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The best original Xbox games of all time

15. Burnout 3: Takedown

Burnout 3: Takedown

(Image credit: EA)

Arcade racing rarely gets better than Criterion’s supercharged sequel. It’s a swaggeringly boisterous racer that’s filled with challenging opponents and rewards you for driving as aggressively and dangerously as possible. Criterion’s globe-trotting game eschews realism for over-the-top thrills and spills and encourages you to do everything you can to ensure you stay ahead of the challenging AI – whether that means slamming them into nearby concrete posts or using the smoldering wreckage of your own destroyed vehicle to sneakily catch out any opponents stuck behind you. We’d love an HD remaster, providing the obnoxious DJ Stryker doesn’t make the journey.

14. Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge

Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge

(Image credit: Microsoft)

While the steampunk aesthetic and pulpy nature of FASA Studio’s high-flying adventure draws you in, it’s the inventive mission structure and finely-honed flying mechanics that keep you playing. Set in an alternate 1930s, complete with nefarious villains and oversized zeppelins, Crimson Skies remains refreshingly unique on Microsoft’s console and still manages to offer fun multiplayer shenanigans today (although its online servers are long dead). Its 20 stages are crammed with variety, while its rip-roaring story and engaging characters are worlds away from the po-faced protagonists you’d usually encounter on its release.

13. Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Every Xbox entry in Ubisoft’s espionage series is worthy of your time, but Sam Fisher’s second outing is the one we continually return to. Mechanically it only offers small improvements over its predecessor, but it’s blessed by a far more intriguing storyline, more comfortable voice work from Michael Ironside, and superior level design that makes the most of Sam’s superior sneaking skills.

It’s supported by an equally strong multiplayer mode that pits nimble spies who need to rely on stealth and subterfuge against heavily armed mercenaries in tense two-on-two matches. If you’re a lover of stealth games you won’t find anything finer.

12. Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Blinx may have been the first Xbox character to tackle time travel, but Ubisoft’s titular Prince was the one who truly mastered it. While its combat still feels rather unsatisfying, the Prince’s sheer athleticism and the clever platforming of Ubisoft’s reboot is as enjoyable today as it was in 2003. Navigating the gorgeously lit palace feels almost puzzle-like at times as you seek to find the safest route through each trap-strewn area, while the strong voice acting and a tender love story at the game’s core is as powerful a mechanic as the ability to rewind time. Little wonder Ubisoft is remaking it for contemporary consoles.

11. Dead Or Alive 3

Dead Or Alive 3

(Image credit: Koei Tecmo)

Team Ninja’s dynamic slugfest proved that there was far more to the fledgling series than just cheap titillation. Rather than completely overhaul the mechanics of DOA2, Team Ninja simply tweaked everything, moving away from juggling combos, offering more 3D-axis movement, and increasing the timing for counter periods. Environment interaction remains, but now it’s even more dynamic and opponents can be slammed into a variety of objects or thrown to brand-new areas. DOA3 also introduces four new fighters: Brad Wong, Hitomi, Christie, and Hayate and some of the most visually arresting arenas in the series, including a snowy forest and underwater aquarium.

10. Panzer Dragoon Orta

Orta felt like a step back after Panzer Dragoon Saga as it lacked the nuanced RPG mechanics that made the Saturn game so acclaimed. While it featured the same on-rails approach of the earlier games in the series, Microsoft’s powerful console ensured that the franchise’s unique-looking world had never been so exciting to explore. It remains graphically spectacular today (particularly if played on a Series X) and it’s filled with gorgeous looking environments, exotic creatures, and some truly marvelous mayors. It’s mechanically sound too, with the ability to switch between three very unique dragoons on the fly, adding a layered level of strategy to all the chaotic blasting.

9. Project Gotham Racing 2

Project Gotham Racing 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Bizarre Creation’s follow-up to its Xbox launch title was a huge improvement thanks to its tweaked driving mechanics and excellent online service. While its servers have long since shut down the core experience of Bizarre’s sequel remains – mainly its beautifully-crafted Kudos World Series mode, which lets you drive as stylishly as possible around 11 real-world cities, including Barcelona, Edinburgh, and Sydney, as you attempt to master 14 distinct types of car categories. And if you do somehow get bored with everything that’s on offer, you can while away your time blasting shapes in the excellent Geometry Wars mini-game.

8. The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay

The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay

(Image credit: Sierra Games)

Many of Butcher Bay’s development team went on to work on Wolfenstein: The New Order and as a result, multiple strands of that game’s DNA can be found in this rich FPS. As well as being one of the most astonishing looking shooters on Microsoft’s console, Butcher Bay’s main triumph is how beautifully its stealth and core shooting mechanics are blended together. They’re complemented by a commanding performance from Vin Diesel and a strong narrative structure that easily makes up for the lack of any multiplayer modes. It’s quite simply the best entry in the Riddick medium.

7. Psychonauts

Psychonauts

(Image credit: THQ)

Few Xbox releases will tickle your funny bone like Double Fine’s debut adventure. Many of Tim Schafer’s team worked at LucasArts and their mastery of sharp dialogue, inventive gameplay mechanics, and effortlessly funny humor is woven throughout Psychonauts’ DNA. While it’s a platformer at heart, the introduction of Raz’s psychic abilities lead to some wonderfully inventive level designs, which become even more outlandish once you start visiting the “mental worlds” of certain characters. Endlessly inventive and filled with memorable NPCs the only negative thing we can say about Schafer’s game is we’ve had to wait 16 years for a true sequel.

6. OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast

OutRun 2006 Coast 2 Coast

(Image credit: Sega)

Normally we like to keep these lists to system exclusives, but Sumo’s adaptation of the hit arcade racer is so good we just had to include it. In addition to featuring a near arcade-perfect port of the 2003 arcade game, it also includes the 2004 follow-up SP. That means you have 30 sensational locations to drift through as well as the gigantic Coast 2 Coast mission mode that tasks you with doing everything from drifting for as long as possible, to outmaneuvering your opponent so you don’t lose your girlfriend. It’s a game that’s screaming for a high-definition makeover.

Retro Gamer Team

Retro Gamer is the world's biggest - and longest-running - magazine dedicated to classic games, from ZX Spectrum, to NES and PlayStation. Relaunched in 2005, Retro Gamer has become respected within the industry as the authoritative word on classic gaming, thanks to its passionate and knowledgeable writers, with in-depth interviews of numerous acclaimed veterans, including Shigeru Miyamoto, Yu Suzuki, Peter Molyneux and Trip Hawkins.