The Top 50 underappreciated Xbox games

Feature Aaron Birch 9 May 2014 - 07:11

Microsoft's debut games console, the Xbox, made a big impact on gaming, but not all of its games got the attention they deserved...

The new generation console war may turning towads a two horse race, with Nintendo  playing catch up, but wind back a few years, and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo were all hard at it, competing for your money and loyalty. The PlayStation 2 would go on to win the war of its generation, but Microsoft's Xbox was a tough competitor, giving the company a secure foothold, which it would later take advantage of in the next generation with the Xbox 360's dominance.

The original Xbox had a host of great games, many of which have gone on to become successful franchises, with no better example than Halo, but not all of its good games gained the attention they deserved, even if sequels managed to appear in later years. Some games were either critical failures, often unfairly so, or simply failed to make it into the public eye I order to become a success.

Here are our top 50 such titles. These are great games that helped to make the Xbox such a good gaming platform, but still field to make it commercially or critically. Hopefully, you'll find some new gaming gems to seek out and try, and if you do, you won't be sorry you spent the time digging them out of second hand stores or eBay. So, if you're looking for some older classics, read on.

50. Syberia

The point and click adventure genre has never been all that well received on console. This is partly due to the need for a mouse to play them properly, and also as most console gamers simply aren't into slower-paced text or dialogue-heavy adventures. At least, that's what publishers think.

Occasionally, though, a gem arrives and gives console-owning adventure fans what they want, and one example of this is Syberia. This was a great adventure for the Xbox, and was a solid port of the PC version. It was an atmospheric, mature adventure that featured a deep story and some great, steampunk-themed environments.

49. Spy Hunter

A lot of classic game remakes suffer, as those rose-tinted glasses often confuse nostalgia with actual, decent gameplay. Spy Hunter, on the other hand, was an exception, and it took the old school racer and turned it into a modern 3D speed fest, complete with transforming car and weapons galore.

Spread over a series of missions, the game retained the original 80s game's theme, even using remixes of the famous Peter Gunn tune, but featured impressive visuals and extra features, such as the car's bike mode. It was also very difficult. A sequel was released, but ultimately, the game didn't do all that well.

48. Shadow of Memories

Here we have another adventure title, this time from Konami. Shadow Of Memories was a time travelling adventure that saw protagonist, Eike Kusch, attempt stop his murder by journeying to the past in order to change future events. This all took place in a fictional, German town, and utilised a clever dual clock system. Time flowed both in Eike's current time period, and the current day. If the time in the current day reached that of Eike's murder, the game was over and the chapter reset. So, you had to hurry things on to prevent his eventual demise.

Shadow Of Memories was an interesting outing for Konami, and featured a plot that impressed critics and players who discovered it. It's been ported to the PSP since, but still remains largely ignored.

47. Arx Fatalis

Although this wasn't anywhere near as good as the PC original, lacking the proper motion gesture magic casting controls, there were few first person RPGs like this on the Xbox, other than the excellent Morrowind, which was, of course, far more successful.

Arx Fatalis was well worth a look too, as it featured some classic D&D style play, with a cool underworld setting, and coupled this with first person melee combat and a robust magic system. The underground world was large and surprisingly varied at times, with plenty of dangerous creatures to face off against.

46. Sniper Elite

It's now more popular thanks to Sniper Elite V2, but back at the time of the Xbox, the original wasn’t so well known to the mainstream. As with the sequel, the game cast players as an elite sniper in enemy territory, emphasising the use of stealth tactics to achieve objectives.

The game's trademark bullet cam kills for well placed sniper shots was first shown here, in all their graphic glory, and at a time when WWII titles were so long in the tooth a woolly mammoth would look on in envy, this was a different take on the subject, and a welcome one at that.

45. ObsCure

This was an interesting survival horror that starred five teenagers who found themselves locked inside their school. This would be bad enough, but this school had more to it that boring classes, bullies and awkward dates, it was the location of some seriously odd goings on.

Various infected classmates were found within the school, and enemies were damaged by bright lights. It would be discovered that experiments were being performed on students, and it was up to our group of young heroes to stop these events.

