The Xbox One’s release is exactly seven weeks away, and its debut will officially kick off the next-gen era for Microsoft-centric gamers. The new console has come a long way since its rocky reveal, but thanks to the outcries of gamers across the world, the brass at MS has acquiesced nearly all of the negative policies that hampered the Xbox One’s reputation. Legions of gamers will undoubtedly shed their old consoles for Microsoft’s new hardware, but that doesn’t mean it’s older brother, the Xbox 360, won’t remain a force in the industry.
The Xbox 360 did many amazing things this generation. It brought Microsoft’s gaming division in line with Sony’s, which was a pipe dream going into this generation considering how many more PS2 units sold than the original Xbox. Due to the PS3’s rough start and lackluster online offerings, the Xbox 360 became the go-to console for many gamers. In fact, in North America the Xbox 360 nearly sold as many units as Nintendo’s generation winning Wii, and almost doubled the PS3’s numbers (See below.) Worldwide the system is right in line with the PS3’s numbers, but overall Microsoft has nothing to feel bad about considering that its games division was so far behind the curve during the Xbox/PS2 era.
The main reason the Xbox 360 was able to become a force in gaming is due to its robust online Xbox Live system, which multiplayer oriented gamers flocked to, but also because of its stable of exclusive games. Microsoft made sure to secure exclusive rights to some of this generation’s most memorable games, so as the era comes to a close it’s a perfect time to rank ten of the best Xbox 360 exclusive titles that helped to keep the system in the limelight. Let the nostalgia take you as you prepare for the next generation of Microsoft branded gaming.
10. Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise:
Rare’s vibrant sandbox title that tasked gamers with maintaining a farm of sorts helped to keep families of gamers entertained in 2008. The sequel to the original Viva Piñata offered the same addictive gameplay, but it added three new game modes to ensure all styles of gamers could enjoy the experience. This game offered both depth and simplicity, and when coupled with the bright kid friendly visuals it made for a great gaming experience regardless of a player’s age.
9. Dance Central:
One of the only kinect games to do well, Dance Central surely must be included on this list. This motion-based game from the makers of Guitar Hero and Rock Band exuded the same level of polish and fun factor that its instrument-based cousins offered. More importantly it was a game that got non-traditional gamers involved thanks to its party atmosphere feel. Very rarely can a video game get an entire room of people entranced in its gameplay, but that’s exactly what Dance Central could do when fired up at a late night after party session with friends.
This open-world inspired crime game ushered in the era of super power having characters that weren’t based on an already established comic book franchise. Rather than just being a GTA clone, Crackdown allowed gamers to run up the sides of skyscrapers, glide like a flying squirrel, jump like the Hulk, and pull of many other maneuvers that showcased their character’s godly powers. Its cell shaded style gave it a comic book feel, and its fast and frenetic gameplay was a welcomed change from the more true to life open-world games that came before it. Crackdown didn’t offer a deep tale of rising through the ranks of a criminal organization, but it did offer hours of chaotic fun not rooted in reality that was appreciated by open-world gamers.
7. Saints Row:
Yes, the original Saints Row is a Xbox 360 exclusive, which is hard to believe considering that the franchise went on to release three new entries on a variety of platforms. Volition’s take on the GTA model flipped the open-world genre on its head. Rather than being just a GTA clone, Saints Row took a more absurd approach to the genre by allowing gamers to customize their characters with outrageous pimp inspired outfits and accessories. It also offered competitive multiplayer, which was a new venture for the open-world crime genre. Saints Row helped to establish one of this generation’s most memorable franchises, and its ability to not take itself seriously is what led to its long lasting popularity.
6. Shadow Complex:
Chair’s first title released exclusively on the XBLA, and it offered an experience that many consider to still be the best in the Xbox 360’s catalog of arcade titles. It’s Metroid style gameplay offered hours of fun and exploration, and for a 2.5D side-scroller the game featured beautiful visuals. Snaking your way through the game’s interconnected map provided challenging gameplay while en route to unlocking the next item or ability to help reach previously closed areas. While the gameplay itself was simplistic it still offered a challenge that kept gamers glued to their chairs throughout the duration of its campaign. More importantly, Shadow Complex helped to shine the light on indie development, and opened the eyes of gamers to the potential of these smaller scale games.
