Best Xbox 360 games of all time
By GamesRadar Staff December 18, 2018 Feature
Newly updated and recalibrated, read our list of the best games to ever grace the Xbox 360
The Xbox 360 dominated gaming following its 2005 launch. There was a reason the 360 took the lead over the competitors for so many years: it had some of the best games ever made. And being that this is a 'best Xbox 360 games' list, narrowing down the system's impressive library to just 50 entries was preposterously hard.
The following is a collection of standout games well worth the countless hours we spent with them. And since the dear old 360 has made way for the Xbox One, you can consider these the greatest and best Xbox 360 games of all time.
1.Mass Effect 2 (2010)
You probably have more of a heartfelt connection with one (or every) member of Commander Shepard's crew than at least 50 percent of the people you know in real life. That's because the Mass Effect trilogy tells a captivating story in a fascinating, fully realized universe, where morality, politics, and love between lifeforms are all part of a much grander picture. Mass Effect 2 is the Empire Strikes Back of the series, giving you more of everything you loved from the first game with none of the tonal changes of the third.
Commander Shepard feels like an extension of you, both in the ethical choices she or he makes, and in the enthralling third-person shootouts, where bullets, lasers, and orbs of biotic energy zip every which way. But the crown jewel in this N7 helmet is the cast of unforgettable characters, all of whom have their own personal journey of absolution and self-discovery. Regardless of how you feel about the way the story ends, Mass Effect 2 is the indisputable high point in one of the greatest action RPG franchises of all time.
The real beauty of BioShock is its philosophical exploration of hubris. It's a haunting experience that explores what happens when a chunk of mankind is left to embrace its ideals to the fullest, without societal restrictions. It suggests, in a very convincing way, that pride is often fatal. That these eye-opening themes are conveyed through rather fun gameplay is just icing on the cake.
At a glance, this is a first-person shooter in which you a) shoot stuff and b) jack yourself up on sea-slug juice to get magic powers. The people you're killing? Sea-slug juice addicts. Even BioShock's most basic gameplay elements are tied into its narrative: How far are you willing to go to gain power? Would you kill a child in exchange for an extra ability, or would you let them go because that's the Right Thing To Do? Are you really any better than the addicts you're destroying? The way BioShock ties all of its gameplay elements into its haunting message, coupled with its incredible use of atmosphere, makes this one of the best games to play on any console.
What began as a student demo grew into one of the Xbox 360s most unforgettable games. Whether packaged as part of The Orange Box or on its own as the Still Alive XBLA version, Portal achieves an astoundingly rich atmosphere by combining hilarious (but character-rich) writing with clever puzzle gameplay. And Portal does it all with so few components that it makes many bigger games look bloated by comparison.
The experience begins with the simple concept of travelling between two portals in a locked room, but the developers find so many smart ways to iterate on that gameplay. The puzzle action grows unpredictably just as your unseen AI controller slowly transitions from banal directives to biting insults. The writing and action synergy culminates as the straightforward setting gives way to an amazing twist that enriches all that came before it. Portal tells a story in a way that only video games could, and thats why it (and the Companion Cube) remain in our hearts to this day.
4.The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Forget what you've heard - size matters. All things considered, you could probably conquer Skyrim in about 10 hours if you just stick to the games main quest line. Stay on the main line and you'll watch the credits with a confused look on your face, wondering what all the hubbub is about. But if you don't get lost in the huge world, you're missing the point.
The massive role-playing games main attraction is everything it has to offer on the side. It's no exaggeration to say that you could spend hundreds of hours adventuring, exploring, crafting, hunting, and dungeon diving. Main story? It's pretty good, but it's the story you create as you carve your mark in Skyrim that's the real victory here. Elder Scrolls V ups the ante for the open-world experience, making a truly gorgeous and ambitious title that'll keep you busy for a long, long time. Like, seriously, go ahead and cancel all other obligations you have - while you wait for Elder Scrolls 6 to come out, you're best off spending those hundreds of hours fighting dragons.
