The original Xbox was a console ahead of its time, boasting some hefty specs and features that set it apart from its contemporaries. With an Intel Pentium III processor and an Nvidia graphics card, the Xbox wascapable of delivering impressive graphics and gameplay experiences.
Additionally, the console came with a built-in hard drive and the ability to connect to the internet, allowing for online gaming and downloadable content. Despite its impressive capabilities, the Xbox struggled to compete with the likes of the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube in terms of the game library.
Nevertheless, the console managed to produce some of the most iconic and memorable games in gaming history (it’s called Halo), including what many consider to be the best FPS on traditional game consoles (that’s Halo again).
Whether you’re a fan of first-person shooters, RPGs, or racing games, our list has something for everyone. Get ready for a trip down memory lane and relive the glory days of the Xbox with our top picks.
If you are looking to emulate some of these games, take a look at our guide to XBOX emulators over here.
1. Halo Combat Evolved
Halo: Combat Evolved as the number one ranked game on this list is no surprise. It is Microsoft’s Mario and for decades it is the game that hard carried the Xbox platform. Honestly, it is kind of insulting to have Halo as a mascot for the Xbox as its influence is far and beyond the Xbox console.
When the original Halo game was released in 2001, first-person shooters were primarily associated with PC gaming. The genre was dominated by games like Doom and Quake, which were optimized for mouse and keyboard controls. However, Halo successfully transitioned the FPS genre to traditional home consoles, making it a viable option for console gamers.
Developed by Bungie, the game takes place in a futuristic universe where humans have colonized space and conflict with an alien army known as The Covenant. The game’s protagonist is Master Chief, a Spartan supersoldier, who is awakened from cryogenic sleep by USNC Captain Keyes to escape with the ship’s AI system, Cortana, to a mysterious ring-shaped planet called Halo. The game’s objective is to uncover the truth about the planet while battling Covenant forces.
The original Xbox version of Halo is compatible with Xbox 360 consoles, and a remastered version called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was released for Xbox 360 in 2011. This version features a hybrid of the original game engine with enhanced visuals, and the multiplayer code from Halo: Reach. The game was included in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection, an Xbox One anthology of six classic games from the series. This version includes the single-player Anniversary release, but also modernizes the original multiplayer code, making the multiplayer portion of Halo now completely playable on Xbox Live.
Halo: Combat Evolved is a game that stands out from other first-person shooters of its time, with its clear storyline and environmental elements.
2. Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden originally released on March 2, 2004, for Microsoft’s Xbox console, was a game that set the bar for the stylish action subgenre. It was a game that faced stiff competition from established franchises like Capcom’s Devil May Cry and Onimusha, and even Sony’s God of War, which was released a year later. Despite this, it emerged as the winner, not just because of its incredible gameplay mechanics, but also because of its unique and innovative approach to level design and character development.
What made Ninja Gaiden such an incredible game was its focus on providing the player with a visceral and satisfying combat system. It was a game that made you feel like a true ninja, with all the agility and skill that comes with being one. The game’s protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa, was a master of the ninja arts, and players could feel his power and precision with every slash of his sword. The combat system was complex and technical, requiring players to master a variety of moves and techniques to succeed. But at the same time, it was also fluid and intuitive, allowing players to create their own combos and strategies on the fly.
One of the things that made Ninja Gaiden stand out was the intelligence of its enemies. In many other games in the genre, enemies exist as little more than combo fodder, designed to be dispatched in creative and stylish ways. But in Ninja Gaiden, enemies were much more defensive and focused on survival. They were intelligent, strategic, and challenging, forcing players to think carefully about their approach to combat. It was a game that demanded precision and skill and rewarded players willing to try to master its intricacies.
Another thing that set Ninja Gaiden apart from other games in the genre was its level design. The game’s levels were beautifully crafted, with intricate and challenging obstacles that required players to use all of their ninja skills to overcome. From acrobatic traversal to lock-and-key puzzles, the game was full of surprises and challenges that kept players engaged and invested.
It was a game that knew how to balance intense combat encounters with moments of quiet exploration, and it was this pacing that kept players coming back for more.
