The sixth generation of consoles is often revered as one of (if not the) best. It was a time of innovation, and many of the series still running today either started or grew in popularity on consoles like the original Xbox. If you spend hours on end engrossed in modern console multiplayer games, you have the original Xbox to thank as it paved the way for Xbox Live and online console gaming as a whole before the Xbox 360 really took things up a notch.
We’re revisiting Microsoft’s inaugural console with a breakdown of original Xbox titles that are still beloved today for good reason. Thanks to backwards compatibility, remakes, and remasters, we still have easy access to most (if not all) of the best original Xbox games.
The Best Original Xbox Games
20. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants Publisher: Electronic Arts Backwards Compatible? No (remastered)
The Oddworld series made a name for itself with the misadventures of an unusual creature named Abe. The mystical Mudokon guided players through three epic quests before the series shifted gears to a first- and third-person Western starring the mysterious Stranger.
Stranger’s Wrath sees the titular character set on his own path, completely detached from the original trilogy. Using an arsenal of live ammunition fired from a nifty crossbow, Stranger hunts down bounties to collect money for a life-saving operation. Though it’s nothing like its predecessors, Stranger’s Wrath is just as eccentric, weird, and delightfully entertaining.
19. TimeSplitters: Future Perfect
Developer: Free Radical Design Publisher: Electronic Arts Backwards Compatible? Yes
As the third entry in the TimeSplitters series, Future Perfect had every opportunity to be a letdown. However, the game’s quirkiness, various locations across time, and co-op and competitive multiplayer resulted in an unforgettable entry in the sixth generation of consoles.
Sergeant Cortez returns on a mission across time to stop the TimeSplitters race from ever being created. While the campaign had its moments, particularly when Cortez battled zombies and ghosts, it was the multiplayer that helped drive the game’s popularity. Future Perfect also featured a level editor that allowed players to create different complex levels to share around.
18. Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Midway Games Backwards Compatible? Yes
Unlike its Unreal predecessors, The Liandri Conflict was a first and third-person shooter, where players could swap on the fly to find their preferred playstyle. A sequel to Unreal Championship, The Liandri Conflict added character classes and a camera lock-on mechanic that compensated for the analog controls of console gaming.
There’s a story mode that’s quite enjoyable, but it’s the game’s multiplayer and its 50 maps that everyone rightfully flocked to. Team deathmatch, deathmatch, and capture the flag rounded out the classic game modes, though the host could have some fun if they wished and alter games with the series’ staple mutators.
17. Thief: Deadly Shadows
Developer: Ion Storm Publisher: Eidos Interactive Backwards Compatible? No
There are RPGs where thievery is a fun mechanic to tinker with. In Thief, it’s a focal point as players take control of Garrett, a master thief making his third appearance. Deadly Shadows picks up after its predecessor, enhancing the experience with a large explorable living city.
Rather than follow a flow of steady missions, in between quests, Garrett can eavesdrop on and steal from random citizens while seeking out side quests. Thief: Deadly Shadows was the series’ first console release, and while not the best entry, it brought the popular series to a whole new market.
16. Project Gotham Racing
Developer: Bizarre Creations Publisher: Microsoft Corporation Backwards Compatible? No
PlayStation and Xbox each have their signature racing series. For PlayStation, it’s Gran Turismo. For Xbox, it may be Forza today, but it started with Project Gotham Racing, a series that plenty of fans still clamour for today.
Unlike traditional racing games, Project Gotham wasn’t just about finishing first. Players also had to complete challenges and score enough points to advance. It may have been a bit unconventional, but it was a good launching point for Microsoft’s signature racing series and set the stage for Forza.
15. Burnout 3: Takedown
Developer: Criterion Software Publisher: Electronic Arts Backwards Compatible? No
Love speeding down digital streets, duking it out with competition for the first-place spot? Well, that’s not quite what Burnout is. Sure, you jump behind the wheel of some sweet rides in a high-speed race, but the primary goal is to take out the competition in a demolition derby-style race.
You’ll cruise through city streets and countryside, finding different ways to completely destroy opposing vehicles, whether you’re knocking them into walls or forcing them into head-on traffic. Burnout 3 refined the series’ concept for the best iteration of the arcade racer, complete with multiple game modes, new cars, and more.
There are so many Star Wars games out there, so it says something when one is often described as one of the best. Jedi Outcast continues to follow Kyle Katarn, an extended-universe favorite who started his journey as an Imperial officer before joining the resistance and discovering his connection to the Force.
The game is an early example of how to effectively put players in control of a Jedi, with a good blend of Force-powers and fluid lightsaber combat. Though Katarn could have fit in modern Star Wars lore, the character is reserved for one of the best Star Wars stories to hit and, specifically, the original Xbox.
