April 17

Best Xbox 360 Games

In terms of the previous generation of consoles, I have owned both the Xbox-360 and PS3. Despite the PS3 having some of the best titles and allowing you to install a Linux distribution early in its lifecycle, I’ve always preferred the Xbox-360. The controller had some weight to it, the interface was minimalistic and easier to use and you could explicitly choose to download games onto your hard drive (whether it be internal or external) and play games from it.

We are nearing the end of this generation. At the time of writing this article, Microsoft had only recently unveiled the Xbox Series X, once again, parading their extraordinary ability to give their consoles terrible names. To fully appreciate the current generation (and the next one), I feel that it’s necessary to revisit some of the Xbox-360’s best titles. They laid the foundation for some of Microsoft’s most memorable games.

Xbox 360 Gaming Console

You do not have to own an Xbox 360, to play Xbox 360 games. There is an abundance of stable emulators out there. However, if you’ve somehow managed to get your hands on an old Xbox 360, that is great too. The following list will comprise of both cross-platform games as well as Xbox 360 exclusives. We tried to focus on exclusives as much as possible.

In addition to this, every entry will be accompanied by a spec list with information about the developer and date of release. We have also appended a short review for each title, just to remind you why these games were so great. Without further delay…

#1 Best Overall: Grand Theft Auto V

  • Date of Release: 17 September 2013
  • Developer(s): Rockstar North
  • Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
  • Game Engine: RAGE
  • Game Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
  • Purchase It

It was hard to pick between Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto IV along with its various single-player DLCs. GTA IV really exemplified what consoles of that generation could do when pushed to their limits. GTA V took the baton from Rockstar’s previous titles and ran with it.

Grand Theft Auto V Cover Art

It is still one of the most expensive games ever created for the last generation and one of the highest-grossing too. It’s technically not an Xbox 360 exclusive but because of its still thriving fanbase, it deserves the first spot on this list.

GTA V Storyline

The single-player mode of GTA V follows Michael Townley, Trevor Philips, and Franklin Clinton. It’s set in an updated version of Los Santos which is based on and modeled after Los Angeles. Nine years after a botched robbery, we find Michael Townley (now named Michael De Santa) under witness protection with the rest of his family.

Michael later befriends Franklin Clinton, a gangbanger. After a series of some very unfortunate events that involve adultery, assault, and arson, Michael finds that he’ll need to return to a life in order to ensure the safety of his family and himself.

Rockstar North has always shown an incredible amount of aptitude when it comes to crafting cinematic stories. Despite the main characters being absolutely terrible people, you can’t help but find yourself drawn to them.

As always GTA V introduces you to a bunch of unsavory characters, well written but offensive dialog and an outlandish plot full of unpredictable twists and turns. The story is unique and one of the biggest selling points of the single-player campaign.

GTA V Gameplay

GTA V is the first in the series that allows players to switch between three of its main characters. This adds some very fresh ideas and interesting gameplay mechanics. For instance, you can switch between the characters in real-time while performing a heist that requires all three of the protagonists.

Sometimes this makes heists feel like an intricate puzzle. Of course, GTA V gives you room to perform and complete missions however you like. It does not give you Hitman-like mission versatility but it cuts pretty close.

Until GTA VI comes out, GTA V still remains one of the best open-world titles of all time. It allows you to customize all three characters. You also get your slew of side missions and mini-games. You have 49 sq. miles of land and city to explore.

Then there is the multiplayer. Ever since GTA V’s release in 2013, Rockstar has been pumping out updates and DLCs for its online multiplayer portion of the game. Grand Theft Auto 5’s online multiplayer allows you to engage in co-op heists, racing, free-roaming, etc.

Even after seven years, I still find myself revisiting GTA V because of the gargantuan amount of content sunk into it. It’s very easy to understand why it was one of the most expensive games to buy at launch time.

GTA V Graphics

What you have to commend Rockstar on is delivering consistently great graphics throughout their ports. They simply adhere to standards that other developers and publishers (I’m looking at you Ubisoft).

As with the Rockstar’s other properties, GTA V was built using The Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE). The graphics and the gameplay have aged incredibly well, even if you play the game on a last-gen console like the Xbox 360

GTA V Overall Review

With GTA V, Rockstar mastered open-world gun-based combat. It’s driving mechanics could rival that of some of the best racing games you’ll find on Steam or the Xbox marketplace.

