From Fable to Forza — The 30 best Xbox games of all time

Tom Percival
A group of famous characters from Xbox games burst out of a TV

⁤Xbox has been delighting gamers for more than two incredible decades now. In that time, players have been blessed with some truly amazing Xbox games. ⁤

From heart-pounding shooters and enchanting RPGs to open-world adventures and brain-teasing puzzle games, the Xbox library has a little bit of something for everyone. ⁤Yet, if you had to pick the best of the best, which titles would you include?

Well, with the Xbox Showcase happening on June 9, we thought it was the perfect opportunity for the Dexerto team to decide which Xbox games we think are the greatest ever made. ⁤

⁤So whether you’re looking to relive the glory days of the first Xbox or discover new favorites to download from Xbox game pass, this list is your ultimate guide. Here are the 30 best Xbox games of all time. 

30. Conker: Live and Reloaded (2005)

Conker from Conker Live and Reloaded

What it’s about: Essentially an updated version of Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the game sees you play as the titular binge-drinking red squirrel as he tries to get home after a long night at the pub.

What we think: Crude and rude Conker was meant to be a shocking parody of more innocent gaming mascots. As a result, his game is as over the top as you’d expect, boasting an anarchic sense of humor, over-the-top violence, and language so foul it’ll turn your hair white.

More modern players who’ve spent time in a multiplayer lobby might find its attempt to shock a bit quaint, but this was a genuinely provocative game at the time of release, and I don’t think anyone would greenlight it these days.

(Words by Tom Percival)

29. Minecraft (2009)

Steve from Minecraft

What it’s about: At its heart, Minecraft is simply a crafting game. Through its creative or survival modes, you can build anything your mind can create or take on: zombies, skeletons, spiders, and even a dragon.

What we think: Games come and go, but Minecraft never falters. It’s been a constant for 15 years now and always seems to impress. Whether it’s through fantastic mods or just the base game, almost every gamer has at least one fond memory of playing Minecraft — if you don’t, then it’s time to grab some friends and see what you’re missing.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

28. Killer Instinct (2013)

The cast of Killer Instinct.

What it’s about: Killer Instinct was originally a nineties arcade beat-’em-up that was later released on Nintendo consoles and competed with all the other epic fighting games, such as Street Fighter, Tekken, and Mortal Kombat.

What we think: Today, Killer Instinct is considered an Xbox franchise and doesn’t get the credit it deserves. While beloved in the fighting game community, Killer Instinct feels like a relic of the past, but those who are looking for some old-school beat-’em-up action should jump onto Xbox Games Pass and check out the game’s stellar reboot. There are also cameos from other classic characters from the gaming world.

(Words by Sam Smith)

27. Starfield (2023)

The promo art from Starfield.

What it’s about: Starfield is essentially Skyrim in space. You play as an Asteroid miner who stumbles across a mysterious artifact, sending you on a vision quest that could change the fate of the universe.

What we think: Like with other Bethesda games, freedom is the number one selling point here, letting the player explore space and various planets while their own story unfurls around them. Want to be a badass space pirate? You can be. Want to be a galactic pioneer for the human race? You can do that too. While Starfield isn’t perfect, the game is still an ambitious triumph, and those who want to lose themselves in a space opera, to which they are the conductor, will love every moment of it.

(Words by Sam Smith)

26. State of Decay 2 (2018)

A man attacks a zombie in State of Decay 2

What it’s about: You play as a survivor in a Zombie apocalypse (or multiple, really) looking to make a sustainable base to stand against the looming threat of the undead.

What we think: State of Decay 2 is a real gem that every Xbox owner owes it to themselves to play. The zombie apocalypse simulator is a surprisingly emergent game, giving players the tools and systems to establish their own base and survive through the world.

It also has a fascinating character system, with randomly generated characters that come with their own stories and personalities that make your runs feel specific to you. It might be a bit mechanical at times, but it’s easy to get lost in the survival game for days at a time. Now if only there was some news about State of Decay 3.

(Words by Patrick Dane)

25. Geometry Wars (2003)

A screenshot from geometry Wars

What it’s about: Jump, bounce, and dive to stay alive in Geometry Wars. You play as a simple block inside your geometric “ship” as you face off against snakes, repulsars, and so much more.

