Xbox One's Best Backwards Compatible Games To Play (May 2019 Update)
By Chris Pereira | @TheSmokingManX and Michael Higham | @michaelphigham on
The Best Backwards Compatible Games on Xbox One
Out of everything Microsoft has done with the Xbox One, the best thing is its promise to make good on its commitment to backwards compatibility. New games are being added to the backwards compatible list all the time. These games are typically shared by Major Nelson on Twitter at 9 AM PT on Twitter, although there's no particular schedule for how many are released (if any) on a given day. It's always a mystery as to when we'll get more; we only know what time it'll be and that it'll come on a weekday, but the next batch of games usually isn't far off.
Even without a proper schedule for new releases, the past few years have seen the list of backwards compatible games grow quite long--and, as a result, it can be extremely difficult to find those that are worthwhile. Not only are there 400+ Xbox 360 games that can be played on Xbox One, but more than 30+ original Xbox titles are also supported.
Beyond the consistent rollout of games, Microsoft has publicly made it clear that backwards compatibility is a real priority for the company. "I see games as an art form," Xbox boss Phil Spencer said last year. "Console games can get lost when hardware generations go away. It can become more challenging to play the games of our past ... There's something to be learned from experiencing what I played as a kid. There's good business there for the content owners, but as players, it's nice to be able to understand how our art form has progressed."
Spencer subsequently made it clear that backwards compatibility is--despite reports suggesting it's ignored--a feature that people do use. He wrote off data that said otherwise and pointed to an example of strong sales for an old Call of Duty game when it was added to the service: "I think the best signal we had so far is when Black Ops II landed and that month it hit NPD's Top 10 that month for game sales. An Xbox 360 game that's years old, that shows that people care."
The feature has only gotten better with the release of the Xbox One X, as it offers much sharper visuals in these old games; some even have specific enhancements on top of a resolution increase. But whether you play on an X, an Xbox One S, or even the standard Xbox One, you're treated to a feature that is currently unmatched by both PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
While not providing access to everything available on Xbox 360 and the original Xbox, the supported backwards compatible games from the two include classics ranging from expansive RPGs and thrilling adventures to XBLA gems and old arcade games refined for the big screen. Among these are all-time greats like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the Mass Effect Trilogy, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to name a few. But if you want a challenge that's faster to jump into, the likes of Ikaruga or Super Meat Boy will do the trick.
To help you parse through the giant list of supported games, we've compiled a list of our personal favorites to highlight which backwards compatible titles are worth your time. We've since updated the list with some new games, which we've positioned earlier on in this feature. Otherwise, you can check out our original choices by scrolling even further downward. If you want to pick something out yourself, you can peruse the entire list of Xbox One backwards compatible games.
Which Xbox One backwards compatible games do you love the most? Are there any games would you like to be added in the future? Let us know in the comments below.
Assassin's Creed Liberation HD
Assassin's Creed, unfortunately, rarely focuses its ongoing conflict between control and freedom through the lens that many of its characters lived during time periods where blatant racism and sexism were a cultural norm regularly used to hold power over others. Liberation is really the first game to do so, and probably the one that does it the best.
I love Liberation for how it uses its setting of late 18th century New Orleans to create a clothes-focused gameplay mechanic for its African-French protagonist, Aveline de Grandpré. Throughout the game, you're given the choice of how Aveline dresses--either as a submissive slave, flirtatious noblewoman, or threatening killer--which creates different methods for tackling assassination and stealth missions. I've always been disappointed that Aveline's ability to change her clothes, and thus adjust which weapons and methods of transportation she has access to at the cost of others' perception of her, is never used again in any other Assassin's Creed game.
Liberation is one of the more clever examples of what Assassin's Creed can achieve with its historical playgrounds. The game is worthwhile for that alone, but it's also an enjoyable and essential chapter to the franchise's Colonial America storyline. | Jordan Ramee
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Double Fine's 2008 action game Brutal Legend was one of my favourite games of the last generation of consoles, and fortunately, you can experience this fantastic adventure on Xbox One thanks to backwards compatibility. Starring Jack Black as the down-on-his-luck roadie Eddie Riggs who gets sucked into a different universe full of metal and heavy rock music and all manner of fantastical beasts, Brutal Legend tells a silly, over-the-top story that's better than you think. This is a game all about metal and heavy rock music, and that's no surprise given Double Fine boss Tim Schafer is a big metal-head. The soundtrack is loaded with great songs from bands like Mastodon and 3 Inches of Blood, as well as classic groups like Black Sabbath, Megadeth, and Judas Priest. The world is full of famous people from the metal music scene; Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne, and Lemmy are just some of the famous voices you'll hear in the game. The melee combat is bread-and-butter of the game, and it is similarly pretty crazy. You smash people with your guitar, and you can even perform guitar solos to activate super-abilities that demolish surrounding enemies. Brutal Legend may never get a sequel, but thanks to backwards compatibility, it lives on. | Eddie Makuch
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Xbox One Console Exclusives Confirmed For 2019
There's a ton of really great Xbox and Xbox 360 games to play on Xbox One. However, there are plenty more experiences you can get only on Microsoft's console later this year too. Watch the video above to check out all the big exclusives coming to Xbox One in 2019.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
When I think of Castlevania, I immediately think of Symphony of the Night, or the final NES game, Dracula's Curse. I love the series' 2D iterations, and was definitely burned by the 3D N64 and PS2 games that came and went. So, when Lords of Shadow was revealed, it seemed like it would surely be another failed attempt to reinvent the series. But when I actually played the game, I discovered that it's a wonderful complement to the other half of Castlevania. It takes great liberties with the story and gameplay, erring more on the side of God of War than Metroid, but that's OK; it should be judged on its own terms.
