The original Xbox from Microsoft was a super powerhouse back in the day featuring off-the-shelf parts and basically was just a PC turned into a home console. It didn’t receive backing from Japanese developers thus hurting the sales. It had some great exclusives, but nothing compared to what Sony and Nintendo had. This was the best system to get any multiplatform games on as they ran the best here and looked the best. This is my go-to system for that exact reason. With the built-in hard drive, you won’t run out of saving space either. There are going to be a lot of games here as it’s a great system to drop $500 and get a ton of games out of your money. You will mostly see PC ports and fewer JRPGs and platformers. You won’t see any survival horrors or most of the few Japanese-developed games as they command high prices.
The Xbox is fairly cheap to collect for, but prices have slowly gone up over time. Games you could get for less than $1 five years ago are now almost $20. Once people realize a console is cheap to collect for they jump on it causes prices to soar. The Xbox isn’t as popular because it doesn’t have a bunch of obscure Japanese games, survival horror titles, or many exclusives. It does have 7.1 surround sound support with the official Xbox HDAV cables so that’s a thing. It also renders most games in 480p or 720p with a few in 1080i even. It’s a system that holds up well today and I highly recommend it. What I have here are games you can get complete in a box for under $20 and once again, these are all in my own personal collection.
007: Nightfire – Savage Entertainment/EA – 2002
Nightfire is one of the only good Bond games. It feels similar to GoldenEye, but with improved controls and better level design. There are 12 levels and overall the game just feels good to play and is a blast if you’re a Bond fan or a fan of GoldenEye.
007: From Russia with Love – EA Redwood Shores/EA – 2005
This was the last good Bond game. This game featured Sean Connery reprising his role so that makes this game that much better. It has its flaws, but it’s a third-person shooter just like Everything or Nothing. You can tell a lot of care went into the game, and it was heavily covered in gaming magazines back in the day. I remember following it extensively.
Advent Rising – GlyphX Games/Majesco Entertainment – 2005
Boy was this game a flop! In all honesty, it was a huge world that was built out of the mind of one curious sci-fi lover. This was supposed to be a trilogy with a TV series even, but all we got were comics. It’s not an amazing game, but it’s worth playing for the low price of entry. Does anyone remember the million-dollar sweepstakes that were never able to get paid out? This game had a lot of controversy surrounding it.
Area-51 – Midway – 2005
This was a game I bought on PS2 the day it was released. I loved this game to death as a teen. It has David Duchovny and Marilyn Manson! I just loved the atmosphere here. Sure, it’s not the best shooter on Xbox, but it feels great, and encountering the aliens was awesome. I completed the game 100% and played online a lot as a teen. It looks and plays better on Xbox so this is the superior version. It was released late in the system’s life but thankfully got a lot of attention.
Armed and Dangerous – Planet Moon Studios/LucasArts – 2003
This is a very underrated game and no one talks about it. It’s super funny as is made by the guys who did Giants: Citizen Kabuto. You get a shark gun that shoots sharks at enemies. Is that enough to entice you? It plays pretty well too. Well worth the low price of entry.
Black – Criterion Software/EA – 2006
This game came out after the Xbox 360 launched, and it was touted as gun porn. Yep. The main menu just has falling bullets and spinning guns. It was made by the guys who did Burnout and was released shortly after Burnout Dominator. It was mindless shooting and was one of the best-looking games of that generation. It even played and looked decent on PS2, but Xbox was where it’s at. You can even play the game in 4K on Xbox One X if you want. It’s a fantastic shooter that’s all about the shooting. The plot is pretty lame.
Blinx: Time Sweeper – Artoon Co./Microsoft Game Studios – 2002
An early title for the system, Blinx was made by the guys who you may know by Mutant Mudds fame. They also now own the Dementium license for Nintendo DS. Blinx was the first crack at a cartoon-like mascot, but the game is not as widely known as Jak & Daxter or Ratchet & Clank. In fact, most people have never heard of Blinx. There was a sequel but it commands a much higher price because it’s a better game. This is a collect-a-thon with timed missions. It’s fun and looks good for an early title.
BloodRayne – Terminal Reality/Majesco Sales – 2002
An early game for the system, BloodRayne has held up mostly well and made a huge splash with her sex appeal. Majesco went hard on the ads and I remember gawking at Rayne in game magazines. It’s gory, sexy, and full of vampire stuff. The sequel is better, but both games can be pretty tough.
