Xbox 360
Image: Gemma Smith / Time Extension

While the original Xbox introduced us to Xbox Live, Microsoft’s successor console perfected it, giving us prominent online features in almost all of its games.

With Xbox Live came an absolute barrage of great first and third-person shooters, but mixed in among the juggernauts of headshot no-scope triple kills were an abundance of small, quality games featured on Xbox Live Arcade.

It surprised us how many great games were on the original Xbox when we put together that list. Doing the same for the Xbox 360, we knew, wouldn’t surprise us; Microsoft had found its footing and was now sprinting ahead like John-117 into a horde of Covenant. Instead, we expected choosing games without some strenuous cuts would be near impossible. We were right.

With the news that Microsoft is taking down the Xbox 360 digital store, it's even more important to take a look at the best the platform has to offer.

What are the best Xbox 360 games?

Our list of the best Xbox 360 games includes some of the biggest names in gaming, such as Halo, Grand Theft Auto and Forza. We've tried to pick a varied selection of titles, and these are presented in no particular order or ranking.

With diversity in mind, see which games made our list below.

The Orange Box (Xbox 360)

Before and since Valve’s The Orange Box, no greater bundle has graced any console. With Half-Life 2 (with its two episodic follow-ups), Team Fortress 2, and one of the best puzzle games ever made in Portal, it’s no wonder. These three games had every Xbox 360 gamer covered with an intense, story-driven first-person shooter widely considered to be one of the best ever made, amusing team-based online play, and one of the most concise and creative puzzle experiences. Each of these games alone could take up a spot on this list, but the fact that Valve gave them to us together in an affordable bundle made it one of the greatest deals we’ve ever seen. The Orange Box 2, anyone?

Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360)

Look, we both know Grand Theft Auto will make any ‘Best Of’ list covering games from about 2001 to 2013. The question becomes which one – the Xbox 360 had San Andreas, IV, and believe it or not, V. Like our best PS3 games list, we give the edge to IV because of its fully realised recreation of New York and poignant critique of the American Dream. Niko Bellic, an Eastern European immigrant, is still the most three-dimensional protagonist in the series, and Liberty City itself places high on the list of best GTA settings. It also brought a cinematic grittiness that the series had previously lacked without losing its strong sense of humour, making it our top pick on the 360.

Bioshock (Xbox 360)

The Big Daddy of narrative-led games for the 360 era, BioShock gave us one of the most unique settings in gaming as well as a philosophical story that made full use of the gaming medium. The underwater city of Rapture, a failed Utopia straight out of the 1940s, was filled to the brim with Big Daddies and their little sisters to either rescue or harvest for more power. Andrew Ryan, the antagonist and creator of this failed Utopia, used the phrase ‘Would you kindly?’ as a hypnotic trigger for the character you controlled, folding your actions as you played into the story in a way only a game could. It was revolutionary, and its first-person shooting gameplay, where you utilised both guns and ‘plasmid’ powers to defeat crazed Splicers, still holds up as extremely fun and kinetic.

Dragon Age: Origins (Xbox 360)

BioWare took the popular Dungeons & Dragons-inspired RPGs of the 1990s and translated them to third-person console gameplay almost flawlessly; yes, they had more experience in the genre than any other, so that should come as no surprise, yet Dragon Age: Origins took the genre to new heights will a cast of stellar characters living in a new and intriguing fantasy setting that we couldn’t wait to spend more time in. Building upon narrative design innovations from their Mass Effect series – which yes, deserves to be on this list, too – Origins steeped that in a deep combat system filled with all the fantasy-themed customisation you could ever want for your player character. With three classes and four specialisations in each, three races to choose from, and a half dozen origins to place you within the world of Ferelden, Origins truly made for a unique and unforgettable experience.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360)

Yes, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an objectively better game, but we’re going with its predecessor, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for this one as it was released on the Xbox 360 before other consoles, giving RPG fans a massive reason to pick up a 360 over the competition. Most of Oblivion’s characters might look like half-melted action figurines, and the draw distance went about as far as we could throw Daedroth, but it also had great art direction and unparalleled player freedom. We have fond memories of battling skeletons in the snowy mountains near Bruma, running from minotaurs in the autumn hills near Anvil and Kvach, and slaying ghosts in the ruins near Leyawiin with enchanted weapons. Oblivion had so much to see, do, and uncover across its vast landscape with a couple hundred quests to uncover that we can’t not include it as one of the best games on the Xbox 360.

Red Dead Redemption (Xbox 360)

While we’re trying to avoid multiple games from the same developer on this list, it would be egregious to skip over Red Dead Redemption. Much the same way Grand Theft Auto nails city-based crime, no game did cowboy-ing better, nor did many games have a more heartfelt story than John Marsten’s attempts to safeguard his family and escape the cyclical violence of his former life. Both its Wild West setting of arid semi-deserts and tragic epilogue have stuck with us all these years. During the Xbox 360 era, discourse around games being art ramping up, and Red Dead Redemption made one of the most prominent arguments that games were, in fact, art.