The things that make Lords of Shadow memorable to me tend to be superficial. It's got an excellent orchestrated soundtrack, which accompanies numerous breathtaking environments. As you progress through areas, camera angles shift from scene to scene, allowing the developers to guide your eye and set the mood when it matters. It works, I think, and makes up for the middling combat in most cases. But I'm also a sucker for the game's non-canon story. It's an alternate history that draws links between Dracula and the infamous Belmont bloodline in ways I never expected, and the revelations continually build across the two other games--Lords of Shadow 2 and Mirror of Fate--both of which are also on the list of backwards compatible Xbox One games. It's not for everybody, but if you're at all curious I encourage you to give Lords of Shadow a shot. You might be surprised by what you find. | Peter Brown
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Catherine can be equal parts alluring and vexing, and often it's both at once. Part puzzle game, part visual novel, part id-fueled nightmare, Catherine draws you in on numerous fronts and ratchets up the tension on each one as you progress. The story concerns a man named Vincent whose girlfriend wants to marry him, an idea that terrifies him. One night he goes out drinking and wakes up in bed with another woman, which brings on a bizarre recurring nightmare about climbing a tower of movable blocks.
The story, told partly through gorgeous anime cutscenes and partly through playable bar outings with Vincent's friends, gets weirder and more gripping as the hours pass. The difficulty of the block puzzles also increases, creating a feedback loop of tension and anxiety. That might not sound very enjoyable, but the heightened stakes of the narrative pull you along while you hone your skills at the climbing puzzles. It all adds up to a satisfying experience that's unlike any other game, and is well worth playing today on your Xbox One. | Chris Reed
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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is an action-RPG that takes place in a fantasy world where everyone's fate is predetermined at birth. People can learn of their future--ranging from their supposed spouse to how they die--from supernatural Fateweavers, so everyone pretty much knows how their lives play out from a fairly young age. Having been reborn from death, you are the "Fateless One," the only person without a set destiny. This allows you to both decide your own future as well as change it for others, which makes you both insanely powerful and a huge target for individuals with terrible fates.
The idea of having a choice is interwoven into every aspect of Reckoning, letting you pick how plotlines play out and deciding whether you become a powerful fighter, rogue, mage or some combination of the three. The story in Reckoning is well-written, and it's satisfying to see most choices have consequence in how the journey ultimately unfolds. Gameplay wise, Reckoning fits somewhere between Elder Scrolls and Mass Effect, using NPC interactions and exploration mechanics similar to the former and narrative elements and squadmate combat very much like the latter. The game is loads of fun, and still well worth playing. | Jordan Ramee
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In a typical arcade shooter, getting through a stage is arguably more about your ability to avoid taking damage rather than being good at dishing it out. The opposite is true in Sine Mora. By giving you a strict time limit, and equating shot-down enemies with time extensions, you are forced to be proactive. There's always underlying pressure in this way, reinforcing the already stressful nature of dodging and weaving through waves of bullets. You can slow down time when things get too hectic, but that only causes your clock to run out faster.
Sine Mora also reveals a dark, nasty conflict through dialogue between stages. It's so unlikely for the genre, and pulls no punches. It left me wondering: why aren't there more games like this? In truth, the answer is because the arcade shooter genre is too niche. Sine Mora received rave reviews, and continues to be published on new platforms today. Despite its critical success, its commercial failure was a major letdown for developer Digital Reality (as told in a GDC post-mortem), and a deathknell for the promising studio. But their work lives on in Sine Mora, and now that it's on Xbox One, it's a great opportunity to play it again, or for the first time. You won't regret it. | Peter Brown
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Spelunky has unfortunately never received a native port to Xbox One, as it did on PS4, but no matter--this is a game that wasn't in dire need of any real improvements. As such, the backwards compatible Xbox 360 version is more than a sufficient way to play what remains one of the definitive roguelikes, and one I find myself still periodically booting up.
