The Xbox One doesn’t have the exclusive game selection of the PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, but Microsoft’s console is the only one of the three to offer backward compatibility with your older library of games.
A huge number of Xbox 360 games can be played on Xbox One simply by putting in the disc and waiting for the file to download, and the supported game list includes some of the biggest titles on the console. We’ve compiled our favorite backward compatible Xbox One games, paying special attention to games that haven’t gotten remastered versions on the newer system.
‘Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’
The Assassin’s Creed game had a long history on the Xbox 360, with the original game up through Assassin’s Creed Rogue releasing on the system, but it was Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood that stands out as the game that defined the generation.
Building on the improved structure and combat of Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood introduced allied assassins to assist during missions, and Ezio’s story was just as charming and full of historical figures as it was the first time around.
Read our full Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood review
‘Grand Theft Auto IV’
The American Dream is a complicated concept that rarely goes according to plan, and Grand Theft Auto IV showed its dark and depressing truth. Protagonist Niko Bellic arrives in Liberty City hoping to turn his life around and forget the violent past he left in Eastern Europe, but he’s instead forced to accept that America isn’t a fantasy land, and his hands are still going to get bloody.
With a brilliant climax, a huge number of side activities, and a gorgeous city to explore, Grand Theft Auto IV is a timeless classic.
‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’
A bold reimagining of the long-running Konami series by Spanish developer MercurySteam, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow takes the best elements from game series like God of War and The Legend of Zelda, folds them into a dark and emotional story, and offers a post-credits twist so unexpected, it had us on the edge of our seats as we waited for the unfortunately lackluster sequel.
With voice talent like Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart, the performances and stellar, and help Lords of Shadow stand on its own, Castlevania name or not.
‘Red Dead Redemption’
Before you play the excellent Red Dead Redemption 2, play the original Red Dead Redemption to learn more about the game’s massive cast of characters, and to see the fate of John Marston after he left Dutch van der Linde’s gang of outlaws.
A fully realized Old West on the brink of death is fleshed out with some of the best characters and writing of the generation, and the innovative “Dead Eye” system makes it easy to become the ultimate gunslinger.
A divisive game that introduced science-fiction elements bordering on fantasy to the brilliant shooter series, BioShock Infinite’s personal tale of family, betrayal, revenge, and what it means to accept responsibility for one’s own actions is a roller coaster ride that doesn’t slow down until the closing credits. Combat improvements, including the new “Sky-Hook” weapon, make getting around the city of Columbia a breeze, and the gorgeous environments are perfectly suited for the game’s stylized art design.
Read our full BioShock Infinite review
‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is often regarded as the best game in the series, but it was its sequel that truly cemented the series’ place in shooter history. With an action-packed campaign full of double-crossing, intense set-pieces, and one of the most shocking scenes in video game history, it understood exactly what it meant to be a Call of Duty game, and the competitive multiplayer introduced new perks and kill-streak rewards that made it addicting and rewarding. It has been a futile race to top Modern Warfare 2 with each subsequent game.
The Crysis series is better known for its ridiculous graphical settings than for the games themselves, but Crysis 2 is an exception to that. Striking a balance between open-ended environments and direct, mission-focused storytelling, the game’s overgrown urban environment is the perfect place to experiment with your super-powered suit, and the mix of human and alien enemies forces you to constantly evaluate your strategy before jumping into battle. It might not look quite as pretty now as it did at launch, but Crysis 2 is still definitely worth playing.
Read our full Crysis 2 review
‘Far Cry 3’
The game that would set the template for the series to this day, Far Cry 3 is a phenomenal open-world shooter that manages to make the main storyline and the dozens of side activities worthwhile.
The star of the show is villain Vaas Montenegro, whose chilling monologues make our skin crawl, but the tropical island you’re exploring is an even better character. With so many animals to hunt, races to complete, and outposts to liberate, you can sink 50 hours in Far Cry 3 and still not see the whole game, and you won’t mind doubling that number.
