Back in December of 2007 Microsoft began delivery of ‘full length’ titles over their Xbox LIVE service with Xbox Originals. Now, just a mere eighteen months later at E3 2009, Microsoft has announced that they are abandoning their Xbox Originals initiative in favour of a their new focus, Games on Demand. Games on Demand , like Xbox Originals, will focus on the download delivery of full length retail games. The difference this time around is that instead of Xbox titles being available, Xbox 360 games will be the order of the day. Microsoft has mentioned that one more Xbox title will be made available for purchase via Originals/Games on Demand. That game is widely believed to be Halo 2. After that final release that will be the final word on the Xbox backwards compatibility saga that has dogged the Xbox 360 since before its console launch. But I am not going to belabour the discussion that is next-gen consoles and their backwards compatibility, rather I want to revisit the games that were…and the games that were not with the Xbox Originals.
In all, twenty-nine games were released under the Xbox Originals banner. Some Originals were awesome, while others were head-scratchers. Some were blessings that we once again had an opportunity to purchase while others never had an opportunity to shine. Via a series of ‘Top 5’ list I am going to describe in my opinion what the best, the worst, and opportunities hit and missed by the service. So to begin lets start with the cream of the crop:
Top 5 Best Xbox Original Titles:
- Black – EA and Criterion’s unique FPS that stands up even amongst early 360 offerings. A must play!
- Ninja Gaiden: Black – Team Ninja’s masterful action title. One of the finest games of it’s generation.
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – The biggest and best GTA game of last generation.
- Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – Again, the most amazing game of a series games from last generation. The final word in stealth action.
- Halo: Combat Evolved – This list could not be complete without the game that started it all and propelled a console through a generation.
Top 5 Worst Xbox Originals:
- Zapper – Zapper has all the appeal of real-life insects.
- Raze’s Hell – What we wanted to do when they announced this title.
- Intelevision Lives! – Third rate 80’s console equals third rate experience twenty five years later.
- BlowOut – I never even knew this game existed until it was disappointingly announced as an Xbox Original.
- Grabbed by the Goulies – Rare’s signature Xbox failure and made us ask what the $375 million dollars was spent on.
Top 5 Second-Chance Xbox Originals:
- Indigo Prophecy – Before there was Black Rain there was Indigo Prophecy. Experience the beginnings of a hot new genre in the making .
- Psychonauts – Tim Schafer’s brilliant yet underachieving platformer found new life as an Original. Before Brutal Legend becomes a household name, experience Schafer’s comedic genius at its best.
- Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse – Stubbs was Zombie before Zombie was cool! Not easy to find the disc, but it is easy to download. Also one of the best game soundtracks you will ever hear.
- Sid Meier’s Pirates! – An awesome combination of strategy and action that has few equals. A remake of a game nearly twenty years old. One can see that this game was way ahead of its time.
- Dreamfall: The Longest Journey – A unique and difficult to find adventure title lands on its feet as an Xbox Original.
Top 5 Games That Should Have Been Xbox Originals:
- Conker: Live and Reloaded – Instead of Goulies, Conker would have been a better choice, especially with its late arrival in the Xbox’s cycle. Conker also had a robust multiplayer that would have been fun to revisit.
- Amped 2 – In my opinion the best extreme sports title of the last console cycle. A great looking game with great multiplayer as well. I think a lot of people missed out on this excellent snowboarding sim.
- Doom 3 – Co-op gameplay is all the rage the last few years, but Doom 3 was ahead of the curve allowing players to play through the campaign side by side over Xbox LIVE.
- Thief: Deadly Shadows – With the announcement of Thief 4, here lies a wasted opportunity.
- Panzer Dragoon Orta – A personal choice here as I have a huge soft spot for this classic Sega franchise that sports a cult following. All that aside, Orta is a brilliant rail-shooter.
And with that so goes Xbox Originals. Clearly the addition of Halo 2 would be a lock as one of the best. It is an exciting prospect that all the Halo titles could reside on your Xbox 360 hard drive. What games would you include on these lists? In particular, what games should have made the cut before Microsoft pulled the proverbial plug on the originals. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Even though Originals is gone, the games therein will live on in the Games on Demand section, so they won’t be going anywhere soon. And so goes the backwards compatibility issue, not with a bang, but a whimper.