The top 50 of 360
You can't deny the Xbox 360s dominance following its 2005 launch. There was a reason the 360 took the lead over the competitors for so many years: The console saw some of the best games ever made. And being that this is a 'best of' list, narrowing down the systems impressive library to 50 entries wasn't easy.
We feel that the following is a collection of standout games well worth the countless hours we spent with them. It's worth noting that some entries may get updated if a truly great game comes out in the system's twilight, but for now the 360's lifespan seems complete enough for us to proclaim these the best games you can currently play on the Xbox 360...
And hey, you can always snap up a bargain on Xbox 360 games, if you know where to look.
50. Shadow Complex
The classic Metroidvania genre had something of a minor renaissance during the seventh console generation--and it's all thanks to this gem of a downloadable. Shadow Complex has so much going for it: gorgeous 2.5D visuals powered by the Unreal 3 engine, a charismatic hero voiced by none other than Nolan North, and enough collectibles tucked away in hidden walls to keep completionists playing for hours.
As in most Metroidvanias, protagonist Jason Flemmings starts out as a fairly average Joe. Instead of Samus' plasma or Alucard's swords, Jason prefers a trusty pistol--and the side-scrolling gunplay is most excellent. But after a game's worth of upgrades later, you'll be an unstoppable war machine, rushing around the map like a crazed, ludicrously excited human tank.
Dangerously addictive and deceivingly simple, Minecraft will pull you in and never let you go. Its not a sandbox game, it is the sandbox, empowering you to create and share just about anything you and your ever-growing army of fellow crafters can imagine.
The neverending list of objects to build, resources to gather, and user-made content to explore and admire will leave you sleepless and haunted by visions of blocky masterpieces and the relentless crunching sound of your shovel going chk, chk, chk, chk. Trust us, thats a good thing. Drink the Kool-Aid and join the party. You know you want to.
48. Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown
Here are some numbers that help sum up Virtua Fighter: one joystick, three buttons, hundreds of moves to learn, thousands of hours needed to attain mastery. Sega's flagship 3D fighter manages to take a simple control scheme and create an absurdly deep system, encompassing a massive variety of real-life fighting styles. VF5 Final Showdown is the most complete VF yet, with more characters and combos than you can shake an arcade stick at.
If you're a dedicated gamer surrounded by like-minded sparring partners, you could probably play nothing except VF5FS for the rest of your life and be perfectly happy. That's thanks to the endless well of depth that is the game's foundation... and the crazy amount of character customization that lets you fashion your fighter into a ninja, a clown, or anything in between.
You're going to get really confused when you play Fez. You're going to stand on top of a tower, flipping the camera around the square world, thinking you've broken the game because there's seriously no way you could have possibly missed something, and then you'll see a symbol, and realize you saw it earlier, and then... boom. You've figured it out. You'll scribble it down on paper--real paper, like a freaking archaeologist--and feel like you've just cracked an ancient code.
And once you crack that code, you'll realize you have the pieces to crack another. And then another. What begins as a basic platformer with a cute, retro gimmick evolves into something absolutely massive, and almost violently rewarding.
46. NBA 2K14
No other game simulates its sport like NBA 2K14. Commentary, courts, player likenesses, animations, licenses--everything in this game is pristine. And while the visuals of the 360 version pale in comparison to the next-gen offerings, it still looks incredible. Thing about NBA 2K14 is that its more than just gloss: theres a superb, deep game underneath it all.
Sure, the LeBron mode in 2K14 is a dud, and Crews still isnt what it should be, but My Career and My GM are all the modes you need (and more). My Team has come on leaps and bounds too, and the live data 2K14 gets from the NBA ensures that each game you play is as realistic and up to date as possible. If you love basketball, you can probably move this game up the list maybe by about 45 places.
45. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Nearly every square inch of South Park: The Stick of Truth is packed with comedy. From the moment you choose your name (which is, regardless of what you write, changed to "Douchebag" by the Grand Wizard of the Kingdom of the Koopa Keep, Eric Cartman) to the final battle (that you may very well fight with a flaming dildo), you're met with a nonstop barrage of South Park jokes, references, and cameos. It's almost overwhelming at times, but it's handled in such a way that you don't need to be a fan of the show to understand the humor.
But where it's most successful is in being able to both make fun of games while also being an incredibly good one--too often, satire feels jealous and malicious, but when the game is better than the ones it's making fun of, the otherwise brutal comedy that is South Park feels more... constructive. In that, The Stick of Truth is a love letter to the genre it lampoons, and an experience that was totally worth the (lengthy) wait.