Because of contemporary composers and sound producers like legendary Hip-Hop beat crafter The Alchemist, GTA V has one of the best soundtracks of all time. It can even be purchased on vinyl.

This is the perfect gift for gamers and audiophiles. It’s hard to see how Rockstar can top themselves with the next iteration. Nevertheless, GTA V will forever remain one of the best Xbox 360 games of all time.

#2 Best Xbox 360 RPG: Fable II

  • Date of Release: 21 October 2008
  • Developer(s): Lionhead Studios
  • Publisher(s): Microsoft Game Studios
  • Game Engine: Unnamed Lionhead Proprietary Game Engine
  • Game Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
  • Purchase It

Fable II, despite its very muddled ending and Peter Molyneux’s empty promises, remains very dear to my heart. It can be considered as the Xbox 360’s Legend of Zelda. RPGs like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Dragon Agon draw obvious inspiration from it.

Fable II Cover Art

While we wait for Fable IV or at least a remastered edition for the PC (come on Microsoft, there’s an entire change.org petition for this), Fable II might be worth revisiting on the Xbox 360.

Fable II Storyline

Fable II’s story takes place 500 years after the events of the first Fable. Once again, it’s set in the mystical land of Albion. As the main character, you play as Sparrow, an impoverished youth who lives with his older sister, Rose. After a noble, Lord Lucien Fairfax kills his sister and wounds him.

He is saved and nurtured back to health by an old woman named Theresa. Ten years later, we find Lord Lucien building a spire (The Tattered Spire), reported to give those who use it, unrivaled power.

As the protagonist, you and a band of allies must stop him from completing the spire and corrupting all of Albion.

The story plays out a lot like a fairy tale. While Fable doesn’t have any gore, viscera, violence, strong language or viscera, the story and themes have adult overtones. Yes, the story is worth following but it’s the various side missions that will keep you playing for hours.

Fable II Gameplay

Fable II is an action role-playing game with above-average combat. You have a mixture of melee and ranged weapons to choose from. From crossbows, guns to katanas and axes. How fast you can swing and use a melee weapon depends on its weight and type.

Exploration is a very important part of the game. Albion has enough side missions and mini-games to find. There’s an arena type crucible where you can fight a wave of enemies to earn money and experience points.

You can also gamble or take up a job to make money. If you’re so inclined, you can start a family and purchase a building for your family and pet to live in. This is a game mechanic that was special at the time but has since been adopted by most modern RPGs.

Another game mechanic that later became very popular was aging and character morphing. Depending on your alignment scale, your character will either morph into a demon-like creature or a more angelic human-like one.

Fable II Graphics

At first, it was thought that Lionhead had used The Unreal Engine to build Fable II. This was not the case. They used an in-house graphics engine.

The art direction and style is quite charming. It’s like they were taken from the illustrated pages of a children’s book. However, the game’s very dark undertones produce an uncanny valley effect. Shrubbery and plant life look great.

You’ll venture through forests, snow-covered villages, mines, etc. The graphics are great but I did expect more optimization for the Xbox 360. It’s unfortunate that you encounter areas that make your FPS drop.

Fable II Overall review

I wouldn’t recommend Fable II to a young audience, despite the way it looks on a surface level. It’s a mature game that takes place in an enamoring setting that speaks to both our inner children and our adult sensibilities.

Fable II comes from a time when games were blossoming and evolving. The series creator, Peter Molyneux had promised us a less linear story and more immersive gameplay. Unfortunately, these were just ambitions that never made it into the final product. It may not be what he promised but it’s still truly a fantastic game.

#3 Best First Person Shooter: Halo 4

  • Date of Release: 6 November 2012
  • Developer(s): 343 Industries
  • Publisher(s): Microsoft Game Studios
  • Game Engine: Modified Version of Halo 3 Engine
  • Game Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
  • Purchase It

Despite its rave reviews, I have always seen Halo 3 as…okay. Its single-player campaign did not blow me away. Halo 4 on the other hand… I really didn’t know that the Xbox 360 had that much juice. It’s like Freiza from Dragon Ball Z. Until Halo 4, it had not been showing us its final form.

