Top Fifteen Xbox 360 Games

Posted: June 3, 2015 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

xbox360Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

When the Xbox One and PS4 first hit, I was mostly content to just enjoy playing my Xbox 360. However with my console slowly dying and I slate of epic looking new titles exclusive to the new generation of gaming, I decided it was time to upgrade. I’m very excited to say that in a few weeks, I’ll be picking up a PS4. However before I embrace the new, I wanted to take some time to formally eulogize the gaming console I’ve invested the most time in by listing my top favourite games. It’s worth noting that I’m not nearly as big a gamer as I am a cinephile, and as such there are a lot of major titles I never got around to.

15. Fallout 3fallout3

It took me a few attempts to really click with Fallout 3, but once I did, I found a lot to appreciate. Set in a post-apocalyptic Washington D.C., the game follows The Lone Wanderer on a quest to find his father. This main quest is fun, but a little short. The real meat of the game comes from exploring the various side quests across the world. Not every major side quest is a winner, but most of them are really good and there’s an organic feel to simply exploring and discovering storylines. Where the game really shines is its word, which is extremely well-realized, in terms of both visuals and social dynamics. The world is also fleshed out by some truly awesome DLC. The gameplay itself is that of a solid shooter, but the VATS system helps shake things up, and one is given a fair amount of freedom regarding how they want to play the game.

14. Mass Effect 3me3-3-5-20122

If there’s one game I have serious reservations about placing in this list, it’s Mass Effect 3. To be sure, this is an extremely problematic game. The entire intro feels like something of a blunder, the stripped down dialogue trees is disappointing, and the controversial ending is indeed very unsatisfying. It was also frustrating for certain beloved characters to be more or less sidelined for a bulk of the game and there are other nitpicks throughout. And yet, there’s still a lot to love here. The combat system is improved and the leveling system has been expanded after being cut down in Mass Effect 2. There’s also still lots of fun missions, great dialogue, and amazing moments. For all the game’s narrative shortcomings, it also really delivered emotional pay-offs for its audience. The game also featured some really strong DLC and a surprisingly addictive multiplayer mode.

13. Portal 2New-Portal-2-Screenshots-Feature-Stunning-Science-Laboratory-and-Companion-Cubes

The original Portal was the surprise hit no one was expecting. The seemingly little puzzle game actually boasted an amazing game mechanic, strong level design, and sharp writing. This sequel expands on these elements into a full-length game, complete with more varied settings, more complex characters, and a lot more puzzles. The game also introduced new gameplay mechanics like gels which redefined how we used portals. Ellen McLain returns as the condescending GLaDOS, while Stephen Merchant makes for a strong comedic presence as the game’s unique villain Wheatley. In addition to simply being a lot of fun, the game’s story proved really solid and expanded the mythos of the series.

12. Batman: Arkham Asylumbatman arkham asylum

Given how successful the Arkham series has become, it can be easy to forget that most expected series opener Batman: Arkham Asylum to be just another mediocre licensed property. I was excited, because I love Batman and was excited to see Animated Series veterans Kevin Conroy (Batman), Mark Hamill (The Joker), and Arleen Sorkin (Harley Quinn) return to their characters. I expected to have fun, but I didn’t think the game would be anything truly great. Clearly I was wrong. Fans of the lore were treated to great renditions of beloved characters, but the game is a lot more than that. Built on excellent combat and predator (stealth) mechanics, Arkham Asylum provides a very tight gaming experience. The titular setting is chilling in design, and rich in detail. The game certainly has some flaws, notably some lame boss fights, but Arkham Asylum is still a triumph which launched a huge franchise, and is in itself a lot of fun.

11. Grand Theft Auto IVgrand-theft-auto-4-pc-game-screenshot-review-gameplay-4

Though the core concepts of the Grand Theft Auto series have generally remained consistent, the intricacies have often been shaken up with successive instalments. GTA IV was such an installment, completely reworking (and improving) the shooting mechanics while providing more realistic driving. However perhaps the biggest and most important change is the shift to a more serious and grim storyline. That’s not to say the game lacks a sense of humour, but the plot is a lot darker and thematic, with protagonist Niko Bellic proving the most complex yet. Niko may be a hardened criminal, but one the player learned to really care for, making his search for the American Dream extremely gripping. And if you did eventually tire of Niko, Rockstar provided two really cool DLC storylines following new characters, with The Ballad of Gay Tony proving especially fun.

10. The Orange Boxorange box

Listing The Orange Box is something of a cheat given that it’s essentially five games in one package and that two of those games (Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One) had already been released. It is for this reason I’m only placing the collection at ten, but there’s too much greatness here for me to leave it off the list entirely. The praises of Half-Life 2 have been sung endlessly, but this is a game that generates such love for a reason. The gameplay and settings are excellent, and Valve uses these elements to tell the story seamlessly. Episode One and Two were both strong sequels which continued the story well and featured more of that awesome gameplay. You also have the addition of the Gravity Gun, one of the coolest and most influential weapons in gaming. Also included in the package is Portal, a short, but highly creative and awesome ride that became a sensation. Finally, there’s Team Fortress 2. Honestly, I never cared for Team Fortress 2 (I hear the PC version is much better), but the rest of this collection is truly extraordinary.