What we think: Compared to the likes of Sea of Thieves, Flight Simulator, or Fable, Geometry Wars isn’t much to look at. But it’s the simplicity that really shines in this fan-favorite shooter. There’s not much too the title in terms of story, but it’s such a classic and is so fun to play that it would feel wrong to omit it from this list.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

24. Cuphead (2017)

Cuphead and his brother, Mugman

What it’s about: After playing craps in the Devil’s Casino, Cuphead and his brother Mugman make a deal with the devil, costing them their souls. However, to escape the contract, they must retrieve the soul contracts from the debtors — but these debtors won’t give them back without a fight.

What we think: Just because a game is soul-destroyingly frustrating doesn’t mean it’s not great. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of ragequits with Cuphead, but it’s hard to deny how good the title really is. Its visuals are a work of art, its soundtrack gets stuck in your head, and its gameplay is so hard that you’ll actively celebrate when you don’t get killed.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

23. The Outer Worlds (2019)

Main character of Outer Worlds puts hand on head.

What it’s about: Set in a dystopian corporate future, you make your way in on a variety of new planets, making friends, falling in love, and destroying many, many bugs.

What we think: The Outer Worlds managed to fill that void while we wait for a new Fallout, Elder Scrolls, or even Fable to release. It’s funny, pretty dark, and feels like the game Starfield should have been.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

22. Gang Beasts (2019)

A still from Gang Beasts

What it’s about: A chaotic and deliberately silly brawler, Gang Beasts pits the player against several opponents at once as they battle to be the last man standing.

What we think: Colorful and crazy Gang Beasts is both a wonderful party game and a way to vent any frustration you may feel towards your friends without being arrested by the police.

(Words by Tom Percival)

21. Quantum Break (2016)

Jack Joyce from Quantum Break.

What it’s about: Featuring Jack Joyce, Quantum Break sees the protagonist using his time manipulation powers to take down various enemies and discover the company responsible for giving him his devastating new powers.

What we think: Despite releasing in 2016, we’re yet to see anything come close to the likes of Quantum Break. This third-person shooter perfectly combines a live-action experience with a third-person shooter game to create mindblowing cutscenes and gameplay throughout. Money and technical reasoning aside, it’s a wonder we haven’t seen more in this style.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

20. Super Meat Boy (2010)

Super Meat boy

What it’s about: Released in 2010 on the Xbox Live Arcade, Super Meat Boy features just three main characters. Players have to navigate the cube-shaped Meat Boy through over 300 of the platformer genre’s hardest levels to save his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, who has been kidnapped by the evil Dr Fetus. 

What we think: Spinning saw blades are littered across each map, making players focus on fine control and split-second decisions, or else the map will become littered with remnants of Meat Boy. While the game is extremely difficult, making your way through levels is equally as rewarding, which is what made it one of my (and many others) favorite Xbox platformers of all time.

(Words by Dylan Horetski)

19. Pentiment (2022)

What it’s about: Pentiment tells the story of Andreas, a humble painter in the 1500s who’s spending time at a Bavarian monastery to finish his masterpiece. While there, Andreas gets pulled into a murder mystery that has ramifications on the entire town, impacting future generations as well as his own life.

What we think: While Pentiment has made its way to various systems, its original home was the Xbox Series X|S. Every choice the player makes has a lasting effect on the characters, and Pentiment gets better and better with repeated playthroughs. The art style also resembles the paintings of the era, which is a nice touch.

(Words by Sam Smith)

18. Ninja Gaiden (2004)

Ninja Gaiden 2004 best Xbox Games

What it’s about: When the Greater Fiend Doku attacks Hayabusa village and steals the Dark Dragon Blade, the demon-ninja Ryu must track down the villain and avenge his murdered friend Kureha.

What we think: Ryu’s first outing on the Xbox is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. Seriously, I know people go on about the Soulsborne games as if they’re some impossible challenge, but they’re nothing compared to the difficulty Ninja Gaiden presented. As a result, I always found playing this game extremely rewarding, as any progress felt like I’d run a marathon… or whatever the gaming equivalent is. 

