10 Original Xbox Games Worth Playing On Series X And S

When Microsoft launched the original Xbox console in 2001, it marked a turning point in the gaming industry. Sega had all but departed the scene as a console manufacturer and the Xbox brand became the only competition to Sony and Nintendo. It helped to establish online multiplayer on consoles through its Xbox Live service and was home to a solid collection of exclusive titles.

Where the Xbox stood out from both the PlayStation 2 and the GameCube was its focus on more mature titles. Aimed squarely at adults, the Xbox console had a library of games that ranged from raunchy comedy RPGs such as "Fable" to high-octane racers and sports games like "Crimson Skies" and "Project Gotham Racing." Of course, the console was also home to standout shooters such as "Halo" and "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow."

Thanks to backward compatibility and the trend of remastering older titles, many of the best original Xbox games are still playable on the Xbox Series X|S. These are the titles from the first console that are still worth trying out today.

Halo: CE

What originally started as an RTS game for Mac computers eventually evolved into something genre-defining, helping to make a success of Microsoft's Xbox console. Microsoft acquired developer Bungie during the development of "Halo: CE," setting up the title to be a launch game on its brand new console. It eventually hit store shelves on November 15, 2001 and immediately received widespread critical acclaim and became a huge hit.

A first-person shooter, it sees players take on the role of a super-soldier known as Master Chief who crash lands on an ancient alien structure. Called Halo, the world-sized structure is eventually revealed to be a superweapon that holds a dangerous parasitic life form and has the potential to destroy all life in the galaxy. With the surviving UNSC marines and his AI companion Cortana, Master Chief battles against the Flood parasite and the Covenant, a group of aggressive aliens who are at war with humanity. Along with its single-player campaign, "Halo: CE" also supports co-op play and a sophisticated multiplayer offering.

For any fan of the "Halo" series, going back to play the original is an interesting prospect — even if it is just to see how far the franchise has changed over the last two decades. "Halo: CE" is also available in multiple forms, including a special "Anniversary Edition" remake and a version in "Halo: The Master Chief Collection." While the game is certainly old, it helped reinvent shooters on consoles and holds up surprisingly well as a great FPS with a solid story and brilliant gunplay, making it a must-play experience from the original Xbox era.

"Halo: CE" is playable from its original disc or can be downloaded digitally via the Microsoft Store. It can also be played as part of "Halo: The Master Chief Collection."

Burnout Revenge

In the crowded market that is the racing genre, EA's "Burnout" series has always stood out as something of an outlier. In fact, the games in the series often put as much emphasis on risk-taking and aggressive driving as they do on traditional racing. For example, players can get extra points for driving directly into oncoming traffic or making contact with their opponents, all things that would traditionally be frowned upon or detrimental in other racers. Those elements were all also present in "Burnout Revenge," the fifth game in the series.

The 2005 game took vehicular combat to a new level, with game modes specifically aimed at wiping out as many opponents as possible within a set time limit. Meanwhile, "Burnout Revenge" also included the popular crash mode, where players are tasked with causing as much carnage as possible by hitting AI-controlled vehicles and chaining together collisions to score the most points. With smooth controls and lightning-fast gameplay, few racing games since have managed to capture the sheer thrill and excitement of this thoroughly enjoyable release. The visuals may seem a bit dated but the gameplay still packs the same punch and considering the lack of any recent "Burnout" games, this is certainly worth going back to play.

An enhanced port of the original game was made available for the Xbox 360 in 2006 and it is this version that is playable on Xbox Series X and the Xbox One. With improved graphics and new events, it is the definitive edition of "Burnout Revenge" but is otherwise unchanged in terms of gameplay from its predecessor. You can play the game digitally via the Xbox Marketplace.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

The "Grand Theft Auto" series is one that has always been associated with high quality. Rockstar didn't drop the ball when it came to releasing in 2004, following its massive hits in the form of "Grand Theft Auto III" and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." Like its immediate predecessors, this game is set in an open world and follows a protagonist who becomes embroiled in the criminal world. The action takes place in the fictional location of San Andreas, with cities based on Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas all present in the single-player campaign.

Taking inspiration from real-world events of the 1980s and 1990s, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" tackled themes such as drug abuse, gang violence, racism, and corruption and was roundly praised for its mature story. Often ranked among the best games of the series, it evolved the gameplay and had a more sophisticated, larger open world that just begs to be explored. Meanwhile, the voice acting and soundtrack were a huge step up from what had come before.

