was a big critical hit on the PC, and the Enhanced Edition brought the game to the Xbox 360 about a year later. A beautiful game, featuring one of gaming’s best-told stories, The Witcher 2 is a classic modern RPG.
The gameplay of The Witcher 2 was a drastic improvement over the first game, moving away from the rhythm-based, minigame-style combat of the original. Instead, The Witcher 2 was a lot more action-focused and fast paced, with an array of traps and spells at Geralt’s disposal.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings was an adult game for a mature audience, with its multiple sex scenes, excellent writing and grey morality. A challenging, absorbing romp through a dark, low fantasy world, the upcoming Witcher 3 will have a lot to live up to when it releases next year.
12. Fallout 3
A game anticipated with equal parts excitement and trepidation, Fallout 3 was massive departure from the isometric Fallout 1 and 2. Developed by Bethesda Game Studios, Fallout 3 instead took a leaf out of The Elder Scrolls’ book, featuring a giant, 3D open world.
Fallout 3 is set 36 years after the events of Fallout 2, and takes place in the Capital Wasteland – the apocalyptic ruins of Washington, D.C. Continuing much of the dark comedy and satire that the series is known for, Fallout 3 contained a vast number of memorable locations, characters and enemies.
The V.A.T.S. was a fun compromise between first-person action and turn-based combat, and many of the weapons have since become cultural icons. Despite the main story not being quite up to the par of others in the series, Fallout 3′s world was a joy to explore, and many of the side quests were just as brilliant as anything else in the franchise.
11. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
The Battlefield series wasn’t always the bloated, DLC-ridden mess it is today, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 was just about the pinnacle of the series on console. While the game had a fun single-player campaign, the real meat of it was to be found in Bad Company 2′s online multiplayer.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 featured the same large-scale, squad-based combat that the franchise is known for, while introducing a number of additions and improvements. The best new feature was the Rush online mode, a modified version of Gold Rush from Bad Company 1. Pitting attackers against defenders, they must attempt to capture M-COM Stations before their respawn tickets deplete.
Along with an array of well-made, balanced maps, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 had a good selection of weaponry and vehicles at player’s disposal. The game also featured cutting edge graphics with the excellent Frostbite engine allowing for destructible environments. For a long time, Bad Company 2 was the game of choice for large-scale warfare.
10. Dark Souls
Who’d have thought that a hardcore action RPG series best known for its brutal difficulty would prove to be such a commercial success? That’s exactly what Dark Souls managed to do though, and its challenging gameplay and lack of hand-holding continues to resonate with players around the world.
Dark Souls is a spiritual successor to the Playstation 3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, featuring the same unforgiving-but-fair combat that has defined the franchise. This time round, the game took place in a totally open world, filled with creatures that wanted nothing more than to kill you in increasingly creative ways.
The plot was convoluted and hard to follow, and it could be devilishly frustrating at times, but Dark Souls always managed to draw you back in for another chance to master its fun, addictive combat. There aren’t many games out there that offer the same satisfaction that comes from finally defeating a Dark Souls boss, and the game was always prepared to reward those that could rise up to the challenge.
BioShock seemed to come out of nowhere, considering the long lasting impact it’s had on narrative-driven gameplay. From the moment players came into sight of the magnificent underwater city of Rapture, it was clear that BioShock wasn’t your average shooter.
Terrifying with a dark wit, the first BioShock game blew players away with its incredible aesthetics, sense of morality, and some of the most memorable villains of all time. Classic moments like the first Big Daddy encounter, and the endgame revelations are still among gaming’s greatest, and the creepy atmosphere that permeated the tunnels and rooms of Rapture has yet to be bested.
An excellent example of the potential that the video game medium has, BioShock managed to deftly balance several genres and other influences through its lengthy, twisting story. A beautiful marriage of exciting gameplay, tense horror and gripping plot, BioShock is a game that will be remembered for decades to come.
8. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Considering the series’ current reputation as a dried-out cash cow, it’s easy to forget just how revolutionary and mind-blowing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was on its release. Taking place in 2011 following the beginning of a Russian civil war, Modern Warfare took players on an incredible, action-packed journey.
The key reason for Modern Warfare’s success was its brilliant online multiplayer. The maps were varied and memorable, while the weapons felt balanced and fun to use. The simple kill streaks were also cited as a refreshingly addictive feature of the game, before the excess of tactical nukes and chopper gunners that were added in its sequel.
Although the game is most remembered for its multiplayer component, the single-player was nothing short of a masterpiece. In its short length, Modern Warfare’s campaign tackled hard hitting topics and delivered a compelling narrative that blew away everything seen in just about any other modern military shooter.
7. The Orange Box
Deservedly known as the best ever deal in gaming, The Orange Box contained five games in its generous package. The collection was made up of Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.
Every single one of the games in the collection were modern masterpieces in some way. Half-Life 2 and its two episodes barely need explanation, but they offer some of the greatest single-player FPS action of all time. Similarly, Team Fortress 2, despite the PC version being vastly superior, is one of the most celebrated online shooters of the last decade.