3. Jade Empire
BioWare, known for creating the Xbox’s critically acclaimed game Knights of the Old Republic, collaborated with Microsoft to make Jade Empire, a project that has been close to the game studio’s founders’ hearts for a long time. Though overshadowed by its predecessor’s release, Jade Empire is a unique RPG game set in a world that boasts an intricate storyline with twists, turns, and an abundance of fascinating Chinese mythology-inspired lore. Though the combat system and game length could have been better, these flaws do not diminish the overall quality of the game.
Players take on the role of a martial arts student chosen by Master Li, who has been groomed to become a superb warrior, tasked with bringing balance to the Jade Empire. The game features diverse side-quests and several ways to engage with NPCs, enabling players to explore and interact with the world. Additionally, the Open/Closed palm morality system offers multiple quest outcomes.
Jade Empire’s combat system is not as robust as its other features. However, it incorporates exciting martial arts-infused fighting styles that enable players to learn and equip up to three different techniques, such as wielding weapons and casting magic spells. The game is technically impressive, with beautiful graphics and sound, and superb voicing.
Despite being relatively short, the game’s replayability factor is high, with multiple outcomes for quests and various characters to choose from. Jade Empire is an unforgettable experience, with excellent world-building and deep characters, making it a must-play RPG.
4. Fable: The Lost Chapters
Once upon a time, in the world of video games, there was a game called Fable: The Lost Chapters. It was a game that promised to take you on a journey from a small lad to a battle-hardened veteran, allowing you to choose your path between good and evil. It was a game that promised deep and involving gameplay, big and bright landscapes filled with bustling characters, and an excellent leveling system that allowed you to build your character any way you like.
Many gamers were excited to play Fable: The Lost Chapters and lose themselves in its in-depth gameplay.
One of the most advanced features of Fable was its dynamic morality system. The player’s actions and decisions throughout the game affected their character’s alignment on the morality spectrum, allowing them to choose to become a virtuous hero or a malevolent villain. This created an immersive experience, as the world and characters reacted differently to the player depending on their alignment.
Another standout feature was Fable’s leveling system. Instead of being confined to specific character classes, players were given the freedom to develop their character’s abilities as they saw fit. The game also introduced the concept of physical appearance affecting gameplay, as the character’s attractiveness influenced how NPCs responded to them.
Fable was also notable for its open-world design. The player was free to explore the game’s vast and richly detailed environments, each with its unique flora and fauna. Along the way, they could interact with a diverse cast of characters, engage in side quests, and discover hidden secrets.
Fable’s combat system was another area where the game excelled. It offered a diverse array of weapons and spells, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses. The combat was fast-paced and engaging, with a focus on timing and strategy.
The game’s story was also a major highlight. It followed the protagonist’s journey from childhood to adulthood, as they faced challenges and made decisions that affected the fate of the world around them. Fable’s narrative was nonlinear, and the player’s choices had a significant impact on the outcome of the story.
Fable was a groundbreaking game that pushed the boundaries of what was possible in an RPG. Its dynamic morality system, leveling system, open-world design, combat mechanics, and engaging storyline set the standard for future games in the genre. Even today, nearly two decades after its release, Fable remains a beloved classic and a testament to the power of innovative game design.
5. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, developed by Starbreeze, is a rare exception to the poor reputation of movie tie-in games. Despite financial difficulties and the risk of cancellation, it became a hit on the Xbox. The game combines different gameplay elements and a faithful narrative that adds to the lore of the anti-hero. The prison-break setting and Riddick’s resourcefulness and straightforward personality make the gameplay compelling.
The game’s mechanics keep it engaging until the end, featuring three distinct styles, such as melee combat, shooting, and stealth. Butcher Bay’s mechanics make it a standout title that combines technical prowess, mechanically sound gameplay, and storytelling that is bolstered by its Hollywood source, rather than hindered by it.
