How does the Xbox Series X launch lineup compare to Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox?

(Image credit: Microsoft)

With the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S set to launch on November 10, 2020, the next generation of gaming is almost upon us. Typically, the beginning of a new console cycle is used by publishers to push the boundaries beyond what we previously thought was possible. You'd see that reflected in the launch lineup. In the games that are purpose-built to showcase the specific benefits and graphical capabilities of the new hardware; games designed to help justify your day one purchase and hint towards the level of fidelity and immersion we should expect to see in the future. 

We thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane to see if our memory of launch games lines up with the reality of them. Here, we're going to explore the Xbox Series X launch games to see how it compares to the day one North American lineups enjoyed by the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and the original Xbox. 

Xbox launch Games (November 15, 2000)

Xbox launch games

Halo: Combat Evolved (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)
  • 4x4 EVO 2
  • Air Force Delta Storm
  • Arctic Thunder
  • Cel Damage
  • Dark Summit
  • Dead or Alive 3
  • Fuzion Frenzy
  • Halo: Combat Evolved
  • Mad Dash Racing
  • Madden NFL 2002
  • NASCAR Heat 2002
  • NASCAR Thunder 2002
  • NHL Hitz 20-02
  • Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee
  • Project Gotham Racing
  • Shrek
  • Test Drive Off-Road Wide Open
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2X
  • TransWorld Surf

Microsoft had everything to prove. It was walking into a console market it had no direct experience competing in, going up against two established brands in Nintendo and Sony – the latter of which was in the process of killing any and all ambitions SEGA had of remaining in the space. It's funny to think, then, that the original launch line-up for Xbox isn't all that strong. Not really, given what Microsoft was trying to achieve. 

The launch lineup was built, primarily, to deliver games in as many genres as possible. Perhaps that's why so much of it was so forgettable – what it had in variety it lacked in quality. Given the cost of the console and the size of the controller, it wasn't all that easy to get excited by a group of multiplatform ports, extreme sports titles, and a smattering of racing games. Still, the Xbox launch lineup proves one thing above all else: One game can change everything

Halo: Combat Evolved set a new standard for first-person shooters – a fact that we don't need to relitigate here – but it is worth remembering just how massive its impact and enduring influence would prove to be. It was a true system seller, signalling that Xbox could deliver in ways that the other consoles couldn't. Dead or Alive 3 and Project Gotham Racing were the other standouts, all three of which went on to sell over a million copies in the US to secure Platinum status. 

Xbox 360 launch Games (November 22, 2005)

Xbox 360 launch games

Perfect Dark Zero (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)
  • Amped 3
  • Bejeweled 2
  • Call of Duty 2
  • Condemned: Criminal Origins
  • FIFA: Road to 2006 FIFA World Cup
  • GUN
  • Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
  • Hexic HD
  • Kameo: Elements of Power
  • Madden NFL 06
  • Mutant Storm Reloaded
  • NBA 2K6
  • NBA Live 06
  • Need for Speed: Most Wanted
  • NHL 2K6
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Peter Jackson's King Kong
  • Project Gotham Racing 3
  • Quake 4
  • Ridge Racer 6
  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06
  • Tony Hawk's American Wasteland

While the original Xbox shipped with an Ethernet port to support Broadband connections right out of the box, it took several years before it would be properly utilised. Xbox Live was introduced in 2002, although some of the services most influential games wouldn't arrive until 2004 – most notably, Halo 2 and Rainbow Six: Black Arrow. By the time 2005 arrived, Microsoft had positioned online gaming at the centre of its newest console, the Xbox 360. 

Perfect Dark Zero might have been a divisive prequel to Rare's N64 classic, but Zero's 32-player multiplayer support would ultimately help Xbox 360 owners through a pretty dry launch window and signal that console-bound online gaming was evolving at a rapid pace. Infinity Ward took its first steps into multiplayer domination with Call of Duty 2, a console-exclusive that quickly became one of the most popular games on Xbox Live. Project Gotham Racing 3, on the other hand, would demonstrate how pervasive the power dedicated gaming communities could be in this new era. 

The Xbox 360, launching little over 12 months ahead of the PS3 in North America, also introduced console players to HD gaming, and a good number of the first- and third-party launch titles worked to leverage that new-found power. Along with the aforementioned games, Xbox 360 owners also had Peter Jackson's King Kong, Kameo: Elements of Power, and Condemned: Criminal Origins as early showcases of just how powerful this new console was and of how diverse its library would ultimately become. And if that weren't enough, Hexic HD (pre-loaded onto Xbox 360 Pro hard drives) and Geometry Wars were early indicators of just how incredible Xbox Live Arcade would be as an initiative. 