Spelunky tasks you with navigating a series of randomly generated levels as you delve deeper and deeper, dealing with all manner of foes and traps. You're sure to die countless times, at which point you start over from the beginning. Although you don't retain any of your very limited progression from a run, you can eventually unlock some shortcuts, but more importantly, you're able to build up an ever-increasing level of knowledge and mastery over the wide array of obstacles you face and tools you can use.
This allows you to slowly advance further and to begin combining different approaches and skills, as well as begin to poke and prod at the game's many systems. That could mean satiating your curiosity regarding what happens if you attack a shopkeeper or beginning to piece together the requirements of entering the various secret areas. Whatever the case, Spelunky is packed with secrets and remains as much a delight to play now as when it was first released, even if you're terrible at it like me. | Chris Pereira
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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Blacklist takes some of the best ideas from throughout the Splinter Cell franchise and brings them together in one package. It has the tight, action-heavy combat that defined Splinter Cell: Conviction, which was a major improvement over the gunplay of previous Splinter Cell games, while also putting a lot of focus on the solid stealth gameplay that defined the franchise's earlier games. Blacklist isn't the best Splinter Cell game, but it's a fun one, with a lot of varied missions and a fairly open structure that lets you zip around the world completing missions however you feel like. While Blacklist is lacking in a few of the best elements of Splinter Cell, like Michael Ironside voicing Sam Fisher, it's still a fun entry in a great stealth game franchise. If you're itching for Splinter Cell as we wait impatiently for a new game in the series, Blacklist can at least hold you over, for a bit. | Phil Hornshaw
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Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
The Splinter Cell franchise has gone through a number of changes over the year, and not all of those changes really landed. Double Agent is a flawed game, but a fascinating one: It found series protagonist Sam Fisher infiltrating a terrorist organization by posing as a terrorist himself. The game mixed more traditional Splinter Cell sneaking missions with hanging out in the terrorists' hideout, sneaking around to steal information about them without getting caught. Investigating the terrorists without breaking your cover was a very cool idea for a stealth game, and Double Agent took a flying leap by putting Sam in a whole new situation, without the support of his teammates in Third Echelon to back him up. This is a Splinter Cell game that upended a safe formula to try something bold, and while the game has its weak points, it's worth checking out--if only to see how it pushed the envelope of its series in new directions. | Phil Hornshaw
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Unfortunately, Alan Wake has been removed from all digital platforms, which includes the Xbox Store. However, if you can snag yourself a physical copy of it (or already own it digitally), then Alan Wake will take you on an adventure that you won't soon forget. Set in the Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls (and taking significant inspiration from the television series Twin Peaks), Alan Wake features the titular character taking a vacation with his wife, who hopes the break will help her husband with his writing block. Things quickly take a turn for the worse, as Alan's wife disappears, and he's forced to confront the darkness that shrouds Bright Falls and ultimately question his own sanity. It's a compelling narrative that'll have you aching for a proper sequel. Thankfully, the two DLC story expansions are now free, so you'll at least have something to tide you over. | Mat Paget
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Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Desmond Miles' trip through time ended with Assassin's Creed III, and Ubisoft's follow-up title put players into the role of a nameless Abstergo employee. It was a clean slate for the franchise, offering a great point for new players to jump in without having to start from Altair's story. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag steps back from the grand ideologies of the Assassins and Templars, as well as the convoluted Those Who Came Before storyline, to deliver a relatable tale of one man's quest for redemption. Edward Kenway isn't all that different from a young Ezio; he has a good heart but he's brash and selfish. Over the course of Black Flag, Edward grows from a greedy pirate into a humbled hero. The inclusion of both traditional assassination missions and new naval combat along with the lush islands and open seas of the Caribbean made for one of the best games in the franchise. | Jordan Ramee
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Bully: Scholarship Edition
Rockstar constantly refines its open-world action games, which we've seen through the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption. But the one that always stands out to me is Bully, because it traded gratuitous violence and adult stories for the rough-and-tumble fisticuffs and hijinx of a rambunctious high school. I vividly remember the theme song that plays while walking Bullworth Academy, rushing to make it to class on time, and scrapping with the bullies in missions to become the most respected student on campus. Bully expands beyond that with loads of fun mini-games, silly characters based on high school stereotypes, and an expansive open world. While it may be a bit wonky in terms of controls and technical performance compared to modern games, everything it does right comes together for a game worth playing today. | Michael Higham
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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Countless so-called Metroidvania games have drawn inspiration from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but more than two decades later, few can approach its greatness. It evolved the well-established Castlevania series in numerous ways, offering a non-linear castle to explore and RPG-style progression while maintaining the satisfying side-scrolling action of earlier titles. I came to it years after its original release and still thoroughly enjoyed it, and it's something that I still routinely find myself booting up. Exploring Castle Dracula is one of the great pleasures in gaming, and it's a testament to its design that fans of the game still have its layout memorized so many years later. I'll spare you a reference to the twist in case you've managed to avoid it all these years, but whether you're a fan of more recent Metroidvania-style games who missed out on this progenitor of the genre or someone who's never dabbled in these types of games, you owe it to yourself to see why Symphony of the Night is regarded as an all-time classic. | Chris Pereira
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Despite initially being written off by many as "that game with the Halo 3 beta," I was immediately taken with the concept of Crackdown--an open-world game where you play as a superhero special agent who can pick up and throw cars or leap over buildings. A decade later, the fairly basic set of goals you're given leave something to be desired, but the core gameplay remains extremely fun. Hunting down agility orbs and dealing with villainous gangs is still tremendously satisfying, particularly with a friend online. Its cel-shaded art style still looks good, and with backwards compatibility introducing some impressive Xbox One X enhancements to the visuals, Crackdown is a game that's well worth picking up. | Chris Pereira
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Let's face facts: there's practically no chance that EA will bring back Dead Space, at least not as we know it. While it's sad to think that one of the most intriguing sci-fi horror series out there has been pushed to the sidelines, the fact that Dead Space is backwards compatible on Xbox One is at least worth celebrating. I know, it's also on PC, but if you're in a console-only household, Xbox One is the only current-gen console you can look to. And why should you play Dead Space? In short: it's a spooky-as-hell third-person action game with fantastic art direction, and features one of the coolest "guns" in gaming. The enemies you face are drastically distorted humans with malformed and elongated limbs that make great targets for your Plasma Cutter--a maintenance tool that fires energy beams, making it an equally effective sidearm. Dead Space manages to juggle cool tech and a scary setting unlike any other game out there, and if you haven't tried it in the past, you really should if you have an Xbox One at home. | Peter Brown
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Fallout 3 kicked off the series' modern era and helped cement Bethesda Game Studios' reputation as a leader in the field of open-world RPGs. The open-ended structure allows you to freely roam a post-apocalyptic wasteland (so long as you can survive) and seek out stories in the most unlikely and dangerous places. The dialogue choices are numerous, allowing you to shape the story and your character with a great amount of freedom, staying true to the series' RPG roots. Likewise, despite the shift to a first-person perspective, Bethesda implemented the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, better known as VATS, to allow for strategic menu-based combat. It was an unusual mechanic but one that quickly gained favor for how it effectively bridged the gap between Fallout old and new. Fallout 3 was hugely ambitious at the time of its release, and persists as one of the all-time great open-world RPGs 10 years later. | Peter Brown
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Fallout: New Vegas
Obsidian has the magic touch when it comes to RPGs, and Fallout: New Vegas is a prime example. The vast brown deserts of Nevada might not sound very appealing, but New Vegas shines through incredibly clever writing and masterful quest design. Vaguely aligned factions and active societies fill the world with distinct charisma. I'll never forget the high-class casino that acts as a front to a secret bourgeois cannibalistic society and the reveal of Mr. House's true identity while overlooking the entirety of New Vegas. Quests like these are plentiful, and they're surrounded by such intricate lead-up and dialogue sequences that plant genuine curiosity in your head to see them to the end. Fallout can easily drop in swing tunes and old-time jazz for a great soundtrack, and it's all the more fitting with the Vegas theme. But since this is a post-apocalyptic wild west, classic country-western songs diversify the tracklist and are burnt into my memories of trekking the dangerous deserts with a big iron on my hip. | Michael Higham
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Far Cry: Blood Dragon
While I've personally grown tired of the franchise formula that was established with Far Cry 3, the one post-Far Cry 2 game in the series that I'm still quite taken with is Blood Dragon. The spin-off infuses Far Cry 3's gameplay with a dystopian '80s flavor. Despite being set in 2007, the game boasts a unique look, as it's essentially made to imitate the way '80s movies tended to imagine the future; there's fog everywhere, with neon colors and lasers paired with a matching synth soundtrack. You play as a stereotypical action hero named Rex "Power" Colt, who's voiced by Terminator and Aliens star Michael Biehn. It's all very over-the-top, satirical in nature, and it pairs quite nicely with Far Cry's gameplay. Blood Dragon's distinct enough to make it worth a try even if you find the Far Cry games somewhat rote. | Chris Pereira
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Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
If I had to pick a favorite Grand Theft Auto game in the series, I will always point to San Andreas. As a sort of ode to '90s hip-hop culture and satire of Southern California street gangs, San Andreas was an odd reflection of home. Sure, it's a GTA game, violent and absurd overall, but the way characters talked, the music that played, and just the way the city streets looked were all too familiar. In addition, Rockstar layered some light RPG elements that made the streets of Los Santos feel more lived-in. Sometimes I wouldn't even do missions, and instead hit the gym or shop for clothes.
