One could easily argue that Microsoft’s original Xbox, circa 2001, was and is one of the absolute best video game consoles ever created or conceived of. Sure, it’s easy to overlook its success in the era of super HD (which we now live in), but the overall jump in terms of quality that we saw (with regards to home entertainment gaming) certainly had a big effect on the entire industry at large. Suddenly, video game developers were challenged to move in bold new creative directions while at the same time, spurred on by Microsoft’s corporate approach to unleash titles which might also be capable of reaching new levels in terms of consumer popularity. The following games represent some of the best Xbox offerings ever released; each one possesses something unique and wonderful too in terms of overall appeal, visuals, gameplay or its concept. Here they are, presented in no particular order…
Halo 2 (and yeah, let’s add the original as well)
While the first game in the Halo series certainly turned the tables in Microsoft and developer Bungie’s favor, it was Halo 2 which actually seemed to really put the series on the map in terms of gamer opinion. Simply put, they improved upon all the critical elements you’d have expected them to, improving the basic gameplay, upping the visual appeal a bit, getting a bit more expressive with the level design and of course, expanding upon the drama and epic-ness of the story itself. Moreover, it was in Halo 2 that they first introduced the “playlist” system which servers so eagerly rely on to this very day. In terms of pure figures, Halo 2 is still the most dominant title out there for the original Xbox, at least in terms of sales. At the same time, it certainly remains one of the more defining and memorable games that was ever released within the 6th generation era of consoles.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (the first game and really the whole series in general)
One could write volumes about the awesomeness of the Splinter Cell series. While other franchises have certainly explored the stealth domain in the past, to great effect and with loads of different settings, it was Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell (the first game) that really stood out for a long time. Expertly melding everything we like about stealth gameplay with a vaguely conspiratorial story and setting, replete with lots of Metal Gear Solid-like tropes, and you have an IP that’s basically built to please and last. All in all, each of the games in the series carries onward to tell another few chapters in the story of agent extraordinaire Sam Fisher’s life, all the while introducing new gameplay aspects and building upon the basic experience in various ways. Aside from delivering exactly the kind of espionage action that gamers want (and continue to lust after) they also managed to squeeze out timely releases and creating special versions of subsequent offerings (Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory and Double Agent) meant for gen 9 consoles like the Xbox. Add to this some wonderful spy vs. spy multiplayer action and you have not only a series that delivers something unique, but also one which does it with its own distinctive style.
Every emerging console needs some type of all-inclusive title which provides great gameplay and mass appeal to define its basic capabilities. For all intents and purposes, Fable more or less fulfilled such a role on the original Xbox. It’s basically a third-person RPG that features a sort of pseudo-linearity along with the ability to freely traverse a very interesting fantasy-themed environment while taking on increasingly fun quests. One could easily call it Microsoft’s attempt to create their very own “Legend of Zelda”, replete with dungeon-crawling and bartering with townsfolk. However, most overlook the fact that this was one of the first titles to emerge that was able to effectively introduce open world games to new legions of gamers. Sure, your GTA II’s of the world already existed and people were definitely doing more with PC’s, but nevertheless, Fable was able to tap into a completely different demographic to bring open world gaming to those who might not have otherwise experienced such things.
Including this one on the list is a no-brainer, of course. Of all the games featured here Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has to be one of the most immediately bad-ass titles to jump straight into and explore. First off, if offered up a very large and diverse map to explore, which was actually quite groundbreaking at the time. The simple fact that you could physically travel around from region to region, exploring the countryside and /or getting into trouble within city limits was nothing short of amazing. Likewise, the way the game’s developers weaved its interesting story and characters around this sandbox also made it stand out and far above / beyond the average offering. In fact, San Andreas remains one of the few retro titles which even jaded, cynical and graphically spoiled gamers can sit down and play, finding lots to do and love about it.
Simply put, those who love online FPS action and multiplayer gaming and didn’t find Halo to be a particularly thrilling outlet were probably playing Counter Strike. Valve and Turtle Rock basically created a great-looking and very simple concept which in turn has provided an endless number of hours and fun to millions of devout gamers.
Last, but certainly not least, we have The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Yes, before Skyrim and Oblivion, there was Morrowind, which more or less brought all the hallmarks from latter Bethesda games to the table, albeit in primitive form. Basically, if you’re into sandboxes, it’s a toss up between this one and San Andreas (if we’re talking about overall value x the fun factor). Don’t’ get the wrong idea though, despite its rather rough outward appearance, Morrowind is an incredible open world RPG and definitely should be in any original Xbox owner’s library.