The battle between the consoles continues to rage on, and will likely not miss a beat when the next generation of systems arrives in the next few years. So with the pressure always present and the rivalries not going anywhere, each manufacturer continues to look for ways to give its system the edge.
Sometimes that means changing your system to include unique hardware, as the Sony did with the PlayStation 3’s built-in Blu-ray player. Sometimes it means going after a new market, as Nintendo did. Sometimes it means updating the software to make the system appeal to more than just gamers, as Microsoft did with the Xbox 360. But the easiest way for manufacturers to get their systems to stand out is with exclusive games that can only be found on that system.
With that in mind, we went through the list and chose the five best games exclusive to the Xbox 360.
But wait, you say, isn’t Modern Warfare 3 also on the PS3 and PC?! Well here’s the thing, outraged imaginary Internet reader: the game is a massive hit on all platforms, but the Xbox 360 version is by far the best selling, and there is a clear advantage to playing it on Microsoft’s system. Call of Duty has become one of the leaders in the downloadable content (DLC) industry. Other developers offer bigger and more expensive (and therefore more profitable) DLC expansions, but Activision has made a steady business out of it. Plus, the relatively low development costs equal big profits, which in turn leads to more packs for eager gamers.
There are few games with fans as rabid for more content than CoD fans. After hundreds of hours playing the same maps, fans want more. Microsoft knows this, so they landed themselves a plush one-month exclusivity contract with Activision for all Call of Duty DLCs, giving 360 gamers access a month before the PS3 and PC users. For a casual or non-gamer, that may seem like nothing. A month isn’t that long, so who cares, right? But for a content-starved fan, gamer-time is much like dog years. It’s a big deal. So for people who are fanatical about the biggest franchise of the last decade, the Xbox 360 has a clear, massive advantage.
Read our Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review.
Child of Eden is a must have for anyone looking for a unique single-player experience on the Kinect. The game offers a visual and audio experience the likes of which most gamers will have never seen before. Through your movements, you control that way the music plays based on your skill and success. It’s an interactive music video that plays out on a background of abstract constructs. Creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi designed it as an experiment in synesthesia — the neurological condition where stimulation of one sensory leads to the experience of another. In this case, light and sound.
This game is also available for the PS3 using the PlayStation Move or a standard controller, but it was designed for the Kinect, and is a totally different experience. Using your body to control the audio and the visual stimuli makes for an immersive and incredible journey — one all Kinect fans should consider taking.
Read our Child of Eden Review.
Forza 4 is arguably the greatest driving game ever made. That title may switch hands when another game comes along to further expand the now-familiar driving simulator genre, but at the moment Forza 4 is king, and will keep that title for a while yet. And besides being the best driving game of the year, it is also one of the best games of the year of any genre.
With over 500 cars and more coming each month via DLC, and hundreds upon hundreds of races, you could literally play Forza 4 every day for years and not experience everything the game has to offer. Even non-car buffs can embrace the stylish look and the responsive controls of the game. Throw in a solid online offering, the integration of Top Gear, and a huge selection of tracks based on real world locations, and Forza 4 is the undisputed king of the digital road.
Read our Forza Motorsport 4 Review.
One of the best-known and best-selling Xbox 360 franchises concludes its current story trilogy and goes out with a bang in with Gears of War 3. There will be more Gears games in the future, but the current story that began in 2006 wraps up with a massive single player experience that is heavily influenced by a multiplayer slant. The campaign offers a satisfying solo game, but up to three more teammates can also join you, dropping in and out whenever they like. You can play the same section multiple times, and each time have a different experience thanks to your companions.
Throw in a robust competitive multiplayer that offers a solid alternative to the competitive first-person shooters that dominate online gaming, plus two cooperative online game modes in the horde mode (where you and your friends fight off successively tougher waves of enemies), and the beast mode (where you are the enemies attacking AI humans), and you have one of the most complete packages of the year, regardless of console.
Read our Gears of War 3 Review.
The game that saved the original Xbox returns in 2011 with new graphics and a new take on the old multiplayer mode. This Anniversary Edition gives old fans a chance to relive the experience, and new fans a chance to see how the game that became a phenomena began. The original game was also a success for a reason, so the remastering (released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the game) helps to modernize a game that was already great.
Along with the remastered campaign that blends an open-world sensibility with a story-driven narrative, the multiplayer features six classic competitive maps, plus one Firefight (a cooperative online survival mode) map. Even with the glut of releases this year, the gameplay and design of the original Halo holds up. It may not have quite the shine that some of the new releases do, yet it is still one of the best releases of the year.
Read our Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Review.
What do you think of our list of the best Xbox 360 games of 2011? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.