Although Microsoft’s second home video game console had some initial hardware trouble after launch (hello red ring of death), it went on to become the ninth best-selling video game console in history.
Part of the seventh generation of consoles, the Xbox 360 added a few firsts for Microsoft including “Xbox Live,” which remains a staple of Microsoft’s home consoles to this day.
Launched in North America on November 22, 2005, the Xbox 360 would go on to sell more than 84 million consoles worldwide. Its popularity and longevity were due to the strength of its game lineup, including some of the best action games that launched as part of the seventh-generation video game era.
Let’s dive into the best action games the Xbox 360 has to offer.
What is an Action Game?
Action games have a wide definition that makes it easy to fit a number of game genres under the “action” umbrella. For the most part, any game that is defined by fast-paced gameplay requiring strong hand and eye coordination is a good start at evaluating what an action game is.
Action games can also be defined as games where you have a certain level of running, jumping, shooting, and fighting as part of the game format.
For example, a platformer is action-based because it requires lots of jumping, problem-solving, and running, as well as quick hand and eye coordination. As there is no universal definition of an action game, that leaves the door somewhat open to interpretation, and that’s a good thing because of the sheer number of games that can qualify.
Was the Xbox 360 Known for Action Games?
The Xbox 360 was never really defined by one game genre but there is no question that action games rank near the top of its most popular titles.
Out of the top 70 games that have sold over one million copies on the Xbox 360, more than 28% are action games, which is proof that action games were a very popular video game genre. Some of the most popular games of all time including popular exclusives like Gears of War and Halo all make an appearance on the list of the Xbox 360’s best action games of all time.
#7: emHalo 3/em
- Expands on the franchise and adds a wealth of technical and gameplay advancements
- Unparalleled first-person shooter experience and the most compelling story of the trilogy
- Builds upon the social multiplayer experience and innovative, evolving, online gameplay of Halo 2
- Loaded with high-definition visuals, enhanced AI, an advanced lighting engine, new weapons, characters, and challenges
Selling more than 12 million copies, emHalo 3/em is hardly a surprise on any “best of” list for the Xbox 360.
Pulling down a 94 Metascore, emHalo 3/em is the third game in the Halo Trilogy and follows a continued storyline from Halo 2. Once again, you are back as Master Chief and he goes to war against the Covenant with the usual assortment of weapons, vehicles, and more weapons.
Backed by a massive $40 million marketing campaign, emHalo 3/em was released in 2007 to huge fanfare making Microsoft more than $170 million in revenue on its first day of release.
Revenue aside, emHalo 3/em is a first-person shooter game at heart that is set in the year 2552 with Earth at war with an alien race. As is the case with the Halo series, Master Chief must do battle against a series of enemies in a number of different environments in an effort to stop the Covenant once and for all.
The best part is that those who finish the game on the Legendary difficulty level are treated to an extra cutscene that helps set up the events of the next game.
- 70 new types of weapons and gear
- Gain XP to unlock new items and perks
- Cinematic graphics and sound
- Customize your gear
- Physics-enabled effects
Like Halo, Call of Duty is one of the mainstays of the first-person shooter video game world. A subgenre of action games, emCall of Duty 4: Modern Warfare/em is a first-person title that is arguably one of the best Call of Duty titles ever made.
Thanks to now-iconic characters like Captain Price, the single-player campaign was outstanding and full of quirky one-liners that made its cut scenes as enjoyable as its campaign. The graphics were commendable and everything about the game felt like it was something right out of an action movie.
emCall of Duty 4/em took the series and moved it leaps and bounds in the future thanks to more advanced graphics, additional multilayer modes, and its characters. Multiplayer especially stoodout thanks to its maps and new loadout system, making it one of the best FPS multiplayer experiences on the Xbox 360 outside of Halo.
It’s no surprise that emCall of Duty 4: Modern Warfare/em earned an 84 Metascore and an 8.5 out of 10 user score, nor is it any surprise that emC/emOD 4 would go on to sell more than 4.2 million copies.
- Gears of War's engaging, cinematic story plays out like a Hollywood blockbuster
- Unreal Engine 3 technology brings out the smallest details in the largest of battles
- To survive you must suppress your enemy, take cover, and use weapons and teammates to outlast the Locust Horde
- Xbox Live gameplay offers individualized matchmaking, player statistics, customized games, and more
- A.I. teammates are indiscernible from human players in this third-person shooter
Developed by Epic Games and published by Microsoft Studios, emGears of War/em is now one of the best-known and most synonymous series with Microsoft’s Xbox consoles.
Released in 2006, emGears of War/em follows a squad of troops in a fight for mankind against the “Locust Horde,” who are creatures from the center of Earth. Marcus Fenix might be the second best-known name among first-person shooter protagonists behind Master Chief on the Xbox platform. Selling more than 5 million copies worldwide, everything about emGears of War/em is just pure action.
Across its nine hour single-player campaign that requires a good amount of strategy, using lots of cover to advance and stay hidden from enemy weapons. The real highlight of emGears of War/em is that it makes excellent use of the unreal engine for outstanding graphics that push way beyond the original Xbox console.
The main campaign can also be played in co-op mode which was a huge win for Xbox 360 owners and one of the many reasons emGears of War/em has earned its 94 Metascore.
emGears of War/em is a gritty war game that feels different enough from the likes of Halo and Call of Duty that it proudly stands on its own.
