Let’s be honest – the original Xbox’s time was cut short due to technology. The system that launched in 2000 and put Microsoft’s name on the gaming map definitely had its significant moments, but the big M put it out to pasture the second it introduced its new Xbox 360 console. Don’t get us wrong, we’re grateful for it, but considering the technology the original Xbox packed, as well as the way it expanded the Xbox Live service into a viable social solution for gamers, it shouldn’t be so hastily forgotten. Plus, it could’ve been designed way worse than it was – like as a giant X or something.
To pay tribute to Microsoft’s debut console, we’ve chosen 25 games that have really stood out on the machine and defined what makes us play it. Now this was a hard list to come up with, as we made some painful choices that deserved a nod (Black and Voodoo Vince come to mind), but these 25 that remain are no doubt high-quality choices. While there are some repeat selections as presented in our top 25 PlayStation 2 list, keep in mind that they worked their magic on this console, just as they did on that one.
So, let’s count ‘em down!
25. NBA Street Vol. 3 (EA Sports Big)
The NBA Street series evolved arcade basketball past Midway’s NBA Jam, and it actually made it something a little bit better. Vol. 3 expands the theme of the series with crazier street b-ball, including official NBA stars, original characters, and much, much more. What’s more, you could listen to some crazy beats, off-the-hook commentary, and play online with your friends through Xbox Live. What’s more, you could mix up your plays on-the-fly, going for a sweet little pass for the alley-oop and running in with a 20-foot monster dunk – one that looks far more convincing than Jam’s. This Street will always rule, even if the series isn’t around anymore. (Ironically enough, EA Sports converted back to Jam.)
24. Conker: Live and Reloaded (Microsoft)
When Conker’s Bad Fur Day came out for the Nintendo 64, it didn’t get the proper respect it deserved, mainly due to the fact it was so heavily M-rated and couldn’t rely on family advertising. No matter. It’s an unheralded classic, and it actually got better on the Xbox, thanks to improved visuals that really brought out the gross details in the game (you piss on fires, for chrissakes). Also, it has an interesting multiplayer mode where you and your buddies could battle in teams against…evil teddy bears. Not everyone will be able to stomach Conker’s raunchy content, but we love it, especially the battle with the big, singing pile of crap. No, seriously. You defeat him with toilet paper!
23. Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III (Bethesda)
Before the Elder Scrolls series evolved with Oblivion (and grows even further with the upcoming Skyrim), it got its return in Morrowind, a great role-playing adventure that all Xbox fans could certainly appreciate, especially since they didn’t get much love from the Square Enix camp (aside from the cruddy online Final Fantasy games – and yes, they were cruddy). Featuring a terrific story, great combat, a large supply of weapons and areas to explore, and plenty of great visuals, Morrowind would become the precursor to one of the most unlikely role-playing hits around. It’s still worth checking out today, if only to get ready for the dragon-killing fun of Skyrim.
22. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay (Vivendi)
Vin Diesel may have changed a little bit since he played the freaky killer Riddick in David Twohy’s sci-fi films (we love Fast Five, but, seriously, The Pacifier shouldn’t exist), but we’ll never forget his video game, which combines stealth and combat almost perfectly. You control Riddick as he attempts to maneuver around a prison, trying to get out of tight situations using his abilities, and occasionally carving up an enemy who was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The visuals at the time, handled by Starbreeze, were fantastic for the console, and the game actually provided a deep challenge – which can’t be said for most movie-licensed games. Here, Diesel will always be cool. Period.
21. Mercenaries (LucasArts)
Playing as a mercenary who shoots down everything is one thing, but playing as a mercenary who giddily uses every destructive power that he or she possesses, that’s another. Pandemic Studios, who has since gone bye-bye from the game scene (sigh), has made an explosive favorite with Mercenaries, a game that literally gives you free will to go crazy on destruction as you meet a number of pre-set objectives and try to take down corrupt military types and other foes. The graphics were great, especially the explosions, and the gameplay is still lots of fun today. You should pick it up just to tribute Pandemic – they deserve it.