The Xbox 360 turned 18 in North America last month, and today celebrates its 18th birthday in Europe. As such, it’s about time a small amount of honour was paid to some of the console’s biggest names. Of course, few games come with a bigger name on Microsoft’s console format than that of the Halo franchise. But alongside that groundbreaking FPS series come a number of other gameplay heroes, some more commonly sung about than others. Here’s Chit Hot’s top picks for the seven best Xbox 360 games.
We’re going to look specifically at console exclusives from the era in this feature. Some of these titles have subsequently been ported to other formats or may have launched simultaneously on PC. For example, Mass Effect 2 would have earned a spot on this list were it not later released on PlayStation 3 – the same console generation. Whereas Alan Wake would’ve been eligible. Its ports to other formats came after the book was closed on the Xbox 360.
Now that we have this clarification, there’s one other key factor that many gamers may notice. No Kinect titles have managed to work their way into this list. While many of the full-body motion-control titles delivered enjoyable gaming experiences, none managed to live-up to more traditional videogame releases. All of the titles listed below were available at physical retail for the Xbox 360 console. Together, they culminate in a selection that any real hardcore gamer should own in it’s fullest.
The 7 Best Xbox 360 Games
Diving straight in with a contentious offering, as we’re assuming most of our picks for best Xbox 360 game will likely be. ‘Genre-defining’ is just about the perfect term for the now defunct Fasa Studios’ ShadowRun. The game broke entirely new ground in the online multiplayer-centric FPS field. So of course, in the 16 years since release, ShadowRun’s numerous ideas have been borrowed by many other games. Further built upon in some cases, with titles like Overwatch and the underrated Section 8 making moves in the genre. Yet even now, few can stand-up to ShadowRun. The game still presents an engrossing experience, and few can boast an ardent online community 16 years after release.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction
Several years in development and what appeared to be an entirely scrapped build made way for a more traditional Splinter Cell experience. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction eventually did what every fan had hoped. It delivered a new, more commanding game that utilised the Xbox 360’s horsepower to expand upon the familiar gameplay. Renovating and revitalising was the order, rather than holding itself under revolution. Splinter Cell: Conviction saw Sam Fisher return to action, and it was most certainly was a return to top form.
Gears of War
Though it has since received numerous sequels, the original Gears of War is still favoured by many. From the moment of its announcement to the release of the third title in the series, Gears of War was a poster child for the Xbox 360. Alongside the likes of Halo 3, Super Mario Galaxy and Gran Turismo 5, Gears of War was the showcase for a then unprecedented visual quality. It’s all brash balls-out machismo. Yet no matter how much it aspires to be a futuristic The Fast and the Furious, Gears of War will go down in history as having been a one of the defining franchises for the Xbox 360.
Fable III launched on Xbox 360 to mixed opinions. The game received near-universal praise as a title in its own right. But there was also much criticism levelled at Lionhead Studios’ last main bloodline title for simply resting on its laurels a bit too much. Fable III is wholly enjoyable. But as many have come to believe of its figurehead, Peter Molyneux, the game didn’t live up to all that had been promised. Renovating only a few chosen mechanics from Fable II, Fable III did of course provide a more engrossing experience. But it was one that was hindered by a feeling that players had been here before. Much of the criticism may have been delivered a little heavy-handedly, but Fable III is defined by its familiarity.
As stated in the introduction to this best Xbox 360 games article, few titles define Microsoft’s console effort quite as immediately as the Halo franchise. Halo 3 may be the oldest Halo titles available on the Xbox 360, but it remains one of the most highly respected. No FPS title since Halo 3 could expect to make an impact on the audience without delivering such an varied campaign, addictive co-operative experience, and phenomenally deep multiplayer game.
Halo 3 was launched at a critical point in the lifetime of the Xbox 360. Arguably the point at which the console became mainstream. The hardcore had already adopted their new formats and the previous-generation had finally been pushed aside. Halo 3 then set the pace for near-every blockbuster release of the generation. Titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Killzone 2, Final Fantasy XIII and even the PlayStation Move and Kinect accessories had their launches defined by the lessons taught by Halo 3. Chiefly that in this era, rolling out the red carpet means as much to videogames as it does to Hollywood.
Just as with its successor, Fable II failed to live up to the grand expectation placed upon it. But only just. A compelling experience from start to finish, Fable II managed to rectify many of the mistakes made by the first title in the series and showcase just what Lionhead Studios had in mind for the adventure game genre. Referring to Fable II as an RPG is most certainly a stretch too far, no matter what Peter Molyneux would like you to believe. But as an adventure game it most certainly was a leading light in the genre.
The co-operative mode may have been severely stunted compared to that which we had been lead to believe, but nonetheless Fable II invented some interesting techniques that have since been adopted by other titles wholesale. Not least the PlayStation exclusive Demon’s Souls. In other areas, Fable II aided in the development of videogames as a storytelling medium simply by way of it’s vast and varied cast of interesting characters. Albion may not be the biggest gaming landscape in modern times, but few games have delivered such a memorable world with such colourful personalities.
While Halo 3 set the pace for late 2000’s blockbusters, it’s Halo: Reach that defined them. One of the most loved – and feared – videogame releases ever seen, Halo: Reach was everything an Xbox 360 game should be: compelling, challenging and huge.
Beyond Master Chief and Cortana, the Halo franchise is particularly well known for its compelling narrative. However, Halo: Reach brought the franchise crashing into new planets with a surprisingly deep story. Though Noble Squad may have been born of the all-too-familiar science-fiction archetypes, there are moments in which Halo: Reach passes beyond it’s typical survival-of-the-human-race delivery. It arrives at a point in which players can actually care about the game’s events. More than simply having to restart at a checkpoint.
In addition to the remarkable campaign – replayable through a variety of life-extending techniques – lies the multiplayer game. Firefight had been fleshed-out into something more resembling a worthwhile experience by triumph of its own steam. The deathmatching proved once again why Halo was considered to be the leader in its field. And this is before factoring in the extensive Forge customisation options and Theater modes. Games such as Overwatch 2 and Valorant may set the pace for the FPS genre at the moment, but its still Halo: Reach that carries the standard.
What’s Your Best Xbox 360 Game?
With more than 2,000 games released for the Xbox 360, selecting a list of the seven best was no easy task. We’re bound to have missed out many people’s favourites. So let us know! Hit up the comments section below to let us know your choices for the best Xbox 360 games. And to say ‘happy birthday!’ to the Xbox 360, of course.