13 blasts from the past: Backwards compatible classics for the Xbox One

In less than two years, Microsoft has done a stellar job at making dozens of Xbox 360 titles playable on the Xbox One. Whether it's action, retro, or RPG games you're looking for, the backwards compatibility library on the Xbox One has grown to the point where there's bound to be a hidden gem in there just for you. Let's take a look at some prime picks from the past. Please note this list is based off backwards compatible games in the United States; the games listed below may not be backwards compatible in all countries. All the games are available for digital purchase through Xbox Live except for Mass Effect 2; you’ll have to find a physical copy for that one.

1. Alan Wake

Take a healthy dollop of Stephen King and mix well with the small town surrealism of David Lynch. Shake it up with unique gameplay that has you conserving batteries and bullets alike amidst the shadowy bad guys, and you’ve got the delight that is Alan Wake. Each section of the game ends on a cliffhanger, compelling players to dive further into the mysteries at hand. Alan Wake is a spooky game that is more action than survival horror, but the experience is so memorable it will stay with you long after the game is over.

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Without a doubt the best game in the Castlevania series, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night combines heavy metal music, solid action-RPG mechanics, and Metroidvania exploration to create an intoxicating mix few gamers can forget. Picking up where the Sega Genesis title Castlevania: Bloodlines leaves off, you venture through the castle of your pappy Count Dracula as his half-human half-vampire son, Alucard. Pixelated artwork at its best, dopey voice-acting aside.

3. Doom 2

Legendary game developers id Software kicked their first-person shooter formula into the stratosphere with Doom 2. Slicker level design, the double barrel shotgun, and a harder difficulty level make Doom 2 an improvement over the original in every way. The Xbox 360 port changes the graphics for the health power-ups, but other than that it’s a faithful version that’s a strong example of of the FPS genre gaining its wings.

4. Double Dragon Neon

With Double Dragon Neon, WayForward Technologies took the aging franchise of Double Dragon, made a nice homage to the first three games of the series, and slathered on an excellent soundtrack by Jake Kaufman to make a legendary take on the beat-em-up genre. A better, if harder, game than any entry in the Double Dragon or Final Fight franchises, Double Dragon Neon slips in RPG mechanics, copious vocal music themes (!!!), and hard-core references to make a shining example of what a gaming reboot should be.

5. Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

In 2013, Iron Galaxy Studios ported Capcom’s cult Advanced Dungeons & Dragons arcade titles Tower of Doom and Shadows over Mystara into a great compilation for the Xbox 360. These are the best Final Fight spin-offs you’ve never played. Most of the levels have branching paths, each character class (Cleric, Fighter, etc.) has its own style of gameplay, and the pixelated graphics are a pinnacle of the form. You get RPG mechanics, item shops between stages, and dragon boss fights. What’s not to love?

6. Grand Theft Auto 4

Although it’s a slow build until the plot takes off, Grand Theft Auto 4 has one of the deepest narratives of the series. Its controls may be lacking, but its variety of missions and music (there’s even a radio station that’s nothing but Eastern European music!) make the game more immersive than other entries in the series. Grand Theft Auto 4 is nothing but a gaming buffet, and it’s your job to feast on it face first.

7. Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo

XSEED Games did a marvelous job of porting the PSP title Half-Minute Hero to the Xbox 360 with Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo. Both an homage and spoof of the venerable retro 16-bit RPG genre, Half-Minute Hero Super Mega Neo distills the genre to its core while mocking it with efficient relish. This game is more of a tapas than a main course, but it hits its satirical target with great aplomb. You’ll never see a title this goofy and reverent again.

8. Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

There has been a gaggle of Lego video games over the years, but one of the most solid examples has to be Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Adapting the first six live-action core films from a galaxy far, far away, Lego Star Wars whisks players through a sextet of iconic films by focusing on accessible puzzles and fun lightsaber combat. A pure example of the Lego movie games at their core, it’s hard to outdo the crystal clear gameplay mechanics of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

9. Mass Effect 2

The best title in the Mass Effect saga to date, Mass Effect 2 tightens up the combat, expands the scope of the universe, and lets you get to know the men and women (some human, some alien) that make up your team. Many of the choices you make are a bit more subtle this time around. Mass Effect 2 is the game the original should have been.

10. The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

One of the early Xbox 360 titles to wow players with its vistas, The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion scratches the Bethesda RPG itch quite nicely. While not quite reaching Skyrim’s tantalizing heights, there’s more than enough questing to sink your teeth into. Be sure to grab a version of the game that includes the DLC; The Shivering Isles is a richer, more surreal quest than the main game itself!

11. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+

An improvement over the already excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ cranks the goofy techno music and flashing lights up to 11 while jamming in more stages. You can wake up sleeping ghosts, causing an ethereal conga line to follow in your wake before you gobble a pellet to chomp them to their doom. All the flashing colors can be a bit manic at times, but it adds to the excitement as your score climbs ever upward.

12. Puzzle Quest

Combining classic match-3 puzzle mechanics with an RPG veneer, Puzzle Quest birthed the addictive gameplay that became the bread and butter for Infinite Interactive. You pick a class, level up stats, and go to town on a bevy of monsters. Tactics change quite a bit depending on your class, the fantasy visuals give a nice nostalgia flair, and the narrative makes this puzzle gameplay more entertaining than you might think at first glance.

13. Red Dead Redemption

Rockstar Games goes back in time to spin a historical fiction yarn spanning three huge areas with Red Dead Redemption. A sequel to Red Dead Revolver in the loosest sense, the Wild West setting does wonders for Rockstar’s well-worn open-world formula. Characters have arcs, the missions are varied, and the ending is more moving than you might expect. If you’re a fan of the HBO show Westworld, you’ll get an even bigger kick out of Red Dead Redemption.

Mat Bradley-Tschirgi is a former freelance journalist and longtime video game enthusiast, having contributed to outlets such as GamesRadar+ – lending his expertise and experience to help players better understand and get involved with the culture that surrounds gaming. Mat is currently a technical writer for Gala Games.