The 10 Best Xbox Exclusives of All Time – IGN

Since Microsoft launched the original Xbox in 2001 we’ve seen thousands of games come out across four generations of consoles. Here, IGN’s top Xbox fans have picked out the very best of the best, settling on just 10 games that represent the finest of the Xbox canon. Our criteria: we chose games that were originally Xbox exclusives. They might have come out on other consoles later down the line, but at the time they represented the best of what the Xbox consoles had to offer. With that said, here are our top 10 Xbox exclusives of all time.

10. Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

Built as a dev experiment to test the OG Xbox controller’s analog sticks for Project Gotham Racing (source), Geometry Wars was one of the best Xbox games you could play around the launch of the Xbox Live Arcade for the 360. If you were like us, friends would fight tooth and nail over who could top the leaderboards. Once we learned the ins and outs of point generation we were jamming out to the killer soundtrack while racking up score multipliers left and right. Geometry Wars was great then and continues to be even all these years later.

Dead Rising launched within the first year of Xbox 360 and showcased what the second-generation Xbox was capable of: namely, hundreds of zombies shambling around the screen without completely tanking the frame rate. Granted, it hasn’t aged all that well in the past 15 years, but it is still a decently fun zombie-massacring game that gives you the freedom to pursue the story or goof around in an infested mall using mostly anything as a weapon to defend yourself.

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8. Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves is a fantastic open-world game that lets you captain your own ship, fight skeletons and phantoms, dig up treasure, and basically just live the Pirate’s Life! It encourages multiple play styles, both alone and with a crew of friends. You can spend your time-solving puzzles and ranking up your Pirate alliance class, sink other players’ ships in arena mode while flying a Reaper flag, or you can battle a barrage of AI villains on the open seas. And the surprises keep coming, since Sea of Thieves has been updated consistently ever since it came out in 2018. We’ve gotten interesting challenges and storylines, including the recent Disney collaboration that brought us a whole Pirates of the Caribbean campaign. Gameplay has been steadily improving too, since the developer, Rare, has consistently proven that it is more than willing to listen to player feedback. With Xbox Game Pass making it available to any subscriber, it’s easy for new players to jump right in.

7. Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic

Coming two years after the release of the original Xbox, BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was the fateful next step in the critical and commercial success for the creators of the breakout RPG hits Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2. This new epic Star Wars tale, which is set some 4,000 years before the events of movies, BioWare’s approach provided a fresh look at what video games could accomplish in George Lucas’ universe, especially from a storytelling perspective. It introduced memorable locations and quests, with characters like the bloodthirsty assassin droid HK-47, Darth Revan, and many more. At the same time, it set the standard for what a western RPG could achieve, offering us difficult choices that affected our story and experiences as we played. Along with its all-time great twist, KOTOR would go on to be remembered as one of the original Xbox’s standout achievements, revered not just as an RPG but as a standout part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

6: Ori and the Blind Forest

There’s no shortage of Metroidvania-style platforming games, which makes it hard for any one to stand out. Even so, when it arrived on the Xbox One in 2015, Ori and the Blind Forest stood out immediately. It has a gorgeous art style, ultra-responsive controls, a bounteous variety of enemies, and a tough-but-fair level of difficulty to its platforming challenges. Tying it all together is a touching story that made us care deeply about these characters and their world almost instantly. It provided an outstanding foundation for the 2020 sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, to build on.

5. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Like The Elder Scroll III: Morrowind on the Xbox 360 before it, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the undisputed king of western RPGs in its day when it arrived in 2006. Featuring an expansive map that dwarfed even Morrowind’s open world, Oblivion allowed us to become fully immersed in the lands of Cyrodiil. We played through engaging and epic questlines (featuring the voices of Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean!), as well as sprawling cities and towns where every person had their own 24-hour schedule of working and sleeping, making the world feel much more alive than any previous RPG. Whether you yearned to become the Gray Fox of the Thieves Guild or Arch-Mage of the Arcane University, Oblivion is full of engrossing storylines to uncover and lose yourself in.

4. Gears of War

Epic Games may not have invented the third-person cover shooting genre, but the original Gears of War revolutionized it in a stellar cooperative shooter that pushed the Xbox 360 to its limits and kicked off another flagship Xbox game series.

This single-player, co-op, and multiplayer triple threat innovated with its embrace of the second-generation of Xbox Live that made it easy to find a friend playing through the gritty and bloody campaign and drop right in to join them, or just wholesale invite your friends into a party for some pub-stomping in public matchmaking for competitive matches.

Also: CHAINSAW GUN!

3. Fable

When Fable launched in the third year of the original Xbox’s lifetime, the only other big RPG on Microsoft’s first console was the outstanding Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. But while not all of designer Peter Molyneux’s famously boastful promises came to pass, Fable easily distinguished itself from everything that’d come before with action combat and spellcasting, choices of meaningful consequence, and a highly British sensibility that remains charming to this day (maybe throw in a “chicken chaser” soundbite). Beyond that, you can buy a house, get married, get divorced, kill your best friend, and embrace a freedom of choice not often seen in its time. But above all, what Fable really accomplished was to carve out a wholly unique attitude for itself, cementing a sense of nostalgia that many of us are still chasing to this day.

2. Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon is Xbox’s Porsche 911 — a franchise that’s attractive, powerful, and most importantly, reliable. Forza Horizon is consistently a showcase series for the Xbox consoles, and Forza Horizon 4 is arguably the best among them even today. The way it brings the United Kingdom to life with utterly spectacular sights and sound design is unmatched. At the same time, Forza Horizon has managed to fill the arcade racing niche left vacant by the decline of series like EA’s Need for Speed, and its accessibility has allowed its popularity to overtake the more hardcore classic Forza Motorsport series and made Xbox the go-to console for racing enthusiasts.

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1. Halo: Combat Evolved

Come on, did you really think anything else could ever possibly be #1 on this list? As one of the all-time best launch games for any console, Halo: Combat Evolved proved to be so good, so influential, and so important to Microsoft that the Xbox might not have made it past its first console generation without it. Sure, 2004’s Halo 2 was the catalyst for the runaway success of Xbox Live and, arguably, online multiplayer gaming on consoles as a whole, but the original Halo gave Xbox an identity as a multiplayer machine that friends could gather around, made it cool, and proved that first-person shooters could truly be great without a mouse and keyboard. Thanks to the outstanding multiplayer and an original story that brought us the Master Chief, Cortana, Warthogs, and so many iconic Covenant enemies and vehicles, Bungie became a household name. Soon, gamers were hauling their enormous CRT TVs to each others’ houses for System Link LAN parties, and entire cottage industries (like Rooster Teeth’s Red vs. Blue machinima series) sprouted out of the runaway popularity of Halo. And so yes, Combat Evolved is and will always be the GOAT when it comes to Xbox exclusives.

Naturally there are countless other fantastic and beloved Xbox exclusives that got elbowed off of our small top 10 list, and no disrespect to them, but these are the ones that came out on top in the friendly competition for IGN’s staff’s hearts. What’s on your list? Let us know in the comments, and then check out some of our other top 10s to see what you agree with and what you don’t. And for all your gaming news, reviews, and more, keep it here at IGN.

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