You know what’s cool? Video games. Vid. Ya. GAMS. The Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are here ushering in a new generation of consoles. With that being said, their predecessors will most likely be phased out over the next couple of years. I don’t have a shiny new box from Microsoft or Sony but I still have one of their old boxes and damn did it serve me well. Think of this as a celebration of the previous generation of games. These are my top 10 games on the Xbox 360.
Bastion took the stigma of downloadable games and kicked its ass all over my face.
In the skies of the Bastion is where I first began to truly consider downloadable games as more than just cheap, short adventures. With hand-drawn graphics, fun but challenging mechanics and a very unique setting and story, Bastion easily became one of the best games on Xbox Live. Right when you’re dropped into the game and playing as The Kid, the narrator begins telling the tale of The Kid and The Bastion. The unique thing is that the narrator’s lines are dynamic and actually reflects what the player does. If you go nuts and break a bunch of boxes in the middle of a level, the narrator will say something like “And The Kid was letting off some steam on some those boxes.” The game also had RPG-like elements where you could upgrade The Kid’s weapons and armor and by the end of the game, players were also given crucial story choices after introducing memorable characters. Bastion took the stigma of downloadable games and kicked its ass all over my face. With its beautiful art and sound, along with its simple but challenging gameplay, Bastion became one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.
By the end of Portal 2 I was left in awe, my mind had exploded.
The Orange Box was the first time I played, I mean, really played Valve games. After I had spent countless nights running through Half-Life 2 and its episodes, I played Portal. From the moment the portal gun was introduced I was helplessly hooked until the very end. Then there’s Portal 2. All Valve did was take the basic mechanics of the original and toss in a few extra physics puzzles and a meatier story with a witty robot named Wheatley. And that’s all they had to do. By the end of Portal 2 I was left in awe, my mind had exploded. The ending, seriously, is one of the greatest endings in video game history. After I finished the game I had trouble playing others because nothing else in terms of writing and gameplay came remotely close to Valve’s masterpiece. From the moment it hit shelves, Portal 2 became an instant classic.
“Oh my god, what the fuck!”
Is what I said to my brother who was in the room when I started playing the original Dead Space. I’m not big on survival horror games mostly because they have shitty gameplay mechanics and the story sucks. Bring in Dead Space, where the story wasn’t too bad and the gameplay was fucking awesome. If you’ve ever played Resident Evil 4 then playing Dead Space feels very similar and that’s a great thing. In Dead Space you follow the story of Isaac Clarke, a mechanic whose job gets turned into the worst/scariest episode of Dirty Jobs ever when he and his crew discover alien-zombie things all over a government space ship the size of Texas. The story gets a little religious and cuckoo but those damned pop scares are littered about the dark corridors and you as the player can do nothing about them except shoot the freaky monsters, tearing their limbs apart because shooting them in the head is not an instant kill. I tried not to play the game in dark with head phones on because I’m a wuss but I kept playing anyways because the mechanics of shooting the arms off a necromorph and then stomping on their face with my big ass space boot was too good to pass up.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
By the end of the three hour tale, I was deeply moved and a little sad
It kind of looks like Fable but it’s not an RPG from Lionhead Studios. This is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It’s a short, three hour downloadable game where the player controls two brothers, one on each thumb stick. The premise is simple: the two brothers must go on a journey to save their sick father. The journey takes the two brothers through mountains and forests full of blood-thirsty wolves and hills where spiders and giants live. The puzzles are clever and since you’ll be controlling both brothers independently with each analog stick, your brain may feel like you’re patting your head and rubbing your tummy all at once. And even though there’s no spoken dialogue, the emotions of these characters are all shown with their body movements and facial expressions. By the end of the three hour tale, I was deeply moved and a little sad. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a lot about accepting what has happened in our lives, and trying our best to appreciate what we have now because you never know, you might get killed by a tribe of mountain men.
Never before had players been dropped into such a uniquely disturbing and beautiful dystopian world…
Rapture. The original Bioshock ushered in a new style of gameplay for first person shooters. Gun in one hand, magic in the other, with easy access to additional weapons and abilities with a flick of the left or right triggers. The original Bioshock also gave us something in terms of story telling through clever use of audio and environmental cues. The city of Rapture is by far the most impressive feat developers Irrational Games accomplished in it’s 2007 hit. Never before had players been dropped into such a uniquely disturbing and beautiful dystopian world where big giant suits of metal and iron drilled crazed civilians into walls. And to layer underneath that gruesomeness, the game even commented on societal issues such as socio-economic standing and political intrigue. Bioshock is not only a smart and deeply detailed, at times grotesque game, but it’s one of the greatest games of all time.
Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition
I played a lot of Dragon Age: Origins. Like, a lot.
By the end of the original campaign I had recorded over 33 hours and after I finished all of the DLC campaigns, the total number of hours was well over 50. Bioware’s first installment in their fantasy epic hooked me with the dark fantasy setting, impressive character customization (I was a very short elf) and the company’s signature dialogue system. Choices you made mattered and influenced your party members opinion of your character. It’s easy to dismiss Dragon Age as the fantasy version of Bioware’s Mass Effect series but it’s much more than that. As somebody that played through both franchises, I found myself more at home in the magical land of Ferelden than the lens flaring SSV Normandy.
Tales of Vesperia
None of that turn-based crap.
The Xbox 360 doesn’t have a rich library of JRPGs. I could never get through Final Fantasy XIII and the handful of other JRPGs, as far as I know, are trash. It wasn’t until I started playing Tales of Vesperia that my hope for a quality JRPG on 360 was fulfilled. Here we have the very basics of the genre at its highest quality. You can fight monsters, you can cook, you can watch your characters talk in Japanese anime-style cut scenes and everything is cel-shaded for a real animated look. The combat is also live. None of that turn-based crap. When I press A, the character does things. On top of it all, the characters are charming, there’s a ton of voice-acting and dialogue which you can bring up at almost any time by pressing the Back button. The story is also pretty interesting with clever twists most people wouldn’t expect. What else can I say? The combat, story and characters are all solid, making it one of the best JRPGs on the platform.
…Alan Wake’s best moments come from the players constant need of light.
I guess you can say Alan Wake is a survival horror game about a writer who is battling an evil spirit that took his wife away. What? That plot sounds absolutely insane but that’s more or less what the game is about. But fear not, the dark and wavy forests of Alan Wake are lined with impressive gun play and some of the best lighting effects you’ve ever seen. The story is also at the center of this adventure thanks to developers Remedy and director/writer Sam Lake. The game is separated into episodes, similar to a T.V. show and each episode even gives a recap of what happened previously. It all ties into a very writerly style of presentation. Outside of the presentation, Alan Wake’s best moments come from the players constant need of light. With that being said, the game is a very dark place and this gives the player a real sense of dread and tension that never really goes away. For a survival horror game, that’s one of the best things which makes Alan Wake one of the best in its genre.
…if a game such as Halo, where you mostly shoot shit, makes you actually feel emotional, then that’s probably a good thing.
After a few years of drifting through deep space, John 117 made his triumphant return and damn was it really really nice to look at it. I don’t know how the team at 343 Industries pulled it off but the fourth installment to Microsoft’s most popular video game franchise pushed the aging Xbox 360 to its very limits with gorgeous scenery and an even more impressive audio design. Halo 4 was one of the few games I actually played to the end in one sitting. The shooting mechanics were perfected and the missions were designed with diverse gameplay. Players got to ride in tanks, take to the skies for aerial combat, as well as the usual run and gun. Couple this with the highly cinematic campaign and top notch voice acting, boring moments in Halo 4 were nearly non existent. For about 75 percent of the game I felt that the game was a nice improvement over its predecessor but then it happened. The ending of the game had me feeling all sorts of, well, feels. And if a game such as Halo, where you mostly shoot shit, makes you actually feel emotional, then that’s probably a good thing. Thanks to its awarding winning A/V, its top-notch writing along with its unprecedented online community, Halo 4 is the best Halo game yet and is one of the Xbox 360’s greatest titles.
Batman: Arkham City
I don’t know what to say, this game is badass.
Here we go. I played Arkham Asylum and beat the hell out of that game. Asylum was the first superhero game where I actually felt like I was the superhero. I am Batman. In Arkham City, you play as the Dark Knight but it’s completely open world this time around. You can zip across rooftops with your grappling hook, or glyde around with your cape. You can drop down and beat the living crap out of bad guys or go find Riddler trophies that are scattered all over the game. You had all of the Bat’s gadgets including an impressive amount of upgrades. This time around though, you could also play as Ms. Selina Kyle, Catwoman herself which gave the game a nice pace. As with its predecessor, Arkham City built an incredible story full of crazy twists and turns. The acting of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy was also brilliant as ever. And then, gah, I, I just can’t. I don’t know what to say, this game is badass. Just one of the greatest games ever. I put close to 50 hours into the game, I got just about every Riddler Trophy (before I lost my save) and tracked down every side quest. I love Batman, I love this game.