What Games Defined Each Xbox Generation?

As suggested on the latest Xbox Era Podcast, I’m spinning off my question into its own thread.

Inspired by a Kinda Funny video, I want to hear what games the Xbox Era community thinks defined each Xbox generation. Not necessarily your favourites, but rather the games that helped give each console it’s identity.

For reference, here’s Kinda Funny’s list:

Original Xbox:

  • Halo (Bungie/Microsoft)

  • Halo 2 (Bungie/Microsoft)

  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (BioWare/Lucas Arts)

  • Ninja Gaiden (Team Ninja/Tecmo)

  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (Ubisoft)

Xbox 360:

  • Halo 3 (Bungie/Microsoft)

  • Gears of War (Epic/Microsoft)

  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward/Activision)

  • Mass Effect (Bioware/Microsoft)

  • Fable 2 (Lionhead/Microsoft)

Xbox One:

  • Sunset Overdrive (Insomniac/Microsoft)

  • Forza Horizon 4 (Playground Games/Microsoft)

  • Halo Master Chief Collection (343/Microsoft)

  • Cuphead (Studio MDHR)

  • Ori and the Blind Forest (Moon Studios/Microsoft)

Personally, I think their OG and 360 lists are spot on.

There would be no Xbox without Halo. What else is there to say? Halo 2 set the standard for online gaming, and Halo 3 pushed it further, creating a true social platform (forget Sony first-party games, this was the first big photo mode I remember).

What Halo was to the original Xbox, Gears of War was to the 360. It opened the door for a whole generation of cover shooters and Unreal Engine games.

KotOR cemented the Xbox as the platform of WRPGs. That same team at BioWare would then partner with Microsoft to create Mass Effect. Mass Effect 1 is a game that feels distinctly Xbox to me. Everything from the HUD to the overall aesthetic just feel very intune with the system.

The Xbox One generation is where I struggle a bit. It doesn’t have its equivalent to Halo or Gears. Microsoft’s first party also didn’t put out any WRPGs for the first time. It was a very different generation, but one with a few gems.

Killer Instinct deserves credit for being one of the first service games done right. It’s a game that went from rendering at 720p with 6 characters at launch to rendering at 4K with 29 characters in a few years.

To touch on a few others, Forza Horizon really came into its own during the Xbox One generation. While TitanFall didn’t become Halo or Gears tier, it was a great early title. Sunset Overdrive is one of my favourites, and Sea of Thieves proves Rare never left.

With my commentary out of the way, what would your list look like?


Original Xbox:

  • Halo CE
  • Halo 2
  • Morrowind
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory

Xbox 360:

  • Gears of War
  • Gears of War 3
  • Halo 3
  • Minecraft
  • Grand Theft Auto IV

Xbox One:

  • Sunset Overdrive
  • Halo: Master Chief Collection
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Cuphead
  • Sea of Thieves

Honorable Mentions: Ninja Gaiden Black, Rainbow Six 3, Fable, Lost Odyssey, Forza Horizon, Halo: Reach, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Quantum Break, Crackdown 3, Titanfall, Killer Instinct.

Add dragon age and Bioshock to 360

OG xbox - Halo

Xbox 360 - Gears of War

Xbox One - Crackdown 3

First two should be obvious, so why crackdown 3 for Xbox one? Well, because it’s deemed as a failure by general public, just as xbox one. It has some fans who like it, just like xbox one. It was touted for cloud, destruction etc, similar how xbox one was conceived as an always online console. But I think xbox one generation is going to be remembered for gamepass. That’s the defining “game” of that generation.

My personal favorite from Xbox one generation is forza horizon 4, followed by sunset overdrive, quantum break and ori and the will of the wisps.

Opting for first party

One Game:

Xbox: Halo CE

Xbox 360: Gears of War

Xbox One: Sea of Thieves

Five Games:

Xbox: Halo CE, Fable, Halo 2, Crimson Skies, Fuzion Frenzy.

Xbox 360: Gears of War, Halo 3, 1 v 100, Mass Effect, Kinect Sports.