Developer: Criterion Software Publisher: Electronic Arts Backwards Compatible? Yes
It doesn’t get any more straightforward than grabbing two weapons and going to town on your enemies. Criterion Games wasn’t looking to revolutionize first-person shooters with fancy mechanics in Black. Instead, it emphasized the best parts of action titles with cinema-inspired visuals, Hollywood-quality sound design, and destructible environments.
One of Black’s most unique mechanics is that players could only carry two weapons at a time, requiring them to strategize how they’d press forward in each mission. If there’s a sixth-generation game that could really thrive off a remake, it’s Black.
12. Shenmue II
Developer: Sega AM2 Publisher: Sega Backwards Compatible? No
Shenmue II really pushed the limits of console gaming with mechanics you rarely even see in modern titles. The action-adventure title follows Ryo Hazuki, a young martial artist seeking revenge for his father’s murder. Ryo’s journey is rife with plenty of people to beat up, but Sega AM2 really gave players a lot to do and witness with a large open world to explore, minigames to enjoy, a day/night cycle and varying weather, and NPCs their own schedules.
Combat unfolds in brawler-style bouts, with Ryo taking on one or multiple opponents in a 3D space similar to Virtua Fighter. The Xbox port suffered a bit compared to its original Dreamcast release, but it remained an iconic release that fans clamored for more for many years after. They eventually got what they wanted, though to mixed results.
11. Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30
Developer: Gearbox Software Publisher: Ubisoft Backwards Compatible? No
Everyone is all about Call of Duty and Battlefield these days, but there was a time when the wartime FPS market wasn’t a monopoly of just two titles. Brothers in Arms stood up against the behemoths that outlasted it with entries like Road to Hill 30, a dramatic and tactical shooter that put players in charge of a team of soldiers with a series of simple commands.
The game emphasized the suppression and flanking tactics of World War II (the “Four F’s”) and gave players a more nuanced experience than the series’ competition. The game was so good in what it achieved that the History Channel actually used it to recreate historical scenarios in its Brother in Arms special.
Developer: Big Blue Box Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Backwards Compatible? No (remastered)
If you owned an Xbox during Fable’s reveal and release, you likely know that the game that eventually launched wasn’t quite in line with the ambitious promises of Lionhead Studios’ head Peter Molyneux. Despite lacking much of what Molyneux stated would be included in what was to be “the best game ever,” Fable became a classic and one of the best Xbox games across its vast library.
Players follow the hero’s journey from the very start, using blades, longbows, and magic to cut down fantastical foe on a quest to kill Jack of Blades. Along the way, the hero can be molded through moral decisions. Will you follow a path of nobility and appear more angelic or let your inner demon take control and grow horns?
Developer: Double Fine Productions Publisher: Majesco Entertainment Backwards Compatible? Yes
Double Fine Productions has a knack for bringing the quirky and the strange to life. Its first venture, Psychonauts, set the stage for the company’s ongoing success with the zany adventure of Razputin “Raz” Aquato. Looking to join the famed Psychonauts, Raz runs away from his circus family to put his psychic powers to the test.
From telekinesis to pyrokinesis, Raz gradually learns new abilities as he helps the Psychonauts work through an exceptionally dangerous and complicated case and tackles his own demons. Psychonauts really went heavy-handed on aspects of the human mind and Double Fine crafted a surprisingly deep and incredibly fun narrative. A sequel released many years later to just as much acclaim.
8. Ninja Gaiden Black
Developer: Ninja Gaiden Black Publisher: Tecno Backwards Compatible? Yes
Team Ninja resurrected the Ninja Gaiden series in 2004 with a title that became notable for its unforgiving difficulty. The following year, the development team doubled down with Ninja Gaiden Black, a reworking of the newer action-adventure featuring new enemies and a higher difficulty setting that really tested player patience.
Team Ninja did also make the game more accessible with the easier Ninja Dog mode after receiving many complaints, though players were made a mockery of with subtle changes to character interactions. Black also added 50 combat missions, giving players more time as Ryu Hayabusa, a super ninja with an arsenal of weapons and abilities used against a rogue’s gallery of unforgiving foes and punishing bosses. And before you think it, no. It’s not Souls-like. It’s just difficult.
7. Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay
Developer: Starbreeze Studios Publisher: Vivendi Games Backwards Compatible? No
Before Richard B. Riddick found himself entangled with the Necromongers and going toe-to-toe with Bio-Raptors, he was a captive of Butcher Bay. The stealth action FPS Escape from Butcher Bay follows the titular character as he navigates the maximum-security prison, making temporary companions and lifelong enemies while trying to find his way out.
