By the end of it’s short run, Microsoft’s original Xbox had sold a relatively small 24 million units. With that said, it might be difficult for many to remember that the platform had a lot of excellent games beyond Halo and Halo 2. We decided to remind our friends with The Top 5: original Xbox games.
5. BLACK – Did you know that the folks responsible for the Burnout series and the later Need for Speed titles made a first person shooter in the previous gen? Touted by Criterion Games as essentially “gun porn,” BLACK had a ton of guns you can play around with and the feeling of being able to almost destroy everything in your path. I would call it the “Gran Turismo with guns,” but aside from having realistic visual and sound effects for each gun you got, you didn’t really have any sort of progression other than the campaign in the game. It also didn’t help that the experience is a solitary one (i.e. no multiplayer). Still, this experience went unrivaled for the next several years for me… that is, until Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out.
4. Ninja Gaiden – Oh, Ninja Gaiden. You so tough. You so tough you made people afraid of you. This Xbox exclusive was one of the biggest reasons why owning one was a good idea. The original was special in that it was brutal and unforgiving, but never felt cheap… at least to me. Yes, it had this crazy Karma system that adapted the difficulty based on your play style, but it ensured that your gameplay was never boring and that it wanted to make sure that it provided you with enough challenge to get you through the game. The best part is that the game still holds up to this day. In fact, Ted’s playing through a version of it on the Vita. Easily a modern classic.
3. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – I had heard that the original Splinter Cell had become Game of the Year on the Xbox many years prior to this game’s release, but I never really truly looked at the series closely until Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory came around. Featuring amazing shader technology thanks to the latest Unreal engine at the time, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory was one of the best looking games on all the consoles that were out at the time. Just don’t stare at Sam Fisher’s eyes: They might freak you out.
2. Halo 2 – SURPRISE! As a person who is extremely and intensely critical about the Halo series, you probably didn’t expect Halo 2 to be so high on my list, didn’t you? Well, consider the time it came out: I was in college, going to UCSB, and a ton of my friends in the dorms just loved playing multiplayer. Sure, we had to share my small 27” HDTV with four people, while another batch of people used the lounge’s tube TV for the other 4, but the experience of playing Halo 2 with friends was something that made me think that first person shooters were, in fact, feasible on consoles. Countless hours playing Halo 2, eating delicious pizza, and grabbing some monster burritos from Freebirds in Isla Vista made sure that this was a huge social event for us all.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – Final Fantasy VII might’ve sold me on the original PlayStation, but it was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic that sold me on a Xbox. Up until this point, Bioware was an unknown quantity to console gamers. But the release of this pivotal game made sure that they were to be a company to look out for in the months and eventual years to come. With an incredible story, the ability to affect people’s lives through choices, and a fantastic set of supporting characters, no other Star Wars story has come close to this kind of storytelling since the original trilogy came out. It even introduced us to one of the most awesome characters in video game and Star Wars history: Darth Revan. Sorry, Vader. You used to be cool.
Last week was tough because there were way too many great PSone games and it was difficult to narrow them down to only five. This week, five is too many! Let’s just face it; I wasn’t a huge supporter of the original Xbox, so I didn’t play very many games on it. I could have put Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind or Jade Empire into the #5 position, but I really didn’t get that far into Jade Empire and I played Morrowind on PC, not Xbox. So this week, 4 will have to be enough for me. Xbox may not have had the greatest library of games or been the greatest system ever built, but these games made it worth owning.
4. Fable – I can’t help myself; I get totally caught up in the majority of the games designed by Peter Molyneux, and Fable was no exception. As an action RPG, it was quite a departure from the former creations of Lionhead Studios, and it was rough around the edges as a result. Regardless, it was fun to play, and was fairly successful at providing the player with meaningful decisions. The alignment system was great not only for the sake of role playing as a good or evil character, but also for adding to the replay value of the game.