Read our full Far Cry 3 review
Gears of War (series)
The series that encouraged many Xbox 360 players to buy the console in the first place, Gears of War popularized the cover-based shooter that is still so prevalent on the Xbox One today.
Telling a story of family, loss, and brotherhood, Epic Games’ trilogy managed to be a tearjerker despite the presence of burrowing alien creates and men with biceps the size of redwood trees. The chainsaw-equipped Lancer rifle is among the best guns in any video game, and it still feels awesome to cut a Locust enemy into bite-size bloody chunks.
Read our full Gears of War 3 review
‘Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’
The Ghost Recon series has taken several different forms over the years, transitioning from a first-person shooter to a third-person shooter with an emphasis on stealth and tactics, and it was it its most high-tech in 2012’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
The game is fully playable solo or cooperatively, and it introduced the “sync shot” feature that allows you to take out four enemies simultaneously. The online multiplayer played like a cross between Gears of War and Battlefield, with teamwork valued above all else, and the excellent controls made taking cover and eliminating enemies a breeze.
Read our full Ghost Recon: Future Soldier review
The climactic and explosive finale to the war between the Covenant and the UNSC, Halo 3 is simply stunning. One of the best games available for any Xbox system, Bungie’s third entry in the series builds toward a thrilling conclusion, then raises the stakes even further with an ambiguous ending that eventually paved the way for even more Halo games.
Multiplayer on Xbox Live allowed players to frag each other for hours on end, or they could take two local cooperative modes and attempt to tackle the story on Legendary difficulty.
Halo 3 was the original game’s formula polished to a blinding sheen, but Halo: Reach wasn’t content to just make iterative, trivial changes. Taking place before the events of the first game, the campaign saw multiple Spartan super-soldiers band together in a failed attempt to stop the Covenant from taking over the titular planet, and it made for some of the most dramatic moments in the series to date.
Online multiplayer introduced more customization than we had seen thus far, with special armor abilities drastically changing how battles played out.
Read our full Halo: Reach review
The shoot-‘em-up genre certainly isn’t as big as it used to be, but it still has a place on the Xbox One and Xbox 360, and Ikaruga might just be the king. As projectiles fill the screen, enemies race in and out of view, and the industrial environments pass by, it’s easy to see why Ikaruga served as inspiration for Nier: Automata more than a decade later, but the game’s polarity-switching concept and all-out action help to make it worth playing today.
‘Left 4 Dead’
The zombie apocalypse would be an insurmountable challenge for one to face on their own, but with a few friends, it gets substantially more manageable. That is, of course, unless you’re playing Left 4 Dead, a game in which one person’s false move could spell misery for the entire squad.
A cooperative and open-ended survival game with a sense of character and humor not found elsewhere in the genre, Left 4 Dead is brutal, challenging, and satisfying, and the perfect game to play for some team-building exercises.
As Resident Evil slowly morphed into a third-person shooter series that happened to feature terrifying monsters, Visceral Games released the definitive Xbox 360 survival-horror game. Dead Space’s science-fiction setting, which added a layer of cramped tension, and its focus on mutilations and body horror made it one of the most intense games of the generation. Subsequent sequels began to fall into the action-heavy Resident Evil trap, but we’ll always have the original.
‘Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance’
Despite having one of the dumbest titles in video game history, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is the rare video game spin-off that can stand toe-to-toe with the main series. Developed by the action masterminds at PlatinumGames, Revengeance puts players in the cybernetic shoes of Raiden, now almost entirely transformed into a cyborg. Using a unique sword-cutting system, Raiden can turn nearly any enemy into ribbons of flesh or metal, and the bosses he fights are over-the-top enough for even the most dedicated Metal Gear fans.
Read our full Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance review
‘Splinter Cell Blacklist’
An underrated stealth-action game that excels as a pure stealth game and a third-person shooter, Splinter Cell Blacklist takes the silent-and-violent formula established in Splinter Cell Conviction and expands on it with new gadgets, weaponry, and tactics. Sam Fisher isn’t an unstoppable killing machine, but his expertise and resources can certainly make him seem like it. An engaging cooperative storyline is also included, and the series’ famous Spies vs. Mercs competitive mode makes a return after being absent from the previous game.
