The 30 Best Games on Xbox

Xbox console and controller

The 30 Best Games on Xbox

Microsoft’s announcement of the original Xbox in 2001 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) would shock the gaming world, with the multi-billion dollar company unexpectedly entering the home console market in the 6th generation much like Sony had with the PlayStation in the 5th. Almost 23 years later, the original Xbox is one of the most important platforms of all time in terms of blurring the lines between PCs and home consoles and making online gaming ubiquitous across hardware manufacturers. Regardless of the Xbox’s clear technological superiority over the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube, though, if the console didn’t deliver on its games it would have been dead in the water. Thankfully, a slew of excellent console exclusives and unique PC ports make a list of the best Xbox games a showcase of some of the 6th generation’s best titles.

While there are the obvious Halo titles and classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic that are dead-ringers for a “best of” list compiling Xbox exclusives, there are just as many cult-classic titles that are relics of a bygone era. Several of the definitive games on Xbox represent a time in which developers were willing to take risks on creative projects that stood out from the pack rather than being risk-averse and sticking to sequels and remakes, resulting in the Xbox having some truly unique games that stand the test of time. More than historical footnotes, though, the best Xbox games span practically every genre and showcase just how great the console’s library was for its time, with many remaining just as groundbreaking and enjoyable today as they were 20 years ago.

30. Panzer Dragoon Orta

Panzer Dragoon Orta gameplay

©Panzer Dragoon Orta gameplay screenshot – Original

The Panzer Dragoon series might be best remembered for the legendary RPG spin-off Panzer Dragoon Saga, but the original games in the series were always third-person shoot ’em-ups. Panzer Dragoon Orta on the Xbox is a continuation of the classic Panzer Dragoon formula, and it’s just as challenging and demanding as it is fun to play. Orta is a massive upgrade over its predecessors in terms of presentation, and it’s also one of a handful of excellent 3D shmups on the console that blend arcade-style flight sim with an excellent lock-on mechanic and swarms of enemies to take down.

29. Deus Ex: Invisible War

Deus Ex: Invisible War gameplay

©Deus Ex: Invisible War gameplay screenshot – Original

Although it abandons many of the immersive-sim and RPG elements that the original game in the series famously incorporates, Deus Ex: Invisible War is still a fun game that was only available on PC and Xbox. As one of two console-exclusive PC ports (along with another further down on this list), Invisible War is definitively more action-leaning than most fans might have expected, resulting in the title receiving a bit of a mixed reception. Still, Invisible War‘s blending of stealth options and competent gunplay makes it as close as the Xbox got to having its own Perfect Dark, and that alone makes Invisible War worth a second look.

28. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb

Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb gameplay

©Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb gameplay screenshot – Original

Microsoft and Bethesda might be about to release a brand-new Indiana Jones game on the Xbox Series consoles, but the original Xbox was also home to one of the archaeologist’s greatest adventures. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is a surprisingly enjoyable Tomb Raider clone (long before the era of Uncharted) in which players get to control Indiana as he attempts to stop the Nazis from acquiring a sacred Chinese artifact. There’s a great mix of platforming, puzzle-solving, and combat, and it’s one of the few 3D action-adventure games on the console that makes great use of a licensed IP.

27. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge

Crimson Skies gameplay

©Crimson Skies gameplay screenshot – Original

Along with Panzer Dragoon Orta, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is one of the many great arcade flight games of the 6th generation. Taking influence from titles like Factor 5’s Rogue Squadron series, Crimson Skies puts players in control of an alternate-history take on World War II dogfighters and even incorporates some excellent online multiplayer alongside its phenomenal single-player campaign. Though they’re out of vogue now, these kinds of flight combat games used to be incredibly successful, and Crimson Skies is both one of the best and one deserving of a modern-day remake.