44. Fable 2
The Fable series has always offered a compelling blend of dark, adult fantasy and goofy-but-clever humor, but the now-well-worn franchise has never delivered on its fascinating gameplay promises quite as completely as with Fable 2. Compared to other action-RPGs, its quite simple, but what it lacks in mechanical complexity it makes up for with deep and rewarding player interaction. Sure, youve got all your adventuring and your combat, but what about getting married? And then, immediately following, getting married to someone else and letting your two spouses meet to see what will happen?
Its not without issue, but theres genuine novelty in these systems, and, moreover, their consequences. Plenty of games let you make choices, but its a rare thing for a game to make you feel their weight in practical terms. Help a bandit rob a shopkeeper? 10 years down the road that bandit might end up running the city. Those multiple spouses? They might end up killing each other, leaving the city to take your children. Show me another RPG thats that depressing, and still as much of a good time as Fable 2.
43. Metro: Last Light
Most shooters are all about the GUNS! EXPLOSIONS! ULTRA NUCLEAR KILLSTREAKS! Too often they plop you in the middle of world-threatening war and request that you perform one simple task: Walk forward and hammer the trigger. While Metro: Last Light is a shooter in the sense that you have a gun and you shoot things, it's far from the sort you're used to playing.
For starters, that world-threatening war mentioned above? That's already been fought, and mankind lost. This is a game that prizes atmosphere and storytelling over non-stop action and set-piece moments. It's a bleak look into a world ruined by humanity itself, a chilling adventure that teases you with crumbs of hope before snuffing them out of existence. And the few bullets you have are things you'd rather hold onto than waste, because you never know what sort of horror might be awaiting you just ahead.
42. Darksiders 2
After he died, The Legend of Zelda's Link donned a skull mask and became one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. At least, that's what playing Darksiders 2 as the Pale Rider, aka the Grim Reaper, aka Death himself feels like. Death's adventure contains the same great dungeon exploration and snappy combat as Nintendo's Hylian hero, albeit with a much darker tone and a heck of a lot more gore.
As with TLoZ, every dungeon feels like an epic undertaking that teaches you to master a new piece of empowering gear. Traveling in and out of our plane of existence lets you take in the beauty of Darksiders 2's post-humanity world--right before you slice your way through a horde of demons and angels in the hunt for loot upgrades.
41. Trials Evolution
Look, weve all experienced games that provoked some amount of existential anxiety. Games that have prompted us to ask ourselves what in the hell were doing with our free time. And weve got to admit, sitting there with Trials Evolution, voices raspy from incensed, passionate cursing, cerebra charred with the imprint of the quick restart noise, that exact question crossed our minds constantly. Well, that and Why is this motorcycle not tipping over sideways?
So why does this profoundly punishing game merit a spot on our list? The answer has to do with precision. The controls are tight and fluid, and youll instantly find yourself in that intangible flow as you play. And keeping that in mind will keep you going, even long after youve lost count of how many times youve retried a single jump.
40. Saints Row: The Third
The great thing about open-world sandbox games like GTA and Saints Row is that there's just so much to do. Want to complete story missions? Go for it. Prefer to simply jack a few cars and go on a high-speed joyride? Why not! Hoping to skydive through an airplane's windshield while shooting people in slow motion, or take on a corrupt government organization while Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" plays in the background? Er, sorry--that level of awesomeness is restricted to Saints Row: The Third.
This game wastes no time letting you know that it's all about absurd, over-the-top action. From skydiving rescue missions to fighting off zombie invasions, its story missions get progressively wackier. Not only will the humor keep you giggling non stop (hoo boy, the dedicated nut tap button), but the characters are genuinely fun to be around. It's a welcome change from some of the more self-serious alternatives out there, and its got great gameplay to back up its humor.
39. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3
Lest it not be said, it is possible to become insanely good at Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Good in the if-I-hit-you-once-you're-absolutely-dead sense. Good in the airborne-mix-up-into-100-hit-combo sense. Good in the oh-you-have-three-characters?-that's-cute sense.
But it's also possible to become good in the hahahahahaaha-butttttonssss-hahahahahaahah sense. Few are the games that make you feel as competent or as powerful while knowing so very little about what you're actually doing. UMvC3 is among that number. And so regardless of whether you see yourself as the next great EVO champ, or just the resident button-mashing wunderkid among your friends, you can not go wrong with UMvC3.
38. Rayman Legends
2D platformers were all the rage in the 80s and 90s, and while theyve been supplanted by shooters, adventure games, and other shooters, theres still a lot of fun to be had with a colorful character hopping from one stage to the next. Rayman Legendsshowcases the persisting power of platformers with gorgeous visuals, lovingly balanced gameplay, and a whole lot of wild fun.
