Home Gaming A brief history of the Xbox 360 Part 2 – The games that mattered

A brief history of the Xbox 360 Part 2 – The games that mattered

10 min read

Over seven years, there were a lot of games released on the Xbox 360. Hell, a ton more are still on the way, as this console still has some strong legs underneath it that can it carry for a year or two more. Franchises were born, series were retired and various smaller games made an impact on that console. But these are some – a mere sliver – of  the ones that mattered most.

Gears Of War trilogy

Gears of war

Going into a new console generation, the Xbox 360 needed a system-seller. A game that would make people turn their hands, and slap down cash for something that was fresh and new. And that’s just what they got, with Gears Of War. Inspiring a legion of copycat games in its wake, Gears Of War was a brutal experience that felt meaty, substantial and gritty.

Chainsaw rifles, hordes of enemies and even bigger monsters were waiting in the dark, with the action spilling online. Two sequels followed after the original game, upping the ante and improving on the core mechanics, making Gears Of War a signature staple of the Xbox brand.

Alan Wake


The Xbox 360 could do action. It could do racing. Heck, it could even do casual. But could it keep you in suspense? One game certainly could, as Remedy Entertainment finally completed Alan Wake and unleashed a meta-nightmare on the world, with one unlucky author caught in the darkness.

It was a thrilling game, and although repetitive at times, the unique focus on using light as a weapon and the creepy narrative helped make this game a masterpiece.



Grand Theft Auto 3 had set the bar for sandbox games, re-creating a new genre, but Crackdown leaped over it and collected orbs with ease. Crackdown wasn’t just a fun game where you could live the life of either a super-powered law enforcer or an unhinged maniac with power that had corrupted absolutely. It was also a tactical game, with your focus on various gang leaders having an impact on how you could tackle the big bosses that were running that city.

And the co-op gameplay was just the icing on the cake.

The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings


The Witcher 2 was a game that looked magnificent on PC. Naturally, this was a game that would never work on console. It was too technical, the combat was too tied to a mouse and keyboard combo, the Xbox 360 hardware could never render those visuals. How wrong people were. This game wasn’t just ported, it was improved upon for console. A stack of new content was added in, visuals had a new shine and the controls were intuitive. And that’s how you do a console port, ladies and gentlemen.

Forza Motorsport 4

Forza 4

The first Forza Motorsport had driven into first place on the Xbox 360, bringing new life to technical driving. And on the Xbox 360, that series reached its peak in the fourth game. There was a visual upgrade that made the previous games pale in comparison, while a deal with Top Gear ensured that having a car in the game wasn’t just satisfying, but educating and entertaining as well. Now how fast do you think it went around our track?

Project Gotham Racing 4


One of the early launch titles for the Xbox 360, Project Gotham Racing 4 was a mature franchise that had learnt a lesson or two since its rougher debut on the original Xbox console. This was the polished game of dreams, an arcade racer with some bite to it that had a ton of cars waiting for players, as well as a few motorcycles. It’s undeniably the very best game in the Project Gotham Racing series. It’s unfortunately also a swansong, as this was the final game produced.

Halo 3

Halo 3

It was time to finish the fight. For good. Halo 1 and Halo 2 had blazed a path on the Xbox, revolutionising the shooter genre. But for a debut on the Xbox 360, Bungie had to go for broke or go home. Pulling out all the stops, Halo 3 was one of the definitive versions of the game, with quality and quantity packed into many offline and online modes. Master Chief may have been on his way out, but he was going out with a bang.

Halo 4

Halo 4

At least until he could return for a fourth core adventure that is. With Bungie leaving to start work on the new Destiny franchise, Microsoft needed a studio that could keep the spirit of Halo alive. And by forming 343 Industries, they got a team whose sole job was to finish more fights. A new adventure, enemies and a game that pushed Halo 4 to the bleeding edge of what was possible on the Xbox 360 was released, proving that even without its original team, Halo was stronger than ever.

Viva Piñata


Sometimes, a game becomes more than the medium it represents. It becomes an experience. A journey into magic and wonder, something that you lose along the way when you become an adult. And in the bright and colourful world of Viva Piñata and it’s numerous creatures, that magic is everywhere.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved


One of the first games to be offered for the Xbox 360 on its Live Arcade service, the game that began as a playable game in the Xbox’s Project Gotham Racing 2 brought crazy twin-stick shooting to a whole new audience. Once holding the record for the most downloaded game on the service.

Featuring retro, psychedelic graphics and swarms of enemies, it was for a long while the game to chase scores on the Xbox 360.

Call of Duty 2


Gone are the days when World War II was the primary area of exploration for shooter games. That’s where Call of Duty found its roots though, crafting some really intense and memorable war scenarios.

