The Xbox 360 is one of the best video game consoles ever made. It was the first HD system on the market when it dropped in 2005 and revolutionized several aspects of gaming we take for granted now. It had advancements in online play, achievements, great downloadable games on Xbox Live Arcade, and just a new sense of community for console gaming. Even entertainment options were really good. Back in the day, you could actually watch Netflix with other online friends in a party. You’re not going to get that anymore. Since the 360 is over 16 years old and has so many great titles, let’s look at the top 10 best Xbox 360 games of all time.
Xbox Live Arcade was more impactful than I think a lot of people may realize. Not only was it the first good console marketplace for digital-only games, but it was also the first place where really quality indie games dropped into the console space. I think that Xbox Live Arcade is when the first big wave of really quality indie games dropped that many people actually played. Games like Braid, Trials HD, Fez, Super Meat Boy, and my favorite Limbo. For me, as a console gamer, Limbo was the first game of its kind that I played. A bold black and white art style with a story told with no dialogue at all was something that was brand new to me.
This game fascinated me during my first playthrough. I will never forget my first encounter with the spider and how hectic it was. The actual puzzles in the game are quite well designed. I would argue they’re better than the developer’s next title, Inside, which I found far more frustrating. Limbo’s difficulty was just right for me. Limbo is an amazing indie game and along with it being fresh for many gamers when it first came out is why it’s at the number 10 spot.
Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City was the sequel to one of the best games of 2009, Batman: Arkham Asylum. Arkham City is a shining example of a fantastic sequel. It was a non-linear game, unlike its predecessor, and had a fully open city to explore. It had a bigger story and more of Batman’s villains to encounter this time with the addition of side quests.
What makes Arkham City so special and a cut above the rest in the superhero genre is how well the open world is designed. Nothing in this game feels like busywork. Most Riddler trophies actually have a challenge to them, like guiding your Batarang through vents or gliding to specific spots in a tower. This makes them actually fun to collect. I’ve fully completed this game twice, and I enjoyed all of it. When I fully completed Batman: Arkham Knight, I felt like the game wasted my time. The game had so much busywork, and many of the side quests were lackluster. While the story does have its plot holes, the quality open-world design and the feeling of being Batman puts Arkham City in the number 9 spot.
One of this generation’s most impactful and influential games, Dark Souls 1, is an Action RPG classic. DS1 isn’t even the first game in the series, as Demon’s Souls was released before this. However, Demon’s Souls was a PlayStation 3 exclusive and was generally unknown outside of gamers within the PlayStation ecosystem. However, Dark Souls was multiplatform, making it reach a much larger audience.
The official tagline of the game, “Prepare to Die,” was very striking. At the time, a lot of hardcore gamers were craving more challenging titles on the market, and Dark Souls seemed to be a perfect fit for them. While Dark Souls is challenging, I never liked it for that specific reason. Keep in mind Dark Souls is primarily an Action RPG which means that there are so many tools available to you. When dying, often, the next thing you should try is to simply do a different strategy. Personally, that’s not the type of difficulty I’m looking for. I found the game a bit too easy, actually, and the only really hard parts were the first 6-8 hours when you’re at such a low level.
The reason Dark Souls is on this list is two other reasons. One is the quality Action RPG experience the game provides. Simply put, it’s fantastic. It’s quite refreshing to actually have a lot of role-playing and player choice in an ARPG of this era. Dark Souls also has a big branching world that the player doesn’t need to finish in one specific way. There are multiple routes one can take.
The final reason is the storytelling. DS1 does have cutscenes, but the story is mostly told through the game itself. It’s told in such a subtle and mystical way that certain players can just get hooked into it along with the various lore. Dark Souls is a fantastic ARPG and has an amazingly told story, which is why it’s number 8 on this list.
Trials Evolution is a platformer-racer and is the sequel to the hit XBLA game Trials HD. Evolution was everything you would want in a great sequel. Better level design, refined physics, better graphics, new multiplayer, and a new deep track editor that many amazing community members made so much cool stuff with. Someone literally made a pinball game in the track editor, and remember, this is a motorcycle game.
