I was around six years old when I truly discovered the magic of the original Xbox. Video games have always been part of my household but I was never really old enough to be able to play them. It was only when my brother got the newly released Xbox 360, that the original Xbox got to go into my room, and with that came every single exclusive the console ever had. My dad worked for Microsoft at the time so he got a huge discount on everything Xbox, so naturally, he bought every game that he could.
These games still have a huge place in my heart, essentially being my introduction to video games and fostering my love for the medium. Games like Halo and Halo 2 have dedicated countless hours of my life, playing matches all night with my friends. Fable is a magical fantasy world and my introduction to the RPG genre. Splinter Cell kept me awake more nights than I’d like to admit. These are exclusives that everyone knows and loves. However, some of the games that are closest to me are games that I think fell under the radar over the years.
The original Xbox had a huge breadth of genres and types of games in its exclusive catalogue, a variety that I don’t think was ever matched by future iterations of Xbox. Many of these games, a lot of people don’t know about, which is a shame because they are truly great. All of these hidden gems are worth a try and some can even be played easily on the Xbox One.
1) Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee
The world of Munch’s Oddysee is no doubt odd, but in many ways so is the gameplay. The game follows Abe, the titular character of the previous games, and Munch who is in many ways the star of this game. One of them is a lanky humanoid alien called a Mudokon and the other is a weird fish creature with a big head; a Glukkon. The strange tale that the game takes you on is best discovered on your own but it has a great dark comedic vibe that makes it really unique.
It’s a lethal puzzle experience where you use the abilities of both of your characters, like mind control, electricity, and violent vehicles, to get through the levels. The characters die very easily so you have to be creative in the ways you get through the varied mazes of death that the game presents, filled with mines, traps, and armed enemies. The ways you solve these puzzles are incredibly satisfying, like mind controlling an enemy to step through a minefield, killing themselves so you can safely pass.
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee is eccentric, grim and unlike anything you have played. You’ll see just from the opening that the game’s world is really different and unique. It’s also an opening that used to absolutely terrify me as a kid, in fact, most of this game scared me as a kid. It was so engaging however that I powered through my fear, though even to this day I think Munch’s voice is the creepiest thing ever.
Of course, if you prefer the Abe themed adventures, then Oddworld: New & Tasty will sort you out.
2) Blinx: The Time Sweeper
The first time you boot up Blinx, you may feel like you’re watching some crazy Japanese anime. There’s no doubt that Blinx is very stylish in every way, with the game starring a talking cat that sports a sick jacket who goes and cleans up time and space of evil monsters that pop up from inequities and mistakes in time. He’s one of many ‘Time Janitors’ who do this, protecting many universes from this problem. In typical fashion, every single one of these janitors is an adorable fluffy cat that can speak.
It’s a classic 3D platformer, Microsoft’s answer at the time to games like Mario and Crash Bandicoot. However there is a big distinguisher that sets it apart, and because Blinx is a time janitor, he can manipulate time to his gain. The player can slow the game down, rewind, speed the game up, or pause the game completely. However no matter what happens Blinx will stay in normal time, so the player is the only one not affected by the time shifts that happen on screen. It’s a novel idea and is integrated really well into the platforming and combat elements that take place. Blinx uses a vacuum cleaner to suck up things and take down enemies.
Blinx oozes confidence and flair in every corner. The color palette is so bright and vibrant, it’s a consistent joy to look at. It has a killer soundtrack that I will happily listen to by itself just because it’s so catchy. The story it takes you though is goofy and fun, and this ensures that Blink: The Time Sweeper is definitely worth a try.
3) Kung Fu Chaos
A hugely fun fighting party game akin to something like Smash Bros with a martial arts twist. Incredibly fun with a group of friends, supporting four-player local multiplayer, Kung Fu Chaos is themed around kung fu films from the 1970s and all the stages and characters reflect that, as players pick between characters like a ninja, wise old sensei, luchador, and more.
Players fight each other through moving stages that change as the match goes on, and there’s a lot of creativity in the level design; one match may be on a fake flying saucer while the next is on the Titanic. Between the fights, there’s a variety of minigames as well to mix up the pace; most of these are really fun, a particular favourite is one where you have to push players off a slippery moving iceberg.
The game is raunchy and definitely not themed for kids – think a South Park kind of vibe and you’re close. There’s lots of bang for your buck though with a decent amount of stages and is a great game to play at parties or get-togethers with your friends. Trust me Kung Fu Chaos will have all of you laughing and fighting with each other in no time at all.
4) Blood Wake
Boat combat is not a genre that shows up very often, which is a shame because it can be great fun. Blood Wake is a fantastic boat combat game with a lengthy single-player campaign and a story that’s better than expected.
The player completes objectives in open levels with access to new boats and weapons after every mission complete. The boats vary greatly, from larger, tougher, slower ships to fast and light vessels depending on the objectives one might serve better than the other. The weapons range from machine guns, rockets, mine launchers, and many more.
The real highlight of Blood Wake is the local multiplayer, in which up to four players can battle it out with their boats against each others. Many of the multiplayer modes have players trying to kill as many AI enemies as they can before time runs out, or left to survive as long as they can against waves of enemies. There are multiple maps to choose from and players can even modify the weather of the map which can significantly change the height of the waves when fighting. There’s lots of great fun to be had competing against your friends to see who is the best boat captain.
Easter eggs and secrets are in plentiful supply, and many of them are found in the multiplayer like a secret game mode – “Bloodball” – in which players play soccer on the water by hitting a giant ball with their gunships.
5) Voodoo Vince
Another attempt by Microsoft to tap into the 3D platformer genre, and Voodoo Vince is just as excellent as Blinx.
The game stars Vince, a voodoo doll that is brought to life to save his master from the clutches of Cosmo, a carnival magician who accidentally releases magical dust into the air, creating evil creatures and warping reality. The game is a true cult classic that is really fantastic, with the setting being that of an incredibly engaging take on Lousiana and New Orleans aesthetic, seeing the player move through old town streets and swampy bayous, all which are created in a great cartoonish art style. The music fits that theme as well with much of it being really great jazz or big band pieces.
The gameplay is a pretty simple platforming affair. Vince has to jump around obstacles and punch up enemies. Occasionally he can use his super move in which injures himself, but subsequently kills all enemies on screen the same way. The game does get fairly tricky nearer the end with some pretty challenging platforming parts, especially the last level.
The charm of Voodoo Vince is especially strong – it’s hard not to fall in love with the world that the game creates especially because it is quite funny. The superb writing and voice acting lend to genuinely hilarious moments throughout, most notably from the main character Vince, who has a great dry humor about him for the whole game. All the characters, however, are truly memorable and well written and it’s good to see Voodoo Vince Remastered available on Xbox One.
I loved the original Xbox, what with its willingness to have new and different experiences in its first-party lineup. While Microsoft does surprise us every once in a while, you would be hard pressed to see them announcing any games like these nowadays, which is disappointing because a variety of first-party exclusives is what Xbox One really needs right now.
I encourage you into giving at least one of these a try, they may sound weird but I promise that you won’t forget your time with them.