Halo 4 Cover Art

After playing Halo 4, I felt like the next-gen in consoles was unnecessary. Here is why:

Halo 4 Storyline

The game takes place roughly four years after the events of Halo 3, where Master Chief once again stopped the Halo Array from activating and essentially saved the universe from the Flood.

Halo 4’s campaign begins with Master Chief in Cryogenic sleep aboard a spacecraft slowly floating towards the mysterious planet Requiem. It’s hard to condense the plot beyond that. But as Master Chief, you will explore Requiem which will lead you to events where you must stop a force whose intentions are inherently benevolent but threaten to end humanity.

Halo 4 Gameplay

Near the end of the Xbox 360’s life cycle, split-screen multiplayer was standing on its last legs. Surprisingly, Halo 4 allowed gamers to play the campaign in a split-screen co-op mode from a single Xbox. This is not entirely new. Halo 3 also allowed you to play in a co-op mode but only through a WAN or LAN.

Just like the other games in the main series, Halo 4 is a first-person shooter. Throughout the campaign, you will have your pick of weapons such as battle rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers, plasma pistols, etc. In total, Halo 4 introduced ten new weapons.

Halo 4 Graphics

Halo 4 has easily the best graphics on the Xbox 360. It natively runs on 720p. Textures are sharp and clear. They could honestly give Crysis a run for its money.

A lot of fans were skeptical about 343 Industries taking the series over from Bungie. They over-delivered in this regard. They improved upon the previous titles while maintaining Halo’s identity. This could possibly be accredited to the fact that 243 Industries used a modified version of the Bungie Halo 3 engine.

Halo 4 Overall Review

Halo 4 earned itself VGX awards for graphics and is the best Xbox 360 game in 2012. It also wrecked numerous nominations for sound, voice acting, gameplay, and graphics from a plethora of guilds, associations, and charities.

If you don’t plan on playing Halo 4 on the Xbox 360, you can always purchase the entire Master Chief collection for the Xbox One or PC.

#4 Best Open World Game: Red Dead Redemption

  • Date of Release: 18 May 2010
  • Developer(s): Rockstar San Diego
  • Publisher(s): Rockstar Games
  • Game Engine: RAGE
  • Game Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
  • Purchase It

I find it a bit sad that people’s initial introduction to the Red Dead series is Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s only the third game in the series, with the first being Red Dead Revolver. I am even more devastated by the fact that the original Red Dead Redemption will never come to PC.

Red Dead Redemption Cover Art

However, I can always revisit it on my old Xbox 360 but I don’t want to. Because of Its story and ending, it’s one of those games you can only play once unless you’re a sadist or sociopath. Nevertheless, if this is your first encounter with RDR 1, let me show you why it’s worth playing.

Red Dead Redemption Storyline

The game follows ex-outlaw, John Marston, forced to bring members of his old gang to justice for a chance at amnesty for his own crimes.

Since it’s a Rockstar game, you get a slew of colorful characters that you meet along the way. It’s hard not to build a bond with John and the supporting characters you meet along your journey. Red Dead Redemption is incredibly well written and will leave you in tears with its ending.

Red Dead Redemption Gameplay

Red Dead Redemption has been billed as yee-haw Skyrim/GTA. The player is presented with a fully realized world where you can hunt for animals (or people), tame wild horses, play side quests and even gamble.

The game is played predominantly from a third-person view. Combat is an amalgamation of GTA’s and Max Payne’s (complete with bullet time gunplay). You’ll travel across RDR’s map by foot, train or horse.

Red Dead Redemption Graphics

It’s a Rockstar game, so you can expect it to have great graphics and realistic character models. The first time I played GTA, I was impressed by the realistic facial expressions of each of the characters in the game. RDR is very nuanced in its detail.

Every frown-line, liver spot, and wrinkle is on full display. It makes it a lot easier to immerse yourself in the game and care about these characters.

Red Dead Redemption Overall Review

Its accolades and cultural impact speak for itself. Without RDR1, there would not be RDR 2 (duh! That’s how sequels work). What I mean by this is that Red Dead Redemption was a masterpiece in its own right.

Rockstar couldn’t’ do what they did with the sequel (technically a prequel) if it wasn’t for the foundation laid by the first Red Dead Redemption. It’s truly one of the greatest open-world sandbox games of the last generation.

