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I enjoyed reading the official Game Informer list of the top 25 Xbox 360 games. It's a good collection that hits all the high points. Everything there deserves its spot.
However, I can't help but feel like they didn't get everything. There are so many other awesome games that should have made the cut. In addition, the ordering of some of the top picks was a little... questionable. Let's just say that #2 on GI's list should have been #1.
So instead of complaining at the staff, I wrote my own list of the 15 best games to grace the Xbox 360. These are the gems that shined brightest on Microsoft's console.
Minecraft has remained one of the most-played games on Xbox Live since its 2012 release. Kids and gamers of all ages love playing Notch's open-world exploration game. Minecraft gives you the freedom to explore and make your own fun. Although not as wide-open as its PC older brother, Minecraft for Xbox is still a great version of one of the best games of the bast 10 years.
GI gave Left 4 Dead 1 a tip of the hat on their official list. That's a fine choice, as the original game was impressive for the time. L4D2, however, surpasses it with a few key additions like new modes, weapons and maps. Once you get used to hacking your way through the infected with a samurai sword, you'll wonder how you ever got by without it in the first game. Left 4 Dead 2 is easily the better of the two games.
This small gem of a game was one of the first hits on Xbox Live Arcade. Back before indie games were a thing on consoles and everybody was doing downloadables, Bizarre released a fantastic local multiplayer game in the form of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. Sporting multiple innovative modes, the game proved addictive. Years later, I still boot this one up to play with friends. That's impressive design at work.
Jesus, this game. I struggled to finish Dead Space. Wandering through an abandoned spaceship full of bloodthirsty monsters gets intense. You hear creaking noises and suspicious skittering and it's terrifying. Visceral knocked it out of the park with some of the best sound design in gaming. Play this with headphones to get the full experience and fear. Dead Space is scary to the point of being almost unplayable, but the game is so compelling you can't help but push on.
This is another one where GI picked an earlier game in the series over its sequel. Arkham Asylum is a good pick. With all due respect, though, it can't hold a candle to Arkham City. Rocksteady's second Batman game threw players into a city of villains. The sheer size of the game still stuns me. Finishing the fascinating campaign and Riddler brainteasers can keep any gamer entertained. This is Batman done right.
Fallout 3 was like, well, a nuclear bomb when it released in 2008. Its mix of open-world exploration, story, and post-apocalyptic themes resonated with gamers everywhere. Bethesda gave us one of the best RPGs of this generation. Blowing up Megaton, making friends with zombies and finding a loyal pet were just a few of the highlights in this seminal game.
For me, Fallout 3 succeeds for the same reason as Minecraft. Both games embrace exploration. Some of the most fun I had in Fallout 3 was leaving a village and wandering in a direction until I found something cool. You really feel like a wandering wasteland adventurer. It's a testament to the strength of Bethesda's world-building that you can have fun just walking around in the Capital Wasteland.
Castle Crashers is amazing. You can team up with three friends to bash your way across a large game in search of four special princesses. The side-scrolling beat-em-up co-op genre gets far too few games, so The Behemoth's hilarious entry stood out all the more. I loved smashing bad guys and fighting the bizarre and insane enemies.
You can see one of the bosses in the picture, the Catfish. Yes, it is a giant cat with a fin on its back. That's Castle Crashers humor in a nutshell- stupid to the point of hilarity. Watching deer propel themselves forward by defecating is as childish as it is funny. Castle Crashers is a fantastic way to spend a couple afternoons with friends while you laugh at the jokes and beat the hell out of everything.
Ah, 2007. Those halcyon days were the apex of Halo fervor. Halo 3 was the big finale, the closing chapter of the years-long trilogy that had put the Xbox on the map. We got to play a long and satisfying co-op (!!!) campaign to see the end of Master Chief's fight against the Covenant. Revamped combat and (for the time) impressive graphics made finishing the fight as fun as we'd hoped.
The multiplayer was a thing of beauty, too. Halo 3 introduced Forge, a brilliant game mode where you could goof off with friends and try to kill people by spawning tanks on top of them. That and four-player online co-op (something Call of Duty still has trouble with) made Halo 3 the best way to kill an evening with three friends.
There are good games, and then there is Grand Theft Auto IV. GTA IV isn't generally considered the best of the series. Even Game Informer picked GTA V for its list. However, Niko Bellic's tale resonated more with me than anything in V. The 60-hour story of one immigrant coming to America impressed the hell out of me.
The best part of Grand Theft Auto IV is the world. Rockstar mastered satire, producing tongue-in-cheek cartoons like Republican Space Rangers and spoof radio stations. They kept me chuckling with their absurd fake commercials and faux Americana. Grand Theft Auto IV is a long, brilliant game full of funny moments. Though it's aged some since 2008, it is absolutely worth playing.
Back before Activision released the same game six times, Call of Duty used to be innovative. Shocking, right? Infinity Ward rocked the Xbox 360 with the first Modern Warfare. Nobody had ever seen anything like this on consoles. The fast-paced shooting, custom load outs, and high-octane campaign left us stunned and wanting more. The mission in the picture above, "All Ghillied Up," remains one of my favorite in all of gaming.
Call of Duty 4 was the only game to upset Halo as champion of console multiplayer. I put months of my life into leveling up in this game. Everything about it just worked. Unique and effective guns, excellent gameplay, and some of the best maps on this side of Counter Strike. Crash still stands as one of the best maps in any FPS.
Basically, Call of Duty 4 was like nothing we'd ever seen before. Before everything it did was done to death by everyone else (including Call of Duty), Modern Warfare 1 was innovative and amazing.
BioShock Infinite somehow didn't make Game Informer's list. This is a travesty, as the sequel to BioShock is a superb game in its own right. Booker's journey though Columbia to rescue Elizabeth was riveting, and I loved seeing where the story went. Ken Levine simplified nothing, opting to make a complex and beautiful story unlike most other triple-A games.
The world of BioShock Infinite is also one of the best in gaming. There's nothing like the feeling of stepping into Columbia for the first time. Seeing the flying city with its strange and wonderful technology left me in awe. Digging into the undergrowth of Columbia's destructive racism and imperialistic attitudes is fascinating as well, if horrifying.
Everything about BioShock Infinite demands your attention. It fascinates, intrigues, shocks and rewards. Booker and Elizabeth's story was an incredible experience. It resonates on a world-building level, story level, and gameplay level. BioShock Infinite stands head-and-shoulders above everything else that came out on the Xbox 360 and earns its spot of this list.
So simple, and yet so brilliant. Portal was the surprise of 2007's The Orange Box. What started as an odd little pack-in game became a viral phenomenon. Its quirky catchphrases and bizarre jokes became standard internet lore.
Portal impresses because of its mechanics. The game spends 19 rooms and the backstage area teaching you how to use a portal gun to connect any two areas of a room. The puzzles become ever-stranger as you progress into the game. What seem like confusing concepts become second nature to players thanks to the game's excellent design.
Speaking of confusing things, remember GlaDoS? The whimsical AI was one of the coolest characters on the Xbox 360 for her strange jokes and casual attempts at murder. That poor Companion Cube.
GI put Red Dead Redemption as their best Xbox 360 game. While I don't agree with that (hence its position at #3), Red Dead is an amazing game. Rockstar took its Grand Theft Auto magic to the Old West and released the best cowboy game ever made. It nailed the feeling of riding your horse through the desert, chasing outlaws and getting in shootouts.
The story powering Red Dead Redemption remains Rockstar's best effort to date. John Marston fascinates me. The guy makes a hell of a protagonist as he runs across the Old West to hunt down and kill his former partners. It's the only way to save his wife and son... and we all know how far John Marston will go to save his family.
Even if you don't get into a single story mission, Red Dead Redemption is still amazing. Riding across the empty plains as the sun rises and a low soundtrack plays still stands out in my mind. That is what being a cowboy should be like.
GI compared Mass Effect 2 to The Empire Strikes Back. It's an apt comparison, as 2 is the strongest effort of the series. 3 had better gameplay but fell flat on its face at the ending.
Mass Effect 2 avoids that and instead gives gamers an incredible story of redemption. Players fill the shoes of Commander Shepard as he recruits a strike team to fight off The Collectors and protect humanity. Meeting your crew members and learning their stories is done fantastically well. BioWare produced some of the best-written characters in gaming, to the point where I looked forward to every side conversation.
That's what makes Mass Effect special. It uses story to get you emotionally invested the game (usually in side characters' lives). This adds weight to every battle, right up to the suicide mission. You aren't fighting for anonymous people, you're trying to save Kasumi and Wrex. You're trying to save characters you trust.
That's what makes Mass Effect 2 more than a well-done third-person shooter. That's what makes it into an experience.
Come on, Game Informer. You can't put BioShock as #2 on your list. The best game of 2007 is easily the best thing to happen on the Xbox 360. Nothing compares to the terror and wonder you feel the first time you strap yourself into the bathysphere and descend into Rapture. That feeling that you have left behind everything familiar is what makes BioShock different.
Well, that and rock-solid gameplay merged with a flawless story. Good first-person shooter mechanics kept things interesting, as well as a litany of cool powers. Who doesn't want to be able to shoot killer bees out of their hand?
I enjoyed the story as well. Seeing an Ayn Rand-themed hell and finding out "would you kindly" is the most loaded phrase in Rapture was cool.
BioShock was unlike anything else in gaming. It had better gameplay, better story, and one of the best in-game worlds to grace our screens. It's just that good and absolutely deserves to be called the best Xbox 360 game.
What do you think? What would make your list of best Xbox 360 games?