It's ironic that the game would end up being exactly what it was named, but this is a shame, as it's a great horror adventure, and one worth seeking out if you're a fan of the genre.

44. Puyo Pop Fever

Puyo Pop Fever is one of the best versions of the colour-matching puzzle series, which many western players will recognise more from its Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine guise. It's a simple, yet fiendishly deep puzzle set up that's easy to play, and when up against good players, very hard to master.

Developed by Sonic Team, Puyo Puyo has always failed to really make it big in the west (aside from the aforementioned Mean Bean Machine, which used the Sonic universe to boost appeal), and so many may not even know of the game series, let alone this excellent Xbox version. And, now that games like Candy Crush rule the roost, this won't likely change.

43. Rogue Trooper

When Rebellion purchased 2000AD it immediately acquired the rights to some of the best comic book characters ever created, including the likes of Judge Dredd, Slaine, ABC Warriors, and, of course, Rogue Trooper.

This videogame outing for the blue GI was actually very good, and was developed by a studio with a clear love for the comics. All of the staples of the comic series were included, and the story focused on the overarching plot of the wandering soldier – to get revenge for the slaughter of all of his kind by the Souther traitor general.

The world of Nu Earth was recreated excellently, with nods to various specific Rogue Trooper stories dotted around. Rogue himself, and his abilities were incorporated brilliantly into this accomplished third-person shooter.

42. Outrun 2

Without a doubt a poster child for 80s arcade games. Outrun is one of the all-time classic racing titles, and this reboot did the series justice. Not wanting to compete with the increasingly sim-heavy crowd, Outrun 2 instead stuck to its arcade, time trial roots, and introduced a heavy bent on drifting, as well as great online multiplayer.

Remixes of the game's original soundtrack were included, and there were various types of Ferrari for the layer to drive down the sun-drenched highways. It also looked great and ran blisteringly fast, rewarding expert drifting skills and advanced driving.

41. Headhunter: Redemption

Although the original Headhunter on the Sega Dreamcast will always be our favourite (it was also released on PS2), the sequel, Headhunter: Redemption, is also worth a look, and takes place years after the first game.

Players take control of Jack Wade again, as well as newcomer, Leeza X (yes, really) in a more action-oriented title than the first. Redemption ditches the open world and bike sections of the first game, and focuses more on Metal Gear Solid-style stealth and cover-based combat. The setting is far more futuristic than before, and in essence, the game itself is a totally different beast.

Still, the style the game goes for is handled well, and aside from a mid-game sniper mission that's just torturous for no real reason, it's a very good stealthy shooter.

40. Doom 3

Oh come on! Doom 3 may not have hit the unreasonable goals of many, who were expecting some form of revolution for a game that pioneered the simple art of shotgun-to-face, but it did deliver the same Doom-style play, only with improved visuals and modern tech. It had great lighting, genuine scares (and admittedly, the overuse of monster closests), and was exactly what it needed to be – a modern Doom.

Yes, the flash light was annoying, and yes the action could get repetitive, but it's Doom. What did you expect? Skyrim? What we wanted from a new Doom was bigger guns, demons, horror, and lots of violence, and that's just what id delivered. It was great, even if it was met with a lot of critical attack.

39. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge

This is an odd one, as it was critically acclaimed when it arrived, and was widely hailed as one of the best action dogfighting titles around. This praise was deserved, as Crimson Skies was a superb shooter, with fluid, simple controls, impressive visuals and a smooth engine. It played as well as it looked and offered a unique, 1930s world of the future setting.

Sadly, though, the series pretty much died a death, and hasn't been heard from since. A sequel was started after the first hit release, but Microsoft canned it soon afterwards. So far, it shows no signs of returning.

38. TimeSplitters: Future Perfect

The last TimeSplitters game released, and although not the best (that accolade falls to TimeSplitters 2), Future Perfect gets its place here thanks to the excellent online mode that made the most of Xbox Live, the major bonus feature of the Xbox.

With one of the most flexible and user customisable online components ever seen, along with a simple map editor, Future Perfect's online mode was almost that – perfect. It was responsible for some of the best online FPS matches we've ever played, and it had a pretty good single player component too. It didn't do all that well commercially, though, and so far, we've yet to see another title surface, despite various rumours and free-to-play claims.