As a prequel to Pitch Black, Escape from Butcher Bay explores the character a bit more, including the true origins of his mysterious eyeshine that made him such an asset against the light-sensitive creatures. Riddick’s exploits in Butcher Bay lent to a wonderful stealth-based experience, which was enhanced by the prison’s ecosystem, its nefarious inhabitants, and Riddick’s own deadly skills.
6. Doom 3
Developer: id Software Publisher: id Software Backwards Compatible? Yes
Eleven years and four months after the original Doom shook up PC entertainment, id Software returned to its breakout series with a completely different take. Whereas the first two games were more action-packed, Doom 3 took a slower-paced, more horrifying approach. While some of the narrative conventions remained, framing this third entry as a reboot of the series, the gameplay was overhauled to fit a survival horror experience.
Though the series returned to its action roots with the 2016 reboot, Doom 3 proved that the demonic romp on Mars had plenty of room for jump scares and bigger, badder enemies. Though Doom 3 first launched on PC, the Xbox version received a two-player co-op version of the campaign and ranks among the best looking original Xbox games.
5. Forza Motorsport
Developer: Turn 10 Studios Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Backwards Compatible? No
Microsoft definitely did something right when it released Forza Motorsport for the original Xbox. Not only was it one of the best Xbox games, which is impressive being a simulation racer, but the Forza name has thrived for more than 20 years across 13 titles (14 when the eighth Motorsport entry finally releases).
Unlike the Xbox’s other popular racer, Project Gotham Racing, Forza is all about crossing the finish line first. Taking a cue from Gran Turismo, the game favors simulated driving over arcade racing, giving each real-world vehicle an authentic feel. With visual and performance customization, players could create their perfect ride to tackle the somewhat difficult racing experience.
4. Half-Life 2
Developer: Valve Publisher: Valve Backwards Compatible? No
Dr. Gordon Freeman was an unlikely hero forced to face interdimensional horrors in Half-Life. Unfortunately, things didn’t get any easier for him nearly 20 years later when he was awakened from stasis to find the world under the rule of the multidimensional Combine. His destiny once again chosen for him, Gordon is forced to join the Resistance, where he meets former Black Mesa scientist Dr. Eli Vance and his daughter, Alyx.
Half-Life 2 is a bit heavier on the narrative than its predecessor, with a fully fleshed-out world full of aliens, oppressive regimes, and weird science. Half-Life 2 was a visual wonder, even on the original Xbox, and segments like the horror-filled Ravenholm have stuck with us for decades.
3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Backwards Compatible? Yes
For so many fans of the Elder Scrolls series, Morrowind was their introduction. Keeping the open-world, free-form design of its predecessor, Morrowind perfected much of what The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall stumbled with, setting the stage for an experience that players would still love years after its release.
Morrowind embodies the best parts of the RPG experience, from a “be who you want” approach to gameplay that lets you build a character from the ground up, choosing from a set of skills, abilities, weapon types, and even moral choices to craft a unique hero. The level of customization and depth of gameplay that Morrowind achieved remains a marvel today as a launching point for some of gaming’s best titles.
Moral decision-making was a pretty big concept during the sixth generation of consoles, and BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic handled it wonderfully. Being set in the Star Wars universe only enhanced the struggle between good and evil, allowing players to choose between the dark or light sides of the Force.
Each alignment came with unique Force powers that could easily turn the tide of every round-based encounter. Customizing your lightsaber when you finally get your hands on one was a delight, adding another level to really making players feel like they were creating their own Star Wars adventure. And there’s little that can be said about the story without venturing into spoilers, but let’s just say that KOTOR’s narrative is lightyears ahead of the sequel trilogy’s.
1. Halo 2
Developer: Bungie, Inc. Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios Backwards Compatible? No (remastered)
It’s a tough call deciding between Halo: CE and Halo 2, both being incredible entries in the Xbox library, but the sequel elevated our time with Master Chief surprisingly by dividing it with a disgraced Covenant Elite known as the Arbiter. Halo 2 took a surprising step with a split narrative that followed the SPARTAN-II supersoldier and the Arbiter as they set out to stop the activation of a new Halo.
The sequel was a bit more polished than CE, its scope getting a little bigger as we see more of the Covenant, the Flood, and the titular ring. Of course, what’s a Halo game without multiplayer? Halo 2 featured a two-player, split-screen campaign and was one of the first games to really drive Xbox Live and online multiplayer console gaming in general.
Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.
Gamezeen is a Zeen theme demo site. Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.