Slideshow

The 32 best Xbox 360 games

Microsoft's next-gen console has a truckload of games, a winning online formula with Xbox Live, and a controller that rests easy in your palms for hours on end.

  • #28: Dead Rising


    Why it's great: One word: lawnmower. Dead Rising gives you dozens of ways to hack, slash, burn, and smash an endless legion of zombies into bloody oblivion. Then it lets you go outside and grab a lawnmower. As sure as dead corpses will rise and gorge themselves on human flesh, grinding undead bone beneath a happy red snapper just never gets old. And, on the off-chance that it does, the game's hilarious and inventive achievements (i.e. "Raining Zombies: Knock at least 30 zombies aside with a parasol") will keep you grinning all night long.
  • #22: Dead or Alive 4


    Why it's great: Soul Caliber IV might have a slight edge in graphics, but Dead or Alive 4 remains the finest versus game available for the Xbox 360. Its strength is in its characters' surprising balance and its engine's flawless parry and counter system; every character can be mastered and just as easily destroyed, making randomised battles an exciting and brutal affair. With a Halo SPARTAN in there to spice things up and that giggle-inducing age setting thrown in for good measure, fighters don't get much better.
  • If you call yourself a gamer, it's a surefire bet you own an Xbox 360, and with good reason: Microsoft's next-gen console has a truckload of games, a winning online formula with Xbox Live, and a controller that rests easy in your palms for hours on end. From the casual platformer to the hardcore shooter, there's something for everyone on this system, and we've listed the very best right here. These are the 32 finest Xbox 360 games money can buy.

  • #31: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords


    Why it's great: It's a casual puzzle game that actually gives you a tangible reason to keep playing, and in that, Puzzle Quest is unique. Bejeweled-like games are addictive from the start, but add on RPG elements, a continuing story line, competitive play, and mana-driven special abilities, and the game becomes something else altogether. Few puzzlers can twist your brain in as many different directions as Warlords. This is one you'll play, and play, and play.
  • #10: BioShock


    Why it's great: Turn down the lights and pull on the wetsuit — it's mighty moist in Rapture. 2K Boston constructed a marvel of storytelling, morality, and environmental suspense with BioShock, diving its players far beneath the Atlantic and sealing them into a submerged dystopia. Beautiful water effects and devilishly fun weapons lured us in, but it was the brutal Big Daddies and twisted Little Sisters that had us holding our breath down every leaking passage. BioShock is a must-buy if you love shooters, horror, RPG elements, or any combination thereof.
  • #15: Call of Duty 2


    Why it's great: Before World War II became the gaming junkyard that developers would scour when they had lost all hope for originality, Infinity Ward made Call of Duty 2. It was the Xbox 360's first and finest trip to the European theater of war. Players rappelled up the sheer walls of Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, defended a besieged Moscow from the invading Nazi army, and piloted a British tank across the blazing sands of North Africa. With its pristine sound effects and pulse-pounding visuals, saving the world has never been more believable.
  • #26: Need for Speed: Carbon


    Why it's great: Newer doesn't always mean better, and that's certainly the case with Need for Speed. NFS's most recent outing, ProStreet, was decent but vaguely disappointing, and even EA knows it. Fortunately, there's still Carbon: the Need for Speed game that took the best parts of Most Wanted and Underground II and combined them into a breathtaking midnight racer. With customisation options keeping that engine under the hood nice and fresh, and the police keeping your nitrous system burning, Carbon's more than just a great hold-out as we wait for NFS: Undercover. It's a pulse-pounding must-play all by itself.
  • #20: N+


    Why it's great: Some Flash games are good. Some Flash games are better than good. And then you get the Flash games that are so unbelievable, they get the star treatment. N+ is that kind of game. It started out life as an online Lode Runner clone with 500 unique levels. Then people realised the pure, unadulterated genius of its design. Now it's been upgraded into an Xbox Live Arcade game with a simple but zippy soundtrack, high-def visuals, co-op play, downloadable extras, and some of the most frustratingly fun puzzle-platforming ever devised. Yes, please.
  • #11: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2