Escape from Butcher Bay’s narrative sees Riddick imprisoned and trying to escape from the titular prison. It serves as a prequel to the first two Riddick films, and the strong narrative is supported by excellent performances from notable actors. Diesel does a great job reprising his role, delivering awesome one-liners, and capturing the gruff and straightforward tone of the hero. The prison itself is a key component, with a gritty feel reminiscent of prison dramas and late ’70s sci-fi films.
The environment is filled with side quests and collectibles that provide incentives to return. The real-mapping technique used in the game creates impressive texturing and smooth edges, and the lighting adds layers of darkness that heighten the atmosphere of Butcher Bay. The game’s sound design also excels, with great voice work, a faithful script, and hard-hitting sound effects.
Despite some occasional issues with stealth and boss fights, Escape from Butcher Bay remains a superb game that stands out amongst the stiff competition on the Xbox.
6. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is a masterpiece that demands stealth gameplay above all else. The focus on covert operations allowed the developers to create a game that excels in the one thing that defined the series. The game’s story is easy to follow and avoids excessive cheesiness, with better humor in the writing and more fleshed-out villains.
The game’s systems and UI are designed to promote stealth gameplay, with the addition of the noise meter making it much easier to sneak around. The locations feel authentic, with the South Korea level being a standout due to its realistic urban maze design. The setpieces don’t feel like they were designed for a video game, but rather like real-world environments.
The game also boasts a great variety of missions and gameplay mechanics. The missions play out in unexpected ways, and there is always something new to keep the game feeling fresh. Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is a game that clicks in all the right ways, making it a true gem in the series. If you’re looking for a game that emphasizes stealth gameplay, then Chaos Theory is an excellent choice.
7. Jet Set Radio Future
Jet Set Radio Future is developed by Smilebit and published by Sega. It was released for the Xbox console in 2002 and is a sequel to the original Jet Set Radio game for the Dreamcast. The game takes place in the future Tokyo-to and follows the GGs, a rebellious gang that fights against the oppressive Rokkaku Corporation. The gameplay involves inline skating, collecting spray cans, and covering up rival gang sprays with your own.
The game features an impressive, open, and interconnected playing space, with a plethora of challenges available in each area, including spraying tags, recruiting new characters, and dealing with police ambushes. The general difficulty steadily builds, but there are also a ton of exploration challenges that require skill to overcome. Hidden tapes reveal a slew of tough objectives which reward Graffiti Souls, collectible souls demand skilled platforming and keen exploration to discover, and endgame races prove harder to overcome.
The game’s presentation is impressive, with crystal-clear cel-shading, vibrant colors, and smoother animations. The game’s soundtrack is also notable, featuring remixes, original tracks, and perhaps the best menu music the console would ever see in the form of “The Concept of Love”. The game also features four-player multiplayer and a handful of modes that mostly revolve around the races and challenges you compete in during your solo play.
Jet Set Radio Future is a stellar sequel that expands on the brilliance of its unique predecessor. The upgraded presentation is incredible, the refined mechanics are still a ton of fun, and little tweaks ensure it stands apart from JSR while keeping what made it so special. The game offers a lot of unlockables and challenges, making it a game that should remain spinning in your Xbox for some time since this game was never ported out of the original Xbox and should remain that way at least…forever.
8. Forza Motorsport
The enduring success of Forza Motorsport is no coincidence. This racing game has managed to stand the test of time due to its quality and vision. It was pitted against Gran Turismo, a formidable rival, but managed to come out on top by offering a more sophisticated product.
What sets Forza Motorsport apart from other racing games is its innovative approach. The game introduced a “gotta-collect-’em-all” element to the genre, thanks to the dedication of the development team, who was inspired by the Pokémon mechanics, of all games. This kind of dedication and commitment to delivering something unique and fresh to players is commendable and has helped cement Forza Motorsport’s place in gaming history.
While the gaming industry has seen many racing games since the launch of the original Forza Motorsport, none have genuinely replicated the certain feel and experience that made it so successful. Even without the nostalgic factor, the game still manages to entertain and engage players more than 15 years after its release. The dedication to unlocking every car and perfecting the Drivatar is a testament to the game’s staying power.
