Do you want to be somewhat depressed? Of course you do: we’re not that far away from the Xbox 360 being considered properly retro. It did launch in 2005, after all. Despite its rocky launch reputation caused by the seemingly endless cases of the Red Ring Of Death, the Xbox 360 has gone on to become one of the most successful and widely beloved consoles of all-time, with a back catalogue of games to show for it.
To celebrate this iconic console’s successes, we’ve decided to rank the best Xbox 360 games that ever launched for the console. From platformers to shooters, racing games, horror, RPGs and more, the Xbox 360’s roster of games was extensive, but this list is reserved for the best of the best. Here’s the greatest Xbox 360 games ever made, including whether or not you can play them on Xbox One and Xbox Series X & S via backwards compatibility.
The Best Xbox 360 Games
20. Skate 3
Developer: EA Black Box Publisher: Electronic Arts Backwards Compatible: Yes
Before the days of the Xbox 360, there was one skateboarding franchise set to dominate the genre for the rest of time, but the 360 era brought forward a new challenger in the form of Skate. While other skateboarding titles opted for a more arcade-like gameplay feel, the Skate series aimed to replicate a more realistic side of skateboarding, with harder to perform tricks and combos. It was a big risk, but it paid off, leading to the best entry in the series, Skate 3.
While still retaining those realistic roots in terms of tricks, Skate 3 also amplified its more ridiculous aspects, allowing players to build massive skate parks filled with 50 ft tall ramps, or compete in bone-crunching Hall of Meat challenges.
With both the silly and sick combined, Skate 3 felt like the total package, and being able to free skate with friends online was just the icing on the cake.
Developer: Playdead Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios, Playdead Backwards Compatible: Yes
One of the crowning jewels of the Xbox 360 was how much support it gave to the Xbox Live Arcade, the first wave of console indie titles that weren’t able to secure a physical release. XBLA was a breeding ground for games that might have been smaller in scope, but arguably had just as much ambition to compete with the big boys. There’s plenty of success stories from that era, including Bastion, Braid, Fez and countless others, but one of the biggest by a wide margin is Limbo.
A haunting platforming that’ll linger in your memory for a long time after those credits have rolled, Limbo follows a small boy who awakens on the edge of a dark forest. Inside the forest is his sister, who the boy hopes to rescue, but that’s if he can get past the obstacles standing in his way, including a giant spider for one.
With an art style that’s as evocative now as it was when Limbo first launched in 2010, Limbo deserves its place among the best Xbox 360 games of all time.
18. Forza Horizon
Developer: Playground Games Publisher: Microsoft Studios Backwards Compatible: Yes
For a while, the Xbox was swimming in exclusive racing game properties. Okay, swimming might be a bit over the top, considering there were just two major ones, but between Forza Motorsport and Project Gotham Racing, Xbox players had their racing game needs covered. While PGR might only be a relic of the past now, Forza is still going strong to this day, and that’s largely due to the success of the Forza Horizon series, the excellent open world spin-off.
Created by a separate studio, Forza Horizon brought the iconic racing of Forza to the open road, with the first Horizon offering a lush recreation of Colorado. At this point, it would be nice to point to Forza Horizon on the Xbox Store and say “you can even experience it for yourself”, but thanks to licensing issues leading to the game being removed from sale, that’s not possible.
Still, it can always be remembered as a brilliant Xbox 360 game, and one of the most important racing games ever made.
Developer: 2K Boston, 2K Australia Publisher: 2K Games Backwards Compatible: Yes
Undeniably one of the most influential FPS experiences of the Xbox 360, Bioshock is an iconic game that some studios are still struggling to top over 15 years later. You might think it’s been placed low on this list given its near mythical status within the gaming community, but that just goes to show how star-studded the Xbox 360 library truly was. During the console’s 8 year life span and thousands of games, Bioshock absolutely deserves to be mentioned within the top 20, with its two sequels also being in with a shout.
A horror shooter like no other, Bioshock sees players descending to the bottom of the sea and discovering the city of Rapture, a proposed Paradise away from all other countries and influences. As you’d expect, a society filled with the scientific and social elite naturally devolved into anarchy, with genetic splicing creating super-powered thugs standing in your way.
Oh, and there’s some big lads in deep sea diving suits with chainguns. Turns out not everything’s better down where it’s wetter.