    Why it's great: Geometry Wars made shoot-em-ups fun again when the Xbox 360 was first released, but its sequel has completely re-defined the genre. Six brilliant gameplay modes, a bevy of multiplayer options, and yes, they even made it look more eye-poppingly gorgeous than before. No, we didn't think it could be done, either. Everyday Shooter and Super Stardust HD are good, but Retro Evolved 2 is why you were born with opposable thumbs.
  • #4: Braid


    Why it's great: Because there's never, ever been anything like it. From the moment Braid loads, there's no menu to push through or cutscene to watch. You simply enter a world that exists somewhere between a dream and a painting. It's the Super Mario of the night, a bright and merry and dark and brooding platformer that isn't really a platformer at all. It's just a series of puzzling scenes that leave you awestruck over and over. Once you've beaten it, you might never pick it up again, but while you're playing it, you know it's something special.
  • #23: Blue Dragon


    Why it's great: The moment we played it, we knew, and we said so: Blue Dragon "is, without a doubt, a world-class gaming experience." That's not to say this Japanese RPG doesn't have its share of quirky problems and genre cliches. But it's a game that has learned how to tell a story with just the right amount of flair. It gives players just the right amount of freedom and portrays age-old characters with just the right amount of originality. If you've played JRPGs, then you know what to expect, but the level of enjoyment you get out of it will be a whole lot more than you bargained for. That's what great gaming is all about.
  • #27: Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise


    Why it's great: It doesn't make much sense when you first look at it, but that's okay. You might end up teary-eyed after playing it, but that's okay, too. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise is a game that will never stop telling you "It's okay," and it's an amazing experience for it. Plant the seeds of life, watch them grow, see families emerge and friendships develop, and then grab a tissue and shed a tear as the circle of life finds one of your nurtured creations eaten by another. But it's okay, because it's all a part of a unique gem of game that will smooth things over and make you feel better just for playing. Viva pinata, indeed!
  • #8: Assassin's Creed


    Why it's great: Yes, yes, we know it can get repetitive. We just don't care. Assassin's Creed's gameplay is just too damned fun. Altair cemented his place in the heroic hall of fame the moment we stepped into his soft-soled shoes. No other character has gone through such a profound transformation of self between the beginning and end of a game, has interacted with such memorable friends and foes, has walked such a wide world, and has done it all with such oozing style. From perching atop the highest parapet in Acre to dashing down the bustling streets of Jerusalem, there are simply too many epic "holy hell" moments in Assassin's Creed to name.
  • #16: Guitar Hero III


    Why it's great: Once you've got kids dropping out of school (with their parents' permission, no less) to pursue careers in playing your game, you know you've made a mark on the world. Aside from its set list, the differences between GHIII and its predecessor are slight, but when it comes to a choice between one and the other, we'll pick DragonForce every time. "Through the Fire and the Flames" has become synonymous with awesome. Those that can destroy it have become the rock legends of the gaming world. And it's all thanks to Guitar Hero III. Rock on.
  • #5: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare


    Why it's great: The moment we realised how sick and tired we were of WWII clones, Infinity Ward stepped up with Call of Duty 4. Modern Warfare got knocked early on for telling a too-linear story with too-linear level design, but we'd forgotten just how much we missed living in a story as it unfolds. Thanks to an engine with everything from depth of field to bullet penetration and freaky-accurate physics, CoD4 is the closest we've come to actually stepping out onto the battlefield. And when you consider that the multiplayer game is so good, it's actually giving Halo 3 a run for its money, it's no wonder we count CoD4 among the very best. This is the definitive modern shooter: accept no substitutes.
  • #2: Grand Theft Auto IV


    Why it's great: You already know what Grand Theft Auto IV is. You know, your friends know, your family knows, and that random guy walking down the street knows. For better or worse, GTA4 ranked among the most eagerly-anticipated games of all time, and when it finally came out, it did so with a bang that singed mainstream media's eyebrows. Some call it the Godfather of gaming, others call it trash. Most who have played it can agree that it's a seminal experience. Put your hands together for Rockstar, because it doesn't matter what you have or haven't heard: This game simply must be played.
  • #30: Crackdown


