The console wars may have turned into a two-horse race in the last few years, with Nintendo playing catch up, but wind back a few years to a time when 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 in 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 failed 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…
The point-and-click adventure genre has never been all that well received on consoles. This is partly due to the need for a mouse to play them properly. It doesn’t help that 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. 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
Many 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. It took the old-school racer and turned it into a modern 3D speed fest, complete with transforming cars 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, and also 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-traveling adventure that saw protagonist, Eike Kusch, attempt to stop his murder by journeying to the past in order to change future events. The game took place in a fictional German town and utilized 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 in 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, emphasizing the use of stealth tactics to achieve objectives.
The game’s trademark bullet cam kills for well-placed sniper shots were first shown here, in all their graphic glory. 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.
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 than 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, 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 color-matching puzzle series, which many western players will recognize 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
This video game 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. 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 Rogue Trooper stories dotted around. Rogue 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 that introduced drifting. This sequel also had a great online multiplayer mode.
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 favorite (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. 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 stealth 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 from a series that pioneered the simple art of shotgun-to-face, but it did deliver the trademark Doom gameplay, only with improved visuals and modern tech. It had great lighting, genuine scares (and admittedly, the overuse of monster closets), and was exactly what it needed to be – a modern Doom.
Yes, the flashlight 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 ire.
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 titles around. This praise was deserved, as Crimson Skies was a superb shooter, with fluid, simple controls, impressive visuals, and a smooth engine. It basically played as well as it looked and offered a unique, 1930s world of the future setting.
Sadly, though, the series inexplicably went dark and hasn’t been heard from since. A sequel was started after the first hit release, but Microsoft canned it soon afterward. 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 customizable 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.
Future Perfect didn’t do all that well commercially, though, and so far, we’ve yet to see another title surface, despite various rumors 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, while looking for lost artifacts 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 recreates 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. 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.
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 emphasized hand-to-hand combat and featured stealth sections 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 Onimusha 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 of fixed-camera third-person gameplay and pre-rendered backgrounds, but replaced guns with swords. It also added magic and a host of enemies rooted in Japanese mythology. There were even some zombie samurai!
The focus on melee combat made the game feel very different to Resident Evil, but the mixture of fighting, puzzles, and horror 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. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
One of the scariest games ever made, and also one overlooked by many gamers, Fatal Frame 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 exorcizing ghosts by taking their pictures. The use of Japanese Ringu and Ju-On aesthetics was 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.
Roadkill is best described as an open world Twisted Metal. Unlike the more famous vehicle shooter, Roadkill didn’t simply feature a series of missions but instead packed tasks onto a large map.
Various vehicles could be used and outfitted with a variety of weapons. 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 – 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 counts. 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 lived 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 colorful, neon world. The player could take control of other robot types and utilize their skills. Side activities like racing added to the mix and vehicles could be customized. 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 game that many overlooked. It was a squad-based shooter that starred four protagonists with varied skills and abilities. Tex was the weapons guy 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 different ways, making use of the different team abilities.
Sure, the game didn’t play as well as the launch trailers claimed, and was a more formulaic shooter, 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 bet you’ve never heard of this one, which is a shame, as it’s a 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 favorably 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 artwork. There was also melee combat and stealth mechanic.
Ultimately, it was flawed, with some iffy controls and an often annoying camera, but the core game was good. 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 video game 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).
Players took control of Alan Bradley’s son, Jet. Alan is kidnapped by fCon, owned by the villainous ENCOM, and Jet has to be digitized 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. 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.
25. Deus Ex: Invisible War
It may often be seen as the black sheep of the Deus Ex family, and as a sequel to the divine PC original, it was certainly lacking, but Invisible War was still a fine game in its own right. PC gamers, in particular, were livid about the game and still are to this day.
It had a graphics engine that undeniably pushed the Xbox a little too far, but the Deus Ex staple of open-ended encounters and a rich, detailed world were kept intact. The story, which took place after both the original game and Human Revolution, was interesting, bringing back most of the original game’s characters and story threads.
Ion Storm may have made some dubious decisions, such as simplified RPG elements, inventory systems, and the uniform ammo system, but even the worst Deus Ex game is better than most others, so if you’ve missed it, or avoided it due to the myriad of complaints, ignore them and give it a try.
