The 10 Best Xbox 360 Exclusives

Games Lists Xbox 360

The Xbox One comes out on Friday. Don’t let the name confuse you: The One is a brand new system, the successor to the eight-year-old Xbox 360. The 360 won’t disappear over night, but Microsoft’s focus is moving on, and eventually the system that mainstreamed online gaming and HD visuals for console games will be sitting on a basement shelf next to your GameCube and TurboGrafx-16. Before the 360 retires in full, let’s take a brief look back at the ten best games that weren’t available on any other console. Some of these games are available for the PC, Mac or mobile devices, but the Xbox 360 is the only videogame system they were released on. (And when you’re done, go read our list of the best PlayStation 3 exclusives.)

10. Forza Motorsport 3
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The visually amazing Forza Motorsport 3 is an absurdly deep and complicated racing simulator, but it’s accessible enough for anybody to enjoy. Exactly precise enough for the craziest of car nuts, but more than tolerant of the interested neophyte, Forza Motorsport 3 never forgets that it’s a game, and that games should be fun.—Garrett Martin

9. Dance Central
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Dance Central and its sequels remain the exception to the Kinect rule. Harmonix’s dance series shows that motion controls don’t have to be untrustworthy or unfulfilling, and despite their physical requirements they remain the perfect games to demo the Kinect for both dedicated players and a wider audience curious by this still relatively new, still relatively weird camera peripheral.—GM

8. Shadow Complex
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Shadow Complex is Metroid rebuilt with an anonymous white dude accidentally storming an Advanced Idea Mechanics secret lair. That Metroid framework is a hard one to mess up, but Shadow Complex excels with excellent level design, crafty sequence breaking and beautiful 2D/3D hybrid graphics that flesh out the sci-fi military industrial aesthetic.—GM

7. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
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The first Geometry Wars launched the 360’s Xbox Live Arcade in 2005, proving that actual worthwhile games could be beamed straight into your game boxes through the internet. The sequel expands on everything great about the psychedelic dual-joystick shooter, multiplying the original’s various permutations of competitive thumb twiddling. I may not check the scoreboard that often anymore, but whenever I do I quickly lose an hour trying to best my friends.—GM

6. Alan Wake
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Remedy’s inspired homage to Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone gets the pacing and presentation of a TV show just right. Its core metafictional concept (writer Alan Wake wars with his own inner darkness in a world created by his words) is bolstered by fantastic atmosphere, memorable secondary characters and the cliffhanger twists of a great TV mystery.—GM

5. Gears of War 2

The testosterone-drenched Gears defines the 360 the way Halo defined the original Xbox, and the second installment of the gory shooter is its peak. Horde mode wasn’t the first wave-based, squad multiplayer, but it set the standard for that now extremely common game type.—GM

4. Crackdown
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Crackdown was one of the first open-world games to feel truly open. It strips all the boring downtime out of the Grand Theft Auto template by turning our characters into superhumans who can soar through a massive city and toss cars around like beanbags. The agility orb hunts turn what could have been a monotonous, unfulfilling collect-a-thon into a compulsive treat by slightly upgrading our abilities with every orb. The sequel was a bummer, but the original Crackdown remains a must-play.—GM

3. Halo 3
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Commercially Halo 3 might be the most crucial of 360 games—when it came out in 2007 it more than doubled the system’s average weekly sales. The game that shored up the 360’s American beachhead also blew up the Xbox Live subscriber rolls, proving that players would pay for an online service and demonstrating how Xbox Live was easier to use and more reliable than the PlayStation 3’s alternative. Beyond the money, though, Halo 3 is a top-notch shooter with a thrilling set of multiplayer modes that thrived on the competitive scene.—GM

2. Fable II
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Early in Fable II you encounter a traveling salesman hawking a magical music box he claims will grant a single wish when played. Though you initially sneer at the notion, a mysterious hooded figure named Theresa encourages you to buy it, reminding you that you want to believe it’s real. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels carried the same implicit message: keep your sense of wonder intact, guard against heart-petrifying cynicism. Fable II is itself a magical music box, but the damn thing can’t stop granting wishes.—Jason Killingsworth

1. Left 4 Dead
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It’s not just the chaos of a zombie swarm at full force that makes Left 4 Dead one of the best 360 exclusives, or the game’s unbearable tension, or how it forces your squad to cooperate without breaking the fourth wall. Left 4 Dead and its equally great sequel might be the best example yet of Valve’s “show, don’t tell” approach to storytelling. We learn a great deal about the survivors and how society reacted to the zombie outbreak simply by observing our surroundings or paying attention to the occasional lines of dialogue that initially seem tossed off. Top that off with a pitch-black sense of humor and a warm humanity that most games don’t even attempt and you have one of the best games ever made.—GM

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