Of course, San Andreas includes an expansive open world beyond Los Santos with Las Venturas, the Vegas stand-in, and San Fierro to imitate San Francisco. Some of the mission designs are dated and the shooting mechanics aren't refined like modern entries, but San Andreas is still a ton of fun and has a unique personality that few games can match. Carl Johnson (CJ) still stands as one of the best GTA characters, ever. | Michael Higham
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After Halo 3: ODST took a detour from John-117's story to focus on the mission of one squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, Halo: Reach took that same format of working within a squad and reapplied it to a group of Spartans. Taking place prior to the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, the story of how the planet Reach fell is a rollercoaster of empowering firefights and emotional sacrifices. It was Bungie's last Halo title before handing the reins over to 343 Industries, and it shows. Halo: Reach takes the best online multiplayer and single-player campaign elements that Bungie spent perfecting over Master Chief's original trilogy and combines it into one incredible game. I'll still boot up Halo: Reach from time to time, and the servers for SWAT are still loaded with thousands of players waiting to vote to play on Sword Base. | Jordan Ramee
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Hitman: Blood Money
Before the 2016 franchise revival, Hitman: Blood Money was the peak of Agent 47 hijinx. At its core, Blood Money succeeds because of expertly designed missions; everything from creating a specific atmosphere for each level to weaving all the variables that can play out were on point. So many clever assassinations stand out to me, like loading a prop gun with real ammo that's supposed to be fired during an opera play or strangling a target with the handy fiberwire during mardi gras wearing a big yellow bird costume. This is where Hitman got its dark sense of humor, and it breathes life into an otherwise stoic assassin.
Because it nails down the Hitman formula that's been refined with the recent entry, Blood Money has aged well and very much feels like a modern game. It's a little less forgiving and doesn't have the slew of interesting challenges from 2016's game, but Blood Money has some of the series' most memorable missions--and they remain just as fun today. | Michael Higham
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Japanese developer Treasure has another game on this list that's also a vertical-scrolling arcade shooter, but Ikaruga's reputation is unlike any of its peers'. Where so many games of this type bank on nuanced mechanics and subtle differences to standout in the eyes of enthusiasts, Ikaruga's big mechanic is so well known that it's gone on to inspire other developers who make games in entirely different genres. I'm talking about the black-and-white color switching mechanic, which both gives you the ability to absorb incoming enemy shots of the same color and alter your affinity to impart greater damage to enemies of the opposite color. Getting to the end of a stage in a game with one-hit deaths is challenging enough, but if you are after the top spot on a leaderboard you also have to know how to maximize your score by chaining together attacks as the appropriate color. It's tough, but Ikaruga is also a beautiful game that showcases an amount of maturity that feels unique compared to the rest of Treasure's output. While it's not everyone's cup of tea, Ikaruga is still an easy game to appreciate. | Peter Brown
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Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio is a series that Sega may never bring back, but at least the HD port of the original Dreamcast hit is playable on Xbox One. It combines rollerblading and graffiti in a goofy cel-shaded metropolis, and apart from its sequel (which sadly isn't backwards compatible), there's no game like it. Jet Set Radio's expressive characters are only matched by the eclectic soundtrack that ranges from hip hop to Japanese rock, and it's so beloved that the lead composer, Hideki Naganuma, is regularly berated on Twitter to bring the series back, despite simply being in charge of music. Its reputation hasn't faded in 18 years, and if you don't know why, you owe it to play it and find out for yourself. | Peter Brown
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Mass Effect Trilogy
BioWare's famed trilogy is defined by choice, and you'll make hundreds across all three games. Some of these decisions will be incredibly difficult, even heart-wrenching; I've spent many an evening thinking through the possible moral ramifications of my decisions. The trilogy really begins to show your impact when choices you made in the first game snowball into increasingly dire situations across the next two entries. I've only played the original Mass Effect once, but poured close to a thousand hours into the second and several hundred in the third. Each title is a masterpiece in its own right, and the latter two are mechanically sound third-person RPG-shooter hybrids that still hold up years after release. Mass Effect 2 is my favorite video game of all time, mostly because it's the best interstellar dating sim on the market. Over the course of three games, you'll fall in love with these characters and the rich sci-fi universe of Mass Effect. | Jordan Ramee
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Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Most people love Metal Gear for the series' stealth-centric games, but that doesn't mean the action-packed Rising should be ignored; far from it! Not only does it manage to fit right into the timeline and (in a roundabout way) the series' overall attitude, it is an excellent action game that, like Bayonetta and Vanquish, perfectly showcases why Platinum Games is so beloved. The standout feature of the blade-based combat system is Raiden's ability to literally slice through enemies--a process you can control, lopping off limbs or bisecting torsos with laser accuracy. It's an impressive feat of programming, and a unique mechanic that (as far as I know) has never been truly replicated. Worry not if you've always been turned off by Metal Gear's confusing storyline. Rising is all about over-the-top katana mayhem, and when it does make an effort to tell a story, it delivers goofy melodrama that anyone can appreciate. | Peter Brown