#5 Best Racing Game: Forza Horizon 2

  • Date of Release: 30 September 2014
  • Developer(s): Sumo Digital
  • Publisher(s): Microsoft Games Studio
  • Game Engine: Forza Horizon Graphics Engine
  • Game Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
  • Purchase It

Gran Turismo is one of the longest living Sony PlayStation franchises. It’s survived four different generations. The problem with the first Xbox is that it did not have a driving simulator as prestigious as the Gran Turismo games. Well, not at least till Microsoft released Forza Motorsport all the way back in 2005.

Forza Horizon 2 Xbox 360 Cover

The Forza series has never really been able to reach the same realism as Gran Turismo. That’s why releasing Forza Horizon was such a smart move. It would offer a more arcade-like racing experience. The problem with most racing simulators is that they’re not very fun unless you’re a hard-core enthusiast.

In this section, we’ll explore why Forza Horizon 2 for the Xbox 360 was so great.

Forza Horizon 2 Storyline

Racing games, unless we’re talking about the Need for Speed series, seldom have a story or a plot. It’s an open-world racing game with a large map. To advance through the game, you must compete in various races and challenges.

It’s a bit similar to the gameplay structure of Burnout Paradise, without the chaos and carnage. A large portion of the game is set in Europe, particularly France and Italy.

Forza Horizon 2 Gameplay

The Xbox 360 version of Halo has 200 cars to choose from. You’ll use them to participate in street races, race tracks, off-road circuits, etc. Like any racing game worth its salt, Forza Horizon 2 has dynamic weather.

You will race through soft spring sunshine, rainy summer weather, mild autumn breezes, and winter snow. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock new cars that you can select from the main menu. All cars handle differently under different weather. Some cars are a prerequisite to certain challenges and races.

Forza Horizon 2 Graphics

The Xbox 360 version of Forza Horizon 2 uses a souped-up version of the Forza Horizon engine. All licensed vehicles are nearly identical to their real-world counterparts. They also react as most cars should.

2 White Race Cars on a Forza Horizon 2 Race

You can see them bouncing on their suspensions in the middle of a rough turn. The environments are also well constructed. They vary greatly from area to area. There are dry desert land, cityscapes, and formal race tracks to explore.

The game allows you to play from different camera views. Since steering wheel support, you can conduct races from a cockpit view, just to turn up the realism.

Forza Horizon 2 Overall Review

Forza Horizon 2 gives you an incredible amount of freedom. Don’t let the open-world setting fool you. This is a racing game that requires skill to master. It has some of the best graphics on the Xbox 360.  The vehicles in the game all have their own distinctive sound and feel. If you’re a completionist, Forza Horizon 2 should keep you busy for months.

#6 Best Third Person Shooter: Gears of War 3

  • Date of Release: 20 September 2011
  • Developer(s): Epic Games
  • Publisher(s): Microsoft Game Studios
  • Game Engine: Unreal Engine 3
  • Game Modes: Single Player, Multiplayer
  • Purchase It

Besides having some of the most cinematic announcement trailers of all time, the Gears of War series will forever be remembered as one of the most testosterone-fuelled games of Xbox 360.

Gears of War 3 Cover Art

While it’s played from a third-person perspective, it’s very reminiscent of games like Contra. It’s a shoot ’em up with plenty of action in its campaign. Even the story and cinematics feel like they’re ripped out of a late 80’s or early 90’s Schwarzenegger film. So why is it worth revisiting on the Xbox 360?

Gears of War 3 Storyline

Behind the cheesy dialog of Gears of War 3, there is a deep story. It can almost be compared to Sony’s series of Killzone games. The story picks up after the events of the second game.

Things on Sera (a home base planet for humanity) have become increasingly worse since Marcus Fenix and the gang destroyed Jacinto in a last-ditch effort to exterminate the Locust Horde.

It’s hard to condense the story and summarise its various twists and turns without revealing any spoilers. It’s a mix of wartime storytelling with soap opera-like elements.

Gears of War 3 Gameplay

As with the other games in the main series, Gears of War 3 is a third-person shooter. Its focus is on cover-based combat. The gameplay is more refined in Gears of War. It’s more visceral and fluid.

The story-mode /campaign can either be played as single-player or co-operative multiplayer. The PvP multiplayer side of the game has also been markedly improved on the last game. Beast mode allows you to play against other players as a Locust.

