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Last night saw Microsoft announce that original Xbox games would be coming to Xbox One via the magic of backwards compatibility.
The company only revealed that Crimson Skies would be compatible at the event, promising more details later in the year. But there are definitely a few OG Xbox games that should make the cut…
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
It’s got one of the largest and most captivating maps around, some crazy spells and doesn’t hold your hand at all. Yep, it’s Morrowind, being our first pick on the list.
The title was released to critical acclaim back in 2002 on PC and Xbox, standing out for its open-ended approach and its dangerous enemies around every (foggy) corner.
But, as Gearburn contributor Pippa Tshabalala notes, Morrowind might be too tough for those accustomed to fast travelling and obvious mission cues.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
It can be had for a song on PC, while mobile versions are also available, but Knights of the Old Republic also saw a release on the Xbox.
Being identical to the PC version, you had an innovative combat system at your disposal, slick visuals for the time and a neat dark side/light side gameplay mechanic.
KOTOR also saw a sequel, which wasn’t as well-received owing to a glut of cut content.
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden, the 2004 reboot of, well… Ninja Gaiden… stands tall as being an excellent tribute to the tough as nails ’80s game, being a formidable challenge in its own right.
But if you really want the best package, you’ll need to get Ninja Gaiden Black instead of Ninja Gaiden, delivering gameplay tweaks and rolling in the DLC additions. Either way, you can’t really go wrong.
The 2004 game also received a PS3 port in the form of Ninja Gaiden Sigma, but many fans still prefer the earlier Xbox titles.
Splinter Cell franchise
The first three Splinter Cell games may have been available across three consoles (PS2, GameCube, Xbox), but the Xbox versions were easily the best looking titles.
Featuring much better lighting/shadow effects than Nintendo and Sony’s machines, Sam Fisher’s first three forays on Xbox were the definitive versions in many ways.
Project Gotham Racing series
PGR3 was many an Xbox 360 gamer’s first game, launching alongside the second Xbox in 2005. But the first two games are also well worth a look, retaining the same DNA.
The first game was also a launch title, albeit for the first Xbox. The second game upped the ante, thanks to Xbox Live multiplayer, the Geometry Wars minigame and downloadable content. If we can’t have PGR5, these titles will be good enough…
Panzer Dragoon Orta
It seems like just yesterday that the internet lost its mind over the Panzer Dragoon series returning, in the form of Panzer Dragoon Orta.
And the franchise’s return was well-received by critics, as you dodged enemy attacks, fired back and used all manner of dragon abilities. We’d begrudgingly play Dino Crisis 3 for ten minutes if it meant we could have this as a backwards-compatible title.
Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth
Was it the first good Cthulhu game? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a good, scary game in its own right.
A survival horror title, you’ll be running away at first owing to your lack of weapons. You eventually get weapons, but ammo conservation, as with all survival horror games, becomes crucial.
The title also delivers some Eternal Darkness-style hallucinations if you let your sanity drop. Neat.
It’s a travesty that we haven’t seen another MechAssault game on Xbox 360 or Xbox One, being a fantastic mech action franchise.
The first MechAssault game stood out thanks to being part of the first wave of Xbox Live-enabled titles, allowing players to easily duke it out online. But it’s more than just a one trick pony, delivering a solid single player mode and rewarding mech-blasting action.
The second game didn’t receive as much critical love as its predecessor, but we wouldn’t mind seeing a reboot nonetheless.
Another Bioware game that made an impact during the Xbox era, Jade Empire was a very different take on the company’s action/RPG formula.
Featuring an ancient Asian setting of sorts, the game also stood out thanks to its real-time combat system, using martial arts to great effect. Otherwise, great visuals, a KOTOR-inspired light/dark system and associated dialogue system makes for a much-loved OG Xbox title.
Unreal Championship franchise
Xbox Live may have gone live (heh) earlier that year, but it can’t be argued that 2002’s Unreal Championship was one of the first big-hitting games to take advantage of the service.
Released exclusively on Xbox, Unreal Championship was essentially a port of UT 2003 in many ways. But with over 30 maps, a variety of game modes and a single-player option, Unreal Championship and its sequel offer plenty to be excited about.
It was originally released on Sega Dreamcast, but the sequel to the innovative (and ill-fated) Shenmue delivered more of the same. And an Xbox port.
The game follows up on the cliffhanger ending of the first title, offering deep combat, those QTE mechanics, a living and breathing Hong Kong, and old-school Sega games.
Shenmue 2 might show its age these days compared to other open world games, but it’s still a great way to get up to speed ahead of the third game’s release.