24. X2: Wolverine’s Revenge
There really aren’t many X-Men games that do the subject matter justice. Most end up as lame movie tie-ins or wasted opportunities, but this often overlooked entry actually got a lot right.
Wolverine’s Revenge focuses on the most popular X-Men mutant and delved into the canuckle head’s origins, seeing him travel to the Weapon X facility to cure the Shiva virus, a condition implanted in him during his incarceration as Weapon X.
The game was a third-person scrapper with heavy stealth elements, and this worked well for the character. As Wolverine wasn’t in top form, he had to make use of his stealthy abilities and heightened senses to get the drop on foes, and this made for some truly challenging stealth play.
The game also delivered a great video game incarnation of Wolverine. Here he was more than just a flurry of adamantium claws, but was a predatory beast, using the most of his skills to best his foes. As it should be.
23. Blood Omen 2
This was the actual sequel to the original Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, and wasn’t part of the Soul Reaver series as such, but instead ties the two stories together. In this one, players controlled the Soul Reaver antagonist, the vampire Kain. Kain awakes after 200 years to find his army gone and the vampire-killing Sarafan in control. He has to brave the dangerous city of Meridian, home of the Sarafan Lord, to defeat his nemesis and retrieve the powerful Soul Reaver sword.
The game was very much a Tomb Raider-style adventure, only it featured slower-paced melee combat that emphasized blocking and dodging. Kain could acquire and use a number of powers, but stealth was often his best option.
Sudeki was a great little RPG that many may have missed, as it didn’t do all that well. Primarily a third-person RPG, Sudeki features multiple main characters with unique skills and real-time combat. Depending on the character, combat could be either third-person (melee) or first-person (ranged). Outside of battle, puzzles had to be solved, also using character abilities.
It was a good looking game, very similar to the likes of Fable, and it boasted an anime aesthetic, with an interesting world and plot. The varied skills of the main party of characters kept changing things up, which stopped things becoming too repetitive.
21. Steel Battalion
There’s a big reason that this game failed to make it as big as it should have, and that’s the controller. Steel Battalion made use of a massive DIY controller that cost well over $200 – not a good way to attract the masses.
If you were lucky enough to own the game and the expensive controller, you had what was, and arguably still is, the best mech game around. The controller really made the game, with a range of levers, buttons, and lights that made controlling a mech very realistic. You really did feel like you were piloting a powerful, giant robot of death. The game was damn hard too and was designed for the true mech fan.
Sadly, because of this niche target audience and massive price, it didn’t sell very well, and so many will never get the chance to play it, which is a big shame.
20. Fusion Frenzy
One of the more interesting launch titles for the Xbox, Fusion Frenzy was a pure party game, designed to take advantage of the console’s four-way, local multiplayer capabilities. It featured a selection of characters, admittedly rather bland ones, that could compete in a number of mini-game challenges.
The 20 or so mini-games were varied and included great modes, such as various styles of racing games, sumo-style elimination bouts, rhythm games, and much more. This was all presented with some great sci-fi visuals.
Party games are often overlooked by many, especially those who prefer solo or online titles, but Fusion Frenzy was an excellent value title for a post-pub blast.
19. Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death
As well as the earlier 2000AD Rogue Trooper title, Rebellion also released this Judge Dredd FPS. Like Rogue Trooper, this was actually pretty damn good and was another clear sign that the devs knew what they were doing with the license, possessing a true love for the comic (which is more than can be said for the awful movies so far).
The game brilliantly reproduced the comic book creation, with a colorful, but still dark Mega City One, tons of references to the comic, even some highly obscure ones, and some decent FPS play. Most importantly, it gave fans what they wanted: to go up against Dredd’s arch enemy, Judge Death and his Dark Judges.
Although the boss fights were a little lacking and could have been much more creative, this was a good, challenging FPS, and it’s certainly the best Dredd game out there, not that there’s a great deal of them.
18. Operation Flashpoint: Elite
This port of the PC military shooter (which became ARMA after licensing disputes) was an impressive release on the Xbox, incorporating everything that made the PC original so good. It featured the vast, wide open islands, multiple storylines, and missions that could often be tackled in any way you saw fit. It also brought with it the game’s punishing difficulty, thanks to the highly realistic setting and damage system.
