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Six reasons the Xbox is the best system of all time

Ten years ago today, Microsoft released the original Xbox in North America. While it was far from the best-selling console of all time, moving a relatively meager 25 million consoles, the system was still groundbreaking in a number of ways. It also set up Microsoft to release their next system, the Xbox 360, which would beat the competition to retail by nearly a year. But how did Microsoft, a company that had never even dabbled in game consoles, go from nothing to great success in so little time?

We, naturally, have the answers. While some might argue that the PlayStation 2 (check out Six reasons the PS2 is the best console of all time) or the GameCube were the greatest consoles ever, there's definitely grounds to make that argument for the original Xbox as well, and we have compiled six reasons the original Xbox is, indeed, the best console of all time.

1. It brought shooters to consoles for real

PCs owned the first-person shooter genre until the last generation. Thanks to the one-two punch of mouse and keyboard controls mixed with online play, games like Counter-Strike, Battlefield, and Rainbow Six flourished while consoles got stuck with half-baked ports and infrequent successes. Sure, there was Perfect Dark and GoldenEye, but be honest: those ended up being seen as party games, not game-changing shooters.

Above: Hate on Chief if you will, but he was the first real console FPS hero

Once Halo was released, that all changed. It truly perfected FPS controls with a controller in a way that none have before, making it feel comfortable to use joysticks, even for those who grew up with a mouse and keyboard. Once Halo 2 came out it really kicked the shift into high-gear, and set the stage for FPS on consoles becoming more commonplace in the coming generations

2. It successfully pulled off online gaming

Speaking of Xbox Live – the original Xbox’s addition of Live service completely changed the industry. Even though the Dreamcast tried to do the same thing, the ability to add friends online and play games with them seamlessly hadn’t been perfected on consoles until the Xbox.

Above: Limited, ugly, and revolutionary

This was partially because of Microsoft’s relatively ballsy decision to disallow dial-up connections – something that was still relatively common when the Xbox launched. By refusing to allow slow connections, Microsoft was able to build the framework for fast, competent online multiplayer that would change the industry forever. 

3. It had a hard drive, but didn't abuse it

The inclusion of hard drives has undoubtedly changed the industry forever. Beyond making it possible to save games without needless peripherals (see: memory cards), it also gave way to one of the most important additions to this console generation: downloadable games. It opened up consoles to smaller, more inventive games that wouldn’t be worthy of a full disc, but also wouldn’t have been developed if not for the console crowd. Games like Stacking, Journey, and Shadow Complex likely wouldn’t exist if not for consoles having hard drives, and consoles may not have hard drives if not for the Xbox.

Above: Like this, except inside the system and smaller

More importantly, it didn’t abuse the hard drive. This generation’s games come with mandatory installs, or optional installs that might as well be mandatory. The Xbox didn’t dabble in such things, and made sure game developers kept their full, disc-based games on the disc where they belong. Microsoft was (rightfully) strict when it came to handling the hard drive space, a stance it should likely have stood behind moving into the 360.

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59 comments

  • joe11234 - November 24, 2011 7:01 p.m.

    im glad there are so many gaming companies because they are always competing and making better games and systems and such and also! i have huge hands and i liked the big bulky xbox controllers because it was easier to hold for me. if microsoft made one i would defiantly buy one.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - November 17, 2011 12:40 p.m.

    YES My friends laughed when they said this was the best console... NOW THEY SHALL SEE!!!
  • boourns - November 17, 2011 3:44 a.m.

    XBMC introduced a lot of people to homebrew as well
  • MidianGTX - November 16, 2011 6:30 p.m.

    It did all of those things, and yet missed out on perhaps the most important aspect of all... a great selection of games. ...and yes, I owned one, still do. I've got a bunch of games too, but it's a pitiful collection in comparison to my PS2 library.
  • frankenfurter - November 16, 2011 4:20 p.m.

