The 2010s are coming to an end. Whenever a new decade begins, it is common to look back on what the previous ten years brought us. The 2010s started with the end the Xbox 360 lifecycle. Then in 2013 Xbox One launched and the rest of the decade has been its domain. During that time, we’ve seen some fun exclusives. From the zombie-infested world of State of Decay to the beautiful art and music of Ori and the Blind Forest, there is a lot of variety in the exclusive library this decade. Here are the top 5 Xbox exclusives from the 2010s.
Cuphead might be the closest we ever get to playing a cartoon. Studio MDHR put years of development into this challenging, but fair game. Every frame is hand-drawn and features a classic grain overlay with a brilliant jazz soundtrack that helps establish a 1940s cartoon vibe.
You play as Cuphead or Mugman who have lost their souls to the Devil in his casino. Now they need to travel across Inkwell Isle and grab the contracts of the other citizens who owe the Devil their soul. Cuphead features the kind of basic storytelling an old school cartoon would have, so this isn’t the reason you play this indie title. The animations accompanied by the sound design hit your nostalgia on every level.
As mentioned above, the game is difficult but fair. To damage enemies, you fire from your finger guns and use the environment around you to protect yourself from harm. You can also parry pink objects that will fill up your special attack meter faster for a more powerful attack. All of your moves can be customized from the in-game store which will allow for different shooting styles, physical changes, or movement abilities. From the outside, Cuphead may look like a basic game. Once you try it, though, you realize how deep and engaging the experience is.
4. Sunset Overdrive
It is a crime that more people did not play Sunset Overdrive when it released near the beginning of the Xbox One’s life. Insomniac’s sole Xbox exclusive was brilliant at everything it set out to do. It was a cartoony open world with one of the best traversing sets in any game. From grinding on rails to jumping on cars like trampolines, you will never get tired exploring the city.
You start the game as a janitor for an energy drink company that turns its customers into monsters. Quickly, you are thrown into becoming a hero that needs to save the city’s remaining survivors. Plenty of pop culture references and fourth wall breaks will bring a smile to your face as you grind and jump across this colorful city. The story is simple, but that isn’t why you play Sunset Overdrive. It is an exciting, hilarious romp that deserves much more recognition than it got during a downtime for the Xbox One.
3. Forza Horizon 3
The Forza Horizon series began its run of successful games in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. What started as a fun offshoot of Forza Motorsport turned into one of the best racing game series of all time. The Horizon series has been to Colorado, France, and Britain, but its trip to Australia is what turned the most heads.
Forza Horizon 3 features over 350 vehicles for you to drive through the open-world Down Under. The map is littered with races and other challenges to fill your time. Getting lost in the Outback is easy to do in a good way. Everything looks stunning in this game. The Australian sky was caught with a 12K camera and is dynamically set to mimic a sky with a real sun. The water features one of the most realistic wave physics in any game (and is also the same water you see in Sea of Thieves).
Simply put, Forza Horizon 3 is not just one of the best looking Xbox titles, but one of the prettiest games of all time. For more on how they captured the sky, water, and cars on sand, check out this Guardian article. It is a great read.
Forza Horizon 3 is already a great game to play for both racing fans hardcore and casual, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the Hot Wheels DLC. If you grew up playing with Hot Wheels and seeing them race on their iconic orange tracks, Playground Games brought that experience to life. Loops, jumps, speed boosts, and more show up on this gigantic racecourse and is a must buy alongside Forza Horizon 3. Even a person like me that is not interested in cars or racing can have a great time in the DLC.
2. Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is the best game of the series. This is because of the dedication to delivering an emotional, gripping story from Epic Games. The first and second Gears games are good but can feel like generic shooters at times. The third entry not only concluded the story (at the time) brilliantly but made an Xbox 360 game feel like a Hollywood action film. The game introduces Marcus’s Dad and has one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of gaming with Dom’s sacrifice. Usually, the story is not the reason to play a Gears game; they can be pretty bad at times. Laughably bad. Gears 3, however, is probably the closest the series got to catching Halo with an interesting, action-packed tale.
Horde mode also made a jump to help make it as popular as it is today. The PvE mode made its debut in Gears of War 2 but flourished in the third entry. Visuals made a huge impact on the series at the time as well. The light and smoke details brought the dystopian Sera to life in a way the previous games did not accomplish. Things can still feel too familiar with it’s dark, dusty look at every corner, but the improved details go a long way to making this a more enjoyable experience.
1. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
This might be cheating since this game is technically six very good games put together. The Master Chief Collection released in 2014 and had a rough start. Connection issues made the game nearly unplayable and started the current generation on a sour note leading up to the disappointment that was Halo 5: Guardians. Give 343 Industries credit, though. While it took a long time, the Master Chief Collection runs beautifully now. What started as a collection containing the first four Halo games, added in ODST and Reach and a slew of community features to make this the definitive way to play Halo.
The best feature the game has added is in its multiplayer. 343 found a way to make it so you can choose specific game modes from each specific game for matchmaking. The best part is it works every time. While matchmaking can have you waiting a couple of minutes, the wait is always worth playing what you queued for. The brilliant cooperative campaign play of every Halo game is here as well. While it had a shaky launch, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is not only the best Xbox exclusive but also the best redemption story of the 2010s. If you have not played it in a while, grab some friends and jump in.
There are plenty of other brilliant Xbox games that at one point were exclusive. Here is a list of some games you need to keep an eye out for or maybe go back and play again for the memories.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
The biggest crime this game ever committed was releasing the same day as Fallout 4. Admittedly, it also would have done better if it were not an Xbox exclusive at the time. The sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot added more of the brilliant gameplay and tense situations from the first game and is the best entry from the reboot trilogy. You can read our review here.
Ori and the Blind Forest
A beautiful Metroidvania that will have you crying like a baby. The emotional storytelling is complemented brilliantly by the tight platforming controls.
A creepy tale from Remedy Games, Alan Wake is an author whose thriller stories are coming to life. Fighting the shadows and unfolding the mystery will have you engaged until the end.
Halo Wars 2
The sequel to the 2009 strategy game again plays brilliantly on a console. The absolute best Command and Conquer-esque style game.
The first outing from Respawn Entertainment was an absolute success. While it did not have a campaign (that wouldn’t be added until its sequel), the first game was the first example of what the “next generation” could do for online gaming.
State of Decay 2
Undead Labs’ sequel to the zombie-infested Trumball County elevated expectations for the small studio going forward. Here’s hoping they continue to grow and thrive after being acquired by Microsoft. You can read our review here.