Call of Duty 2 improved on the first game, making it bigger and better. Visually it was rather good, and the sound was praised by many. It also introduced the regenerating health bar, something which seemed alien at the time, yet has gone on to be the staple health system for many shooters today. It was only available for Xbox in the console market. It helped build a fan base on the system that made the genuinely revolutionary Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare at home on the 360.

‘Splosion Man


When it comes to simplistic control schemes nothing is simpler than ‘Splosion Man which has a directional stick and one button that makes you explode. However while the controls may be simplistic the game itself isn’t, this is easily one of the most difficult games of the generation and very few people  managed to complete the entire thing.

Hours of entertainment for less than the price of a case of beers, you can’t beat that for value.

Shadow Complex

Shadow Complex

Metroid is a Nintendo property, so it’ll never appear on a Microsoft platform – but that’s hardly a problem when you have Shadow Complex. Released at a sweet price of $15, Chair Entertainment delivered a game that may not have been high in originality, but nailed the Metroid formula perfectly.

Blocking off access to bits of the underground cave that made the game its home until you had the right equipment, Shadow Complex was a game of exploration that really showed how to deliver top notch, AAA entertainment at a budget price.

Castle Crashers


Xbox Live Arcade bought with it a ton of gems which may have otherwise been missed. It was the start of something great for Indie developers. Castle Crashers was a 2D beat ’em up that was well received by critics that bought with it some 4 player co-op bathed in some light RPG elements.

With an irreverent and perhaps even crude art-style, It was a formula for success that found the love of many – even if its online co-op was broken at launch.  While it is available on many platforms now, it started out as an exclusive for the 360.

Red Dead Redemption


The Wild West has fascinated people for generations – just look at the masses of spaghetti Westerns. Red Dead Redemption takes players back to those bad old days, when bandits waiting around every corner, horses needed to be caught and tamed and the law didn’t have quite the long arms it’s known for.

Red Dead Redemption gave players the opportunity to take the law into their own hands, or become an outlaw themselves, or just spend hours hunting various birds and animals.

Red Dead Redemption offered players a rich storyline and gritty characters against a realistic and living environment. With plenty of options for all different types of game play activities, Red Dead Redemption took sandbox gameplay to a whole new level. Really, it just let us feel like we were walking around in cowboy boots with spurs on.



If you haven’t played the very first Bioshock, Would you kindly rectify that? Starting its life as an Xbox 360 exclusive, Bioshock is sublime.  Plummeting down to the undersea dystopia, Bioshock captured the essence of what made System Shock 2 so damned good, and placed it in a new setting. Rapture, was very much a character itself. Constructed as an idealistic society for a an elitist group of scientists, artists and industrialists, the Ayn Rand idealism is no more, replaced instead by hopped-on-plasmid splicers,  corpses, and giant guardians protecting the girls who loot ADAM from the dead.

The atmosphere, the smart gameplay that dispensed with standard running-and-gunning and that Shyamalanian twist. The thrill of taking down a Big Daddy with a few trip-wires and an errant grenade. Harvesting or saving Little sisters.  But mostly, that atmosphere.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion


If you ever needed to go questing for days on end, Oblivion was the obvious choice. The game was exclusive to Xbox 360 on the console market when it first launched. Following the success of Morrowind on the original Xbox, there was a new generation of hardware to play with and Bethesda took advantage of it.

Oblivion not only looked amazing, but there was lots to see and do as well. Cyrodiill was a joy to explore, and there were loads of enemies and quests just waiting to be dispatched, as well as a variety of ways to level a character.

Mass Effect


Like Bioshock, Mass Effect also began its life as a game exclusive to the Xbox 360. When you look at games today, its easy to take for granted how far they’ve come. Operatic space battles, custom soldiers and choices that matter, these are the things that the Mass Effect trilogy pioneered. A cover-based shooter with space magic essentially, Bioware created a massive universe over three games, constantly exploring the mythology of a galaxy under siege.

It’s the Star Wars saga of video games, a crusade that happens to be an entire trilogy long, and while it may have stumbled towards the finish line, Mass Effect proved that the journey was indeed far more important than the final destination.

Relive your Xbox 360 memories. Tell us what games you played on the console that mattered to you most.

Last Updated: September 19, 2014


  1. WarframedSquirrel

    September 19, 2014 at 15:34

    Ah, screw you guys and your fancy PS4’s and Xbones… I’m still playing on my Xbox 360 and Dust An Elysian Tale should’ve been on that list 😛


  2. Spaffy

    September 19, 2014 at 15:41

    Some of these games I haven’t even heard of, and I’ve had my 360 for ages


    • WarframedSquirrel

      September 19, 2014 at 15:48

      Which ones? Just so I know how much to shun you.


      • Spaffy

        September 19, 2014 at 15:54

        Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Viva Piñata
        Your shun does nothing to my level 99 … er … thingy


        • WarframedSquirrel

          September 19, 2014 at 15:59


          Keep your level 99 “thingy” to yourself…

          Nah, the shun’s not too bad for those 2.


