Starfield – not everyone’s cup of tea (Picture: Bethesda)
A reader reveals their favourite games, both first and third party, on all four Xbox consoles, from Morrowind to Alan Wake 2.
For this feature I’ve been going through my library and filtered out what, in my personal opinion, represents the best games across all four generations of Xbox, that I currently own, and are all playable on current and last gen Xbox consoles via backwards compatibility. I plan on writing another feature for the PlayStation 5. I have a Switch as well but I only really like certain Nintendo games, so I don’t feel well enough informed to write a full feature like this but would encourage another more knowledgeable reader to write in.
I have narrowed it down to the top 10 from each generation, although Xbox and Xbox 360 games I’ve included in one list. This is from my own library of titles that I own and have played in the last nine years, since getting an Xbox One in 2014. At that point I went all digital and in 2015 backwards compatibility first came to Xbox One, so it doesn’t represent the entirety of those first two generations of Xbox.
I’ve written a paragraph for my top three games from each gen and then listed the remaining seven. But we can discuss my other choices further in the comments.
Top 10 best original Xbox and Xbox 360 games
Max Payne 3
This was a tough decision and there may be some recency bias, because I played Max Payne 3 recently so it’s more fresh in my mind than any of the other titles in my top 10. But I really love Max Payne 3 and have played it four times since it launched on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2012. I played it on Xbox 360 at launch, on PlayStation 3 after buying it again there, on Xbox One when it first became backwards compatible, and most recently on Xbox Series X in 2022.
For me, it’s one of the best third person shooters I’ve ever played. I love the story, cinematics, and set pieces, with great fun shooting and the series’ signature bullet time feature allowing you to slow down time. It looked especially cool and cinematic in Max Payne 3, with excellent graphics that still hold up some 11 years after its original release.
I find the levels highly replayable, with great settings, from the opening level in a huge billionaire’s mansion, fighting through a football stadium from the stands, and then through the locker rooms and corridors; through offices in another level, the boatyard level, the flashback scenes fighting through the streets of New York, and through a cemetery and the streets of the favelas in Brazil. These settings are very unique and memorable, which makes me think about them and want to play through them again. Just writing about them has me thinking about playing it again!
I’ve went with Fallout 3 here because although I’m more of an Elder Scrolls fan, and Morrowind is my favourite, it doesn’t hold up as well. Fallout 3 has been updated twice now for Xbox One X, it was brought up to 4K and more recently on Xbox Series X/S up to 60fps, with the newer consoles FPS boost feature. It also benefits from Auto HDR on current Xbox consoles.
I was also torn between Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I went with 3 as it was my introduction to Fallout, having not played the first two games, and it was the first Bethesda title I played that wasn’t Elder Scrolls. It stood out, as it had a lot of things I love about Elder Scrolls with a brand new world to explore and get into.
I think it holds up well considering its age and if you’re new to the Fallout series I think it’s a great place to start and I would recommend it over Fallout 4. Although I enjoyed Fallout 4, I feel Fallout 3 and New Vegas are more classic, with better settings, stories, characters, and quests.
Spec Ops: The Line
This is a game I heard about because of these pages, so thanks to GC and the readers for that one. Spec Ops: The Line is great, it has a great story inspired by classic war film Apocalypse Now (and written by the same person, I believe?) [no, but they’re both inspired by the novella Heart Of Darkness – GC] with great third person shooting and settings.
It also has interesting mechanics, where you could shoot certain spots to make sand fall down on top of enemies or to make a bit of cover to move to a better position. It was a shame this game didn’t sell well, so we never got a sequel.
The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
Red Dead Redemption
Tomb Raider Underworld
F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
Top 10 best Xbox One Games
Dark Souls 3
Dark Souls 3 is my favourite FromSoftware game and one of my favourite role-players of all time. I’ve played through it five times and it’s now my comfort game because I know all the levels so well and I’ve been doing New Game+ with the same character each time, so my character is pretty overpowered at this point. I find it very enjoyable, with my favourite areas and some of my favourite boss battles in all of the FromSoft/Soulslike genre.
Shoutout to The Nameless King, which is my favourite boss out of all the FromSoft games and a great payoff for the steps required to unlock the area he’s in. Also, want to shoutout Dancer Of The Borreal Valley which, although it’s a fairly easy boss in terms of other FromSoft bosses, I just love the design, so I find it incredibly fun to fight each time, as I’m playing through the game.
Also, The Ringed City is the best DLC I’ve played in a FromSoft game and a really great way to close the book on the Dark Souls series, in my opinion.
Might be a controversial choice this one, but I really love Quantum Break and consider it to be some of Remedy’s best work. I’ve played through the game three times, with my most recent playthrough late last year on Xbox Series X. There’s no official upgrade but the fact that it uses dynamic resolution and upscaling means the Xbox Series X’s much more powerful components allow it to look considerably better, boosting it up to 1440, I believe. It also has Auto HDR so it looks a lot better if you have one of the newer Xboxes.
Unfortunately, it’s still capped at 30fps but with Remedy’s Northlight engine, and its good motion blur techniques, it feels a good bit smoother than most other games at 30fps, if you’ve been used to 60fps this generation.
