The Xbox 360 is one of the best consoles ever released. Coming off the success of the original Xbox, Microsoft released a console that helped usher in the future of gaming. HD visuals, an improved Xbox Live, and the blueprints for modern game consoles and connectivity were all a part of what made the Xbox 360 great.
Of course, a console is nothing without its games. Today, let’s talk about the 25 best Xbox 360 games of all time.
Please note that this list will include games that are both exclusive to the Xbox 360 as well as multiplatform. We didn’t want to leave anything out. In addition, the list is presented in no particular order of quality, gameplay, or any other metric that exists outside of my own head.
Call of Duty 2
The game that made me want an Xbox 360. Its impressive display of the intensity and brutality of war gave the game, and console, a next-gen feeling from day one. Its strength and quality were doubly impressive since the game was available on day one; launch titles are usually more lacking in quality.
That wasn’t the case with Call of Duty 2. This was everything WWII shooters aspired to be and more. It helped take the franchise into the atmosphere of “a really good FPS” into “genre-defining.” Somehow, though, it would be overtaken by….
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Modern Warfare took everything that made Call of Duty 2 great and improved it. Taking the franchise into the present day was the best decision Infinity Ward could make as well; WWI fatigue was starting to set in.
Modern Warfare included the introduction of killstreaks, a defining feature of the franchise today. On the whole, the multiplayer was a vast improvement over what was an enjoyable, yet somewhat shallow, offering from Call of Duty 2.
For all that made it one of the best shooters of all time, Infinity Ward would once again best themselves one last time, with…
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
While others may feel like the Black Ops franchise eventually overtook Modern Warfare, in my opinion, this is the pinnacle of the Call of Duty franchise.
Modern Warfare 2 had it all. The franchise’s best campaign, featuring an over-the-top story, varied, colorful, and well-designed campaign environments, an amazing score from Hans Zimmer, and the same, addictive multiplayer we all know and love.
Infinity Ward went all out with Modern Warfare 2, putting all their cards on the table. While the Call of Duty franchise has continued to enjoy success, it’s yet to match the quality found here. It, and the two predecessors mentioned, easily make the list of best Xbox 360 games of all time.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
What started as a mini-game found in one of the best Xbox games of all time, Geometry Wars honestly became my most played during the Xbox 360 launch.
One of the original games released on the Xbox Live Arcade, Geometry Wars showed what was possible in terms of short, sweet, and satisfying digital release games. XBLA helped usher in a new type of game, one that still packed a punch, but had a lower price tag (400 Microsoft Points, aka $5 USD).
It helped, too, that the game was a blast. The number of late nights spent trying to improve on my score and climb the leaderboards and perform better than my friends helped prepare me for the wave of AAA online gaming that awaited me in the future.
Unlike the previously mentioned game, Castle Crashers had a higher price tag. It was still worth every penny.
A deep, engaging, challenging, and hilarious cooperative brawler, Castle Crashers helped put developer The Behemoth on the map. In an age where online multiplayer was thriving, Castle Crashers was an exception. Yes, such an option existed here and, yes, it was buggy at launch. Personally, this was a couch co-op game through and through. One that brought friends together, as they progressed through levels while having an absolute blast.
Is it possible that I look back on Castle Crashers a little too favorably? Sure, but it’s still hard to deny that it’s one of the best Xbox 360 games ever released.
Rock Band 2
Speaking of couch co-op, we need to pay our respects to royalty. Though, technically, this wasn’t “couch” co-op and, instead, “stand up and play” co-op.
While the Rock Band franchise saw releases before and after, it’s hard to argue that Rock Band 2 is the pinnacle of the franchise. This was the peak of video game band fame; more songs, continuous DLC, endless parties, and no filler. It seemed like if you had a friend that was into gaming, they had plastic instruments somewhere in their house.
While the fad has come and gone, the peak of Rock Band mania will never be forgotten.
Gears of War
Let me tell you a story about my Gears of War launch experience.
Instead of playing the campaign, I hopped online for some multiplayer. I was thrilled to see that matches were team-based 4v4 encounters, similar to Counter-Strike. When you die, you can’t respawn, but you are, unlike Counter-Strike, able to be revived by your teammates.
Unless, of course, an enemy comes and curb stomps you. Or chainsaws your head off.
The number of nerdgasms over voice chat as blood splattered over our screen was endless.
Gears of War multiplayer was, at the time, a change of pace compared to Halo. It was tactical, methodical, and tense. It was perfect for a LAN party that took place a week after launch. It was the killer app for the Xbox 360 after launch and easily one of the best Xbox 360 games ever released.
Remedy’s atmospheric mystery thriller is an absolute delight. Blending several genres together, the “episodic” story takes us through the darkness and horrors of a small town in the Pacific Northwest.