        • FoxOneZA

          September 19, 2014 at 16:14

          Geometry wars featured in PGR3.


          • CAE9872

            September 19, 2014 at 17:41

            Yeah but in a “cut-down” way – it allowed about a minute or two of play. The full enchiliada was downloadable only. And what a game!

        • CAE9872

          September 19, 2014 at 17:42

          I own both – Geometry Wars is simply superb. If you have a UK Xbox account, which if you don’t you should get, it is still listed, as is Geometry Wars 2. They more addictive than crack…not that I have had crack!


  3. DarthZA

    September 19, 2014 at 15:58

    I just wanted to add that that is one damn fine list.


  4. GooseZA

    September 19, 2014 at 15:59


    That game was awesome. The couch co-op was also really good. I finished the game but I’m not sure if I found all the cakes. I think it did?

    *Checks achievements


  5. FoxOneZA

    September 19, 2014 at 16:15

    GEARS, HALOZ and FORZA! Games that you would never get bored off.


  6. OVGrounded new game+++

    September 19, 2014 at 16:16

    2007 was the most memorable year in gaming for me.
    Seeing that Gears of War advert with Its a Sad world playing in the background made me go out and buy a R1999 Core 360, 50MB Memory card, Bioshock and Gears the next day.

    My how the tables have now turned.


    • DJSkippy

      September 19, 2014 at 16:26

      Had something similar happen to me. Was all keen on a PS3 at the time but found the Arcade for R1999, the salesman at this particular store didnt want to sell it to me. He kept trying to sell the PS3 which was double the price and had no games and only one controller. I then left the store and went to a new incredible connection that had opened and scored an Xbox Elite with 3 games and 2 controllers for R2999. That was 7 years ago.


      • OVGrounded new game+++

        September 19, 2014 at 16:38

        While the overhyped Game Cube in a white shell called the Wii was selling for R3499.
        I had to try and explain to the sales rep that the 360 was 7X more powerful than the Wii. He did not understand why I wanted a 360.


        • DJSkippy

          September 19, 2014 at 16:42

          The Wii was fun in its own right. A couple of mates and some drinks made it real interesting. I still have my Xbox and have been hammering on the same controllers for years. Gonna miss it when i grow up….


          • OVGrounded new game+++

            September 19, 2014 at 16:44

            NEVER GROW UP

            Its overrated. Adults are miserable bastards.

  7. Ryanza

    September 19, 2014 at 17:00

    Well there were some good games to be found on the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 is more known for having sequels.

    Gears of War 1, Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3, Gears of War Judgment.
    Forza 1, Forza 3, Forza 4, Forza Horizon.
    Halo 3, Halo Wars, Halo odst, Halo Reach, Halo 1, Halo 4, Halo Spartan Assault.
    Call of Duty 2, Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty 4, Call of Duty waw, Call of Duty mw2, Call of Duty Black Ops, Call of Duty mw3, Call of Duty bo2, Call of Duty Ghosts, Call of Duty aw.
    Bioshock 1, Bioshock 2, Bioshock Infinite.
    Mass Effect 1, Mass Effect 2, Mass Effect 3.
    Assassin’s Creed 1, Ass Creed 2, Ass Creed Brotherhood, Ass Creed Revelations, Ass Creed 3, Ass Creed 4, Ass Creed Rogue.
    Fable 1, Fable 2, Fable 3, Fable Heroes, Fable Journey.
    Saints Row 1, Saints Row 2, Saints Row 3, Saints Row 4.

    And the list goes on and on. List a few sequels that I left out.

    Xbox 360 the sequel hell hole.


    • CAE9872

      September 19, 2014 at 17:47

      OK I don’t want to specifically make this into a major issue but I do have one question – do you actually like videogames? Just about all your comments are very much “against” them in some way.

      So what if most of those are sequels – most of them are damn good games in their own right. So just because it has a number after the title doesn’t make it bad or not innovative in some way.

      And the game you tout as being the next big thing has a number after it…The Witcher 3.

      Try not taking this too personally as it is not meant as an attack – more an interesting viewpoint? So what do you play and like? Besides DRM of course!


      • Ryanza

        September 19, 2014 at 18:45

        I like to play a game that tells a good story, I like to shoot at shit, I like to build and manage shit (those sim type game), I like RTS, I like all sorts of games.

        I like new games. I hate it when a good developing studio gets stuck on chumming out the same damn thing over and over again.
        Good developing studios need to keep on making new ip games. I love playing something new. I hate sequels even if they good.

        I don’t calm that The Witcher 3 is going to be the next big thing. It’s more like something special when you look at the gaming industry today. I mention The Witcher 3 because it’s being released at retail with zero DRM.

