This it folks, we’re finally into the current generation of platform specific lists. With the next generation beginning proper in just over a month, it’s time to start talking about our best current gen experiences. This week it’s the Top 5: Xbox 360 games. And here…we….go!
As with my previous Top 5s, I tried to find the more unique games on the platform to showcase on my Top 5. Let’s jump right in!
5. Braid – As with most Xbox 360 exclusives, Braid eventually found its way to other platforms. Called pretentious by some, Braid proved without a shadow of a doubt that independent game development is here to stay. Its unique and creepy art style, coupled with moody music and interesting gameplay twists and storytelling made this a really compelling title for me to finish.
4. Call of Duty 2 – Before the Modern Warfare series ever came into being, Call of Duty 2 introduced many Xbox 360 gamers to the series and showed them that World War II shooters don’t need to be as formulaic as some might think. Featuring quicker paced gameplay and four player local splitscreen, Call of Duty 2 was that one game that I played with my friends at the dorms that replaced Halo 2 as our go-to multiplayer game.
3. Forza Motorsport 3 – I don’t even know how many hours I spent playing this game, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that it’s gotta be approaching several hundred. Forza Motorsport 3, with its customizable difficulty settings, was the perfect game to get me back into simulation racing. It also helped that it had incredibly smart AI and ways to manage upgrading parts of your car in such a way that you can just focus on the racing part rather than tweaking individual gear shifts… which, admittedly, is also available for people who wish to do that sort of thing.
2. Fable II – Really? Yes, really. It might not have lived to everyone’s expectations but we’re talking about Peter Molyneux here, and nothing would have met people’s expectations once he started gabbing about all the amazing features he had planned. What Fable II did for me was so simple that I felt that I had a connection with the environment around me that no other game did up until that point: it gave me a dog. It also had a really interesting family and property system that made me want to buy every single building in town. It’s like Pokemon, but with real estate!
1. Mass Effect – For the longest time, Mass Effect was an Xbox 360 exclusive. Published by Microsoft when it was first released, it was one of the greatest games to grace the platform and it’s the only game this generation that’s made me stay up until 4am for several days to try and fully beat to completion. Combining deep RPG elements with third person shooting and a rich storyline, Mass Effect is definitely a must play – if you haven’t played it yet over and over like I have that is.
Honorable mentions this week are Super Meat Boy, Fez, Halo 3, The Orange Box, Bioshock Infinite, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (and its sequel), The Beatles: Rock Band, Rock Band 3, Call of Duty 2, Gears of War, Mass Effect (and its sequels), Grand Theft Auto IV, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
5. Gears of War 2 – The original Gears of War was great. It was the first 3rd person shooter I really loved, probably because of how well its cover system worked. I also enjoyed mincing the bad guys to pieces with the chainsaw and playing cooperative games. Gears of War 2 had all that and more, with an insane campaign filled with over the top set pieces and unbelievable moments. It was one of those games that was like playing an action movie, but it managed to feel that way without being completely overwhelming. The Gears of War series provided the Xbox 360 with much needed exclusives, and the first two games were particularly good.
4. Bioshock – As one of those rare first person shooters with a story worth paying attention to, Bioshock earns its place on this list easily. But it’s not just the storytelling that made it great. It was an amazingly beautiful game from start to finish, and it takes place in one of the most creative and fully realized settings I’ve ever seen in a game. The underwater city, Rapture, was a pleasure to explore. While it’s easy enough to run around with guns blazing, if you find a minute to slow down you will find astonishing detail all around you, and it’s more than just cosmetic. Everywhere you look you will find hints and tidbits of information that explain a little more about the history of Rapture. These details flesh out the storyline as a whole. It’s really a remarkable game.
Another great thing about Bioshock is the plasmids, which are serums that mutate their user. When found, the plasmids give the player abilities that make the game a lot more fun than the average shooter that has nothing but guns and grenades. I enjoyed zapping enemies with electricity—especially when they were standing in water—and covering my enemies with swarms of bees. Bioshock is a wonderful game and I recommend it highly. Its sequel, Bioshock Infinite, is also incredible, and I played that one on PC (let’s not talk about the “more of the same” Bioshock 2).
3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – Choosing between this and Call of Duty 2 was actually tough for me. I completed both games on Veteran, and they each provided the kind of challenge that—while immensely frustrating—never felt unfair. I can’t remember how many times I died or how many hours I spent. I just remember that feeling of jubilation every time I reached the next checkpoint.
But the single greatest moment for me was when I earned the Mile High Club achievement in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It was a 90 second mission that took me around 5 hours spread across two days to complete, but somehow, I did it! And there was much jumping about and screaming and hollering… which if odd, coming from me.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare also took great steps forward for online multiplayer shooters, and though I rarely play these games online, it managed to draw me in more than any other game since Counterstrike.
