Thought playing Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One was cool? Well, now you can dig back even further into the Xbox’s lifespan and play games from Microsoft’s original 2001 console.
A handful of them, at least. While Xbox 360 backwards compatibility launched with a meaty list of 100 games, Microsoft’s taking a slower approach this time around: now you can play a total of 13 games from the O.G. box, and surprisingly, the Halo franchise is currently M.I.A. In fact, only one of the games we really wanted to revisit is in the initial set.
Not everything on the short debut list is a total winner, but there are some all-time gems that are still worth checking out today – and they’ll all run in higher resolution, even if online play is sadly off the table at this point. Still, here are the first five games you ought to try, whether you have the disc handy or buy the digital version from the Microsoft Store.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Our recent pick for the #6 greatest Xbox game of all time is also still widely regarded to be the greatest Star Wars game of all time… some 13 years later. Let that speak to both to a failure to create compelling games based on the beloved sci-fi franchise and also as a testament to KOTOR‘s enduring excellence.
BioWare’s pre-Mass Effect role-player let you create your own character, travel through the galaxy, and make decisions that led you along a path towards the Light or Dark side of The Force. It’s dated now, sure, but there hasn’t been a better Star Wars adventure since.
Ninja Gaiden Black (2005)
One of the most incredibly acclaimed games of the original Xbox, Ninja Gaiden Black took Tecmo’s brilliant Ninja Gaiden reboot and made it even more difficult. Yes, really! If the insane, sword-wielding action wasn’t hard enough, Black ratcheted up the challenge even further.
And fans ate it up. It’s incredibly intense, gory, and satisfying as you guide Ryu Hayabusa through waves upon waves of demons and monsters. It’s a bit Legend of Zelda along the way, but mostly Ninja Gaiden is just a rock-solid, crazy-hard hack-and-slasher that’ll test your endurance as it thrills you with its dazzling combat.
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (2003)
With the original servers down, our recommendation of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is somewhat diminished – but not entirely so. This dogfighting, combat flight simulator was one of the great Xbox originals of its day, but online play was only part of the overall equation.
The single-player campaign was lauded for its depth and open-ended structure, plus Crimson Skies offers split-screen multiplayer – and if you feel like pairing up a few consoles, you can even get some system-link action going on. You probably won’t bother… it’s 2017, after all. But this is still one of the great console flight games.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)
Like Ninja Gaiden, Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time successfully took a classic 2D action franchise and brought it into 3D – and even though it relaunched a successful franchise and hails from a big publisher, The Sands of Time is oddly considered a cult classic of sorts.
The Sands of Time lets you take control of the titular prince with a blend of hack-and-slash action, death-defying platforming and exploration, plus a rewind mechanic that let you be daring without catastrophic consequences. It feels like it inspired about a hundred games afterward, but this Prince still reigns tall.
Double Fine’s Psychonauts was widely and almost legendarily overlooked for years, but a small base of fans kept its memory alive – and now it’s considered a proper platforming classic of the era, with a crowdfunded sequel currently on the horizon.
Psychonauts takes place at a summer camp for kids with psychic powers, and yes, that’s as wacky as it sounds. In typical Double Fine fashion, the game is packed with laughs, has a one-of-a-kind style about it, and makes a strong impression all the while. It’s a little clunky, as decade-old games often are, but it’s a real gem all the same.
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