Every Week I will be posting a new “top 10” list for every major video game platform in my lifetime, starting with the 5th generation of consoles and moving forward from there. I would love to hear your input on some of your favourite games, from each console or handheld. This is not necessarily an objective list of the 10 best games on the console, but rather my subjective opinion on the best 10 games of each console.
As a prelude, I want to mention that since the Xbox 360 had so many exclusive games over its lifespan, I wanted to highlight the best games that you can only play on the Xbox 360 rather than including multi platforms that you could play on other consoles. On that note, expect a Top 10 Multiplatform Games of the 7th Generation of Consoles post coming soon!
#10 Shadow Complex
People who love the old Super Metroid and Castlevania classics will adore Shadow Complex. Think of a game that is a pure side-scrolling action that has released in the last few years and what you get is a collection of great games like Shovel Knight Ori and the Blind Forest. These fantastic games would not exist if not for Shadow Complex rekindling the fire under side scrolling action adventure games. Awesome level design, challenging gameplay, and exciting boss fights make Shadow Complex a must-play on the 360 (or now on the Xbox One, Steam, or PS4 with the Remastered Edition). This is the best arcade game on the system.
#9 Alan Wake
Alan Wake has one of the most intelligent stories I have ever played. A psychological thriller/mystery/horror action game that does an incredible job of telling a gripping story AND has fantastic gameplay mechanics is hard to come by; Alan Wake accomplishes the aforementioned qualities masterfully. The simple concept of light and shadows is easy for the player to wrap their head around while simultaneously presenting interesting gameplay opportunities in leveraging the light and shadows to your advantage. Alan Wake is a testament to Remedy as an AAA developer and I can only hope that Quantum Break is as intelligent and fun as Alan Wake was.
#8 Halo Wars
Halo Wars was one the biggest surprises for me on the 360. Like many others, when Halo Wars was announced I thought that Microsoft was milking the franchise dry… Boy was I wrong. Halo Wars is the best console RTS of all-time hands down. Creative Assembly (RIP) somehow figured out a way to map a game as complicated as an RTS to a controller; what resulted was a strategy game that was user-friendly, easy to understand but difficult to master. Mechanics aside, Halo Wars featured a welcome addition to Halo lore with its campaign exploring early contact with the Covenant on Harvest. It was well written, fun to play, dynamic, and could even be played co-op. Where Halo Wars shines is in its fantastic and fanatical multiplayer and 3vs3 skirmish battles. Whether you just played with friends or with the community Halo Wars was a joy to play. Enjoy Halo Wars on the Xbox One via back compat and look out for Halo Wars 2 launching later this year.
#7 Forza Motorsport 4
The Forza series has always been incredible and industry leading. The series reached its peak with Forza Motorsport 4 on the 360. Visuals reached insurmountable levels for the 360 and PS3 alike, as well as gameplay was refined to a point where players could be as specific and fine tune as they liked, with the game catering to both sides of the spectrum. Career mode could be played for upwards of 40 hours if the player wanted, and with hundreds upon hundreds of cars to purchase there was always something to strive for. A hallmark of racing games on the 7th generation.
#6 Fable 2
Fable 2 remains the best Fable game ever made. Improving on practically every aspect of the first game, Fable 2 is a delight to play through. Simple yet effective combat mechanics, as well as quirky visuals and graphics give Fable a completely unique feel that few other games have even come close to replicating. The story and world of Albion will make you laugh out loud like few other games can, and that is one of the best parts of Fable – the game never takes itself too seriously. Get lost in this beautiful and interesting world that Lionhead Studios (RIP) has developed. This is their best work and it will remain their best work now that they are being shut down.
The first Crackdown was the way into the Halo 3 beta which is why many people know about this game. Even though it sold very well the original Crackdown was a hidden gem of a game and was overlooked due to the Halo 3 beta being included with it. Crackdown eliminated the downtime and in-between aspect of the popular GTA franchise and made the hero a jacked-up, superhero, secret agent with incredible weapons, vehicles and superhuman powers to always keep the players invested. Not only that, it included a Banjo-Kazooie aspect in that agility orbs were placed around the city (500 of them!!!) and the more the player collected the faster they got (it got ridiculously fast, coming from someone who spent time collecting every single orb). There were also hidden orbs that increased other attributes. Orbs aside, your agent got stronger as the game progressed and the coolest feature of this game was how the stronger your agent became, the stronger his entire arsenal became. This means that your vehicle would also go through transformations (think Digimon) and your character would get physically more jacked-up (like GTA: San Andreas). Crackdown is a must-play on the 360, and I am beyond excited for Crackdown 3 after Crackdown 2 was a partial let-down.