26. Top Spin

Top Spin gameplay

©Top Spin gameplay screenshot – Original

The Dreamcast may have been home to Sega’s excellent Virtua Tennis series, but the Xbox’s Top Spin might just be the best tennis game of all time. It might seem strange to put a console-exclusive tennis game on a list of the Xbox’s best titles, but the truth is that Top Spin is arguably one of the most essential titles an Xbox player could own thanks to its amazing single-player and multiplayer modes and commitment to both accuracy and accessibility. Striking a perfect balance between the arcade fun of Virtua or Mario Tennis and the realism of a simulation game, Top Spin is still one of the best tennis games more than 20 years after its launch.

25. Project Gotham Racing 2

Project Gotham Racing 2 gameplay

©Project Gotham Racing 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Today, most Xbox players are familiar with Forza Motorsport as the console’s premier racing game. However, prior to Forza‘s excellent mainline and spin-off titles, Project Gotham would be the Xbox’s answer to Sony’s Gran Turismo franchise. What separates Project Gotham from Gran Turismo is a greater emphasis on arcade thrills rather than simulation-style realism, resulting in the Xbox having its own graphically impressive racer that was also a little bit more beginner-friendly. The best game in the series is Project Gotham Racing 2, and its spirit somewhat lives on in the excellent Forza Horizon spin-off games.

24. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath gameplay

©Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath gameplay screenshot – Original

Most players think of the original side-scrolling puzzle-platformer games when they think of Oddworld, but the Xbox ended up being home to an unconventional, yet excellent, game in the series. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath ditches the 2D side-scrolling perspective and gameplay of both games featuring Abe the Mudokon in favor of being a first-and-third-person shooter starring the mysterious Stranger. The one area where the game falls in line with the rest of the series is its humorous and heartfelt narrative, which sees the protagonist take on work as a bounty hunter to fund a life-saving operation. And, with the game receiving several ports on multiple different consoles, an original Xbox isn’t necessary to play this classic any longer.

23. Steel Battalion

Steel Battalion controller and game

©Capcom’s Steel Battalion – Original

When discussing Steel Battalion, it’s almost impossible not to mention the game’s absurd controller. Capcom’s famous mech game came complete with its own 44-button peripheral, featuring two joysticks and a set of pedals to simulate the experience of piloting a mech from within its cockpit. Notoriously, Steel Battalion requires players to eject from their mechs before they explode, punishing those who forget with a Game Over screen and deleting their save. On its own, the game cost almost as much as the Xbox itself, retailing for $200 and prohibiting all but the most diehard mech fans from experiencing its strategically complex combat.

22. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

Splinter Cell gameplay

©Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell gameplay screenshot – Original

Though the Xbox would eventually receive its own port of Metal Gear Solid 2, there was a time in which stealth games were exclusive to the PlayStation 2. Thankfully, Ubisoft stepped up and delivered the incredible Splinter Cell on Xbox alongside a strategic partnership to exclusively develop Tom Clancy games for the console. Splinter Cell would also eventually escape its console exclusivity and come to both the PS2 and GameCube, but for a time it would present a wholly different (and much more realistic) take on espionage and stealth than Kojima and Konami’s legendary franchise.

21. TimeSplitters: Future Perfect

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect gameplay

©TimeSplitters: Future Perfect gameplay screenshot – Original

The third (and, for now, final) game in the TimeSplitters series is one of the few FPS titles on the Xbox that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Halo in terms of the popularity of its multiplayer. The single-player campaign of TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is excellent, to be sure. However, the real highlight of the title is its competitive online deathmatch mode, making use of the Xbox’s internet connectivity at a time when the functionality was still growing in terms of its widespread use. Further, developer Free Radical included several veterans from Rare who had worked on both GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark, giving TimeSplitters‘ multiplayer an unmistakable pedigree.

20. The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction gameplay

©Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction gameplay screenshot – Original

Truthfully, you could swap this spot for The Simpsons: Hit & Run and have another unique open-world title on the list, but Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction takes the cake as one of the only truly great games to feature Marvel’s green giant. Ultimate Destruction makes good on the promise of playing as The Hulk in an open-world sandbox, fulfilling the kind of comic-appropriate superhero fantasy that other games featuring the character somehow fail to capture. Open-world games were all the rage during the 6th generation thanks to the success of Grand Theft Auto, but only one allows you to leap buildings and throw cars as one of the most iconic heroes from the world of comics.

19. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas gameplay

©Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas gameplay screenshot – Original

Near the end of the console’s lifespan, the Xbox would do the unthinkable and land the rights to have ports of the previously PlayStation 2-exclusive Grand Theft Auto games. Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City would make their way to the console, but it’s the Xbox version of San Andreas that stands as the best one in the trilogy. Thanks to the Xbox’s stronger GPU and CPU, San Andreas both looks and runs better on Xbox than in the original PS2 version. Further, the ability to rip music to the Xbox and have your own music play on a custom radio station is a feature that several players would make a return in the series somehow.

18. Forza Motorsport

Forza Motorsport gameplay

©Forza Motorsport gameplay screenshot – Original

While Project Gotham Racing strikes more of a balance between accuracy and fun, Forza Motorsport is the Xbox’s answer to Gran Turismo. Accordingly, the game is a graphically impressive and mechanically complex simulation racer that features some of the most true-to-life physics and in-game car models of any racing title of the era, and it’s no wonder that the series would take off in terms of its popularity on the Xbox 360 and beyond. The first Forza Motorsport would launch on the Xbox right before the end of its lifespan and the transition to the Xbox 360 era, making it the definitive racing game on the console.

17. Doom 3

Doom 3 gameplay

©Doom 3 gameplay screenshot – Original

id Software’s return to the Doom franchise more than 10 years after the last entry would see the company take an altogether different approach to the series. Rather than incorporate the same kind of speed and action that had become synonymous with the company’s other main IP, Quake, Doom 3 takes a hard turn into survival-horror territory. The game moves at a much slower, more methodical pace, enemies are less frequent, and the guns that the player gets to use are significantly less powerful. The changes to the series’ formula didn’t sit well with fans, resulting in Doom 3 being a one-off experiment, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best-looking games on the console.

16. Half-Life 2

Half-Life 2 gameplay

©Half-Life 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Similar to Deus Ex: Invisible War, the Xbox was the exclusive console home to the incredible Half-Life 2 on PC. The second game in the Half-Life series puts players in control of physicist Gordon Freeman as he awakens from cryogenic stasis to a world where the multi-dimensional Combine has occupied Earth. There’s a greater emphasis on narrative this time around, and the core FPS and puzzle-solving gameplay from the original returns and is better in nearly every regard. Both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are some of the best FPS games ever made, and the Xbox being the only home console where the sequel was playable makes it a must-have title for the platform.

15. Fuzion Frenzy

Fuzion Frenzy gameplay

©Fuzion Frenzy gameplay screenshot – Original

No console is complete without a great party game. Accordingly, the Xbox’s launch lineup would include the excellent Fuzion Frenzy. This collection of over 40 absurd mini-games would quickly prove to be one of the best titles on the Xbox this side of Halo, with the console’s 4 controller ports enabling plenty of multiplayer mayhem on a single screen. Long before the likes of games like Fall Guys or other hilarious mini-game-centric Battle Royales, Fuzion Frenzy was there to provide hours of party game fun in living rooms with an Xbox.

14. MechAssault

MechAssault gameplay

©MechAssault gameplay screenshot – Original

Where Steel Battalion tries to embrace realism and simulation gameplay in its mech action, MechAssault is a much more accessible (and enjoyable) third-person mech shooter that would embrace online play early on in the Xbox’s lifespan. Current Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer is even on record stating that he would love to see the MechAssault series make a return somehow, illustrating how central the franchise is to the Xbox brand and its historic importance in making the platform the definitive home console for online gaming. Beyond its importance as a pillar of the Xbox ecosystem, though, MechAssault is simply an excellent mech-action game that ditches customization and simulation in favor of arcade-style thrills.