(Words by Tom Percival)

17. Hi-Fi Rush (2023)

The cats of Hi-Fi Rush

What it’s about: After an experiment goes wrong, the protagonist, Chai, must escape the factory that wants to transform him into a cybernetic garbage collector. During his escape, he works with a variety of characters to take down the company from the inside.

What we think: Featuring bright and beautiful graphics, a fantastic comic-style art design, and a toe-tapping soundtrack, Hi-Fi Rush perfectly combines music and gaming into an unforgettable experience. This game is not to be missed by any music fans.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

16. Sunset Overdrive (2014)

Sunset Overdrive best Xbox Games

What it’s about: Set in the futuristic Sunset City after an energy drink has turned the denizens into mutants, players need to zip around the city like it’s their own personal skate park, taking the fight to the creatures and the corrupt organization that caused the outbreak.

What we think: Those who grew up playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater will get a real kick out of Sunset Overdrive. It also took inspiration from Jet Set Radio. If you ever wanted to see what Tony Hawk’s meets Resident Evil, hyped up on sugar and caffeine, looked like, then Sunset Overdrive is exactly that and more.

(Words by Sam Smith)

15. Gears 5 (2019)

A battle in gears of War 5

What it’s about: You move from Gears of War 4’s JD to instead play as Kait Diaz as she keeps receiving nightmarish visions of the locusts. She then goes on a world-spanning adventure with her team to get to the bottom of her origin and the creation of the locusts.

What we think: Gears 5 doesn’t get enough appreciation. The fifth game is a marked step up from Gears of War 4, adding in a more complex and grounded story that expands the franchise’s broader lore. It also allows you to traverse more open locations and is frankly one of the best-looking games on the Xbox. If you’ve skipped this one, you should definitely go back and try it out.

(Words by Patrick Dane)

14. Halo 2 (2004)

Master Chief from Halo 2

What it’s about: Following the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, Master Chief is tasked with stopping the Covenant from activating the Delta Halo. However, something far deadlier than the Covenant calls this Halo installation home. Yes, lurking on the ringworld is a new Flood creature known as Gravemind that holds secrets that threaten the entire galaxy’s fate. 

What we think: While Halo 2 was criticized for its relatively short campaign and its anticlimactic cliffhanger ending, that doesn’t stop Halo 2 from being an improvement on its predecessor. Yes, the campaign’s a little short, but you get to play as the Arbiter, which offers a different perspective on the Covenant-Human war. Who didn’t love dual-wielding Needlers? 

In all seriousness, though, where Halo 2 really shone was in its multiplayer which offered a ton of customizable game modes, maps, and weapons. I spent many nights hunting my friends on Lockout, so much so that I probably knew the map better than my local neighborhood.

(Words by Tom Percival)

13. Crackdown (2007)

Cast of Crackdown (2007)

What it’s about: Set in the crime-ridden Pacific City, Crackdown puts you in control of an Agent, a sort of superpowered cop who’s been given the difficult job of cleaning up the city’s streets. 

What we think: Thrilling and fun Crackdown is a brilliant sandbox game that will delight anyone who thought GTA was a bit grounded. While its story is thinner than greaseproof paper, you’ll be having too much fun leaping over tall buildings in a single bound to care.

Arguably, though, its biggest selling point was its co-op mode, which allowed you and a friend to fight crime together, and who doesn’t like punching baddies with their friends?

(Words by Tom Percival)

12. Fable (2004)

Fable best Xbox Games
Fable feels much like the flagship of Xbox, and this is where it all started.

What it’s about: Set in the Kingdom of Albion, Fable tells the tale of a young boy who, after the loss of their father and the abduction of his sister trains to be a powerful Hero. While discovering more about his family, the Hero must battle Jack of Blades, and get revenge on the bandits that destroyed his life.

What we think: There’s a hole in the hearts of a lot of Xbox players where a new Fable game should be. The series has always been a charming and colorful RPG adventure that’s synonymous with Microsoft’s flagship console, but it’s also one that arguably pioneered the idea of adding a morality system to video games in a truly meaningful way.

Those who’ve completed the original Fable will know exactly what we mean when we say your choices have consequences. Fable 2 and 3 took this system a step further with their own moral quandaries. Here’s hoping a Fable 4 appears on Games Pass one day and that this doesn’t remain a fairytale forever.

