We continue our retrospective of the current core console generation with a look at the 10 best and influential games for the Xbox 360
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (2006): Ubisoft’s tactical shooter, released just a few months after the Xbox 360 launched, wasn’t just a showcase for the console’s amazing graphics, it also did a great job of selling high-definition televisions at a time when the technology was still relatively new to consumers. A lower-resolution version was available for the PlayStation 2 and original Xbox, but that was actually a plus since the 360 version highlighted the huge difference in graphic quality between console generations. Microsoft can only hope to have such a game among its Xbox One launch lineup.
Left 4 Dead (2008): If there’s one genre that became hot over the current generation of consoles, it’s zombies. Whether that’s a function of pop culture in general or games specifically, who knows, but the fact is the undead are now everywhere. A large portion of the credit for that, for good or for ill, must go to Left 4 Dead, the fiendishly fun co-operative first-person shooter that has players dispatch… well, zombies. What made the game so notable was its artificial intelligence “Director,” which placed enemies and items based on the players’ respective situations. It was a highly dynamic game that usually provided players with exactly the right level of challenge.
(Developer: Valve Corporation)
Fable II (2008): Even though Fable mastermind Peter Molyneux has, over the current generation of consoles, unfortunately become synonymous with broken promises, there’s no denying that his particular brand of role-playing games have been memorable. While players never were able to plant an acorn and watch it grow into a tree over the course of a game, as Molyneux famously promised, they were able to start a family and adventure with a believable pet dog. The Fable series, especially the second instalment, was a charming and accessible way into RPGs because of its simplicity. While hard-core fans of the genre may have avoided the games, Fable turned many onto fantasy worlds for the first time.
(Developer: Lionhead Studios)
Braid (2008): While Sony’s PlayStation is generally considered the friendlier console for independent game designers, the Xbox 360’s online Live Arcade shouldn’t be forgotten for its indie hits. That’s especially true in the case of Jonathan Blow, considered by many to be the king of the indies, and his game Braid. The puzzle platformer challenged players – many of whom had been overexposed to shooters and other mindless action titles – to think about games in more cerebral ways. Braid also served as a wake-up call to indie developers that they too could achieve success on the big guys’ consoles.
(Developer: Number None Inc.)
Dance Central (2010): Few gadgets have made as big a splash and then faded faster than the Kinect, Microsoft’s motion- and voice-sensor for the Xbox 360. Like the Nintendo Wii before it, the Kinect promised a new dimension to games – literally – as players could ditch the handheld controllers and instead control on-screen actions with their movements. Most developers decided the technology wasn’t accurate enough and didn’t spend much time with it. Harmonix, the same company that gave us Guitar Hero and Rock Band, went all-in with Dance Central. The game and its two sequels have become the go-to titles for Kinect, serving as the best examples of motion control so far.
(Developer: Harmonix Music Systems)
Bastion (2011): Bastion was another big indie hit for Xbox Live Arcade. Designed by seven people, it was an attempt by developers – who had previously worked at big companies – to create something fluidly and quickly. The result was a colourful fantasy role-playing game set in a world of floating islands. It was further proof that huge budgets and massive developments teams aren’t needed to craft an engrossing and enjoyable game, and evidence that players will seek out different experiences given the chance.
(Developer: Supergiant Games)
Alan Wake (2010): If you’ve ever wanted to play a Stephen King novel, then Alan Wake is about as close as it gets. A third-person psychological horror/shooter, the game followed its titular protagonist as he searched for his missing wife. The story was presented in television episode format, with each chapter featuring a cliffhanger. While games as a medium are often compared to film, Alan Wake made a conscious effort to feel more like TV – and it succeeded. It’s a formula that was emulated in later games such as The Walking Dead , and it’s sure to be seen more frequently as we move into the next generation of consoles.
(Developer: Remedy Entertainment)
Gears of War (2006): If there’s a franchise that’s synonymous with the Xbox 360, it’s Gears of War, the over-the-top sci-fi shooter that made “chain-sawing grubs” a household phrase (at least to gamers). Just as the original Halo showcased the graphics and computational ability of the first Xbox, so too did the first Gears exemplify the kind of power that Microsoft brought to bear with its then-next-generation console. Most critics agreed that it was the best-looking game on the 360 at the time, and it continued to push that bar with subsequent sequels.
(Developer: Epic Games)
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006): Sure, Skyrim gets all the fanfare, but we shouldn’t forget that there wouldn’t have been an Elder Scrolls V without an Elder Scrolls IV. Oblivion was perhaps the best game to come out for the 360 in its first year (it was released for PS3 a year later). Not only did it have incredible graphics, it also featured a giant open world that loaded (mostly) seamlessly. The fantasy role-playing game was unprecedented in its size and scope on consoles, and it has still only been surpassed by its sequel Skyrim. Because the follow-up game came out in 2011, the two could almost be considered fitting bookends to the Xbox 360 and how developers came to master its capabilities over time.
(Developer: Bethesda Game Studios)
Halo 3 (2007): Halo games are usually a slam dunk in terms of quality, which they really should be given that this is Microsoft’s flagship franchise we’re talking about. But Bungie pulled out all the stops for the third and concluding chapter in the saga of the Master Chief and his involvement in the war with the alien Covenant. Truth be told, we preferred Halo 4 , by 343 Industries, but the third installment basically cemented the franchise’s great multiplayer mode and introduced its Forge map-making feature. Halo 3 firmly established the series as a multiplayer phenomenon and did much to give Microsoft its edge in online gameplay. Heading into the next generation of consoles, the company is looking to capitalize on that advantage.