One of the most successful video game consoles of all time, the Xbox 360 turns 10 on Sunday, Nov. 22. For most of that decade, the 360 was home to many of the biggest games, revolutionized multiplayer gaming, and turned a generation of players into Achievement-hungry hunters. Though its successor, the Xbox One, arrived in 2013, the 360’s legacy lives on, and EW’s resident game experts have each chosen their 10 favorite games from the system. Read on for their respective hits, from the hallmark mega franchises that solidified industry favorites to the digitally released smaller titles that changed the game for indie releases.
10. 'Mark of the Ninja'/'Crackdown'
Mark of the Ninja (2012)
Mark of the Ninja does away with the frustrations of many stealth games thanks to a brilliant set of choices mirrored in the game’s beautiful visuals. Worming your way through environments as a ninja assassin, players rely on aural and visual cues, most notably the sense of shadow and light in the game, to eviscerate targets and complete each level. There’s some trial and error involved to be sure, but Mark of the Ninja does a remarkably great job of explaining the basics and allowing players to grow naturally into their new role, transforming areas into puzzle boxes of fun. And secret murders. You are a ninja assassin, after all. —Jonathon Dornbush
Chances are good you picked up Crackdown because it included access to the Halo 3 multiplayer beta, but it was actually an incredible Trojan horse that delivered one of the most surprising games of the 360 generation. Crackdown is basically Grand Theft Auto with superpowers, and as anyone who got hopelessly addicted to collecting its deviously hidden power-up orbs can attest, the game could more accurately have been titled Crack. —Aaron Morales
9. 'Bastion'/'Street Fighter IV'
Supermassive Games’ first title is deceptively deep. Despite a fairly light story saved by a smooth-voiced narrator whose script bends to how and when you act, Bastion’s array of upgradeable weapons and skills in a beautiful world that comes to life as you explore it delivered not just a surprisingly engrossing experience, but a memorable one. Every time Bastion releases on a new platform, I buy it again, even just to take those first initial steps, to imagine that narrator giving verve to my real life, to hear the beautiful melodies of its soundtrack — Bastion made an imprint that’s been difficult to shake in the years since. —Jonathon Dornbush
Street Fighter IV (2009)
Although Street Fighter III eventually become a darling in the competitive arena, it was somewhat of a flop when it hit arcades in 1997. The fighting game genre lay largely dormant with mainstream gamers for nearly a decade until Capcom revived the franchise by going back to basics. SFIV returned to SFII’s 12 original World Warriors but updated them in vibrant, gorgeous 3D, recapturing all the personality of the original. But most importantly, the mechanics were so expertly executed that it appealed to newcomers and veterans alike — and single-handedly launched a new era of fighting games. —Aaron Morales
8. 'Dead Space'/'Dead Space 2'
Dead Space (2008)
Dead Space’s sequel made some much needed combat and upgrade improvements to the original game, and definitely blends the franchise’s horror and action predilections best. But the original Dead Space kept my heart pumping for its entire run, transforming an eerie space station into a horror fun house that impelled me forward despite how on edge the experience left me. As someone who actively avoided horror games for years, the gruesome wasteland of the Ishimura piqued my interest and sucked me in for hours (and multiple playthroughs). Lights off, speakers turned way up, I gave into the terrors of Dead Space and couldn’t be more grateful for it. —Jonathon Dornbush
Dead Space 2 (2011)
Dead Space is Alien, and Dead Space 2 is Aliens. Both are great, but I’ve always preferred James Cameron’s more bombastic take on space horror. After barely surviving the Necromorph outbreak in the first game, the game starts with hapless engineer Isaac Clarke in a straitjacket being tormented by his dead girlfriend. And it only gets more twisted from there, culminating in a minigame where you get to slowly, deliberately guide a needle into your own eyeball. In Dead Space, everyone can hear you scream. —Aaron Morales
7. 'Guitar Hero II'/'Tomb Raider'
Guitar Hero II (2007)
Guitar Hero II is an absolute personal choice. Purchased with my original Xbox 360, the virtual rock star experience became one of the defining experiences for my time with the console. Harmonix delivered an impeccable setlist with rock anthems and lesser known tracks just as fascinating to discover and play as “Free Bird” or “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Sure, it’s not as fully featured as its successors and the sheer number of covers is a relic of the game’s time, but Guitar Hero II opened me up not just to a genre but an entire platform that I would lose hundreds of hours in for years to come. —Jonathon Dornbush
Tomb Raider (2013)
In Crystal Dynamics’ reboot of the venerable franchise, a survivor was born — and a star was reborn. Shipwrecked on a mysterious island, a young, inexperienced Lara is forced to fight for her life and save her friends. Taking the cinematic set-pieces of the Uncharted franchise and combining with a Metroidvania progression system, Tomb Raider astounded with action-packed combat and quieter (though not enough) tomb raiding moments. Lara Croft was back and better than ever. —Aaron Morales
6. 'Shadow Complex'/'Gears of War 2'
Shadow Complex (2009)
The long lineage of Metroid and Castlevania spiritual descendants is massive enough to have been given its own genre term (Metroidvania), but few were as fun to play on the Xbox 360 as Shadow Complex. From the makers of the incredibly successful Infinity Blade mobile games (and an upcoming title with J.J. Abrams), Shadow Complex‘s simple setup opened the door to a massive underground facility that was as rewarding as the player made it. New items gained along the way allowed access to new routes, but the game often let players’ curiosity determine how long the game played out. The imaginative weapons (a foam gun has never been more useful), intriguing nooks and crannies, and layered secrets made Shadow Complex one of the most memorable (and replayable) adventures on the 360. —Jonathon Dornbush
Gears of War 2 (2008)