16. Batman: Arkham City
Developer: Rocksteady Studios, WB Games Montreal Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Backwards Compatible: No (remastered)
While Marvel might have cornered the market on superhero films, DC by and large has had much better luck with video games, so long as you ignore the various Superman games. Or that Aquaman game on the original Xbox. Okay, so DC have had a few duds, but Injustice still manages to offer a better story than most comic book video games, while the real creme de la creme of comic book games is still being cited today: the Batman: Arkham series.
Kicking off with Arkham Asylum, and based loosely on the comic book of the same name, the Arkham series felt like a smart genre blend, grouping together elements from beat ‘em up genre, stealth games and even Metroidvanias to create an action game like no other. Arkham City gets the nod here though, taking everything that made Asylum work and upping the scale tenfold, creating a comic book masterpiece in the process.
15. Dead Space
Developer: Visceral Games (as EA Redwood Shores) Publisher: Electronic Arts Backwards Compatible: Yes
It says a lot about how special an Xbox 360 game is when they’ve gone and made a remake of it to try and recapture that same magic. Whether the Dead Space remake is actually better than the original is going to be an everlasting debate, but there’s no escaping the fact that when the first Dead Space launched, it felt like a new contender for horror gaming’s crown had emerged. Who cares about zombies or Pyramid Head when Necromorphs felt like the new most terrifying enemy in gaming?
Dead Space follows intergalactic handyman Isaac Clarke as he travels to the USG Ishimura, a spaceship whose crew has made a discovery in distant space. Unfortunately for them, that discovery turned pretty much the entire crew into bloodthirsty Necromorphs, mutated humans with spikes where their body parts should be. Thankfully, Isaac has a Plasma Cutter that does a great job of chopping off limbs, allowing Mr Clarke to stomp these mutants into mush.
One aspect of the Xbox 360’s incredible library that should be celebrated is the fighting games that were on offer. We’ve already mentioned Injustice, though NetherRealm Studios also earned a lot of credit for their work reinvigorating the Mortal Kombat series. Bandai Namco’s Tekken 6, along with Soulcalibur 4 and 5, and SEGA’s Virtua Fighter 5, also deserve a mention, but the real fighting game star of the Xbox 360 was Street Fighter IV.
Itself a reinvention of the series, and of a whole genre, Street Fighter was left in a limbo of sorts as most fighting games failed to catch on during the PS2/Xbox era. Street Fighter IV took things back to basics, and ushered in a new wave of fighting games to come afterwards.
Thanks to iconic controls, plenty of depth, and a massive roster of new and recognisable characters, Street Fighter IV’s legacy as an Xbox 360 game is beautiful.
13. Assassin’s Creed 2
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal Publisher: Ubisoft Backwards Compatible: Yes
Back before the Assassin’s Creed series became focused on massive RPG experiences that required you to take seven weeks off work in order to complete, they were smaller scaled adventures that focused on stealth, parkour and fun combat. From Assassin’s Creed 2 to Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, Ubisoft were on an incredible run of form with the AC series, and while you could make the case for any of those games to be the best, we’re going with AC 2 here.
The first introduction of the iconic Ezio Auditore De Firenze, Assassin’s Creed 2 saw the Italian fancy man ousted from his hometown and half of his family killed due to corrupt politics and Templar shenanigans. Seeking revenge, Ezio finds himself on the path towards joining the Assassin brotherhood, putting his new found skills to work against the evil Templars.
Oh, and there’s some modern day nonsense thrown in for good measure. Why not?
12. Fallout: New Vegas
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Backwards Compatible: Yes
Another series that received a new lease on life on the Xbox 360 was Fallout. While there’s still a healthy amount of love for the original top-down RPGs from way back when, Bethesda’s open world shooter take on the series brought the game to a host of new eyes, making it the cultural juggernaut we know today. While some might prefer Fallout 3 in terms of Fallout’s Xbox 360 outings, we have to give the credit here to Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas instead.
Instead of playing as a lowly Vault dweller emerging out into the nuclear wasteland that is America, New Vegas casts you as The Courier, an experienced adventurer who’s betrayed and left for dead after an important job.
Despite being blasted in the face, you recover and go on to carve your own path for New Vegas and the surrounding area, allying yourself with one of several factions in the process. Or, you could just go all in and take New Vegas for yourself.
