Sadly, last month Microsoft announced that console production for the Xbox 360 would be discontinued. To the relief of late Xbox One adopters, Xbox Live, Deals With Gold, and other services will still be supported on Xbox 360 consoles as planned – though for how long still remains unknown.
It's quite difficult to accept that this officially marks the beginning of the end for a console that helped redefine an entire generation of gaming. Heck, it seems like just yesterday iconic video game series such as Bioshock, Gears of War and Dead Rising were starting their worldwide success as exclusive titles for the Xbox 360.
That's why in remembrance of Microsoft's revolutionary console, I've constructed a personal list of 12 video games that helped define my Xbox 360 experience. Who knows, perhaps these praise-worthy titles might just be some of your all-time favorites as well. (Note: This list is numbered for reference not rank.)
Narrative-driven episodic experiences might be Telltale Games' iconic trademark, but it wasn't until The Walking Dead: Season One released that the beloved studio became a household name. Set within Robert Kirkman's zombie-plagued universe, this emotionally-draining five-part series followed new Walking Dead characters Lee Everett and Clementine as the lovable duo – and their ragtag group of survivors – fought to survive in a harsh, apocalyptic world. With unwavering dedication to meaningful player choices and compelling narrative, Telltale Games' The Walking Dead: Season One kept gamers emotionally invested right up until the game's heart-gripping conclusion.
As the highly anticipated sequel to Valve's first-person zombie shooter, Left 4 Dead 2 effortlessly expanded and refined its predecessor's concepts to create an addictive cocktail of white-knuckle action and cooperation-dependent gameplay. Choosing from one of four desperate survivors, players were forced to thwart off relentless zombie hordes and inevitable special infected attacks utilizing a variety of weaponry ranging from limb-severing katanas to undead-decimating grenade launchers. Though its near unrivaled split-screen play made couch co-op sessions engaging, Left 4 Dead 2's most definitive experience came in the form of Versus, a competitive 4-vs-4 multiplayer mode which tasked a team of survivors to complete campaign levels while the opposing team hunted them down as special infected.
Considered the pinnacle of Ubisoft's long-running series, Assassin's Creed 2 addressed many of the criticisms directed at its flawed but successful predecessor. Set in an awe-inspiring recreation of Renaissance Italy, this heart-pounding action-adventure title placed players behind the hidden blades of Ezio Auditore, a newly recruited assassin determined to seek vengeance for the tragic deaths of his father and brothers. Though this engaging set-up motivated wannabe assassins to rapidly progress through the story, Assassin's Creed 2 truly excelled at delivering players an authentic-feeling open world filled with hidden secrets to uncover and numerous side quests to complete. Add in the fact that Assassin's Creed 2 exhibited noteworthy refinements to combat and parkour traversal, and it becomes readily apparent why this particular entry in the series received universal acclaim upon release.
Exceeding the high expectations of longtime fans, Grand Theft Auto 5 allowed mischief-makers to run amok in the fictional LA-inspired city of Los Santos as not one but three different protagonists, which they could seamlessly switch between at nearly any point in the game. Dynamic story missions, intriguing random events and a plethora of entertaining activities – tennis, yoga, golf and more – kept the single-player experience consistently fresh and immersive. However, it was the implementation of GTA Online, Grand Theft Auto 5's robust online multiplayer component, that truly elevated Rockstar Games' best-selling open world series to ridiculous new heights.
As Rocksteady Studios’ triple-A love letter to the caped crusader, Batman: Arkham Asylum skyrocketed past the expectations of even the most skeptical comic book nerd to reach widespread critical acclaim back in 2009. Besides featuring one of the best narratives in a superhero game to date, this fine-crafted action-adventure title offered players a chance to utilize Batman’s combat and stealth abilities, genius-level detective skills, and high-tech gadgetry to deliver satisfying vigilante justice to Gotham City’s most infamous villains. Chock-full of fan-pleasing goodness and surprisingly fluid gameplay mechanics, Batman: Arkham Asylum continues to influence the video game industry to this day.
