With the Xbox Series X set for release later this year, now might be a good time to take a look back at where it all began. The Series X will be bringing a lot of Xbox 360 and Original Xbox games into the new decade. However, most of the catalog is still in danger of being left behind.
There are a lot of cult classics and lost treasures that deserve a modern remake or sequel, and it would be a shame if they were forgotten by console history. In the spirit of keeping good games alive, here are five Original Xbox franchises that need to be brought back for the Series X.
MechAssault was an Xbox exclusive spinoff of the BattleTech franchise. And while BattleTech as a whole is doing just fine, MechAssault has been effectively dead since 2009. Unlike its sister series, MechWarrior, MechAssault was more interested in fast-paced giant robot action than being a realistic mech-pilot simulator.
Players took control of a variety of massive bipedal war machines ranging in size from eight-foot-tall suits of power armor to fifty-foot behemoths. A wide variety of weapons and abilities, such as jump jets, shields and cloaking devices, combined with the game’s many distinct environments allowed for a high degree of gameplay variety. In one mission, mechs and tanks will dart around corners in tightly packed urban brawls. The next might consist of a series of methodical long-range engagements. The destructible environments played a significant role in the moment to moment tactics.
Now picture that, but with the larger, more detailed, and more interactive environments that next-generation consoles make possible.
A series of air combat games set in an alternate 1930s, Crimson Skies follows the adventures of sky pirate Nathan Zachary. The franchise takes place in a world where the USA collapsed after the Great Depression and borrows from the tone and aesthetic of pulp adventure stories.
The original PC game from 2000 was unique in its unusual position halfway between arcade flight game and realistic flight simulator. Things like pitch and lift mattered, but aircraft performance was exaggerated into something that better fits the swashbuckling tone. The Xbox exclusive sequel leaned more heavily into the arcade-style combat and featured a much less impressive upgrade system. It made up for it with a greater emphasis on open-ended levels.
Neither game was a huge financial success, but both received good reviews and still enjoy a cult following. The second game Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is backward compatible on the Xbox One, but I’d much prefer a proper sequel. Given the continued lack of decent air combat games on the Xbox, I’d say we were due for a follow-up. The game’s creator has expressed interest in someday continuing the franchise, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Quick! Without thinking, name a recent naval combat game other than World of Warships. Unless you are really into strategy or Japanese mobile games, you’d be hard-pressed to think of something.
2001’s Blood Wake was something different entirely.
Set in a world inspired by the seas of Southeast Asia, the game follows Lieutenant Shao Kai after being betrayed and left for dead by his dictator brother. Rather than battleships or submarines, the game focuses on fast-moving gunboats. The resulting experience is somewhat reminiscent of a driving game, but with the not insignificant wrinkle of taking place on the open ocean. While the player starts off shooting at wooden boats on a calm lagoon, things escalate to the point of fighting battleships in the middle of a typhoon. Learning to work around and take advantage of the ocean’s movements are a vital part of Blood Wake’s difficulty curve.
A few minor tweaks to the physics engine and updated graphics are all it would take to make this forgotten gem shine on modern platforms.
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions
This one wasn’t actually an Original Xbox exclusive, but it was designed for and mostly sold on the Xbox, so I say we count it. Unlike the first three entries on this list, Wreckless is hardly from a dying genre. A driving game with a love of collateral damage, the core premise might not sound unique.
What made Wreckless stand out was the presentation. The two campaigns follow a pair of bumbling spies and a duo of not quite competent policewomen as they worked to free the city form Yakuza control. This was mostly done by crashing cars into other cars, food stands, buildings, and the occasional Space Shuttle. Some games might have you get out of your vehicle to confront the dangerous gang leader. Wreckless knows the only solution is to airdrop your car on the roof of his building so you can have a high-altitude demolition derby.
The belief that literally every problem can be solved by driving through it is a big part of what made Wreckless stand out from its peers. While it may not be the most original game on this list, it would be a shame if this campy crash fest were lost to time.
Sudeki is an action RPG that looks like what would happen if Peter Molyneux watched a lot of anime while making Fable. The game revolves around four main characters: warrior Tal, sorceress Alish, cat-girl Buki, and gunslinging scientist Elco. Each character had a unique set of abilities, and the story would mix and match party members to keep things nice and varied.
And the combat system really is what makes the game unique. You see, while playing as the melee-focused Tal or Buki, Sudeki is a fairly straightforward hack and slash with an emphasis on special attacks and combos. But when controlling the range-focused Alish or Elco, it suddenly transforms into a first-person shooter, and I genuinely can think of another game that does that.
Was Sudeki perfect? No. There were some pretty glaring balance issues and not nearly enough engaging side quests. However, between its unique combat system and interesting world and story, it’s no surprise that Sudeki remains a cult favorite long overdue for a sequel.