    Why it's great: Rarely has a game made you feel so uber as Crackdown. It flew off the shelves because of the Halo 3 Beta key packaged with it, but it didn't take long for gamers to realise that there was more than one gem inside the box. Every time you level up, you can't help but marvel at your own magnificence, and that's before you can run faster than speeding traffic, leap tall buildings, and drive morphing cars through a living, breathing city. The story might stink, but the sheer joy of Crackdown's sandbox world more than makes up for it. Some would say Crackdown was a better open-world game than even Grand Theft Auto IV, and that's saying a lot.
  • #7: Rock Band 2


    Why it's great: They took one look at Guitar Hero and said, "we can do it better." They did. Great as Guitar Hero is, Rock Band's addition of a drum set saw gaming bands pop up from coast to coast. Innovations in the controller's design turned soloing into an art form. New tracks are added onto Rock Band's song list almost before you've finished downloading old ones. And there's no danger in buying them, because they're all backwards-compatible with Rock Band 2. The game's not much fun without friends, but if you've got them, you're golden.
  • #14: Burnout Paradise


    Why it's great: It lives by its name. Burnout Paradise has everything a Burnout should: perfect crashes, slow-mo destruction, more crashes, and much more destruction. But the Paradise City setting is what raises this game a step above the competition. It's a load-free, perfectly seamless world that you can fling yourself across to your heart's content, blowing apart just about everything (including you), and earning loot for yourself all the while. No game taps into the primal desire to see Big Things Go Boom better than this one.
  • #6: Mass Effect


    Why it's great: It's a magnum opus for the ages, a space opera of galactic proportions. Mass Effect will find you conquering unexplored planets, rescuing hapless innocents, and digging into the lives of a wide and rich cast of characters. It will grant you carte blanche to rediscover a forgotten civilisation and save existence from the onslaught of a soulless menace. Plus, you can have hot lesbian sex along the way! Thank the gaming gods that BioWare is working on at least one sequel; we could stay in this universe forever.
  • #19: Saints' Row


    Why it's great: It was an instant classic when it came out because it showed us all that, yes, it really is possible to beat Rockstar as their own game. Saints' Row took the Grand Theft Auto III formula to unheard-of heights, keeping the snarky humor and core mechanics and lining them with the kind of user-friendly gameplay that says, "Yes, we know that missions were a pain and you wanted to shoot yourself in the foot before driving around town looking for things to do. Don't worry, we fixed that. Oh, and we gave you multiplayer, too." Thank you, Saints' Row. Thank you.
  • #17: Bomberman Live


    Why it's great: Before there was Smash Bros., there was Bomberman. Love it or hate it (but if you hate it, you may not actually have a soul), it's just about as pivotal a game as Pong itself, and it's probably been ported to more systems. A quarter of a century after its first release, Bomberman may well be at its best on Xbox Live, a must-buy Arcade delight that shines the moment you pull a friend into the fray. The grid-like boards are packed to the brim with all sorts of traps, the avatars with all sorts of customisation options, and the game itself with all sorts of explosive, over-the-top fun.
  • #25: Pac-Man Championship Edition


    Why it's great: Well, it's Pac-Man. That alone ranks it among the longest-lasting and most famous games in the world. But spend a little time in the game, and you'll see this is not your father's pizza pie. Toru Iwatani's final iteration of his own classic eat-em-up game introduces dynamically changing levels, improved AI, a streamlined scoring system, and the ability to swerve around corners, all without sacrificing the nail-biting victories and pick-it-up, put-it-down gameplay of the original. It's Pac-Man, but it's a Pac-Man made just for you.
  • #13: The Orange Box


    Why it's great: Never in gaming has there been a better bang-for-the-buck deal than the Orange Box. You get Half Life 2 and its episodic sequels, a single-player rollercoaster of rich storytelling and multi-award-winning gameplay. You get Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer classic polished to absolute perfection. And you get Portal, three hours of what is perhaps the most innovative first-person puzzle gaming you'll ever play. It's a must-own compilation if ever there was one.
  • #12: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2


    Why it's great: It's the best Rainbow Six that's ever existed, bar none. The visuals are powered by Unreal Engine 3, which means the neon lights pop, the slot machines sing, and the characters move with the strength and grace that Team Rainbow always deserved. The controls and cover system are smooth as a bullet casing and completely intuitive. And the co-op game is as polished as the single player experience and twice as thrilling. Accept no substitutes: Vegas 2 is the definitive Rainbow.
  • #29: Fight Night Round 3


