The Xbox 360 is the first console that I’ve ever worked with that actually has development tools that are better for games than what we’ve had on PC.
It’s Day 22 and things have come full circle, 360 degrees.
Cheap Boss Attack (of cheapbossattack.com) is back with another, yes, a second top 7 best list for our Console Challenge, having converted himself into a helpful band-aid to cover the Sega Saturn earlier this month. While my original intention was to have 30 writers cover 30 consoles, anthropomorphic fate had other plans. We’ve 29 writers covering 30 consoles now, but you know what? That’s okay. It means you and I get to enjoy a double-dose of CBA, who, contrary to his Twitter name, Trash, has a heart of gold.
With writing, we learn from each other. I spent a majority of my life hating on Xbox because that’s what sectarianism does with fandoms. I don’t do much of that anymore and I actually own an Xbox 360, if you can believe it. Well, now I know a handful of games I should seek out for it, and I also learned a thing or two about it (especially regarding BioShock). Important life lesson: If we’re unwilling to remove our fanbased biases, we’re going to miss out on a lot of experiences and knowledge.
Today, this red mage becomes a little more well-red.
-The Well-Red Mage
People go through phases. Although I began life as a Nintendo kid and held on to that during the 16-bit generation, I chose the PlayStation over the N64 and subsequently the PS2 over the rest of the competition. However, things temporarily changed after that. I became an Xbox 360 guy in the seventh console generation, mostly due in part to its lower price tag and the ability to play online with the same friends I grew up with that now lived states away. While I eventually transitioned back to the PlayStation and Nintendo families in this current eight generation as my desire to socialize and play with strangers declined, I can’t deny the abundance of enjoyment I got from the Xbox 360. Not only did it take the gaming world by storm by dethroning PlayStation throughout most of the generation, but put a strong focus on socialization and multiplayer services, introduced the Achievement system that’s now become commonplace, and spearheaded the digital indie movement on consoles with Xbox Live Arcade. It truly is one of my favorite (and best) consoles of all time.
Although many cross-platform titles found their way to both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 simultaneously, this “best of” list is narrowed down to titles that were either exclusive to the platform or, at the very least, released first on the Xbox 360. Hopefully this explains the absence of a few of last-gen’s major players.
#7. Lost Odyssey
Featuring the writing chops of industry legend Hironobu Sakaguchi, the musical composition of Nobuo Uematsu, and development assistance from the creators of The Legend of Dragoon, Shadow Hearts, and Phantom Dust, Lost Odyssey proved that JRPGs could succeed on an American console. Its industrial-magic revolution theme follows the tale of Kaim, an immortal slowly recovering his lost memories – many of which are quite depressing. Watching your mortal comrades die over the course of an expanded lifetime has to take its toll, right? With a turn-based combat system similar to The Legend of Dragoon and a visual flair that screamed Final Fantasy, Lost Odyssey delivered a compelling story of warring nations and the emotional downfall of immortality. I just wish it became a series, as Microsoft initially considered.
#6. Gears of War 2
The Gears of War series brought a cinematic flair to the world of third-person shooters and serves as the inspiration for many cover-based action games to this day. Of the four to release on the Xbox 360, it’s a toss-up between the 2nd and 3rd entries as the absolute best. But while I feel that Gears of War 3 certainly had a superior campaign, it was Gears of War 2 that introduced some of the finest competitive and co-op multiplayer modes on the console. Be it 5-on-5 PVP or intense 5-player co-op in Horde Mode (where players worked together to fend off increasingly difficult waves of baddies), Gears of War 2 provided more than enough reason to stick around after the campaign was over.
The Xbox 360 was the first home console to truly embrace a digital marketplace, which provided a home for many smaller titles that were already carving their niche in the PC market. Games like Braid, Spelunky, Splosion Man, Trials, and Super Meat Boy found success in the Xbox Live Arcade space, but the best of the bunch (to me) was Supergiant Games’ isometric action RPG, Bastion. After the game’s hand-painted world suffers a cataclysm, you play as “The Kid” and navigate a group of floating worlds in order to collect items to rebuild the Bastion. Not only does Bastion have one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, by way of Darren Korb, but a novel approach to storytelling. Rather than hitting the player with walls of text, the entirety of the experience is narrated by a gruff voice off screen, which gives Bastion an almost storybook feel.
