The 10 best Xbox 360 exclusive games

3 – Dead Rising (2006)

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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?

20 thoughts on “The 10 best Xbox 360 exclusive games

  1. I still stand by my opinion that the first Mass Effect is a pretty mediocre game. The combat is positively ass, the quests stink, and it very much still is a broken mess. 2 is perfect, and 3 is a thing that happened, but 1 is meh at best. It’s also one of the several not-so-exclusives on the list, so blah. It’s squatting on Ace Combat 6’s spot is all I’m saying.

    1. In my opinion the original Mass Effect is the best of the three. All of your criticisms are valid but it’s the only one where I felt like I was actually part of the universe and nothing beats landing on a new planet in the Mako and simply looking up at what’s in the sky. When I go back and play through the trilogy on occasion it’s because I want to replay 1 and simply play the others because I’m already started.

      1. You weren’t lobbying for the one with the Razgriz and Puddle ‘O’ Mud were you? One of my favorite moments with you boys.

  2. I played a hell of a lot of Crackdown for a long time after it came out. I had such high hopes for that as a franchise, and here’s to the idea that Crackdown 3 could live up to my post-Crackdown 1 desires.

    I think my personal favourite on this list would have to be Mass Effect though. While I definitely got into Gears of War, being a big fan of Star Wars/ Trek made me predisposed to enjoying ME, and it was really the first RPG I dug my teeth into (despite playing stuff like KOTOR). It really felt like a “next gen” game back then. I’m glad I got in pretty close to the ground floor (I picked it up in early 2008) and was able to experience that whole trilogy as it unfolded. Hopefully Andromeda can bring me back to the awe I felt in those days (even though ME2 is still my favourite).

    1. Yeah I too played many hours of Crackdown. I think Crackdown 3 is gonna be amazing. With chaotic destruction, with that mighty cloud mmmmm, Red Faction would be jealous about! Shit, now that I think about it, I have Crackdown 2 still in shrinkwrap sonewheres.

  3. How did you miss BioShock and Shadow Complex? Either could replace dance central (haha), but I won’t lie, I own that as well. 😉

    1. We did have Shadow Complex in there, but felt both Crashers and Geometry Wars were ultimately bigger “deals.” That said, I really liked SC. Bioshock was also in the running but it debuted on PC simultaneously so that kinda brought it down.

  4. Nice list! I kinda forgot what was so good about the 360 since it’s been a looong time since I’ve booted mine up. I did enjoy most of what I played of Lost Odyssey, it would be a good number 11…or 15. I still remember it only due to how weird it is that a JRPG with a soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu is a 360 exclusive.

  5. If we’re talking exclusives, it blows my mind how many Square Enix jrpg’s there were at the very beginning that were exclusive. (Okay… so like, three, but still!)

    None of them made any waves in the mass market, but Lost Odyssey is one of my favorite 360 games.

    There are also a weirdly large number of Cave shooters exclusive as well. But I can’t really argue for them in place of Geometry Wars especially – once again – in the eyes of the general consumer.

  6. You’re gonna laugh but Hexic HD should be on here. I still play it to this day and I’m pretty damn good. Love making black pearles or manipulating the board to get to that nerve racking ticking bomb! Since it came pre-installed on my Xbox 360 Pro’s HDD, hmm I guess you could call it the 360’s best F2P game.

    Oh OK list talk, I knew Mass Effect was gonna be on here (I swear to god it changed who I am today, an amazing series – killing off everyone in ME2; shudders), along with Gears (I picked up the system right before Gears came out as I was following its development for some time) but I never thought I’d be playing more Viva Pinata, now more than ever with Rare Replay on Xbox One. God that game is like chicken soup, always makes you happy and warms the soul. Yyyaaaaaaahhh!

  7. Yup, pretty much agree with all of this except the (series) on Gears. I love the first Gears, it has a “Saving Private Ryan” foot-soldier in a larger war feel that really works, Gears 2 got stupid as hell pretty much immediately and crescendoed with Marcus Fenix riding a Brumac (is that the right name for the giant tank-gun hairless gorilla?) cause I guess he’s the Master Chief now…? Yeah that blew. The first Gears literally sold me on the console and I regretted the second game the day I bought it and have never returned to the series.

    ME 1 is grand and maybe my favorite of the series. Yes to Geometry Wars, Castle Crashing and OHMYGODDAMNIT did I spend a few years of college earning a degree in smoking weed and playing FORZA. Rented the running around in the snow anime game and had a good time, never touched the multiplayer though. I really didn’t like Dead Rising, I’m in the Brett completion-ist camp. Viva P is magical.

  8. “And while the game did have its fair share of bugs” Goddamn tell me about it. I had so many random glitches during playing and ultimately never finished ME1 because of a game-breaking bug that overwrote my save and had me trapped in a lift (elevator for the Americans) forever!
    Gears definitely deserves the top spot though. It literally changed the landscape of 3rd person shooters, and was the first ‘meathead’ story about war I actually cared about. RIP resonator

  9. Lost Odyssey is the only game I think need a to be on this list. Easily one of my favorite games, and it had a lot to offer both in terms of combat and story. Seriously underrated.

  10. Halo Reach should have been on this list. The scale of the combat easily trumps Mass Effect and having a prequel story in game form was great. Also I didn’t like Dead Rising at all. Technical achievement aside, that game was a chore to play.

  11. I picked up my 360 to play gears and mass effect, and even when me 2 and 3 came to PS3, I stuck to my 360 for the series. Bioshock was also almost a system seller for me, but they announced it for PS3 before I had saved up.

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