Everything ends. Such is the nature of life — and video game consoles. Those things may appear resilient, especially when some-12 million Call of Duty players still game on them today. But one day the Xbox 360 and its contemporaries in its generation cycle — the PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii — will be relics in a museum, and that day seems closer now that Microsoft ceased production on the Xbox 360 this week.
Despite a slew of technical hiccups and weaker stats than rival, Sony’s PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 was a very successful piece of Microsoft hardware. The 360 stood firmly in the front lines as video games became cultural phenomenons, and it ushered in a consumer media revolution (the Xbox 360 was the first console to introduce Netflix streaming).
To commemorate the Xbox 360’s quiet but dignified death, Inverse takes a trip down memory lane to celebrate some of the console’s best exclusives.
Not everything associated with the Xbox 360 was a hit. The Kinect, a controller-free motion control camera, never caught on commercially and Microsoft condemned it to a grisly fate.
But one of the best games that made the most out of Kinect was Dance Central. Made by Harmonix — who earned its rep by making Guitar Hero and Rock Band — Dance Central fulfilled a musical need, with a robust library of pop and dance hits with hands-free motion controlling (especially when Xbox 360 owners grew bored from banging on plastic instruments). If only for a while, Dance Central and its sequels were the new house-party necessities.
Just a year before Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Crackdown gave players the feeling of being a superhero in an open-world Grand Theft Auto-style game where you fought for the law, not against it. Sporting stylish comic book visuals and slick controls, Crackdown spawned a sequel, and another one, due later this year. But that first outing was something special.
While Halo is synonymous with Xbox, Gears of War from Epic Studios was its more violent, brasher cousin. The first game wowed in 2006 with gruesome visuals and an inventive third-person shooting cover system. Today, Gears of War stays strong with a new entry out in October from The Coalition, who hope to build upon the success and reputation of 2011’s near-perfect Gears of War 3.
Though later released on PlayStation 3 with its sequels available on all platforms — including Mass Effect 3 on Nintendo’s Wii U — 2007’s Mass Effect was a glorious sci-fi revolution when it was released exclusively to the Xbox 360. Today, the game’s stiff controls would be a massive drag, but, back in the day, we were blown away by its cinematic scope and groundbreaking narrative, driven by branching decisions and stellar voice acting. The game was a sci-fi paradise, for lovers of Gibson, Roddenberry, and Lucas but possessed a wholly original story in a universe you wanted to get lost in.
This game made me love zombies. In the summer of 2006, Capcom channeled George Romero with Dead Rising, an open-world zombie game set in a mall with a killer time limit. While in brief moments you reveled in zombie mayhem, it stopped being fun and games when you needed ammo and your sledgehammer was a few swings away from breaking apart. The quirky humor and personality of Frank West only distracted so much from the genuinely sinister horror.
Like Mass Effect, Saints Row would later expand to all consoles, but in 2006 the franchise’s first entry was an Xbox 360 exclusive. And it pranked Grand Theft Auto and the flood of similar open-world crime games in the mid-2000s. Saints Row satirized the satire, and in doing so, left a legacy all its own.
Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo 4
I’m going to hear it for grouping these games together. But five years and several different studios — Bungie and 343 Studios — made up the Xbox 360’s output of blockbuster Halo games, and the FPS genre is only the better for it. All of them perfected shooting in vastly different ways, be it the party atmosphere in Halo 3 online or the tight controls in Halo: Reach to Halo 4 pushing the limits of the 360 machine. Halo was ideal on the Xbox 360.
The live-action ODST trailer still gets to me, too.
Forza is video game racing at its peak, but the franchise’s installments on the Xbox 360 were the best Forza could be. While Forza 3 and Forza 4 were awe-inspiring, Forza Horizon dared to change things up into an open-world setting, and it paid off. Forza continues to speed along on the Xbox One, but only because its previous installments on the 360 turned us all into gearheads.
From the guys who made Max Payne came Alan Wake, a unique survival horror that toyed with expectations and our perception of reality. Interest in the series has been reinvigorated with Remedy’s most recent game, Quantum Break, which is peppered with references to Alan Wake. It’s doubtful we’ll ever see Alan Wake 2 anytime soon, but we’ll never forget the paranoia the first game terrorized us with.
I’ll admit it, I never played any of the Fable games. So I’ll let our own Justin Andres take it away:
Lionhead’s greatest game, Fable 2 was an adult fairy tale, a storybook come to life with a look and style all its own. The cartoonish world with a Dickensian slant was (and still is) beautiful to behold, the story is equally compelling. And it distinguished itself as one of the most creative technical achievements in its generation.
The one-button gameplay was easy to pick up for newcomers, but still immensely satisfying for veterans. Its cross-combination of magic, guns, and swordplay, and its inventive take on character customization make it one of the most re-playable (and beloved) open-world RPG’s of all time.
Left 4 Dead
Just before zombie mania came along with AMC’s The Walking Dead, there was Valve’s homage to zombie B-movies: the multiplayer survival games Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. The vague narrative driven by individual players working together while inheriting recognizable personalities — all tropes taken from George Romero movies — elevated Left 4 Dead above other games at the time. It’s been a minute since anyone has heard a Witch crying around the corner, but maybe someday we will again.