BloodRayne 2 – Terminal Reality/Majesco Sales – 2004
The sequel is much better, has more moves, improved combat, and just overall plays better. It’s a bit harder than the first, but it’s a classic in my eyes. I played this years ago shortly after I got an Xbox 360 and loved it a lot. If you like vampires you will like this. It’s probably one of the best vampire games ever made.
Breakdown – Namco – 2004
This one is weird. It’s a person shooter, but with melee combat, and just plays weird. The story is somewhat interesting, but this feels more like an experiment than anything else. Don’t go into this expecting Dino Crisis or Resident Evil. It’s clunky, and hard as balls so play on easy on your first try.
Brute Force – Digital Anvil/Microsoft Game Studios – 2003
This is an Xbox exclusive. See what I mean? They’re weird, clunky, and who are they supposed to appeal to? Breakdown is an exclusive as well. This is a decent third-person shooter where you shoot humanoid dinos and swap between four characters. The multiplayer was more appealing when it was released.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – The Collective/EA – 2002
This was an early game for the system, and it almost looks like a PS1 game it’s pretty ugly. This is also really only appealing to Buffy fans so if you aren’t then skip this. It’s a bit clunky and can be really hard with cheap deaths, but it’s not half bad for an early game.
Burnout 3: Takedown – Criterion Software/EA – 2004
This was a huge part of my teen years. I played Burnout 3 to death on PS2 and was jealous of the Xbox for a faster framerate and the much-touted “sparks system”. Yes, the Xbox could do sparks in real-time. What a system seller! This is the best game in the series and holds up very well today. You will also get to experience the awful thing called EA Trax that lived throughout the mid-2000s. Awful licensed music that no one asked for.
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge – FASA Studio/Microsoft Game Studios – 2003
Another great Xbox exclusive, in fact, one of the best games on the system period. This is a great-looking and well-controlled arcade flight game. The objectives are allowed to be completed how you see fit in each level so they are open-ended. The game is just a blast to play and had a high player count on multiplayer back in the day.
Darkwatch – High Moon Studios/Capcom – 2005
A late release for the system, Darkwatch is a stylish vampire vs cowboys game and looks amazing. It also features Tala, a female vampire that was lewd over in-game magazines at the time and was a big selling point for the game. The weapons are fun, the action is quick and fast-paced, and you just can’t go wrong here. Sadly there was no sequel and it’s fairly short. Later the studio went on to create the amazing Transformers: War for Cybertron.
Dead or Alive 3 – Team Ninja/Tecmo – 2001
This was a launch title for the system and looked amazing. Tecmo was one of the few Japanese studios on board releasing Xbox exclusives and PS2 owners were mad. The framerate was smooth, the game looked good, and the game evolved fairly nicely. It was incredibly popular when it came out and helped sell many systems.
Dead or Alive: Ultimate – Team Ninja/Tecmo – 2004
This was a great compilation of DoA 1 and 2. The Saturn version of DoA 1 was included here, and a remake of the second game with more costumes and content. DoA 1 is more of a research piece as it’s pretty basic and boring, but DoA 2 is a great fighter all on its own and this is the best version of it.
Destroy All Humans! 2 – Pandemic Studios/THQ – 2006
This was released late in the system’s life but was a huge improvement over the first game. Sure, you can play the remaster today, but this one is cheaper and still holds up well today. You play as Crypto 137 is a great character and there’s tons of humor and 50’s stuff jammed into this game. Side quests have fleshed out stories and you can start cults to convince humans to worship aliens. It’s a lot of fun. Sadly, this was one of the last great developers, Pandemic Studios, games before shutting down.
Doom 3 – id Software/Activision – 2005
A late release for the system, and not as good as the PC version, this was an impressive feat at the time and was a huge blockbuster sell. The game featured the entire PC version plus awesome multiplayer. It didn’t look as good as the PC, but it pushed the system to its limits. You can also get the collector’s edition dirt cheap which has a behind-the-scenes DVD and a steel book case. Well worth it honestly.
Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil – Nerve Software/Activision – 2005
Released just a few months later was the full expansion for only $20! So clearly, you can get it for less than that now. It’s only a few hours long but is still a blast and you get to explore hell more and less Mars. It’s basically the same game, but the difficulty is much higher.