5. Fable 2:
Lionhead Studios’ Fable series picked up on the Xbox 360 with Fable 2, and many fans of the franchise consider it to be the best of the series. Fable 2 ushered in the ability to have same sex marriages, child birth, property ownership, jobs, and a host of gameplay additions that have defined the series during this era. It also enabled co-op play for the first time in a Fable game, and while it wasn’t perfect, it still allowed gamers to interact with their friend’s version of Albion. Albion was a fantastic world to inhabit, full of interesting NPCs who would comment on your character in a negative or positive light depending on the moral choices you made, and there was always a chicken to kick. The gameplay was interesting and tactical at times, and overall Fable 2 just offered a solid fantasy-based experience.
4. Lost Odyssey:
Lost Odyssey is the brainchild of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and while it’s not the greatest JRPG of this era, it did offer a solid cast of characters and gameplay during the Xbox 360’s early years when RPGs were scarce. Considering the pedigree of its creator Lost Odyssey featured many similarities to the wildly popular Final Fantasy franchise, which is why it’s a memorable exclusive for Microsoft’s current console. Kaim may not be Cloud Strife, but he’s still a great JRPG character, and his tale offered the usual “WTF” feel that most eastern inspired role-playing games offer.
3. Halo: Reach:
Halo: Reach took a cast of previously unknown Spartan soldiers and told an excellent prequel tale through their eyes that was full of heart and Bayhem-like action set pieces. Noble Six’s journey to ensure humanity’s survival is one of the best stories from the Halo video game universe, and its very last mission packed more emotions into a video game of this nature than ever before. Without the events that took place in this game, Master Chief and Cortana would have never gone on to be the galaxy saving duo that they eventually became in Halo 1-4.
Its multiplayer component also ushered in a litany of changes for the Halo competitive gaming formula. Special abilities such as the jet pack and personal shield first made an appearance in Halo: Reach, and they’ve gone on to be included in every Halo game since. Reach proved without a doubt that the Halo universe was, and still is, one of the most popular video game franchises of all-time, and it didn’t even need the game’s main mascot to pull that off.
2. Gears of War:
Epic Games’ Gears of War helped to kick off a brand new franchise that eventually saw four full releases on the Xbox 360. Its cover based system was unique for its time, and the over-the-top violence instantly resonated with gamers. Marcus and his hulking squad became the faces of the Xbox 360 exclusive scene, and only Master Chief held more weight in the eyes of fans. This game helped to sell consoles, because up until its release there were no Halo games to help move Xbox 360s off of store shelves.
Its multiplayer also helped to migrate gamers to the relatively new arena of competitive gaming on consoles. Personally, I credit this game with morphing me from a predominantly single-player campaign type of gamer to one who spent nearly a year straight playing only multiplayer game types. Seriously 1.0 is still one of the most rewarding achievements offered, and the quest to obtain it brought gamers from across the world together like never before.
1. Halo 4:
Halo 4 is by far the definitive exclusive for the Xbox 360. Coming out late in its run, Halo 4 offered the most complete package to grace the Xbox 360 to date. Its visual presentation reminded us that the Xbox 360 really is an amazing piece of machinery when a game is developed to maximize its potential. At times you had to close your eyes just to ensure that you were watching a video game cutscene, and not a near lifelike rendered film. What is most special about this game though is its personal story focusing on the bond between Cortana and Master Chief. For the first time the MC was cast in a light of humanity, and not just a robotic soldier doing his duty. The campaign’s story is both heartbreaking and compelling, and it opened the doors wide open for the next two games in Halo’s new trilogy.
The groundbreaking Spartan Ops mode allowed gamers to continue the tale of this amazing game free of charge via episodic content, which offered horde-like gameplay accompanied by movie quality cutscenes. The overall package approached perfection, and sent off the Halo franchise on the Xbox 360 in a polished fashion.
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