A throwback to Raymans 2D past, Legends ramps up the chaotic speed considerably, putting you through a number of smartly designed stages that keep up with the masters of the genre. The goofy fun gets better with each new player who joins in the inventive side-scrolling action, as up to four players can bounce between cooperation and competition at high speed. For a genre that many publishers no longer touch, Rayman Legends shows that platformers are still worthy of big budgets and even bigger talents.
37. Deus Ex: Human Revolution
To say that 2000s Deus Ex changed the face of gaming might sound hyperbolic--if it werent true. Fortunately for modern gamers, this latest entry in the series lives up to those impossibly high standards (despite a few hiccups by way of unfortunate boss encounters), and does so without sacrificing anything that made the original so memorable.
Human Revolution is an intelligent, challenging and Blade Runner-beautiful vision of the future. The style is unmatched, and the gameplay is customizable enough to qualify as both 100% shooter and 100% stealth. Which genre you experience is completely up to you as you explore the dark, interesting world.
36. Burnout Paradise
Some of the best racing games succeed by focusing on one race at a time, letting you rack up experience before flying off to the next exotic locale. Burnout Paradise creates a winning counter argument to that by investing heavily in one singular locale and keeping you there for the long haul. Paradise City was an open world with a persistence unseen in previous racing games, and its one players continue to return to today.
It helped Burnouts particular brand of arcade-y, hard-hitting driving is just as good in Paradise. Plus, Criterion experimented with the game long after release, adding DLC and improving on an already-great game with each new collection of content. The devs may have moved on to Need for Speed, but we still long for another trip to this velocity-obsessed town.
35. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Every once in a while it's nice to be reminded that not all games need great stories or set piece moments to be genuinely amazing. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is an excellent throwback to score-based arcade games, and it's packed with so many game modes that you could easily spend years uttering that phrase we know all too well: "Just one more try."
A twin-stick shooter at its core, Retro Evolved 2 pits you against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. Twitch reaction speed and on-the-fly foresight are all that will keep you alive, and the addictive flow and fast-paced gameplay will keep you playing for hours on end. That is, if the barrage of neon explosions doesnt blind you first.
34. Battlefield 4
In one moment, you're parachuting down onto the peak of a lofty tower, touching down and knifing a sniper in the same breath to exact glorious revenge. In the next moment, you're watching a soldier drive a Jeep covered in explosive C4 into an enemy-filled bunker, blowing up an entire squad in an insane act of courageous sacrifice.
Battlefield 4 has all the trimmings of any big-budget military FPS, but it's the thrilling memories you'll make while playing online that elevate it above other shooters. And beside the massive-scale multiplayer skirmishes, BF4's single-player campaign is a huge step up from BF3's underwhelming story--here, you actually care about your fellow squadmates.
33. Forza Motorsport 4
If you love cars, the appeal of Forza Motorsport 4 is pretty apparent. There are hundreds of the worlds most desirable automobiles, all there for you to poke at, customize, and, yes, drive to your hearts content. But what makes the Forza series excellent are the features that appeal to non-gearheads. Its level of accessibility and its forgiving nature distinguish it in the typically tough-as-nails driving simulator genre, and it has deep enough car painting and customization tools to be an artists sole creative outlet.
Forza Motorsport 4 is the absolute best the series has ever been, giving you the most content in the most refined package. Quite frankly, its the only driving simulator one could conceivably need, and its an even better buy than its technically accomplished but content-stripped next-gen successor, Forza Motorsport 5.
32. Far Cry 3
Youve just stolen an enemy jeep, but its already upside-down and on fire since you sent it careening off of a cliffside while en route to your destination. Turns out you picked a bad place to wipe out, because youve just caught a tigers attention, and youre too busy injecting health into your arm to ready your weapon. Your destination, a drug kingpins vast marijuana fields (which youve been ordered to destroy by flamethrower while a Skrillex song plays) may have to wait.
Do we need a second paragraph here? Far Cry 3s shooting and stealth mechanics are rock solid, but even if they werent, there would be no disputing how special it is. The way the games complex AI systems interact with one another, irrespective of your input, induces an unparallelled sense of awe. Far Cry 3 is a game you must play, no matter how tired of first-person shooters or open-world games you think you are.