13. Otogi: Myth of Demons

Otogi: Myth of Demons gameplay

©Otogi: Myth of Demons gameplay screenshot – Original

While it’s not quite as good as the Ninja Gaiden revival on the console, FromSoftware’s Otogi: Myth of Demons (and its sequel) are two excellent action games exclusive to the Xbox. Most people remember FromSoftware for the developer’s work on the Dark Souls series and, more recently, Elden Ring, but the Otogi games are unique entries from the studio’s catalog during the time period between the King’s Field games and their initial attempt at the Soulsborne formula with Demon’s Souls. As one might expect, Otogi is tough, but it’s also got some excellent hack-and-slash gameplay and a unique sense of style.

12. Psychonauts

Psychonauts gameplay

©Psychonauts gameplay screenshot – Original

One area where the Xbox would always struggle to keep up with its competitors was 3D platformers. The PlayStation 2 had Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and the Sly Cooper games to contend with, while the GameCube had the likes of Super Mario Sunshine and Wario World. Rather than try to compete with these games directly, Xbox partnered with Tim Schafer and Double Fine for the excellent and offbeat Psychonauts. At its core, Psychonauts is still a classic 3D platformer, but its witty writing, sharp sense of humor, and incorporation of unique settings and psychic abilities make it wholly unique among other games in the genre.

11. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind gameplay

©The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind gameplay screenshot – Original

Long before Skyrim or even Oblivion, many players’ first taste of the excellent Elder Scrolls series would come courtesy of one of the Xbox’s best games: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Morrowind‘s predecessor Daggerfall would flirt with some of the elements that are now standard in Bethesda’s open-world RPG series, but Morrowind is arguably the first game to perfect and establish the open-world template that both Oblivion and Skyrim iterate and improve upon. Ultimately, Morrowind is an incredibly ambitious and feature-rich RPG for its time, and its influence is still felt in Bethesda’s modern-day titles.

10. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay gameplay

©Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay gameplay screenshot – Original

Though they’re much more common now, licensed games used to be almost guaranteed to be terrible games and nothing more than a cash-in from developers to lure fans of the IP. One of the first games to buck that trend in a big way is Chronicles of Riddick, which acts as a prequel to the events of the cult-classic horror film Pitch Black starring Vin Diesel. Diesel would lend his voice and likeness to the game to give it some authenticity, but the gameplay still stands as the star of the show thanks to its excellent blend of stealth and first-person shooting. The prison setting and claustrophobic corridors both enhance Riddick‘s stealth gameplay and only serve to add to its moody atmosphere, and the game is one of the Xbox’s best titles regardless of its creative license.

9. Jet Set Radio Future

Jet Set Radio Future gameplay

©Jet Set Radio Future gameplay screenshot – Original

Dreamcast classic Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio in the West) is one of those iconic exclusives that would’ve only made sense on Sega’s console, which made it all the more surprising for the game to receive an Xbox-exclusive sequel. Like its predecessor, Jet Set Radio Future is an excellent extreme sports-platforming-graffiti hybrid that has the player zipping and grinding around a futuristic depiction of Japan and tagging every surface they come across. However, where Future improves on the formula is in its elimination of time limits and embracing of non-linear open-world exploration of its massive rendition of Tokyo.

8. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3

Rainbow Six 3 gameplay

©Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 gameplay screenshot – Original

The Xbox becoming the exclusive home to most of the Tom Clancy game series during the 6th generation would end up being a huge boon to the console. The power of the Xbox would make Microsoft’s console the only platform capable of running PC titles, and one of the best PC ports to arrive on the hardware is the excellent third game in the tactical Rainbow Six series. Where Rainbow Six 3 differs from the original games is in its emphasis on slower-paced FPS combat rather than tactical breach-and-clear scenarios, and the game is undeniably the template for the excellent Rainbow Six: Vegas spin-off series.

7. Jade Empire

Jade Empire gameplay

©Jade Empire gameplay screenshot – Original

One of the great tragedies in the history of gaming is BioWare never going back to revisit its phenomenal Eastern RPG series, Jade Empire. Arriving on the Xbox shortly after the launch and success of the legendary Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire sets itself apart by mixing new gameplay ideas into BioWare’s timeless RPG formula. Moral choices and branching story paths are still a core component of Jade Empire like they are in KOTOR, but the combat places a greater emphasis on real-time button inputs and commands. It’s still a turn-based RPG at its core, but the player’s greater agency over character movement and fighting makes it slightly more engaging than most would expect from the genre. An overlooked classic that deserves either a remake or a sequel.