With the next "Grand Theft Auto" game still some ways off, despite a number of recent leaks, going back to play one of the classics from the series is a great way to pass the time. Both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 versions of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" are playable on Xbox Series X|S and can be downloaded from the Xbox Store or played via their discs.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

To coincide with the release of the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, Ubisoft began to shift away from its colorful family-friendly games to more adult-oriented realistic experiences. A good example of this was its use of the "Tom Clancy" series, which introduced gamers to "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell" in 2002. The game sees gamers assume the role of Sam Fisher, an NSA agent who performs black ops on behalf of the U.S. government.

As a new recruit to the secretive Third Echelon project, Fisher investigates a case of missing CIA operatives linked with the Eastern European country of Georgia. The focus on quietly dispatching enemies and remaining unseen created a huge amount of suspense. Meanwhile, the heavy emphasis on using lighting to hide was a unique gameplay element that hadn't really been explored before and took concepts in games such as "Metal Gear Solid" to new levels.

While other "Tom Clancy" series, such as "Rainbow Six" and "Ghost Recon," are still relevant today, the same cannot be said of Sam Fisher and "Splinter Cell." The stealth series has all but disappeared. As fans eagerly await a potential remake, going back to try out the original is something that might remind you of just how great this series is and how fun stealth games can be when done right. "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell" can be bought and played from disc or directly from the Microsoft Store.


The "SSX" franchise is widely considered to be the best snowboarding series, with "SSX 3" possibly being the greatest among them. Coming at a time when extreme sports were all the rage, with games such as "Tony Hawks" and "Jet Set Radio" proving to be big hits with gamers. Like many of them, it doesn't put the emphasis on providing a realistic experience but instead chooses to be as fun as possible, eschewing realism in exchange for rewarding and enjoyable gameplay.

Developed by EA, the 2003 game is set largely on a fictional mountain range as players compete in a prestigious tournament known as the SSX Championship. By completing objectives, such as races and trick competitions, it is possible to level up characters and earn new skills or cosmetic items. Of course, there's also a multiplayer option to allow people to face off against their friends. It quickly established itself, with critics particularly impressed with the large open world, the rip-roaring soundtrack, and the way that it manages to capture the spirit of snowboarding.

As the last great "SSX" game, fans of snowboarding and extreme sports will want to give it a try if they never got the chance to play it when it originally launched. Gamers who were lucky enough to experience it 20 years ago will be flooded with nostalgia, especially considering the poor quality of the later "SSX" games. Those who want to play "SSX 3" on Xbox Series X|S can do so by buying it digitally from the Xbox Store.

Shenmue II

Sega's "Shenmue" was a hugely ambitious game at the time of its release in 1999. It hit store shelves with much anticipation following a protracted development and an estimated budget of $70 million, making it the most expensive game ever made up until that point. Even with impressive sales figures, it failed to recoup its costs, although that didn't stop Sega from releasing a sequel — after all, much of the groundwork for the second game had already been laid and paid for during the development of "Shenmue."

Like its predecessor, "Shenmue II" follows the story of Ryo Hazuki as he attempts to bring the person responsible for killing his father to justice. However, this time around, the action switches to Hong Kong in the Kowloon region. It also contains many of the gameplay elements that made the first game so innovative, such as an open world to explore and quick time events. "Shenmue II" subtlety improved on many of them as well, such as making the combat more reminiscent of the "Virtua Fighter" series.

While neither the original Xbox versions of "Shenmue" nor the sequel are available to play on the Xbox Series X|S via backward compatibility, Sega did release ports of both titles for the Xbox One that work on the newer console. These include improved graphics and updated control options, although the gameplay and other elements are essentially exactly as they were.

Ninja Gaiden Black

The "Ninja Gaiden" series has been around since the early days of the NES and Game Boy. The first entry in the franchise arrived in 1988 and there have now been more than a dozen different releases, with the latest proper "Ninja Gaiden" game coming in 2012 in the form of "Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge." However, for many fans of the series, "Ninja Gaiden Black" stands out as the best among a well-received field.

Itself an enhanced version of the initial 2004 game, "Ninja Gaiden Black" contains numerous gameplay improvements, new enemies and levels, and a whole host of fresh content for players to unlock. It even included a mission mode and new difficulty levels, such as the easier Ninja Dog option and the ultra-challenging Ninja Master level. Containing all of the incredibly satisfying gameplay from the earlier title on top of the stylish visuals, "Ninja Gaiden Black" is undoubtedly among the very best hack-and-slash games to release in the modern era.

