The Xbox 360 was my secondary game system during the previous console generation, but I definitely had some good times on it and played a lot of cool games. So, just to be fair (as it seems increasingly unlikely that I’m going to get an Xbox One), I felt it was high time for me to list my favourite games on the system. Just so this list is an accurate representation of my favourites, I’m also going to include physical and downloadable games equally, unlike with my Top-10 Wii Games list.
Some honourable mentions before moving on: Worms 2 Armageddon (XBLA), Sonic Generations, Assassin’s Creed, Brütal Legend, Street Fighter III (XBLA) and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
Let’s get on with the list…
10. Mirror’s Edge
This was one of the first games I got for my 360 and it was also a surprisingly good title considering I had literally no expectations for it. In Mirror’s Edge, you control a girl named Faith who runs messages and packages in a tyrannical city, avoiding police and later other runners. Mirror’s Edge is a unique and novel concept, a first-person parqour/free-running title.
The challenge in Mirror’s Edge is evaluating distances and performing crazy jumps as well as climbing around to avoid whoever is pursuing you or to just get to the goal. The controls could feel a bit challenging, but the more you played the better you would get at it. Also, the stunts got difficult quite fast but nothing quite beats the sensation of finally completing a complicated stunt and shaking off the fuzz. What adds to the sense of urgency is that you can’t kill any of the enemies in this game, just knock them out temporarily.
Mirror’s Edge was an awesome game with one extremely sad weakness: its length. The game only has 10 complete levels after which you’re already done. The game is just criminally short and I can’t wait for DICE to finally finish the sequel I’ve been pining for ever since I played the first game. But yeah, the only reason Mirror’s Edge isn’t higher is because it’s so damned short. A brilliant game, but short.
9. Duke Nukem Forever
The nay-sayers can kiss my ass, Duke Nukem Forever was awesome. With over a decade spent in development hell and even getting seemingly cancelled in 2010, I was just happy to finally get to play a new Duke Nukem game after all this time. DNF had everything you could want from a Duke Nukem game: aliens, guns and babes. Hearing Jon St. John spouting one-liners and borrowed quotes from movies was totally worth going through the hardcore levels which even got me frustrated with their difficulty at times.
Duke Nukem Forever also had some new and genuinely fun ideas, like Duke’s gas-gussling truck, the mini-Duke sections as well as the traditional boyish and juvenile sense of humour. Sure, I hated the fact that you could only carry two weapons with you, but on every level the game was a step up from Duke Nukem 3D and I’m not gonna complain about the gameplay because there honestly wasn’t anything worth complaining about.
DNF’s only weakness is that it leaned a little too heavily on its predecessor in a few things like its selection of weapons and monsters. The game’s audio design was okay, but the game definitely over-used the Grab-Bag theme in its music selection and I would have maybe hoped for a bit more variety in the level design. And strange as it seems, I really thought the finale came out of nowhere, when I really could have played for a few more levels more. Still, I loved it and if you love Duke Nukem, you should love it too…
Platformers are very close to my heart, but sadly the game industry has moved on so much that you will be hard-pressed to find new and innovative ideas in this genre anymore. Then came Limbo and totally changed up everything you thought about 2D platformers.
Whereas people tend to think of platforming games as colourful, child-friendly affairs, Limbo went in a completely different direction. The game had a minimalistic silhouette art-style and a dark, dismal atmosphere where you had to guide the nameless boy to the end while avoiding deadly traps and giant spiders. Limbo was excellent in that it forced you to think in order to escape a particular situation.
Also, for something so simplistic looking, the game could give you the heeby-jeebies in a big way. Limbo is a brilliant example of experimental game designing and absolutely worth downloading for the Xbox. However, the game also has practically non-existant replay value and that sadly kept it from getting any higher on the list.
7. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition
In 2009 there were great news for Monkey Island fans, a new instalment of the series was coming out and a remake of the first game was also in the works. The Secret of Monkey Island, being my second favourite game in the series, obviously means a lot to me and I absolutely loved the do-over that LucasArts gave it.