Read our full Splinter Cell Blacklist review
The follow-up to Lionhead’s massively ambitious game Fable, Fable II helped to better realize the scope and granular details that had been promised in the original. On the more powerful Xbox 360, the world of Albion looked far superior to its original Xbox counterpart, and there are enough unique characters, quests, and locations to visit to truly get lost in its world. It’s a shame Fable 3 couldn’t build on this success.
‘The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion’
Bethesda rarely fails to impress, and the early-generation role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion certainly lived up to expectations. With far more realistic environments and characters than we saw in Morrowind for the original Xbox, it’s among the best games the company has ever made, and the freedom you have to choose between so many different class options means there’s a play-style for just about everyone. Its sequel, Skyrim, is the perfect game to play next on your Xbox One.
Mass Effect (series)
The Mass Effect series has seen better days, and none were better than when Mass Effect 2 released in 2010. The story of Commander Shepard and the crew of the Normandy was at its strongest in the middle chapter, which fleshed out the universe and the cast of supporting characters with clever “loyalty missions,” while also improving the combat drastically over the previous game.
Nearly any character can die over the course of your adventure, making it endlessly replayable, and you’ll actually care when your favorite crew member bites the dust. Mass Effect 3 had a controversial ending, but it managed to streamline the gameplay and tie up most of its stories in a satisfying and emotional way, and it is still leagues better than Andromeda.
Sports and racing
Shifting away from the gearhead-centric Forza Motorsport games of the past, Forza Horizon is all about freedom. Set in a version Colorado filled with races to complete and challenges to beat, the high-speed events you’ve come to expect from Forza are still here, but they’re presented as a smaller piece of the open-world whole. Forza Horizon feels like a racing game for people who don’t like racing games, but it does so without alienating its original audience.
Read our full Forza Horizon review
‘Fight Night Champion’
Sports games don’t usually feature stories, and though FIFA and Madden have been doing so recently, you can trace their success back to the boxing game Fight Night Champion. A Mature-rated game with a story that features elements of racism, corruption, and disturbing violence, Fight Night Champion is a brutal boxing game. Every punch has weight to it, and finally landing a knockout blow takes patience and careful timing. It’s the last Fight Night game Electronic Arts released before switching its focus to MMA, and considering its quality, that’s a shame.
‘XCOM: Enemy Unknown’
XCOM: Enemy Unknown managed to revive a dead franchise and not only please series veterans with its tough, unforgiving tactical turn-based combat, but it also introduced the genre to a new generation. With permanent soldier deaths and intelligent enemies, one wrong move can mean disaster for your entire squad, and each failure brings the aliens even closer to total world domination. The gameplay loop is addicting enough to make you keep playing anyway, and figuring out a strategy to take down a group of aliens is a tremendous feeling.
Read our full XCOM: Enemy Unknown review
A concept that could only be conceived with a little help from chemistry, Viva Piñata is one of the weirdest games Rare has ever made. Essentially a petting zoo simulator where you can grow your own piñata animals, and even make them breed, it’s a colorful and whimsical take on the simulation genre that thumbed its nose at industry trends. As other games focused on gray and brown, Viva Piñata took pride in color, and it’s impossible to play it without a smile on your face.
The only question worth asking about Portal 2 is whether it’s one of the best puzzle games ever made or the best puzzle game ever made. Valve’s physics-bending adventure takes the portal-jumping gameplay from the first game, combines a number of new items and mechanics, and introduces even more hilarious supporting characters to create one of the most immersive and fully-realized worlds we’ve ever seen, and it does it without the protagonist saying a word. With brilliant audio design and a fair but challenging difficulty, it holds up just as well today as it did at launch.
Read our full Portal 2 review