Dr. Muto – Midway – 2002
An early title for the system, Dr. Muto was a weird character and didn’t quite catch on. It’s a fun collect-a-thon style game with a lot of humor and lighthearted platforming. It’s not perfect and can feel cheap in spots, but if you want a fun platformer for the system then look no further.
Fable: The Lost Chapters – Big Blue Box Studios/Microsoft Game Studios – 2005
This was a re-release of the original game with more content and was the definitive version. Of course, you can play the Xbox 360 remaster, but if you don’t have a 360 then this is just fine. This was one of the most popular Xbox games and one of the few exclusives that carried on. The game has simple combat, but the story, atmosphere, voice acting, and choices are what really matter in this game. It’s one of the best games of the generation and holds up well today.
Forza Motorsport – Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft Game Studios – 2005
While releasing late in the system’s life, this was the Gran Turismo killer. It went head to head with Gran Turismo 4 that released the previous year and blew everyone away with superior visuals, tighter direction, and fantastic visuals. It almost looked next-gen. Gran Turismo 4′s quality was all over the place and the physics were a little weird. This is probably one of the best racing games of the generation.
Freedom Fighters – IO Interactive/EA – 2003
This was a huge hit back in the day. It played and looked best on Xbox, but the PS2 version is fine. This was made by the Hitman guys and was touted for its tactical third-person shooter gameplay and bombastic levels. It’s a little clunky and hard as balls, but a lot of fun.
Galleon – Confounding Factor/Atlus – 2004
This is made by the guys from Tomb Raider so it plays similarly. While not a looker, it has puzzle platforming elements and you use two characters similar to ICO. It’s pirate-themed too so there’s that. The game uses precise pressure from the analog stick for controlling Rhama who is the more interesting of the two to control. It’s weird, but fun.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2 – Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft – 2004
This is the best Ghost Recon game besides Advanced Warfighter. This game holds up shockingly well to even by today’s standards, but it’s only good on Xbox. The PS2 version is some weird deformed bastard child as were all Ghost Recon games on that system. This game is an absolute blast as it was still made by Red Storm who also did the Rainbow Six games. It’s a must-have for the system and an instant classic.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike – Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft – 2005
Released a year later, this is an expansion, yeah, and EXPANSION, to Ghost Recon 2 that is even better if you can imagine. This was only released on Xbox so no deformed version on PS2 thankfully. It’s an Xbox staple and should be in every collection if you love tactical shooters.
Gladius – LucasArts – 2003
Yep, it’s not what you think. This is a turned-based strategy game from LucasArts of all places. No hack and slash and gore here. It’s rather deep and fun and has a pretty good story too. The slower pace and involved tactics might turn some away, so only bother if you like TBS games.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies – Rare Limited/Microsoft Game Studios – 2003
This is one of the last good Rare games before they made what they make today. This is a stylish and fun action game and perfect for Halloween! It’s full of cheap deaths, but it’s classic Rare gameplay here. Each room has a set of rules that must be followed or the grim reaper will appear. It’s a fun and different game and should be owned by every Xbox owner.
Gun – Neversoft Entertainment/Activision – 2005
A late release for the system, Gun was one of Neversoft’s last games. These are the guys who made Tony Hawk. This is an open-world Western before Red Dead Redemption came around five years later. It’s similar to that game, so if you liked Red Dead you will enjoy this. It holds up surprisingly well today and is a lot of fun. There’s a slightly better Xbox 360 version as well.
Half-Life 2 – Valve Corporation/EA – 2005
This was a huge deal when it was released. A full-fledged PC game with advanced tech being smushed onto the aging Xbox. While HL2 was released the year prior it required a beefy PC to run. The entire campaign is here and runs at a good framerate despite the downgraded visuals and aliasing. If you don’t play PC games you should check this out or get the better Xbox 360 version in The Orange Box.
Halo 2 – Bungie Studios/Microsoft Game Studios – 2004
Now, this may seem pointless today, but Halo 2 is impressive on the system and obviously the most iconic game in video game history and literally sold the system almost single-handedly. Now, you can play the upgraded version in The Master Chief Collection for PC and Xbox One, but why not experience the original? It’s one of the cheapest games on the system and still has couch multiplayer. I still remember Peter Moore showing off his tattoo of the release date during E3 2004. Boy did I want one! I also remember about a dozen celebrities got a special Xbox made of silver or something in a briefcase with a copy of Halo 2. I believe Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park was one of those if I can recall.