3. Halo 2 – This sequel featured an improved single player campaign and brought the multiplayer mode out of the Stone Age. Playing Halo 2 on Xbox Live was practically a dream come true after being limited to only split screen in the original (though savvy players were able to use a PC and 3rd party software to play Halo: Combat Evolved online too). The end result was one of the most engaging shooters I had ever played. Though it was a game of a genre that I wasn’t very fond of, I ended up playing more Halo 2 than any other Xbox game.
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – How do I know that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a big deal? The answer is simple. To this day, people still fondly refer to it by the acronym of its subtitle. KotOR (kōto͝or)! Man, I just want to shout it at the top of my lungs and charge into battle. KOTOR!!!!! Er… excuse me. I lost myself there for a second.
Anyway, KotOR was great for many reasons, but the easiest way to explain it is that it was an excellent Bioware RPG set in the Star Wars universe. If that isn’t self-explanatory enough, just imagine a role playing game with a great storyline, fantastic characters and a deep and challenging battle engine, and you’ll have KotOR. I want to play it again, if only to enjoy the dialogue with HK-47, a droid who insists on describing organic lifeforms as “meatbags.”
1. Halo: Combat Evolved – There are great games on all platforms, and many of those games help to sell the hardware they are played on. But it is rare that a single game is as directly responsible for the overall success of a platform as Halo: Combat Evolved was for the Xbox. Super Mario Bros. (NES), Super Mario World (SNES), Tetris (Gameboy) and Final Fantasy VII (PSone) are all classic examples of system sellers. Halo: Combat Evolved was a system savior. Would Microsoft still be in the video game hardware business were it not for Halo? Actually, they might, via sheer stubbornness and their willingness and ability to throw tons of money at a problem. Regardless, Halo lead the charge for the Xbox, and it is directly responsible for why I ended up owning the system. I loved the campaign and played tons of split-screen multiplayer with my friends.
Is Halo the best game on the Xbox? No. It’s not even the best Halo game on the Xbox. But it is without a doubt one of the single most important games ever created, not only for its effect on Xbox sales, but for its effect on the genre. For better or worse, following Halo, many first person shooters adopted the recharging shield mechanic and did away with health pickups, a fundamental change to the genre that remains popular among developers to this day. I believe Halo deserves a place in videogame history alongside other influential titles such as Half-Life, Counterstrike and Goldeneye.
5. Doom 3 – Doom 3 was about a research project on Mars that opened a portal to Hell which released numerous demons into the facility. Unfortunately, for the demons, Doom guy was working as security guard at the facility that day. It’s now up to Doom guy to close the portal and save Mars from being overrun by demons. Now, if only someone could mount a flashlight to a gun.
4. Fable – Fable was supposed to be this epic game when released but fell short of that expectations. What we got was an interesting story and gameplay mechanic that let players wield a weapon and magic at the same time. The fairy tale story was about a boy who would become a hero and marry several women in different villages.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved – Halo introduced the Master Chief to the world as one of the greatest heroes humanity has to offer. He is also one of the greatest marketing tools the game had to offer. Halo spawned several sequels and spin offs including books and an animated short film.
2. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay – The game expanded the universe of the movie by allowing players to become Riddick and going back to Butcher Bay prison and trying to escape again.
1. Knights of the Old Republic – KotOR was one of the best games that ever came out on the Xbox. It allowed players a chance to become a Jedi or smuggler with force powers. It also introduced one of the most memorable character in video gaming history. HK-47 is a homicidal droid who loves calling humans “meat bags.”