2. Grand Theft Auto V – This series just keeps getting better and better. I know some people swear by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, but I’ve enjoyed each game in the series more than the last, and that includes Grand Theft Auto IV and of course, Grand Theft Auto V. Now that I’ve completed over 70% of the 100% checklist and played over 60 hours, I can easily describe Grand Theft Auto V as the best game in the series to date.
Sean may have taken issue with the game’s storyline, but I found it to be very engaging. While it’s true that many of the characters are unlikable and that no one in their right mind would remain connected to these people, this is the Grand Theft Auto universe, so it’s easy for me to forgive such things and let the story unfold in all of its absurdity.
I particularly enjoyed switching between each of the main characters, especially once Trevor was unlocked. Their different personalities were so well established within the storyline that it affected how I played the game while controlling them. For example, with Trevor, I was much more likely to pick a fight with a random pedestrian or lose my cool around the cops. He is a total psychopath, and so I made appropriate decisions based on that persona.
I’ve been focused mainly on the storyline so far, so I’m looking forward to just exploring the world Rockstar has created without a particular destination in mind, and I also plan on spending a lot of time with Grand Theft Auto Online once that part of the game becomes a bit more stable. But even without Grand Theft Auto Online, Grand Theft Auto V is an absolute masterpiece, and the second I finish writing this I am going to go play more of it.
1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Why Oblivion and not Skyrim? Because it was Oblivion that hooked me on The Elder Scrolls in the first place, and it did so on the Xbox 360. I had played Morrowind many years before for about 10 hours or so before I gave it up, not quite fully realizing how incredible a game it was at the time. When Oblivion came out as one of the highest rated Xbox 360 games, I was determined to make myself understand why the game received such glowing reviews and what the fuss was all about.
The first couple of hours were rough. I must have replayed the initial dungeon three or four times, trying to determine what play style I was going to focus on and settling on a character to play as. And when I finally reached the end of the dungeon and stepped out into the massive open world, I saved, turned the game off and let it sit for a couple of days. I was already exhausted by the scope of the game, and I hadn’t even killed a Mudcrab yet.
Fortunately, my stubbornness paid off and I came back to the game. That’s when it sunk its teeth in. Hundreds of hours later I had completed every major quest chain in the game, each with a character custom made to be appropriate for its content. I had also convinced all of my friends to play it and got them hooked as well. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion set a new standard for Western RPGs, with its massive world, its plethora of dungeons, its detailed character creation system and its many interesting quest chains and optional quests. And now that I have it on PC, I can still enjoy it to this day with the vast library of user created content and mods available for it.
5. Alan Wake – If you like survival horror with a real story behind it, then you’ll like Alan Wake. It’s the story about a guy who writes another guy into the story (Alan Wake) who now has to write the story about himself and the other guy. It doesn’t make sense but everything Alan writes in the story comes true. That totally blew my mind, right after I stopped laughing. The game wasn’t that scary but it did do a good job of pulling me in and holding my attention.
4. Ghostbusters – I loved watching the movie. When I heard this game was coming out and all the actors from the movie were reprising their roles in the game, I had to have it. I’ve always wanted to run around with a Proton pack and capture ghosts and now I can. The game did a good job of continuing the movie’s story. Now all the developers have to do is create another game.
3. Halo 4 – I bought the Xbox for Halo. I liked the story but never liked the multiplayer. After playing all the games in the franchise, I have to say, Halo 4 stands above all the others. The story was way better and the multiplayer changed just enough to make me want to play more. Bungie created a great game when they made Halo, but 343 Industries took the franchise to a whole new level.
2. Fallout 3 – When Fallout 3 came out, I had no plans on getting it. After playing a friend’s copy for a few minutes, I was hooked. I loved the gameplay including the V.A.T.S. system. Being able to pause gameplay and target individual body parts on the different enemies was unique for me. I explored the entire map searching for every vault to see what secrets they had inside. I was shocked to find out that several vaults were set up to experiment on its inhabitants.
1. Mass Effect 3 – With every game I have ever played, the Mass Effect franchise is my favorite of them all. I loved the story, the characters and even the gameplay. As great as the core game was to me, the DLC made it even better. The Omega DLC was a fun diversion while Leviathan, and From Ashes delivered some much needed back story on the Protheans and Reaper origins. The Citadel was the perfect ending to Commander Shepard’s story and I can’t wait to see what Bioware does next in the Mass Effect Universe.
