Microsoft’s seventh generation video game console was only its second console attempt, and the company had a lot of learnings from its first release from which to improve.
When the Xbox 360 was released on November 22, 2005, it was heralded as a big jump over its predecessor, especially with the introduction of Xbox Live. Growing into something of a dedicated entertainment portal as much of a video game system, the Xbox 360 became home to some of the best games of its generation.
Open-world games have long been considered a favorite genre, allowing players the opportunity to explore and not just follow a linear path toward one specific goal. The ability to freely roam has become more and more popular, thanks to the freedom it allows players to play at their own pace.
It’s no wonder that Grand Theft Auto, a beloved open-world game, is the second best-selling game of all time for the Xbox 360, which speaks even more toward the popularity of the open-world genre.
Let’s jump into the best open-world games for Xbox 360!
What is an Open-World Game?
The basic understanding of an open-world game is one in which the player is free to virtually roam around an environment and complete objectives in no particular order. In other words, the game doesn’t force the player to follow a linear structure of gameplay, enabling many ways to complete an objective.
Open-world games can vary in size and there are still restrictions that are placed within a game environment but they also provide more freedom to explore and discover.
Was the Xbox 360 Known for Open-World Games?
While most video game consoles are not known for just one particular video game genre, the Xbox 360 did host some outstanding open-world titles. The Grand Theft Auto series is responsible for millions and millions of games sold on the console, as is the original Red Dead Redemption. So, too, are The Elder Scrolls and other popular game franchises that all rank among the best Xbox 360 games overall, according to Metacritic.
Given all of the evidence, it’s safe to say that the Xbox 360 is certainly a great place to play some excellent open-world games.
#7: emFallout 3/em
Taking place in and around a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area, emFallout 3/em is a combination of open-world and action gameplay.
No matter the genre, what excited everyone most was that this was the first Fallout game to introduce 3D graphics. With the world suffering after a global conflict between the U.S. and China, players are in control of an underground shelter protecting humans, named “Vault 101.”
Played from a first-person perspective, every playthrough begins in the aforementioned bunker where you are able to choose your character and tweak their overall look until you are satisfied. Do you want a marksman or someone who can carry more gear? These are tough decisions you need to make as you design your player, but rest assured, the decisions you make influence the game in a big way.
Character-making aside, once you are in the emFallout 3/em world, it’s easy to see why this was named “Game of the Year.” There are just so many things to see and like, eliminating green-skinned super mutants or freeing a central plot figure from a virtual reality program whose expertise can help rebuild civilization.
It’s no surprise emFallout 3/em earned a 93 Metascore or sold 1.5 million copies — it’s just that good.
- Includes Shivering Isles and Knights of the Nine expansions
Selling more than 1.8 million copies on the Xbox 360, emThe Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion/em is another cross combination of open-world and action RPG gameplay.
Continuing the open-world emphasis set forth by earlier games in the series, you can travel anywhere on the game map at any point. In addition, like the best open-world games on the market, you can also completely ignore the main storyline for as long as you want.
What you want to do within the world of Cyrodiil is improve your skills. That means taking time to learn how to fight bandits, learn a trade, or mine a cavern, all with the purpose of improving your character.
There are dozens and dozens of side-quests, and for the first time in The Elder Scrolls series, fully voiced NPCs with which to engage in conversation. What’s more, should you decide to beat the main quest first and find the heir to the throne completing the main storyline, you can keep playing the game almost indefinitely.
For a title that was released in March 2006, emOblivion/em felt incredibly ahead of its time graphically, thanks to the development of the “Havok” game engine that could create detailed terrain. Between outstanding gameplay and the world it takes place in, a 94 Metascore feels just right for this title.
- Advanced, compelling gameplay on every level, epic super-villain encounters, and unexpected glimpses into Batman's tortured psyche
- Play as Catwoman with her own storyline in the main game which is seamlessly interwoven with Batman's story arc
- Experience advanced freeflow combat as Batman's melee abilities ratchet up to match that of AI enemies
- Put new gadgets, and new functionality for existing gadgets to work that expand the range of Batman's abilities
- Encounter numerous characters from the Batman universe, including Catwoman, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Penguin, Hugo Strange, Victor Zsasz, Calendar Man, The Joker, The Riddler, and others
The follow-up to the popular Batman: Arkham Asylum, emBatman: Arkham City/em‘s inspiration unsurprisingly came from comic book lore.
When players begin the game, our hero, Batman, has been imprisoned in Arkham City where he has to discover a scheme being perpetrated by the game’s villain and prison warden, Hugo Strange. Famously, Mark Hamill (aka Luke Skywalker) voices the character of the Joker, and Kevin Conroy yet again appears as Batman.
A cast that includes Batman, the Joker, and a whole bunch of classic characters makes it easy to understand why emBatman: Arkham City/em sold more than 4.7 million copies.
Presented from a third-person perspective, the game is a combination open-world title that incorporates elements of stealth as one might expect from Batman. Within Arkham City, Batman can explore and glide anywhere around the city using his extensive arsenal of gadgets, all while taking on all sorts of bad henchmen.