    I bought the xbox halo bundle when it first came out, to be honest I was a little underwhelmed following all the whooping my friends had made about halo. Not saying it wasn't a great game, its just I had been playing Deus-Ex and Half-life on the PC and expected it to be on par with those games. My favourite games platform has got to be the Amiga, followed by the SNES. The Amiga had Star Control, SWOS, Elite 2 (up until morrowind I had never put as many hours into a single game). The SNES had Zelda: Link to the past, mariokart, Killer Instinct all brilliant games which I still play. The original Xbox had nowhere near this quality of games, it had very few triple A title's. Whereas the 360 is catered for a vast improvement in the quality and diversity of games to play.
  • profile0000 - November 16, 2011 2:08 p.m.

    I really liked the original Xbox. And while the six points are very true, I can't help but think "No way in hell it's the best console of all time." Good article though, Coop.
  • ThatFanInThePeacoat - November 16, 2011 11:42 a.m.

    The Xbox definitely sparked some really constructive competition between platforms. I think that's the most important contribution it made. Oh yeah, and all the fantastic games. Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox were all fantastic (the lunchbox a bit behind, unfortunately), so the argument over which is better always tears me up.
  • Asmodean - November 16, 2011 11:12 a.m.

    Really? No no Really? I know it's the Xbox anniversary and all but best of all time, sorry that just dumb. All fanboyism aside that statement really hurts and you should know better. Best of all time? are you joking? did you have an aneurysm? was there a gun pointed at you head?!?! for crying out loud! You could have title it 'Six reasons the Xbox made consoles better' Listen here you got 3 realistic choices; SNES, PSone and PS2. Get it right! Bla! god this just pisses me off.
  • samsneeze - November 16, 2011 12:12 p.m.

    I'll never understand how people even consider Playstation to be the best at anything. The only thing I agree with out from what you said is that the Super Nintendo was the best console. Because, at the end of the day, it probably was. As for Playstation 1, Dreamcast and the Nintendo 64 had that beat. And with Playstation 2, even the "lunch box" was a better console.
  • BladedFalcon - November 16, 2011 3:09 p.m.

    Um... Dreamcast started pretty strong, but it quickly ran out of juice past the first year, and at any rate, the dreamcast isn't even the competition of the PS one, since it was already another generation when the Dreamcast came alone. And I'm sorry, the nintendo 64 NEVER beat the PS one at anything really. Both in sales and games, the PS one had a far better and more varied selection. While the 64 was arguably more powerful, the graphics never were really that superior to the PS one, even if you claim the PS one "Cheated" by using FMVs and pre-rendered cutscenes, it still managed to make their games look more appealing, which is at the end, what counts, not the technical aspects. And even in the sound department, the fact that the PS used discs meant the thing could play real music, and not depend purely on synthesized sounds like the N64 did, and this also mean it had voice acting. Laslty? It was cheaper. The only thing the N64 had the the PSone didn't was first party exclusives, and while those were great, for those looking for variety, and, y'know, have more than 2 or 3 games per year, the PS one definitely was better. So really, what are your grounds to say that the Playstation consoles are crap? or not better than the competition? I replied more seriously to the reply you made to me before, but this one sounds more like you're just hellbent on hating on the playstation bard for some reason.
  • mothbanquet - November 17, 2011 8:26 a.m.

    PsOne still gets my vote as best of all time simply because it had the games that really defined the experience that the medium was capable of delivering. Sure, you had amazing SNES games but with CD technology came things like FMV, high-quality sounds and voice-acting, things that the SNES obviously couldn't do. MGS was one of the first games that truly blurred the line between movies and games, for example. PS2 though? It never brought anything new to the fore beyond the obvious and to be fair, neither did Xbox (with the exception of online play, which I was never into). It's just a fact that the black box was a more technically proficient machine and the games reflected that, which is what tipped my scales in the end.
  • BladedFalcon - November 17, 2011 6:04 p.m.