As the gaming industry continues to evolve and racing games become more common, it will be interesting to see if the new Forza Motorsport will be able to live up to the legacy of its predecessor and bring a new level of innovation and excitement to the genre.
Psychonauts is a classic platformer that was originally released on the Xbox in 2005. The game puts you in the shoes of Raz, a young boy who is training to become a psychic spy known as a Psychonaut. The game’s levels take place inside the minds of various characters, each with its own unique art style and gameplay mechanics.
The Xbox version of Psychonauts is widely considered to be the definitive version of the game. It features slightly better graphics and performance compared to the PS2 version, which suffered from some technical issues. However, both versions are still fantastic games and are worth playing if you’re a fan of the genre.
One of the most notable things about Psychonauts is its dedicated fanbase. Despite not achieving commercial success when it was first released, the game has since gained a cult following of players who love its quirky humor, creative level design, and memorable characters. For years, fans have been clamoring for a sequel to the game, and in 2021, Psychonauts 2 was finally released, much to the delight of fans around the world.
10. Rainbow Six 3
The Rainbow Six franchise will never be the same as it once was, but that doesn’t mean Rainbow Six Siege is not worth playing. It is one of the best multiplayer FPS out there due to its heavy reliance on tactics and teamwork. Individual skills rarely matter in that game. However, it is a sudden and radical change in an established franchise.
The original Xbox title Rainbow Six 3, released in 2003, was a tactical first-person shooter focused heavily on single-player campaigns and co-op play. While it lacked the competitive multiplayer mode that its successor, Rainbow Six Siege, would eventually become known for, Rainbow Six 3 made up for it with its engaging and challenging gameplay.
The game featured a variety of missions set in different locales around the world, each requiring careful planning and execution to succeed. Players had access to a range of weapons and gadgets, as well as a squad of AI-controlled teammates who could be given specific orders to help with the mission objectives.
One of the standout features of Rainbow Six 3 was its advanced AI, which made enemy soldiers more formidable opponents.
They would take cover, flank the player, and use grenades and other tactics to try and take them down. This made for a more realistic and intense experience that required players to be on their toes at all times.
Compared to the PlayStation 2 version, the Xbox version of Rainbow Six 3 had improved graphics and smoother gameplay, thanks to the console’s superior hardware. The game also had exclusive content not found on the PS2 version, such as the mission pack “Athena Sword.”
While Rainbow Six 3 may not have the same level of multiplayer competitiveness as its modern-day counterpart, it’s still a great game that’s worth revisiting. Its challenging single-player campaign and co-op modes, combined with its advanced AI and engaging gameplay, make for an experience that’s both intense and rewarding.
11. Burnout 3: Takedown
Compared to its predecessors, Burnout 3: Takedown features more intense racing and more spectacular crashes. The game introduced the “Takedown” system, allowing players to crash their opponents’ vehicles in spectacular fashion. The game also includes new game modes, such as Crash mode and Road Rage mode, which were well-received by fans.
Burnout 3: Takedown was also ported to the Xbox 360 in 2008 as part of the “Xbox Originals” program, which allowed players to download and play original Xbox games on their Xbox 360 consoles. The Xbox 360 version of the game features improved graphics and performance, as well as new achievements.
Burnout 3: Takedown is considered one of the best racing games of all time and is still played and enjoyed by fans today. Its innovative gameplay, stunning visuals, and memorable soundtrack continue to make it a standout title in the racing genre.
12. Crimson Skies: High Road
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is a fun and breezy sci-fi shooter that takes place in an alternate version of 1930s America. In this world, everyone owns a personal, high-tech airplane instead of a car, and gangs and factions roam the skies. You play as Nathan Zachary, the leader of the Fortune Hunters, a group of antiheroes who enjoy looting the wealthy and opposing fascism.
The action is fast-paced, and the controls are laid back and easy to learn. You’ll battle enemies and complete missions while stealing and unlocking new planes along the way. You’ll also have the opportunity to upgrade your planes, although the improvements come in large stat boosts rather than in-depth modifications. As you progress through the game, missions become more hectic and varied, and you’ll engage in dogfights, shootouts, and other exciting sequences.
