Op-ed: Ten Games that Defined the Xbox 360 Generation

The Xbox 360 is an amazing machine. I watched movies on it, used it to share achievements to Facebook, communicated with friends across the world over XBL, bought and played games without having to leave the house, watched other people play games, accessed YouTube, and even used it to surf the interwebz. I kept it clean, maintained it, and added parts to soup it up. Now I have a new machine in the man cave, and I feel like I parked a brand new Corvette next to my old Camaro. My new machine does more, looks better, and outperforms the old machine in almost every way. However, I am not ready to put my 360 up for sale or cart it off to storage just yet. The old girl still has plenty of life in her, but her relevance is waning and she is no longer the Queen of the Streets. So to honor the achievements of my beloved Camaro I invite you, dear reader, to sit shotgun as I take a drive to some of my favorite places that the 360 has taken me. These are the 10 games that, for me, defined the Xbox 360.



I led my silent protagonist into an underwater Ayn Rand dystopia, met a nice fellow with an Irish brogue and a family in peril, got juiced up on some plasmids, and made my way to the medical center of Rapture where I came face to face with my first Big Daddy. After I dispatched the big guy I was presented with a moral choice about the fate of his Little Sister: harvest the girl for her Adam, destroying her in the process, or cure the girl, receiving only a drop of the stuff in return. The nice man on the radio urged me to harvest her and assured me that the Adam would be necessary to save his family and escape the city. There was also a lady German doctor who reminded me of the girl’s humanity and ultimate importance. Although I have happily played the villain in numerous games, I could not bring myself to destroy the squirming, dirty little girl that I held firmly in my grasp, and found that the paltry drop of Adam was enough to get me by.



As I progressed through the game, I spliced away my humanity one shot at a time until I became the most terrible thing in Rapture: the deadliest Big Daddy of them all. In Andrew Ryan’s underwater paradise, no one is who I thought they were, even me. Especially me.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Infinity Ward dropped this bombshell of an online military shooter back in 2007, and it is now considered to be the FPS archetype that almost every modern shooter patterns itself after. Modern Warfare innovated the killstreak, airstrike, cover and heal, multiplayer XP, and the three position stance. I would like to say that it changed the way that online teams worked together to accomplish a common goal, but the backstabbing bitches willing to fuck their team over for a better K/D ratio was much more prevalent. This is also the game that introduced the word “camper” into our modern vernacular: we had them before, we just didn’t have a name for it.



This is the game that convinced me that online multiplayer shooters were not for me: I had a hard time differentiating friend from foe, I died a lot, I was laughed at, and I was cussed at by thirteen year old punks. Nothing tests my patience and temper more than being called a “faggot cunt ni**er” by some kid who hasn’t had his first shave yet. However, I was very good at the single player campaign, which in turn helped my foul-mouthed preteen son destroy campers and confused dads like me. Iconic moments such as the shootout at an abandoned Russian amusement park and getting nuked to death are standouts in a game that excelled both in online gameplay and single player satisfaction.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Although Skyrim is the fifth game in the series, Bethesda’s glitch-riddled masterpiece stands out as the very best. Focusing more heavily on player choices than Morrowind or Oblivion, players could choose to be the good guy, the bad guy, or the very bad guy. Playable beast classes, like the Khajit and Argonians, were able to utilize the same armor used by humanoids, dual-wielding was improved, and there were fucking dragons. Dragons, I said!



Skyrim added powerful shouts, obtained from the souls of vanquished dragons, to an impressive arsenal of weapons and magic to transform the Mighty Sarcasmo Fjones into the most formidable hero, or villain, ever to ply his trade in the land of ice and snow. The opportunity to become either a werewolf or a vampire was an added bonus, and the two excellent DLCs were icing on the Cake of Awesomeness. For those of you counting DLCs, Hearthfire doesn’t count, and if you bought it after reading my review then I cannot be responsible for you pissing away your money. Jackass.


Fallout 3

Fans of the original Fallout games cried foul when Bethesda whipped out this action RPG, casting players into the postapocalyptic Capital Wasteland, until they actually played it. The Wasteland is an inhospitable place for the vault-dweller looking for Daddy, voiced in epic fashion by Liam Neeson, and is full of radioactive hotspots, irradiated food and water, mutants, Deathclaws, psychopathic raiders, ghouls, slavers, and dangerous robots: no place was truly safe.



In typical Bethesda fashion, players were rewarded for being good, bad, or Switzerland, which encouraged me to play through the game multiple times. I mini nuked a Behemoth Super Mutant into dust, cured a suburb of its fire ant infestation, collected all the bobbleheads, met a talking tree named Bob, followed Liberty Prime into battle at the Jefferson Memorial, and killed President John Henry Eden. Yeah, I’m a badass. The four DLCs were all fulfilling expansions to an already awesome game that I still play from time to time. Don’t forget to visit me at my house in Old Olney. 



My first introduction to this hidden gem of a game occured after I completed the Half-Life 2 content in the Orange Box. I gave Team Fortress a cursory look, then turned my attention to the silent protagonist, Chell. What seemed like a kid’s game at first very quickly morphed into something both dark and addictive. Since Chell has no voice of her own in the game, the lone voice of the increasingly malevolent GLaDOS, voiced by Ellen McLain, sets a perfect atmosphere of isolation and imminent mortal peril inside the Aperture Life Enrichment Center.



