What are the best Xbox games to own forever?

July 23, 2012

The Best to Own Forever series isn’t about what’s great right now. It’s about what will be great in 10 years, even though there will be better-looking games and later sequels, and what will keep you pulling that dusty old console out of the closet every once in a while. This time, we focus on the original Xbox which, while mostly home to ports and iterative series, has a few gems to go back to.

Jade Empire was BioWare’s first attempt at making an unlicensed RPG, as well as one that is almost entirely action-based, so hopes were high, but some people (including myself) had doubts. Thankfully, they managed to pull it off better than anyone could have expected, creating an experience that is unlike anything BioWare has done before and since. It contains all of the same BioWare tropes, including dialogue choices and a quest system that was reminiscent of their previous effort, Knights of the Old Republic. It all came together wonderfully and managed to set itself apart from most of the RPGs from the time (and the many Western RPGs to follow). - Andrew Passafiume

After Sega was forced to bow out of the hardware business, there was a brief period in which the creativity that was lavished over their Dreamcast-era titles carried over to new consoles. It didn’t last long, but we got some great games out of it: Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Crazy Taxi 3, Super Monkey Ball and, of course, Jet Set Radio Future. The sequel to Sega’s off-the-wall graffiti skating game that made a splash on its final console, JSRF sticks to the formula of its predecessor while expanding on the game and making it much more playable in the process. Removing the level timers and letting you fight back against chasing police in particular went miles in removing the main problems with the original. The distinctive art style returns with just a bit more techno flair, and is absolutely compounded by the Xbox’s power, incorporating larger, busier environments that make the game world feel truly alive. - Chris Dominowski

Splinter Cell is an iconic stealth-action series that is probably second only to Metal Gear Solid in its genre. That said, the newest entries, Double Agent and Conviction, haven’t lived up to the standard set by Chaos Theory. While Conviction was a great game in its own right, it changed up the formula quite a bit, something that many fans took exception to. At this point, it looks like Chaos Theory will be the high-point of the series as a game where stealth is more important than anything else you may do and you can beat the game with a minimum of violence. And, like all the early Splinter Cell games, it was best on the Xbox. This version often had better graphics and darkness contrasts, but more importantly, it had extended levels. - Shawn Vermette

It’s a real shame that the once-popular Burnout franchise has taken a long vacation after Paradise. There is still plenty to the formula that can be expanded or improved upon. Until that actually happens (assuming it ever does), Burnout 3 will keep you plenty busy. While the sequel, Revenge, is a lot of fun, Takedown is perhaps the best example of what made this series so fun in the first place. It has all of the best tracks, modes, and additional features you could want from a racing game. Even people who don’t typically enjoy racing games will find plenty to like here. - Andrew Passafiume

In recent months, we’ve seen more footage from Free Radical’s canceled third installment, which looked so promising. Don’t forget, though, that much of that game can be found in the last one released, and the Xbox version is the most stable console port and features four-player local. With huge battlefields and vast teams, having that option is great. (The PC one’s pretty great too, if you can get everyone online.) - Graham Russell

Where do I even start with this one? This is probably the most insane idea for a game that has ever been played straight. It’s a Japanese-only Xbox exclusive where you play as the president of the United States piloting a mecha suit armed with every weapon under the sun, going to take out the treasonous vice president’s army. On top of that, Metal Wolf Chaos is certainly one of the best stupid-fun games on the Xbox. The joy of blowing up anything that moves is sure to warm the hearts of any mecha fan. The absolutely absurd engrish dialogue doesn’t hurt in establishing an unintentionally ludicrous atmosphere. - Chris Dominowski

We may never see another TimeSplitters game again, and that is one of the biggest tragedies in the industry. The good news is that the last game, Future Perfect, is still one of the best shooters you can play today, even if it is fairly dated. The multiplayer options are amazing and even with the lack of functioning online play there is plenty of content to keep you busy for months. Also, playing with a full four-player splitscreen match with friends and a bunch of bots will never get old, especially if you turn on explosive weapons only. Trust me on this one. There are very few shooters from this generation that can be recommended more than this classic. - Andrew Passafiume

While we’ve seen a genre resurgence, the hack-and-slash co-op game has never really been better than it was in Dark Alliance II. Somehow, the generation-old game still looks great, and the minute-to-minute gameplay is a lot more crafted and a lot less here’s-a-bunch-of-random-quests than we’ve been getting lately. - Graham Russell