One of the biggest game franchises started on the original Xbox console as Microsoft looked to take over the market against Sony’s PlayStation as the best home game console. The original Xbox featured several exclusives that made gamers want to flock over or even get both Microsoft and Sony’s consoles on their homes.
While Microsoft released their first console, Sony’s PlayStation already had the lead at this point for starting early and developing more exclusives. So the direct comparison for the original Xbox will be to the PlayStation 2 console already which probably has the largest list of best games on any console.
Best gaming lists are usually subjective but it is hard to argue with the general consensus as to which are really the best original Xbox games. Others have been impactful and highly influential while others are just instant classics for being an amazing game that is a ton of fun to play so what are the best original Xbox games of all time? Here is our list.
Master Chief, one of the most iconic video game characters of all time, is the main protagonist in the Halo franchise which also happens to be Xbox’s biggest Xbox original game franchise to date. Halo was an Xbox exclusive and tons of people were curious what the buzz is all about as Sony’s PlayStation dominated the retro console market.
Gamespot even went on to say that gamers should pick up an Xbox just for Halo alone and it would still be worth it. Gamers flocked to get an Xbox just because of this game as Xbox does not have that many exclusives to fight Sony with.
Halo won multiple “Game of the Year” awards in 2001 which shows how clear-cut the game was amongst its competitors. Rolling Stone also awarded it with the best original soundtrack and the list can go on and on even for their sequels.
Forza Motorsport franchise
Another Xbox original game that turned out to be a staple for the Xbox game exclusives. Forza Motorsport is a realistic driving simulator that rivals what Gran Turismo has built for nearly a decade. Its best features are the graphics and the customization options available for the game.
Forza Motorsport probably has the best graphics in any Xbox game released on the console and it has unlimited replayability for the casual gamer and car junkies. Critics were favoring Forza Motorsport over Gran Turismo’s 4th installment which is its main competitor.
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Black is a reworked compilation of the past Ninja Gaiden games with a ton of added features including additional difficulties, mission modes, and additional encounters. This fast-paced action-adventure game is definitely a gem for the genre as it offers just more than a single playthrough.
The camera work done in the game is impressive and it makes the combat run more fluidly as the combat mechanics are speedy and technical. Metacritic awarded it the best Xbox game of 2005, and the reviews are all positive from the critics and the player base.
Project Gotham Racing 2
Two years before Forza Motorsport, Project Gotham Racing was the king of racing games for the original Xbox console. The original Project Gotham Racing was the best-selling Xbox game right before Halo: Combat Evolved released. This racing game takes on a unique feature by adding Kudo points that are earned through skill rather than just finish first on every race.
It added a little more depth to this racing game and all the other aspects such as graphics, engine physics, and level design are all palpable. The Kudo points allow players to compete with each other that adds more competitiveness rather than simply winning a race.
Panzer Dragoon Orta
Panzer Dragoon Orta is an action shooter game developed by Smilebit. It is based on Sega’s Panzer Dragoon that released 8 years before this title but you can enjoy this game without playing the original. Panzer Dragoon Orta is a beautifully designed game with a combat system that is easy to learn.
The graphics are astounding and the game is surprisingly long for a shooter game. The plot is based on dragons where humanity seeks their help to fight against the dark empire.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
The Elder Scrolls series is one of the most popular franchises in the world. This is because of how deep these games usually contain and the level of depth brings more than 100 hours of gameplay for each one. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was one of the best games the original Xbox ever had and this first-person RPG was nominated for the “Game of the Year” award.
The game was also available for the PC where probably most of the player base comes from but it surprisingly ported well to the Xbox console which allowed the studio to dabble into a different market.
Fable is an action RPG that is based on the theme of fables or short tales leading to a moral lesson. The most impressive aspect of Fable is how every action you do throughout your adventure has a direct effect on something else. Whether it is through your skills, reputation, relationships, appearance, and storylines, everything has interactivity.
This gave the game a slightly more immersive experience than your regular RPGs and this became Fable’s strongest aspect. The game has unlimited replayability because of this and it is quite surprising that some of the people got really harsh on this absolute gem of a game.
This is the fourth game of the Unreal series by Epic Games. The game offers a single-player but the game is really meant to be played in multiplayer or in Xbox Live. This fast-paced first-person shooter is much like the popular competitive shooter Quake but with minor improvements.
The game had a hurdle of having the players subscribe to Xbox Live which gated a ton of players from enjoying this game. The bevy of character selections with each honing a different kind of skill made the game more flexible while adding some balancing issues but overall made the game slightly better.
The early 2000s was when the sports games really took off and never looked back. It was the era of EA Games and Visual Concepts (2K Games) that took over the sports gaming genre by storm. Every single sports game was considered a classic from Madden to NBA Live and from NBA 2K to MLB.
While these kinds of games are quite repetitive even with sequels, it keeps up with the latest sports trends that allow it to be as realistic as possible with the current generation consoles at that time. They continue to innovate and add a few game modes every year while adding more gameplay features as well. The problem is that it became a bit stale especially with EA Games.
This is how 2K Games was able to take over the sports genre and manage to overtake EA Games because the difference in improvement is quite astonishing. In the end, both companies focused on different sports and just conquer that market.