Halo: Combat Evolved – Bungie Studios/Microsoft Game Studios – 2001
The famous launch title for the system and the only real reason to get an Xbox back then. Sure, the remastered version on Xbox 360 or even Xbox One is much better on the eyes, but it’s Halo! You have to experience it on the original system at least once. Okay maybe you don’t, but it’s dirt cheap.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Eurocom Developments/EA – 2002
Yeah, it’s Harry Potter, so what? The earlier games were actually good and no complete movie tie-in cash grabs like the later games. This is a fun and well-made platforming adventure game whether you like Harry Potter or not. Yes, the craze is long over, but this was right at the beginning of Harry Potter Mania!
Hunter: The Reckoning – High Voltage Software/Interplay – 2002
This is a twin-stick shooter with vampires! It has over twenty levels and weapons and you can play as three different people. Well, it’s more like Gauntlet than anything, but it’s a lot of fun despite not having an interesting story or characters. If you liked Gauntlet you will like this.
Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb – The Collective/LucasArts – 2003
This is one of the few good Indiana Jones games that isn’t LEGOs or a point-and-click adventure. It’s a third-person action game with loads of weapons and a decent plot. It’s actually one of the better third-person action games of the generation but was easily overlooked. It’s not voiced by Harrison Ford, but the replacement does a good job.
Indigo Prophecy – Quantic Dream/Atari – 2005
A late system release and ugly as sin, but this is David Cage’s first game that would carry the same mini-game esque gameplay. You probably played other games from Quantic such as Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls, or Detroit: Become Human. This is where it all started. It has an interesting story and is mostly quick-time events rather than gameplay. It was really different back then and nothing else was quite like it. It was re-released on later consoles, but you can only polish poo so much.
Jade Empire: Special Edition – BioWare/Microsoft Game Studios – 2005
This was when BioWare was really cooking on Xbox. After the last two Star Wars games, they pushed out Jade Empire which was a martial arts-based action game with story choices. It looked amazing, and the special edition has a new character so this is the version to go for. It’s enhanced on the Xbox One X so there’s also that to look into. This is a fantastic action RPG and one of the best of the generation. It helped define the Xbox a console that could have great exclusives that weren’t shooters.
kill.switch – Namco – 2003
This game was a sleeper hit back in the day. It actually even inspired Cliffy B.’s cover system for Gears of War. There wasn’t anything really like it back in the day. It’s really repetitive and has a dumb story, but the gameplay is sharp and fun and even has a unique Gameboy Advance port that’s excellent. Too bad there wasn’t a sequel as this is quite entertaining.
Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders – Phantagram Co/Microsoft Game Studios – 2004
This game was weird for a console and why it didn’t do well. It’s an RTS. There is some hack and slash elements in which you control your commander on the field, but you also manage your troops, move them around, and strategize on what to do. It’s a fun game and some of the best RTS done on a system back in the day. Only try this out if you like that genre though.
Legacy of Kain: Defiance – Crystal Dynamics/Eidos – 2003
The Kain series is beloved by anyone who liked these games back then. The series just stopped after this game and never continued. The only reboot got shelved a while back. Defiance has you play as Raziel and Kain who have different abilities. The game has a lot of puzzle-solving, backtracking, and combat like in previous games. It’s pretty decent, but the entire series has a clunkiness to it that never got ironed out. This is made by the Tomb Raider guys and features the voice of Tony Jay!
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – EA Redwood Shores/EA – 2003
The Lord of the Rings series from EA was a huge part of my childhood. I loved the movies and the games were so awesome. They had great combat, recreated the movie scenes so well, featured all of the actors, and had a good amount of unlockable content. These games are an absolute blast and are some of the best movie license games ever made. Peter Jackson may not have liked them but I sure did.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Stormfront Studios/EA – 2002
Same as the above. While it doesn’t feel as polished and looks a little more dated it’s still fantastic and captures all the great bombastic moments of the movie. Both games are well worth a play-through if you are a fan of the movies. The Gameboy Advance ports are also top-down Diablo-style dungeon crawlers and are also worth a play.
Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter – Warthog Games/Black Label Games – 2003
While not a fantastic FPS, it’s still mindless fun and you just get to mow down everything that moves. Don’t worry about the story or characters and just jump in for the gameplay. Things get mixed up a bit when you get to pilot ships and do dog fights.
