10 years of great Xbox 360 games
The best games for Microsoft's decade-old console, one for every year.
Console cycles used to last around five years, but the amazing thing about Xbox 360 is that big games are still being released for it a decade after it was first released in the US.
So, to celebrate the tenth anniversary, we’ve taken a trip through the last ten years to pick out the best games released in every year of the 360’s life. What's your favourite?
2005: Project Gotham Racing 3
Of all the games in the Xbox 360’s launch line-up, Bizarre Creation’s racing threequel was by far the best. This was the game you’d always see running on those shiny new HD Samsung televisions in shop windows, and the one that best highlighted the sheer power of the 360. It may look a little basic a decade later and its online is completely dead now (along with Bizarre Creations itself, sadly) but it’s still a solid racer to this day.
Honourable mentions: Condemned: Criminal Origins, Call Of Duty 2, Amped 3
2006 - The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
It’s amazing to think that a game released just four months into a console’s life could get so much out of it. Oblivion’s enormous open world (the game map was 16 square miles, a massive achievement at the time) and its slew of side-missions meant some gamers happily put hundreds of hours into it.
Honourable mentions: Gears Of War, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Dead Rising
2007 - Halo 3
Even as the Xbox 360 entered its second year, its online Xbox Live service was still being dominated by Halo 2, an original Xbox game that fans were playing using the console's backwards compatibility feature. It was no surprise, then, that when Halo 3 was eventually released it quickly became the first must-have online multiplayer game for the 360. On the day it launched, over a million players took to Xbox Live to play it online, a record for the service at the time.
Honourable mentions: Crackdown, Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed
2008 - Dead Space
Survival horror wasn’t a new concept in 2008, far from it, but other than Sega’s Condemned there hadn’t been a truly terrifying game on Xbox 360 until EA stepped forward with Dead Space. The story of engineer Isaac Clarke and his battles with the grotesque necromorphs aboard the mining ship Ishimura left many a terrified gamer sleeping with the lights on. At the time of release, this was the closest a game had come to capturing the feel of terror and isolation seen in the Alien movies.
Honourable mentions: Grand Theft Auto IV, Rock Band 2, Left 4 Dead)
2009 - Batman: Arkham Asylum
There’s nothing better than a smash hit that comes out of nowhere, and Rocksteady’s first Batman game certainly fits that bill. Given that it was a superhero game by a then-unknown studio nobody really gave Arkham Asylum much of a chance while it was in development. When it launched, though, its incredible visuals, gripping storyline and innovative combat system (which has been ripped off countless times since) made it an instant classic.
Honourable mentions: Street Fighter IV, Borderlands, Modern Warfare 2
2010 - Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar may be best known for its Grand Theft Auto games, but for many, this sequel to 2004 game Red Dead Revolver is the best thing the studio ever created. Set in the Old West in 1911, Redemption’s ‘Grand Theft Auto with cowboys’ tag was accurate but slightly unfair, because it did some things better than GTA. Most notably, it was far better at telling a story, making you really feel for lead character John Marston.
Honourable mentions: Bayonetta, Mass Effect 2, Dead Rising 2
2011 - Dark Souls
Another great example of a game that gathered a massive following out of nothing, From Software’s Dark Souls was the spiritual successor to PS3 game Demon’s Souls, but since it only had a small cult following, nobody expected it to be so successful. One of the cruellest adventure games ever made, Dark Souls quickly gained notoriety for its harsh but compelling gameplay - beating the game was considered a badge of honour.
Honourable mentions: Dead Space 2, Gears Of War 3, Battlefield 3
2012 - Far Cry 3
The first two Far Cry games were perfectly acceptable first-person shooters, but they weren't exactly groundbreaking. So when Far Cry 3 arrived it didn’t just rock the boat, it leapt out from a bush and plunged a knife into it. Its enormous environment was impressive, and it had a cleverly constructed narrative, but many gamers racked up hundereds of hours just exploring the land and hunting animals.
Honourable mentions: Borderlands 2, Forza Horizon, Halo 4
2013 - Grand Theft Auto V
Most consoles are close to death by the time they’re eight years old but the Xbox 360 was treated to some of its finest games yet in 2013. By far the best of the bunch was the long-awaited fifth main game in Rockstar’s GTA series, which introduced players to the franchise’s three most rounded characters yet and the most detailed open-world city ever seen in a game.
Honourable mentions: Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, The Walking Dead
2014 - South Park: The Stick Of Truth
With the launch of the Xbox One in late 2013 it was understandable that the frequency of big games on the Xbox 360 would begin to wind down, but it was still home to the odd last-gen only game. Most notable of these was S outh Park: The Stick Of Truth, a game that had been stuck in development hell for years before Ubisoft rescued it. It’s just as well it did, because it’s one of the funniest games you’ll ever play, offering a flawless recreation of the show’s art style and filthy sense of humour.
Honourable mentions: Dark Souls II, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Assassin’s Creed Rogue
2015 - Rise of the Tomb Raider
With all the focus firmly on the Xbox One now, this year the 360 has pretty much been the home of licensed games and downgraded ports of current-gen titles. There’s still some life in the old dog yet though, and some of these ports have still been pretty impressive. Take Rise of the Tomb Raider: while Microsoft is obviously hoping most people buy its big Christmas exclusive on the Xbox One, those who haven’t yet made the jump will find a 360 game that still looks stunning and offers some breathtaking set-pieces.
Honourable mentions: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Resident Evil Revelations 2, Lego Dimensions
Share your Xbox 360 memories with Chris Scullion on Twitter @scully1888
Moved onto Xbox One? Here are some new games you should be playing, plus some others to look forward to: