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The top 10 Xbox games according to me

Brad Gallaway's picture

If there's one thing gamers love, it's top 10 lists.

I haven't done one of these in awhile and I was in the mood, so I figured I'd tackle the original Xbox.

Why start there?

I consider the big black beast to be a truly "dead" system—there sure aren't any more games coming down the pipe for it, and I've had ample opportunity to track down and try every game for the system that caught my eye. My Xbox has been packed up and in storage for months, and I'm feeling pretty good about calling this my definitive list.

One quick note: some of you may be wondering why a few great titles aren't on the list, so I'll say that I either didn't like them or they also appeared on another console. I haven't included anything that was a multi-console releasethese are titles that make their home on the Xbox, and the Xbox alone. (...and no, the PC doesn't count.)

Without further ado, and in alphabetical order:

 

Arx Fatalis: A first-person RPG featuring real-time combat and an interesting magic system, this game was smaller and more focused than Morrowind, yet told a better story and was a lot more personable and exciting than King's Field. It probably wouldn't hold up very well today, but it struck a great balance and kept me captivated until I saved its underground kingdom.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay: I hated Pitch Black and I never bothered to see the sequel. Also, I'm hardly what you'd call a Vin Diesel fan. Yet despite the fact that this game had two strikes against it before I even put it in the console, it was impossible not to be impressed with the sophistication and quality of this title. I think I knew I was in for more than the average FPS after a surprise prison cell ambush that happens early on, and the game was full of clever moments like that all the way until the end.

Crimson Skies: The High Road to Revenge: Truly one of the best titles on the Xbox, I'm quite shocked that there hasn't been a sequel announced. I fell in love with the sky pirate motif almost instantly, and the game had tons of quality action for fans who can appreciate aerial combat.

Galleon: If this game hadn't hit retail as absurdly delayed as it did, I really feel like it would have been one of those history-making, genre-defining titles. The rough graphics were enough to turn most people away, but those who got past appearances were treated to some truly inspired design choices and an adventure that rivals any of its contemporaries. A title that was ahead of its time, yet so late that the industry had already left it behind.

Jade Empire: Bet you didn't guess this would be on here. I admit it, I'm a pretty devoted BioWare fan, and although Jade Empire isn't their best work, BioWare's ‘okay' stuff is miles and miles better than most developers can ever hope to achieve. I liked the Asian theme, the story was well-told for the most part, and although they shied away from it in their next game, Jade Empire gets props for giving players the option of pursuing a straight, gay, lesbian or FFM romantic encounter - or none at all.

Panzer Dragoon Orta: Although I personally think the best game in this unique, stylish series is Panzer Dragoon Zwei on the Sega Saturn, Orta is a fine shooter in its own right and well worth playing for anyone who can appreciate the tight, reflex-based gameplay and fantastic setting.

Shenmue II: Not only is this game one of the best for the Xbox, it's one of the best games I've ever played, hands down. It certainly has its share of problems, but Yu Suzuki was reaching for the stars when he put this together, and he came pretty damned close to hitting the mark. Ryo Hazuki's exploits while trying to track down the man who killed his father are a great mix of action, characterization, open-world exploration, and sheer storytelling. The final segment of this game (nothing but dialogue and a peaceful setting) was pure genius in a game full of brilliance.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: BioWare again, no surprise. What can I say? This game told a better tale and had more memorable characters than the last three Lucas films combined. Not only is it a solid RPG any way you slice it, it handles the Star Wars elements deftly and with more reverence than the man who actually created them.

Tork: Prehistoric Punk: I'd be willing to bet that this particular selection caught most of you by surprise. Haven't even heard of it? Released as a budget title late in the Xbox's lifecycle, there was no reason at all to suspect this game of being anything more than a cheap piece of shovelware, but it's actually a very tight, tuned platformer with quality production values and a great sense of style. The bosses were a little on the cheap side (okay, maybe a lot on the cheap side) but it still delivered a surprisingly quality experience.

Tron 2.0: Killer App: A superb FPS, this game managed to not only deliver absolutely solid action, it takes advantage of its source material (Disney's seminal 1982 film) better than just about any licensed game I can think of. Positioned as an actual sequel to the film, the level design was fantastic and capitalized on the unique neon visuals the movie is known for, and kept mission goals and enemy varieties completely in line with the themes established onscreen. This is the perfect example of how to make a licensed game correctly—it fits perfectly with its inspiration, yet would still be a great experience if you stripped all the Tron-ness out of it.

So there you have it, my top 10 Xbox list. Disagree with my choices? Have some suggestions of your own? Post a comment or send me an e-mail and let me know what you think.

(And BTW, anything mentioning Halo will be automatically vetoed—Bungie may be a bunch of really nice guys that have their shooting nailed down, but they can't design a level or tell a story to save their lives.)

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Disagree, Agree, and Halo

I do disagree with you on some of the games on your list. Jade Empire was actually a pretty ok title, but I think the Asian setting could have been executed better. On the other hand, I do agree on Crimson Skies and Panzer Dragoon Orta being there, and you pretty much hit the nail on the head with those two. But the point I agree with you most is Halo. I never really warmed up to it nor it's sequels, and again, you were dead on about the level design and storytelling (both not really good). Personally, I think Master Chief is a really poorly designed main character (but that's another story).

Nice list with subtle touch

Galleon and Crimson Skies I know and like for great gameplay.

Galleon tanked a the box office, but it's a fine game and I like the control scheme.

I can appreciate the

I can appreciate the decision to limit things to Xbox-exclusives, though many of my favorite Xbox titles are merely the best version of a multi-platform release. But your omission of PC games from the list of other platforms is kinda crippling - the Xbox shines as the best destination for multi-console releases, but tends to come up short when it comes to games that are Xbox and PC only. Arx Fatalis, Escape From Butcher Bay, Tron 2.0, and KOTOR all have superior versions on PC. Jade Empire debatably so (it's prettier and has a little bit of extra content, but it's hard to say if the controls are as suitable). Crimson Skies is also on PC, but I think we can safely write that version off for people who don't have joysticks.

I may have to pick up Galleon, though.

hey malkav. i hear what

hey malkav.

i hear what you're saying, but ruling out PC was my own self-imposed rule since i'm a console gamer to the core.

i basically spend zero time on PCs besides writing/surfing, and i don't look to them when i play games. so just for me, personally, it's easy to write off the PC. i know that doesn't work for everybody and it's not meant as a political statement or anything, i just never play PC and don't have any basis in that regard to speak from.

Eh. Fair enough. But as a

Eh. Fair enough. But as a die-hard PC gamer myself, I've long felt that the heavy Xbox "exclusive"/PC overlap has been that console's biggest weakness. It took quite a while for it to develop a list of genuinely exclusive titles worth mentioning.

By the way, any chance of noting which of these games are back-compatible with the 360? I myself don't care - I haven't found the BC to be reliable and still own my original Xbox - but I bet that some people would find it useful.

That's a good idea about the

That's a good idea about the backwards compatibility... didn't even occur to me. Looking at the official MS site:

Crimson Skies
Jade Empire
Panzer Dragoon Orta
Star Wars: KOTOR
Shenmue II
Tork: Prehistoric Punk

should all be compatible. whether they all run smooth and glitch-free, who can say?

I'd only change a few

No Ninja Gaiden, really?

Also I think Otogi - Myth of Demons and Kingdom Under Fire - The Crusaders belong on this list. Both are really well designed, beautiful games.

Jade Empire is, if anything, very underated. So good job including that one.

Oh, and I'm glad someone else enjoyed Shenmue 2 as much as I did! :)

hey Heretic, thanks for your

hey Heretic, thanks for your comments.

as for NG, gotta say nay. to be perfectly honest, i think NG and Team Ninja are both WILDLY overrated, and neither really deserves the acclaim they've received.

Otogi isn't my favorite game but it has its charms (Otogi 2 is better than #1, IMO) and although i'm totally in love with the *idea* of Kingdom Under Fire, i've played them all and none of them have worked out the problems the series has. i'd file these both under "interesting oddballs" rather than recommend them in a top ten. both are too idiosyncratic to really get behind wholeheartedly.

glad you liked my calls on Shenmue II and Jade Empire.

Great list -- I'd probably

Great list -- I'd probably have included Deathrow and Jet Set Radio Future somewhere.

But I really wanted to comment so I could say on record: Jade Empire did a lousy job of being a martial arts RPG. But it's best freaking Oriental Adventures D&D game in history. It's a near-perfect fusion of western fantasy with oriental themes. On that level, I love it.

I love this list

I love lists like this that dare to venture outside the "halos".

I personally LOVED the first Halo but was absolutely done with it after one game so I have no problem with it not being on a list like this.

I'll have to go find a used copy of Galleon, it always looked interesting but I've never seen it available.

On a side note, am I the ONLY one who really disliked KOTOR?
I understand it being on the list and recognize what it did well, but man, it just bored me to tears.

Crimson Skies?

Did Crimson Skies have a PC version? I was under the impression that high road to revenge was a sequel to the PC game, which I remember having entirely different content and features.

Daniel Weissenberger

Daniel Weissenberger wrote:

Did Crimson Skies have a PC version? I was under the impression that high road to revenge was a sequel to the PC game, which I remember having entirely different content and features.

That could well be. I've never played the PC game, and thought they were the same game for different platforms, but maybe not.

I looked it up on wikipedia

I looked it up on wikipedia last night (not exactly being a PC games expert, ya know) and it seems as though there indeed was a first PC incarnation of CS:THRTR, but from what i gather, the game picked up several additions/changes before hitting the Xbox.

hahaha, I knew there had to

hahaha, I knew there had to be some mention of Halo some place. :D But come on, while you may not be impressed with some of their choices, you've got to give it kudos for its innovations in the genre (mainly its weapon and health management). And there's no way level 5 of that game will ever feel poorly designed to me.

Great list, btw. I've played precious few of these games and it'll be helpful when I get back to my retro box.

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I will give Halo props for

I will give Halo props for the health system, but IMO the only reason why anybody even remembers what Halo is, is because of the multi. If not for that, i believe it would have faded away like all the other generic shooters that folks can barely recall these days. Master Chief is a cool character, but as nice as the Bungie guys are, they can't design levels consistently to save their lives and they're horrible storytellers. that's my take on it, anyway.

thanks for your comments... if you try some of the games on my list, let me know what you think of them. = )

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