Max Payne – Remedy Entertainment/Rockstar Games – 2001
Released shortly after launch and was one of the first major hits for this generation Max Payne is an instant classic. You may know Remedy’s other work from Alan Wake and Control, but this is where it all started and played best on Xbox over PS2. The bullet time gameplay was copied for years, and the iconic comic book cut scenes and Max’s weird grim, and that weird level with the baby crying and you run on a trail of blood in slow motion. It feels dated but still plays well.
MechAssasult 2: Lone Wolf – Day:1:Studios/Microsoft Game Studios – 2004
This was a game that helped define the system. It is a fantastic mech game that holds up even today. With bombastic levels and great controlling mechs, you can now control other mechs and vehicles too. The game is a blast and one of the best on the system. The limited-edition is also dirt cheap and includes some extra stuff. The developers would later go on to make the F.E.A.R. series.
Medal of Honor: European Assault – EA Los Angeles/EA – 2005
Releasing as the last Medal of Honor on consoles, European Assault was the better of the three that were released that generation. It had better visuals, better-designed levels, and was overall just more interesting. You can command a three-man squad and you now get secondary objectives. It’s a great WWII shooter but sadly was released during the steep decline of the genre.
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction – Pandemic Studios/LucasArts – 2005
A late console release, Mercenaries took the world by storm. I remember being so excited for this game and realizing it played like crap on PS2. Pandemic were masters at their craft and created some amazing games for this generation. Mercenaries had destructible environments which were mostly unheard of back then with tons of different gameplay. You were to take out 52 terrorist leaders based on a playing card system. You could also do it however you wanted. Tank, Jeep, helicopter, moving everyone down with a mini-gun. The choice was yours.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System – Swingin’ Ape Studios/Vivendi Universal – 2003
The only game this studio ever made, Metal Arms didn’t sell well but is now a cult classic. You play as a robot with guns! This is just a fun and well-designed third-person shooter with some vehicle sections thrown in. It doesn’t have an amazing story but just comes for the action. This played and looked best on Xbox.
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix – Rockstar San Diego/Rockstar Games – 2006
A very late release, Midnight Club 3 was one of the best arcade racers of this generation. It featured an awesome hip-hop soundtrack and tons of licensed vehicles. The Remix version adds 24 new cars and more content so it’s the best version to pick up. The game is open world and just feels great. It was good enough to stand out over Burnout and Need for Speed.
Midtown Madness 3 – Digital Illusions CE/Microsoft Game Studios – 2003
Originally a PC-only arcade racing game, Madness 3 has players drive thirty licensed vehicles around two cities doing things from delivering pizzas to robbing banks. The game feels a bit dated, but still plays well and is a zany and fun arcade racer that you won’t get anywhere else.
Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance – Midway – 2002
I remember getting this game for my 13th birthday. I also got a shirt with it! I also discovered the band Adema, which is amazing, and helped drive my love for rock music further. The game feels dated compared to later games in the series, and each character only has one fatality, but Test-Your-Mights are back and the Krypt that was introduced is now a staple in the series. It’s still a fun fighting game.
Mortal Kombat: Deception – Midway – 2004
A huge step up over Deadly Alliance in every way. More characters, new Hara-Kiri suicide fatalities which have never been in any other game since, and each character now has two fatalities and some of these are the best in the entire series. There’s a new adventure Krypt mode which is boring and ugly as sin, but you need to complete it to unlock stuff in the Krypt as half the roster is locked away. The new Chess Kombat is a blast and the Puzzle Kombat mode is a rip-off of Super Puzzle Fighter but does it right. This was the first game I ever pre-ordered, the Premium Pack for PS2 actually, and I played countless hours online. The PSP version is also really good and there are a few different Kollector’s Editions that have an arcade-perfect port of the first game that commands a high price.
MotoGP 3 – Climax Racing/THQ – 2005
This is one of the best racing games on the system. The Xbox had the best racing games thanks to the powerful hardware and MotoGP 3 was fantastic. It had a smooth framerate, great sense of speed, and amazing handling. It’s a surprise it didn’t do better. If you love motorbikes or just good racing games this is a must-have.
NBA Street V3 – EA Canada/EA – 2005
I played Vol. 2 to death when I was a teen on PS2. It was one of and still is, the best basketball games of all time. It’s not a sim, but the stylish gameplay was so addictive and the controls were amazing. Pulling to huge slam dunks and powerful moves was so satisfying and this carried over in V3. The courts are well designed and there are plenty of game modes. This series needs to come back. I actually bought my copy of V3 during the closing liquidation of Circuit City in 2008 and that memory will always be with me. You can’t take it away.