Developer: Arkane Studios Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Backwards Compatible: No (remastered as Definitive Edition)
The game that put Arkane on the map, Dishonored felt like a revelation when it first launched on the Xbox 360, especially for a lot of older players who grew up playing stealth games like Thief on PC. As royal bodyguard Corvo, you’ll attempt to rescue the Queen’s daughter from a bloody coup d’etat, using your cunning, your deadly tools and a healthy dose of supernatural powers in order to accomplish this goal.
While the general aim of Dishonored is stealth, Dishonored earned plenty of critical acclaim for its open ended approach to level design and mission structure. If you want to go in all guns blazing, it’s an option, but there’s ways to complete the entire game non-lethally if you so wish, with the game’s ending and even the environment being changed depending on how many dead bodies are left in your wake.
Boy, Valve really spoiled the Xbox 360 with its games. Aside from what’s on this list, The Orange Box itself was an incredibly great package, offering five excellent games for the price of just one. One of those games was Portal, an incredible first person puzzler that completely changed how video games could approach puzzles, but the sequel, Portal 2, amplified that ambition massively, creating arguably one of the best games ever made.
Continuing on from the events of the first game, Portal 2 sees you completing more test chambers, using a rather nifty Portal Gun to navigate the environment and solve the challenges ahead of you. With a razor sharp wit and some fiendishly difficult puzzles, Portal 2 is still an absolutely wonderful game, and the added bonus is that it comes with a completely separate yet still just as amazing co-op campaign too. Find a friend, and you’ll be sorted for days with this one.
Valve’s other example of being afraid of the number three, the influences that Left 4 Dead made on the gaming industry are still being felt long after the game launched on the Xbox 360. Since the success of Left 4 Dead, many developers have tried their hand at recreating the anxiety and fear that comes with a horde of hundreds of enemies running towards you at full speed, and while there’s been plenty of fun homages, none have captured the magic of Left 4 Dead.
The original Left 4 Dead was unlike anything else at the time, championing both co-op and online versus play in a way that hadn’t been seen on consoles yet. Halo and Gears might have had online modes too, but they had single-player to fall back on. Left 4 Dead, and its sequel, were sold purely on the ability to play with your friends, making it a landmark title. Of course, the sequel is the superior version, given that it includes everything released for both games, along with more weapons and DLC.
8. Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Developer: Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games Backwards Compatible: No (also available on newer gens)
The game that launched a company into the stratosphere, before its wax wings melted and it crashed and burned, Telltale’s The Walking Dead (later known as Season 1) felt like the first ever successful attempt to adapt the point and click adventure game format to consoles. Of course, it helped that there was a globally recognised comic book and TV franchise to garner incredible levels of attention, but the core gameplay and storytelling in The Walking Dead is what kept people coming back for four seasons worth of content.
Arguably the best entry in the series (even if only for the Clementine Suite, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed), Telltale’s The Walking Dead follows Lee, a convict who manages to escape prison because the zombie apocalypse just happened. Talk about out of the frying pan. Immediately, Lee encounters Clementine, a young girl who Lee basically adopts and protects throughout the game.
It’s tense, thrilling and filled with brilliant characters. Not every 360 game holds up, but this one sure does.
7. Dark Souls
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Bandai Namco Backwards Compatible: No (remastered)
For those who love big mechs or obscure PS2 RPGs, FromSoftware were already a huge name before the release of Demon’s Souls on the PS3, but even that wasn’t quite enough to make them the mainstream name that they are today. Now, we’re not saying that their follow-up hardcore action RPG, Dark Souls, coming to the Xbox 360 as well as the PS3 is solely responsible for their ascension, but the added exposure must have been nice.
A punishingly brutal yet incredibly rewarding adventure, Dark Souls felt like a return to those coin-op arcade games that were designed to take your money in the fastest way possible. From the enemies to the environment, and everything in between, Dark Souls was finely crafted to destroy you, but that just makes overcoming those incredible odds feel all the more satisfying.
Demon’s Souls might have got the ball rolling for FromSoft, but Dark Souls was a confident statement from a developer destined for even better.
6. Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Developer: 4J Studios Publisher: Mojang, Microsoft Studios Backwards Compatible: No (will update to new version)
It’s fair to say that Minecraft is one of the most influential games ever made, with the game still being incredibly popular and heavily played by millions despite being over a decade old. You simply can’t buy that level of staying power, and while it didn’t begin on the Xbox 360, Minecraft’s success can certainly be partially attributed to Microsoft’s big, green, occasionally faulty console.