37. Indiana Jones And The Emperor's Tomb

Long before Lara Croft was treading the dangerous depths of crypts and tombs across the world, Indiana Jones was taking on the Nazis and evil cults, whilst looking for lost artefacts, and doing so with a style all his own.

When it comes to games, however, Indy hasn't always been as successful as his female rival. Aside from the excellent Fate Of Atlantis from Lucasarts, his adventures have almost always been middling to bad. That was until Indiana Jones And The Emperor's Tomb.

This was the Indy action game we'd been waiting for, and it easily took on Tomb Raider with its mix of platforming, puzzling and combat. In fact, thanks to Indy's brawling style of fisticuffs, the game had a far better combat system than Tomb Raider (and still does), and it perfectly recreated the feel of the movies, right down to the Raider's March theme. For some reason, though, it didn't perform all that well. Probably as Indy lacked oversized breasts.

36. Prisoner Of War

Hailing from Codemasters, who now deals almost exclusively in racing, Prisoner Of War was a great stealth title that challenged you to escape various POW camps during WWII. The game used a variety of stealth techniques, and the need to deal with both guards and other inmates to find your way out of various camps, culminating with an escape from the infamous Colditz.

The strength here was the unique nature of each escape and the actions the player could take, which varied instead of being repetitive slogs. Guards wouldn't simply kill you if they saw you, but would order you to stop instead. Fail to do so and they'd shoot. You'd need to find items and currency to trade with other inmates for useful escape tools, and there was more than one homage to classic escape films.

35. Gun

This was the game many thought Red Dead Revolver should have been (and eventually was with Red Dead Redemption), and was an open world, GTA-style Wild West adventure. It had a large, open map, and plentiful side missions.

As well as fully fleshed out gunplay, the game also emphasised hand-to-hand combat, and it also featured stealth and a host of random attacks by bandits. It was nowhere near the size and scope of Red Dead Redemption, or even GTA III, but it was a surprisingly solid game nonetheless. Sadly, it didn't really make it big, and we never saw it again.

34. Genma Onimusha (Onimusha Warlords)

Basically, Resident Evil set in feudal Japan, the Onimisha series was fairly popular for a time, but this popularity was short lived. Onimusha Warlords was the first entry in the series, released on Xbox as Genma Onimusha, an updated form of the initial PS2 outing. It used the same Resident Evil style and pre-rendered backgrounds, but replaced guns with swords, and added magic and a host of enemies rooted in Japanese mythology. There were some zombie samurai though, don't worry.

The focus on melee combat made the game feel very different to Resident Evil's combat, but the mixture of fighting, puzzles and horror-theme was still present, and the foes were more varied and interesting than endless waves of zombies and mutant monsters. Oddly, as good as the series was, it's since died off, and we've not seen the main thread return since 2006's Dawn Of Dreams.

33. Project Zero II: Crimson Butterfly (a.k.a. Fatal Frame II)

One of the scariest game series ever made, and also one overlooked by many gamers, Project Zero II was a great Xbox title. It was ported from the PS2 as a Director's Cut, and the best new addition was the inclusion of a first-person mode, which served to immerse you even more in the Japanese horror.

Using nothing more than a magical camera, you have to explore the creepy locations in the game, finding and exorcising ghosts by taking their pictures. The use of Japanese, Ringu and Ju-On aesthetics were perfect, and the atmosphere is far more oppressive than most other survival horror titles.

32. Voodoo Vince

This was a great action platformer that focused on puzzles, and Vince's range of Voodoo powers. The visual style was very reminiscent of Tim Burton's striking aesthetic, and although the actual platforming aspect of the game wasn't up to the same quality as the puzzling and presentation, this was a great one-off title, and a distinctly different example of the genre.

Sadly, Vince didn't go down all that well with the public, and the character was never revisited, even if fans of the game consider it to be one of the best platformers on the console.

31. Roadkill

Roadkill is best described as and open world Twisted Metal. Unlike the more famous vehicle shooter, Roadkill didn't simply feature a series of missions, but instead packed tasks onto an open-world map.