Need for Speed: Underground 2 – EA Black Box/EA – 2004
Underground 2 is still considered by many the best NFS game made to date. Some people stopped playing after this game and won’t play any others. There’s a reason for that. Underground 2 was when open-world racing games were new and this game perfected it. It just felt right, the physics, handling, the looks, and had tons of events to do and the customization was so much fun. There was just perfect magic of things that came together to make this game. It’s way better than the first so just jump right into the sequel. If you haven’t noticed the mid-2000s was the last of the “good EA” before we know them now.
Outlaw Volleyball – Hypnotix/Simon & Schuster Interactive – 2003
This is a series of sports games appealing towards the “manly man” with a lot of sex and potty humor and half-naked women. This game wouldn’t fly today, but it’s still a solid sports game and can be pretty funny at times. Take it with a grain of salt and go in not expecting anything serious.
Pac-Man World 2 – Namco – 2002
An early game for the system, the first game was pretty good on PS1 and the sequel here is just lighthearted and fun. It’s the only Pac-Man spin-off that didn’t force traditional Pac-Man gameplay here. It’s a platformer adventure with great visuals and fun levels. Don’t let the bad reputation of other spin-offs ruin your fun here.
Pariah – Digital Extremes Toronto/Groove Games – 2005
Dubbed to be the next best thing since Halo was released too little too late. Halo 2 had been out for a year already and if you were an original shooter exclusively on the Xbox and you weren’t Halo you were going to have a bad time. The game flopped hard and barely sold any copies. It’s one of the cheapest games on the system, but it’s still worth playing. It looks really good and doesn’t have an interesting story, but one play-through is enough as there aren’t many original FPS games on this system.
Phantom Dust – Microsoft Game Studios Japan/Majesco Sales – 2004
This was a sleeper hit for the system and rocked the Xbox world. There was a sequel in the works for Xbox One and it was canceled, however, an HD version of the game exists if you have an Xbox One or PC. This was an action-strategy card game and had over 100 quests. It’s unique for the system and a must-have. However, if you don’t like card strategy games then this game isn’t for you.
Prince of Persia: Two Thrones – Ubisoft – 2005
A late console release, Two Thrones was the final in the Prince of Persia trilogy reboot. This is the best in the series and went back to the more lighthearted fantasy-style graphics. I personally love Warrior Within’s dark approach and Godsmack’s guitar riffs in that game rock but to each their own. This game is polished and holds up well today.
Project Gotham Racing 2 – Bizarre Creations/Microsoft Game Studios – 2003
PGR is Microsoft’s lesser-known racing child and was sadly dropped over Forza. PGR was less sim and more arcade in the early days and featured a kudos system that rewarded players for their driving style and still had licensed cars. PGR 2 is one the best racing games of the generation and shows more and more that Xbox was the console for great racers.
Project Snowblind – Crystal Dynamics/Eidos – 2005
This was a sleeper hit back in the day and I picked this up when it hit $20 on PS2. It looks and runs best on Xbox, but this is a fairly entertaining FPS of the time and one of the best of the generation. This is made by the Tomb Raider dudes and was actually supposed to be a Deus Ex game. It looks good and has a decent story, although forgettable. It had a lot of fun multiplayer back in the day as well.
RalliSport Challenge 2 – Digital Illusions CE/Microsoft Game Studios – 2004
Microsoft had a LOT of racing games under their belt and sadly, RalliSport didn’t do as well as other games, even Colin McRae. This game has some great physics and is a little more arcade-like compared to Colin McRae. It looks great as well and is worth a pick-up if you love racing games.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War – Gray Matter Interactive Studios/Activision – 2003
Return to Castle Wolfenstein was one the biggest FPS releases on PC at the time and the Xbox version had new content and a fully playable copy of Wolfenstein 3D. It was one the most played multiplayer games on the system, remains one of the best FPS games on Xbox. Let’s just completely forget about the PS2 version. That was poo and sadly I was stuck with that one.
Robotech: Battlecry – Vicious Cycle Software/TDK Mediactive – 2002
An early game for the system, Robotech tells the entire Macross storyline, so we get a rare Japanese mech game on the system and it’s damn good. You can switch between modes and progress through the entertaining story. It’s a shame it didn’t get much coverage despite being a pretty good mech game.