Unfortunately, not all of the game’s attempts at variety are successful. One entire chapter revolves around completing mini-game-like trials for the Navajo, and it’s mostly filler. Two of the trials are overly simple and lack action or excitement, while the third task involves following a plane very closely without falling behind, which can be frustrating and difficult. Despite its flaws, though, the game still offers a fun and campy sci-fi shooter experience that’s worth playing for fans of the genre.
MechAssault is a video game that takes place in the BattleTech universe, where the player takes on the role of a mercenary fighting against a fanatical group called The Word of Blake. The game is set on the planet Helios, where the player must take down the Word of Blake to gain control of the planet. MechAssault is an action-packed game that focuses on mech combat, with the player piloting a 100-ton BattleMech. The game is known for its explosive action and destruction, as players can destroy buildings and other objects in the game.
MechAssault is different from other mech combat games, such as Mech Warrior, because it is faster-paced and focuses on action and destruction rather than slow, plodding movement and exhaustive configuration options. The game has a heat factor, which means that players must keep an eye on their mech’s heat to avoid weapon malfunctions.
The game has around 20 levels in its single-player mode, and there are around 20 different mechs to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The radio chatter in the game adds to the atmosphere and humor of the game.
The game’s multiplayer mode is where the game really shines, especially on Xbox Live. Players can compete against each other in various modes, with up to 16 players by linking additional Xbox units. The graphics in the game are impressive, with explosions and destruction being the highlight of the game. Buildings and other objects in the game respond realistically to the rigors of war, with concrete chunks falling and glass shattering. The mechs are well-designed and animated, adding to the overall experience of the game.
MechAssault is a fun and action-packed game that is perfect for fans of mech combat and destruction. The game’s multiplayer mode is especially impressive and provides players with hours of entertainment. The graphics in the game are impressive, and the attention to detail adds to the overall experience of the game. If you’re looking for a fast-paced and action-packed game, MechAssault is definitely worth checking out.
14. Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath
Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath features unique gameplay mechanics, combining third-person shooter and platformer elements with a twist. The original Xbox version still holds up well today and is worth playing if you have the chance.
The game was later ported to other platforms and received a remaster, which improved the graphics and performance, making it more accessible to modern gamers. The ports and remaster are great options for those who want to experience the game on newer systems.
As for the sequels, they are enjoyable in their own right, but they don’t quite capture the magic of the original game. They have different gameplay mechanics and a different feel, so they’re not direct successors to Stranger’s Wrath.
15. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is a masterpiece of a game that was first released on the Xbox. It’s an epic Star Wars adventure that has stood the test of time, even after nearly two decades since its original release.
Despite being a fantastic game, KOTOR on the Xbox is not the ideal way to experience it anymore. The game suffers from outdated graphics and clunky controls, making it less enjoyable to play compared to modern games. The game has also been plagued by bugs that were never fixed in the original release.
However, KOTOR is still worth playing, and fortunately, it has been re-released on other platforms. The PC version, in particular, is the best way to experience the game as it offers improved graphics, better controls, and access to mods that can enhance the game even further.
The story of KOTOR is one of the best in gaming, with a compelling narrative that unfolds as you progress through the game. The characters are well-written and memorable, with each one having their own unique personality and motivations. The gameplay is also top-notch, with satisfying combat and a deep, complex RPG system.
In conclusion, while KOTOR on the Xbox is not the best way to experience this classic game, it is still a masterpiece that should not be missed. If you want to play KOTOR, I highly recommend picking up the game on a modern platform like PC or mobile to fully enjoy this timeless classic.
16. Grand Theft Auto Double Pack
The pack includes both Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, two of the most iconic games in the franchise.
While the game is available on other platforms, including modern consoles and PC, the Xbox version is surprisingly the best version to play due to the inclusion of the original music licenses. The original soundtrack greatly adds to the immersion of the game, making it a true nostalgia trip for those who played the game on release.
The gameplay itself is as enjoyable as ever, with both games offering a vast open-world for players to explore and cause chaos in. The storylines are engaging, and the characters are memorable, providing a level of depth and immersion that is hard to find in other games.
