Believe or not, I actually enjoy some games not made for Nintendo consoles. While the Big N holds a dear place in my heart, I’ve also got plenty of love for its console competitors, in particular Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
The 360 hosted some of the best games of the past decade from a multitude of genres and franchises. Lovers of sports sims, shooters, role-playing games, and music games could find something to enjoy on the console, and many of the system’s best games are considered all-time classics.
Microsoft’s last system had so many good titles to choose from that it’s nearly impossible to select a list of ten that’ll make everybody happy, but that certainly won’t stop me! (Just for the record, I’ve never been a big fan of BioShock, Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, or Assassin’s Creed. Also, I never made it through all of Batman: Arkham City.)
My list is built on the following criteria:
-Only one game per franchise
-Has to be a game I actually played on the console
Without further ado, here are my picks:
10. Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter II is one of my favorite fighting games of all time, so of course I was going to absolutely love Street Fighter IV as soon as it launched for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2009. While it’s impossible to recapture the magic associated with the first major competitive fighting game, SFIV managed to present a case for the best game in the series with updated graphics, a more robust story mode (which had a ridiculous plot, but still), online play, and more colorful characters.
The SFII vs. SFIV honestly comes down to quality vs. nostalgia. SFII ushered in an era of competitive gaming, while SFIV built upon everything SFII established to create a more complete experience. Either way, SFIV is a very good game in its own right and was certainly the best fighting game on the Xbox 360.
9. L.A. Noire
By far Rockstar’s most intriguing release, L.A. Noire served as a pseudo-open world 1940s detective game whose actions revolved mostly around interrogations and observing crimes scenes as opposed to just shooting down baddies. Unlike other police-based games, L.A. Noire actually made the player feel like a detective, looking for clues and trying to extract the truth from mostly demure witnesses.
L.A. Noire doesn’t have the same replay value as many of Rockstar’s other efforts, nor does it feature a particularly lively open world. That said, it captures the essence of old black-and-white detective films in a way that no other game could, and it presented a pretty stellar experience in that model.
8. Rock Band 2
No other party game in the past decade brought players together the same way the Rock Band series did. Everyone competes heavily to 100% each song, yet nobody competes with one another; the band you build together feels (in spots) like a real band, so everyone’s success is the priority.
The series had multiple entries, including a special edition just featuring Beatles songs, but Rock Band 2 perfected the mechanics of each instrument and had the best songlist of any game. Music games may not be as popular as they were a decade ago, but few games provide the same kind of harmonious experience that Rock Band 2 provides.
7. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
While the continued and consistent mediocrity of the Call of Duty series is almost a meme on the same level as Crying Jordan nowadays, the franchise at one point was at the pinnacle of modern gaming. While Call of Duty 2 was a launch title for the Xbox 360, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the first realistic FPS for the console that truly showcased what the console could do. Modern Warfare had some of the best online play of any FPS in history, and the single-player campaign had more memorable moments than almost any other shooter from its era. It’s no mystery why Activision has chosen to re-release this game in HD later this year.
6. Halo 3
There are several games in the Halo series to choose from, but Halo 3 felt the most epic and complete. The storyline “finishes the fight” (that later was continued, but still) with some incredible missions, moments, and cut scenes. The multiplayer was excellent as well and didn’t require loadouts or anything too complicated. The game was pure, high-octane action and represented the apex of the franchise.
5. NBA 2K12
It may seem strange to put a sports game on this list, particularly since the 360 was able to tell thrilling stories and provide other-wordly experiences. Still, the NBA 2K series consistently releases the most polished basketball simulation games each year, and none were quite as good as NBA 2K12. The game launched in the midst of a lockout in the NBA, so instead of coming out of the gate with updated rosters, the game’s developers decided to add historic teams, such as Bill Russell’s Celtics from the 1960s, the 1996 Chicago Bulls, and Magic Johnson’s “Showtime” Lakers of the 1980s.
2K12 didn’t just add those teams as playable options; it created an entire game mode around them, allowing the player to simulate real games those teams played. The older each matchup was, the more grainy and retro the presentation would be, which is definitely the coolest thing any real sports game has done since the NFL Blitz series. No true basketball fan would look at 2K12 with anything but praise and admiration for its respect for the game’s history, and no gamer can deny how masterfully done the gameplay was in 2K12.
4. Fallout 3
The Xbox 360 was home to many top-notch RPGs, but none were quite as eerie, complex, or as enthralling as Fallout 3. Roaming the DC Wasteland while listening to old musical numbers created an amazingly immersive experience, and the V.A.T.S. combat system remains one of the more creative battle systems in the genre. The actual first-person shooting controls were a bit clunky at times, but the amazing story, breadth of content, and depth of NPCs more than made up for any shortcomings in the game’s controls.
Many fans of the series preferred Fallout: New Vegas, but 3 was able to completely revolutionize the franchise in ways that had never been seen before, so it gets the win here.
3. Gears of War 2
I don’t care what anybody says; Gears of War 3 was not, by any means, the best GoW game. It may have been the most polished, but it didn’t really bring that much more to the table. Gears of War 2, on the other hand, came with one of the best co-op campaigns in gaming history and the best online multiplayer mode in the series: Horde Mode.
Getting a group of friends over Xbox Live to try and get to the 50th wave in Horde Mode was some of the most fun I’ve ever had with any video game. It presented the perfect marriage of strategy and precision, and no other online co-op game (including Gears of War 3) could match its intensity.
2. Red Dead Redemption
Few games are as broad, compelling, precise, enthralling, and exciting as Red Dead Redemption. The combat is stellar, the story is nearly perfect, the characters are intriguing, and the open world is gorgeous and full of life.
More than anything else, Red Dead Redemption succeeds at creating incredible moments, such as the first ride through Mexico, the standoff with Javier Escuella, and touring Blackwater for the first time. This game is so layered and so beautiful that it’s an all-around achievement in art on its own, not just video games. The only thing keeping it from #1 on this list, however, would have to be…
1. Grand Theft Auto V
…another grandiose effort from Rockstar. Don’t get me wrong, Red Dead Redemption is narratively more interesting than anything else this game company has done. That said, GTA V has the greatest open world in the history of video games. Beyond just the wide variety of missions, number of playable characters, 80s movie-style plotlines, and penchant for comedy whenever applicable, the latest entry in this long-running series gives the player the ability to go skydiving, flying planes, jetskiing, and drag racing, all more or less on a moment’s notice. The game features triathlons, bicycle races, tennis matches, yoga, and countless other activities on top of a long, engaging story that features some incredible heists and battle sequences.
At a certain point, the differences in objective quality between Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption come down to the splitting of hairs, but if that has to be the case, the edge goes to GTA for its immensely broad open world, variety of gameplay options, and attention to detail at every turn.
What are your top Xbox 360 games? Let us know in the comments below!