Sea Of Thieves
Another controversial choice, maybe, but for me it’s one of the best Xbox games. Whilst reviews rightly criticised it for a lack of content at launch, over the last five years it has had loads of content added, including dozens of story quests that are very enjoyable. I play the game solo and with a mate but don’t really enjoy fighting other players, largely because I’m not very good at it and it often leads to frustration when they sink my ship and nick all my treasure and items needed to complete story quests. That last part may no longer apply now, I believe story related items remain in your inventory, if you get sunk but I’m not sure as I haven’t tried it since reading about that update.
Fortunately, though, it should no longer be a hindrance to my pirating fun as Rare has finally released a mode you can enjoy solo or just with your friends called Safer Seas, where you can enjoy all of the game’s PvE content without any danger of being killed by other players. It came out in December, so I’m looking forward to jumping back in again now.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The Witcher 3
Red Dead Redemption 2
Kingdom Hearts 3
Top 10 best Xbox Series X/S games so far
Alan Wake 2
Having finished Alan Wake 2 with a full 1000g recently, and having had time to think about it, I can comfortably say it is my game of the year for 2023. I absolutely loved it from start to finish, with Saga being a great new character I’m looking forward to see returning in the expansions and future Remedy games. I would have preferred if the combat was more like the original Alan Wake, or other Remedy games like Quantum Break, Control, and Max Payne.
Their attempts to mimic Resident Evil’s formula ends up falling a bit flat and isn’t as good, which was noticeable more so because I played the sublime Resident Evil 4 earlier this year. Towards the end I ended up dropping the difficulty to easy, to avoid frustration, and just enjoy the story, which is what I love most about Alan Wake 2, which is for me the best writing and story Remedy has ever put together.
I loved all the characters and settings, with lots of variety between Saga’s chapters in Bright Falls with much of the locations returning from the first game. Wake’s chapters are mostly set in the nightmarish Dark Place version of New York, with different puzzles in both characters’ sections that were fun to solve and some real standouts, which I won’t go into details for spoilers’ sake.
I loved the detective aspects of Saga’s chapters, with her Mind Place being an actual room you can walk around and piece together clues to move the story along and flesh out the lore of the game world. Alan Wake’s Mind Place is his writer’s room, where you can change parts of the story to change the environment in interesting ways. This is perhaps a bit too linear and straightforward than it could have been though; it’s fairly obvious, ‘Oh here’s a new plot point, choose that one’ for the most part.
I loved Alan Wake 2 overall, though and hopefully for Control 2 and Alan Wake 3, if they make another sequel, they go back to the third person shooting style they’re better at and the Mind Place mechanics are further fleshed out in interesting ways. Also, I hope it doesn’t take another 13 years before we get another sequel! I’m looking forward to the two expansions they’ve announced so far for Alan Wake 2.
Perhaps one of the most divisive games of the year, but for me a lot of the criticism I’ve seen of the game were not something I expected from the game and are not negatives in my opinion. Like, being able to fly freely through space I feel would get boring quite quickly and most people would just use fast travel anyway. Warping to places is what I expected and the game does offer more immersive ways to do it, like putting a command console on your ship you can look at the map, plot a course, and then look out of the cockpit and hold ‘X’ to warp there.
Not having maps in cities I was also fine with, as I felt like they were distinct and easy to learn my way around them and I enjoyed exploring and learning them on my own rather than looking at a map screen.
I think what Bethesda delivered with Starfield is exactly what was promised: it’s a Bethesda role-playing game in space. Although I agree with some criticism, that it doesn’t necessarily do a lot to change up their previous games’ formula. For me, I enjoyed every quest I’ve played with the faction quests, which are always among the best quest lines in Bethesda games.
I think that the random generated planets have enough variety in the activities you can do in them to keep me engaged and I’ve thoroughly explored dozens of them – with many I have 100% explored. I have played over 150 hours so far, having gone through three New Game+ cycles, and will probably get back to it once I’ve played my other games I want to play. I’ll be really looking forward to the first expansion.
What is there left to say about Elden Ring? It’s an absolutely brilliant game that I played over 100 hours across two playthroughs and got the full 1000g, the only FromSoft title I’ve managed that with. Although I did cheat on my second playthrough – I just blitzed straight through the main story and glitched my save to get all the endings.
I did have a discussion with my son after we both beat it and we both agreed that it’s not our favourite FromSoft title and we prefer the more traditional style than the open world of Elden Ring. Plus it’s not as replayable in our opinion, because it’s so long and there’s a lot of repetitive content where normally playing through a FromSoft game each area is unique, with different enemies
The first two areas, if you follow the main path, are far better than the areas that follow. Although some of the optional areas and boss fights are excellent and some of the developers’ best. It’s an incredible game that I enjoyed every bit of and probably will have another playthrough at some point. I also look forward to the Shadow Of The Erdtree DLC, which I hope gets a new trailer and release date soon.
Resident Evil 4
Ori And The Will Of The Wisps
Forza Horizon 5
By reader Big Angry Dad82 (gamertag)
The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.
To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here.
For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.
Sign up to all the exclusive gaming content, latest releases before they’re seen on the site.