When Minecraft was being ported to consoles, the Xbox 360 was the first port of call, essentially offering a watered-down experience of what fans on PC had been used to for a while. Over time, Mojang and 4J Studios would update the Xbox 360 version to make it just as enjoyable as the PC release, and while Mojang have now phased out console specific versions, we shouldn’t forget the impact they had on Minecraft’s long-lasting legacy.
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developer: Bethesda Games Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Backwards Compatible: No (remastered)
The game that’s so nice, it’s been ported more times than there are members of Slipknot, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is undoubtedly one of the best RPGs ever made, and a testament to what the Xbox 360 was capable of. Heck, this might be a controversial take, but Skyrim still feels impressive by today’s standards, so the fact that it was as good as it was on the Xbox 360 is worth celebrating.
At this point, what more can be said about Skyrim that hasn’t been said already? You’re the Dragonborn, the one prophesied to save the region of Skyrim from the large influx of dragons that are looking to torch the place. Of course, that’s the main quest, but with a civil war to win, a few secret societies to join and plenty of other quests that see you exploring every nook and cranny, Skyrim is just hundreds of hours of adventuring waiting to happen.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
Developer: Rockstar North Publisher: Rockstar Games Backwards Compatible: No (remastered/ported)
From one of the last big Xbox 360 games to launch before the release of the Xbox One, GTA V’s is pretty much the most successful game ever made at this point. Whether it’s due to the fact that the campaign is excellent, or the online offerings have been so frequent and fun that players can’t keep themselves away from it, with GTA V even becoming the biggest entertainment product of all time in 2018.
At this point, the only game that might have any hope of surpassing GTA V would be GTA VI.
Despite its incredible success post-360 launch, GTA V doesn’t top this list because the original version feels like a shadow of its current self at this point, with GTA Online no longer being playable. The host of graphical updates, gameplay changes and more make the 360 version feel like an unwelcome trip into the past, but that doesn’t change the fact that GTA V was a compelling and amazing swansong to a brilliant console in the Xbox 360.
3. Gears of War 3
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Microsoft Studios Backwards Compatible: Yes
The non-first person shooter that people think of when asked to recall Xbox franchises, the Gears series was instrumental to the success of the Xbox 360, becoming one of the killer apps for a new generation with its excellent gameplay and decent graphics. Looking back, there sure were a lot of greys and browns in that colour palette, with the occasional splash of red when you managed to get close enough to chainsaw a Locust. It never gets old.
While Gears of War 1 brought eyes to the franchise and the Xbox 360 with that incredible advert, it’s Gear of War 3 that serves as the pinnacle of not only cover shooters on the Xbox 360, but of the Gears series as a whole.
With more modes, gameplay improvements that streamlined the experience, four player co-op in the campaign and a raft of weapons to use, Gears of War 3 is still undefeated.
2. Red Dead Redemption
Developer: Rockstar San Diego Publisher: Rockstar Games Backwards Compatible: Yes
While GTA V is the cultural phenomenon that’s still going strong to this day, Rockstar’s crowning achievement on the Xbox 360 lies elsewhere, and no, it’s not Rockstar Presents Table Tennis.
Red Dead Redemption deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest Xbox 360 games ever made, thanks to its incredible setting and tone, the heart-wrenching story and acting (which were also instrumental in the sequel’s success) or the gameplay that nailed that cowboy feeling.
As the former outlaw John Marston, you’re brought out of “retirement” by the powers that be to hunt the members of your old gang, helmed by the charismatic Dutch Van Der Linde. This journey takes John across both America and Mexico, as his former running buddies aren’t too pleased to see Marston again. Cue plenty of gunfights paired with a story that provides more than a few gut punches even to this day.
1. Halo 3
Developer: Bungie Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Backwards Compatible: Yes
We’re celebrating the best Xbox 360 games here, so of course Halo had to take the top spot. Halo and Xbox are synonymous with each other at this point, and while the franchise might not be at the same level it once was, Halo was at the peak of its powers in the Xbox 360 era. Some may have their own opinion as to which Halo game was the best, with Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach both deserving of their own recognition, but for us, nothing matches up to Halo 3.
The thrilling conclusion of the original Master Chief trilogy, Halo 3 finally allowed players who’ve been around since the original Xbox the opportunity to finish the fight against the Covenant and the Flood. With four player co-op for the campaign in both local and online play, along with a multiplayer offering that’s still yet to be beat (sorry, The Master Chief Collection just isn’t the same).
If you’re looking for the best game that the Xbox 360 ever had to offer, Halo 3 is it.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.