SSX 3 – EA Canada/EA – 2003
This is easily one of the best extreme sports games ever made. The Xbox version looked and played the best and was just an absolute blast. The big jumps, crazy tricks, and overall content were just a ton of fun for a series that was constantly getting better. The sequel is still fun, but not as good as this one. If you love snowboarding or the Tony Hawk games you should pick this up.
Scaler – Artificial Mind & Movement/Global Star Software – 2004
Uh, this isn’t a Spyro clone. It’s an action platformer like Spyro but with a weirder dragon. The game didn’t get any attention or sales despite its charm and surprisingly solid gameplay. I’m also surprised this game doesn’t sell for more than it does, but that may change at some point. It’s a hidden gem for sure because I never heard of it back in the day. If you like collecting eggs and bashing cartoon baddies then give this a go. It’s probably the closest to Jak & Daxter you will get on Xbox.
Second Sight – Free Radical Design/Codemasters – 2004
Made by the TimeSplitters folks, Second Sight is an original game where you play a man who has psychic powers and utilizes weapons and stealth. It has an entertaining story and some excellent gameplay mechanics. It wasn’t a huge hit because it’s hard to tell what the game is by description only. It plays and looks best on Xbox.
SoulCalibur II – Project Soul/Namco – 2003
This is by far one of the best fighters of the generation and on this system. Each system got its own exclusive character with Xbox getting Spawn…for some reason? It looks fantastic and plays amazingly well and sadly the sequel became a PS2 exclusive due to poor sales on other platforms. If you have a fight stick this is a great choice.
Spartan: Total Warrior –Creative Assembly/Sega – 2005
A late-game for the system, and it was a big deal as it was made by a strict RTS developer who made the Total War series on PC. This was their first dip into the action scene on consoles and it has flaws, but it’s still a lot of fun. The character moves fast and there’s tons of sword and sandal hacking and slashing. Don’t expect a complex story or anything here either. There are lots of upgrades though.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Ubisoft – 2002
This was an early game for the system and one of the first massive hits. Splinter Cell took the world by storm and revolutionized the stealth action genre. The game looked amazing on Xbox and not too hot on PS2 which was the version I got stuck with. It holds up very well today but requires a lot of patience. Michael Ironside as Sam Fisher is one of the most iconic characters of all time. He’s great to hear on screen. Each version has something exclusive for it. Xbox has DLC, PS2 had a new intro, and GameCube let you use the GBA as a map. This sort of thing carried on through the trilogy.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow – Ubisoft – 2004
Pandora Tomorrow was a massively popular sequel and was a huge hit online. It was bigger, better, improved graphics, controls, new gadgets, and an advanced story. This was a fantastic sequel and the Xbox version is still the best here.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – Ubisoft – 2005
Sending the Xbox out with a bang Chaos Theory is the best in the trilogy. It looks insanely good, almost too good, and was set in Japan with a more open-ended level design. The other versions look good too with Ubisoft sucking every ounce of power out of each system and even creating tricks to get certain effects to run on the PS2. Each game is good in its own way and you can pick up the entire trilogy for around $30. It’s a no-brainer and one of the best action games of this generation that actually holds up really well.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords – Obsidian Entertainment/LucasArts – 2004
Hot off the heels of the first smash hit, KOTOR 2 is much improved visually and gameplay-wise. This is considered one of the best Star Wars games ever made and for good reason. These are the guys who later brought you Fallout: New Vegas and Divinity: Original Sin. These guys are masters at storytelling and RPG stuff. If you don’t like Star Wars there’s nothing here for you, but the original story that isn’t tied to a movie was pretty rare in this day and age and this is one of the best games of the entire generation.
Star Wars: Republic Commando – LucasArts – 2005
This was a sleeper hit back in the day but didn’t very well thus no sequel. It didn’t do Battlefront numbers sadly but has recently been re-released in HD. This is one of the best Star Wars games ever made and has some great tactical FPS gameplay. Again, if you aren’t a Star Wars fan you won’t really care for this, but it’s a solely unique game in the entire series and plays really well to this day.
Sudeki – Climax Solent/Microsoft Game Studios – 2004
Microsoft desperately needed a JRPG and this is as close as they got. The game was famous for the busty heroine and she was splattered all over game magazines and ads, but sadly it still didn’t sell enough. It’s a great RPG and has real-time combat. The story is entertaining and is plays well even today. It’s not incredibly long and can be finished in a weekend. It has great art and high production values.