You played as a number of soldiers, from an up-and-coming grunt to tank and chopper pilots. Some of the best missions featured the game’s covert ops sections, where you often had to traverse enemy territory under the cover of darkness and foliage. These were incredibly tense and realistic, far more so than any of today’s major military shooters. Multiplayer was also fantastic.
17. Kung Fu Chaos
Like Fusion Frenzy, Kung Fu Chaos was another party game, but this one focused on martial arts combat and saw players utilize the various game characters to make a fictional kung fu movie. When a level was complete, you could even watch the movie back and marvel at your sheer skill (or lack of it).
Visually, it was cartoon thrills all the way. The game was packed with parodies of famous martial arts movies and stars. The various movie set stages all featured specific styles, with various hazards that had to be avoided while fighting your way through, such as aliens and dinosaurs.
The game was fun when played solo, but this was all about the multiplayer. Even so early on in the Xbox’s life, this was and still is one of the best multiplayer games on the platform. It even had exploding pigs!
16. Conker: Live and Reloaded
This was essentially an HD remake of the N64 adult platformer classic, with improved visuals, better audio, and an interesting multiplayer component thrown in to make use of Xbox Live.
Like the N64 original, the main game was a cutesy solo platformer, but this was no kids game. As Conker the drunken squirrel, you begin the game after a particularly heavy night in the local boozer and have to get home to your shapely love interest. Unfortunately, this journey home isn’t so straightforward. The Panther King needs a new leg for his coffee table so he can drink milk without spilling it. Luckily for him, red squirrels are just the right size, and so he sets his sights on Conker. Yes, that’s the story. Really.
What followed was a slick and challenging platformer that featured all sorts of adult humor, including some very literal toilet humor in the form of the Great Mighty Poo. Puzzles, violent melee combat, and plenty of parodies of famous movies like A Clockwork Orange, Terminator, The Matrix, and Saving Private Ryan were featured.
The multiplayer was a class-based third-person shooter that didn’t get the attention it deserved, as it was actually pretty fun. A really solid game that didn’t do all that well, probably due to the cute image mixed with adult content confusing parents everywhere.
15. Thief: Deadly Shadows
Ion Storm’s sequel to Deus Ex may have been questionable to many, but its effort in the Thief series was far better, even if it still failed to sell all that well, a curse the whole series has suffered.
Deadly Shadows utilized the unchained power of the modern tech of the time to bring Garrett back to our screens in a city that contained tons of detail, albeit with smaller locations and missions, and a pointless, and thankfully optional, third-person view. These missions, however, were Thief through-and-through, something the recent Thief from Eidos Montreal failed to reproduce. In fact, Deadly Shadows is a superior game to the latest outing in almost every way. It captured not only the proper feel of the city, but protagonist Garrett, and the other factions that contributed to the series’ unique feel. Oh, and it had the Shalebridge Cradle mission, which is one of the single most terrifying gaming experiences ever.
If you’re looking for a true Thief game on consoles (can’t play Thief I or II), dig Deadly Shadows out and ignore the latest release.
14. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
The work of H.P. Lovecraft isn’t the usual subject for a console survival horror as many simply don’t know enough about them for it to be commercially viable. However, long before the likes of Amnesia and Slenderman, Call of Cthulhu was scaring the pants off people and making them run away in terror.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was a horror FPS that included stealth elements as well as various unique features for the time, such as no visible HUD, which added to the immersion. The game’s main character was also a mentally unstable detective who had to investigate a strange town. On arrival, this town threw players into a fast-paced effort to escape foes by blocking pursuers with doors and finding escape routes. Eventually, weapons and combat were introduced.
The atmosphere was great, constantly dark and foreboding, and the Lovecraftian horror fit the atmosphere perfectly, offering something a whole lot more interesting than the usual zombies or ghosts. A great FPS survival horror and one that deserved more attention than it got.
13. Cold Fear
The GameCube, and eventually the PS2, had a major gaming advantage over the Xbox in that they both got a copy of the excellent Resident Evil 4. The Xbox never got this, but it did have a good alternative in the form of Cold Fear.