5.Batman: Arkham City (2011)
If Batman: Arkham Asylum took the world by surprise, then Batman: Arkham City took it by storm. Moving the action from the world's most famous home for the criminally insane to a dingy, crime-infested corner of Gotham City gave us the chance to truly behave like the bat. Hearing the cries of the victimized, we swooped down from the rooftops, dishing out cruel justice with our fists and utility belt full of wonderful toys. Arkham Asylum broke ground with gameplay that actually felt like authentic Batman behavior, but with Arkham City's open world to patrol, we felt as if we were the Dark Knight.
It was an awesome expansion of the gameplay from Asylum, and the story was similarly deepened. Batman just wouldn't be Batman without his enemies, and centering the plot around the Joker was a perfect move. So was introducing even more memorable villains from his long list of enemies. From a frightening face-off with Solomon Grundy to a mind-bending encounter with the Mad Hatter, alongside one of the most creative boss fights we've ever seen with Mr. Freeze, Batman: Arkham City didn't disappoint in the villain department. In fact, it didn't disappoint anywhere. We think it's the best superhero game to date.
6.Red Dead Redemption (2010)
There are few games that put you in the Wild West setting, and even fewer that would let you do basically anything you would ever want to do as a cowboy in an open world. Want to wear a bandana on your face and tie a damsel to train tracks? You can do that in Red Dead Redemption. Want to fight a bear with a knife, hunt for treasure, or duel some varmint in the dusty streets outside the town saloon? You can do that too. Then you can hop online and do it all with your friends.
And we havent even mentioned the story. RDR also tells one of the most compelling tales in gaming, letting you explore developer Rockstars version of Texas and Mexico with some of the most memorable characters of this console generation. Meet colorful characters like grave robbers, snake-oil salesmen, and Mexican revolutionaries, and get into bar fights, have shootouts with bandits, or just ride out into the sunset. This is a game that shouldn't be missed.
7.Dark Souls (2011)
Contrary to what you might've heard, this game--and the Souls series as a whole--is not about death: It's about what you learn from it. In many games, dying simply means restarting from the most recent checkpoint. In Dark Souls, it's a metric of success. If you die to the many traps and monsters in the game's dark fantasy world, it's because you messed up.
See, few things are as gratifying as overcoming a seemingly impossible challenge. Dark Souls latches onto this notion and turns it into its very foundation. It throws one obstacle after another at you, ranging from regular monsters that are outrageously deadly to towering bosses that can destroy you with a single hit. Only by persevering can you hope to succeed, and the adrenaline rush that comes with victory is something that very few games can replicate.
8.Tomb Raider (2013)
Lara Croft was one of gaming's original treasure hunters, but as time went on, she fell into obscurity. That is, until Crystal Dynamics rebooted the action adventure franchise with a whole new origin story - Tomb Raider isn't just the best game in the series, it's one of the best games in the genre.
The tale of an inexperienced Lara having to fight to survive while stranded on a creepy, cult-infested island is surprisingly gritty and brutal. Seeing her die to the island's many dangers establishes her not as a superhero, but a regular human being. Granted, she still guns down a small army of mercenaries, but the gunplay is so good you won't even mind. As is the platforming and exploring of the mysterious island setting, itself a character with plenty of secrets to find and, shocker, tombs to raid. The fantastic pacing does a great job of letting you explore without whipping out a gun every five seconds - and when the 12-hour journey comes to an end, you'll be eager to play it all over again.
9.Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
Rockstar games sure takes its time, doesn't it? The wait between Grand Theft Auto games is draining, but always--always--worth the wait. Grand Theft Auto 5's return to Los Santos is a great one, and brings with it some of the largest changes to gameplay since GTA3 reinvented the open-world shooter. Being able to swap between characters fundamentally changes how you interact with the world, and allowed the developers to create one of the largest sandboxes we've ever seen in a game without it feeling overwhelming. Well, alright, it's a little overwhelming, but it never gets out of control.
