Every single person on Team Xbox is working together to make gaming accessible, equitable, and sustainable for all.
It’s the second to the last Console Challenge top 7 best games list, NPCs, and I plan to enjoy it!
I am assured you will, too. There’s good reason: this Xbox One list comes courtesy of one of the most honest and lucid writers I know. Daniel is an excellent conversationalist, someone I’ve enjoyed many discussions with in the short time we’ve known each other. After we first met on WordPress, I did something I rarely do, something I just had a gut feeling that I should’ve done. Call it instinct or latent genius (heh!) but what I did was directly invite Daniel to contribute here, our Mail Order Ninja Mage.
He has been a part of deepening and enriching our little community in many ways and in many words. It’s one thing to talk about creating a platform for civil disagreement. It’s another thing entirely to interact with someone who challenges your ideas in a good way and affords you the opportunity to have civil disagreements. Ninja is therefore an invaluable part of our magely circle and it’s been amazing getting to know him better.
-The Well-Red Mage
Microsoft has sure caught a lot of flak this generation over the Xbox One, and with good reason in some cases. The console’s launch was a muddled mess of messaging, with ideas that sounded like they could be cool, shared in such a way that people simply weren’t ready for at the time. The big executives focused a lot on things that weren’t games, in order to capture the attention of a Blue Ocean audience that simply wasn’t there anymore.
Fast forward to today and the Xbox One has clearly lost the console generation, miles behind the PS4 on any kind of sales. However, the system has sold reasonably well in its own right, enough that nobody could possibly call it a failure. I sometimes look at the current state of the Xbox One, and wonder what would have occurred if Phil Spencer had been in charge the entire time.
Sure, they lack some of the heaviest hitting exclusives, but they also absolutely trounce Sony when it comes to consumer-friendly moves. Xbox Game Pass featuring their biggest titles day one is a bold move that is also extremely affordable, and is nothing if not customer facing. Backwards Compatiblility simply works, and responds to the actual discs of the games or they can be purchased digitally all the way back to the original Xbox. They constantly are iterating and working on feedback, and because they are American based, often have all the most requested features fastest.
It also happens to have some pretty stellar games available for it, and I’m happy to bring you seven of the best in my opinion.
#7. Forza Horizon 3
I’m really not a huge racing game fan, or sports in general. If it doesn’t feature Mario behind the wheel of a kart, then I really am not interested for the most part. So it may surprise many who know me to find this game on my list.
As much as I endeavored to ignore it, the game just kept coming out with intriguing content. I would get Xbox Live messages giving me codes for a Warthog from Halo because I owned that game, or the car from Final Fantasy XV. Finally, I saw the amazing trailer for the out of nowhere Hot Wheels expansion, and I could stand it no longer.
Once I picked up the game, I realized it wasn’t just a racing title, it was an open world playground that just so happened to feature a car. The version of Australia you drive around in is absolutely stunning, and it is a sheer joy to explore. I was complete rubbish at the game at first, and had to turn on and follow the driving guide, using the rewind feature a lot more than I’m proud of. After all, I know how to throw blue sparks in Mario, but I had no idea how to race in a game like this. Once I got my legs though, I found the racing to be incredibly exhilarating.
The amount of content in this game is staggering, with a fantastic suite of multiplayer modes where you’ll see AI racers inspired by your real life friend’s driving habits in the game. The expansions of Blizzard Mountain and Hot Wheels are the icing on the cake, and I absolutely dare anyone who ever had those orange tracks adorning their bedroom floor as children to not grin ear to ear when playing this expansion.
I rarely say something like this, because typically I find that once you know you don’t like a particular genre, I’m not going to recommend games from that genre to you. However, regardless of how you feel about racing games, you owe it to yourself to play Forza Horizon 3. You won’t regret it.
