At E3 this year, Microsoft announced that compatibility for the original Xbox would be coming to the Xbox One family of consoles. Crimson Skies was their headlining title, but as anyone who grew up with the console could tell you, there was so much more on offer on that big, green, 8-pound monster. These are the essential Xbox games that Microsoft should focus on putting out first in their upcoming Backwards Compatible line-up.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Before Skyrim, and before Oblivion, there was Morrowind. A vast, open, seemingly endless world filled with interesting characters and breathtaking locations, it proved that the Xbox was the strongest console of its generation. While its main plotline isn’t as compelling or cinematic as the repeatedly ported Skyrim, there’s still something special to exploring Morrowind and all it has to discover. As a piece of Elder Scrolls history, as a piece of Xbox history, and as a piece of gaming history, Morrowind is a no-brainer.
Considering the Master Chief Collection already exists on the Xbox One, you won’t be seeing any Halo games included here, but that doesn’t mean the original Xbox didn’t have other heavy-hitting first-party exclusives. Brute Force is a third-person shooter with a large emphasis on variety, and using said variety to take a tactical approach to combat. It’s a lot more fast-paced than other squad based shooters of the time such as Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six, and it’s fun to play alone or with a group of friends cooperatively. A little touch up to the visuals and the reintegration of Xbox Live could get a whole new audience behind one of the most hyped non-Halo games on the original Xbox.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
You saw this one coming. This is the game that put BioWare on the high pedestal of important developers, showing that they can do an RPG just as good as any Square or Bethesda. And man was it good. Another PC game released exclusively on the powerful Xbox, KOTOR is still seen today as the pinnacle of all WRPG’s, BioWare or otherwise. The gameplay is rock-solid to this day, and the story still fills that unique BioWare hole left by their most recent endeavors (we’re all looking at you, Andromeda), while providing one of the best twists in video game storytelling this side of BioShock. Go ahead and include KOTOR II here as well, though not as essential (or good) as the first game, it is an admirable sequel and still manages to entertain fans of the original.
Grand Theft Auto Trilogy
Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas. I don’t need to describe these games. They’re 3 of the most important games of the 6th generation. Open world, intricate storytelling, and dozens of hours of content per game. They haven’t aged well, but they’re still a big part of Xbox and videogame history. PlayStation 4 has them, and Microsoft would be caught dead letting Sony have something so important as an exclusive.
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One
Remember when Call of Duty games based in WW2 was the norm, and not a gimmick? While there are more than enough WW2 shooters to choose from (there’s another showing up later in this list), Big Red One is one of the best to come out of Activision’s now-beaten dead horse. Now don’t confuse this game as Call of Duty 2, which is currently backwards compatible on the Xbox One. Big Red One is a unique, made-for-console game with all the trappings of its modern counterparts, such as tight arcade-style gameplay and explosive set-piece moments. There is a large fanbase of players who grew up playing the game and while it may be the most unexpected/least likely game on this list, a lot of gamers will have a good time once again playing through Call of Duty 2: Big Red One.
Back in the days of yore (2007) Psychonauts would have been considered a hidden gem. Something very few knew/cared about made by some washed-up developer from the 90’s. But this is the future! Psychonauts is getting a sequel and a spin-off, and Tim Schafer, despite the Broken Age incident, is a beloved industry icon to most, and yet so many people need to get their hands on Psychonauts. It’s a quirky 3D Platformer about exploring brains and collecting emotional baggage. That’s the best way I can describe it. The Xbox version may be the glitchiest, but it’s the closest console port to the PC version available and with the sequel fast approaching, returning to the cranial adventures of Raz should be top priority.
Conker Live and Reloaded
Does this game need an introduction? It’s a raunchy squirrel in a 3D Platforming adventure made by none other than Rare. In fact, the original Nintendo 64 game was included in the Rare Replay collection, so why would this be on the list? It’s in the title: LIVE and Reloaded. Back when this game released it had an extensive multiplayer suite that expanded threefold on what was offered in the original game, AND you could play it online. Although the Nintendo 64 version included on Rare Replay may be the optimal way to enjoy the single player mode, anyone looking to kill Nazi Zombie teddy bears with friends will come rushing to this multiplayer-centric port.
Ninja Gaiden Black
I heard you like Dark Souls. This is Dark Souls before Dark Souls, but after the NES. This game will test who you are as a man. Even if you’re a woman. That’s right, it’s so hard it was shattering gender stereotypes as early as 2004. Its fast pace and moment-to-moment, life or death gameplay make it hard to master, but even harder to put down. This was one of the reasons to own an original Xbox back in the day, and it’s high time it becomes one of the reasons to own an Xbox One.
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
The Medal of Honor series is the ebony to Call of Duty’s ivory. The latter went on to make bombastic, fast paced, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shooters, while the former, Medal of Honor, went on to make historically accurate, intriguing, and slower WW2 experiences. Both series’ had a flair for the cinematic, but they approached it in unique ways, which is why both made it onto this list. I specifically chose Rising Sun because it’s just as good as any of the others on the Xbox, but it focuses on the Pacific War, a completely different stage of WW2 from Big Red One with just as much polish and quality. But I know you were expecting Frontline, so go ahead and include it here too.
Project Gotham Racing 2
Before Forza, PGR was a pretty big deal. It wasn’t a direct competitor to Gran Turismo like Forza is now, but that didn’t mean it was a slouch. Beautiful locations, tight controls, a killer soundtrack, and tons of content made this one of the best racers of its time, and one of the highest rated Xbox games ever released. It still looks and runs great to this day, meaning Microsoft would have to do very little to make it prettier. The original Geometry Wars is also included, as if this game didn’t have enough going for it.
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