Fun and entertaining video games are released every day in the video game industry. However, few games are able to rise above being merely entertainment. There are few titles that every true gamer must own. These games truly belong in the Criterion Collection. Here are the titles that belong on every Xbox 360 owner’s shelf.
Bioshock is the “Big Daddy” of the Xbox 360’s Criterion Collection. Set in the not so distant past, players find themselves shipwrecked in some sort of underwater pseudo-Utopian society gone horribly awry. Bioshock creates a living, breathing, and oftentimes unpredictable FPS experience. With the idealistic society crumbled, the underwater city is filled with corpses, genetically mutated citizens, and creepy little girls (trust us; it will make sense when you play it). In turn, the player must mutate himself to survive in the now dystopian underworld. Gamers are forced to make moral decisions that have a real impact on the world around them. From art design to gameplay, Bioshock has broken new ground and definitively answered the question of whether video games should be viewed as art. In Bioshock’s case, that answer is a resounding yes.
Gears of War
Gears of War kicked off the launch of the Xbox 360 with a bang. Set in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future, “Gears” (as it is lovingly referred to) captivated 360 gamers with its gorgeous environmental graphics, a decidedly adult storyline, and tight gameplay. However, what really fascinated gamers was the title’s vicious multiplayer action, and Gears of War’s multiplayer is what still has gamers coming back to the title today. At the end of a hard day at the office, there is nothing more satisfying than taking a chainsaw to some poor sap’s cranium.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Unquestionably, no game released on the Xbox 360 has given gamers more freedom of choice than “Oblivion.” The title has effectively raised the bar and set a new standard in the fantasy RPG genre. Set in the capital providence of Cyrodil in the kingdom Tamriel, gamers are given the task of finding the hidden heir to the thrown after Tamriel’s king has been assassinated. Without the king, the hellish gates of Oblivion have been opened. Players are given the ability to decide joining various guilds, complete quests, or wander around completing side quests. Superb voice acting and life like characters make this title stand head and shoulders above the rest. Find the hidden king or spend time stealing horses and killing small woodland creatures; the choice belongs completely to the player.
Forza Motorsport 2
Forza Motorsport 2 is Microsoft’s answer to Sony’s extremely successful Gran Turismo series. Forza 2 sports over 60 tracks and a whopping 300+ vehicles from over 50 of the top car manufacturers. Cars can be customized down to their most minuet details both inside the hood and out. The title also allows gamers to share their creations with the world via XBL. Millions of decals, paint options, and body kits are available allowing gamers to express their creativity. With tight racing elements, true customization options, and online components, Microsoft has truly found their counter to Gran Turismo.
The Orange Box
Valve’s Orange Box stands as the best video game compilation released to date. The Orange Box includes Half Life 2, Half Life 2: Episode 1, Half Life 2: Episode 2, multiplayer Team Fortress 2, and the stunning puzzle game Portal. Five amazing games in one Orange Box is enough to make the Criterion Collection by itself, but Valve managed to update the graphics and gameplay of all of the titles to make them look and feel like new releases. Valve’s brainteaser “Portal” also stakes its claim as one of the most innovative puzzle games of all time. Any one of these games is worth $60 by itself; all of them for $60 is just ridiculous.
More of the Xbox 360’s Criterion Collection on the next page
While the ultimate decision on whether Halo 3 lived up to the hype or was a disappointment is still up for debate, gamers cannot own the 360 and not own this game. The Halo series is an institution for the Xbox, and Halo 3 continued that tradition. Graphically, Halo 3 brings lush, vibrant environments in which players can blast through hoards of alien baddies. Although the storyline was convoluted and the single player campaign was short, Halo 3’s multiplayer was brought to a new level in the franchise. Halo 3’s multiplayer features expansive environments, creative multiplayer games, movie replays, and the “Forge” editor that allows gamers to customize their fields of play life never before. Gamers may never find out the identity of Master Chief, but they sure hope he stays around.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
Does infinitely blasting neon shapes sound a bit boring? Not if you are playing XBLA’s Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. In the title, players are endless barraged by green, purple, and red shapes. Geometry Wars first gained popularity in Project Gotham Racing 2 and hit the XBLA with both the retro version and a new graphically enhanced version. The gameplay of Geometry Wars is chaotically beautiful and strangely mesmerizing. When players log more hours playing an arcade game then a full $60 title, it obviously deserves a spot in the Criterion Collection.
Guitar Hero II/III
The Guitar Hero series has experienced soaring popularity since it originally hit consoles. Simple gameplay coupled with many of the best songs in rock’n’roll history make Guitar Hero II/III a joy to rock out to every time. At its core, Guitar Hero is a straightforward timing game, but when the volume is turned up to 11, it is easy to feel like a rock god. New installments in the series continue to add bells and whistles that continue to reinvigorate gameplay. Whether gamers play to see how fast their fingers can fly or to just feel like a rock star, the Guitar Hero series is more addictive than Scott Weiland on a heroin bender.
With Mass Effect, developer Bioware has added another entry on their already impressive resume of RPG titles (See: Jade Empire, KOTOR). Mass Effect is a sci-fi action-RPG that explores the human conscious as much as it explores the depths of the universe. The player is ultimately in control of the morality of their character. Branching dialogue determined by player provides an unparalleled depth of storyline development. Player choices have lasting impacts on the lives of everyone in the game. NPC’s look and feel alive for perhaps the first time in gaming history. This may be the first time during a game where players want to hurry to finish a fight sequence so they can get to the next section of dialogue.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat
Sick of first person WWII shooters? Call of Duty 4 leaps out of the 1940’s and into present day military combat. Although the single player campaign is short, its gameplay is brilliantly paced. The game seamlessly transitions from foot campaigns, to sniping missions, to helicopter combat, and even engaging the enemy from thousands of feet above in a gunship. COD4 is graphically stunning. There are times players will stop mid action to stand in awe of the environments war ravaged beauty. A new ranking system provides a refreshing depth to the multiplayer experience. Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat is a refreshing installment in the series and has effectively set the new standard for first person shooters.
Regardless of genre, these 10 games are must own games for every serious gamer. Ladies and gentleman, this is the Criterion Collection for the Xbox 360 to date.