Before an over saturation of zombie-based video games ambushed the industry like a shambling plague, there was Dead Rising – one of the Xbox 360’s first exclusive titles. Released in 2006, Dead Rising placed players behind the camera lens of Frank West, a hard-edged photojournalist tasked with investigating the Willamette Parkview Mall for answers behind a zombie outbreak. Free to wreak havoc in an undead-infested sandbox of sorts, players were encouraged to scour the mall and utilize a plethora of makeshift weaponry – lawnmowers, electric guitars, battle axes, and more – to slaughter Willamette’s reanimated denizens in ridiculous fashion. Though brain-dead NPCs, an aged save system and semi-loose controls kept it from achieving greatness, Dead Rising still proved to be strangely addicting thanks to its semi-goofy attitude and mindlessly fun gameplay.
Exhibiting significant improvements over its widely popular 2006 predecessor, Gears of War 2 saw the return of hard-as-nails solider Marcus Felix as he and the rest of Delta Squad continued their mission to eradicate the nightmarish Locust horde once and for all. Like any well-crafted sequel worth its salt, this action-packed shooter displayed a fan-pleasing assortment of new features including button-mashing chainsaw battles, an emotionally engaging story campaign, intense new multiplayer modes, and an incredibly addictive Horde mode, which challenged a team of up to four players to cooperatively annihilate waves upon waves of increasingly difficult enemies. Although Gears of War 3 would later polish many of these features to a glimmering shine, Gears of War 2 is still recognized for its substantial contribution to the ground-breaking success of the series today.
Longtime fans waited 10 years for the next installment in this post-apocalyptic RPG series, and Bethesda Game Studios did not disappoint. Set in the year 2277, Fallout 3 starred players as a customizable Vault 101 inhabitant who's forced to leave home and traverse the ruins of Washington, D.C. after the mysterious disappearance of their father. Aside from its intriguing main storyline, this well-crafted RPG featured an abundance of attention-grabbing side quests and numerous exploration opportunities that, more often than not, motivated players to pour hundreds of hours into the game. Though crashes and progression-hindering bugs did hurt the experience, Fallout 3 still became a critical darling due in part to its addictive open-ended gameplay and undeniably satisfying sense of player progression.
Drawing inspiration from Alien and Resident Evil 4, Dead Space threatened to push weak-minded players to the brink of insanity when it released back in 2008. As engineer-turned-desperate-survivor Issac Clarke, this deep-space survival horror tasked players with strategically dismembering nightmarish alien creatures and escaping the claustrophobic confines of an infected mining ship. With near-flawless execution, Dead Space injected fear-oozing atmospheric environments and frighteningly unpredictable enemy encounters into a well-paced and tension-filled experience.
Arguably one of the most influential last-generation titles released, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare saw Infinity Ward's popular FPS series stray away from its World War II roots in favor of a new modern age setting. Exhibiting more than just an aesthetic upgrade, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare dazzled players with its restructured single-player campaign, which felt like a blockbuster film experience thanks to the implementation of cinematic set pieces, adrenaline-pumping on-rail sections, and an excellent perspective-switching narrative. This award-winning series' installment also featured a revolutionary approach to multiplayer, which injected player customization, game-changing perks and killstreaks, and experience-based player progression into the heart of Call of Duty's addictive online experience.
Rockstar Games is renowned for creating some of the most massive and richly-detailed open world games on the market, and 2010’s Red Dead Redemption was no exception. Deemed a spiritual successor to Red Dead Revolver, this compelling cowboy fantasy starred players as John Marston, a deadeye ex-outlaw who’s unwillingly forced to face his criminal past and unleash swift justice on his old bandit gang. Aside from featuring a brilliantly-crafted story, Red Dead Redemption received both critical acclaim and commercial success thanks to its immersive world, which successfully peppered organic-feeling random events, addictive side activities and engrossing story missions into the game’s breath-taking recreation of the Wild West.
Considered a last-generation masterpiece, Bioshock generated an unexpected wave of universal acclaim when it released back in 2007. As a spiritual successor to System Shock 2, Bioshock plunged players into the mysterious underwater city of Rapture, and tasked them with surviving the relentless onslaught of the dystopia's genetically modified denizens. Assuming the role of dual-wielding extraordinaire Jack, players were offered a hefty arsenal of weaponry and genetically augmented superpowers – such as shooting electricity, fire or bees from your hand – to strategically eliminate their enemies with. By flawlessly intertwining this intelligent and empowering combat design with thought-provoking story progression, Bioshock provided unsuspecting shooter fans with a remarkably dynamic and memorable gaming experience.