The original Xbox version of "Ninja Gaiden Black" is available across all current Microsoft platforms and can be bought from the Xbox Store directly or played from the disc. Even better, though, is the fact that the game gets some notable improvements. These include upscaling the resolution to 4K and ensuring it runs at a smooth 60 frames per second consistently. That means that even those who may have played the game in its original form might want to go back and see just how great it looks with the extra horsepower of the Xbox Series X|S.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Widely considered to be one of the best "Star Wars" games ever made, "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" broke the mold when it launched on PC and Xbox in 2003. Developed by BioWare, it is an RPG set thousands of years before the events of the "Star Wars" movies at a time when the Jedi and Sith are involved in an all-out war across the entire galaxy. Players are thrust into the conflict, taking charge of an amnesiac Jedi as he travels across various worlds in an attempt to put a stop to Darth Malak's efforts to defeat the Galactic Republic.

The gameplay revolves around turn-based combat, giving players the opportunity to plan out attacks and strategically think about what they want to do as the action is paused during each round. With so many Force talents to choose from, as well as additional weapons and abilities, "Knights of the Old Republic" proved to be a deep game that can't just be skipped through. Player action also influenced how the protagonist aligned, with certain choices pushing them either towards the light or dark side of the Force and having an effect on later events.

The reception to the game was incredibly positive and is occasionally cited as one of the best games ever made. Its separation from the rest of the franchise gave the in-game world a sense of the unknown, making it the perfect place to explore. Along with its sequel, "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II — The Sith Lords," it is available via the Xbox Store and original disc, with this being the only way to enjoy the game on Xbox as the upcoming remake of the game will be exclusive to PlayStation at launch with no indication of when an Xbox version will arrive.

Soulcalibur II

Fighting games have been one of the most popular types of games since the very beginning of the industry. The "Soulcalibur" series might not be as popular as rivals like "Mortal Kombat" and "Street Fighter," but it does hold a special place in the hearts of many fans of the genre. That's because the franchise puts a heavy emphasis on fighting with weapons rather than hand-to-hand as is common in most other fighting games. It has also developed something of a reputation for crossovers, featuring characters such as Yoda and Darth Vader in "Soul Calibur IV" and Geralt from "The Witcher" in "Soulcalibur VI."

The third game in the series, "Soulcalibur II" once again took place in the late 16th century in a fictional version of Europe. With the evil Soul Edge sword destroyed, the various characters who make up the roster battle to collect the remaining fragments to either use for their own glory or to destroy the blade once and for all. Winning universal acclaim from critics, it was one of the most advanced fighting games of its time and had fast-paced gameplay that was unmatched in the genre. With its highly fun and balanced gameplay, it is a fighter that is still being used in tournaments to this day.

The version of the game available to play on Xbox Series X|S is "Soulcalibur II HD Online," an Xbox 360 port of the original game with improved graphics and support for online multiplayer. The game was seemingly delisted from the Xbox Store in 2022 but is still available to play for those who have previously downloaded it or can buy a digital voucher to redeem it from the store.

Halo 2

While "Halo: CE" laid the groundwork for what was to come from the "Halo" series, it was the second game that really saw the franchise explode in popularity. It became the best-selling title on the Xbox console and the biggest opening-day entertainment release ever, bringing in over $125 million in the first 24 hours after it launched. As was the case in its predecessor, players take on the role of Master Chief as he continues his battle against the Covenant and the Flood, although this time he is joined by the Arbiter, an Elite who eventually rebels against the Covenant.

Highly anticipated following the success of the first game in the series, "Halo 2" became an instant hit. It was lauded for its suite of new enemies, vehicles, weapons, and levels, although the campaign did receive some criticism for its cliffhanger ending. In terms of its multiplayer component, "Halo 2" set a new standard for console games, making elements such as matchmaking and online lobbies a must-have. It is one of the few genre-defining games of its generation and holds up well to this day.

Although the original "Halo 2" from the Xbox is not directly playable on Xbox Series X|S, players can play it still as it is included as part of "Halo: The Master Chief Collection." This 2014 release, which is available digitally and via physical copies, contains the first four "Halo" games along with certain graphical and performance enhancements to make them look and run better than ever before — the perfect way to go back and enjoy this stellar first-person shooter.