Tao Feng: Fist of the Lotus – Studio Gigante/Microsoft Game Studios – 2003
Well, Microsoft needed a fighter other than Dead or Alive and this was it. Created by the co-creator of Mortal Kombat, John Tobias, you can see the inspiration here, however, the game does feel a little on the generic side I mean just look at that stupid box art. The characters don’t really stand out thus the low sales and no sequel. It’s still a fun fighter and has fun mechanics, there aren’t many fighters on the system so you might as well.
The Godfather: The Game – EA Redwood Shores/EA – 2006
Released after the Xbox 360, this was a downgrade from that version, The Godfather was released with a slew of 1930’s mafia games trying to be the next GTA. The Godfather was surprisingly good and retained the voices of some of the original actors such as James Caan, but Marlin Brando didn’t make it in due to his death around this time. The game has a damage system during shooting, an open world, carjacking, and scenarios played out from the movie. It’s fairly entertaining, but mostly for Godfather fans. It’s not GTA at all, but it’s just great to see this movie turned into a game.
Thief: Deadly Shadows – Ion Storm/Eidos – 2004
Thief was a huge hit on PC and when it came to Xbox it was a big deal. The game looked phenomenal on the system and was led by Deus Ex creator Warren Spector. The stealth action game requires a lot of patience as most levels are open-ended and it’s up to you on how you complete the objectives without getting caught.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 – Headgate Studios/EA – 2006
Released at the tail end of the Xbox life, this is probably the best golf game on the system and pushed the system fairly well. While the Xbox 360 version is superior this is still great nonetheless. The best thing about this game is the Tiger formula is perfected here and it plays very well.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x – Treyarch/Activision – 2001
This was a launch title for the Xbox and was the first two games “remade” with updated visuals and the Tony Hawk 2 moves could be down in the first game. It also included Treyarch exclusive levels. This is similar to what Vicarious did with the recent remake, and while that version is superior, this is still a great way to go for the first two games.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 – Neversoft Entertainment/Activision – 2002
This game was the reason why I started skating as a kid. I played all the games up until this point and it was the sole reason why I wanted a PS2. I played this at a neighbor’s house for months until I finally got my PS2. This is the best game in the entire series and nothing tops it. It’s crazy seeing the game looks better on Xbox and runs better too. It had a fantastic licensed soundtrack, perfect level design, fun cheats, and perfect controls. It didn’t get any better than this. Of course, you can pick up the other games for the same price, but this is the best one.
Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict – Epic Games/Midway – 2005
It’s crazy to think there was an exclusive Unreal game for Xbox. The ease of Xbox Live is what drew Epic towards the system. The PS2 did get Unreal Tournament but it wasn’t very popular and didn’t have online play. While the servers are long dead now couch multiplayer is still fun and there’s still a fun single-player campaign. The version featured characters and weapons exclusive to Xbox and looked good too.
Unreal II: The Awakening – Legend Entertainment Company/Atari – 2004
It’s crazy to think so many PC games got ported to the Xbox, but Unreal II is fun if the unremarkable shooter in the single-player Unreal series. There was never a third game, but this one is entertaining and looks pretty good on the system. If you’re short on FPS games on your Xbox give this a go.
Vexx – Acclaim – 2003
Vexx is an underappreciated action platformer. It features a cute little creature with ‘tude who comes into possession of a pair of gauntlets that grant him powers. You whack and jump your way around levels and enjoy the forgettable story.
Whiplash – Crystal Dynamics/Eidos – 2003
Another game from the Tomb Raider crew. Whiplash is a weird and funny cartoon platformer with interesting game mechanics. It didn’t sell well as people didn’t understand what the game was about, but it’s fun and you will get a few laughs from it. It reminds me a lot of Pinky and the Brain with the dup Redmond and Spanx.
WinBack 2: Project Poseidon – cavia inc./KOEI Corporation – 2006
This was a very late release for the system and I had no idea it ever came out at the time. This is the sequel to the excellent N64 cover shooter. It looks dated but it’s still fun like the N64 game. It’s got a stupid story, but the action is where it’s at.
Yager – Yager Development/Kemco – 2004
Yager is an interesting aerial combat game that looks very good for the system. It comes off as rather generic, but the gameplay is really good and there’s some fun to be had here if you like flight combat games.