31. Left 4 Dead 2
Fans were outraged when Valve revealed that Left 4 Dead 2 would release a mere year after the original. And then they played it, and saw how much it improved over the first game, and... yeah. They stopped complaining real fast once they saw how many new weapons, levels, and zombie types there were--seriously, this sequel is the real deal.
The co-op game has you joining with three friends to fight through endless waves of zombies, working together to survive the zombie apocalypse. The highlight, though, has to be the campaigns--sure, the original game's stages were great and all, but they can't hold a candle to Left 4 Dead 2's ingenious level design. That stage where it's pouring rain, and then you need to go back through it after it's flooded? Too cool.
30. Fallout 3
Bethesda was already well known for its skill at creating open-world RPGs when the developer picked up the rights to Fallout. The iconic PC series was beloved by its dedicated fan base, but many had their doubts that Bethesda could modernize the series, let alone reintroduce it to a massive new audience. But that's exactly what it did with Fallout 3.
Capturing all the dark humor, brutal combat, and bleak setting at Fallouts core, Fallout 3 remains one of the best examples of the role-playing genre. A big factor in that success is the still-impressive level of choice it offers, whether it's choosing a simple response to a question or deciding to obliterate an entire town in a nuclear explosion. As long as we have our strange companions and a functioning VATS, the post-apocalypse isn't such a scary place after all.
29. DIRT 2
Codemasters learned from the original Dirt and improved on it, but mainly because it learned so much more from its own Race Driver GRID. Dirt 2 combines the best of both games, dressing up the rewind-enabled, close-fought racing and epic car damage in off-road livery, taking away the armco and letting the vehicles loose into all-terrain wondertracks.
The festival presentation may have caused controversy, but its sense of identitymakes it stand out from the crown even now. The licensed soundtrack is perfectly chosen and makes this feel like the best summer you never had. But the bottom line is that it still plays superbly, thanks to some of the best handling in any car game ever. Purists may prefer Dirt 3s rallying, but the sunshine and sand makes this the superior destination for competitive racing.
How do you like your revenge? Cold-blooded, with mercilessly executions of those who wronged you? Or warmhearted, as you dispose of corrupt officials with non-lethal methods? Whichever your preference, Dishonored lets you live out your vengeance fantasies in a fleshed-out steampunk world--one that feels wonderfully lived-in, to the point of extreme dilapidation.
Corvo's supernatural abilities make all the first-person sneaking incredibly liberating, letting you approach and assassinate guards (or avoid them altogether) in almost any way you please. Teleportation knife stabs, sentient swarms of rats, and nimble rooftop parkour are all within your grasp when you're lurking among the dingy streets and lavish mansions of Dishonored.
27. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
For a game with characters that speak in grunts and nonwords, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons sure manages to express an ungodly amount of emotion. It's a narrative-driven puzzle game where you control two young brothers simultaneously, each assigned to one of the gamepad's thumbsticks. Their goal? To travel to a faraway land and find a cure for their dying father.
In practice, this often means figuring out how to overcome the various obstacles standing in your path. Puzzles that would be overly simple in any other game become far more complex when you've got to manage two different characters at the same time to solve them. But the real treat here is Brothers' gorgeous, varied environments and its phenomenal tale of family love and sacrifice. It's one of those few games that will shake you to the core.
26. Diablo 3
One of the best things about Diablo 3 on consoles is that carpal tunnel is less of an issue when there's much less clicky clicky and more button-mashing. The winning formula of loot, loot, and more loot is tweaked so that you're getting sexier items. No more sifting through the garbage that you happen to pick up by accident because you wanted just the legendary stuff.
But the most important thing is that Diablo 3 just feels great as you're rampaging through dungeons. The transition to a controller may have been a concern initially, but it's an entirely different experience that you can have offline--and with a friend through local co-op!
25. Borderlands 2
If your three favorite things on the entire planet are guns, toilet humor, and min/maxing RPG stats, then Borderlands 2 is a dream come true. Gearbox Software's FPS/RPG hybrid is basically Diablo in shooter form. While the first was a great proof of concept, the second had us in stitches for 20+ hours while we shot up bandits and bonerfarts with guns that set living creatures on fire.
The writing here is sure to make you laugh, thanks to the hilarious cast of characters. Claptrap, a returning favorite from the original, is as silly as ever, while the new villain, Handsome Jack, spouts some of the most giggle-worthy lines in the entire game. It also helps that the action is addictive and fun, as the dozens of quests not only lead to more laughs, but also huge caches of loot and XP rewards, allowing you the opportunity to further develop your character's abilities. Best of all, you can play with up to three friends, making Borderlands 2 one hell of a memorable co-op experience.