Gears of War showed off what kind of graphics the Xbox 360 was capable of, but it was the sequel that really showed off Epic Games’ chops. Lead developer Cliff Bleszinski promised that Gears 2 would be “bigger, better, and more badass,” and the team delivered. Gears introduced the Lancer, an assault rifle with a chainsaw bayonet that let you cut foes in half, which is pretty much every 13-year-old’s definition of awesome. But Gears 2 added chainsaw duels, where chainsaws would collide in a swirl of smoke and diesel until one person lay in pieces. Most revolutionary was the co-operative Horde mode, where teams of five fought off waves of increasingly difficult Locusts, making the game almost endlessly replayable. —Aaron Morales
5. 'Rayman Legends'/'Halo 3'
Rayman Legends (2013)
The platforming crown remains firmly atop Super Mario’s head, but if anyone’s given the plumber a run for the throne in the last few years, it’s been Ubisoft’s limbless wonder. Rayman Origins returned the character to his 2D roots, but Rayman Legends exceeded the high benchmark set by its predecessor — and not just because it has Origins levels. Legends‘ sheer amount of content is a marvel of the platforming space, sure, but the delightful sense of humor brought forth by the wacky level design paired brilliantly with the challenging yet engaging dozens of levels the game offered. The best distillation of the game’s ingenuity is in its musical levels, because there’s nothing quite like outrunning flames while a “Black Betty” cover not only plays as you run, but teaches you how and when to move. —Jonathon Dornbush
Halo 3 (2007)
The jump to the Xbox 360’s more powerful hardware brought an even larger scale to the flagship franchise’s already immense playgrounds. And with a campaign that supported up to four-players cooperatively and a host of new vehicles and weapons (hello, Spartan laser!), it was at the time the biggest Halo ever. In addition to the robust multiplayer suite, Halo 3 introduced Forge mode, a map editor that let players modify levels and create their own game types to share with others over Xbox Live. —Aaron Morales
4. 'Portal 2'/'Portal'
Portal 2 (2011)
Portal Portal 2 didn’t just prove a sequel could be accomplished — it made the idea seem necessary. Valve found brilliant ways to maintain the clever discovery of the original over double or even triple its length with just as hilarious writing carrying the player along its story. New characters like Wheatley (Stephen Merchant) fit in alongside Glad0s with ease, and the twists introduced to the main portal idea consistently delivered initial puzzlement, unintended frustration, and eventual joy. —Jonathon Dornbush
The original video game meme generator, Valve’s Portal brought us the Weighted Companion Cube, “the cake is a lie,” a homicidal but sassy AI called GLaDOS, and a catchy theme song in Jonathan Coulton’s “Still Alive.” Oh, and it was also a perfectly paced puzzle-platformer with the most innovative weapon since Half Life 2’s gravity gun. —Aaron Morales
3. 'Batman: Arkham Asylum'/'Batman: Arkham City'
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)
Batman Arkham Asylum feels like a complete whole, the limits of its scope enhancing the joy of mining Arkham Island for every secret beneath its exterior. Yes, it falls apart in the end with a lame boss fight final act, but it doesn’t take away the tremendous villain work and world-building that precedes it. Arkham gradually opens up to players as new Bat-tools are discovered, creating a gradually unfurling puzzle box that the Riddler would be proud of. While the later entries lose some of the joy to simply having too much, Asylum’s narrower focus set the stage for a tremendous franchise, and one that helped propel superheroes out of the lame movie tie-in genre they’d been pigeonholed into for years. —Jonathon Dornbush
Batman: Arkham City (2011)
There’s no denying that Arkham Asylum is well designed and tightly paced, but in opening up Gotham beyond the asylum, Arkham City really let Batman fly. The larger open world lets you glide silently from rooftop to rooftop, contemplating the gritty city below. Arkham City is a virtual playground teeming with thugs, sidequests and super villains to pursue at your leisure. Do you use detective vision to track down the myriad Riddler trophies? Or swoop down from the shadows to rhythmically beat down thugs? Or battle the Joker to the death? Yes! —Aaron Morales
2. 'Rock Band'/'Geometry Wars'
Rock Band (2007)
There isn’t another experience like Rock Band out there, and even when Guitar Hero went full band, I always preferred Harmonix’s musical tastes and charting to that of Activision’s many studios. Think back to playing Rock Band as a full band for the first time — four friends playing in sync to their favorite rock tracks, achieving rockstar dreams in the comfort of their own living rooms. Stacked with a solid and accessible track list and years of extra songs, Rock Band was, and continues to be, a staple of my gaming rotation. —Jonathon Dornbush
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (2005)
The 360 launched with a variety of big-budget shooters and racing games, but the best was a little downloadable game called Geometry Wars. With eye-popping graphics and a driving techno beat, the futuristic-looking, retro-playing twin-stick shooter was an endlessly replayable, addictive treat that legitimized Xbox Live Arcade and gave early adopters something to keep their fingers busy while waiting on the second wave of games. —Aaron Morales
Yes, there’s the story twist that has become as iconic as BioShock itself. But there were few experiences on the last generation of consoles that swept me up in its story and world as fully as BioShock did. I hadn’t heard of BioShock a week before its release, but one demo later, experiencing the first half-hour or so of the game, and I had to have more. And the rest of the game didn’t disappoint, the creepy underwater halls of Rapture fascinating me at every turn, the plasmids a joy to experiment with in combat, and the looming threat of Big Daddies a frightening but enticing obstacle to overcome. BioShock also suffers from a disappointing final battle, but every other aspect of Irrational Games’ journey beyond the sea stands not just as my favorite of the Xbox 360, but one of my favorite games of all time. —Jonathon Dornbush
Would you kindly consider this the greatest game on the Xbox 360? Yep. —Aaron Morales