Goodnight, sweet prince
Last week, Microsoft announced, after ten years of service, Xbox 360 would discontinue production. It is without question, at least in software output, one of the best consoles ever.
To celebrate the blooming thing’s legacy – and the need to post something here at least once a month so I don’t go too insane – I made a list of what I think are the 20 best games for the system.
Now, there are some third-party games on this list that are available on other platforms, but for me are synonymous with the 360, hence their inclusion here.
Gears of War
It was the third-person cover shooter to aspire to last generation if you were making a similar shooter. Gears was about romp and pomp action and made no bones to make sure it was nothing but. Gears of War 2 was an excellent followup, though I kinda fell by the wayside of the series when Gears 3 came out and haven’t bothered with Judgement. Not even touched the Gears 4 beta as of writing this. Still, you can’t deny the game’s influence after ten years.
Lets be honest: no-one thought the world of Crackdown. We all bought it for the Halo 3 beta. It seemed like it had fallen to MGS2/Zone of the Enders syndrome. And yet, Crackdown has now earned its right to be a series. The first game just showed what could be done with a vibrant open world. And I think a lot of people give Crackdown 2 a lot of undeserved stick, even with its flaws. And orb collecting.
Project Gotham Racing 4
Project Gotham Racing 3 was one of my first online gaming experiences. Unfortunately, not a pleasant one. But PGR3 was one of my very first games for the Xbox 360 when I got it at Christmas 2006 (I bought PGR3 a few days later along with three months Xbox Live Gold) and it was glorious. Then came riding in PGR4 less than a year later and oh my word did my little world change. PGR4 was – still is, actually – the best arcade racer on the Xbox 360 and still remains one of the best racers of all time today. You can find a copy for cheap in CEX today and I guarantee you that nearly ten years on since it came out, you’ll still have a fucking ball playing it.
The Mass Effect Trilogy (Particularly Mass Effect 2)
Aye, Mass Effect 3’s ending was shite, like. But besides that, and that Kai Lang fight before ME3’s endgame, the entire Mass Effect trilogy to that point was nothing short of incredible. But it’s Mass Effect 2 that deserves all the plaudits out of any other game in the series. I like to think of it as The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy. And even for how woeful ME3’s ending was, BioWare did make up for it with one of the best DLCs ever with Citadel. Can we have that HD Trilogy remaster now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One before Andromeda now, EA?
Chapter VII. The Covenant. Enough said.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
If Gears of War was the cover shooter everyone aspired to be, Call of Duty 4 was THE shooter everyone wanted to be, full stop. To this day, nearly ten years since release, it still remains one of the most influential games of all time, if not the most influential. It’s the game that exploded the series into new heights for better or worse. It was also at that point the peak of the series for Infinity Ward. Subsequent games in the series have been at best great (Modern Warfare 2) to at worst shit (Ghosts). Here’s hoping that remaster rumour pans out.
What needs to be said about BioShock? Incredible design, from a gameplay and art perspective, a tone which pulls you in and a story that is batshit crazy at times. Not to mention, Rapture as a locale is one of the most famous settings for a game for a reason.
But for me, and this is why I have it standalone than bundle all the BioShock games together, BioShock Infinite is a game I love more. There’s the world of Columbia which, as you come into for the first time at the start of the game, is vibrant with a dark mystery set to play out. Elizabeth is also one of the best companions in a game ever. She doesn’t get in your way during a battle, only assisting you with tears and other trinkets when absolutely needed, and is one of the best female characters in a game I’ve played full stop. Sure, it can be a bit too shooty at times and even once or twice the story can go over your head. But even then, I still love Infinite so much. I really want that BioShock Collection to drop soon.
The Orange Box
This was the best thing to have come out of 2007. It’s not even a contest. And were it not for The Last of Us, it would have been the best thing to have come out of the last-generation just for the amount of value it gives. One of the best first-person shooters ever in Half-Life 2 plus its episodes, the incredible Portal and one of the very few multiplayer shooters I have spent substantial time with in Team Fortress 2. I can’t tell you how much I’d love to a similar Orange Box now. But even then, it’d be hard to beat Valve’s effort.
It was one of the best RPGs on the Xbox 360. And were it not for the Mass Effect Trilogy, I’d go as far to say it’d be the best western-made RPG for it. Say what you will about Lionhead and Peter Molyneux, but Fable II was just the perfect game to play when you needed some calm time. Plus, you had a dog as a companion. That should’ve been enough to sell you on it there.
Grand Theft Auto IV
If the period between GTA III and GTA: San Andreas showed Rockstar at its most silly, Grand Theft Auto IV showed them as they started to become more mature with their output. GTA IV’s more grounded story is what makes me love it, but Liberty City is still one of the best open-world playgrounds I’ve ever encountered. It doesn’t hurt its soundtrack is just top notch stuff too.
Grand Theft Auto V
But even with the game now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you’d still have to be hard pressed to not mention GTA V alongside IV merely for the fact it pushed so much out of the Xbox 360. And although it still represented that maturity Rockstar showed as of GTA IV onwards, GTA V was a little more loose if anyone had complaints of IV’s very serious story. Plus, and I’ve said this before here, GTA Online is as close as we’re going to get to a Grand Theft Auto MMO.
The Beatles: Rock Band
Look. This isn’t up for debate. The Beatles: Rock Band is straight up the best music game ever. Like, the soundtrack is what obviously makes it special, but the way it delves into the band’s history in great detail is great, if albeit ‘sweetened’ to avoid mention of how the band’s final days went down. And plus, a vivid art design that is just Beatles-eque in inspiration. Like I said, it’s not up for debate. Best music game of all time or your money back.
Left 4 Dead
I mention above how The Orange Box is one of the best packages in games ever, but Valve’s second 360-sweetner turned out to be one of the best co-op focused games I’ve ever played too, if not the best. Left 4 Dead -and its sequel but primarily the original – is ridiculous fun.
How I managed to get through playing this game considering its tense horror setting, I’ll never know. But Alan Wake is definitely worthy a place on this list. The Twin Peaks vibe the story gave mixed with a solid third-person action game is just brilliant. I’m hoping that now Quantum Break is now out of the way, they may have enough wiggle to room to finally do Alan Wake 2. Here’s hoping
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Look, it’s a good game. It’s certainly my favourite Splinter Cell anyways. I don’t get the hate around it. It’s good. Shut up.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Some of the funnest online memories I have is within this game. The more I play of subsequent Battlefield games, the more I yearn for a proper Bad Company 3 so we can some of those fun times again in multiplayer. It is one of the best multiplayer suites I’ve ever played in a game.
I didn’t even have this in my top ten the year it came out. Instead, it was an honourable mention. And yet, as time has gone on, Bayonetta has not only aged like a fine wine, but also proves I can be an absolute idiot sometimes. The pure balls-to-the-walls action it gives, the setpieces it delivers is just full on bonkers fucking brilliant. At least I made up for it with Bayonetta 2 being my 2014 GOTY.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim still remains to this day the most I’ve spent in a Bethesda RPG, moreso than Oblivion or the past two Bethesda Game Studios-made Fallout games. I’m actually not a huge fantasy guy, but Skyrim was the exception to the norm in this instance. I just wish, like Fallout 4 on console, Skyrim enabled mods on Xbox 360 mainly so I could get rid of the spiders. My arachnophobia would be grateful.
Xbox 360 had some of the best racers on the platform in its ten-year span, but there are two that I think are the best of the lot. You saw one of them near the top of this list. Here’s the second. Forza Horizon just completely nails the feeling of a car/music festival with a great selection of car, fantastic driving mechanics and one of the best licenced soundtracks ever. Just insane.