Oh, Jonathan Blow... you genius, pretentious, genius bastard you. The release of Braid did as much for the indie gaming scene as it did for its auteur creator, at once elevating Blow to the pantheon of solitary designers and establishing a precedent for tightly compacted, meaningful game experiences on consoles.
Braid's brilliance is manifold. It's a beautiful game, no doubt, with a watercolor aesthetic and subdued soundtrack that complement its clever time-manipulation mechanic. And that mechanic easily carried the game's mind-bending puzzles. There will be a point while playing Braid where you think to yourself, "God damn, I'm dumb." Likely it'll happen every level, and the game is all the more gratifying because of it.
23. Dragon Age: Origins
There was a time when everyone assumed Dragon Age: Origins had died a quiet death, caught up and swallowed whole by some preproduction morass. And who could blame them, given that the game was first announced in 2004 and went quiet until EA's purchase of BioWare in 2007. But death was not the destiny of this great RPG.
When Dragon Age did make it to market, in 2009, it signalled BioWare's return to the upper echelon of western RPG development. It had engaging combat and excessive gore, sure, but what made Origins stand out was a distinctly BioWare touch: a ranging, epic story. Choice played a real role in the original Dragon Age, and you were pushed to form complex relationships with the game's large cast.
She has guns on her feet and her outfit is made of hair; is there really anything else you need to know about Bayonetta? There is? Oh, well, then we can talk about how the gameplay is absolutely outstanding. The Devil May Cry-inspired combat ("inspired" being another term for "made by the guy who made the original few Devil May Cry games") is fast and brutal, and the artistic design is inspired.
It's also insane. Like, totally nuts--the game rewards you for combos with outlandish, flashy visuals that are so over-the-top you'll be grinning from ear to ear. Some battles end with Bayonetta turning her hair into a giant dog and devouring her enemies. Does it make sense? No, not in the slightest. Should you play it anyway? Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
21. Super Meat Boy
The pitch-perfect Mario physics get taken to their absolute extremes in Super Meat Boy. Actually, scratch that--Nintendo's plumber mascot could never cling to walls with a bloody splat, or control his mid-air trajectory with the same quick precision as a frenzied seamstress threading needles like her life depended on it. No other game in existence delivers a more fun--or challenging--experience where you play as a cube of hamburger.
Sure, SMB's later levels may make you quiver with anxiety or curse at airhorn-like decibels, but overcoming them provides nothing short of elation. It's oh-so tough but always fair, and watching your failed attempts after finishing a level is one of the most cathartic moments of any hardcore 2D platformer.
20. Gears of War 2
Gears of War 2 was a bigger, better, and all around gorier package than its predecessor, which resulted in a game that was a blast to play with friends cooperatively or even alone. While Gears of War 3 made significant improvements to the multiplayer modes, Gears 2 holds a special place in our hearts because it was our first introduction to horde mode. Everyone always remembers their first time.
Even the story was more powerful in the sequel, shifting the focus to Dominic Santiago, who searches desperately for his wife Maria. When they are finally reunited, the subsequent scene left us stunned, and even made a few of us cry. For a game that centers itself around big, tough, beefy men, it was definitely something we werent expecting, and will likely never forget.
19. FIFA 12
FIFA has been through so many iterations, youd expect the formula to be perfect by now. Well, it isnt FIFA 13 tinkered too much with the tried-and-tested, which actually took it back a step. Which means the best FIFA on Xbox 360 is FIFA 12. And seeing as PES has failed to match its rival for pretty much the entire generation, that means its the best football game on the system.
What makes it so great? The officially-licensed teams, recognisable player likenesses, realistic stadia full of spectators, superb ball physics, move lists, skill commands and a brilliant online mode. Its fast, flowing, organic its simply an incredible package. And one that sounds almost like real-life thanks to the amazing commentary. Theres still room for someone to make an even better game, but thats unlikely now on Xbox 360. Until then, this is essential.
18. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Geralt of Rivia isn't a guy you want to mess with. First of all, he is a genetically altered super mutant who has the skills of a master swordsman, has command over arcane powers, and takes down the most dangerous mythical beasts single-handedly. In The Witcher 2, Geralt continues his quest to find answers from his mysterious past--because one day he rose from the dead with amnesia.
Witcher 2's plot revolves around Geralt embarking on a mission to prove his innocence for the crime of regicide, and as you progress through the story every major plot twist is under your control. Should you help the downtrodden elves and dwarves against their human oppressors, or leave them to their fate and focus on your quest? With a challenging and deep combat system, an enchanting world to explore, and an unforgettable tale, The Witcher 2 is an RPG you won't want to miss.
17. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
OK, so there have been about a bajillion Call of Dutys that have come out since the release of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, we know. But one of the most recent titles has to surpass the original MW in gameplay, story, and multiplayer features right? Well, yes and no.
In our eyes, Call of Duty 4 is the definitive CoD that every shooter fan should pick up and play. It still has the best narrative of all of its predecessors and successors, it controls just as well as you remember (because IW got the controls perfect), and MW still has a loyal following that has been keeping the multiplayer servers warm. That isn't to say that there haven't been significant improvements on the multiplayer front--in fact we recommend that you just pick up the latest CoD if multiplayer is all you're looking for. But as a full package, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is still the single best title in the series.
16. Dead Space 2
The first Dead Space is a frightening experience that echoes the brilliance of the original Alien film, but Dead Space 2 ends up besting it in ways we didnt expect. DS2 ramps up the action--often a mistake with a horror sequel--and it pays off thanks to a deeper story thats more interested in character development than the first game.
After Dead Space lead Isaac Clarke lost everything he ever cared about, he spends the sequel coming to terms with his grief and learning to live again--right as everything around him is being torn to shreds. The scary tension remains, only now it pays off in extraordinary action set pieces and a more involved story that actually feels hopeful at times. DS2 is more of a crowd-pleasing blockbuster than its predecessor, but so was Aliens, and we dont hear people complaining about that movie.
15. Halo 4
What is Halo without its creator? Quite a bit, actually. As the first project for Microsoft's newly formed internal studio 343 Industries, Halo 4 proved that Master Chief was in capable hands in this post-Bungie world.
Easily one of the most graphically proficient Xbox 360 games, Halo 4 brought a wealth of new gameplay changes to the established interstellar shooter formula. The new Promethean constructs, in particular, offered a welcome change to the well-trod Covenant-Human war. (Plus, you know, Cortana got way hotter.) The new in no way diminished the old, though, with Halo's proven multiplayer component and vivid storytelling remaining in full effect.
14. Dark Souls
Contrary to what you might've heard, this game--and the Souls series as a whole--is not about death: It's about what you learn from it. In many games, dying simply means restarting from the most recent checkpoint. In Dark Souls, it's a metric of success. If you die to the many traps and monsters in the game's dark fantasy world, it's because you messed up.
See, few things are as gratifying as overcoming a seemingly impossible challenge. Dark Souls latches onto this notion and turns it into its very foundation. It throws one obstacle after another at you, ranging from regular monsters that are outrageously deadly to towering bosses that can destroy you with a single hit. Only by persevering can you hope to succeed, and the adrenaline rush that comes with victory is something that very few games can replicate.
13. XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Here's a free tip: Don't name any of your soldiers in XCOM: Enemy Unknown after people you care about. While that might be your initial inclination upon learning you can name them, it's a bad idea, and will almost undoubtedly end in tears as you see your friends and family members torn the hell apart by aliens. And it'll always feel like it's your fault.
That's because despite being unrelenting and brutal, Enemy Unknown's remarkable, strategic gameplay is always fair. If your squad is wiped it's your fault for giving them bad orders. If your soldiers fail to do damage it's your fault for neglecting to upgrade them enough. If the world falls into chaos it's your fault, which makes for an incredibly satisfying experience.
12. BioShock Infinite
As soon as you step into BioShock Infinite's floating city of Colombia, the atmosphere sucks you in and never lets go. Just walking through the city streets at the start of the game will have you mystified, and by that point you haven't even scratched the surface of what mindblowingly insane moments you'll experience by the end.
Once again, you're pitted against an entire community of murderous psychopaths with your arsenal of firearms and vigor powers. On top of the classic BioShock combat, giving you the ability to mix powers, the environment, and your weapons to decimate enemies in various ways, you also get a handy hook device that lets you snag Colombia's transport rails and turn every battle into a rollercoaster. With such intense gameplay and an ending that will stick with you for years to come, Infinite definitely earns its place as one of the best 360 games you can buy.
11. Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
If you haven't been keeping up with the complex (and at this point, incredibly confusing) plot of the Assassin's Creed series, well, good luck trying to catch up. While other games in the series split the story between Desmond and his respective ancestor, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag gives us exactly what we want: a chance to be a badass assassin pirate plundering the open seas.