This mostly ignored survival horror featured the same third-person style of Resident Evil 4, along with some impressive graphics and effects, such as the constant rocking of the boat the game initially took place on. The game featured many of the tropes already laid out by Resident Evil, and although it was admittedly not as good a game as the Capcom series, it was a perfectly fine option for those without a GameCube or PS2.
12. Shenmue II
Initially a Dreamcast exclusive, Sega ported the second Shenmue game to the Xbox and included a mini-movie showing the events of the first entry. Unlike the Dreamcast original, this port featured a full English vocal track.
Shenmue II was already a superb game and the Xbox version allowed it to reach a larger audience. It could have even given the series a platform to continue on following the demise of the Dreamcast. Alas, this wasn’t to be, and despite the quality of the game, it didn’t sell, and Shenmue ended up in limbo until Shenmue III was announced a few years back.
11. Jet Set Radio Future
Jet Set Radio (also called Jet Grind Radio) was another Dreamcast title that made the jump from Sega’s machine to the Xbox, and this was a very good jump indeed. Jet Set Radio Future featured the same cel-shaded action as the Dreamcast original, along with a great soundtrack, but it was designed to be bigger and better, with a new story, new artwork, and more open levels and multiple mission objectives. It featured user-created graffiti tags too, and multiplayer, a constant theme of Xbox ports, where developers wanted to make the most of the excellent Xbox Live service.
Many insist that this isn’t as good as the Dreamcast original, and we’d agree, but it’s still a great title, and one of the best and most unique Xbox games. Understand, understand, the concept of love.
10. Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II
Yes, it’s yet another Dreamcast title ported to the Xbox, and it’s also the first online RPG that worked on a console. Sega’s Phantasy Star Online was a fantastic online RPG. It wasn’t an MMO as we know them now but instead was smaller in scale, allowing up to four people to team up in instanced dungeon crawling. Combat was in real time, instead of queued up attacks, and it featured a host of weapons, magic, and loot to collect and upgrade. It could be played solo, but to get the most out of the game, this was online all the way.
A large and loyal community grew with the game and many Dreamcast owners purchased an Xbox just to carry on playing their beloved title. Still, it failed to do anywhere near as well as it did on Dreamcast, despite the larger user base for the Microsoft console. Sega may have killed it off in recent years with a reluctance to forgo a subscription model, but in its day, this was a brilliant, if simple MMORPG.
9. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
Surely the best outing of the Oddworld series, Stranger’s Wrath was a peculiar stealth title that featured all sorts of clever, trap-based FPS combat and third-person platforming.
As the titular bounty hunter, the Stranger, players had to utilize all sorts of living creatures as ammo on his special crossbow. Creatures could be used to lure foes, attack them, stun them, and more, with the goal of capturing foes alive for bounties, which the Stranger could claim at the nearest township.
Set in the Oddworld universe, the game was every bit as quirky as any of Abe’s adventures. Sadly, it was missed by most. A HD version has since been re-released digitally, though, so if you missed it on the original Xbox, make sure to check it out.
8. Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
This game did make it to a sequel, but its second outing was nowhere near as good as the original. This was an open-world sandbox title in the style of a militarized GTA. Players picked one of three mercenaries to play as and were sent into a fictional DMZ war zone between North and South Korea to tackle a large number of missions and side quests.
All sorts of weapons and vehicles could be found, and using the game’s black market, a wide selection of air strikes and support could be called in, with devastating results (it wasn’t called Playground of Destruction for nothing). There were a number of factions, including the Allied Nations, South Korea, and the Russian Mafia, and missions were varied and well-implemented into the large open warzone.
The main focus of the game was to locate and either capture or kill the deck of 52, the major officers and commanders of the game’s antagonist, the North Korean army, and unlike the sequel, it never devolved into QTE events or cheap tricks. It was pure action all the way, and it was brilliant.
7. Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter
Starring Henry Rollins as the voice of Mace Griffin, this was a sci-fi FPS that put players in the shoes of Mace, an intergalactic bounty hunter on a mission to clear his name of a crime he didn’t commit. It sounds cheesy, and it was, but the gameplay more than made up for it.
The game was split into two sections. The on-foot FPS sections were solid and very difficult in places. There was a collection of satisfying weapons and interesting locations, too. Accompanying these were the space combat sections where Mace would pilot his ship, taking down enemy fighters before docking with his intended target and proceeding on foot. All of this flowed seamlessly, with no loading between the ship and on-foot sections.