5. Beyond Good & Evil – While BG&E is available on nearly every possible platform at the time, I originally played it on Xbox so it’s on my list. Rayman creator, Michel Ancel made a truly great game. With quirk and imagination to spare, the game tells a great story with highly memorable characters and gameplay. Beyond Good & Evil HD is available on Xbox Live for anyone interested and you should be because it’s fantastic.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Yes, I went there. This game, based on the greatest TV series of all-time, was far better and true to the license as anyone could have guessed. Even if series star Sarah Michelle Gellar couldn’t be bothered to lend her voice to the project, the sound-alike does a fairly good job with the role. What makes this game stand out for me is how good The Collective managed to craft an interesting story and nail the tone, character,s and settings of the show. Being the super fan that I am, that would have been enough, but it’s also an excellent action game as well. And for anyone interested, it’s backwards compatible on Xbox 360, so go get it if you can find it!
3. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay – Prior to its release, if anyone would have said that a game based on David Twohy’s Riddick would have been amongst the best games on consoles, let alone ever, they would have been laughed out of existence. The reality turned out to be that Starbreeze Studios’ The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay is not only a excellent game in terms of story, mechanics, and graphics, but also has the distinction of being one of the few great licensed games ever. The game proved to be such a popular request for backwards compatibility that when it turned out that wouldn’t be able to happen, Starbreeze crafted a sequel, Assault on Dark Athena, and included this classic as part of the package.
2. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Sure, Chaos Theory is the best game in the series, but the original Splinter Cell holds a special place in my heart and on my list for being the game that made be buy an Xbox and, ultimately, made me a fan of the brand. I remember seeing preview pictures in magazines and just admiring the lighting and graphics. When the game finally released, I broke down and picked up an Xbox with this game and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and just being blown away. Sam Fisher’s hardcore, inaugural stealth adventure cemented Splinter Cell as my favorite stealth franchise. Great, great stuff.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – For years growing up I would think what slam dunk idea a Star Wars RPG would be. I had no idea how right I was until Bioware got a hold of the license. With great characters and a better story than any of the actual films alone, KotOR could have been, without a doubt, the best game on the Xbox platform. However, Bioware did the greatest thing they could have possible done and that was to allow the player to choose their path and be either a Jedi or a Sith. While playing an evil character is common now, KotOR brought it to consoles and the mainstream. Oh, and that twist!
5. Ninja Gaiden Black – Ninja Gaiden Black is a director’s cut of an unapologetically difficult game. New features include a new easy mode, only unlocked if you die too much, and making fun of you if you select this new difficulty mode. Ninja Gaiden was an amazingly difficult, but rewarding action game, and Black is arguably its best form (even more than Sigma to some people)
4. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – A game with the scope of Morrowind is normally reserved for PCs. Seeing it on the Xbox is practically a miracle. Console gamers got to feel the scope of an expansive RPG, and the game played well with a controller; perhaps a proof of concept of PC games being played with controllers.
3. Capcom VS SNK 2 – Of course I’m going to put this in my list. CvS 2 was the first truly online console fighting game. For that reason alone, it’s in this list. The netcode might be bad by today’s standards, and it was even worse when the game first launched. However, the novelty of finally challenging the world lands this game in my top 5.
2. Halo – Quick, name some Xbox launch titles. You probably came up with Halo, and nothing else. Maybe Fusion Frenzy. Halo had to launch an entire console on its back, and it did so successfully. Today, we mock the level design that repeated building floorplans over and over, or the overpowered pistol, but in 2001 Halo was the shooter everyone wanted to play.
1. Halo 2 – If Halo: Combat Evolved was responsible for selling the system, Halo 2 was its marketing juggernaut. Despite a disastrous E3 demo in 2003, Halo 2 went on to be the one major game that people had to have Xboxes for. Halo 2 also introduced the concept of matchmaking in an FPS without a server browser. Players joined playlists, and were given random maps to play on. This style of matchmaking is now common, but Halo 2 took a big risk in trying to pull this off. The media blitz surrounding Halo 2 may have been hyperbolic at times, but on November 9, 2004, Xbox owners were looked on with envy.
So there you have The Top 5: Original Xbox games by the staff of Gamer Horizon. Let us know what you think of our lists as well as your own in the comments below!