9. The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimSkyrim-Logo-600x450

Skyrim is one of the most beloved games of its generation; an ambitious project with a vast world, organic gameplay, and a large degree of user freedom. And yet I struggled with its placement for a long time. To be sure, Skyrim is an awesome game, one I’ve sunk several hours into across multiple playthroughs focusing on both original content and the extensive DLC. And yet, there’s something about the game that’s just a little bit unsatisfying. While the game has a large scope, there isn’t much of an emotional attachment to anything and the game lacks a real payoff. Additionally, while there is a plethora of content, it all becomes repetitive after a while. These do strike me as huge flaws, but there really is too much awesomeness in Skyrim for it to not make the top ten. When I’m into it, it’s one of the most addicting experiences around and there’s something to be said about a game that feels to enfold around you rather than just before you.

8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2How-To-Install-Call-of-Duty-2-Game-Without-Errors

Part of my goal with this list was to accurately represent my overall experiences with the Xbox 360. This made the Call of Duty series inevitable. While the series reputation has dropped in recent years, I really can’t deny how much time I spent playing this back in high school. The single player campaign, though short and underwritten, was an adrenaline rush with simplistic but very fun shooting mechanics. But of course it was multiplayer where the game really shined, taking the fast-paced shooting to a competitive setting across multiple game modes with other players. I may have only spent about six or so hours on the campaign, but I spent countless hours sinking bullets into other players online (as well as having bullets sunk into me). The gameplay was a lot of fun, but what really made the experience of Modern Warfare 2 special was the endless time I spent playing it with friends. Most of my good buds had Xbox live, and as such games of CoD quickly became a favourite pastime. Many people could make a strong argument that Call of Duty 4 is actually the best game in the series and they’re probably right on a technical level. In truth, I don’t think I’d respond to Modern Warfare 2 now the same way I did as a young teen, but the game hit me at the right time and place, and that’s something which is invaluable.

7. Red Dead Redemptionred-dead-redemption-2

Red Dead Redemption is often simplified as GTA as a Western. There’s certainly some truth to that; both have similar gameplay, tones, eccentric side characters, satire of America, and morally questionable but still likable protagonists. And yet, Red Dead was able to escape the shadow of its crime saga godfather through sheer execution. Rockstar does an excellent job creating the epic Western myth through the gameplay, plot, style, and visuals. The actual story of redemption works out very well and the game’s ending has become iconic for a reason. The shootouts and chases are a lot of fun and the missions take players on a truly epic quest through local towns to full-blown civil war. I do think some of the more mundane missions which begin and end the game could have been trimmed, but even those make sense in context and the game as a whole is one hell of a ride.

6. Mass Effectmass effect

The original Mass Effect does have some gaming hiccups in the form of its inventory system and the planet scouting definitely could have been tighter. And yet, these flaws hardly matter given how much this game provides, namely an incredibly rich and detailed universe complete with a complex history. It also gave us some great characters, and told a really exciting adventure story of Commander Shepard and his crew hunting down rogue agent Saren across the galaxy. The combat might seem a bit awkward to those used to strictly action games, but I personally found it endearing and quite fun. More importantly is the sense of agency and choice you feel as a player. Everyone creates their own Shepard, chooses their own history, and makes their own decisions. It feels very empowering and generally makes the story feel very personal. Mass Effect may not be a perfect game, but it’s completely engrossing and by the time it’s through, you really feel like you’ve been on an adventure.

5. Bioshock Infinitegaming-bioshock-infinite-reversable-cover-design-6

Most videogame sequels are content to merely try and recreate everything that was successful from the previous entries. Bioshock Infinite does not do this, but instead takes the basic gameplay and style and moves it to a new setting to tell a new story. The game is set in the early 1900s in a floating city called Columbia. The player is Booker DeWitt, a private eye sent to find and bring back the young Elizabeth from Comstock, the brutal leader who runs the city. The basic story may at first seem simple, but there are a lot of high concept twists that take this thing into weird areas. What keeps the game grounded is the emotional tie between Booker and Elizabeth, which becomes very strong as the game goes. Additionally, the game touches on some interesting themes regarding race, class, and the visual scope of Columbia is spectacular. The whole thing ends on a really ambitious twist which speaks to series themes of choice in a very interesting way. Infinite also spots two really strong pieces of DLC which end up tying into the original game quite well. However on even the most basic level, Bioshock Infinite is simply a lot of fun. The gunplay and powers are great, and the added skyhook really gives the combat a sense of momentum.