(Video by: B1toDO)
Trials Evolution and the overall Trials series are so addicting and have an almost infinitely high skill ceiling. The gameplay is really simple, but even though Evo is easy to learn, it’s hard to master. You can always improve in this game. At first, your goal might be just to beat every track in the game, including the extreme ones. Then you can get all the gold medals and get all the achievements. Then get all platinum medals, and if you wanna go even beyond that, shoot for world record times. This game and the next one on this list are the titles I’ve spent the most time on. I’ve spent over 150 hours on this game, and I’ll probably put in another 150 in my lifetime.
Ninja Gaiden II
Ninja Gaiden II is one of the best action games ever crafted. Team Ninja very well could have made NG2 the same game as the first one, but they didn’t. NG2, unlike Ninja Gaiden Black, has the enemy count almost tripled, and the gameplay has far more of a focus on offensive combat than defensive. An issue with the first game was that the Dragon Sword was by far the best weapon in the whole game. The other weapons are still used at points, but you were wielding the Dragon Sword most of the time. In NG2, they are 8 different weapons, and all of them are simply awesome. Each weapon does have a use, and you will be switching them quite frequently.
What makes Ninja Gaiden II a cut above the rest of all action games is that it is incredibly rich for skilled gamers who want to beat it on Master Ninja. However, Team Ninja also made it fun for less skilled gamers or people who want to play it on easy. The kill animations in this game are amazingly done and are very satisfying. That jolt of adrenaline will be a huge part of the fun for people who want to play on easy or on Normal and get destroyed. In the first game, you did need some degree of skill to actually have fun with the game due to the difficulty and how it was designed. NG2 is excellent for both levels of skill.
If you do decide to play NG2 on its harder modes and try to master it, there are simply not many games that handle difficulty better. Master Ninja mode in both NGB and NG2 is explicitly designed to make the person play the absolute best they can in order to complete it. NG2 is higher on this list than Dark Souls because since Dark Souls is an ARPG, there are plenty of ways you can defeat the challenges ahead. When you’re dying, the best tactic is to try a different strategy rather than actually play better.
In the first two Ninja Gaiden games, it actually takes time to get good at it. Difficulty is not just about adding challenge. It’s about using that challenge to make the person better at the game.
For many, the last great Halo game, Halo 3, seemed to be the final one that really changed the industry. First off, the hype for this game was massive. The game did have a sense of finality to it, along with one of the taglines being “Finish the Fight.” Many did think this was going to be the last main Halo title at the time, and that made the hype even bigger. Halo 3 didn’t disappoint.
The campaign was excellent, with so many great moments. Master Chief teaming up with the Arbiter and the iconic final scene are just some of the highlights. It’s also fairly well-paced, and it never really dragged for me. I still think Halo 2 has the best campaign in the series, but Halo 3 is a close second.
The multiplayer was a lot of fun and set the groundwork for many aspects of modern online play on consoles. The servers were shut down on the 360 version at the beginning of this year, but Halo: The Master Chief Collection is still available for Halo 3 online. Forge was introduced in Halo 3 and was the first level editor for FPS on console that saw a large amount of use and content created by the community. It wasn’t the first level editor for an FPS on console. That would be TimeSplitters, but Forge saw way more use. Halo 3 is already a great game, but also factor in how important it was for online gaming on consoles is why it’s number 5 on this list.
This game, I would argue, is the most iconic title in the 7th generation of consoles. Bioshock is that era’s Psycho in that if you’ve never played the game before, you still likely know a lot about the core premise, the characters, and maybe even the twist. The intro of Bioshock is legendary.
(Video by: JPulowski)
My first time playing this, I was completely floored and instantly hooked. Bioshock is a first-person shooter, and the gunplay is satisfying. Using plasmids is a lot of fun, especially Insect Swarm, which releases bees. The storyline is iconic and very well told. Just the city of Rapture itself with the detailed environmental design tells a lot of the world of Bioshock. Bioshock does still hold today for its story and gunplay, and along with the title being so iconic, is primarily why it’s so high up on this list.
However, the game does have its shortcomings. Bioshock can drag at times with how lengthy the game is and feels. The amount of times you get sidetracked with added objectives can also get annoying. Maybe not on your first playthrough, but you can definitely feel the sidetracking in the further ones. The death system with the Vita-Chambers also doesn’t work that great. It leads to the game being too easy, and it doesn’t feel like the enemies and combat were designed with the Vita-Chambers in mind. Despite that, Bioshock is still an amazing game and is worthy of being in the top 4.