Xbox One launch Games (November 22, 2013)

Xbox One launch games

Ryse: Son of Rome (Image credit: Crytek)
  • Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
  • Battlefield 4
  • Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • Crimson Dragon
  • Dead Rising 3
  • FIFA 14
  • Fighter Within
  • Forza Motorsport 5
  • Just Dance 2014
  • Killer Instinct
  • Lego Marvel Super Heroes
  • Lococycle
  • Madden NFL 25
  • NBA 2K14
  • NBA LIVE 14
  • Need for Speed: Rivals
  • Powerstar Golf
  • Ryse: Son of Rome
  • Skylanders: Swap Force
  • Zoo Tycoon
  • Zumba Fitness: World Party

Famously, 2013 was something of a disaster for the Xbox division. That's a reality that was reflected in the launch lineup for Xbox One. Microsoft attempted to position the Xbox One as the leading contender in the 'Battle for Input One'. The console was positioned as an all-in-one media solution, where gaming was positioned as prominently as TV, movies, music, and fitness applications. The launch Xbox One experience is remembered for its big price-tag, for forcing Kinect underneath your TV, and the lackluster quality of its overall lineup.  

It's an offering that should have been remembered for the powerhouse performance of Forza Motorsport 5, the tightness of Killer Instinct's design, and the sheer beauty of Ryse: Son of Rome. Instead, it was the games that surrounded this trio of exclusives that ultimately defined that first year and set the tenor of the conversation moving forward. There were games like Fighter Within and Zumba Fitness, titles that demanded motion-functionality which barely functioned. You had titles like Dead Rising 3 arrive with big ambitions that couldn't be balanced against a stable framerate, and the less said about Crimson Dragon, Lococycle, and Powerstar Golf the better.

The importance of a launch lineup is ultimately debatable, but it's difficult to argue with the assertion that Microsoft's inability to form a concrete vision in those early years ultimately harmed it in the long run. The Xbox division was coming into this generation in a position of power following the success of the Xbox 360, and it squandered it. That's a pain that was felt acutely by day one Xbox One owners.

Xbox Series X launch games (November 10, 2020) 

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S launch games

Assassin's Creed Valhalla (Image credit: Ubisoft)
  • Assassin's Creed: Valhalla
  • Destiny 2: Beyond Light
  • Dirt 5
  • Gears Tactics
  • Tetris Effect: Connected
  • Watch Dogs: Legion
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Honestly, it's difficult to know what to make of the Xbox Series X launch lineup. If you take it at face value, you might see a limited offering staring back at you. Gears Tactics coming to console is the only first-party release, while the exclusive offerings from third-party publishers come in the form of Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Tetris Effect: Connected. With Halo Infinite delayed into 2021, it would appear that the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are lacking a true system seller. Right? 

That depends on your interpretation of a system seller. While the console might not have a killer app in the traditional sense, Microsoft is banking on the ecosystem it has engineered to fill that space. The Xbox Series s and Xbox Series X backwards compatibility initiative ensures that all non-Kinect Xbox One games, along with hundreds of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, will be playable from day one. Xbox Series X and S owners will also find that backwards compatible games can also offer higher framerates, resolutions, and enjoy a significant reduction in load times (among other benefits). 

Support for Xbox Game Pass will be there too, the subscription service that gives you access to hundreds of first- and third-party games for a monthly fee along. Selected Xbox One games – including many of the year's biggest releases such as Marvel's Avengers, FIFA 21, and Black Ops Cold War, not to mention industry titans like Fortnite and Rainbow Six Siege - are going to be "enhanced" to take full advantage of the next-gen consoles. You can find a full list of all of the Xbox Series X upgrade games here. Microsoft continues to claim that Xbox Series X and Series S will have "the largest launch line-up for any console ever". It's a bold statement that is technically true, albeit a little uninspiring if you're the type of player that has been able to keep on top of their backlog in recent years. 

Is the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S day one offering, and the slate of upcoming Xbox Series X games, enough to tempt people away from the PS5? That's something that only time will be able to tell.

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Josh West
UK Managing Editor, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the UK Managing Editor of GamesRadar+. He has over 10 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.