Gears of War 3 Graphics

The game is incredibly polished. The smoke and lighting effects are particularly noteworthy. Gears of War 3 the most visceral and grimy in the series. I feel that it even beats its successors in this regard.

It also has some very sharp textures with clear detailing. Paired with the sound design, makes Gears of War the most immersive third-person shooters of the Xbox 360.

 Everything has been more refined over its predecessors. The gameplay feels more fluid. Snapping in out of cover and vaulting over it feels …snappier.  You can also kick enemies while you vault over cover. The animation and character movements feel smoother than ever before. Cutscenes are also designed. Facial expressions are emotive and realistic.

Gears of War 3 Xbox 360 Game Screenshot

It is surprising that more Xbox 360 exclusives didn’t use Unreal Engine 3. Well, it is built and owned by Epic Games, so they know how to get the best out of it.

Gears of War 3 Overall Review

There are gamers who believe that Gears of War 3 is the last truly great game in the series. This is probably because of their misguided loyalty to Epic Games. If it wasn’t for the Gears of War series, the Xbox 360 would not have been worth buying.

There are no cover-based third-person shooter exclusives on the PlayStation 3 that can compare. It’s an experience unique only to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

#7 Best Indie Game: Bastion

  • Date of Release: 20 July 2011
  • Developer(s): Supergiant Games
  • Publisher(s): Supergiant Games
  • Game Engine: Microsoft XNA
  • Game Modes: Singleplayer
  • Purchase It

Bastion was first released as an Xbox exclusive in mid-2011. It was once again exemplified the creativity and heart of indie titles. It could be considered as the Xbox 360’s Journey.

Bastion Cover Art for Xbox 360

Nearly over a decade later and it still stands as one of the most important indie games of all time.

Bastion Storyline

Bastion follows the journey of the Kid, a young hero set to find Bastion, a sort of Elysium where people travel during troubled times. A great calamity has fallen upon the world and humankind, fracturing the game’s world. Bastion has some touching moments but the story is secondary to the combat, graphics, and gameplay.

Bastion Gameplay

Bastion is an action RPG. The game’s world explored in a top-down isometric view, much like Supergiant Games’ other offerings.

As the kid, you’ll have to protect yourself from traps as well as monsters at each level through the use of melee and ranged weapons.

You can only carry two weapons at a time. However, each unlocked and collected weapon can be accessed from an arsenal building. Players can also equip a secret skill which is basically a special attack.

The depth of the gameplay is very surprising. It’s full of upgrades, modifications, and great level design to keep you playing even after completing it for the first time.

Bastion Graphics

Most indie developers work on a limited budget. Therefore, they must be creative with graphics and visuals. Supergiant Games ticked this box with Bastion. Each level is colorful and masterfully built. There are tinges of luminescent light and watercolors spread throughout Bastion’s world.

Bastion Game Screenshot from Xbox 360

Some levels from under your character’s feet with blocks that seem to be made from stain glass. At times, it really feels like you are in a painting. Combat and character movements are well animated and smooth. Who needs photo-realism when you have a unique visual style and great gameplay?

Bastion Overall Review

Bastion has more than what meets the eye, even though what meets the eye is striking. I’m thankful for Bastion’s success. It means that Supergiant games can continue to create fun, minimalistic, stunning, and engaging games like Bastion.

Final Thoughts

I can go on and on about just how revolutionary the Xbox 360 was. It still remains one of my favorite consoles of all time. I hope that the contents of this article will inspire you to revisit these games. In it, we explored seven of the best games you’ll find on the Xbox 360.

Please don’t rage if your favorite hasn’t made it on the list. I hope you can at least use it to discover new games that you previously missed during the last generation of consoles. As always, thank you for reading.


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About the author

Mduduzi Sibisi

A lover of code, freelance writer, a misanthropic humanist and a comical absurdist. Mdu first fell in love with gaming after his parents bought him a Super Nintendo gaming console at the age of six. It would later become an obsession after playing Doom and Duke Nukem on PC. Now, not only is he playing them but he’s writing about them and creating them. He has an eclectic taste in games. His favorite games of all time include Legend of The Dragoon, Dark Cloud, GTA Vice City, Dark Souls, and Devil May Cry.