The game almost perfectly progresses the difficulty of each test, which you must pass if you want to continue living, because GLaDOS wants you to fail...and then kill you. Armed with my portal gun, I was able to push through with the help of my trusty sidekick, companion cube, and the promise of cake. Portal 2 would have also been a great game, if Wheatley hadn’t ruined it. Fuck you, Wheatley, I hate you.


Forza 3

If I were to number the games on this list, which I intentionally neglected to do, Forza 3 would be number one. This is the game that brought me to 2old2play, so naturally it is particularly important to me. So if you’re one of the folks who doesn’t like me, this is the game to blame. It is a magical game steeped in the land before AWD was nerfed, Positano was a particularly long and challenging road track, Camino Viejo was extreme in reverse, and Fujimi Kaido came back in a big way.



This is the game where I discovered the 2old4forza clan. These guys taught me how to tune, made me faster on the track, and taught me humility. I was ranked in the top 50 on the Forza leaderboards when I joined 2o4f, but I wasn’t even close to being as fast as these guys. I made friends with some of the fastest virtual racers all over the world, and we’re still friends today. I’m sure most of the folks here at 2old2play have a similar story to tell about their clan and drug of choice. My drug is Forza, and there are a lot of Forza addicts running around this site. It must be good shit.


Halo 3

I am not a Halo fan. I played through the first two games on the original Xbox and had enough. I played the third installment some time after I finally acquired a 360, and only played about fifteen minutes before I decided I didn’t like it and traded it in for Mercenaries 2. However, the importance of this game, in particular, cannot be denied, especially since it happens to be the game responsible for the genesis of 2old2play.



I eventually played Reach on my own accord, and hastily purchased Halo 4 at a Gamestop in Schaumburg at the last LAN, with the intention of playing it at the LAN, but being lost and hopelessly outgunned I hid Master Chief in my gym bag and went back to Forza 4 and deep dish pizza. I love this site, and most of the people here, but Halo 3 is not one of my favorite games.


The Walking Dead

The television show was a hit, so naturally a game based on the show would be a hit, right? Nope, but the game based on the source material was surprisingly deep, emotionally touching, and terrible to behold all at the same time. My time with Lee, Clementine, and Kenny forced me to make some hard choices. Would I save a man trapped under a tractor instead of the annoying child who caused the accident? Yep. Would I allow Clementine’s friend to fall to his death to give Kenny some closure over the death of his family? Yep. Would I abandon an ally in the zombie-infested darkness over a fatal misunderstanding? I’m afraid so. I hope you packed some running shoes, bitch.



Telltale Games delivered on a zombie game that, on paper, shouldn’t have worked. The game looks like a comic book and isn’t exactly chock full of zombie headshot action. The Walking Dead compelled me to look around and interact with the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse. It was a game where the murderer could be the hero, where a little girl could survive and be as lethal as any adult, and a game that taught me that any old slab of meat on a plate wasn’t necessarily food. The Walking Dead gave me very little time to make some hard choices that carried consequences for the rest of the game, and then told me what kind of guy I was at the end of each episode. Thanks Telltale, I already knew I was a dick.


Mass Effect Trilogy

Yeah, I know the ending was a huge kick in the crotch to Mass Effect fans all over the world, but the original Star Wars trilogy has a shitty ending too and I still like the movies...fucking Ewoks. Anyway, there are no Ewoks in Mass Effect, but there is a whole lot of heroic action RPG goodness. I liked Commander Shepard, and whether you started as a guy or FemShep, your reputation in the ME universe was legendary. I liked the fact that Mass Effect 2 and 3 remembered that I played the game before, and carefully omitted the folks that were killed because of my actions in the previous games. It made Mass Effect more personal to me, and I redoubled my efforts to keep everyone alive on every mission. Voice acting from Jennifer Hale and Mark Meer as the two Shepards, Lance Henrickson, Martin Sheen, Keith David, and Seth Green delivered a familiar authenticity to the folks trying to save the universe from extinction. Does anyone else think that Garrus could have been an awesome protagonist?



I felt like I always had my hands full playing this game. I was dealing with Reapers, fulfilling my Spectre duties, punching reporters, keeping morale high on the Normandy, trying to finish off the Geck, deciding the fate of other races, dealing with political squabbling, and doing my best to insure humanity’s place on The Citadel was deserved. Never a dull moment, never a lull in the action, and rarely have I had more fun playing video games.


Assassin’s Creed II

There was nothing wrong with the first Assassin’s Creed, aside from the fact that Altair was an unlikeable dick and every environment was a dreary shit hole. Assassin’s Creed II greatly improved upon both issues: I thought Ezio was charismatic and fun to play as, and the Italian cities he worked in were both beautiful and (mostly) historically accurate. Florence and Venice lent themselves to video games quite nicely, and the inclusion of historical figures, like Leonardo DaVinci, only made the game more appealing.



Scouring the tombs of my assassin predecessors, stalking the Venice street festival, and the ambush at the ruins stand out as classic AC II moments, and some of the very best in the series. Although the difficulty bar may have been set a little high for a sim racer like me, I did eventually finish the game, which is more than I can say for Connor’s stab (see what I did there?) at Assassin glory. If you missed out on this one while it was free on XBL Games With Gold, then you missed a milestone in gaming history. 


Honorable Mentions

Arkham Asylum
Grand Theft Auto V
Minecraft 360
Splinter Cell: Conviction

Keep in mind that this list is just one gamer’s opinion. If you think a game doesn’t belong here or I committed some sort of injustice by not including your personal benchmark 360 game, let me have it in the comments, amigo!

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