3 – Dead Rising (2006)
As the years go on, some of the sheen has worn off the original Dead Rising. We’ve seen so many DR sequels, dozens of other zombie games, and there’s no shortage of titles that show off how many bodies you can stick on screen at the same time. But back in August 2006, with ’05’s launch goggles gone and both the PS3 and Wii months away, Dead Rising’s over-the-top adventure through a zombie-infested mall felt like the most technologically advanced title to date.
Once you get over the awe of seeing an unprecedented number of enemies on screen, you realize Dead Rising drops players in an impressive playground full of lumbering zombies and dozens of weapons to discover. If you owned a 360 back then, Dead Rising became a game where you discussed strategies to reach extra hard secret ending, or the best way to capture a difficult Achievement. Dead Rising was one of the earliest ‘special’ games on the 360, one that (despite any minor complaints) felt like you’d arrived at something truly next gen. – Henry
2 – Mass Effect (2007)
In a time when neither Star Trek nor Star Wars were doing much of anything, Mass Effect stepped up with a space-faring adventure that combined the best aspects of both brands. Love talking to aliens and learning in-depth backstories? Plenty of that here, complete with dense dialog trees and interstellar political intrigue. Prefer to shoot first and uh, barely ever ask questions? Whip out one of several space-age weapons or Jedi-like abilities to mow through the enemy.
With solid gunplay, a memorable cast of characters and a script actually worth reading, Mass Effect was one of the first all-new, fully realized “worlds” of this generation. Races, worlds, ships, guns, plants… just about everything had a history to investigate and consider. And while the game did have its fair share of bugs and some occasionally irritating driving sequences with the planet roving Mako vehicle, neither of these issues trumped the sheer scope and vision of the core game.
Hey, wait a second – didn’t this show up on PC and PS3? Why yes it did, but for six months this galaxy-trotting action-RPG was only available on the Xbox 360. And uh, that PS3 version didn’t arrive until five years later (2007-2012) so for all intents and purposes, the first chapter of this franchise was an Xbox 360 adventure. In fact, Microsoft was the initial publisher, while EA brought it to PC/PS3 down the line. – Brett
1 – Gears of War (series)
The 360 was designed with Gears of War in mind. Not only did Epic fight Microsoft to put double the RAM in the system to accommodate the exclusive title, but Gears delivered on so many promises of the 360’s arrival. Co-op action was taken to the next level, as was the AI and online stability needed for drop-in/drop-out co-op and deathmatches. Not to mention that Gears of War’s stellar use of the Unreal 3 Engine made it the go-to design tool for the rest of the console’s life.
What really puts the cherry on top of Gears’ 360-defining sundae is that it made all the difference when the PS3 arrived in stores. Launched on November 7, Gears was easily the best game of the HD era to that point, and it looked even better next to the PS3’s weak and bug-filled launch. While others waited in line for a $600 box of Sony promises, others walked out of the store with the cover-based shooter that changed the genre. Back in 2006, the choice was all too easy. – Henry
We’ll actually discuss some of these entries in this week’s Vidjagame Apocalypse, so keep yer ears… peeled? Cavernous? Just look for the episode as usual, I guess?