The Orange Box - Ashley Reed
It's hard to beat the value of a 5-in-1 game package, especially when those five are some of the most highly regarded games of the last generation - or any, if you ask PC players. A veritable gift-basket of games from the folks at Valve, The Orange Box brings together some of the company's most recent single-player games (sob) through the Half Life 2 collection and Portal, plus a handsome helping of Team Fortress 2 that is forever free to play. And these days, the whole thing retails for $20. Seriously, it's a hell of a deal.
The Orange Box admittedly has a few downsides, specifically that Half Life 1 isn't part of the package and Team Fortress 2 can't receive updates, so there's nary a ridiculous hat in sight. But for players who are Xbox-centered and don't have or want ready access to the PC versions, The Orange Box is still a powerhouse of games that have aged remarkably well and are still fun to play. Yes, even without the hats.
Bulletstorm - Maxwell McGee
Bulletstorm is the same sort of crunchy, primal fun you got from games like Unreal Tournament and Doom. It's all about shooting really big guns that transform enemies into really big piles of Kibbles 'n Bits. The recoil, sound effects, and amount of gib these weapons produce makes you feel like you're firing off cinder blocks instead of bullets. But the guns are just half the fun. Bulletstorm actively encourages - and rewards - you for utilizing giant cactuses, electrified fences, and (of course) exploding barrels to dispatch your foes. It's a veritable playground of murder.
For those of you who have seen Mad Max: Fury Road, remember how everything was loud and crazy and there was rock music all the time? Yeah, welcome to Bulletstorm. If there was a guy wearing red pajamas playing a flaming guitar in this game, he'd fit right in. Everything is pushed to the extreme here, from the over-the-top executions to the amount of curse words flying out of voice actor Steve Blum's mouth. Also there's a cyborg who openly resents you and wants you to die. And he's your sidekick. This game is great.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX - Lucas Sullivan
Dun nuh. Duh nuh, duh nuh, duh nuh - AI AI AI! That's a lackluster text-based rendition of the intro to Ozzy Osbourne's 'Crazy Train', the song that'll inevitably start running through your mind as you surrender yourself to the neon wonders of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. That's because racking up points in this feverish, fiendishly addictive arcade reboot revolves around racking up a crazy train of ghosts nipping at your heels.
As you alert hordes of sleeping ghosts, zig-zagging through randomly selected bits of classic Pac-Man level layouts, the pressure builds and builds - until finally, you decide it's time to gobble up a Power Pellet. As expected, those ghosts suddenly turn blue and turn tail - but instead of four measly targets, you're now devouring a massive conga line of delicious, shadowy morsels. That euphoric sensation is just as endorphin-spiking now as it was then, and the bolstered rumble of the Xbox One controller would make it all the sweeter.
Asura's Wrath - Ludwig Kietzmann
Asuras Wrath ignited debate, even among its own developers, on whether it was even really a video game. We now know that:
1) it was obviously a video game and
2) considering the scene where you get stabbed by a sword so huge it goes right through THE MOON, it was extremely, ridiculously, irrevocably SUCH a video game.
Though open-ended action is light throughout Asuras Wrath (hence the debate), its tale of revenge hinges on button-prompts that appear during numerous and titanic cutscenes. Think: God of War, but with a spaceship-infused Indian mysticism and an over-the-top trajectory that doesnt forsake the oddly heartfelt story at the bottom. The passively felt creativity on display in every frame may have robbed it of becoming an action classic, but Asuras Wrath still emerges as one of gamings weirdest and most exciting stories.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection - David Roberts
Xbox and Metal Gear Solid have a strange relationship, especially considering that two of the main (and arguably most important) games in the series are still exclusive to Sony platforms. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will be available in just a couple of months, and while you probably won't get to play much of Solid Snake's adventures on the Xbox, you can catch up on the storied life of his father, Big Boss, with the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection.
Like The Orange Box, this collection is a hell of a value, combining three of the greatest, most idiosyncratic stealth-action titles ever created. Follow the rise of Big Boss in MGS 3: Snake Eater as you sneak through unforgiving jungles to stop Metal Gear precursor Shagohod from launching an all-out nuclear war. Then, build up the Boss' empire in the Monster Hunter-inspired Peace Walker. If you're only looking for backstory for Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain, these two games will get you nicely up to speed. MGS 2: Sons of Liberty rounds out the package; a strange and oddly prophetic sequel to the PlayStation classic. While the Xbox may never get the complete saga, this collection compiles three of gaming's most virtuous missions.