Overall, the Grand Theft Auto Double Pack on Xbox is a fantastic choice for anyone looking to experience the classic games in the series. Despite its age, the gameplay still holds up, and the inclusion of the original music licenses makes it a standout version compared to the contemporary ports.
17. Dead or Alive 3
Dead or Alive 3 is a fighting game that was originally released on the Xbox in 2001. It features fast-paced gameplay, an impressive character roster, and a variety of game modes that will keep you entertained for hours.
The game is also available on other platforms such as the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One since the original Xbox version is hard to find, and so is the console itself. There is an emulation option but the state of the emulators is not as mature as, let’s say, Dolphin with its Gamecube and Wii emulation. It offers great graphics and smooth gameplay that holds up even by today’s standards.
One of the game’s strengths is its unique fighting system, which emphasizes counterattacks and throws over other moves. This makes for an intense and strategic gameplay experience that sets it apart from other fighting games like Tekken.
While Tekken is a great series in its own right, Dead or Alive 3 offers a different take on the genre that makes it worth checking out. With its impressive visuals, solid gameplay, and diverse cast of characters, it’s a game that any fighting game fan should consider adding to their collection.
18. Panzer Dragoon Orta
Panzer Dragoon Orta is a classic and impressive game on the Xbox. It is an on-rails shooter with stunning graphics, excellent gameplay mechanics, and a captivating storyline. Players take control of Orta, who rides on the back of a powerful dragon as they fly through various environments, dodging obstacles and taking out enemies. The game features multiple difficulty levels, unlockable content, and a score attack mode that keeps the gameplay engaging and challenging.
One of the standout features of Panzer Dragoon Orta is its visuals. The game’s graphics are stunning and hold up well even by modern standards. The imaginative and detailed environments, coupled with the beautifully animated creatures and enemies, create a unique and immersive experience that is hard to match.
However, despite its excellence, Panzer Dragoon Orta is sadly part of a genre that has largely fallen out of favor in modern times. The on-rails shooter genre, which includes classics like Star Fox, Sin and Punishment, and Space Harrier, has seen little innovation or development in recent years. It’s a shame that this unique and thrilling type of game is no longer in the spotlight, and that makes Panzer Dragoon Orta’s presence on the Xbox even more special.
19. Conker: Live and Reloaded
Conker: Lived and Reloaded was originally released as Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the Nintendo 64 in 2001 and later re-released as Conker: Live & Reloaded on the Xbox in 2005. The Xbox version features improved graphics and updated multiplayer modes, but there are some notable differences between the two versions.
In terms of gameplay, the Xbox version of Conker is very similar to the N64 version. Both versions feature the same levels, enemies, and bosses, with only minor changes made to the gameplay. The biggest difference between the two versions is the updated graphics in the Xbox version. The textures are much more detailed and the character models are smoother and more refined, making the game look much better overall.
Another significant difference is the addition of new multiplayer modes in the Xbox version. These include modes like Beach Dead and Raptor, which add some extra variety to the game’s multiplayer offerings. However, some fans of the original N64 version were disappointed that some of the original multiplayer modes were removed in the Xbox version, and all of them are wrong. The Xbox remaster is the better game by sheer improvement of the graphics alone.
Overall, both versions of Conker are excellent games in their own right. While the Xbox version is undoubtedly the better-looking game, the N64 version has a certain charm for the purists. Fans of the original game may prefer the N64 version for its nostalgia factor as everyone bought a PS2, no one had played this game on the original Xbox because they do not have the original Xbox, but those looking for a more polished and modern experience should definitely check out the Xbox version.
20. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 is a tactical shooter game that was released on the original Xbox in 2005. The game follows the story of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, and the player takes on the role of Sgt. Matt Baker. The game received critical acclaim for its authentic and immersive depiction of the war, as well as its unique gameplay mechanics that focused on squad-based tactics.
Brothers In Arms: Road To Hill 30 was eventually ported to other platforms, including the PlayStation 2 and PC. The game did not receive a remastered version, and it is not currently available on modern platforms. However, it can still be played on the original Xbox console or through backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360.