Xbox One: Sea of Thieves, Halo MCC, Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

Gears and Halo speak for themselves. Sea of Thieves, despite not being my favorite of the gen, was the obvious pick for this one. It started off a bit rough but grew to something marvelous… just like the One, it was a showcase of what allowing creative control to your devs can do ending up the biggest New IP from Xbox, it was a redemption arc for one of Xbox’s most controversial acquisitions as Rare was allowed to tap into what worked in their past and shed what didn’t, it offered a gameplay experience still unparalled to this day, tapped into the Twitch zeitgeist, launched Game Pass’ first party day one initiative and it did all of this with a fraction of the credit it deserves. Why this game is never nominated in Ongoing Game of the Year is beyond me.

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Xbox: Halo

Xbox 360: Gears of War

Xbox One: Ori & The Blind forest

To be honest i don’t really feel like the Xbox One has a game that clearly defines that generation.

  • Xbox: Halo Combat Evolved
  • Xbox 360: Gears of War
  • Xbox One: Forza Horizon 3

Original Xbox: Halo 2, KOTOR and Splinter Cell Xbox 360: Gears of War and Fable Xbox One: Halo 5 (as in a disappointing generation)

Really like the picks in the OP. I might add BioShock and Oblivion to the 360 list.

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I only go with one game per gen, because I’m lazy :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. XBOX: Halo is the obvious and only choice you can take

  2. Xbox 360: Again obvious. Gears not only did it look amazing it also created a storm of similar games and clones. A genre defining game.

  3. Xbox One: many say Xbox one was a failure and well it was in the beginning. Many say Sea of Thieves was a failure in the beginning and well it kinda was messy, yet it managed to gain a following and just like that became very popular.

For me Sea of Thieves represents what xbox is today.

Sadly, despite the excellent quality of the games, I think they’re all shooters if we’re looking at defining titles for the mainstream:

Xbox - Halo 2: It WAS Xbox Live for a lot of people.

Xbox 360 - CoD 4 MW: An absolute juggernaut online, the beta sold many on the game and made that a thing.

Xbox One - Titanfall: Always online, multiplayer focused, innovative game.

For me personally, the list would be:

Xbox - KOTOR: Showed Xbox could hang with the big boys on PC when it came to in-depth high quality RPGs.

Xbox 360 - GTA V: I still don’t know how this game worked on these platforms. Amazing.

Xbox One - The Witcher 3: Again, this game seems almost beyond the platform.

This question is a spinoff of the excellent question asked on the latest XboxEra podcast.

The question is, which game defines each generation of Xbox? This isn’t asking what game is the best game from each generation, or which game is your favorite, but which game is most synonymous with the generation of Xbox?

Make sure to think hard about this, it isn’t as straight forward as you may think.

For me the answers are

OG Xbox: Halo- Pretty straight forward, this game was the reason to own an Xbox and gave Xbox legitimacy that allowed them to stay in the business

360: Halo 3- There may be some debate about this, but for me Halo 3 defined modern day console multiplayer and its influence of competitive and social gaming is still being felt today. In many ways Xbox is still trying to recapture the success of Halo 3.

Xbox One: Sunset Overdrive- To me this game is a mirror of the failures of the Xbox One. A great game that was completely overlooked because it was caught up in the drama of the early Xbox division. It will probably never get a sequel, at least on Xbox, because the company bailed to make exclusive games for another company.

If this game was released in 2021 Microsoft wouldn’t let this wonderful game go unnoticed and wouldn’t let the wonderful team that made the game get bought by another company.

OG Xbox - Halo CE

Xbox 360 - 2 way tie between MW2 and Halo 3. Just peak xbox live experience.

Xbox One - generation was such a waste that I have nothing software wise from Microsoft that defines it. Only positives I got is Phil taking charge, backwards comp and studio buying spree. I personally liked Quantum Break quite a lot and felt that if it was a Sony game the reception would had been way different.

For me the 360 gen it was fable 2 and gears 1 + 2, and timed exclusives like rainbow 6 vegas, bioshock, gta4 dlc and the fact they ran and looked significantly better then the ps3 versions.

Xbox one did not any exclusive which really stood out, but I did enjoy quantum break + gears 4 + 5.