#6. Titanfall 2
The original Titanfall was exclusive to the Xbox One, and though I don’t usually buy games without a single player component, I couldn’t resist the siren song of gigantic mechs. The first time I saw my Titan plummet from the sky, and leaped into its cockpit, I was hooked. I put in far more time than I’d ever put into a multiplayer game before, and lamented the fact that it wasn’t getting the attention it deserved because of its exclusivity on the underdog console.
When Titanfall 2 was released, it had added a campaign, something I was sure was going to be a simple footnote. Instead, I found myself playing the best campaign I’d ever played in a shooter. You read that right, it was an absolute delight to play through the story mode of the game, and it didn’t overstay its welcome by one second. Every single moment of this game is filled with unique set pieces, new mechanics, and brilliant level design that is made to be fluid for huge mechs and small pilots.
Add onto that the new traversal options that turn you into a stylish killing machine even when not in a mech, and the game is a sheer joy to play. Sure, the multiplayer is all there and as fantastic as you remember, with great quality of life improvements. However, the campaign is the star of the show, and if you haven’t played it I highly recommend you do, even if you never touch the multiplayer in the game.
#5. Halo 5
Yes, Halo 5 didn’t completely deliver on its campaign mode, and the promises set up by its fantastic marketing. However, there is no denying that Halo 5 is still a blast to play, and in my opinion this is the best that Halo multiplayer has ever been, even usurping Halo 2.
Off the bat, you’ll notice the buttery smooth 60 FPS that absolutely never drops, even in the biggest maps. Sometimes as giant mechs are stomping by, as I’m wheeling through a horde of enemies on a Warthog firing like crazy, Banshees flying overhead on a huge battlefield, I simply can’t understand what black magic enables this smooth of an experience. It is incredibly responsive and just as satisfying as you’ve ever remembered it being.
Add in tons of modes to play–including my favored Firefight mode that sees you working cooperatively to take down escalating AI threats–and the amount of choices in this Halo game are second to none. In addition, there is no season pass, every level and update is available to every player, without ever spending another dime. I originally bristled at the microtransactions of card packs that grant you cosmetic boosts or fun items in Firefight, but you get a steady stream of them and I was never tempted even once to spend a dime.
Halo used to be considered the king of multiplayer, and though some might not consider it that today, Halo 5 is one of the most fun multiplayer experiences you can have on any console this generation.
#4. Assassin’s Creed Origins
I’m a huge Assassin’s Creed fan, but the series had lost a good deal of its appeal with Unity, and though Syndicate went a long way towards repairing that trust, the game series was wearing thin. When Ubisoft announced they were taking time off from making it an annual event I was bummed I wouldn’t be playing my traditional yearly Assassin’s Creed game, but I also knew it could really pay off for the franchise.
Boy did it ever.
This is one of the finest open world games I’ve ever played, with a stunningly realized version of Egypt to boot. The game throws out a lot of what we think about with traditional Assassin’s Creed games, and gave us an action RPG with a completely revitalized combat system and leveled opponents. The story was engaging, with one of the best representations of a relationship I’ve ever seen, and a woman protagonist that is every bit as engaging as her male counterpart.
Most importantly, I absolutely adored the addition of the eagle, and the absolutely genius travel mode he represents. Opening your map you can pick a place to travel to and your mount will stay on the path to that location. We’ve seen this in Witcher to an extent, but the joy of it is when you swap to your eagle. Suddenly you are rocketed into the sky with no load time, as you take control of the eagle and can see your avatar making his way below.
In this mode, you can scout out potential sidequests, see enemies ahead, or find constant diversions with new crafting materials you need. With a press of the button, you can instantly divert your path to this new location, and it makes all the side content incredibly fluid to consume.
If this was the end of it I would already be thrilled, but then you add on one of the greatest educational tools ever placed into a video game, and we have a whole new level of awesome. Included for free if you own the game, or separately for $19.99, Ubisoft added a museum mode. It removes all of the enemies and dangers, and allows people who don’t game to roam ancient Egypt and learn about it through various museum-like exhibits. The implications are staggering to the world of education for a AAA game to feature a mode like this, and Ubisoft deserves every recognition it gets for it.