Various vehicles could be used, and outfitted with a variety of weapons, and the world was a post-apocalyptic wasteland of combat and carnage, where there was no law, other than the various gangs that roamed the landscape. It was a pretty decent, and well presented game with fluid combat, and it was a great alternative to the linear Twisted Metal series, which was exclusive to Sony.

30. Armed & Dangerous

Although not a technical marvel, with visuals that didn't really make the most of the Xbox's capabilities, Armed & Dangerous had it where it counted, and that's fun. This was a totally crazy third-person shooter littered with oddball enemies and even stranger weapons. The highlight of these unique armaments has to be the Landshark gun, which fired, yes, a shark that 'swam' towards your foes and gobbled them up. Nice.

The game didn't really pretend to be anything more than a crazy, off-the-rails shooter, and so it failed to sell all that well at a time when people clearly wanted more complex and cutting edge titles. Oh well.

29. American McGee's Scrapland

He may be seen by many as overrated, but American McGee does have a knack for creating striking characters and worlds. His debut title, Alice, was excellent, and this title was another of his successes, at least in terms of quality.

Players took on the role of D-Tritus, who lives in the titular robotic world, actually called Chimera by its inhabitants. The plot revolved around the world's religion, which was a paid for service that resurrects robots who expire. There were also humans and other organic beings, and in his job as a reporter, D-Tritus investigated a murder, seemingly perpetrated by a human.

The game was similar in some ways to GTA, although more basic, and in an eye-meltingly colourful, neon world. The player could take control of other robot types and utilise their skills. Side activities like racing added to the mix, and vehicles could be customised. It was a great, if largely unknown adventure.

28. Brute Force

Brute Force was one of the launch titles for the Xbox, and it's a good example of a good game that many overlooked, and one that should have gotten more attention so the license could grow and evolve.

It was a squad-based shooter that starred four protagonists with varied skills and abilities. Tex was the weapons guy, tough and able to carry two weapons at once, Brutus was a humanoid lizard able to sprint and use enhanced vision. Flint was the cyborg sniper with enhanced aiming, and Hawk was the stealthy assassin.

The team embarked on various missions on a number of planets, fighting against a collection of enemy factions, and most encounters could be approached in a number of ways, making use of the different team member specialisations.

Sure, the game didn't play as well as the launch trailers claimed, and was more formulaic shooting, but it was a big, interesting title, and we'd have liked to see where it could have headed if it had returned for more.

27. Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

We're willing to be you've never heard of this, which is a shame, as it's a distinctly unique and interesting take on the usual 3D environment-scaling formula, with stealth and graffiti elements.

Featuring the Mark Ecko License, the game cast you as Trane, an up and coming street artist who lived in New Radius, a city controlled by a strict police regime. Trane's goal was to become the best street artist around, but to do this he had to contend with rival gangs, as well as the authorities, who didn't look too favourably on graffiti artists defiling the streets.

The game made extensive use of Prince Of Persia-style climbing and platforming, as Trane had to get to ever-more difficult to reach places to spray his tags and artworks, and there was also melee combat and stealth mechanic.

It was flawed, with some iffy controls and an often annoying camera, but the core game was good, and the idea was sound. Well worth a look.

26. Tron 2.0 Killer App

Although it wasn't as good as the original PC version, Tron 2.0: Killer App was still a fine FPS, and far better than the more recent reboot movie's videogame adaptation (and the actual movie for that matter). Developed by Monolith, the game depicted events after the original film (it was considered the film's sequel until Tron Legacy was released), and players took control of Alan Bradley's son, Jet. Alan is kidnapped by fCon, owned by the villainous ENCOM, and Jet has to be digitised to enter the computer world to rescue his dad.

Many of Tron's original cast lent their vocal talents to the game, including Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan, and Syd Mead designed a new light cycle for the game. Because of this, the computer world featured was excellent, and recreated the digital environs of the 80s flick, adding a more modern take. It had a great range of weapons, original resource-focused stats and skills, and you really did feel as though you were exploring a true, computer world, something the new film just lost sight of. Give this a go, it's great.

This list continues on the next page....

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