Xbox’s backward compatibility program has been unanimously praised this generation for allowing gamers to play and keep games that would’ve otherwise been lost in time. In an age where game preservation is becoming an issue, this was a big win for the Xbox platform and gamers in general. But with over 600 games from the Xbox 360 and original Xbox available, some gems got lost in the shuffle. Whether these games were overlooked at the time of their release or have lost relevance in the years after, here are the most underappreciated backward compatible games on Xbox One.
Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line released in an era where cover based shooters were flooding the market. In this lens it’s not hard to see why the game struggled to grab many people’s attention; from a distance it looks like just another Gears of War clone, but 2012’s Spec Ops was anything but that.
Even though Spec Ops was criticised for its uninspired gameplay, the more typical shooter elements were still well done. Shooting was punchy and satisfying, there was a ton of opportunities to manipulate the environment in a fight and the campaign also boasted a handful of memorable action set pieces.
The game also included a beautiful and vibrant recreation of a destroyed Dubai, so even when Spec Ops’ gameplay wasn’t very inspired, it was at least a visual feast. Aside from criticisms about the gameplay, it’s generally agreed upon that Spec Ops had a surprisingly profound story about modern warfare, showing both the psychological effects that war leaves on soldiers and the human cost of innocents trapped in the cross fire.
There are so many brilliant moments that make the player question our typical image of a war criminal. In that sense, Spec Ops: The Line is still jarringly relevant. It’s just a shame so many people skipped it.
Alice: Madness Returns
Alice: Madness Returns does have legitimate problems. It’s not a very precise or satisfying platformer and the game definitely outstays its welcome. But despite this, Alice: Madness Returns is still a delightfully weird and original game.
Developer Spicy Horse adapts Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel into a dark and violent game about mental health and its treatment in Victorian Britain. Alice Liddel is learning to deal with the death of her family and uses the iconic Wonderland as an escape, until a new evil corrupts it. The game twists an already trippy world and this makes Madness Returns constantly interesting.
While the gameplay is never outstanding, Wonderland’s aesthetic always is. Mixing symbolism from the original story with violent, bloody and sometimes grotesque imagery, it’s just a joy to be part of this world.
Blue Dragon released in 2006 to a mixed reception. Many reviewers criticised the game for relying too heavily on traditional JRPG mechanics and ideas. Little did they know that the rest of the generation would lack any truly great JRPGs – even Final Fantasy stumbled with the XIII trilogy.
If Blue Dragon had released a few years later it would be praised as a return to what made JRPGs so great in years past because it does include everything a great JRPG should. It has an epic, if occasionally cheesy, plot; a great open-world full of secret towns and super bosses and solid turn-based combat, including lots of opportunities to experiment with class types and party configurations.
It’s not a shock that Blue Dragon excelled in many areas considering its lineage. Blue Dragon was the first game Final Fantasy creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, worked on after his departure from Square Enix. Final Fantasy’s iconic composer, Nobuo Uematsu, joined him along with Dragon Ball creator, Akira Toriyama, who contributed art. Uematsu in particular pulls out all the stops and delivers some of his best musical moments in Blue Dragon.
It’s sad that Blue Dragon isn’t remembered for what it was… a love letter to old-school JRPGs in an era that was sorely lacking in that area.
Braid was critically acclaimed and well loved at the time, but over the years it seems that Braid’s impact isn’t fully appreciated.
First of all, let’s talk about Braid’s impact on the industry. It was one of the first breakout hits on XBLA and showed how an independent developer could achieve financial success with a non-mainstream title. In an age where indie titles are constantly experimenting and pushing boundaries, it’s hard not to credit Braid for breaking the glass ceiling and generating wide spread buzz around a smaller, indie game.
As well as influencing the entire industry, creator, Jonathon Blow, also changed many people’s perceptions of what a game could achieve. It was a work of art where every element of the game’s design worked in unison to deliver the game’s ultimate message about forgiveness, guilt and ambiguous morality. The game’s main time manipulation gimmick complimented Braid’s narrative in such a profound way that it’s hard to understand why Braid isn’t considered one of the greats.
Jack Black saves a heavy metal inspired world from demons using a magical guitar and battle-axe.
That pitch should have been enough to make Brutal Legend an instant hit but sadly, it wasn’t. Jack Black is as charismatic as ever in his role and Double Fine creates, arguably, their most charming, unique world ever. Full of drama, jokes and heavy metal references, Brutal Legend’s world is a joy to inhabit and the game’s mechanics aren’t half bad either.
The game was an interesting hybrid, fusing action-adventure elements with RTS sections in an open-world. The hack and slash combat was a ton of fun and even though the RTS sections were criticised, they were still accessible for gamers that aren’t fans of the genre and gave the game some much needed variety.
Do you agree that these Xbox Backward Compatible games are underappreciated gems? Have we missed anything out? Let us know in the comments below.