There’s no denying the immersion crafted into the game, whether it’s the story playing out like a TV series, the hidden show within the game “Night Springs,” or the importance of Wake’s profession as an author to the story. This is how Alan Wake hooks you in; it doesn’t let you go with the survival horror-inspired combat and gameplay.
It’s a shame we never got a proper sequel, but hey, it recently received a remaster and that’s great news!
Before Hades, there was Bastion.
The debut game from indie dev Supergiant Games, Bastion is a work of art come to life. A solid action RPG complete with satisfying combat, plenty of depth, and a soothing narrator to tell the tale. Like others on this list, Bastion showcased what was possible from both indie developers, as well as the Xbox Live Arcade selection of games.
What’s doubly impressive is that this was Supergiant’s first game. Even today, it’s widely regarded as one of their best.
Braid is a puzzle game that looks like a platform. It’s a spin on the Super Mario formula for gaming. Navigate your way through a level and save the damsel in distress.
What makes Braid so great are two things. First, the gameplay. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t your typical platformer. Time manipulation allows you to solve the puzzles that lay before you. Quick and clever thinking, not precious jumps and movements, will allow you to succeed.
Second? The story. It’s an absolute delight that still holds up well today.
Forza Horizon 5 is an absolute masterpiece. The original, though? It laid the foundation for one of the most successful and greatest racing franchises of all time.
While the Motorsport franchise was serious simulation gameplay, Horizon was all about fun and exploration. It’s shocking how well the game holds up, even if the soundtrack (featuring plenty of Skrillex) is definitely a product of its time.
Forza Horizon didn’t invent the open-world racer. In fact, it already existed on the Xbox 360 with Burnout Paradise. However, it was able to accomplish a higher level of quality thanks to pristine polish and refreshing accessibility.
BioShock was one of the best games of its generation. While yes, it came up a little bit short in terms of length, it was a memorable experience nonetheless.
On the surface, BioShock was an action-RPG that had a mild morality system. The narrative, location, and characters are what carried it, however. Rapture is a beautiful setting for a game, an underwater utopia gone wrong. The story is beyond memorable and one of the best found on the Xbox 360.
If there’s ever a case study for a video game that nails atmosphere and setting, BioShock would be exhibits A, B, and C.
Fresh off their success with Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire, BioWare delivered another smash hit with Mass Effect. Taking their narrative-driven RPG to space, the Xbox 360 exclusive wove a beautiful Sci-Fi tale, one where your choices and decisions matter throughout.
Mass Effect is widely regarded as one of the best RPGs of all time, but for some, it’s not even the best in the franchise. Admittedly, while its strength was story and character building, combat was its weakness. This would, however, later be redeemed with…
Mass Effect 2
…Mass Effect 2.
Now under the wing of Electronic Arts, BioWare delivered a sequel that built upon the original in just about every way. While sacrifices were made in terms of narrative, dialogue, and character focus, gameplay and combat were refined tenfold.
Storywise, Mass Effect 2 does suffer a bit from being the second game in a trilogy. Plotlines don’t really end, per se, but the game-specific narrative and climax do a good job of circumventing any lack of tension.
Ultimately, the “preferred” game in the franchise comes down to personal preference. Either way, you can’t go wrong with either one of these as one of the best Xbox 360 games.
Trapped in a mall, filled with thousands of zombies, one man must make it out alive.
Don’t worry, he’s covered wars, ya know.
On the surface, Dead Rising is a serious race against time to escape a zombie-infested mall. The deeper you dig, though, the zanier and over-the-top the game becomes. It’s a zombie sandbox delight that doesn’t really take itself too seriously. While Dead Rising may not have aged entirely too well, it’s still a joy to play.
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
While PC gaming is pretty mainstream today, it wasn’t always like that. For most, the arrival of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion within the Xbox 360 launch window was the reason to buy the console.
It did not disappoint.
Oblivion is a gorgeous, gigantic, and enchanting tale. Featuring a strong voice cast (aside from the side characters, of course), hilarious dialogue within its side quests, and a strong main narrative, it’s honestly my favorite Elder Scrolls game.
I’m serious. I definitely like it better than…
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Skyrim is a game you can get lost in. You can wander the world, do anything your heart desires. You’ll forget why you’re headed to that town in the distance. Who knows what you’re looking for, but that doesn’t matter, because you’ll find something to do.
Before you know it, twenty hours have passed and you’ve done pretty much nothing of substance. Other than enjoying yourself, that is.
Skyrim’s weakest link, in my opinion, is the main campaign. It fails to hook you in the way others have in the past. With that being said, there’s no denying its staying power as an ultimate fantasy open-world RPG.
Finally, we finished the fight.