It's true that AC4 makes a better pirate game than an Assassin's Creed game, but Edward Kenway's story is one of the most engaging the series has seen yet. You are a pirate captain doing what scurvy pirates do best. You'll loot and plunder on the open water in your very own upgradable ship, as you participate in ship-to-ship battles, boarding parties, and trying to navigate deadly storms. Of course, there's also plenty of assassin stuff to do and buildings to climb, but anyone looking for the quintessential pirate experience can't go wrong with AC4.
10. The Walking Dead
From a gameplay standpoint, The Walking Dead may appear weak when viewed next to the likes of Street Fighter and Arkham City. Most of the actual action centers around relatively simple puzzles and average QTEs. But if its so plain, why do we feel such intense emotions when playing all five episodes of this deceptively simple title? Because the games storytelling makes almost every other game seem childish by comparison.
The Walking Dead captures the feeling of the comics brilliantly, taking you through a number of heart-wrenching choices that have no obvious solution. Life-or-death scenarios crop up when you least expect them, and you feel so taxed by them because the writing makes you so heavily invested in your friends survival. The games continual conversations make you more connected to these fictional people than many living people you know, which makes it that much more painful when you have to choose who dies next. If Walking Dead can pull that off, who cares if it has precise shooting or brain-busting puzzles?
9. Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition
Street Fighter 4 revitalized 2D fighting among mainstream gamers when it debuted in early 2009. It combined traditional techniques with new flourishes like Focus attacks and comeback-enabling Ultras, plus a few zany additions to the roster. Flash forward to SSF4: Arcade Edition, and that roster has ballooned into a cast full of possibilities and wildly unique fighting styles. Whether you like to rush down or turtle, play smart or play dumb, there's someone in Arcade Edition who you can play to your heart's content.
And the community-driven options for online play are excellent. From endless battle and team battle to the replay channel that lets you rewatch great fights, theres a wonderful depth of content designed to keep you engaged, playing, and sharpening your skills till the end of days. With the numerous improvements to Capcoms formula, excellent netcode, and a truly solid foundation, Super Street Fighter 4: Arcade Edition is the definitive version of the game. At least, until Ultra Street Fighter 4 rolls around.
8. Grand Theft Auto 5
Rockstar games sure takes its time, doesn't it? The wait between Grand Theft Auto games is draining, but always--always--worth the wait. Grand Theft Auto 5's return to Los Santos is a great one, and brings with it some of the largest changes to gameplay since GTA3 reinvented the open-world shooter. Being able to swap between characters fundamentally changes how you interact with the world, and allowed the developers to create one of the largest sandboxes we've ever seen in a game without it feeling overwhelming. Well, alright, it's a little overwhelming, but it never gets out of control.
And then there are the characters--oh, lord, the characters. No one writes dialogue like Rockstar, breathing life into every single person you interact with. The three protagonists all have totally different motives, stories, and personalities, making for a wholly unique experience that no game before has ever successfully executed. Plus, breaking it into thirds made it so there could be a wider variety of levels without sacrificing the believability of the world, fixing one of the nagging flaws that has plagued Grand Theft Auto games since their inception.
7. Tomb Raider
Lara Croft was one of gaming's original treasure hunters, but as time went on, she fell into obscurity. That is, until Crystal Dynamics rebooted the action adventure franchise with a whole new origin story--Tomb Raider isn't just the best game in the series, it's one of the best games in the genre.
The tale of an inexperienced Lara having to fight to survive while stranded on a creepy, cult-infested island is surprisingly gritty and brutal. Seeing her die to the island's many dangers establishes her not as a superhero, but a regular human being. Granted, she still guns down a small army of mercenaries, but the gunplay is so good you won't even mind. As is the platforming and exploring of the mysterious island setting, itself a character with plenty of secrets to find and, shocker, tombs to raid. The fantastic pacing does a great job of letting you explore without whipping out a gun every five seconds--and when the 12-hour journey comes to an end, you'll be eager to play it all over again.
6. Red Dead Redemption
There are few games that put you in the Wild West setting, and even fewer that would let you do basically anything you would ever want to do as a cowboy in an open world. Want to wear a bandana on your face and tie a damsel to train tracks? You can do that in Red Dead Redemption. Want to fight a bear with a knife, hunt for treasure, or duel some varmint in the dusty streets outside the town saloon? You can do that too. Then you can hop online and do it all with your friends.
And we havent even mentioned the story. RDR also tells one of the most compelling tales in gaming, letting you explore developer Rockstars version of Texas and Mexico with some of the most memorable characters of this console generation. Meet colorful characters like grave robbers, snake-oil salesmen, and Mexican revolutionaries, and get into bar fights, have shootouts with bandits, or just ride out into the sunset. This is a game that shouldnt be missed.