#3. Sunset Overdrive
This will come as no surprise to anyone that tangentially knows me, as I will use any chance presented to spout my love of this game. Makes sense, considering I bought an Xbox One just so I could play it on its release.
I love open world games, but one of the few things I really dislike about them is traversal. There are times when that objective marker pops up all the way across the map, and I can’t help but sigh as I get in a car or on a horse. One of the most wonderful things about Sunset Overdrive is that it makes traversal an absolute joy, turning every square inch of its city into a giant playground for your avatar.
You’ll run off a billboard, swing off a light pole, bounce off cars, grind on power lines, and just have an absolute blast. Everything is scored, making you feel like you are playing a round of old-school Tony Hawk, with super powers and a wicked sense of humor. Bright neon colors fill a playground of your choosing, where your weapons are anything from a bowling ball gun to a dismembering record thrower.
Add in upgrading your character, an insanely fun multiplayer mode, a wonderful tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, and an over the top soundtrack, and you have one of the most fun open world games I’ve ever experienced.
#2. Witcher 3
The Witcher series was a niche game series that started on PC before moving to the Xbox 360, from a studio that never seemed to get the attention it deserved. I had tried to play Witcher 2 before, but there was so much there that learning the game felt unassailable to me, and it was also brutally difficult.
However, nobody could deny that Witcher 3 was an amazing looking game when it debuted its first trailer. From that moment it instantly rocketed into the majority of gamers’ awareness, and a lot of us speculated there was no way they would be able to pull off the scope of what they were aiming for with the original trailer.
Except they did. Somehow they made an immense sprawling world, and then managed to fill it with sidequests that rival the main story for how fantastically they were told. Usually, in these sorts of games each sidequest is reduced to some sort of fetch quest, and only exist to help you grind out experience, but they are seldom interesting. There isn’t a single side experience in Witcher 3 that doesn’t have some sort of twist, memorable story, or characters that will stick with you long after you roll credits.
Not that you’ll do that anytime soon. The game is absolutely massive, and if you want to do absolutely everything you can easily spend 200 hours doing so. Combat is deep and intense, but manageable and understandable, and the game does so many small things to make you encompass its monster hunting main character, that you truly feel like a Witcher by the end of the game.
On top of that, the developers handed out a ton of extra free content and put out two expansions that are so meaty and fantastic they could stand as games of their own. CD Projeckt Red upped the ante on every open world game and RPG after its release, and I’ve yet to play another game that has sidequests as well done. There is a reason that you’ll find almost no detractors of this game, and it is because it is a sheer masterpiece.
I sort of like this game. After all, it did make my list of my ten favorite games of all time.
It isn’t hard to see why either, with some of the most gorgeous art I’ve ever seen in a video game, and rock solid Metroidvania style gameplay with pixel perfect platforming that left me dying to play more. It is a brutal game in which you’ll never die and feel like it wasn’t your fault, and it comes complete with an amazingly intuitive checkpoint system you control. Sure, you might die fifty times on one platforming section as you seek to perfect your moves, but because you can go back to just before the part that challenged you, it isn’t an issue.
Though there is never a word spoken in Ori, there is a wonderfully poignant story, filled with both sadness and hope. It is a story of endings and of renewals, and it is told in such a charming way it is hard not to be moved by it. My favorite thing about the game though is the way that it slowly layers on abilities, teaching you by play how to perform them, and then asks increasingly difficult tasks of you. By the end, everything you’ve learned is combined and tested to your absolute limit, and once you stand astride the game victorious, you’ll realize you are now a master at controlling Ori.
The Mail Order Ninja Mage loves video games across every console: an assassin of fanboy nonsense. He also really loves martial arts and pizza, though that is of no consequence here. To read more of his random word soup, or to view daily(ish) photo mode screenshots from his favorite games, visit him at Home Button.