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When Mirror's Edge released, the gaming world had never seen anything like it. First-person platforming was practically a no-no, but EA DICE proved it's possible under the right set of circumstances. The trick, at least the one that made Mirror's Edge such a revelation, was to simplify pathfinding by using clever visual cues and implement contextual animations to create a sense of flow. In one stage you will leap across rooftops, wall run, smash through windows, and slide under enemy fire before taking the aggressor out. It's basically Parkour: The Game. While its sequel, Mirror's Edge Catalyst, tried to go for a more open-world design, the original game is focused enough to be tackled in small sessions, which also encourages you to attempt run after run through a single level, chasing your best times and most stylish performances. It's an endlessly cool game that may never get old. | Peter Brown
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Ninja Gaiden Black
The original Ninja Gaiden reboot was something to behold back in 2004. As one of the fastest and most challenging action games of its era, Ryu Hayabusa's revenge mission where he fights ninjas, demons--and pretty much everything in between--was a knockout when it came to delivering thrills and moments of white-knuckle challenge. I'll even admit that I earned the lowly title of Ninja Dog on occasions, which was Ninja Gaiden's not-so-subtle way of saying 'git gud' back in the day. The game consistently delivered fast-paced action, and in the months after its release, it managed to get even better. As one of the early games on the original Xbox to use downloadable content, new weapons, monsters, and challenges were eventually added in, making the game even more of a stellar title. This culminated in the release of Ninja Gaiden Black, essentially the definitive edition of the core game. While Ninja Gaiden (2004) was remade again in the form of Sigma on PS3, I still think of Black as the best way to play Ryu Hayabusa's gory and over-the-top descent through the demonic underworld. Even after the releases of Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising, and several installments Devil May Cry, Ninja Gaiden Black hasn't lost its touch, and it still stands still one of the greatest action games ever made. | Alessandro Fillari
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Panzer Dragoon Orta
I've always had a deep respect for Sega's strange shooter series Panzer Dragoon, and the last entry, Panzer Dragoon Orta, remains a stellar tribute to its bizarre world. The series' otherworldly presentation--along with its own fictional language--gave it a sense of depth and wonder that felt all its own. While much of the series had its home on the short-lived Sega Saturn, 2003's Panzer Dragoon Orta was released on the original Xbox, showing a noticeable visual and technical upgrade over its predecessors. Diving back into the game after all these years made me appreciate how much thought and craft went into the game, which has held up spectacularly. Along with a wealth of hidden lore and concept art to find, it also comes with an unlockable version of the original game--which stands as one of the greatest game rewards of all time. If you're at all curious about the Panzer Dragoon series, Orta is the most accessible point of entry, and it still brims with that sense of otherworldly wonder that the series is all about. | Alessandro Fillari
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Peggle has received a sequel you can and should play on Xbox One, but more Peggle action is still a good thing. Fortunately, the original game is playable through backwards compatibility, and it holds up nicely. The basic Peggle formula--a sort of take on pachinko and pinball, but with tremendous sound design--is still as delightful as ever. You launch balls into a board filled with pegs and various obstacles in the hopes of hitting them and removing them from play. Finishing a round hilariously causes "Ode to Joy" to play as your ball sails across the screen one last time in slow motion, but the euphoric build-up of sound effects when you pull off an exceptional shot is one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had in a game. | Chris Pereira
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Remember Sega Saturn? While not a powerhouse in the US or Europe, it found great success in Japan where arcade ports were plentiful. One of the most well-known Japanese-exclusive Saturn games is Radiant Silvergun, and thanks to Microsoft's effort years ago to pump up the Xbox Marketplace with Japanese games, westerners finally got an official release on Xbox 360 and can still enjoy the game on Xbox One today. The most notable feature of this vertical-scrolling shooter is the large number of weapons you can pick from, which differ more in behavior than you might expect. Like many games by developer Treasure, Radiant Silvergun is a technical showcase (for its time) that also manages to be a great game with timeless appeal. | Peter Brown
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Rainbow Six Vegas 1 and 2
In between its old-school tactical shooter phase and the current competitive multiplayer focus, Rainbow Six took a trip to Vegas and balanced its military sim roots with some more approachable shooter gameplay. Both Rainbow Six Vegas 1 and 2 captured the gaudy spectacle of the city's nightlife with bright lights and rows of slot machines, which often served as cover from enemy fire. I've had so many memorable multiplayer matches; taking cover and having the camera switch to third-person, rappelling down skyscrapers to crash through windows, or turning upside down on a rappel line to pop shots are a few of the amazing moments in competition. Servers are still online, so if you can get a group of dedicated players to play a few matches or terrorist hunt missions, you're guaranteed a great time. | Michael Higham
