Another decade comes to an end and thus comes another great excuse to make a list looking at the best Xbox exclusives released over the last 10 years. This list becomes complicated because of the ‘timed exclusives’, ‘console exclusive’, ‘platform exclusive’ debacle which is the norm for 2019 exclusivity, unfortunately.
A lot of games seem to be timed exclusives, arriving unexpectedly to competing platforms randomly one day, such as INSIDE arriving to PS4, Cuphead going to Switch, and even all the old Final Fantasy games coming to Xbox and Xbox Game Pass next year. These exclusivity complexities seem to be rampant in today’s gaming industry (god help anyone writing the best Xbox exclusives from 2020-2029).
So with that being the case, my list will consist of console exclusives, platform exclusives, and launch exclusive games. And in an attempt to blur all quantitative ways of measuring these, my main criteria is a game which is denoted to belonging on Xbox. Without any further delay, let us take a look at only a few, but significant, games from the last decade that are a must-play for anybody who is buying an Xbox One for the first time.
9. Gears of War 3
I would argue that Gears of War peaked with Gears of War 3, in that the campaign is one of the best by far, the multiplayer is the best so far, and the Horde mode was pretty much perfect. Many a night I played Gears of War 3 with my friends playing wave after wave on Horde mode, specifically having some difficulty getting past wave 40 (which we more often than not did). Back then I was having about as much as fun as you could playing an online co-operative mode.
The campaign is excellently paced and brings all of the story elements to a close in a neatly lined lambert-themed bow. The gameplay was phenomenal and the amount of content was ridiculous, to say the least. Gears of War 3 is the must-play entry to the franchise.
Though you may not understand much of what’s going on, it won’t matter because the 3rd-person action gameplay will keep you drawn for tens of hours, if not years!
8. Sunset Overdrive
I never thought that Sunset Overdrive looked that spectacular. But when I played it for the first time, I had an epiphany. Sunset Overdrive is Saints Row humour mixed with Ratchet and Clank’s weapon progression systems which makes it one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played in many years.
Its shooting mechanics are addictive and its writing is genuinely funny. Funnier than it has any right to be. While it didn’t meet the sales that it deserved, over time players have realised the pure joy that this game can create as you’re bouncing on balloons blowing up ODs with a firework rocket launcher.
If you haven’t already, PLAY THIS GAME!
INSIDE is the spiritual successor to PlayDead’s LIMBO – the game we all know about with the black and white colour palette and the horrendous spider. INSIDE is, to put it bluntly, a masterpiece. I’ve never played a game which has impressed me so much with its flawless animations and seamless puzzle design.
With loose themes and concepts, and a shocking 3rd-act that will leave your jaw dropped to the floor the entire time, you will speculate for years about the meaning of INSIDE after completing its 3-5 hour run-time.
There is little reason you shouldn’t play this masterpiece.
Even though Cuphead had a lot of hype pre-launch because of its 1930s cartoon art style, it still managed to exceed expectations in terms of gameplay, the length of the game, the number of bosses and the dreaded difficulty. The boss designs ooze creativity and imagination, while the gameplay is nearly perfect – being extremely responsive as a 2D action-platformer-brawler.
I loved every painstaking second of Cuphead and I can’t wait for the arrival of the DLC in 2020. I also can’t wait for generally more of Cuphead and from Studio MDHR. They are a very talented team who have already demonstrated their capability to create new types of games which resonate with all types of gamers.
5. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
As of writing, 343 Industries have finally done justice to the Halo: The Master Chief Collection package. The multiplayer issues have been fixed and you are now able to play any manner of multiplayer you could ever desire in every Halo game included in this bundle. FYI – that’s every single Halo game excluding Halo 5: Guardians, including Halo 3: ODST and the recently added Halo: Reach.
You can as well, of course, play through any one of these incredible sci-fi FPS campaigns. With Combat Evolved: Anniversary and Halo 2: Anniversary included in this package, and the fact that all of the games are compatible with Xbox One X with 60fps and stunning HD quality, this is one of the best compilations in gaming history. Simply too much stunning content to not want a piece.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 4, Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach. What more do you want?
4. Forza Horizon 4
If you’re into your racing games, then you already know that the Forza Horizon series is the best racing series out right now. I don’t know for certain which out of Forza: Horizon 2, 3 and 4 is the best, but what I do know is that they are at such a high calibre of gaming that you would be silly not to at least try Horizon 4, which coincidentally takes place in glorious Britain over each of the four seasons. Each season comes with its own different factors which you will need to take into account when driving off or on-road.
I haven’t fully completed a Forza Horizon game, but I have played a fair few. And I have to say, the controls feel instinctive and fair, and the graphics are stunning. If you like cars, you’ll love Forza Horizon 4. It all works with a level of polish to boot, and that’s more than I can say for some of Forza Horizon’s competitors.
3. Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is a wonderful game. Its personality is shown through its unique and wonderful art style, set within its lush and varied world. With a minimal story told through actions rather than words, Ori quickly wins over your heart to then break it through tough platforming and enemy encounters.
The world is harsh and brutal, and Ori learns this the hard way. But there is so much to love about this 2D Metroidvania that it would seem unfair to not mention this game on the best exclusives of the decade list. I admit that it may not live up to the others presented, but it holds a place as an experience which is hard to forget.
While there is a lack of a single-player campaign, Titanfall is still one of my all-time favourite multiplayer games ever made. Evolving into what Call of Duty should’ve been many years ago, competing competitively against other players never felt so smooth, fast-paced and fluid.
With the addition of Transformer-like robots to land from orbit and control for as long as you can, Titanfall is still one of the most fun games I’ve ever played. The second is brilliant as well, but this game was the perfect entry-point for those of us who bought an Xbox One back in 2013.
1. Gears 5
We began with Gears, and we end with Gears. Gears 5 is a demonstration of how to innovate on a franchise that could become stale, and how to make an extremely impressive game on every level in a short time frame, whilst making other games within a franchise along the way. That is exactly what The Coalition did as they developed Gears 5 alongside Gears POP! and Gears Tactics.
Gears 5 has the best story development of any Gears, the tightest gameplay and some serious online improvements, such as Horde 5.0 which makes Horder still exciting after 11 years. Innovating with new multiplayer modes such as Escape and trialling an open-world aspect to the campaign shows that The Coalition want to take risks. While not all of them work as effectively as they might have wished, this is still one of the best exclusives Xbox has – providing gamers with faith that Gears may still be alive and well for the time being.
And there we have it – who said Xbox doesn’t have any decent exclusives? Let us know what your favourite Xbox exclusive from the last decade was. The comments section is down below.