Microsoft's Xbox 360 turns 11 years old; These are the best games on it
Top 11 games of the 360 era
11 years ago today, a crowning achievement was bestowed to gamers in the form of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console. Released on November 22, 2005, the 360 had a lot to live up to, as Microsoft carved a special niche for itself with the original Xbox console. Add in the early success of its multiplayer program, Xbox Live, and this was a turning point for Microsoft. In fact, the 360 would ultimately finish almost neck and neck with Sony’s PS3 in the generation's gaming console dominance.
Whatever your gaming preference is, we can all admit that it’s hard to believe that the 360 growing older by another year. To celebrate, let’s take a look back at some of the best games that shaped the system.
In no particular order, I put together the top 11 games to ever hit the Xbox 360.
1. Rainbow Six: Vegas
On the Xbox 360’s first birthday, Ubisoft dropped what would become one of the best multiplayer shooters on the market in Rainbow Six Vegas. This was the long-awaited follow-up to Rainbow Six 3, which dominated the original Xbox market thanks to a solid single player campaign, and an even better multiplayer mode thanks to Xbox Live.
Vegas expanded on the strategic commands of the original games and introduced a fluid cover system for players. The versatile shooter mechanics made every gun a blast to play with, and the HD graphics were also ahead of their time, making Vegas one of the best first person shooters for the 360.
2. Gears of War
Yes, Gears of War is now a multi-million dollar gaming franchise, but the game was unlike anything we had ever seen when it first launched on the 360 back in 2006. Epic Games was primarily known for its Unreal franchise, and a game like Gears was unique for its time.
Once it launched, it was a surefire hit. The third person cover mechanics would become a staple of gaming today, and the inspiration taken from games like Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder perspective would become the norm for many action games today. Tack on great co-op mechanics, and a robust multiplayer selection and you have the makings of one of the top shooter franchises in the world.
3. Dead Rising
Dead Rising would launch within the first year of the 360’s console cycle, and it was the sandbox zombie smash-up game everybody was hoping for. Set in a modern day shopping mall overrun with zombies, Dead Rising was the Dawn of the Dead video game no one was expecting.
Although the game did have a few hiccups in what was a shoddy save system and frustratingly dumb NPCs, Dead Rising was a game that encouraged resourcefulness. Want to turn boxing gloves into fiery fists of destruction? No problem. Want to add hand grenades to a football? We got those too. The sheer amount of weapons you can use in the game overshadowed those shortcomings, creating one of the more memorable franchises on the 360.
4. Fallout 3
Bethesda knows RPGs. And Bethesda knows how to build worlds. So when it decided to take the original Fallout games – which were previously tactical role playing games – it created an open world RPG that made the Elder Scrolls series blush.
But don’t call the new Fallout series "Elder Scrolls with guns." Bethesda brought tight gameplay, a dense world, unique narratives, and an addicting VATS system that made you roll the dice on landing limb shots, body shots, or those enticing headshots. You could spend countless hours on this game and still find something new to discover.
Fallout 3 helped capture the dire circumstances of surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
5. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Love it, or hate it, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare brought a paradigm shift in the gaming world.
Following the success of the incredible Cal of Duty 2, Infinity Ward decided to leave behind the World War II setting for a more familiar, modern setting. Featuring today’s advanced weaponry, British S.A.S. troops, U.S. Marines, and a familiar looking terrorist group, Call of Duty was aiming to be something great.
The single player campaign was nothing short of jaw-dropping, particularly the “All Ghillied Up” mission, but it’s Modern Warfare’s deep multiplayer that will be cemented in history. Upgrades, unlocks, and a twist on the perks system brought addicting multiplayer sessions that were impossible to put down.
6. Left 4 Dead
Dead Rising may have helped pave the way for zombie mayhem on the 360, but Left 4 Dead brought a special flair for those players who were looking for frenetic action. Valve’s Left 4 Dead series was a milestone in online co-op.
As one of four survivors, you had to meticulously make your way through 4 different scenarios that only run about two hours in length. But each playthrough brought something different. The procedural nature of each scenario allowed for intense matches, unpredictable encounters, and the need to coordinate with your teammates. If you try to take on a horde of zombies on your own, you and your friends would pay for it dearly.
The series stands as a highlight for the 360’s multiplayer escapades, and I pray that Valve gets back on the Left 4 Dead horse to give us another go around soon.
7. Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar does open world games VERY well, and the developer was up to the challenge of bringing to life a game that felt authentically like the Wild West. The music, voice acting, and overall grittiness of the game gave players a unique view into what it felt like to be in a spaghetti western from the 60’s. Ride your horse into the sunset, or challenge someone to a duel in the middle of town, the feeling of playing Cowboys and Indians was no longer a fantasy, but something you could tangibly participate in thanks to Rockstar.
Add in Bill Elm and Woody Jackson’s soundtrack, channeling their inner Ennio Morricone, on top of a moving narrative arc for our anti-hero John Marston, and you had yourself one special game.
We simply cannot wait for Rockstar’s sequel to this amazing game.
8. Project Gotham Racing 3
In a world where Gran Turismo and Need For Speed reigned supreme, Project Gotham Racing 3 decided to shake things up in the racing market. The game featured some of the hottest sports cars in the world, and the uptick to HD graphics was stunning. Thanks to this jump in graphics, playing in first person mode from inside the cockpit of the vehicle was a blast, and gave you a sensation unlike other racing games could at the time.
It wasn’t just all flash. PGR 3 had an impressive amount of online modes topped with a series of racing options you could take either online or solo, ultimately wasting hours away behind the wheel.
9-11 Mass Effect Trilogy
Sure it’s a bit of a cop out to make this a three-for-one post, but the entire Mass Effect trilogy is meant to be played as one game. Bioware continued to expand on its open world action-RPG pedigree with the release of the first Mass Effect in 2007. It was a game that no only contained fun sci-fi gunplay, but it made you care about your choices. Not everything was as black and white as players were used to. Your choices carried actual consequences through the entire series, and mainstay characters could be killed at a moment’s notice.
Of course, it helps to have deep RPG elements and customizable playstyles for every type of gamer, but Mass Effect will always be known for its gripping space exploration and fantastic story. Even with a controversial ending to the trilogy, Mass Effect will go down as one of the greatest sci-fi RPGs of all time.