The Best Xbox Games

It's hard to believe given its place in history, but the original Xbox was only really around for four years. That's not long in console terms, but as we all found, when it came to Microsoft's first console the focus was on quality, not quantity.

Leveraging the console's horsepower, hard drive and online capabilities, the Xbox burst onto the scene in November 2001 with one of the greatest launch games of all time (Halo), and left us with a whole range of series (admittedly, many of them now sadly no more) that helped drive the brand well into the Xbox 360 era.

Below you'll find a list of what we consider the best Xbox games. Many of these are available in 2017 either as digital downloads for the Xbox One or as PC games, so if you've slept on any of them, you could do worse things than check them out.

Before we begin, though, spare me your sob stories. If your favourite isn't here, chin up. Just because we didn't agree on a game -- or didn't think it was good or weird enough to make a list called THE BEST -- doesn't make your own feelings on it somehow invalid!


HALO

Originally a strategy game for the Mac, Halo ended up a first-person shooter on a Microsoft console. Not only is it hailed as one of the greatest launch titles of all time, but it's largely responsible for proving that first-person shooters couldn't just work on a console, but excel.


BURNOUT 3

A perfection of the series' formula before it blew itself out into an open-world game, Burnout 3 remains about as fast and as furious as driving games get. It was probably worth the price of admission for crash mode alone.


ESPN NFL2K5

It's a tired meme these days in the face of Madden's everlasting monopoly on the NFL licence, but it's worth remembering that NFL2K5 stuck around so long in people's hearts because it was such a good sports game. Example: its running game and line are still better than anything EA has come up with over the last decade.


JET SET RADIO FUTURE

Part of the "Dreamcast 2" movement, this is not as good as the original version of the game. Yes, it made some improvements (like removing some punishing time limits), but the whole thing feels more washed out and toned down than the Jet Set Radio appearing on Sega's console. Which is to say this is merely the second-best version of one of the freshest and most original video games ever made.


SPLINTER CELL CHAOS THEORY

There's an argument that this is the best Splinter Cell game, and it's a good one. Its singleplayer struck a neat balance between the obsessive stealth of earlier games and the combat-heavy mayhem seen later on, while its multiplayer modes -- its co-op campaign especially-remain a gold standard even a decade later.


STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC

Few games better showcased the gulf in performance between the Xbox and PS2 than KOTOR, a game Bioware basically said they couldn't do on Sony's console. Not only was it a technical marvel for the time, but it helped that it's an incredible RPG, and one of the most authentic Star Wars experiences to boot.


VICE CITY

It was the best GTA game on the PS2, and (after a lengthy delay) ended up the best GTA game on the Xbox as well. Its soundtrack is a gift to video games.


TONY HAWK PRO SKATER 3

The first two games have the more memorable soundtracks, but this is peak Tony Hawk, getting everything about the core experience right before the series went off the deep end in later titles.


PRINCE OF PERSIA SANDS OF TIME

As I said for the PS2 version: It was a good action game/platformer without the time abilities! But with those abilities, which let players shift time itself around during the middle of combat (or fancy leaps), this became one of the most unique games of its generation.


PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 2

Of all of Microsoft's first-party failings in recent years, few stick in the throat more than the murder of this series. Project Gotham may not have had Forza's seriousness or Burnout's white-knuckle thrills, but what it did do was make driving a fast car (or any car, even a Ford Focus) around a city's streets fun. Not an exercise in endurance, or simulation, or tinkering, just...fun.


FABLE

Time has been surprisingly kind to Fable. Compared at launch to the game it was supposed to be, the years since have allowed us to appreciate the game more for what it simply was: a fun, novel approach to the RPG that may not have got everything right (or delivered on what it promised), but was still a fun little adventure through a unique, big-booted fantasy world.


BEYOND GOOD & EVIL

People remember this being a better game than it actually was, but its Zelda-like blending of overworld action and dungeons was exactly the kind of experience the Xbox needed in 2003, especially since it played so much better on Microsoft's console than it did the PS2.


THE ELDER SCROLLS III: MORROWIND

Yeah, it's a PC game first and foremost, but Morrowind is like Halo, in that it took a type of game almost synonymous with the personal computer -- in this case a relatively complex 3D RPG -- and showed that it worked just fine on console. (Vid via John GodGames).


STEEL BATTALLION

Steel Battalion is not a very good video game. But for shipping with what remains the greatest pack-in video game controller of all time, it is guaranteed a place on this list until the end of days.


NINJA GAIDEN BLACK

The best Xbox action game got better with this re-release, which added new difficulties (at both ends of the spectrum) and a bunch of other stuff. Even in the face of more modern competition like Bayonetta, this game is still very good.


PHANTOM DUST

When Panzer Dragoon's Yukio Futatsugi gets to make an Xbox game. Phantom Dust may have had a very sad time on the Xbox One, but its original incarnation was a strange and beautiful thing.

WATCH MORE: Xbox News


Comments

    Brute force

    Deathrow! Still have yet to see an even remotely similar game come out

    One of my favourites is definitely Star Wars Republic Commando. Still hanging out for a remake on something more modern. The dialogue between Sev, Scorch and Delta was gold.

    Black was probably my favorite game on Xbox(i know it also released on PS2). I played Halo on PC before trying it on Xbox. I still have my Crystal Clear Xbox in the lounge room, doesn't get fired up more than once a year though, usually just to play old SNES emulator games.

    I thought the first xbox came out in 2013?
    we'll I'll be damned, learn something new everyday.

    Def Jam: Fight for NY one of my favourite. Nothing else like kicking the crap out of Snoop Dog.

      so much brutal entertainment. just replayed this recently. so good.
      "im gonna rip ya tongue out... and lick my ass with it" - RedMan

    I've a soft spot for Pandemic's early efforts, specifically Mercenaries, Battlefront 1+2 and Destroy All Humans. Many good times were had. Kudos for Jet Set Radio, love that game so much!

      Battlefront 2 definitely deserves to be on that list.

    Thank god Steel Battalion made the list. Realism isn't everyone's schtick (especially with giant mecha), but SB did great things with it.

    Otogi: Myth of Demons....I wish I could play that again, absoultely loved it, the levels were beautiful, the combat flowed very well, you could literally spend the majority of the level fighting in the air. Surely it could be ported to mobile gaming.

      I was thinking the same thing! I have both one and 2 and an original Xbox tucked away for nostalgia days. And i can tell you know, the graphics may not have aged well by modern standards, but the combat is still top notch to play and that music... man.. such a beautiful game..

    Tenchu: Return from Darkness was a gem for me.

    Mashed. Seriously some of the most fun i have ever had in a multiplayer games.

      OH MY! you seriously just unlocked memories i totally forgot i had. The countless nights of drinking and 4 player mashed, wow

    TES: Morrowind
    Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
    Fable
    Halo
    This list is nearly a perfect recreation of all the games that made me love the Xbox.
    I would add Jade Empire, even though I only ever played it on the 360 as a backwards compatible title.

    Omg, where is Kung Fu Chaos!! Best party game and the voice overs were hilarious.

    where is Crimson Skies and TimeSplitters Future Perfect (i realise this is not xbox exclusive, but 4 player split screen and lan-able)?

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