Obviously they updated the graphics to look much more colourful and vibrant than before. The character animations may have suffered a bit from being overlayed atop the original sprites, but in all, the game looked better than ever. The music was lovingly orchestrated by Jesse Harlin, now with real instruments and with Peter McConnell returning to do a bitchin’ new violin solo for the Ghost Ship Shuffle.
Best yet, the game’s voice-cast brought back classic voice-actors from both The Curse of and Escape from Monkey Island. Dominic Armato returns as the loveably inept pirate hero Guybrush Threepwood, Earl Boen as the Ghost Pirate LeChuck, Alexandra Boyd lends her lovely British accent to Elaine Marley and we also are treated by the talent of Emmy Award winner Rob Paulsen as both the Lookout and Bob the Skeleton.
As great as the Special Edition was (way better than the inevitable Monkey Island 2 Special Edition), I felt putting a remake of a game on the Top-5 was asking a bit too much. It is a definite must-play for fans of Old School Adventure Games, never the less.
6. Sonic Adventure 2
Another thing I was really grateful for the Xbox for was that Sega decided to re-release some of their classic Dreamcast titles on it. While I appreciated being exposed to Crazy Taxi, Soul Calibur and the very first Sonic Adventure, I have to say that getting re-experience Sonic Adventure 2 again after several years since last playing it on the Nintendo GameCube was a thrill and a joy.
Sonic Adventure 2 is superior to its predecessor in most every way. Instead a bunch of short campaigns, Sonic Team focused on making two long and varied campaigns, one for the heroes and one for the villains. Instead of a redundant hub-world, levels were instead connected by a continous procession of cut-scenes. And not only that, the soundtrack was extremeley varied with themes varying from Japan Pop to Rock, Hip Hop and RNB. Not to mention, this instalment introduced two of my favourite Sonic characters, Shadow and Rouge. The story, I’ll admit, wasn’t quite on the same level as the first game – but it fit the bill nicely for this title.
Is Sonic Adventure 2 a flawless game? Hardly. There is are some odd voice-sync issues with some cut-scenes. The Tails and Robotnick levels suffer from a complete lack of challenge (except for some platforming), this game didn’t really improve on the camera mechanics of the first and I also felt that not only were Shadow’s levels much better than Sonic’s, the villains’ campaign completely overshadowed (no pun intended) the heroes’ campaign in its complexity and character development. And Tails’ voice sounded awful of course.
However, this game still improved a lot from the first title and is in my view, easily, the best 3D Sonic game. It’s only the rough edges that keep it from reaching Top-5.
Now, I never owned the original Xbox, so naturally I missed out on Tim Schafer’s first foray into gaming since leaving LucasArts. Psychonauts was thankfully re-released for the XBLA and playing it turned out to be one of my highlight experiences on the 360 (even greater than Brütal Legend). Psychonauts is yet another game that proves that platformers can do a great deal more than just be expendable kiddy entertainment.
In the game, you’re Raz, a kid on a psychic summer camp where you try to uncover a dark secret. You travel into the minds of others, face character’s fears and enjoy that delicious brand of Tim Schafer insanity you’ve come to expect from him. With tight controls, inventive level design and a story that goes deeper than your typical “save the princess” affair, Psychonauts is a landmark title in the platforming genre.
Using your psychic power and encountering goofy characters is a great deal of fun. This game definitely deserved a spot in the top-5, but I felt no higher than 5, since the game is a re-release after all.
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum
Arkham Asylum was a rather uncharacteristic trial from me, seeing as I tend to avoid licenced games. However, seeing a bit of the game’s demo I became fascinated and in the end, I was glad I let myself get hooked on this brilliant title. Arkham Asylum is truly one of the best, possibly THE best, super-hero games out there.
A dark story combined with well-designed action gameplay and tons of familiar characters from the Batman franchise – how could you go wrong? The simple but varied combat system makes sure that even beating down the regular henchmen doesn’t become laborious, but the best parts of the game are definitely where you have to sneak around and avoid detection.
