When it was first released in 2001, the Xbox was something of a gamble. Sony and Nintendo had strangleholds on the worldwide console gaming market, and many gamers around the world questioned Microsoft’s decision to enter the console wars with an option of their own.
After its release, however, Xbox’s popularity was immediate. Released with Halo: Combat Evolved – one of the most impactful first-person shooters of all time – and coming complete with online networking functionality, extremely powerful graphics, and plenty of unique console exclusive games, the Xbox was a great success, and quickly cemented Microsoft as a leading player in the console gaming world.
So many of these great games aren’t playable on modern consoles, so if you want to get a taste of top Xbox games, you’ve got to get the originals, built specifically for the console. So let’s take a look at the best original Xbox games released, and give you some buying advice and product recommendations.
What to Consider When Buying Original Xbox Games
Narrow down the choices by decided whether or not you want a new version or a used version.
New vs. Used
- New. It is possible to get new original Xbox games, though you’ll usually pay quite a price premium. This is an option for you if you want to ensure you get an undamaged disc, and that your box will come with all of the original packaging, products, and manuals. Generally, collectors opt for this option if it’s a game they really love – they’re willing to pay the price premium for a totally new, unopened product.
- Used. Used games are the most common way to get original Xbox games – after all, new games haven’t been manufactured in almost a decade at this point – and a great way to score a ton of awesome games on the cheap. Depending on the condition, these games may come with the original box and manuals, or even just as a “bare disc” with no packaging besides basic protection. Generally, used games are just about as safe to buy as new games, though they may have some superficial scratches and damage. If you’re looking to save some money and only care about the game, a cheap used product is your best bet.
Top 10 Original Xbox Games Table
Here are a few important things to keep in mind before you choose a game.
Remember that certain Xbox games are only compatible with certain versions of the Xbox.
- There are many original Xbox games that are backwards compatible with the Xbox 360, including many of the most popular games. There are some, however, that remain incompatible, requiring an original Xbox console in order to play them. Wikipedia features a list of backwards compatible Original Xbox games – if you are planning on purchasing a game to play on Xbox 360, it’s a great resource.
- If playing on a newer Xbox 360 S or Xbox 360 E console, you will need a specialized hard drive in order to play original Xbox games.
- If you are playing on one of the older-style Xbox 360s, you will already have a hard drive that’s compatible – you won’t need any more special accessories.
- Original Xbox games are not playable on Xbox One.
Top 5 Best Original Xbox Games Reviews
Lego Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy was released as a sequel to the popular Lego Star Wars game released in 2005. Upon release, this game was received extremely positively, and was the catalyst for a franchise of Lego video games that now spans over a dozen different media franchises, including Batman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Lord of the Rings, and others.
These other franchises were all built on the story and mission-based, collectible-heavy design of Lego Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy. In the game, you’ll command dozens of different LEGO interpretations of Star Wars characters, and move through an adorably designed interpretation of all three original Star Wars movies – fighting enemies, collecting trophies and collectable, finding secrets, and unlocking new enemies and playable characters along the way.
The addictive, stimulus-response design of this game, and its smart gameplay, puzzles, and special features make it one of the most fun, deceptively simple choices on our list. If you love LEGO and Star Wars, you’ll be missing out if you don’t try this game. And even if you’re not a fan of either, you’ll appreciate the great puzzles, fun action and cinematic sequences, and smart design which are all mixed together to make this one of the very best original Xbox games to ever be released.
Halo: Combat Evolved was nothing short of a revolution in the console FPS genre, and it could be argued that its released alongside the Xbox in 2001 as its “Killer App” is chiefly responsible for the rise and dominance of the Xbox and its successors.
The single player campaign of Halo: CE featured incredibly imaginative environments, creatures, and gameplay concepts, along with a deep and rich story that was built carefully to maintain a sense of awe, wonder, and mystery. Paired with fast-paced, arena-shooter inspired gameplay that had never made it to consoles before; Halo CE became an instant classic, lauded for its frenetic gameplay, great variety of unique weapons and combat styles, and incredibly fun multiplayer.
While Halo: CE was unable to take advantage of the later-released Xbox LIVE online multiplayer functionality, it remains a perennial favorite for local multiplayer split-screen action – and can support up to 16 players if you network enough Xboxes together. The fast-paced action, great and tight control and response feel, and multitude of game modes makes it an all-time classic when it comes to local multiplayer and LAN events.
Star Wars Battlefront II was a refinement of its predecessor, Star Wars Battlefront. It improved upon the gameplay, graphics, and multiplayer functionality of Battlefront to become a critically lauded, objective-based third person shooter that maintained its popularity for years to come.
Star Wars Battlefront II featured a unique campaign that spanned the entire Star Wars franchise, taking the player through the fall of the Galactic Republic and the rise of the Empire. It also has other game modes like Galactic Conquest, where one or two players battle an AI-controlled faction for galactic supremacy in one of the classic Star Wars time periods, controlling resources and weapon/unit upgrades strategically in order to gain an advantage against their computer opponents.
Multiplayer was also a hit in Star Wars Battlefront II – of course, the online service has been shut down, so there is no longer online functionality, but the game supports four-player split screen gaming. If you still want to play with your friends, you’re able to do so and the multiplayer is a blast. Player characters are mixed in with AI troops in a control-point game mode and others to create a unique experience. You’re not only battling each other but also the AI controlled troops. The game features totally unique maps, dozens of driveable and pilotable vehicles, and deep gameplay features like killstreak rewards.
Battlefront II ended up being so popular that, in 2015, the franchise was rebooted to great success by EA DICE, the studio behind the popular Battlefield franchise. If you’re looking for one of the very best representations of the Xbox experience, Battlefront II should be on the top of your list.
While Jade Empire was critically divisive upon its release, its unique blend of RPG and action elements, Eastern-mythology-inspired story, and unique characters, environments, and gameplay modes have made it a cult classic that’s still played today.
Developed by BIOWARE, the RPG developer behind franchises such as Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, Jade Empire offered a hugely deep world full of choices, mystery, and intrigue. It features a fast-paced, action-focused RPG style of play that was quite revolutionary for its time, and allowed a deep amount of player choice when it came to building a character.
In the game, you’ll take control of a “chosen one” who is studying at a martial arts school. After the player’s school is destroyed by an ancient evil, the player character must travel through a world chock-full areas all inspired by Chinese and East Asian mythology, completing dozens of main quests and optional side quests along the way, and teaming up with a diverse supporting cast of fully-voiced NPC allies.
There truly has never been another game quite like Jade Empire. Upon release, this was a point of criticism from the gaming community, but Jade Empire is now known as one of the very finest, most singular games released on the original Xbox console.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, released in 2002, was a massive success that has inspired an entire franchise of over a half-dozen games, eight novels, and an upcoming film adaptation. The player takes control of a special ops agent named Sam Fisher, who is a specialist at infiltrating enemy territory, gaining intelligence, and destroying targets.
The unique gameplay focuses, first and foremost, on stealth – revolutionary technology allowed deep gameplay elements such as a smart stealth system that relied on light and visibility, destructible objects like lights which aided Sam Fisher in his stealth ops, unique gadgets, and large, open-ended missions which often had multiple methods of completion (depending on the strategies and tools the player utilized).
While Sam is equipped with weapons, don’t expect to be able to shoot your way through this game – Sam is realistically weak when confronted by multiple enemies, and often detection means the failure of a mission, so you’d best prepare for some tough but rewarding stealth gameplay in one of the most influential stealth games ever developed for Xbox.