Wet - Sam Prell
Though the odds are incredibly low for us ever seeing Wet again in any form, I have to admit: I genuinely like that game for providing a unique experience that we haven't seen since ever, really. Foul-mouthed anti-hero Rubi Malone deserves another shot at glory.
Wet takes the grindhouse film feel of mob bosses and over-the-top violence playing on a grainy film reel and upped the action to something on par with The Matrix. Rubi doesn't just run-and-gun her way through bad guys; she slows down time, dives through the air, powerslides into danger, runs on walls, leaps from car to exploding car and freefalls from airplanes as the world crumbles around her. There are plenty of games out there that give us awesome power fantasies, but nothing comes close to the Max Payne-meets-Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon trip that is Wet.
Puzzle Fighter HD - Lucas Sullivan
Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo is undoubtedly among the greatest competitive puzzle games in existence, and Puzzle Fighter HD gives it a glossy widescreen touch-up and some welcome rebalancing (including a mode that removes a learn-this-or-you'll-never-win bug involving the color-clearing diamond piece). Like so many great puzzlers, it's a simple premise: stack multicolored, domino-like blocks into colossal gems, then shatter them with bomb pieces to rain down trash blocks on your opponent. But the theme of chibi Capcom fighters, a '90s-tastic soundtrack, and astonishing gameplay depth make it endlessly playable.
Fellow editor Maxwell and I still play this on a semi-regular basis, and I successfully got my college roommates hooked on the bliss of the bombs (not a drug euphemism). The addiction comes from the back-and-forth nature of the best-of-three matches: if you don't close out a win with an all-out attack, those trash blocks will eventually revert to gems that your opponent can use to crush you instead. It's risky, rewarding, and rambunctious one-on-one fun that I'm still enjoying after nearly 10 years of play.
Bionic Commando - Maxwell McGee
Nothing beats the feeling of a cool breeze whistling through your dreadlocks. This is doubly true when that breeze is hitting you at 90 miles-per-hour as you swing from rooftop to rooftop. Bionic Commando, specifically the remake developed by GRIN and released in 2009, shares a lot in common with the Fast and the Furious franchise. It's full of cheesy characters, cheesier dialog, and a paper-thin plot that just a vehicle for delivering action setpieces; but when that action gets going, hoo boy, it is a trip.
GRIN had one job when making a 3D Bionic Commando: make the grappling fun. And they nailed it. Leaping off a 30-story building, grappling a traffic light right before you land, and using the momentum to swing yourself halfway across the map is a breeze. And you can easily transition from tossing enemies around in combat to tossing yourself around the environment. Mechanically, everything in this game flows together very well. But that's not how this game is remember. Instead, it's remembered for the 'Wife Arm' or for being yet another needlessly gritty reboot. Bionic Commando deserves to live on the Xbox One library as one of gaming's best B-movies.
Onechanbara Bikini Samurai Squad - Lucas Sullivan
Make no mistake: Onechanbara on 360 is mediocre at best. It's a simplistic hack-'n'-slash swordfighter, with stark, empty levels populated by goofily animated zombies and ... that's about it. The blood effects are snazzy, but spurts of crimson vital fluids can only excite for so long. Onechanbara foregoes substance for a distinctly Japanese style: hilariously campy and embarrassingly pervy in equal measure. This should become clear when the opening cutscene almost instantly features our heroine Aya in a shower scene, quickly transitioning into a Batman-esque 'suit up' montage with Aya's schoolgirl-outfitted little sister, Saki.
But adding this entirely skippable game to the Xbox One's back-comp list would send a message. Backwards compatibility isn't about reviving only the best and brightest experiences that a preceding console has to offer - it should ultimately be an effort to support all that console's games, no matter how schlocky or low-budget they might be. Bringing over an oddity like Onechanbara could encourage other publishers to feel comfortable letting their weird sides show - even if such a gesture brings joy to only a small niche of gamers.