Left 4 Dead 2
Valve has a lot of great games on the Xbox 360. There’s The Orange Box and Portal 2, but my pick is Left 4 Dead 2. This game was controversial when it was first revealed, mainly because it would release only a year after the original.
To be fair, the first game was developed by Turtle Rock Studios, while the sequel was developed by Valve in-house, which would make the one-year difference make a little more sense. Left 4 Dead 2 is still, to this day, the ultimate co-op experience. Massive replayability with so many game modes along with official and community-made campaigns. This is one of those games that you will always get a good time out of. On PC, there is still support for it, with the most recent Last Stand expansion releasing in September of 2020.
The reason Left 4 Dead 2 is so high up is that still, no other co-op zombie experience has topped it. There have been plenty of games in the vein of Left 4 Dead in recent memory, like World War Z and Back 4 Blood. Those games still don’t match up to how great Left 4 Dead 2 was. This game is still the cream of the crop in its genre, which is why Left 4 Dead 2 is in the top 3.
Fallout: New Vegas
For many, New Vegas is the best Fallout title, and I would agree. The storyline, worldbuilding, and amount of branching paths are incredible. Like Fallout 3, there’s so much to discover in the open world. New Vegas really is an improved and refined Fallout 3 with more attention to the role-playing elements and player choice.
The Vegas setting and the atmosphere is also a personal highlight for me. Much more interesting, in my opinion, than the Washington D.C. setting of Fallout 3. New Vegas is noticeably harder than Fallout 3, and it can be a pain early on, but stick with it. You won’t regret it. All 4 DLC packs are also really good, and thankfully there are no stinkers like Mothership Zeta in Fallout 3. With how much New Vegas is replayable and a great modding community on PC, this game can be played for hundreds of hours and still be enjoyable. One of the best open-world games ever but not the best Xbox 360 game.
Best Xbox 360 Game: The Mass Effect Trilogy
This is technically three games, but considering most people are likely playing the Legendary Edition, which has all three titles, I thought this was fair. Plus, these games work far better if you play them one after another. The whole dynamic of the Mass Effect Trilogy, I don’t think, is likely to ever be duplicated. What makes Mass Effect special is that in most games, the choices the player makes don’t actually matter that much. No matter what the player picks, often the exact same outcome occurs, with the only change being a specific character liking or disliking that action. This is not the case with Mass Effect.
Not a single game is better at actually making the choices you make feel important, and the fact that the story encompasses 3 games helps with that. In games like The Witcher 3, which takes the choices you made in Witcher 2 into account, the impact of the choices is quite uneventful. At most, a character that survived can come back for a cutscene, conversation, or a short quest, but that’s it.
In the Mass Effect Trilogy, if a character survives, they come back in a way that leaves an impact on players. In Mass Effect 3, there are several emotional moments with characters that can survive in Mass Effect 2. Those moments will just not appear for certain people who either started the game with a fresh save or got the character killed.
Near the end of Mass Effect 3, when you’re on Earth and rally with all the survived teammates is so powerful because you’ve been with them for 3 games. That’s why Mass Effect being a 3 part story is heavily in it’s advantage, and the whole trilogy is designed around the actions you made. The actual lore and story are so interesting and well done for a sci-fi adventure game. I loved diving into the history of the different alien races and species. For me, that is something I just didn’t bother to do with previous console games. The music as well is excellent and fitting for a big sci-fi epic.
The gameplay in Mass Effect is standard third-person fair, but it’s exactly what it needs to be. For Mass Effect, I typically like to play on easy and just enjoy the story and the characters. For games that you just play for the story, Mass Effect is the cream of the crop. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition is currently on Xbox Game Pass, and I can’t recommend it enough, as the whole trilogy is my pick for the best Xbox 360 game.
The Xbox 360 has plenty of great games, and most of them can be played on further Xbox platforms, including the Xbox Series X. Some 360 titles even support near 4K resolutions and boosted framerates on Series X. There are still plenty of 360 titles only playable on an Xbox 360 and along with a much bigger library of backward compatible original Xbox games, a 360 is still worth owning. Were there any games I missed? What are your favorite Xbox 360 titles? Let us know in the comments.