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Red Dead Redemption
Of all the games that are backwards compatible on Xbox One, Red Dead Redemption tops the list as the most exciting. When it was added to the program earlier this year, not only did people finally have a way to replay one of the best games of the last generation on a current-gen console, they also got the option to play it in 4K on Xbox One X. This open-world western proved that Rockstar Games is capable of more than just Grand Theft Auto, and with the sequel on the way, now is the perfect time to see why Red Dead Redemption is such a big deal. | Peter Brown
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Saint's Row: The Third
Saints Row was always a little silly, but The Third is clearly the point where Volition realized the franchise could no longer compete with Grand Theft Auto and chose instead to double down on the ridiculous. Saints Row: The Third is non-stop parody of open-world action games and pop culture references, and I love every second of it. There's something positively magical about playing as a loud-mouthed crime boss who's weaving between traffic on her motorcycle to save her friends from a ticking time bomb as government soldiers try to stop her while Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero" plays over the radio. All of which occurs in what might be the most normal level in the game. Saints Row: The Third also does a good job recapping the events of the previous two games and introduces franchise favorite Kinzie Kensington, so it's a nice jumping on point if you're looking to play Saints Row IV or Agents of Mayhem. | Jordan Ramee
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Shadows of the Damned
Shadows of the Damned was a match made in heaven for me. The quirky Suda 51 brought his comedic writing chops and teamed up with Resident Evil 4 director Shinji Mikami and Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka to make a shooter that, at the time, felt more like a Resident Evil 4 sequel than any game before it, including Resident Evil 5. The buddy-demon hunter adventure saw Garcia Hotspur and Johnson, the trusty skull sidekick that also turns into a number of different guns, venture into Hell to rescue Hotspur's love. There is quite the variety of enemies, levels, and crude jokes. While a sequel is what I truly want, I'll gladly play through it again for the umpteenth time to revisit it all. | Mat Paget
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The Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series may go down as having the "best" skateboarding games of all time, but none of them capture the sport quite like the Skate series does. And while the first two Skate games had a more structured campaign the open-world skateboarding sandbox of Skate 3 is still as fun to flip, grind, and bail in as it was the day it came out. Tackling a specific spot over and over again in Skate 3 mirrors what real-life skateboarding is like, though I can actually pull off a darkslide or a benihana in Skate 3. And with its surprisingly breathtaking 4K enhancements on the Xbox One X, I can't recommend it enough. | Mat Paget
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Spec Ops: The Line
Six years after release, I'm still reeling from the emotional fallout of Spec Ops: The Line. This unsettling game tackles the mental and emotional cost of war, and its moral quandaries stick with you long after you've put the game down and had a good cry. Despite having third-person shooter mechanics that are okay at best, Spec Ops: The Line kept me playing. Long after it forced me to kill innocent civilians, I was frantically shooting enemy combatants in a desperate attempt to justify my own in-game atrocities. But war doesn't work that way. I don't think I'll ever forget what white phosphorus does to a person, and if you play this game, you won't either. | Jordan Ramee
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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a gaming classic, and it was one of the best-written stories in the Star Wars canon prior to Disney neutering its relevance. The game utilizes similar combat, squadmate recruitment, and morality mechanics that BioWare would eventually use for both Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins. The game lets you fulfill your fantasy of living as a Jedi or a Sith, as you explore a galaxy far, far away, four millennia before the events of A Phantom Menace. I loved exploring ancient Tatooine and Kashyyyk on the Jedi path, but not nearly as much as seeing brand-new planets, like the ancient Sith homeworld Korriban, or flirting with Bastila. | Jordan Ramee
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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords is one of the best Star Wars video games of all time. Although its gameplay is largely untouched from its predecessor, KOTOR II implements elements of grey to the previously black or white morality system. New lightsaber styles also add a level of strategy, and there's twice as many people you can try to smooch. My favorite Star Wars droid, HK-47, also returns from the original KOTOR, and he continues to deliver unparalleled levels of sarcastic murder puns and sass. Despite its removal from the Star Wars canon, if you love Bioware's RPGs and the adventures of a galaxy far, far away, you need to play this game. Its incredible narrative will hook you in 15 minutes. | Jordan Ramee
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Star Wars: Republic Commando