And of course you’ll be going toe-to-toe with iconic Batman villains like Poison Ivy, Bane and Killer Croc. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill also return from Batman: The Animated Series to provide the voices for the Dark Knight and the Clown Prince of Crime, Joker.
This was one of the most whole-heartedly awesome games for the Xbox 360 and it’s sad how lackluster it’s sequel, Arkham City, turned out to be. If you’re a Batman fan, you need to try this game out.
3. Fallout 3
When I first got my Xbox 360, there were very few games out at the time that would have really caught my interest. However, I decided to take a chance with Fallout 3, despite my dislike of most RPGs. However, I have always had a soft-spot for the Fallout series and I even quite liked the first game to some extent, though I was never good enough to actually beat it. Fallout 3 however turned out to be far more rewarding of an experience than I could have hoped for.
Firstly, the game dispensed with most of the redundancies of RPGs with a more action-oriented gameplay. There was still a needlessly complex stat-system, but it was automated enough that I didn’t really need to bother with it too much. Keeping myself healthy and my internal radition levels down was hassle-free enough that it didn’t bother me. I had some genuinely thrilling moments discovering the post-apocalyptic world of the Fallout series and for the first time ever I was actually impressed by the story-telling and the main plot-line of the series. I spent lots of time on Fallout 3 and it definitely filled a gap back when I could still count my 360 games using one hand.
Despite its excellence as a game, Fallout 3 undoubtedly has its faults. One is the trade-mark slip-shotty physics of Bethesda’s games, which at best could be hilarious, at its worst distracting. Secondly, the extremely limited and repetitive voice-cast, despite A-lister Liam Neeson playing your father. Also, the dismal post-apocalyptic world would eventually become somewhat monotonous to explore and I also felt insufficient insentive to go against my good guy nature and act as a bad-guy in the game. Fallout was vast and expansive enough of a title to warrant a spot in the Top-5, but in all honesty, it’s shine begins to wear out the longer you play it.
2. Mortal Kombat 9
I will admit that I was a little nervous at the news that the Mortal Kombat series was due for a reboot. However, not only was MK9 a succesful reimagining of the franchise, it was also an extremely competent fighting game. So much so that I could so far as to call it the best game of the series. Despite some changes to established MK traditions in the special moves front, the gameplay is probably the most solid it has ever been.
The playable cast is excellent and features many familiar faces from Mortal Kombat 1-3. Apart from a cast with varied special moves, the new X-Ray moves added some excellent variety. Also, the story-mode with its well-directed cut-scenes made me feel like I was watching another MK film. MK9 was a love letter to the fans of the series from NetherRealm. They brought back a lot of familiar elements but redid them in a way that made you appreciate them even more. Perfect example is Mileena, a character I never cared much about but who became one of my favourites through this game.
MK9 was one of the finest gaming experiences on the Xbox 360 and it could have easily deserved to be number-1, but there is still one more game that I think had it beat.
1. L.A. Noire
Rockstar Game’s L.A. Noire sets you in Los Angeles after the second World War where as Cole Phelps you climb the ladder of the LAPD from a beat cop to a traffic investigator and homicide. As you head deeper into LA’s underworld, you’ll start to discover conspiracies and eventually have to witness the entire tragic rise and fall of your character. L.A. Noire had one of the best stories I’ve seen from any video-game in a long while.
When I first learned about this game I expected it to be a GTA-style sandbox title, but instead set in the 50s where you played as the cops. However, you spend a lot of time collecting clues and interrogating suspects, trying to catch them on a lie to crack the case. There are shoot outs and car chases too, but the main objective is connecting the dots and finding out who the felon is and where the cases take you next.
L.A. Noire is in fact one of the most detailed and surprisingly addicting adventure games I have played from recent years. Along with the swining 50s feel and music, the game has a brilliant cast whose voices and faces have been put in to the game to bring the characters alive in a completely new way in a video-game. L.A. Noire was easily the most fun I had with any game on the Xbox 360 and I enjoyed every minute of it. This game was a no-brainer for the top spot on this list, and if you haven’t played it yet, you seriously need to.