#4: emPortal 2/em
- Extensive single player game featuring next generation gameplay and a wildly-engrossing story
- Complete two-person cooperative multiplayer game featuring its own dedicated story, characters, and gameplay
- Advanced use of physics allow for the creation of a whole new range of interesting challenges, producing a much larger but not harder game
- Win/Mac software is PC and Macintosh compatible
- A massive sequel to the title named 2007's Game of the Year by over 30 publications worldwide.
emPortal 2/em is one of those games that stretches the boundaries of what defines an action game.
Rest assured there is plenty of action, but it’s as much an action game as it is a mix of platformer and puzzles. As the player, you will run around solving puzzles with your portal weapon and teleporting between two spots to help solve these puzzles.
The single-player campaign along with the co-op campaign make going level by level feel even more engaging than the original Portal, which was already a standout console title. No question emPortal 2/em’s developer, Valve, turned the dial up to 11 for the sequel.
One of the best surprises of Portal 2 is the voice talent which offers some familiar names and recognizable voices. The personality of the voice acting adds another level of enjoyment and even if the campaign is short at just over eight hours of play time, you’ll instantly want to play again if only to hear everything one more time.
emPortal 2/em earned a 95 Metascore which is hardly surprising given its huge following and outstanding cross-genre gameplay.
- The Dead Eye targeting mechanic, allowing the player to slow down time for shot accuracy
- Expansive open-world gameplay set in the final years of the American Wild West.
- Massive play area filled with NPCs, made up 3 unique regions composed of towns and outposts filled with varying characters
- Morality system based on honor and fame generated by the players actions throughout the game.
- Western themed mini-games including showdowns, gambling, hunting bounties, cattle herding and five finger fillet
There’s no question the sequel received more attention, but emRed Dead Redemption/em is one of the best action and cowboy games ever created.
Western style games were not typical fanfare on any video game console, so the question of whether emRed Dead Redemption/em would work was definitely top of mind for the developers. The good news is emRed Dead Redemption/em worked so well to the tune of selling more than 1.8 million copies, making it the 38th best-selling Xbox 360 game of all time.
John Marston is your chief protagonist and he’s just a cowboy trying to make up for misdeeds in his past. There’s a balance here for John between violence and wanting to do what is right. Few games can play off this morality battle but emRed Dead Redemption/em makes you feel for John in a way few games can.
Played from a third-person perspective, this is as much an open world game as it is action and it fits both genres incredibly well. As you spend most of your time on horseback or on foot, every action you make in the game impacts how you are reviewed by other characters.
Released in May 2010, emRed Dead Redemption/em was immediately well received by the gaming community earning a huge 95 Metascore and a 9.0 user score.
emThe Orange Box/em isn’t really orange, but what it is is a fantastic action game composed of multiple Half-Life games that give you hours and hours of gameplay.
All totaled, there’s about 30 hours of gameplay available between Half-Life 2, a Half-Life 2 expansion (Episode One) and three new games, including Half-Life: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.
Released in October 2007 for the Xbox 360, having five complete games in one package was an immediate hit with gamers everywhere. That’s why it’s not surprising that emThe Orange Box/em has earned a 96 Metascore.
Between Half-Life’s first-person shooter game mixed with puzzles as well as Team Fortress 2 and Portal as deep action games requiring plenty of fast hand and eye coordination, this is a definite action-packed lineup of games.
Not only did developer Valve receive near universal acclaim for the game, many users heralded The Orange Box as a competitor for game of the year for 2007. As many of the games here are worth purchasing as standalone titles, they all came combined easily which just makes it one of the best packages of games Xbox 360 users ever saw.
- Bio Shock lets you do the impossible as you explore a mysterious underwater city. When your plane crashes, you discover Rapture - an underwater Utopia torn apart by civil war.
- Caught between powerful forces and hunted down by genetically modified "splicers" and deadly security systems, you have to come to grips with a deadly, mysterious world filled with powerful technology and fascinating characters.
- As little girls loot the dead, and biologically mutated citizens ambush you at every turn. Now you're trapped, caught in the middle of a genetic war that will challenge both your capacity to survive and your moral allegiance to your own humanity.
- Make meaningful and mature decisions that culminate in the grand question - do you exploit the innocent survivors of Rapture to save yourself - or risk all to become their savior?
- Biologically mod your body with plasmids - genetic augmentations that empower you with dozens of fantastic abilities
Tied for the 50th best selling game on the Xbox 360 with 1.5 million copies sold, emBioShock/em is an easy contender for the best action game on the Xbox 360 platform.
The game has a storyline that is completely original and an art style to match the storyline’s originality. An undersea city that should be brimming with life has turned into a nightmare, and it’s up to Jack, our chief protagonist, to discover what is going on and find his way out alive.
In Jack’s way are a series of Big Daddy machines that wish to do you great harm. These machines with the best name ever represent one of the great aspects and art styles of emBioShock/em, not to mention one of the best-looking enemies from any video game of the seventh generation console era.
You have supernatural abilities combined with an underwater city and an art style that feels very 1950s, which is all the more reason why emBioShock/em earns its 96 Metascore and 9.0 out of 10 user score. The single-player campaign should take players roughly 12 hours to complete and holds the title of Metacritics’s 2007 Game of the Year award.
Pick up your copy of the best action game on the Xbox 360 today from Amazon here.
The Xbox 360 was a giant leap over the original Xbox and for all the right reasons. Between a huge increase in graphics, the introduction of Xbox Live, and an effort from Microsoft to make the console an entertainment center focal point, it’s not at all surprising it sold 84 million units.
As for the games, titles like BioShock showed the Xbox 360 in its best possible light as did Gears of War and Halo 3. There are numerous reasons these games are still seeing updated releases to this day, and that’s because their popularity as top action games has not tapered off.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Stefano Garau/Shutterstock.com.