(Words by Sam Smith)

11. Dead Rising (2006)

Frank fights zombies in Dead Rising

What it’s about: When Willamette, Colorado, is placed in military quarantine, determined photojournalist Frank West decides he has to investigate. Unfortunately for poor Frank, he quickly learns that the town’s been overrun by flesh-eating zombies, and he has to survive three days trapped in the Willamette surrounded by the hordes of undead. Can he survive? Well, it would help if he stopped taking pictures. 

What we think: If you grew up watching George A Romero’s zombie movies, then you need to play this game. It’s basically a Dawn of the Dead videogame with some silly gags thrown in for good measure. If you’re not a horror movie aficionado, though, there’s still a lot to like in this gruesome game; whether it be the slightly sardonic Frank, its intriguing story, or the challenging psychopath battles, you’d be braindead to never play this classic.

(Words by Tom Percival)

10. Fable 2 (2008)

Sparrow from Fable 2

What it’s about: Fable 2 follows Sparrow from childhood to adulthood as they seek revenge on the conniving Lord Lucien for the murder of their sister. Along the way, they’ll grow into a powerful hero (or a despicable villain), and the decisions they make will change the world forever. 

What we think: In terms of gameplay, Fable 2 was a significant improvement on its predecessor while keeping the irreverent humor and charm that made the first Fable such a success. Fable 2’s biggest selling point is the world of Albion; while it’s not as big as other fantasy lands like Skyrim or Azeroth, it feels full of life and character. 

(Words by Tom Percival)

9. Forza Horizon 4 (2011)

A car from Forza 4.

What it’s about: Forza Horizon 4 invites you to explore the United Kingdom as you race a variety of vehicles from Porches to planes, all to compete for victory, reputation, money, and of course, more cars.

What we think: It may be biased because Forza Horizon 4 was the first major racing game I tried, but this adventure was something I’ll never forget. Its stunning, familiar setting (I’m from the north of England) almost felt like stepping outside my front door and into an epic racing experience. The widespread racetracks, simple yet effective stories, and multiple billboards and jumps to complete felt second to none and almost made a car fanatic out of me… almost.

(Words by Jessica Filby)

8. Sea of Thieves (2018)

Pirates from Sea of Thieves

What it’s about: Players traverse a mysterious realm filled with pirates, sea monsters, ghost ships, and hordes of treasure. Sea of Thieves is every budding pirate’s dream, from mysterious riddles to enough lore for you to be engrossed for hours.

What we think: Sea of Thieves is everything a pirate game should be. It’s widespread, addictive, filled with a fantastic community, and has more gold and loot than even Davy Jones could process. Aside from that, the visuals alone are enough to make this game qualify for this list. The sea and sky designs are in some of the most beautiful styles in gaming right now, even while being attacked by a Kraken, Meg, and Ghostship at the same time…

(Words by Jessica Filby)

7. Gears of War 2 (2008)

The cast of Gears of War 2

What it’s about: A squad of gruff, war-torn, and albeit ridiculous men continue to fall into ever-increasingly ridiculous situations while trying to save the world from monsters.

What we think: While Gears of War 1 was an excellent new take on shooters that proved strong intent, Gears of War 2 was when it all came together. This was a perfected formula and arguably the best the franchise ever was. It has an action-packed, varied campaign that takes you to creepy laboratories, sunken, underground cities, and even inside a giant worm. On top of that, you have some beloved multiplayer, and you have a hell of a game.

(Words by Patrick Dane)

6. Viva Pinata (2006)

The cast of Viva Pinata

What it’s about: In Viva Pinata, you play as a gardener tasked with attracting living pinatas. You can personalize your Garden as you like, building a blissful place or relaxation – that is if you can keep lurking invaders out.

What we think: Viva Pinata is a stone-cold classic from Rare. The more family orientated offering tasks players with a garden they must clean up and tend to. As they improve things and meet special requirements, delightful pinatas will show up and take residence. It’s actually a conceit that does allow for more depth and complexity than you might think – all propped up by a timeless art style that still makes this look excellent despite coming out in 2006.

