For better or worse the console war continues to rage on, and for better or worse that means console exclusivity remains a metaphorical weapon of mass destruction. The Xbox One hasn’t had quite as many exclusive titles as many would like, but it’s still had its fair share. Now (for better or worse) it’s time for me to name the five exclusive titles that have managed to stand out as the best.
Listed below, in no particular order, my top five Xbox One exclusive games. Fair warning: these are my top five, with the emphasis on my. Feel free to disagree, just don’t hate me for it.
1—Halo 5: Guardians
We’re going to get this one out of the way quickly. Halo is arguably the progenitor of the modern first person shooter, and despite falling a great deal from where it originally stood, the series remains one of my absolute favorites. The fifth numbered game in the series marks an interesting shift in both tone and gameplay. The story sees Master Chief on the run as he tracks Cortana, thought dead but apparently still alive and apparently more than a little crazy.
It’s an interesting premise that sets up an exciting sequel. Whether or not Halo 6 marks the end of the series or if it will simply be the end of the second trilogy in a trilogy of trilogies remains to be seen. I, for one, will never get tired of more Halo. Especially if they keep doing clever things with their multiplayer. All of the classic game modes return, but Halo 5 added a new game mode called Warzone. In Warzone two large teams compete in a massive arena flooded with neutral enemies. The level up system in each match was reminiscent of a MOBA but included a card based system that was just plain fun.
Halo has always left me excited in anticipation, and Halo 5 was no different. It wasn’t perfect, but no game is, but it remains one of my fondest memories in recent gaming. And you could only play it the Xbox One.
2—Gears of War 4
While we’re on the subject of popular series continuing onto the next console generation, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about Gears of War 4. The original Gears totally blew people away, and it revolutionized a lot of ideas. Chest-high walls, whether you like them or not, have become a staple of modern third-person shooters, all thanks to Gears.
Set 25 years after the conclusion of the original trilogy, Gears of War 4 follows JD Fenix, the son of original hero Marcus. The world is being slowly rebuilt, but not everyone is on the same page about how it should be run. In the midst of this internal strife a new threat emerges, a threat that might overrun the world if not taken care of. JD and his friends are quickly swept up into both of these fights.
The story is exciting and a great launch point for a new trilogy, but the game shines in its gameplay. While the core remains the same for the series, loads of small new tweaks and interesting weapons make the entire game feel very fresh where it could have rapidly become stale. Additionally, the new Horde Mode is an absolute triumph. Your group of friends seeks to survive 50 waves of increasingly difficult enemies with their only resource be a fabrication machine that runs on power collected from dead enemies. The system is clean and efficient and has a brilliant arcade feel that kept me and my friends coming back for weeks.
Remedy Entertainment has a storied history of compelling but slightly flawed games. Alan Wake is a cult success, a game I loved but only got into years after its release. Max Payne remains an amazing game and one of the greatest uses of slow-motion in anything ever. So, it was an equal mixture of excitement and trepidation that I approached their new game, Quantum Break.
In the game, you play as Jack, a man who returns home to visit his scientist brother only to discover him embroiled in a corporate shadow war that involves a private army, time travel, and the possible extinction of mankind. The game is based around clever time-powers integrated into fast-paced third-person shooting, and it does a lot of very clever things. It mixes up the combat with intermittent puzzles and a genuinely intriguing story that left me hooked till the end.
The real selling point of the game, however, is the television show integration. Several episodes were shot, often with several scenes showing various possible outcomes of a situation. In between chapters of the game you would watch an episode of the show following a storyline you periodically hear about in the game. The story of the show would vary based on the actions you took in the game. For example, if you use time powers to bring a sign with you from a different timeline, the live action characters in the show might stumble across it and wonder why it was there.
The entire concept was borderline insane, but it worked well. I’m not sure how cost effective it was, so I’m sadly skeptical it will return in future games anytime soon, but as far as Quantum Break is concerned, it was a rousing success.
Respawn Entertainment includes in its portfolio many of the key members of the team that made Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare II, both games that were, many would say, utterly amazing. So, when the company announced a new IP called Titanfall, expectations were high. As far as I’m concerned, expectations were met.
In the future, technology allows us to travel the stars. Not very quickly, however, so we’re left with a rebel faction in a distant series of colonies fighting for freedom against a maniacal mega-corporation. The battle center around pilots, expert soldiers equipped with suits that allow them to traverse the environment at blazing speeds. The ultimate power of a pilot, however, lies in their titans. Massive, walking, robot death machines, titans can maneuver on their own or act as a mech suit for the pilot to drive manually. The name Titanfall comes from the delivery system. When a pilot decides they want a titan and earn the right to call one in, the titan is literally fired at them from outer space, rocketing in at blazing speeds.
Everything about this game screamed cool, from the epic giant robot theme to the white-knuckle speed of the pilot gameplay. The game did a lot of things right, inspiring theme and mechanics in a number of games that came out after. It sadly didn’t have the lasting power to become an unequivocal success, but it remains one of my favorite games. The second one remedied the majority of the first’s problems, but it wasn’t an exclusive and thus didn’t qualify for this list.
One of the first games to come out on the Xbox One is going to round out my list today. Sunset Overdrive might seem like an unexpected inclusion, given how serious in tone and drama all the other games I’ve listed are. Honestly, though, that’s basically the reason it’s included. Whereas so many games these days insist on being dark, gritty, and realistic, Sunset Overdrive is shamelessly silly to the point of utter absurdity, both in its story and its gameplay.
Your character, who is whatever you design them to be, wakes up one day to discover the city in quarantine and the masses horribly mutated by the awful new flavor of energy drink. The new mutants are ravenous, bloodthirsty monsters in the most cartoonish of fashions, and now you have to find a way to break out of the city and escape their clutches.
The game is a third-person shooter filled to the brim with silly weapons reminiscent of Ratchet and Clank (a game made by the same company) and utilizing a completely different design philosophy than many other games in the genre. While most would have you carefully using tactics and cover to take down your enemies, Sunset Overdrive wants you to literally never stop moving. Jump, bounce, grind and glide around for all of eternity as you kill the mutants, jack up the score, and buy mind-boggling new items. It’s a philosophy so refreshingly new that it cemented the game forever in my head and this list both.