L.A. Noire (Xbox 360)

“Step aside, Batman – there’s a new detective in town,” is what we imagine reviewers said when L.A. Noire was released in 2011. Taking the role of Cole Phelps as he solves crimes for the Los Angeles police department, this action-adventure detective game was a one-of-a-kind experience because the game’s superb motion capture enabled the core gameplay mechanic and narrative to function. By analysing facial queues from this tech, you had to believe, doubt, or accuse suspects of lying, backing up your response with evidence. It’s still a unique system we’d like to see explored in more detective-style games or otherwise. And when not searching for evidence and interrogating, solving street crimes in the 1940s was a good time, too.

Gears of War (Xbox 360)

Well before Fortnite, we had Epic Games’ Gears of War. With muscle-bound soldiers slamming in and out of cover, chainsawing monstrous Locust in half as they emerged from beneath the ground, and popping heads like watermelons, it’s a far cry from what we’ve come to know the developer/publisher for. It was one of the most gorgeous games on the 360 despite its muted browns and greys, and told a surprisingly good story despite its macho bluster. Like many Xbox 360 games, however, it truly shone online, with a unique take on third-person, team-based action. We lost many hours curb-stomping opponents in Canals and Gridlock, and we regret none of it.

Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)

Yes, we’re including Halo: Reach instead of Halo 3 for one simple reason: while Halo 3 finished the fight, Halo: Reach told the concise and tragic tale of Noble Team as they fought a losing battle against the Covenant – but one that eventually set up the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Developer Bungie seemed to have learned from its past storytelling mistakes, which often got a little obtuse when it came to sci-fi themes, and also learned from its other four entries in the legendary series, modernising Halo enough to stand up against rising stock of Call of Duty. Everything else was on point: tight first-person gameplay, a gorgeous score composed by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori, and online play with a ton of modes and customisation options to enjoy. It truly was the best swan song for Bungie’s time with the franchise that we could hope for.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360)

Despite being a multiplatform title, the 360 somehow became known as the de facto console for die-hard Call of Duty fans. While there were a lot of Call of Duty games on the Xbox 360, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare stands out among them as when the series went from popular to mega-popular with the help of a thought-provoking campaign and stellar online play that you couldn’t put down once you got invested. Part of its success came from its near perfectly crafted maps for Deathmatch, most of which have become iconic. This fourth entry also kicked off the Modern Warfare subseries, which has seen modern reboots for good reason – these games exude quality in every single aspect of them, which makes it no wonder it’s one of the most successful and anticipated series of all time.

Braid (XBLA)

The epitome of Indie Darling, Jonathan Blow’s superb puzzle game Braid stood out on the Xbox Live Arcade as one of its best. With a gorgeous painterly style as a backdrop, Braid presented itself as a simple platformer – jumping on enemies' heads to defeat them and such – but Blow designed it as a critique of current gaming trends with thought-provoking puzzles that played on common tropes. Most of these puzzles you completed using Braid’s time-rewinding mechanic, and each ‘zone’ in the game played with time differently. This all culminated in a mature tale that we won’t spoil in the off chance you haven’t played Braid yet, but this concise little puzzle-platformer definitely stands out as one of the 360’s gems.

Super Street Fighter IV (Xbox 360)

What can we say about the return to the most famous fighting game franchise that hasn’t already been said? Street Fighter IV brought the series back to life after a confused jumble of ports, re-releases, and spin-offs before an extended hiatus. Capcom's greatest success with this fourth official entry was how they merged the old with the new; IV was Street Fighter at its core, yet it brought with it a handful of new mechanics and a stylised look that modernised it better than many, at the time, thought possible. It wasn’t just the great additions to the roster, including Crimson Viper and Gouken, but the inclusion of Focus Attacks and the reworking of many iconic characters. You can’t convince us otherwise that the Xbox 360 had a better fighting game than Street Fighter IV – well, other than maybe Super Street Fighter IV, which was such a massive update on the original that Capcom decided against releasing it as DLC and gave it a cut-price retail version instead.

Super Meat Boy (Xbox 360)

Believe it or not, this gory, high-speed little platformer had one of the best soundtracks on the Xbox 360. Super Meat Boy also featured the tightest platforming on the system, where every failure – and the death of the titular Meat Boy – resulted in him respawning almost immediately to die again and again until you cleared hundreds of creative levels and rescued Bandage Girl from Dr. Fetus. The best part was once you cleared a level, the game replayed all of Meat Boy’s deaths at once, resulting in a hilariously grotesque and instantaneous montage of your failures. It was an innovative hit, and no wonder – one of the original developers went on to co-develop The Binding Of Isaac.

Rock Band (Xbox 360)

Our memories of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band era are like a fever dream. Gathered in a small room with a half dozen friends cluttered with a horde of plastic equipment, we put in hours upon hours on guitar, vocals, drums, and yes, even bass. Not including DLC, the original Rock Band had an absolute banger of a soundtrack, including the likes of ‘The Hand That Feeds,’ ‘Maps,’ ‘Dani California,’ and ‘Enter Sandman,’ having something for just about anyone. The series as a whole had a significant cultural impact, introducing millions to classic hits and redefining music tastes. We’d love to see the series revived, but to be honest, we don’t want to deal with all that plastic equipment again.

