At the time of this article, the Xbox brand has been in the game console market for nearly 22 years. The inception of Xbox is akin to that of a Cinderella story when you put your nostalgia goggles on. What do you get when Bill Gates is denied by Sony for Microsoft to develop software for the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo refuses to be purchased by Microsoft? The answer is the Xbox, of course. In this list we’ll be looking back on all Xbox console generations in the order they were released.
In the annals of gaming history it would be a true statement to say that the Xbox was made manifest out of fear. With the advent of the Xbox, Microsoft carefully employed a proverb of Sun Tzu’s: “keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer.” Out of all Xbox consoles, the genesis of the first console is both ironic and poetic. The irony is that Nintendo dropped a collaboration with Sony which led to the creation of PlayStation. When PlayStation became a household name, Microsoft offered to produce games for the PS2. Sony refused and Microsoft’s Xbox was born in 2001.
There’s no forgetting that black brick of a game console with the iconic green branding. The controller looks reminiscent of the Sega Dreamcast and is affectionately referred to as the “Duke.” The Xbox launched alongside its flagship franchise with Halo: Combat Evolved. The PlayStation 2 may have won the console war of the sixth generation. However, the Xbox sowed seeds in the online gaming space. Xbox Live, a paid online gaming subscription, had better servers and social options for gamers than what the PS2 offered. Microsoft was late to this console race by over a year. You can’t deny this is still one of the best Xbox consoles that ever launched.
The Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and would boast an impressive 11 year lifespan. Out of all Xbox consoles, the Xbox 360 is arguably the most impactful. Admittedly, the Xbox 360 had a rocky start. The earliest manufactured consoles reported high failure rates. This is where the infamous “Red Ring of Death” reared its ugly head. This Xbox console features no wireless network connectivity and requires a separate network adapter at a cost. An HD DVD accessory was sold for the console but, with Blu-ray becoming the industry standard, the Xbox 360 got the short end of the stick.
The Xbox 360 launched with over a dozen games. These games include Call of Duty 2, Dead or Alive 4, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Gears of War, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and Saints Row. By 2007, Halo 3 would really make a really huge profit for Microsoft. These games were amplified by the regularly updated Xbox Live service. Gamers would be more connected than ever.
This Xbox console fortunately underwent revisions to the hardware. The Xbox 360 Slim variant features built-in Wi-Fi and better lifespan. Kinect made its debut and the peripheral was Microsoft’s attempt to immerse itself in motion-sensing gaming. Unlike the Wii, Kinect features full-body motion tracking. There’s a few decent games for Kinect. Namely, the Dance Central , Just Dance, and the infamous Kinect Star Wars games. The next iteration of Kinect would spell trouble for the Xbox 360’s successor. Yet, all Xbox console generations to come have the Xbox 360 to thank. This is one of the top Xbox consoles of all time and made Microsoft a serious contender in the console gaming arena.
3. Xbox One
The Xbox One launched in 2013 and makes it the third Xbox console generation. Every home console manufacturer has a black sheep in the family at some point. For Nintendo, that’s the Wii U. For Sony, well, the PlayStation 3 didn’t have the most welcome of introductions at its reveal. This Xbox console, however, is the black sheep of the Xbox family. It’s a decent console in truth. It’s just that the intent of the Xbox One was miscommunicated to the consumer from the start. Its initial reveal focused too heavily on anything but gaming. The Xbox console touted its value as an “all-in-one entertainment system.”
The Xbox One drew further ire with rumors spreading that it would be an “always on” console. Meaning, the Xbox One always needs to be connected to the internet for updates, game licensing verification, and making playing used games virtually impossible. Microsoft reversed course following all this negativity. Nonetheless, we’ll never forget the round of applause when Sony revealed the price of the PS4, game sharing, and online optional features of their next console.
It took awhile for these unpleasant memories to blur in the rearview mirror. It may not be the top Xbox console that comes to mind but the Xbox One eventually got its footing. A few exclusives on this platform include: Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Motorsport 7, Forza Horizons 5, Psychonauts 2, and Sea of Thieves.
The Xbox Series X & S consoles launched in 2020 and is Microsoft’s fourth generation of the Xbox brand. Particularly, the Xbox Series X gets praise for its technical specs, short load times, and backwards compatibility. This generation of Xbox is a strong contender for one of the top Xbox consoles of all time. Presently, what the Xbox Series consoles lack is a variety of exclusive software. Halo Infinite, Forza Horizons 5, Hi-Fi Rush, Grounded, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Scorn are examples of the few exclusives on the platform. The Xbox Series consoles can keep its player base satiated by such offerings.
Microsoft is especially doubling down on exclusivity for its Xbox brand this generation. Bethesda is under Microsoft’s umbrella and we’re seeing the fruits of that acquisition with Starfield. Sequels to the Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series will follow. At the time of this writing, Microsoft may be nearing its acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Multi-million dollar franchises Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and Diablo are a few notable IPs at stake in the purchase. Fret not, Phil Spencer confirms that PlayStation will continue to get Call of Duty games after the acquisition is complete.
Lastly, the Xbox series consoles are still young. There’s a lot of potential to be had in the coming years. The best Xbox console could already be in our hands and we don’t know it. Time will tell and a return on our investment may prove rewarding.