The Xbox Series X supports a variety of backwards compatible games from the original console, and they aren’t just nostalgia bait. Many of these titles are legitimate classics and remain worthwhile experiences for new generations of gamers, too. Their innovation paved the path for modern gaming, and they share none of the current pitfalls like dreaded microtransactions.
Although Xbox’s backwards compatible catalog focuses on Star Wars titles, this list will concentrate on the best range of genres. Selections will be based on their storytelling, volume of content, how well they hold up, Game Pass availability, and more. They are also featured in no particular order.
7. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
This installment of the classic Splinter Cell series is an Xbox essential that was revolutionary for stealth games. It features clever and improved stealth mechanics that added realism and created more player freedom. Instead, it introduced flexibility that allowed you to face more specific consequences for your failures. And it is certainly no less challenging.
Chaos Theory also boasts a compelling story that helped refine the signature globetrotting, political intrigue in the military genre. Its pacing and complexity distinctly continue to influence hits like Modern Warfare. The hero and villains alike are also more brutal in Chaos Theory, adding better moral ambiguity and stakes.
Xbox enjoyed a golden era of action platforming games during the original console’s run. However, The Sands of Time arguably outshines them all, with unusual new acrobatics and a thrilling time mechanic. It wasn’t a conventional collect-a-thon. Manipulating your surroundings and outcomes by literally rewinding or slowing time was a perfect fit for platforming adventures.
The Sands of Time also signaled Ubisoft’s excellence in period piece worldbuilding, with a stylish and memorable city. The narrative is larger than life in a charming way, and a decent vehicle for puzzles and action. BLiNX: The Time Sweeper also deserves an honorable mention here, which uses the same time-manipulation mechanic and is criminally underrated.
5. SSX 3
SSX 3 was one of many extreme sports games that thrived on the original Xbox. However, its immersive open world mountain was a crucial improvement for the series and overall genre. It better captured the spirit of freedom and exploration that makes the sport so appealing to begin with. It also manages this without losing the pace of a thrilling racing game.
There’s a solid variety of tricks to use, and obstacles to discover. Its stylized action isn’t limited by outright realism, but it doesn’t feel too cartoonish either. So, completing a race or accumulating tricks still feels rewarding.
The Elder Scrolls can sometimes feel bogged down by excess, but the scope of Morrowind never undermines its gameplay. This Elder Scrolls game isn’t guided by conventional narrative, but its inventive world is impressive for an original Xbox release. Its breadth of content isn’t determined by size, but through density and details.
The purity of its RPG freedom is also expressed through countless quests and customization. However, the lore is as deep as you’d like it to be, and creative as ever. Morrowind should ultimately feel a bit more friendly for modern gamers.
3. Star Wars Battlefront 2
This classic Xbox shooter includes the essential Galactic Conquest game mode, which was sorely missed in EA’s divisive reboot series. It better represents the true scale of Star Wars, and adds weight to your broader decisions. It’s also a naturally replayable mode, particularly for quick single-player action.
Battlefront 2’s sheer level of fan service was also impressive, but never at the expense of its gameplay. It included an enormous span of vehicles, weapons, and settings that were faithfully adapted. It launched with an appropriate volume of content and did not involve pesky loot boxes. This series still has enormous potential, as Star Wars continues to expand.
Remedy Entertainment may be best known for Alan Wake, especially with the popular new sequel. However, Max Payne is an extraordinary precursor for the developers’ ingenuity and daring attitude. This neo-noir features inventive conspiracies and vigilante action that has inspired countless Xbox games, like the original Watch Dogs.
Its gritty tone is balanced out by stylish, pulpy gunplay reminiscent of classic action movies. But Max Payne’s splashy, familiar story is often emotionally grounded and features some mature themes. Surprisingly, you can also find this original Xbox release in the Game Pass Core catalog.
1. Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
This obligatory Xbox classic best represents the narrative-driven Star Wars games, alongside its sequel. KOTOR remains a high bar for the entire franchise, extending beyond its medium and overshadowing many subsequent films and books.
It does so by elegantly exploring the deepest, farthest lore of Star Wars without becoming too lofty. The fidelity of the story is consistent while also establishing a relevant, interesting history that proves just how flexible Star Wars can be. Fortunately, the gameplay is also a blast, with plenty of upgrades, fairly strategic combat, and even some fun minigames.
There are dozens of other classics that fans can still try on the Xbox Series X. Tell us what your favorite titles were if you grew up with the original Xbox, and which games new generations should be playing!