Rest assured, the game is sufficiently darker than Chris Nolan’s near-perfect Batman movie series, all while not venturing too far from comic lore. Earning a 94 Metascore, emBatman: Arkham City/em presents an excellent way to visit the Batman universe that offers outstanding replay value and a grittier Batman than ever before.
- Red Dead Redemption: Game of the Year Edition - Xbox 360
What Grand Theft Auto did for open-world games and driving, emRed Dead Redemption/em did for open-world Western games.
Set in the early 1900s as the era of the “Wild West” is coming to a close, the game follows the protagonist, John Marston, in his quest for vengeance against his former gang.
Moving around the large map set in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States is only restricted by wherever you can go on horseback, and it’s so much fun to explore while on the back of your trusty steed.
Development by Rockstar took over five years, and you can easily see why, as you dive into the game’s sense of realism and exploration. You’ll journey through frontier towns, ride through fields full of wildlife, and explore mountain passes that offer a sense of danger at every turn.
Of course, this is a Western, so gun battles are plentiful, and they are so much fun, but don’t think you’re the fastest draw in every town you visit. Rest assured that with so much to explore and do, emRed Dead Redemption/em isn’t just for fans of Westerns as it helped redefine open world games on the Xbox 360. That’s even more true when you consider its 95 Metascore and more than 1.8 million copies sold.
- Reimagines the open-world fantasy epic, pushing the gameplay to new heights
- Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want
- Skyrim's new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world
- Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities
The sixth best-selling game on the Xbox 360 platform, emThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim/em moved more than 13.7 million copies since its release in November 2011.
Set 200 years after The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the game takes place in a new area of Tamriel and with a new main protagonist known as the Dragonborn.
Like Oblivion, you have the opportunity to explore this virtual world of caves, cities, dungeons, and villages and complete the main quest at your own pace. Ride around on horseback or take every advantage of the game’s fast-travel system to quickly move between locations — the choice is entirely up to you.
Don’t forget to engage with the many non-player characters that you will come across as not only is the conversation enjoyable but it will often help you complete missions or side-quests.
More importantly, hundreds of weapons, abilities, and spells are all at your disposal, and with them, you can decide how to best defeat enemies of all kinds including dragons. Rest assured there is more content in this game than even most open-world completionists can ever hope to discover.
Earning a 96 Metascore and 8.6 user score, emThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim/em is a true Xbox 360 classic.
- The biggest, most Dynamic and most diverse open world ever created and now packed with layers of new detail
- Grand Theft Auto V blends storytelling and gameplay in new ways as players repeatedly jump in and out of the lives of the game's three lead characters, playing all sides of the game's interwoven story
- Grand Theft Auto V also comes with Grand Theft Auto Online, the Dynamic and ever evolving Grand Theft Auto universe for multiple players
When ninth-generation console owners think of open-world gaming, emGrand Theft Auto V/em is likely the first name to come to mind.
The game was released in September 2013 on the Xbox 360 and is still selling across all major consoles today, which is a true testament to its open-world excellence. The second best-selling game on the Xbox 360, GTA V as it is commonly known, sold just under 23 million copies.
Offering gameplay amongst three different protagonists, the storyline is incredibly engaging and the city of Los Santos is full of life and things to do. emGrand Theft Auto V/em is the true definition of an open-world game that offers you so much to do that you never need to bother with the main storyline. You can buy property, trade stocks, and play a round of golf, which is just amazing for a game going on its ninth year of availability.
Upon its release, GTA V broke all known video game industry sales records, earning more than one billion dollars in sales across all consoles in its first three days of availability. That’s why its 97 Metascore won’t come as any surprise to fans of the series or just fans of open-world games in general.
- Carry on the Grand Theft Auto tradition playing through the single player campaign as Niko Bellic
- Get cars and other modes of transportation anyway you can
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Engage in multiplayer challenges ranging from cover matches to shoot-outs
- Game Rated 'M' due to Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
It’s hard to believe a game that sold 11.1 million copies would only rank as the tenth best-selling game on the Xbox 360, but that’s the exact case for emGrand Theft Auto IV/em.
As the 11th game in the series, you are once again thrown into an open-world environment and free to roam Liberty City and its three islands as protagonist Niko Bellic.
Through the storyline, you learn that Niko has arrived in America in his quest to find the American Dream coming from Europe only to find his dream quickly cut short. As the game begins, Niko finds himself as a man for hire with a deep penchant for violence, and oh there is plenty of shooting, melee fighting, and weapons in this game.
As Metacritic’s 2008 Xbox 360 “Game of the Year,” the 98 Metascore won’t come as any surprise. Thanks to the game’s storyline and the player’s compassion for Niko, it’s easy to sink hundreds of hours into this game before ever touching its successor. There are two expansion opportunities that add new characters and gameplay mechanics which only serve to the point that sinking more time into this game is not only available but absolutely necessary.
The Xbox 360 is home to some of the greatest open-world games of all time. Many of these games were first available on the console and are still playable on modern-day consoles today, which is a testament to the advancements Microsoft made with its second-generation hardware.
Games like Grand Theft Auto IV and V, plus The Elder Scrolls, all show that it’s too easy to sink dozens and dozens if not hundreds of hours into open-world titles.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©dennizn/Shutterstock.com.