Today officially marks 15 years since Microsoft’s original Xbox hit stores, but good luck trying to get one of those old discs running in your Xbox One.
Backwards compatibility only stretches back so far, unfortunately, although Microsoft has hinted that Xbox 1 playback could be more than a pipe dream. In any case, at least you can reach back into the slightly more recent past and play a lot of great Xbox 360 games on the current console.
More than 280 last-gen games are now playable one year after the functionality was patched in, and the list keeps broadening as it expands. Got classic Xbox games on the brain? Here are 15 of our favourite Xbox 360 entries that are well worth revisiting today on your Xbox One or Xbox One S – plus we have handy Xbox Live Games on Demand and Amazon links if you need to add anything to your collection.
Before Remedy pushed storytelling boundaries with Quantum Break on Xbox One, it did much the same with the gripping Alan Wake. Playing as a novelist who finds himself trapped in a storyline of his own creation, the game blends intense psychological horror with frantic action as you use light to battle back shadowy forces.
It’s easily one of the most atmospheric games on the Xbox 360 – and maybe if more people play it, we’ll finally get that long-awaited sequel.
RELATED › Quantum Break review
Sadly, it looks like you may never play Bayonetta 2 unless you grab a Wii U (yes, really), but at least we’ll always have the absolutely, wonderfully bewildering original – and it’s playable on Xbox One now.
Bayonetta is more or less an evolution of the familiar Devil May Cry guns-and-sword formula, only starring a highly-sexualized witch who has guns in her heels and uses her flowing black hair as both her outfit and a weapon. It’s an absolutely insane game, but the dizzying hack-and-slash action lives up to the bizarre characters and scenario.
Braid more or less ignited the modern indie game boom, showing that you could make an amazing, meaningful game with a modest budget – but it’s more than just a symbol for that revolution. It’s also a legitimately incredible game, using a Super Mario-like world to deliver brain-bending time-manipulation puzzles while telling a surprisingly heartbreaking story along the way.
There’s never been anything quite like it, even today, and it remains essential.
RELATED › How indie games conquered the world
Few games have captured the sense of driving really, really fast as effectively as the Dirt series.
While this third game in the series slows things down too often by putting unnecessary emphasis on the tedious showboating of its gymkhana obstacle courses, the seat-of-your-pants rally stages more than make up for it.
We know, we know: Fallout 4 is out, and if you have an Xbox One and you’re remotely interested in the franchise, chances are you’ve already put 100 hours plus into that world. Fair enough. But if you’re all done, why not loop back to Fallout 3?
Bethesda’s first take on the post-apocalyptic franchise delivered an unparalleled open-world experience in the wasteland that once was Washington D.C. – and it’s still captivating now.
RELATED › Fallout 4 review
Left 4 Dead 2
We’ve seen a lot of great co-op games over the years, but there’s still nothing quite as satisfying as Valve’s Left 4 Dead games. As in the original, Left 4 Dead 2 puts you in the worn-down shoes of one of four survivors who must work together to outrun and outlast waves and waves of zombies.
Teamwork is essential if you’re to survive the intense barrage of undead attackers, and the first-person shooter sequel also offers nearly all of the original game’s content as DLC – so there’s loads to play here.
RELATED › The 30 most anticipated games of 2016
If you like puzzlers but somehow haven’t soaked in the wonder that is Lumines, then drop everything and grab Lumines Live on your Xbox One.
It’s nearly a decade old at this point, but the gameplay remains gripping: you’ll rotate and position chunks of squares on the board, and every couple minutes you get a new look, song, and sound effects – oh, and the beat of the music plays a role in the gameplay.
RELATED › The 10 best games in the world right now
Mass Effect Trilogy
The Mass Effect trilogy is arguably BioWare’s crowning achievement, delivering an original sci-fi role-playing epic with a universe as rich as any we’ve seen and experienced – and you can now enjoy all three entries on Xbox One.
As Commander Shepard, you’ll fight to save the galaxy from Reapers, all while making decisions that can dramatically shape your interactions and the storyline ahead across the entire storyline. Mass Effect: Andromeda will start things anew next year, but the original games are still well worth your attention now.
The Mirror’s Edge reboot may have turned into a bit of a damp squib, but that doesn’t dimish the awesomeness of the original game.
The first-person running affair, which ends up feeling like a frantic mix of platforming and puzzle-solving, is paired with jaw-dropping design, as the vivid future city springs to life while you bound between rooftops.
Short, sharp brilliance that demands a replay.
RELATED › Mirror’s Edge Catalyst review
The Orange Box
Valve’s The Orange Box, perhaps the greatest deal in all of gaming when it released nearly a decade ago, is finally playable on Xbox One via backwards compatibility. And you’ll play, and play, and play with all of the great content included here.
Not only do you get Half-Life 2 and the two fantastic standalone Episodes, but also the awesome Team Fortress 2 and the utterly essential, can’t-miss first-person puzzler Portal. They’re older games now, but still absolutely worth savouring now.
Double love for Portal on the same list? Yeah, it truly is that amazing. You can play the brief original either in The Orange Box or the standalone Portal: Still Alive on Xbox One, but don’t overlook the much larger sequel, which also now is backwards compatible.
Portal 2 expanded out the puzzle premise into a lengthier campaign starring new characters and featuring numerous new play mechanics, and it’s all just as spectacularly brilliant and hilarious as the first entry. And there’s a separate co-op campaign, too!
Red Dead Redemption
We can’t wait to see more of next year’s Red Dead Redemption 2, but Rockstar’s original is now playable on Xbox One – and it hasn’t lost anything over the past six years.
Even in a post-GTA V world the sprawling, wild west setting of the American Frontier in the early 20th century still feels alive with travellers, bandits and wildlife, plus its storyline offers some of the most affecting moments in gaming’s recent past. There’s stacks to do on top of that too, from hunting bears up in the woods to practising your poker face at the tables in one of the many saloons.
Besides, riding a horse around, drinking whiskey and lassoing ne’er-do-wells in the American wilderness never really gets old, does it?
Also Read › Red Dead Redemption 2: Everything we know so far
It’s been more than six years since the last great 3D skateboarding game – we know this well because that’s when Skate 3 came out. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5 didn’t pass muster, and Skate has kept its wheels grounded, but thankfully Skate 3 is now backwards compatible.
EA’s series skews closer to simulation than Hawk’s, making you use analog sticks to emulate real board maneuvers to pull off tricks, and the sense of discovery and accomplishment is absolutely killer. And maybe if EA sees some long-tail sales here, we’ll finally get another one!
Remember what we just said above about skateboarding games? Yeah, it’s been pretty dire times for snowboarding games as well, but at least you can drop into the still-fresh powder of 2012’s slick SSX reboot.
It’s a little toned down from the electric excess of the original PS2 entries, but SSX still delights with open-slope thrills and online-connected events. Unless Ubisoft’s Steep ends up being the modern mountain messiah of our shredding dreams, SSX will probably be your best option for some time to come.
Also Read › Steep hands-on review
Super Meat Boy
Like your games old-school in design and tough as nails? Cool. Like games where the hero is an anthropomorphic hunk of beef? Perfect: then you’ll love Super Meat Boy. In fact, you should love it no matter what, since this badass platformer is undeniably addictive even as it repeatedly kicks your teeth in with its brutal stages.
Persevere through the challenge and you’ll find 300+ levels of precision-focussed bliss.