        What has people excited is Cyberpunk 2077. CD Projekts RED’s next game. If after that game CD Projekt RED starts working on Cyberpunk 2078, then I will blast on that as well. Well maybe not if CD Projekt RED is still going to be the only DRM-free retail publisher.

        So good developers need to create new IP’s that are DRM-free. More new IP’s than sequels. Then my comments will reflect content.


        • Aaron

          September 20, 2014 at 12:48

          I don’t think you realise that the best games ever made are sequels and im sure everyone can agree with me, such as call of duty the sequels are amazing same with battlefield, mass effect, assassins creed, and the list goes on, so sit down and stop whining like a little bitch!


          • Ryanza

            September 20, 2014 at 16:32

            Sequels 4 life! bitch. lol.

      • Ryanza

        September 22, 2014 at 08:03

        Ok let me say this way. I mentioned about 47 games. 9 games and about 38 sequels.

        Bungie has just been doing Halo since 2001. Not good for gaming when a good developing studio only ever works on one IP. Bungie had to leave Microsoft in order to create something new. Now Bungie has signed a 10 year deal with Activision for just Destiny titles. Not good for gaming when a good developing studio only works on one IP.

        Lionhead Studios has just been working on Fable since 2008. It’s not good for gaming when a developing studio only works on one IP for years on end.

        Epic Games has been working on Gears of War since 2006. Bar a arcade and mobile title, Gears of War has been Epics major titles since then. Epic Games had to sell Gears of War in order to work on something else. Maybe the chinese had something to do with that. But it’s not good when a good developing studio only focuses on one IP.

        Dice. Since about 2010 it has been Battlefield all the way. Years and a studio only working on one IP.
        Not good for gaming.

        There are many more examples of that sequel generation. I just mentioned 9 games and 38 sequels.

        I would say it is fair to call the Xbox 360 era a sequel hell hole.


        • CAE9872

          September 22, 2014 at 17:38

          Firstly thanks for not taking the matter too personally – leads to a hearty debate! I
          see your points and every one is fair enough. And there is nothing more soul destroying than reading a developer has had to give up its soul while making a particular game.

          However, in saying that I think some developers court that – in today’s gaming environment it is difficult to make games, particularly AAA titles, without thinking of tomorrow. At some point the developer may well get bored. But in some cases, many cases, games are iterative by their very nature, which can lead to better games being made in the process, even if it does have a number after it. For many years FIFA languished way below PES, but through constant working (and competition) today FIFA is considered the better representation of the sport. Now you and I may not be the biggest football fans but those in the know consider each iteration to bring gamers closer to the real thing.

          In some cases, that is then the same for any genre specific game. I just don’t know to what degree the developer is beholden to the publisher. Many of your arguments point to developers, and I fully understand what you saying, but to what degree, if not entirely, does the publisher dictate terms. This will continue I think…they are a necessary evil!

          For many the first title is usually considered the pinnacle, but then there are equally as many that can objectively look at the 2nd or 3rd game as being the better experience (as much as I hate that word). I don’t have a thing against sequels though – I do agree though it would be great if publishers/developers were allowed to step outside their comfort zones on occasion to experiment with new IP, new genre ideas, etc. I do think that developers that must leave the security of the specific publisher is rather a sad indictment of the industry in order for them to feel like they are progressing. For example Microsoft should have let a developer like Bungie go and do their thing safe in the knowledge that they may have been able to do both? Or even not, Halo had run its course and was time for something new – something MS should have supported!


    • rollingmol

      September 19, 2014 at 19:14

      Fable journey… reallly 🙂


  8. CAE9872

    September 19, 2014 at 17:47

    Brilliant machine with awesome games! End of an era is nigh for the old box…


    • Lars Anderson

      September 20, 2014 at 00:52

      Nigh? It was dead years ago.


  9. Aussious

    September 19, 2014 at 18:22

    Its like looking at a photo album of memories of you and your ex, when things where still all smiles and roses.


  10. ZZZZ

    September 20, 2014 at 01:24

    Where is GTA V, Modern Warfare 1, Modern Warfare 2, WHAT THE HELL IS VIVA PINITA, NOBODY PLAYS THAT STUPID GAME.


    • feispalm

      September 20, 2014 at 16:15

      U don’t know Viva Pinata? Rare’s game. That’s good game, better than ur CoD’s


  11. feispalm

    September 20, 2014 at 09:49

    Where is Fable 2?


  12. Lupus

    September 20, 2014 at 21:57

    7 years? The 360 was released in 2005 and we got it a couple of months later in 2006, scary to think that it’s almost 9 years old :-(. I picked up my first one strangely enough at a Cash Crusaders for R3000 just two days after launch, original pro version. That one was stolen and insurance replaced it which RROD after two months :-(, the replacement has gone on to last 6 years now 🙂


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