I usually don’t give a foreword to my lists but I felt obliged to make an exception here with there being just so damn many great games I’ve played on the Xbox 360. Games like Grand Theft Auto V, Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3, Modern Warfare 2, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Mirror’s Edge, Far Cry 3, The Witcher 2, Left 4 Dead, Saints Row 2, Sleeping Dogs, Portal 2, Bioshock, Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Skate 2, Rock Band, GRAW and GRAW 2, Rainbow Six: Vegas and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2…I could go on an on. But alas, I made the rules so I’m gonna follow them. Just so anyone is wondering, the games on my top 5 are all games I would have given a 10 if I had been reviewing at the time I played them.
5. Grand Theft Auto IV – Yes, IV. While I did enjoy my time in Los Santos (and as of this writing, I still am), for me the storytelling in Grand Theft Auto IV is so ridiculously good that I can’t recommend any other game in the series more. It remains Rockstar’s best game story to date and it seems that they’re unlikely to top it anytime soon. Yes, the game is flawed upon reflection – the constant phone calls to hang out, the disconnect between Niko’s dialogue and the game’s forced behavior are often at odds, but those are minor quibbles when the story and lead character are this engaging. There is only one other game I enjoyed as much in 2008, but you’ll have to come back next week to find out which one.
4. The Orange Box – This is a lot of game. The complete, available, Half-Life 2 experience as well as the masterstroke of genius that is Portal (which would be number one on my biggest surprise list of one such list existed – *lightbulb*) are more than enough for me to rank Valve’s The Orange Box high on a list of all time favourite games available on the platform. Yeah, I know all about Team Fortress 2, but considering I only played a handful of times, it has no bearing one way or the other on why I loved this release.
3. Tomb Raider – Yep, the most recent Tomb Raider. Crystal Dynamics knocked it out of the park with this one. Lara’s progression from neophyte adventurer to full-blown, tough as nails archaeologist is presented in near flawless form. Sure, the supporting characters are severely lacking, but I absolutely adored the story, and each and every set piece. Climbing a crumbling tower, while the rousing score triumphantly re-announces the arrival of the single best female character in video games is as close to gaming perfection as anyone has come. For anyone silly enough to not own both a PS3 and a 360, this is as close as you’re going to get to the masterful gaming bliss that is Uncharted 2 as well. You really can’t go wrong with this game.
2. Mass Effect 2 – Expanding and improving upon the first Mass Effect in nearly every conceivable way, Mass Effect 2 is far and away the best action/RPG I’ve ever played. The tons of side content including the loyalty missions, the amazing characters and the fantastic story make Mass Effect 2 the highlight of the series and a pinnacle of gaming on current gen platforms.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – There is unequivocally, no game I have spent more time playing than Call of Duty 4. The smooth as silk, perfect first-person shooter controls, the 60 frames per second graphics, the incredibly surprising story and the incredibly addictive multipayer make Infinity Ward’s masterpiece an easy choice for my number one spot. The level “All Ghillied Up” stands, to this day, as one of the most memorable, tense, exciting and chilling levels of any game I have ever played. For me, there is no better shooter on the platform. Period.
5. Dance Central – The Kinect would have completely been a bust if it were not for one franchise: Dance Central. The game that proved that you could actually move in front of this bloody camera thing and it would capture your movements. It lasted for three installments before Harmonix moved onto another Kinect title, Fantasia. Without the success of Dance Central, it’s highly likely the Kinect wouldn’t be an integral part of the Xbox One strategy.
4. Mass Effect – Before being acquired by EA, Bioware made this Microsoft-published title that promised an entire trilogy shaped by your decisions. It would take a half-decade to prove that promise true, but at the time, Mass Effect delivered a new definition of RPG to many, many gamers. Just because the combat wasn’t menu-based, didn’t mean you couldn’t explore the universe the way you wanted to.
3. Gears of War – In the fall of 2006, Halo 3 was still a year away. The PlayStation 3 was about to release, and the green and white box needed a hit. Gears of War was a different kind of shooter, one that demanded cover and flank mechanics. Of course, that was thrown away for people rushing at each other with shotguns, but Gears of War was the AAA title the Xbox 360 needed, when it needed it.
2. Grand Theft Auto 4 – The GTA series was traditionally PlayStation-first, with Xbox versions of the titles coming months or years after. With the early market share dominance of the Xbox 360 compared to the PlayStation 3, Rockstar had no choice but a simultaneous release. It was the signal that the Xbox brand had reached parity with the PlayStation brand.
1. Halo 3 – The original Xbox launched with a Halo game, but the 360 did not. Many people waited on the fence, waiting for their champion franchise to return. Halo 3 might look dated now, amazingly enough, but this was amazing in 2007.
Coming up with The Top 5: Xbox 360 games is harder than you think. Speaking of what you think, let us know your thoughts on our lists as well as your own in the comments below!