And then there are the characters--oh, lord, the characters. No one writes dialogue like Rockstar, breathing life into every single person you interact with. The three protagonists all have totally different motives, stories, and personalities, making for a wholly unique experience that no game before has ever successfully executed. Plus, breaking it into thirds made it so there could be a wider variety of levels without sacrificing the believability of the world, fixing one of the nagging flaws that has plagued Grand Theft Auto games since their inception.
10.Ultra Street Fighter IV (2014)
Street Fighter 4 revitalized 2D fighting among mainstream gamers when it debuted in early 2009. It combined traditional techniques with new flourishes like Focus attacks and comeback-enabling Ultras, plus a few zany additions to the roster. Flash forward to Ultra Street Fighter 4, and that roster has ballooned into a cast full of possibilities and wildly unique fighting styles. Whether you like to rush down or turtle, play smart or play dumb, there's someone in Arcade Edition who you can play to your heart's content.
And the community-driven options for online play are excellent. From endless battle and team battle to the replay channel that lets you rewatch great fights, theres a wonderful depth of content designed to keep you engaged, playing, and sharpening your skills till the end of days. With the numerous improvements to Capcom's formula, excellent netcode, and a truly solid foundation, Ultra Street Fighter 4 is the definitive version of the game.
11.The Walking Dead: Season One (2012)
From a gameplay standpoint, The Walking Dead may appear weak when viewed next to the likes of Street Fighter and Arkham City. Most of the actual action centers around relatively simple puzzles and average QTEs. But if it's so plain, why do we feel such intense emotions when playing all five episodes of this deceptively simple title? Because the games storytelling makes almost every other game seem childish by comparison.
The Walking Dead captures the feeling of the comics brilliantly, taking you through a number of heart-wrenching choices that have no obvious solution. Life-or-death scenarios crop up when you least expect them, and you feel so taxed by them because the writing makes you so heavily invested in your friends survival. The games continual conversations make you more connected to these fictional people than many living people you know, which makes it that much more painful when you have to choose who dies next. If Walking Dead can pull that off, who cares if it has precise shooting or brain-busting puzzles?
12.Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag (2013)
If you haven't been keeping up with the complex (and at this point, incredibly confusing) plot of the Assassin's Creed series, well, good luck trying to catch up. While other games in the series split the story between Desmond and his respective ancestor, Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag gives us exactly what we want: a chance to be a badass assassin pirate plundering the open seas.
It's true that AC4 makes a better pirate game than an Assassin's Creed game, but Edward Kenway's story is one of the most engaging the series has seen yet. You are a pirate captain doing what scurvy pirates do best. You'll loot and plunder on the open water in your very own upgradable ship, as you participate in ship-to-ship battles, boarding parties, and trying to navigate deadly storms. Of course, there's also plenty of assassin stuff to do and buildings to climb, but anyone looking for the quintessential pirate experience can't go wrong with AC4.
13.Bioshock Infinite (2013)
As soon as you step into BioShock Infinite's floating city of Colombia, the atmosphere sucks you in and never lets go. Just walking through the city streets at the start of the game will have you mystified, and by that point you haven't even scratched the surface of what mindblowingly insane moments you'll experience by the end.
Once again, you're pitted against an entire community of murderous psychopaths with your arsenal of firearms and vigor powers. On top of the classic BioShock combat, giving you the ability to mix powers, the environment, and your weapons to decimate enemies in various ways, you also get a handy hook device that lets you snag Colombia's transport rails and turn every battle into a rollercoaster. With such intense gameplay and an ending that will stick with you for years to come, Infinite definitely earns its place as one of the best 360 games you can buy.
14.XCOM: Enemy Unknown (2012)
Here's a free tip: Don't name any of your soldiers in XCOM: Enemy Unknown after people you care about. While that might be your initial inclination upon learning you can name them, it's a bad idea, and will almost undoubtedly end in tears as you see your friends and family members torn the hell apart by aliens. And it'll always feel like it's your fault.
