After ten years on the market, on 20 April Microsoft announced that the Xbox 360 is to be discontinued – marking an end to the tale of Microsoft's greatest gaming success, and what has to be considered one of the best consoles ever made.
Initially released in November 2005, the console helped define online play through the evolution of Xbox Live and helped create a boom period for indie titles through promotional events like the Summer of Arcade.
To celebrate the lifetime of the Xbox 360, IBTimes UK has put together a list of the ten games that we believe best defined Microsoft's market-conquering device. There were some heated arguments, and in the end the list proved very difficult to pin down, but here are our picks in order of their release
2007 was a vintage year for gaming, and a particularly great one for first-person shooters. Halo 3 brought blockbuster thrills, Call of Duty 4 saw the start of an already popular series' meteoric rise and Valve released the sublime Portal and Half Life 2: Episode 2 through The Orange Box.
Each of those differs greatly from the others, as did Irrational Games' BioShock. Set in an underwater city built as a utopia but ruined by greed and corruption, it was unlike anything that came before it. It was smart too, commenting on player agency and choice, and featured numerous memorable locations and encounters, particularly with the mammoth Big Daddies.
As much as we enjoyed Halo 5: Guardians, Microsoft's marquee first-person shooter series has certainly been diluted in the intervening years since its arguable high point of Halo 3. Anticipation for the first Halo on this new hardware and the conclusion of Bungie's trilogy was at fever pitch throughout 2007, and the final product delivered in spades.
Where the 2001 original provided a classic single-player campaign and its 2004 sequel gave fans classic online multiplayer through the new Xbox Live service, Halo 3 provided the best of both worlds in a Halo that may have been bettered before, but hasn't been since.
With a rousing, epic story playable in four-player co-op throughout and a competitive multiplayer side that grew through maps and modes created by players in the new Forge mode, Bungie's classic is a textbook example of the complete package.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
This list isn't entirely comprised of shooters, we promise, but there's no denying the impact of these games. With Modern Warfare, Infinity Ward arguably had the biggest impact of all – bringing their Second World War series into contemporary times and in turn creating the template for a yearly franchise that has since topped 250 million sales.
Many have tired of the series over the intervening years, but Modern Warfare was a fine game that told a decent story and made its mark with a series of incredible moments that made particular use of the first-person perspective. It's the multiplayer that had the longest legacy however, popularising weapon load-outs and levelling systems in competitive online play.
Bioware's Mass Effect series was one of the finest new IPs of the 360/PS3 era, and its first game was a major exclusive for the Xbox 360. Securing five years of exclusivity (and a year for Mass Effect 2) was one of Microsoft's biggest triumphs, and resulted in the sci-fi epic becoming synonymous with the 360.
The original, sprawling trilogy told an epic, galaxy-wide story focused on protagonist Commander Shepherd, who the player created and shaped through decisions that altered the player's relationships with various characters and influenced the wider world.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
The influence of the 360's Xbox Live Arcade cannot be overstated, bringing the indie scene into the mainstream and game development a little closer to the masses. In 2005 Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved helped set the template, but it wasn't until 2008 and the first Summer of Arcade promotional event that we got true classics like its sequel.
Not restrained by its meagre budget, the game won over audiences with exhilarating twin-stick shooter gameplay coupled with stark visuals and a pulsating soundtrack. It was tough and knew it too, providing players with constant leaderboards and the temptation to have "just one more go".
Jonathan Blow's Braid was released just one week after Geometry Wars, and showcased a different side to indie gaming. Where Retro Evolved offered arcade thrills, Braid offered smart, creative and genre-deconstructing design in a platformer built around time-manipulating mechanics.
Arguably the quintessential example of a modern indie game that takes one great idea and uses it as a foundation for a fantastic game. Braid also offered an almighty, chilling twist at its conclusion.
Gears of War 2
As the Xbox 360 launched, Microsoft only really had two major exclusive IPs with mass appeal – Halo and Project Gotham Racing. It needed more. Enter Epic Games and Gears of War, a third-person shooter boasting a unique sci-fi tone not worried about space battles and lasers, and the finest cover-shooting mechanics ever made. The original was a success in 2006, but its sequel proved Epic had created something special.
Red Dead Redemption
There's a case to be made for Red Dead Redemption being Rockstar Games' finest hour, and possibly the greatest game of the 360 era. Whether you agree with those platitudes or not, few discredit what Rockstar achieved with their Western shooter.
A masterclass in less is more, the hustle and bustle of GTA cities is replaced with arid expanses between mementos of the Old West fated to be steamrolled by civilised society. The game's hero, John Marston, is a multi-faceted character unlike any in the GTA series, and a perfect example of how different the two series are.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Bethesda's Oblivion provided one of gaming's great wow moments when its catacomb-set intro gave way to the beautiful open world outside, but Skyrim took the series and its developer to new heights of popularity and success.
Set in the wintry region of Tamriel, the game is an evolution of the series rather than a revolution, but it has dragons and that's all that really matters. Enormous sales and a lasting charm keeps Skyrim alive and well today, and saw subsequent success for Bethesda's next major game - Fallout 4.
Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Minecraft was already a PC phenomenon when it arrived on consoles for the first time, but its 360 release opened the doors for it becoming a worldwide cultural phenomenon. It may have been scaled back slightly over its more open PC counterpart, but that didn't stop Minecraft becoming an enormous success on consoles, leading to eventual releases on PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U.