6. Fable

Fable gameplay

©Fable gameplay screenshot – Original

Peter Molyneux practically promised the world to gamers when he and Lionhead Studios first revealed Fable. Those promises would heap an incredible amount of expectation and hype on the title to where it would be practically impossible for it to live up to what players envisioned in their minds. However, the fact that Fable almost delivers on many of Molyneux’s original claims about the game is testament to its greatness. Even though it falls short of being the “best” or “most immersive” RPG of all time, Fable is still an excellent action RPG that takes place in a humorous and compelling world where choice and action determine the player’s ultimate fate and the fate of Albion.

5. Ninja Gaiden Black

Ninja Gaiden Black gameplay

©Ninja Gaiden gameplay screenshot – Original

Tomonobu Itagaki’s Ninja Gaiden is one of the best reinventions of a classic franchise and an incredible character action game, but its remaster Ninja Gaiden Black is the definitive version of one of the Xbox’s best games. Black takes the incredibly deep and challenging combat from the vanilla version of Ninja Gaiden and adds in two new difficulty modes, one that provides an ultimate challenge for those seeking it out and the easier “Ninja Dog” mode. Regardless of which difficulty players choose, though, Ninja Gaiden is a tough but rewarding character action game that lays the foundation for all of Team Ninja’s excellent modern Soulslikes.

4. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory gameplay

©Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell gameplay screenshot – Original

The original Splinter Cell is an incredible stealth game and a must-have title on the Xbox, but the third game in the trilogy of Splinter Cell titles on the console is far and away the best one in the series. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory pushes the Xbox to its limit to deliver the best-looking stealth game of the era, and it also includes a secret weapon in the title’s multiplayer. Most stealth games are solo experiences, but Chaos Theory‘s highly enjoyable games of “hide-and-seek” prove that more stealth titles should incorporate competitive multiplayer modes in a similar way. Years later, Chaos Theory is fondly remembered by many as the best game in the Splinter Cell series, period.

3. Halo 2

Halo 2 gameplay

©Halo 2 gameplay screenshot – Original

Truthfully, one could swap Halo and Halo 2‘s positions on this list depending on the day, but the original game in the series ekes out a win for how instrumental it is in the Xbox’s success. But to discount the importance of Halo 2 would be doing the game a disservice, as Halo 2 is arguably the title responsible for making online functionality a must-have feature in home consoles and making the Xbox Live service the console’s most popular feature. Further, Halo 2‘s excellent split narrative and deuteragonists give it one of the series’ greatest campaigns (fully playable in co-op with a friend online), and the visuals and audio are a substantial upgrade over the original Halo. Like any of the games in this list, no Xbox library is complete without Halo 2.

2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic gameplay

©Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic artwork – Original

BioWare’s success with the Dungeons & Dragons license and deep understanding of the game’s core ruleset would put the company on the map with both Baldur’s Gate games, but taking that same ruleset and applying it to the Star Wars universe would make them one of the world’s most important game developers. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is both one of the best Star Wars games and one of the best Star Wars stories across any medium, giving the player freedom to craft their own story and choose which side of the Force to align with in an incredible choice-driven RPG.

1. Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo: Combat Evolved gameplay

©Halo gameplay screenshot – Original

Without a doubt, the original Halo: Combat Evolved is the best and most important game to ever be released on the original Xbox. As the platform’s killer app, Halo would establish that the Xbox was capable of things never before possible on a home console, and it made great use of the Xbox’s internal components to essentially read data from the hard drive and enable its impressive FPS sandbox. The Halo series is now one of the most important and iconic in all of gaming, and its success stems from the brilliance of the original Halo: Combat Evolved and its phenomenal single and multiplayer modes. Between its campaign being entirely playable in splitscreen co-op and the potential for 16-player LAN matches, Halo: Combat Evolved was a turning point in both games and how we play them, and it’s the Xbox’s definitive title.

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