The Xbox cost Microsoft a lot of money but as far as first entries into the console market go, was pretty successful. Not NES or PlayStation successful, but it sure made the Master System and CDi feel stupid. Microsoft’s machine thrived in Western markets and is seen by some as the hardcore system of choice. Apparently to these people, terrible Japanese support equals hardcore. Still, if you are a fan of FPSs and PC developers console games, the Xbox is an excellent system to own.
Ninja Gaiden (Team Ninja/2004) — Told everyone what I’d been trying to say for years. Nintendo may have bought Sega (not literally) but Xbox got most of the games and the teams that made the Dreamcast fly. Ninja Gaiden also did major things for the way we look at arcade games and their interaction with Xbox Live.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic — The best Star Wars movie since “Return of the Jedi.”
Halo (Bungie/2001) – It absolutely has to be Halo when you’re talking about the Xbox. It was a launch title, and no console FPS has yet to beat it. And it’s old. Even its sequel didn’t manage to take the crown from it. It was so good it spawned a phrase — the Halo Beater. The PC version was a bit rubbish, though.
Splinter Cell (Ubisoft Montreal/2002) – When this came out, Metal Gear Solid was still most people’s definitive stealth-em-up. After a while, Splinter Cell started to grow on people mainly due to its tighter gameplay, more engrossing story, and less Japanese garbage. The series is still going strong to this day, and the Splinter Cell titles just keep getting better.
Halo (Bungie/2001) – The first one’s unique and lonesome setting far surpassed anything the sequel gave us. It also housed what I call “dynamic gameplay”: put this game in any setting, no matter how boring (The Library) and it’s still fun. Think Goldeneye on steroids, with a hint of Rock N’ Roll.
Panzer Dragoon Orta (Smilebit/2003) – Weird and almost arty, Orta plays like a stylish and complex Star Fox game. A very beautiful game in most respects, and it played great. It also has one of the best soundtracks for an action game.
Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (Ubisoft Montreal/2003) – The game that convinced me to get my Xbox. I played it through it on my PS2 then saw it in action on my friend’s Xbox and it was like watching a totally different game. Graphically, the Xbox version was far beyond what they squeezed out of the PS2. The entire package was incredibly polished … plus it’s just a great game.
The Splinter Cell series Splinter Cell (Ubisoft/2002 onward) – All four games are great. Splinter Cell did right everything Metal Gear did wrong (not that I don’t like those games). Better hero, better combat system, better sense of character control, better gadgets, better plots … you get the idea. It’s not an Xbox exclusive, but the differences in versions (like the excellent multiplayer / co-op modes) made it obvious which system it was designed for. I absolutely love each one and Sam Fisher is one of my favorite game characters ever.
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (FASA Interactive/2003) – Awesome game. Some of the most fun I’ve had on Live. Great style and action. This game made me remember all of the fun I used to have playing the old X-Wing/Tie Fighter games. It’s also the game I’ve used to introduce about five people to flight combat games … all of whom fell in love with it.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (BioWare/2003) – Still one of the best Star Wars games (and one of the best RPGs) I’ve played in a long time. This game coupled with the re-invented Baldur’s Gate series made me a BioWare fan for life. If you’re a big Star Wars fan (especially the extended universe) you have to play this game.
Steel Battalion (Capcom/2002) – Any game with a $200 table-sized controller is a must for any gaming fan. There’s a dedicated controller button to turn on the windshield wipers … enough said. Not to mention it’s probably the best mech sim there ever was. If you haven’t played this game get yourself a rich friend and make them buy it. Trust me.
The Oddworld series (Oddworld Inhabitants/2002,2005) – Fantastic design, both character and environment. A great launch title for the system. They had a lot of fun making them and it shows.
Psychonauts (Double Fine/2005) – Again, incredible game design. A blast to play. It eventually came out on the PS2 but again the Xbox version was initial system and looked a hell of a lot better. Usually that doesn’t matter, but in a game that relies so much on crazy visuals it made a huge difference.
Chronicles of Riddick (Starbreeze/2004) — And I thought I didn’t like FPS. I still haven’t played Half Life so I can’t say this is the only good FPS on the market, but I can say it’s better than most other games I’ve played, all genres included. The strong plot and good voice acting in Riddick complement the excellent gameplay perfectly; you’re not just blasting Martian from Hell, or Hellions from Mars, or whatever Doom’s plot is. Plus, using your super sense of sight to see enemies in the dark is awesome and likely to remain with me for years as one of my favorite gaming memories.
Halo (Bungie/2001) – I’ve ragged on this game for years and years, but the more I played it, the more I saw others continue to play it, the more I realized that Halo was succeeding for a reason. Yes, it’s often stupid and overly pretentious at the same time, but the open levels and solid AI somehow make for an intense and often dynamic FPS. I’ve had some incredible, often unintentionally hilarious co-op experiences with Halo, and we seem to find something new and ridiculous to do every time we play. Besides, how can you really hate a game with a scoped magnum pistol?
Ninja Gaiden (Team Ninja/2004) – I also hated a bit on this game in a review, but for all its faults, Ninja Gaiden still has some of the best damn combat of this generation. It’s fast, it’s cerebral, and hard as the dickens (but never cheap). I can watch rather play this game and still be on the edge of my seat. Maybe not one of the best games of this generation, but certainly quite a memorable one.
Half Life 2 (Valve/2005) – I played Half Life 2 on my PC, but it is technically on the Xbox as well, so I’m going to put it here. This is the best game that has come out in the last five years. Brilliant in every aspect of its design, polished to a glorious shine, Half Life 2 put me in the game like nothing else this generation. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped playing anything because it was too intense until this one came out. Whoever you are, and however you can, play Half Life 2. The future of gaming is here.