Prior to The Clone Wars animated series, the only hint that the clone army was more than a faceless batch of characters was Star Wars: Republic Commando. This video game moved past the uniform helmets to reveal each clone had their own personality, likes and dislikes, and skill set. I fell in love with the troopers through Republic Commando, and the clones have remained my favorite Star Wars characters ever since. Taking the lead of Delta Squad as the dependable Boss and directing the demolitions expert Scorch, computer-savvy Fixer, and weapons specialist Sev offered a more tactical experience than 2004's Star Wars: Battlefront. New enemy types and weapons keep the game fresh across its three different locations, and the story is one of the best in the Star Wars Legends universe. | Jordan Ramee
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Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy has become something of a reference point for games that have come after it--and with good reason, as it's an exceptionally well designed game. It's a tough platformer where death can come at any instant--and you will die many, many times. And as heartbreaking as those deaths can sometimes be, it's invariably your own fault; SMB offers extremely tight controls and a deeply satisfying wall-jumping mechanic (made all the better by the way Meat Boy leaves behind a trail of meat wherever he moves). With hundreds of levels and numerous secrets to uncover, there's a lot to enjoy here. But most importantly, playing this original Xbox 360 version means you get to enjoy the brilliant original soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky that's missing from SMB's most recent re-releases. | Chris Pereira
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Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition
Capcom managed to do a lot of awesome things for Street Fighter V, but Street Fighter IV is still relevant for a lot of fighting game fans due to its massive roster and years' worth of competitive refinement. Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition marks the penultimate upgrade for the game, but you can also download the Ultra Street Fighter IV DLC to convert it into the ultimate version of the game on Xbox One. Whether you are a serious competitor or a casual fighting game fan who just likes to mash out a few combos with friends on the weekends, SFIV has loads of great characters to experiment with, and tons of personality to keep you entertained along the way. | Peter Brown
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The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind takes me back--to six-years-old Aiden. Even though I was far too young to be playing such an intense RPG, and 90 percent of the story went right over my head, I couldn't help but get utterly consumed in how fantastical and insurmountable Vvardenfell seemed. Maybe it was my child-like wonder, or maybe it was just Bethesda's magic. At the time, I hadn't really played anything like it, and boy were the giant mushroom houses and terrifying Cliff Racers just as cool as kicking tail during Lara's Tomb Raider adventures. Morrowind was the first RPG that really made me fall in love with the more serious and immersive side of gaming, and even though its graphics haven't aged particularly well, it still holds that obnoxiously special place in my heart that I can't let go of, a place where I forge my own story, and escape into some far-off land. And, you know, knock the daylights out of some cultists. That too. | Aiden Strawhun
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The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
"Stop right there, Criminal Scum! You've violated the law!" Once you get past the potato faces, Oblivion's hyper-saturated graphics really are something special. Oblivion also took a lot of the annoying mechanics in Morrowind and made them just a little bit better. Any race could wear any armor, birthsigns could be changed, vampirism was part of the main game, the list goes on. One minute you have the incredibly lush, almost ethereal expanses of Cyrodiil, the next, there's an actual demon invasion. It's a wonderful contrast that I don't think the other Elder Scrolls games quite capture, as they're dark and morose, and somewhat brooding--but Oblivion is brimming with energy and color. | Aiden Strawhun
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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The beautiful thing about The Witcher series is that if you're looking to hop into the latest entry, you don't need to play the previous titles. However, they do add a considerable amount of context to the expansive cast of characters, and particularly to every one of Geralt's relationships. The Witcher 2 is a mostly on-rails, linear RPG. That doesn't stop it from being an incredible, dramatic, and enticing adventure, however. The world is detailed and lush, as you'd expect from the series, and the choices you make throughout the story determine some pretty major outcomes. Just make sure to spend some time between story missions to smell the roses--er, the monsters, rather. | Aiden Strawhun
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Rare's output under Microsoft has been uneven, but one bright spot shines above the rest. Viva Pinata is a sweet refuge from the norm--a sim that defies easy categorization. It bears a lot in common with farming sims like Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley. Instead of standard livestock, though, you're raising up beautifully designed candy-animals with punny names like "fudgehog" and "chewnicorn." The look is distinctly family-friendly, but under the surface the gameplay is surprisingly deep. I lost many nights to converting "sour" pinatas, facilitating my animals' feeding and mating habits, and even managing the food chain. (Some pinatas eat others, you see.) I'm partial to the first, but the semi-sequel Trouble in Paradise is mostly a revision for the better. Either way you can't go wrong, and they're both available on Xbox One. | Steve Watts
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