    Well, yeah, the PsOne did a lot in terms of innovation, and that makes it arguably more important than any of the consoles of the 6th generation. But like I said in my first comment, one thing is defining the importance and legacy of a console, and the other is to define the quality of what it actually offered overall. PsOne has a great library of games, but both the SNES and the PS2 beat it in terms of variety of great quality of games. In a way that NONE of the current consoles could ever even dream of. If we talk about sheer quantity of great and fun games, the SNES is the winner in my eyes. But the PS2 offers a lot more variety and experiences. Bigger game proficiency can be great and all that, but at the end of the day, I still pick more options and good gameplay variety over slightly prettier graphics or better performance. I know I may sound like a broken record, but it's just. For me, it's games that make a console, not otherwise. The console is just the medium for playing games, and no matter how ethically great and superior the machine is, it means nothing if it doesn't have a good selection of games to tap into that potential. For many, the Xbox had a good enough selection, and taht's fair. but for someone like me that's used to play over 15 titles per year or more, variety and quantity is very important XD
  • therawski - November 16, 2011 10:13 a.m.

    I understand that the point is not that it actually is, but as a thesis you need to argue a point. Super GameBoy is clearly the best console.
  • samsneeze - November 16, 2011 9:24 a.m.

    The Xbox was my favorite console of last gen, followed closely by the Gamecube. The best console of all time would have to be the Super Nintendo, by far. But the Dreamcast is my favorite, though.
  • ultimatepunchrod - November 16, 2011 9:10 a.m.

    Dreamcast did online well too.
  • BladedFalcon - November 16, 2011 7:43 a.m.

    All those reasons legitimately make the Xbox be an IMPORTANT console and one that mattered. But not the best console of all time. Not by a longshot. For all the contributions it made, it lacked the one thing that matters the most for ANY console: Games.
  • mothbanquet - November 16, 2011 9:14 a.m.

    That's a matter of taste and perspective. Certainly, some would say that Halo and KOTOR deserve to be among the finest of the last generation, easily up there with the best of . Then you had Butcher Bay which, along with Halo 2, and to a lesser extent Doom 3, really bridged the gap between last and current gen and made anything the PS2 could do look basic by comparison. Also, for all its exclusives, the Xbox generally had the superior versions of multi-platform games, thanks to better hardware and the presence of the hard drive. I've played through the Max Payne games on both and being able to quick-save seemed like a luxury
  • BladedFalcon - November 16, 2011 1:58 p.m.

    Er... honestly, most of the multi-platform games, while did look better to the PS versions, there wasn't that much of a difference,at least to me. And the trade-off is that, let's be honest, the Xbox's controller was HORRIBLE. Specially in comparison to the PS2. There's a good reason the PS controller has remained largely unchanged for 3 generations: The design is great as it is. This is also the main reason why any multi-platform game was always better on the PS2. Though on the other hand, the Xbox undeniably has the edge when it comes to FPS games, they had plenty of those, while the PS2 had a very little selection. I know a lot of it it's based on taste, and I'm not trying to change the mind of anyone. I am just defending my argument that when talking about games, the PS2 definitely had a much larger selection of great games.
  • samsneeze - November 16, 2011 9:18 a.m.

    Dead or Alive 3/Ultimate, Ninja Gaiden Black, Halo, Jade Empire, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2, Jet Set Radio Future, Fable, Project Gotham Racing, Blinx 1 and 2, Kung Fu Chaos and tons others. The only reason people didn't pick up the Xbox or say it didn't have games, in my opinion, is because it didn't carry RPGs the way the Playstation 2 did. Keep in mind this was somewhat before RPGs became an abused genre and were more or less from one another. But besides that, I'd say it had plenty of games. It really only lacked third party support from Eastern countries in my opinion. But since all the main releases were RPGs, I don't think they missed much. Case and point, saying the Xbox lacked games is pretty wrong.
  • samsneeze - November 16, 2011 9:19 a.m.

    Not saying that you prefer Playstation to Xbox, I was just using it as an example.

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