It was one of the best FPS titles on the platform, and some would even argue it was better than Halo. You may or may not agree with this, but regardless, this is an FPS that should have been more popular.
6. Jade Empire
It’s hard to imagine a BioWare RPG being less than a system seller, but Jade Empire was an experiment that didn’t quite work out as well as other BioWare projects, despite being a great game all the same.
Set in a fantasy far east world, the game was similar in style to the Knights of the Old Republic games, but ditched the point-and-click-style combat for real-time martial arts and magic attacks. You could pick from a number of different martial artists, each of whom specialized in certain styles. Along the way, other combat styles could be learned, each of which granted whole new attacks and move sets.
It was a visually beautiful RPG, with some amazing environments, and the eastern-style was unique for the genre, replacing the usual magic or mana with Chi and other eastern themes.
Breakdown is a game that’s criminally overlooked. This Namco title was flawed, sure, but it was also an ambitious and brilliant FPS that featured a hand-to-hand combat system that actually worked and a slow-burning but interesting story, with twists and turns keeping things interesting throughout.
Once you got used to the combat system and acquired some of protagonist Derrick Cole’s superpowers, you really did feel like a superhuman capable of taking down whole squads of soldiers. Great stuff.
4. Beyond Good and Evil
Okay, regulars of the site will be all too familiar with our love for the Ubisoft classic, Beyond Good and Evil, and although we prefer to keep lists unique for platforms where possible, this is one game that deserves to be mentioned whenever relevant. While it was multi-platform, the Xbox version was every bit as good, if not better than the others.
Jade’s adventure against an invading alien force, armed only with her staff and camera, is simply unforgettable. This game ist so good we just can’t understand why it flopped so badly. It’s available in HD form now via Xbox Live and there’s a sequel on the way!
3. The Punisher
The Batman: Arkham games have become known as the best comic book adaptations in gaming, and that’s perfectly correct, they’re brilliant. But another excellent comic book hero game that nailed the subject matter was Marvel’s The Punisher from THQ and Volition.
A third-person shooter and torture simulator, the game accurately portrayed Frank Castle’s anti-hero and didn’t skimp on his trademark violence and disdain of the criminal underworld. It also included plenty of Marvel cameos, including Iron Man and Nick Fury, as well as a selection of supervillains like the Kingpin and Bullseye.
It was a rare example of a nigh-on perfect comic book adaptation. The many missions spanned a decent selection of locations, including the Ryker’s Island prison and Stark Towers. Frank is even voiced by Thomas Jane, the only decent movie Punisher.
Created by Tim Shafer, Psychonauts was a simply brilliant 3D platformer that took place in the minds of various disturbed individuals, as protagonist Ratz explored their psyches in order to train as a Psychonaut, a psychic spy.
It featured the trademark humor Shafer’s studio is known for, along with striking visuals and some fine platforming play. The range of psychic powers acquired opens up a host of possibilities, such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, and pyrokinesis, and these were used in both combat and to solve the game’s many puzzles.
It was a truly unique take on the overpopulated genre, and so it’s so unfortunate that it failed to do well during its initial release. Like a few of the titles on this list, however, it’s now available digitally, so be sure to check it out. A sequel is on the way, as well!
1. Phantom Dust
We’re willing to bet you’ve probably never heard of this game, which isn’t surprising as it had hardly any hype at all at release and so didn’t sell. It should have, though, as it was fantastic.
Phantom Dust mixed together third-person combat with card collecting, and it did so superbly. You could pick from over 300 different power cards and form of a deck of attacks and skills which you could use against your opponent in frantic battles. There were over 100 single-player missions and many locations featured destructible environments.
As well as the extensive solo content, the game also boasted a great online multiplayer mode, and it supported DLC, adding even more card skills. It was all set in an anime-style postapocalyptic world with impressive visuals and addictive gameplay.
Phantom Dust has developed quite the cult following but has so far failed to muster up a sequel, and despite both fans and the game’s producer, Yukio Futatsugi, wanting another outing, Microsoft has so far demonstrated little interest. The company did release a remastered version of the game back in 2017, though.
That’s our list and you may or may not agree with some of our picks. Which games would you place in your own selection? Let us know in the comments as always.