The greatest revelation of The Orange Box though, was Portal. The hilarious GLaDOS, revolutionary game mechanics and brilliant puzzles all came together to create one of the most surprisingly brilliant video game experiences ever.
6. Gears Of War Trilogy
It’s difficult to separate the first three Gears of War games, as it’s one of the most consistently entertaining trilogies ever released. The Xbox 360-exclusive third-person shooter series managed to not only sell a bazillion copies, but also appease just about every critic that played through them.
Focused on the conflict between humanity and the reptilian Locusts, the games follow the story of Marcus Fenix, a soldier in the Coalition of Ordered Governments. Where the series lacked in subtlety, it made up for in magnificent action-packed gameplay and incredible set pieces.
For a third-person shooter series, the games also featured a surprisingly competitive online multiplayer. This was particularly well done in the second and third games, with their classic games modes such as Guardian and Warzone. The future of the Gears of War franchise is currently uncertain, but it’s unlikely that Microsoft will be giving up on one of their most successful IPs just yet.
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
After Oblivion made it cool to love RPGs again, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim came along and buffed up just about everything for a modern audience. Hugely successful commercially, Bethesda’s open world role-playing game is still an addiction for many players almost three years after release.
Skyrim’s in-house Creation Engine played a large part in the game’s success, allowing the world to feel far more alive and diverse than previous entries in the series. There was also a ridiculously large list amount of fun side-quests to play through in the game, beyond the relatively weak main plot.
The best part of Skyrim was the exploration. Full of mysterious locations and oddities, it was incredibly rewarding to just pick a direction and wander until you came across a haunted shack or spider-infested cave. Skyrim might not have had the greatest combat, and it had more than a few bugs on release, but it managed to succeed in offering a world that players felt that they could really live in.
4. Fallout: New Vegas
It’s tough to rate Skyrim and New Vegas as better or worse than each other, but Obsidian Entertainment’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece just about wins out. The game managed to be marked improvement over Fallout 3, thanks to a more interesting world and less contrived main story.
Set in the Mojave Wasteland, Fallout: New Vegas was able to bring across the open-endedness and grey morality that was featured in the original games, while featuring the expansive 3D world and first-person gameplay of Fallout 3.
All things considered, it was a superior game to its predecessor, largely thanks to its large selection of engaging side-quests and improved narrative. A darkly humorous adventure like no other, the incredible team of writers that behind the game ensured that Fallout: New Vegas is still considered one of the best open world RPGs ever made.
3. Halo 3
One of the most hotly hyped first-person shooters of all time, Halo 3 concluded the main story that had been set up in the first two games released on the Xbox. A true blockbuster of a video game, Halo 3 didn’t so much change up the series as it did polish it to perfection.
A satisfying follow up to the second game, the campaign of Halo 3 was an intergalactic romp through several exotic locations. The story was a bit rubbish in comparison to the brilliant Halo: Combat Evolved, but the fun, frantic gameplay really spoke for itself.
It was the online multiplayer that really propelled Halo 3 into its legendary status though. The map rotation was among the best in the series, the Forge level editor was a stroke of brilliance, and the matchmaking system allowed for online battling devoid of the usual frustrations.
2. Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar’s open world epic really served to highlight the need for more Western-themed video games. The lawlessness of the frontier makes for a great setting, and it’s baffling that the genre hasn’t been exploited more often.
Red Dead Redemption wasn’t just ‘Grand Theft Western’: the tale of John Marston was exciting and emotionally involving, more so than any of stories in the Grand Theft Auto games. The dialogue and aesthetics were convincingly authentic, often making it feel like playing through a Sergio Leone movie.
The online multiplayer was a lot of fun, finally giving players to chance to have a proper Mexican standoff with real people. It was in the single-player that Red Dead Redemption really shone though, and several of the side characters were entertaining and well-written enough to warrant an entire game for themselves.
1. Mass Effect Trilogy
Playing through the full Mass Effect trilogy on the same save file has to be one of greatest, most unique experiences in any form of entertainment. The ‘Star Wars’ of the video game industry, Mass Effect’s legacy will be felt long after the final Xbox 360 has been manufactured.
The first Mass Effect game was an Xbox 360 exclusive until the multiplatform release of the combined Mass Effect Trilogy, and for a long time was the real killer title for the console. The space opera action RPG was reminiscent of Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic games, in the form of a fresh new IP with exciting combat.
Even after the success of Mass Effect, the sequel lived up to the haughty expectations. Combat was refined, the world was expanded, and players continued to be faced with some of gaming’s toughest decisions. Mass Effect 3 continued the high quality gameplay and impressive set pieces, but unfortunately let down the majority of the fan base thanks to an underwhelming, insulting final few moments.
It’s not all about the destination though, and the Mass Effect trilogy sent players on one hell of a journey. Commander Shepard and the rest of the loveable Normandy crew were able to provide a strong emotional core to Mass Effect, the series that defined a generation.