Halo 3 ended the trilogy and gave Master Chief his much-needed slumber. This is great because regardless of how you feel about the campaign, most of our time here was spent in multiplayer. If you ask me, it was time well spent.
Halo 3’s multiplayer expanded beyond its predecessor. The maps were better, the gameplay was tighter, and the memories were life-lasting. While the campaign may have stumbled, the multiplayer once again delivered. There honestly may never be anything like it again.
Oh, and the TV spot is the greatest ad of all time, too.
Grand Theft Auto V
The fact that Grand Theft Auto V even exists on the Xbox 360 hardware is a miracle. The fact that we haven’t gotten a new GTA release since this one is frustrating.
All that aside, GTA V is an absolute marvel and shining example of video game perfection. The world of Los Santos is alive and well, the characters are an absolute delight, and the gameplay is the best the franchise has to offer.
While Rockstar is currently content (as far as we know) with supporting Grand Theft Auto Online over GTA VI, it’s honestly hard to blame them. The framework that was set up in GTA V was rock solid. There’s a reason why the game has seen countless remasters and re-releases: it’s a work of art.
Speaking of works of art, may I suggest Dark Souls?
The successor to the PlayStation 3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls refined the experience into an unforgiving, challenging, and satisfying experience on the Xbox 360. Dark Souls put both developer FromSoftware and the entire genre of challenging action-RPGs on the map.
We’ve since seen an avalanche of games inspired by Dark Souls that offer brutal difficulty and a rewarding game for those willing to make the investment. This includes both other games from FromSoftware, as well as other developers.
Still, there’s only one original. Long live the king.
A blend of style and substance, Dishonored is a fantastic stealth-action game. Its open-ended nature, combined with super abilities, allowed for expansive freedom for players to do as they will.
What truly makes Dishonored great was that subsequent playthroughs can very easily differ. The world of Dunwall continuously changes based on your actions. This creates different experiences based on your playstyle.
Visually, Dishonored is a gorgeous game to boot, too. Stealth action has never looked so good and rarely has it ever played so well.
Super Meat Boy
Yet another Xbox Live Arcade title, Super Meat Boy took the platformer genre and pushed it to the limits.
Well-crafted and precise controls were both welcomed and necessary; the game is brutally difficult. What’s remarkable, though, is the fact that nothing feels cheap or unfair. You know why you died or failed and it’s always because of the user, not the game.
Furthermore, the game isn’t overtly punishing out of nowhere. The difficulty curve is one of the finest in all of gaming.
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead launched with four maps. By today’s standards, that’s what we call a severe lack of depth. What it lacked there, however, it made up for in replayability and value.
The game’s hook was “The Director,” an AI that adapted to player performance. If you were handling the zombie outbreak a little too well, for example, ominous music would start playing, an enemy Tank would appear, and your day would be ruined.
What made Left 4 Dead so enjoyable was how well polished both the co-operative and versus gameplay was. A lot of fond memories were made attempting to speedrun through the campaign, as well as some beautiful 4v4 multiplayer action.
It was often joked at Crackdown’s release that people spent $60 to play in the Halo 3 multiplayer beta and received a free game alongside it. As it turns out, that “free game” was an absolute blast to play when it comes to arcade-style open-world action shooters.
The premise of Crackdown was simple: become super powerful. The execution followed through on this, allowing players to mow down enemies, jump and run long distances, and become as close to a deity as possible. Within reason; we’re not talking about anything regarding superpowers.
Crackdown was a surprise hit that was a blast to play, easily earning it the title of one of the best Xbox 360 games.
Gears of War 2
Kept you waiting on this one, didn’t I?
I personally have more fond memories with the original, but it’s impossible to deny how good the sequel is. Gears of War 2 is the type of game where you can easily knock out the campaign in a day’s span. Not just because it’s on the shorter end in terms of length, but also because of how much fun it is. Playing it co-op with a friend makes it even better.
The real joy, though, is Gears of War 2’s Horde Mode, allowing you to endlessly mow down enemies until there are too many of them. The additional mode allowed for even more replayability to what was already an enjoyable gameplay loop of a co-op campaign and multiplayer.
While the franchise has fallen off in recent years, those who remember playing through during release know how good the Gears trilogy was on Xbox 360.
One of the most beautiful, compelling, and depressing games of all time, Halo: Reach is the pinnacle of the Halo franchise.
Its multiplayer was enjoyable and complete with a variety of customization options. It was a true swan song for Bungie. What makes Halo: Reach so memorable, though, is the campaign. A challenging, deep, and engaging narrative combined with Halo gameplay perfected, Reach is the total package. It will shake you to the core, even with the knowledge of the fact that you know exactly how it ends.
One of the best Xbox 360 games ever made, Halo: Reach is one of the best shooters ever made, period.