#4. Halo 3
Since Microsoft entered the console race in November of 2001, their Halo series has become synonymous with the Xbox brand. Throughout the life cycle of the Xbox 360, there was a whopping 7 (!!!) games released in the Halo universe. Some took the series in new directions, like the RTS, Halo Wars, and twin-stick arcade shooter, Halo: Spartan Assault. Even the more traditional first-person offerings broke new ground, with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach placing players in the boots of someone other than the Master Chief. Having been an Xbox 360 guy for most of that generation, I can’t recall a single game that received the hype that Halo 3 did. And while the campaign was equally fun and nonsensical, it was undoubtedly the robust multi-player offerings that helped push Halo 3 to sell 14.5 million copies after its release – the most of any Xbox 360 console exclusive to date.
#3. Mass Effect
The Mass Effect trilogy is often held in high regard, but the game that started it all was an Xbox 360 console exclusive until 2012 – four years after release. While I definitely think Mass Effect 2 is the better game, there’s no denying the importance of the original and its strong focus on a central villain (something the series lacked in its 2nd and 3rd entries). This galaxy-spanning adventure let players create their own hero, invest in a variety of playstyles ranging from guns and technology to powerful magic, and altered the story based on dialogue choices and other in-game actions. It’s often referred to as a “space opera,” which is hard to argue. Since the Xbox 360 saw the only console release of Mass Effect for quite a while, it was the only platform at the time that allowed players to transfer their save file over to the sequel and continue the adventure of their created hero, consequences and all!
#2. Left 4 Dead
PC juggernaut Valve was no stranger to the console space, having released a couple of games on the PS2 and original Xbox, but their best offering during the seventh console generation was exclusive to the Xbox 360. Left 4 Dead is a co-op horror shooter in which four players must work together to fend off swarms of zombies while searching for the next available safe house. There’s even a PVE/PVP hybrid mode that allows other players to jump in and control the more menacing monsters, which added another terrifying layer to an already intense game. Of all the multi-player games on the Xbox 360, this is the one I played the most (and the only one I still revisit on a regular basis).
Like the first entry in the Mass Effect trilogy, the original BioShock was available exclusively on the Xbox 360 for over a year before making its way to Sony’s PlayStation 3. It serves as the spiritual successor to the System Shock series and places the player inside of the mostly abandoned underwater city of Rapture. At its core, BioShock is a first-person shooter that focuses heavily on environmental storytelling, atmosphere, and plot twists. You can shoot enemies with guns and blast them with magical spells, but BioShock is less about the action and more about discovery and exploration. While the series has seemingly died along with Ken Levine’s Irrational Games studio, I’d argue that BioShock is one of the most important narrative-heavy shooters of all time and having it available exclusively (in a console sense) on the Xbox 360, even if just for a year, was a huge win for Microsoft.
Honorable mentions go out to the Guinness World Record breaking, massively multiplayer game show, 1 vs. 100, as well as games like Braid, Splosion Man, Limbo, Castle Crashers, and Super Meat Boy that showed the world there was a market for smaller, digitally distributed indie games on home consoles. The Xbox 360 was also the sole home of fantastic RPGs like Blue Dragon and Tales of Vesperia (which only released on the PS3 in Japan), and one of the more interesting horror games of the seventh console generation, the first-person detective thriller Condemned: Criminal Origins. As someone who played a ton of SNK fighters growing up, the Xbox 360 was a goldmine, with King of Fighters 98: Ultimate Match, Samurai Shodown II, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, and NEOGEO Battle Coliseum available digitally via Xbox Live Arcade. Man, what a console.
Categories: Console Challenge