That's because despite being unrelenting and brutal, Enemy Unknown's remarkable, strategic gameplay is always fair. If your squad is wiped it's your fault for giving them bad orders. If your soldiers fail to do damage it's your fault for neglecting to upgrade them enough. If the world falls into chaos it's your fault, which makes for an incredibly satisfying experience.
15.Halo 4 (2012)
What is Halo without its creator? Quite a bit, actually. As the first project for Microsoft's newly formed internal studio 343 Industries, Halo 4 proved that Master Chief was in capable hands in this post-Bungie world.
Easily one of the most graphically proficient Xbox 360 games, Halo 4 brought a wealth of new gameplay changes to the established interstellar shooter formula. The new Promethean constructs, in particular, offered a welcome change to the well-trod Covenant-Human war. The new in no way diminished the old, though, with Halo's proven multiplayer component and vivid storytelling remaining in full effect.
16.Dead Space 2 (2011)
The first Dead Space is a frightening experience that echoes the brilliance of the original Alien film, but Dead Space 2 ends up besting it in ways we didn't expect. DS2 ramps up the action - often a mistake with a horror sequel - and it pays off thanks to a deeper story that's more interested in character development than the first game.
After Dead Space lead Isaac Clarke lost everything he ever cared about, he spends the sequel coming to terms with his grief and learning to live again - right as everything around him is being torn to shreds. The scary tension remains, only now it pays off in extraordinary action set pieces and a more involved story that actually feels hopeful at times. DS2 is more of a crowd-pleasing blockbuster than its predecessor, but so was Aliens, and we don't hear people complaining about that movie.
17.Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Ok, so there have been about a bajillion Call of Dutys that have come out since the release of Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, we know. But one of the most recent titles has to surpass the original MW in gameplay, story, and multiplayer features right? Well, yes and no.
In our eyes, Call of Duty 4 is the definitive CoD that every shooter fan should pick up and play. It still has the best narrative of all of its predecessors and successors, it controls just as well as you remember (because IW got the controls perfect), and MW still has a loyal following that has been keeping the multiplayer servers warm. That isn't to say that there haven't been significant improvements on the multiplayer front--in fact we recommend that you just pick up the latest CoD if multiplayer is all you're looking for. But as a full package, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is still the single best title in the series.
18.The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011)
Geralt of Rivia isn't a guy you want to mess with. First of all, he is a genetically altered super mutant who has the skills of a master swordsman, has command over arcane powers, and takes down the most dangerous mythical beasts single-handedly. In The Witcher 2, Geralt continues his quest to find answers from his mysterious past - because one day he rose from the dead with amnesia.
Witcher 2's plot revolves around Geralt embarking on a mission to prove his innocence for the crime of regicide, and as you progress through the story every major plot twist is under your control. Should you help the downtrodden elves and dwarves against their human oppressors, or leave them to their fate and focus on your quest? With a challenging and deep combat system, an enchanting world to explore, and an unforgettable tale, The Witcher 2 is an RPG you won't want to miss.
19.FIFA 12 (2011)
FIFA has been through so many iterations, youd expect the formula to be perfect by now. Well, it isn't. FIFA 13 tinkered too much with the tried-and-tested, which actually took it back a step. Which means the best FIFA on Xbox 360 is FIFA 12. And seeing as PES has failed to match its rival for pretty much the entire generation, that means its the best football game on the system.
What makes it so great? The officially-licensed teams, recognizable player likenesses, realistic stadia full of spectators, superb ball physics, move lists, skill commands and a brilliant online mode. Its fast, flowing, organic its simply an incredible package. And one that sounds almost like real-life thanks to the amazing commentary.
20.Gears of War 2 (2008)
Gears of War 2 was a bigger, better, and all around gorier package than its predecessor, which resulted in a game that was a blast to play with friends cooperatively or even alone. While Gears of War 3 made significant improvements to the multiplayer modes, Gears 2 holds a special place in our hearts because it was our first introduction to horde mode. Everyone always remembers their first time.
