This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the original Xbox: Microsoft’s first entry into the video game console market launched on November, 2001. The Xbox, which is Spanish for “the Xbox,” was a wild card. Sony’s Playstation 2 was a juggernaut right out of the gate, and had already knocked Sega out of the console market. But Microsoft was ready for a fight with the Xbox, which now seems largely forgotten after the later success of the Xbox 360.
Also forgotten is the fact that the Xbox was loaded with plenty of console exclusives. But this list isn’t about the best and worst games. Instead, we’re going to judge books by their covers and take a look at some most notable cover art to grace the face of original Xbox exclusives.
Breakdown (Namco, 2004)
Namco’s unique first-person action game was a blend of hand-to-hand combat, shooting, and hamburger eating, all told through the eyes of the protagonist, without any cutscenes. The game earned praise for its originality, but was also marred by some poor control and clunky gameplay. The cover, however, did not disappoint. This striking image is still instantly recognizable today, and certainly stood out back then.
Classified: The Sentinel Crisis (Torus Games, 2005)
Holy crap, is this some kind of badass remake of Chessmaster? Sadly, no. The horribly titled Classified: The Sentinel Crisis is just another generic military shooter that spent all of its creative output on its cool-as-hell cover and left nothing for the game itself. It was not intended to be an Xbox exclusive, but the game sold so poorly that the Playstation 2 port was canned, so… yay, free exclusive?
Crazy Taxi 3 (Sega, 2002)
This cover has style to spare. Sega brought their high adrenaline racer to the Xbox from the ashes of the Dreamcast, along with a signature style that had no room for subtlety. The Xbox was actually home to many Sega exclusives at the time. Perhaps instead of being called “Xbox,” the system should have been called “your face” — because Sega was in it.
Crimson Skies (FASA Studio, 2003)
Looking more like a Drew Struzan poster for the Indiana Jones movie we never got, Crimson Skies not only has one of the best covers to grace any Xbox games, but is one of the best games to ever appear on an Xbox console. The only downside to this cover is the IGN quote stamped awkwardly across the top.
Halo 2 (Bungie, 2004)
The king of Xbox shooters really found its style with the cover of Halo 2. The first Halo game took more of a “kitchen sink” approach by throwing a bunch of random action in the background while Master Chief poked his assault riffle at you from behind the game logo. It was a bit sloppy, albeit reminiscent of PC game covers from the time. Not so with Halo 2 — Master Chief’s strong, striking pose would set the standard for all Halo games to come.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath (Oddworld Inhabitants, 2005)
The last original Oddworld game was also one of the last Xbox exclusives released; the critically lavished Stranger’s Wrath was beloved by just about everyone who played it. The Stranger’s dark and brooding cover pose is right out of the classic westerns that inspired the game.
Outrun 2 (Sega, 2004)
The long-awaited sequel to Sega’s legendary arcade racer found a home on the Xbox. But unlike the punk-rock taxi racer, Outrun’s Ferrari-themed joyride got a much more exotic and classically styled cover that’s hotter than hot while being cool as a cucumber at the same time. Also of note: it’s the rare racing game cover that features a car driving away from you instead of driving into your face.
Wings of War (Silver Wish Games, 2004)
You may have noticed that this list is loaded with the kind of games the original Xbox was known for having a glut of: shooters, racers, and flight combat. Shooters still remain popular, but racing and flight games are far removed from their glory days. Wings of War was an obscure game when it was released, so don’t feel bad for having never heard of it. But just one look at its gorgeous cover might make you want to track down the WWI sky shooter.
The worst covers are on page two!