There are too many sports games that have a high rating and they are too many to mention in this list. A few classics come to mind like Madden NFL 2003, SSX 3, and MVP Baseball 2004.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory and Pandora Tomorrow
The series is based on the novels written by Tom Clancy who is a literary genius when to military science and espionage stories. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series all show a baffling story of covert operations that hinges on tactical realism that brings the environment, scenarios, stealth combat, and graphic design all to life.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell was by far the best of all the series stemming from Tom Clancy’s literary works. This includes the popular Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, H.A.W.X., Endwar, and The Division. The original Splinter Cell won the “Console Game of the Year” while Splinter Cell Chaos Theory won best PC game, best action/adventure game, and best commendation for graphics. Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow did not win anything but got nominated for 3 categories.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is definitely video game gold during the early 2000s and they capitalized on that with subsequent sequels maintaining their level of quality with each release.
They added a ton of game modes, characters and featured online play where people can compete with one another. The environment is well developed and the creative mode just adds more gameplay to an already addicting sports game that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Grand Theft Auto franchise
This is where Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise took off and literally became a staple game for each console coming out. Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas were all absolute masterpieces and it was so popular that even the complex cheat codes became a meme in the future.
Grand Theft Auto literally had the biggest game in terms of world size and depth compared to other similar games in the same genre. Every game feels like your character is in a gangster movie with a protagonist that has as much freedom as a video game has to offer.
All the mentioned games have acquired multiple awards including the highly coveted “Game of the Year” award. Vice City was the most successful of the bunch and it received a total of 15 awards including the “Game of the Year” honors. It was also a nominee for the “Console Game of the Year” award which is an incredible feat especially since the game was out during the earlier half of the PlayStation 2’s timeline.
The other Grand Theft Auto titles also spawned multiple nominees from a bevy of categories which shows how innovative this franchise was in the gaming industry. Rockstar Games has cemented itself from the rest as they continue pushing out this level of quality with their products even up to this date. Gaming fans will forever be indebted to Rockstar’s level of success with each of their titles.
Prince of Persia: The Sand of Time
Another third-person action-adventure game that mixes exploration and combat together with an acrobatic protagonist named Dastan or more commonly known as “Prince”. While the gameplay themes are already common with a ton of games featuring the same elements, the smoothness of the combat and the vast exploration of the story makes this game an instant classic.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time received multiple awards including the “Best Action/Adventure Game” in 2003. Some critics also hail it as the “Console Game of the Year” as everything was nearly flawless because of how great the game design was.
MechAssault is a futuristic sci-fi mech simulation game that lets you pilot the most advanced robot in the 31st century called the BattleMech. It is a third-person shooter with destructible city-based environments and mission-style game design.
One of the coolest features for futuristic mech games is the wide array of upgrades and customization available as you go progress throughout the story or missions. The game is outstanding visually and this is only available for the Xbox as it is an Xbox exclusive game.
Far Cry Instincts
Far Cry Instincts is a port from the PC game that was surprisingly a little better on the console. The open level design, map editors, and creative multiplayer mode adds more depth to the game that is rarely seen in console games. It generated a lot of skepticism if it would work out as a console game and it turned out to be one of the best shooters on the Xbox console.
The graphics push the limits on the Xbox while having a relatively big game with a lengthy storyline, open-world features, and access to multiplayer. It was a big step for video games on consoles as Ubisoft was able to make this work with such a heavy game to be ported.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3
Another Tom Clancy series makes it to a spot on the list for the great graphics and also for the unique tactical combat features that made Rainbow Six unique. Rainbow Six 3 has a total of 14 missions that features both single-player and coop. You can even play multiplayer without the Xbox Live feature or going online.
This squad-based first-person shooter makes it different from the other successful titles in Tom Clancy’s series of video game franchises. The level of degree in tactics required for this game is not seen in regular first-person shooter games and makes it distinctive and innovative from other first-person shooter games.
Jet Set Radio Future
Set in a futuristic world around 2024 in Tokyo, this Xbox exclusive action platformer game was a hidden gem for the original Xbox console. Its addictive gameplay, upbeat soundtrack, game art design, and great graphics make Jet Set Radio Future a rollercoaster of a game.
They feature 24 playable characters, 4-player competitive battles, a ton of customization options, and a vast environment to explore. The fast-paced gameplay was easy to absorb with the optimized control options made by Smilebit.
Deathrow might be a hit or miss for some but this “Blitz” game is a ton of fun and incredibly rewarding for a futuristic take on a brutal sports game. Review sites either praise this game highly or put it down in the dumpster on their list. This competitive sport pits 2 teams against each other trying to put a disc into a hoop on the opposing side.
The main feature of the sport is that it allows punching, kicking, stomping, or basically anything brutal as long as it helps you score points by putting the disc into the other side of the hoop. There are character attributes that are clearly defined that allow certain roles for players during the match. It is not only fun for multiplayer but also the computer AI seems to be well-coded where they sometimes try to exact revenge rather than scoring at times.
Otogi: Myth of Demons
Another Japanese game makes the list for being another hidden action-adventure gem. It is much like PlayStation’s ICO that has a well-written story combined with amazing gameplay. Otogi: Myth of Demons offers a ton of variety with 30+ weapon selections, 10+ spells, 29 levels, and a destructible environment.
The story can be finished rather quickly which makes it a bit underwhelming if you are just in for the story and not there to completely unlock everything. Otogi: Myth of Demons is a pure action game that rarely makes you think but instead, lets you go out and experience a quite linear story and focus on enjoying the gameplay mechanics more.
The original Xbox came with a bevy of Xbox exclusives with two clear franchises that became Xbox’s staple games on the console. Sony had more exclusives because of an earlier head start and games like Halo and Forza Motorsport definitely helped Microsoft’s entry to the market.