5. Batman: Arkham City
If Batman: Arkham Asylum took the world by surprise, then Batman: Arkham City took it by storm. Moving the action from the world's most famous home for the criminally insane to a dingy, crime-infested corner of Gotham City gave us the chance to truly behave like the bat. Hearing the cries of the victimized, we swooped down from the rooftops, dishing out cruel justice with our fists and utility belt full of wonderful toys. Arkham Asylum broke ground with gameplay that actually felt like authentic Batman behavior, but with Arkham Citys open world to patrol, we felt as if we were the Dark Knight.
It was an awesome expansion of the gameplay from Asylum, and the story was similarly deepened. Batman just wouldn't be Batman without his enemies, and centering the plot around the Joker was a perfect move. So was introducing even more memorable villains from his long list of enemies. From a frightening face-off with Solomon Grundy to a mind-bending encounter with the Mad Hatter, alongside one of the most creative boss fights we've ever seen with Mr. Freeze, Batman: Arkham City didn't disappoint in the villain department. In fact, it didn't disappoint anywhere. We think it's the best superhero game to date.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Forget what you've heard--size matters. All things considered, you could probably conquer Skyrim in about 10 hours if you just stick to the games main quest line. Stay on the main line and you'll watch the credits with a confused look on your face, wondering what all the hubbub is about. But if you don't get lost in the huge world, you're missing the point.
The massive role-playing games main attraction is everything it has to offer on the side. Its no exaggeration to say that you could spend hundreds of hours adventuring, exploring, crafting, hunting, and dungeon diving. Main story? It's pretty good, but it's the story you create as you carve your mark in Skyrim that's the real victory here. Elder Scrolls V ups the ante for the open-world experience, making a truly gorgeous and ambitious title thatll keep you busy for a long, long time. Like, seriously, go ahead and cancel all other obligations you have--you're going to spend a few hundred hours fighting dragons.
What began as a student demo grew into one of the Xbox 360s most unforgettable games. Whether packaged as part of The Orange Box or on its own as the Still Alive XBLA version, Portal achieves an astoundingly rich atmosphere by combining hilarious (but character-rich) writing with clever puzzle gameplay. And Portal does it all with so few components that it makes many bigger games look bloated by comparison.
The experience begins with the simple concept of travelling between two portals in a locked room, but the developers find so many smart ways to iterate on that gameplay. The puzzle action grows unpredictably just as your unseen AI controller slowly transitions from banal directives to biting insults. The writing and action synergy culminates as the straightforward setting gives way to an amazing twist that enriches all that came before it. Portal tells a story in a way that only video games could, and thats why it (and the Companion Cube) remains in our hearts to this day.
The real beauty of BioShock is its philosophical exploration of hubris. It's a haunting experience that explores what happens when a chunk of mankind is left to embrace its ideals to the fullest, without societal restrictions. It suggests, in a very convincing way, that pride is often fatal. That these eye-opening themes are conveyed through rather fun gameplay is just icing on the cake.
At a glance, this is a first-person shooter in which you a) shoot stuff and b) jack yourself up on sea-slug juice to get magic powers. The people you're killing? Sea-slug juice addicts. Even BioShock's most basic gameplay elements are tied into its narrative: How far are you willing to go to gain power? Would you kill a child in exchange for an extra ability, or would you let them go because that's the Right Thing To Do? Are you really any better than the addicts you're destroying? The way BioShock ties all of its gameplay elements into its haunting message, coupled with its incredible use of atmosphere, makes this one of the best games to play on any console.
1. Mass Effect 2
You probably have more of a heartfelt connection with one (or every) member of Commander Shepard's crew than at least 50 percent of the people you know in real life. That's because the Mass Effect trilogy tells a captivating story in a fascinating, fully realized universe, where morality, politics, and love between lifeforms are all part of a much grander picture. Mass Effect 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the series, giving you more of everything you loved from the first game with none of the tonal changes of the third.
Commander Shepard feels like an extension of you, both in the ethical choices she or he makes, and in the enthralling third-person shootouts, where bullets, lasers, and orbs of biotic energy zip every which way. But the crown jewel in this N7 helmet is the cast of unforgettable characters, all of whom have their own personal journey of absolution and self-discovery. Regardless of how you feel about the way the story ends, Mass Effect 2 is the indisputable high point in one of the greatest action RPG franchises of all time.
We miss you J. Allard!
Those are the games we think are the best out of the 360's total history, but we're sure there's a few titles you guys hold dear. Let us know what we missed in the comments below, and give us a reason why your game should make the list. Maybe someday we'll be convinced.