#4 Halo 3: ODST
It was hard to not include every single Halo game on this list – it would be easy to swap out a game for Halo: Reach. I had to think long and hard about what is the must-play experience on the 360 for fps Halo (aside from #1, of course…) and I chose ODST over Reach and 4. ODST provides a completely unique Halo experience that does a great job of telling a small but gripping story between a squad of ODST’s who get stranded after the slip space jump event in New Mombassa in Halo 2. The story is dark, moody, jazzy, and puts players in the shoes of a marine for the first time in franchise history. The dark visuals illuminated by neon lights and buildings engulfed in flames is incredible to see and it does a great job of hiding the game’s dated engine (same engine as Halo 3). We play as a memorable cast of characters that all have their own problems to work out and all have their own role to play in the larger conflict at play. As an ODST, you are significantly smaller and weaker than a Spartan. Even Grunts are nearly as tall as you and Brutes tower above you. The introduction of silenced weapons in the SMG and pistol are now Halo legend. The true selling point of ODST however, is the inclusion of the Halo 3 multiplayer suite, including all of its map packs and a brand new one. In map pack value alone, Halo 3: ODST pays for itself. Lastly, Firefight is one of the best game types to play on the entire system, taking a simple spin on the popular Horde mode from Gears of War 2. Cooperatively with friends, Firefight truly feels like you are holding the line against-all-odds and the match can technically go on forever. A fight-till-you-die mentality provides a thrilling experience. Halo 3: ODST is one of my favourite games on this console and it is a must-play for any Halo fan. At the very least, buy the soundtrack to the game to listen to Martin O’Donnel’s best work.
#3 Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead was a game-changer for the 360. The PS3 never got a Left 4 Dead game which is unfortunate because Left 4 Dead is an incredible cooperative experience that is different every time you play. The interesting 4vs4 survivors vs. infected mechanics where players could actually play as the more powerful special infected was completely unique for the time it released and is still played today both on the 360 and on Steam. The levels in each story mode (level-pack to play through) were all expertly designed and were dynamic meaning that every time you played certain elements would spawn randomly, be it weapons, gas containers, bosses, or even certain passageways would open and close. The result is a game that, with friends, provides an experience like-no-other and is a can’t-miss game no matter where you play it. Left 4 Dead remains one of the most influential games of the last generation and since then no game has really been able to clone its appeal perfectly.
#2 Gears of War 3
It’s hard not to include Gears of War or Gears of War 2 on this list, but Gears of War 3 is the culmination of the most important exclusive franchise for the Xbox 360. Gears of War 3 manages to keep players more invested than ever in the story of the COGs vs Locust vs Lambent struggle. Filled with epic moments like Dom’s sacrifice (spoiler alert…its been out for like 5 years), the final battle between the locust Queen and the COGs and more, the campaign is the highlight of the entire franchise and wraps things up in a perfect way. There are no stones left unturned, no strings left hanging, and it feels like the culmination of a perfect trilogy. On top of the story, the gameplay mechanics were refined to a crispy tee with the game feeling its best to play. Weapons were balanced, map design was on-point, and it was easy for players to jump in and compete but very difficult to master (something I talk about a lot as a characteristic of a great game). Horde mode was improved on with defense systems now being implemented and base building mechanics further improving on the hold-the-line style mentality that the original mode implemented. There was also the ability for an opposing team to play as the locust and the lambent to try and take down your team which was a welcome addition and very reminiscent of Left 4 Dead. Gears of War 3 is backward compatible, and if you haven’t enjoyed it yet you need to play it. One of the best games of the previous generation, and a very special game for the 360.
#1 Halo 3
We all knew this was going to be here… right? Halo 3, just as Gears of War 3, is the perfect culmination to the original Master Chief trilogy. After the massive cliff-hanger ending of Halo 2, Halo 3 had a lot to live up to and it delivered in every category. The story of Halo 3 (aside from the atrocious ‘Cortana’ level… seriously it looked like Master Chief was climbing through a butt-hole in South Park) was masterfully crafted and did an incredible job of making the player feel powerful, alone, worried, excited, and sad all at the same time. Cortana is missing, the Covenant have found Earth, and to make matters worse the Flood have now followed the action back to Earth as well. The stakes are at an all-time high, humanity is on its last breathe, and the Master Chief and the Arbiter are the only two who can make an effort to reclaim Cortana, who is the key to the survival of humanity. An epic conclusion, coupled with a rollercoaster ride of emotions and action make Halo 3 the perfect ending to finishing the fight that Chief heralded in Halo 2. Level design is fantastic, except for Cortana, and the graphics of the game still hold up today in many facets (save faces and close-up textures). Halo 3 also introduced Forge mode, which is now a staple of Halo video games. And Halo 3’s multiplayer is still the introduction point for millions and millions of gamers in multiplayer around the world. Ultra-competitive and commercialized for e-sports and extremely balanced for casual play, anyone could jump in and have a good time, and it was equally difficult to master and become a god. Map packs were all great, and Halo 3’s community was incredible vibrant in creating content and playing the game even to this day on the 360. Halo 3 was arguably the biggest exclusive game of the last generation, selling tens of millions of consoles and giving gamers and non-gamers a reason to buy into the 360 and Halo. No game has had a bigger impact since, save for Grand Theft Auto. Halo 3 is a generation-defining game, and cannot be missed by any gamer.
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