    Why it's great: Fight Night Round 3 showed us why the Xbox 360 was a force to be reckoned with, and it did it right out of the gate. Its control scheme had already been perfected over two previous games, and it was backed by a rock-solid brand. But the proverbial knockout punch was its graphics engine. Sweat beads up on the contenders' faces, blood dribbles from cut lips, and skin deforms under the slow-motion pounding of every gloved strike. With the HUD out of the way, there's nothing between you and the photo-realistic ring, and that's just the way we like it. For the ultimate two-player rush, re-create the infamous "Thrilla in Manila" match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.
  • #21: Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars


    Why it's great: There are very few RTS games that have been made for consoles. Even fewer nail the control scheme and turn what should be a mouse-and-keyboard affair into something fit for the couch and gamepad. Of those, only Tiberium Wars deserves a place on this list. That's because once you've gotten past the control scheme — something that usually anchors a console RTS well before it gets underway — the game underneath is exactly what you'd want from Command & Conquer. A vast campaign, a diverse set of missions and a cast of cheesy actors that will have you cheering. This is the C&C we all know and love.
  • #24: Battlefield: Bad Company


    Why it's great: We've been playing Battlefield games for six years, blowing up friends in five different games and a half-dozen expansions, but never has the award-winning multiplayer been matched by a worthy single player experience. Right out of the gate, Bad Company takes a different tack, setting us down in a sprawling, story-driven campaign that deserves the Battlefield name. It doesn't have the drama of Call of Duty 4, but it sure has a character all its own. And wonton destruction, too. Blowing holes in walls is sweet.
  • #32: Rez HD


    Why it's great: If you've never played Rez before, don't worry. You'll have no idea what you'll be getting into, but that's okay — the Tron-like graphics, crisp background beats, and pulse-building tempo will have you toe-tapping before you know it. The next time you check your watch, you'll be an hour into the game with drool running down your face and an uncontrollable urge to buy more controllers. Because let's face it: there's no reason not to make sweet, sweet use of that rumble feature.
  • #18: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2


    Why it's great: Set in the not-too-distant future with not-too-fictional weaponry, GRAW 2 has taken control of the tactical gaming arena. Its single player campaign is interesting, but its multiplayer gameplay is where the real meat is, and it's as thrilling as tactical combat gets. A 16-player co-op campaign highlights a slew of new, fully-customisable game types, buttressed by new abilities like squad healing and eight maps to complement GRAW's originals. GRAW 2's title might be a mouthful, but every bite gushes with juicy goodness.
  • #9: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Game of the Year Edition


    Why it's great: Despite having more colons in its name than you do in your body, Oblivion is one for the ages. Though not without its fair share of annoyances, its vast and gorgeous world, lush scenery, challenging quest lines, and diverse class system make it an RPG dream come true. Earn housing, claim heroism, scale tall mountains and pillage deep dungeons, and do it all in any order you want. Oh, and you get let out of jail by Captain Picard. No, he doesn't facepalm. That would have been awesome, though.
  • #3: Gears of War


    Why it's great: It's a masterpiece. That, and you've got a chainsaw on your gun. Sure, the combat is visceral and mercilessly bloody. Sure, the cover system's excellent and the world is rough and tangible. Sure, the set pieces are brilliant and undeniably memorable. And yes, it's true that Epic Games went from being "the studio that made Unreal Tournament" to "the guys that gave us Gears of War." But all that pales in comparison to one simple fact: You've got a chainsaw on your gun.
  • #1: Halo 3


    Why it's great: You don't really need to be told, do you? Halo 3 is the crescendo to a majestic orchestral trilogy, the single finest example of gameplay perfection as it can be experienced on the Xbox 360. Its story is soaring and timeless; its single-player campaign a symphony of exhilaration and suspense, of heroism and redemption. Its multiplayer has defined what it means to be a shooter on Xbox Live, from the customisable matchmaking to the smack-talking preteens. Other games may steal the crown now and then, but Halo 3 will always have rightful claim to the throne.
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