Forza Motorsport 3 (Xbox 360)

Even more so than Halo, the Forza series has become a tentpole exclusive for Microsoft on the Xbox Series X/S. Back in the day, it was also an important addition to the Xbox 360, challenging PlayStation’s Gran Turismo series for the title of best racing game. The third entry, Forza Motorsport 3, made the strongest argument for this; no other racing game matched it in terms of visual realism, giving car nuts and racing game aficionados a reason to pick up Microsoft’s follow-up console. A handful of new additions, such as drag racing and an in-car driving view, also kept fans of the series more than happy. Now, we can’t imagine a Microsoft console without a major Forza release.

Limbo (Xbox 360)

Playdead’s debut game LIMBO took everyone by surprise. It’s not often a small puzzle-platformer grabs the attention of the entire gaming community, but LIMBO did just that when it was released on Xbox Live Arcade in 2010. Its arresting monochrome colour palette, horror vibes, and creative puzzles that required little more than jumping and grabbing onto things, made it one of the most unique games to grace the platform. Not even its short length of just a few hours was seen as a detriment – many considered it a near-perfect experience that everyone who owned a 360 owed themselves to try. Later, Playdead would develop the equally superb spiritual successor Inside. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series - The Complete First Season (Xbox 360)

At the height of the zombie craze came The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series. Broken into five episodes, its narratives wrenched hearts more than any other game on the system. The Walking Dead placed you, as Lee Everett, in situations where you had to make nightmarish decisions to protect Clementine, an 8-year-old girl in your care. Wonderfully voice-acted and impeccably paced, Telltale told an unforgettable tale set in The Walking Dead universe (one, we’d argue, that eclipsed the show) that truly challenged your moral compass in each episode. Depending on your actions, it accumulated in one of the most bittersweet endings in gaming, making it a must-play.

Dark Souls (Xbox 360)

We’re still feeling the aftershocks of innovation that Dark Souls set off when it hit consoles in 2011. While PlayStation 3 owners already got to experience Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls was the spiritual successor that truly changed the gaming industry forever and the first on a Microsoft console. Backdropped by vague, cryptic storytelling and the secret-laden world of Lordran, Dark Souls’ stamina-based gameplay redefined action RPGs, spawning plentiful imitators now grouped into the Soulslike genre and influencing countless other titles’ mechanics in ways both subtle and obvious. The industry wouldn’t be the same without Dark Souls, and neither would the Xbox 360.

Fez (Xbox 360)

Phil Fish’s indie masterpiece Fez debuted on Xbox Live Arcade with a year-long exclusivity period, meaning that if you couldn’t wait to play this wonderful puzzle-platformer, you’d have to pick up an Xbox 360. A 2D game set in a 3D world, the basic premise of Fez saw you control Gomez after he receives a fez hat that reveals to him a third-dimension. Coincidentally, this third-dimension also opens up some of the most mind-bending and cryptic puzzles ever put into a game; indeed, it’s rumoured that there’s still quite a lot of puzzles left unsolved. Much like many other games on this list, Fez would go on to inspire indie developers everywhere, including a stellar little game called Tunic. When we interviewed Tunic’s lead developer, we weren’t surprised that he cited Fez as a direct inspiration.

Dead Space (Xbox 360)

It ain’t a Best Of list without at least one horror game, and on the Xbox 360 no other was more innovative and terrifying than Visceral Games’ Dead Space. Building upon horror games that came before and pulling from the classic System Shock, Dead Space brought the 360 a masterpiece of tension-riddled pacing. Set aboard a planet-cracking mining spaceship called the USG Ishimura, you controlled protagonist Isaac Clark as he searched for his girlfriend aboard a ship riddled with grotesque Necromorphs. Dead Space added an extra layer to horror-based gameplay with its dismembering system, which saw you shooting off legs and limbs to slow down the frightening creatures that wanted to – quite literally – rip your head off. It also had a stellar sci-fi narrative, to boot.

When did Xbox 360 come out?

The Xbox 360 was released in North America on November 22nd, 2005. The European release date was December 2nd, 2005. Japan got the console on December 10th, 2005.

How much did Xbox 360 cost at launch?

The Xbox 360 launched at US$299 / €299 / £209 for the basic 'Core' package, and $399 / €399 / £279 for the Premium version with the 20 GB HDD.

Which Xbox 360 has the best performance?

The Xbox 360 E model, released in 2013, is the best version to get. However, it's worth noting that, compared to the earlier Xbox 360 S revision, the E is missing the dedicated optical audio-out and one of the USB ports.

How many Xbox 360 games are there?

There are 2154 Xbox 360 titles across physical retail, digital download and Xbox Live Arcade.

What was the last game on Xbox 360?

The final Xbox 360 game was Just Dance 2019, released on October 23rd, 2018 in North America, and October 25th in Europe.