(Words by Patrick Dane)

5. Microsoft Flight Simulator (2024)

The promo art for Mictosoft Flight Simulator

What it’s about: Flying planes across the most impressive representation of the world ever created.

What we think: Microsoft Flight Simulator is a game that defies comprehension. There is something genuinely magical about it that really adds this intense sense of wonder. The game has a map of the entire world that is surprisingly detailed, meaning you get to make your flights in real 1:1 translation if you like.

It’s like Google Earth but in one of the most breathtaking-looking video games ever made. On top of that, you can have real-time weather, too, and it really is one of the most awe-inspiring games ever made – if you want to play a game where you sit in a plane for long periods of time.

(Words by Patrick Dane)

4. Halo Reach (2010)

Halo Reach best Xbox Games
Halo Reach masters its story, gameplay, and its heartbreak.

What it’s about: A prequel to the original Halo, Reach puts the player in control of a new Spartan called Noble Six. Six is a member of Noble Squad, an elite group of supersoldiers who are tasked with defending the human world of Reach from a surprise Covenant attack. 

What we think: If you thought Reach was a rebadged Halo 3, you clearly never played it. This game was the definitive Halo experience for Xbobx 360 players that refined existing gameplay and brought in new and interesting mechanics. It also has the best story of any Halo game (fight me if you disagree).

Yes, it’s story is relatively simple, but that just makes it far more accessible than the sprawling narrative told in the mainline games, and because Noble Team was based on such recognizable archetypes, it was easy to fall in love with them quickly, which made their deaths all the more heartbreaking. 

(Words by Tom Percival)

3. Ori and the Blind Forest (2019)

The cast of Ori and the Blind Forest

What it’s about: The first Ori game has you playing as the mysterious yet wondrous creature the franchise gets its name from. You are tasked with helping dispel a creeping corruption in the forest of Nibel, all while in the shadow of a threatening dark presence.

What we think: Ori and the Blind Forest (and its sequel, Will of the Wisps) are wonderful and active platformers that people owe it themselves to play. They are some of the very best games on the platform.

The Blind Forest is where it started, with the title having some of the most beautiful art you’ll ever see, all as a backdrop to some genuinely difficult platforming. While it has some intense boss fights, the game elevates itself to a must-play in the segments that become about movement and ability usage. It’s a real joy of a game.

(Words by Patrick Dane)

2. Mass Effect (2007)

Commander Shepard from Mass Effect

What it’s about: The first game in the Mass Effect trilogy sees the player take control of Commander Shepard, an elite human soldier. The game opens with Shepard being betrayed by Saren Arterius, a rogue alien agent who serves a mysterious race known as the Reapers. As Shepard investigates this new threat, though, he soon realizes there’s more at stake here than he ever thought possible. 

What we think: While Mass Effect 2 is often praised as the best in the original trilogy, I’ve always had a soft spot for the original Mass Effect. It looked incredible for its time, and the combat was fast-paced and fun, but that’s not why I fell in love with it. 

No, I loved the ambition of the game, the depth of its storytelling, and its commitment to pushing the boundaries of what people thought a videogame was capable of. Mass Effect, to me, represents an inflection point when I realized that video games could be more than a distraction from homework. They were an art form all of their own. 

(Words by Tom Percival)

1. Inside (2016)

A scene from Inside (2016)

What it’s about: Inside puts you in control of a young boy as he navigates his way through a nightmarish dystopia. Along the way, he’ll have to avoid guards, dogs, and all sorts of horrible things as he’s drawn deeper and deeper ‘inside.’

What we think: Inside is Playdead’s follow-up to Limbo, and unsurprisingly, it’s a sensational game. On the surface, it looks like a relatively run-of-the-mill puzzle-platform game, but what makes Inside stand out from other games in the genre is its incredible presentation and world design.

The monochromatic look of the world, the sinister staging, and the nightmarish puzzles all create an incredibly alarming atmosphere. This all builds a subtle sense of dread while you’re playing, which finally reaches a horrifying and cathartic crescendo that’ll leave you reeling.

(Words by Tom Percival)

For more of our hot takes, check out our list of the best hidden gaming gems, or check out our list of the best video game characters of all time.

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