Even the story was more powerful in the sequel, shifting the focus to Dominic Santiago, who searches desperately for his wife Maria. When they are finally reunited, the subsequent scene left us stunned, and even made a few of us cry. For a game that centers itself around big, tough, beefy men, it was definitely something we werent expecting, and will likely never forget.
21.Super Meat Boy (2010)
The pitch-perfect Mario physics get taken to their absolute extremes in Super Meat Boy. Actually, scratch that--Nintendo's plumber mascot could never cling to walls with a bloody splat, or control his mid-air trajectory with the same quick precision as a frenzied seamstress threading needles like her life depended on it. No other game in existence delivers a more fun--or challenging--experience where you play as a cube of hamburger.
Sure, SMB's later levels may make you quiver with anxiety or curse at airhorn-like decibels, but overcoming them provides nothing short of elation. It's oh-so tough but always fair, and watching your failed attempts after finishing a level is one of the most cathartic moments of any hardcore 2D platformer.
She has guns on her feet and her outfit is made of hair; is there really anything else you need to know about Bayonetta? There is? Oh, well, then we can talk about how the gameplay is absolutely outstanding. The Devil May Cry-inspired combat ("inspired" being another term for "made by the guy who made the original few Devil May Cry games") is fast and brutal, and the artistic design is inspired.
It's also insane. Like, totally nuts--the game rewards you for combos with outlandish, flashy visuals that are so over-the-top you'll be grinning from ear to ear. Some battles end with Bayonetta turning her hair into a giant dog and devouring her enemies. Does it make sense? No, not in the slightest. Should you play it anyway? Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
23.Dragon Age: Origins (2009)
There was a time when everyone assumed Dragon Age: Origins had died a quiet death, caught up and swallowed whole by some preproduction morass. And who could blame them, given that the game was first announced in 2004 and went quiet until EA's purchase of BioWare in 2007. But death was not the destiny of this great RPG.
When Dragon Age did make it to market, in 2009, it signalled BioWare's return to the upper echelon of western RPG development. It had engaging combat and excessive gore, sure, but what made Origins stand out was a distinctly BioWare touch: a ranging, epic story. Choice played a real role in the original Dragon Age, and you were pushed to form complex relationships with the game's large cast.
Oh, Jonathan Blow... you genius, pretentious, genius rotter, you. The release of Braid did as much for the indie gaming scene as it did for its auteur creator, at once elevating Blow to the pantheon of solitary designers and establishing a precedent for tightly compacted, meaningful game experiences on consoles.
Braid's brilliance is manifold. It's a beautiful game, no doubt, with a watercolor aesthetic and subdued soundtrack that complement its clever time-manipulation mechanic. And that mechanic easily carried the game's mind-bending puzzles. There will be a point while playing Braid where you think to yourself, "God damn, I'm dumb." Likely it'll happen every level, and the game is all the more gratifying because of it.
25.Borderlands 2 (2012)
If your three favorite things on the entire planet are guns, toilet humor, and min/maxing RPG stats, then Borderlands 2 is a dream come true. Gearbox Software's FPS/RPG hybrid is basically Diablo in shooter form. While the first was a great proof of concept, the second had us in stitches for 20+ hours while we shot up bandits and bonerfarts with guns that set living creatures on fire.
The writing here is sure to make you laugh, thanks to the hilarious cast of characters. Claptrap, a returning favorite from the original, is as silly as ever, while the new villain, Handsome Jack, spouts some of the most giggle-worthy lines in the entire game. It also helps that the action is addictive and fun, as the dozens of quests not only lead to more laughs, but also huge caches of loot and XP rewards, allowing you the opportunity to further develop your character's abilities. Best of all, you can play with up to three friends, making Borderlands 2 one hell of a memorable co-op experience.