Best backwards-compatible games
The Xbox One has done something no console has ever done before: it gained the ability to play older games after a year of not being able to, without releasing new hardware. Until now, backwards compatibility was binary – consoles either came with it or they didn’t.
Thanks to the addition of backwards compatibility, the Xbox One’s catalog of games has grown 27% from 355 titles yesterday to 450, last I counted this morning.
For gamers who are used to a slow trickle of games, this torrent of titles can be overwhelming. If you’re short on time and just want the best of the best Xbox 360 games you can play on the Xbox One today, consider this list a lifejacket.
(Editor’s note: These games, like all backwards compatible titles, require you to already own a digital version of the game or own a physical disc that can be loaded into the Xbox One.)
1. Mass Effect
EA has said on numerous occasions that it has no plans on remastering the Mass Effect trilogy for Xbox One. It loves the system (it’s making a brand-new game called Mass Effect Andromeda for it, actually), but it just doesn’t see the need to HD-ify the original franchise for no good reason.
What EA has done instead, however, is approved the original Mass Effect for backwards compatibility on Xbox One, allowing you to relive the start to the space epic opera on a faster, smoother system.
2. Mirror’s Edge
Just thinking about Mirror’s Edge gives me goosebumps. If you’ve never played it, the first time in the weird dystopian world can be jarring, sickness-inducing even. The controls are simple: run. Run fast. Run hard. And above all else, don’t get caught.
Mirror’s Edge is worth revisiting because it’s one of the few times in the past seven years that a major publisher went out of its way to take a risk on a new franchise. Instead of releasing another year of the same titles, there was a game that made you stop – or in this case, slow down – and think.
3. BattleBlock Theater
The Behemoth, BattleBlock Theater’s developer, built the game on two key principles. They knew that a.) people liked having fun, and b.) people missed couch multiplayer. Combining those two ideas and tossing in a dash of mayhem, they created one of the most enjoyable downloadable games on the Xbox 360.
BattleBlock Theater is wacky, weird and totally worth replaying now that you’ve had a few years to forget how funny it is.
4. Beyond Good & Evil HD
OK, Beyond Good & Evil HD is kind of a copout, I admit. I’m basically suggesting to play the HD remastering of an original Xbox game. That’s going quite a ways back but, I can assure you, the trip down memory lane will be worth it.
Beyond Good & Evil was a game ahead of its time. It took ideas that the industry deemed too creepy (an anthropomorphic pig and a mass conspiracy plotline) and banded them together with a well thought-out protagonist. It’s pure magic.
5. Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned is a great pick-up for the Xbox One because not only is it one of the cheapest games in the bargain bin at this point, but if scary horror games are your bag, it’s one of the best, too.
It’s a detective game meets a horror-survival title, and it’s scary good despite its initial April 2006 release date and several years of sitting on the shelf.
6. Fable 2
While I’m not going to promise the world on this one *cough, cough* Peter Molyneux, what I will say is that Fable 2 was a surprisingly fun action-RPG that may not have had the deepest gameplay in the world, but had its shining moments that made it one of the standout titles on the Xbox 360.
Fable 2 stayed true to the roots of the franchise (a fun, self-aware overworld and simple, entertaining combat) and until Fable Legends comes out, the second entry in the franchise is the best way to stay entrenched in the world of balverines, demon doors and fart jokes.
7. Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex is the lovechild of Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted that mixes stealth, exploration and tremendous voice acting in equal spades to produce a dangerously good Xbox Live Arcade romp that easily could’ve passed for an ephemeral full release.
8. Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy is intentionally frustrating in the best way possible. It wants you to die, and die often, but still remain committed to saving your love interest who happens to be a bandage.
Playing it again on Xbox One you’ll appreciate the clever level and markedly retro design. It’s new meets old in gameplay and visuals that will only deepen your appreciation for the addition of backwards compatibility.
9. South Park: The Stick of Truth
Another entry in the "it’s so good, but so cheap" pile, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a 2014 role-playing game made by the show’s creators that had no problem making everyone feel awkward while showing us a great a time.
It’s only about nine hours long but, considering that’s about how long it takes to install a game on the Xbox One (I’m kidding), you should have more than enough time to go give Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s hilarious and disgusting adventure one more go.
10. Viva Piñata
Before you bounce along to our best games on Xbox One list, check out Viva Piñata. One of the last games to be made by Rare, Viva Piñata will tug at your heartstrings as you build a farm of cuddly, lovable, candy-themed animals only to see them get torn apart by slightly larger cuddly, lovable, candy-themed animals.
Why is it worth the space on your hard drive? In a world of fast and frantic first-person shooters and annual sports releases, sometimes it’s just nice to spend some time zenning out in a literal candy land.