4. Grand Theft Auto Vgta v

In the waning months of the Xbox 360/PS3 era, one game served as something of a swan song for the generation; Grand Theft Auto V. Set in the L.A. inspired Los Santos, GTA V followed three very different protagonists united in a life of crime as the narrowly avoid the Feds, other criminals, and try to pull off some big scores. The notion of using three different main characters was a new one to the series, but Rockstar pulled such a feat off quite well. The three personalities all work well together and the characters play differently enough to justify switching. Gameplay was further tightened, with the developers drawing from Red Dead Redemption as well, the large open world created just as interactive and detailed as ever. The game also boasts a well-realized online mod with frequent updates adding new weapons and cars. The satirical writing also comes through sharp here and might just be the best it’s ever been. The storyline is also far and away the best I’ve played in a GTA game. While the actual plot may not have the same resonance as Niko’s trials in Liberty City, GTA V makes up for that with the variety of personalities clashing and the plethora of fun/creative missions. The heist missions have often been the highlight, but almost all of the missions are awesome. The game offers players a choice of one of three endings. All three are interesting, but one is clearly the best, and is in fact one of the most satisfying conclusions to any game I’ve ever played. It may not re-invent the wheel, but Grand Theft Auto V is extremely well-made and one of the most fun games I’ve ever played.

3. BioshockBioshock_series

The gameplay of Infinite might be overall tighter, but the sheer ambition, both visually and thematically, is enough to still give the original game the edge. Purely as a work of visual spectacle, Bioshock excels. Exploring the ruins of the underwater city of Rapture is a thrilling experience and the developers do a great time building a history into what remains. We may not see the story of the city unfold in a conventional manner, but we don’t need to. The world and interaction with it tells the story. Andrew Ryan also makes for one of gaming’s most interesting villains. He’s brutal and perhaps even insane, but at the core is an ambitious and intelligent man desperately fighting for what he believes in. The scene where the player finally confronts Ryan is one of the most memorable gaming moments ever. Then you’ve got the concepts of splicers, ADAM, and the Big Daddys, all of which scream of the sheer creativity in the creation of this world. The shooting mechanics are also pretty fun with the leveling of weapons and the use of plasmids. The game’s central twist also makes for a nice commentary for player agency in gaming. Perhaps the game’s biggest intellectual achievement is the way it explores the concept of Objectivism by showing what became of a city which operated under such a principle. As a game, this has flaws, notably an underwhelming final boss battle, but Bioshock remains one of the most compelling examples of videogames as high art.

2. Batman: Arkham Citym_batmanac_01

While Arkham Asylum was released to moderate expectations, Batman: Arkham City was highly anticipated by fans, critics, and the gaming community as a whole. The game met these expectations by simply improving on every aspect of its predecessor. The games world is far larger than previously and there are a bunch of new characters from the lore. As a fan, it was a thrill to see so many characters I love brought to life so well, but their inclusion is not merely fan-service. These characters are all weaved into the game naturally and contribute to the overall package. Additionally, exploring the world here is awesome as Rocksteady haven’t lost any of the depth or detail in expanding the size of the setting. The story here is very well written, with great pacing, high stakes, lots of twists, and several memorable moments. The ending especially is incredible and shocking, even when all the signs are there. The well-written story is complimented by a ton of side missions which help flesh out the game and fit in naturally. Exploration is also enhanced thanks to an open world made easy to navigate, and the plethora of mini-areas in the forms of buildings and underground areas. Even the combat and predator mechanics, which I found perfect in Asylum, are made better here thanks to new enemy types, gadgets, and other gameplay tweaks. The boss fights are a vast improvement over the ones in Asylum, with the battle against Mr. Freeze is especially well-done. Overall, this is an exceptionally good game which is completely thrilling and addictive. I don’t think I’ve replayed any game as much as I have this one. It’s damn near perfect, Batman fan or not.

1. Mass Effect 2mass-effect-2-maxi-poster-3343-p

It probably isn’t a surprise that a Mass Effect game is topping this list. I’ve written extensively on this series before after all. The first game may have the better story, but as an overall package, Mass Effect 2 is king. Though the actual story isn’t as extensive as the original, what we do get is a lot more character. There are a lot of new additions, and many of the returning characters are given far more depth than we’ve seen previously. Simply interacting with your crew is engaging, and bonding with them over the course of the game, particularly recruitment and loyalty missions, is very rewarding. It may have been in the first game that we met a lot of these people, but it’s with Mass Effect 2 that we come to love them. We also learn more about the history of the universe as the lore is expanded. The gameplay is also improved here. While some were disappointed to see the RPG elements stripped down, I personally think Bioware did a great job streamlining these elements. The dialogue trees and interaction have also been improved with the addition of paragon and renegade actions. The combat is also a lot tighter, with a more fluid cover system and less busy inventory. Beyond that, the missions are constantly engaging, the DLC top-notch, and the world even richer than before. Also important to stress is the continued personalization of the adventure. Players who had gone through the original Mass Effect could import their save file, bringing the same appearance and decisions made by Shepard in the first game here, an awesome feature which increases the feeling that this really is one’s individual story. Decisions also play a large role here, as little things you do throughout the game have a big impact on the outcome of the suicide mission, specifically who lives and who dies. My first time playing through the end mission was far and away the most tense I’ve ever been playing a videogame. Even on subsequent playthroughs when I knew I made the right choices, I was still worried. This speaks to the ultimate reason Mass Effect 2 is topping my list; engagement. The game may be fun, well-written, beautiful to look at, and even thematically ambitious, but so are a lot of the games in this list. What makes Mass Effect 2 so special is how involved I feel in the story and world, something new other game has accomplished at the same level.

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