Ever since its release in 2005, the Xbox 360 has been the go-to console for multiplayer gaming. Its success as an online gaming platform can be largely attributed to Xbox Live and its lively community. Although the community has a bad reputation due to the behavior of some of its users, it remains the most popular online platform in existence, surpassing both Steam and PSN by a large margin. That isn’t to say that its rivals won’t some day catch up with Microsoft’s offering, of course.
Let’s take a look at the latest titles driving the Xbox Live’s continued popularity.
Forza Horizon is the latest entry in the Forza Motorsport franchise, and one that attempts to make the game far more accessible than any of its predecessors. Set in a fictitious racing festival called the Horizon, in Colorado, the game offers large, open-world environments in which players can race a wide variety of cars, all of which enjoy realistic physics and high-definition graphics.
The game's multiplayer component is the strongest in the series, to date. Players can fully customize their rides with decals of their own design, and partake in a highly enjoyable "Cat and Mouse" multiplayer chase mode.
Battlefield 3 is the latest edition of the Battlefield series. Set in the modern day, the game offers urban combat unlike any other game currently available on the market.
The game offers vehicle combat, highly destructible environments, and cooperative gameplay that encourages players to work as a team while on the offense, or defense.
Though the game is primarily multiplayer-focused, it also offers a decent single-player campaign that's not unlike what you'd expect out of a Call of Duty game.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Black Ops 2 is the continuation of the first Black Ops, and it improves upon the game in several ways. Namely, the addition of Scorestreaks as a replacement of Killstreaks makes it so that players can play support roles without worrying about how many people they kill on each round, allowing players to focus more on completing objectives and supporting their team.
Beyond that, the game sees a return of the much loved Zombies mode, which allows players to engage cooperatively in a series of missions where they have to face off against a horde of zombies while completing a variety of objectives located throughout the map.
It goes without saying that Black Ops 2 is among one of the most competitive games of all time, and Call of Duty has established itself as the premier competitive online game as a result of how well designed Black Ops 2 happens to be.
Super Street Fighter IV
As if beating the hell out of your opponents in the original “Street Fighter IV” wasn’t enough, Capcom decided to release a charged up “Super” version of the game that contains the inclusion of ten new characters in addition to the original 25. Deemed “too large” for a DLC, the title also includes additional online modes like Team Battle which supports up to 8 players, a replay channel, and an Endless Battle mode for a rotating group of 8 players to go up against each other.
Originally panned by early critics for seeming like nothing more than a quick cash grab, Capcom certainly proved them wrong with the game’s success both online and in console arcades.
Minecraft may have began as a single player game, but it's seen numerous updates over the years, including the addition of a multiplayer mode that's been improved upon to the point where it's become the single most popular multiplayer game on the Xbox 360, with even more players than popular first person shooters.
Its popularity can be attributed to the fact that it plays like a sort of multiplayer game of Lego, in which players can craft castles and kingdoms to their hearts content, or explore the procedurally generated wilderness for adventures that are unlike anything they've ever encountered.
The game's content makes it perfectly suitable for family entertainment, much more so than any other title on this list.
Left 4 Dead 2
Though PC gamers would argue that it’s best played on its native platform due to the faster release of patches and free DLC content, Left 4 Dead 2 is nothing less than a blast to play on the Xbox 360. Playing the game with a mouse and keyboard might be fun for many, but playing it in front of a large TV with a home surround system offers a whole different experience that’s no less compelling.
Teaming up with three other individuals (who may be controlled by somewhat lacklustre AI if a player isn’t around to fill the spot), the four main characters have only each other to trust as they go up against hordes of zombies in a bid to survive the apocalypse.
It’s tactical teamwork and cooperative gameplay at its finest, especially on the game’s harder difficulty levels.
NBA 2K13/Madden 13/FIFA 13
These three series each cater to their respective sports: soccer, American football, and basketball. They're the best of what they have to offer, with few other games coming close what they have to offer in terms of competitive multiplayer gameplay.
Developed by EA Sports, FIFA 13 is the premier soccer title, and one that contains almost every international league within its roster. Every player in the world is meticulously remade for the game.
Likewise, Madden series is updated each and every year with a new roster that accurately reflects the sport as it exists in the real world. The game also sees the inclusion of better AI and graphics to make it as realistic as it can possibly get. With any luck, the next-gen versions of the series will be indistinguishable from the real thing.
The NBA 2K series by 2K Games may not be an EA Sports title, but that doesn't make them any less popular—or good, compared to their EA counterparts. The game is the best in class for basketball games.
Halo 4 offers much in the way of competitive multiplayer battles thanks to the newly implemented War Games mode, which is made up of at least a dozen different playlists for players to experience. There's regular deathmatch, capture the flag, and variants thereof, as well as mode spectacular modes like SWAT—which is a one-hit kill Counter-Strike-inspired mode, and Grifball.
In addition to its competitive multiplayer modes, Halo 4 also offers a host of multiplayer co-op maps that serve as an extension of the game's single-player campaign, set six months after the events of the game. Titled Spartan Ops, the mode is playable cooperatively by up to four players.
Gears of War 3
Gears of War 3 is the third chapter in the original Gears trilogy, though it's not final chapter in the Gears of War franchise—which is continued through Gears of War: Judgment, the start of a new trilogy of prequels.
Gears of War 3 offers one of the best cooperative experiences on the Xbox 360 and also one of the most visceral competitive multiplayer modes, as players go up against each other in team-vs-team battles and in Horde mode, where players face off against increasingly difficult tides of enemies.
Like the previous titles in the trilogy, Gears allows players to take on the roles of Marcus and Dominic, the two brothers in arms, through the game's single-player co-op campaign.
Red Dead Redemption
I'd be doing John Marston a great disservice by calling “Red Dead Redemption” a “Grand Theft Auto” game set in the Wild West. It's a lot more than that. It's a gripping tale of a former outlaw seeking redemption of his past crimes by doing the government's bidding to save his family. Well, I suppose that's not too different from Niko Bellic wanting to take revenge on the man who murdered his squad in the Balkan War. Needless to say, Rockstar tells a good story and “Redemption” is no exception.
Much of the game consists of walking around like a cowboy who's armed to the teeth and showing the outlaws who's boss around these parts. You take on the role of sheriff's deputy, revolutionary, and government marshall as you make your way across the blistering sands of New Austin to the unstable edge of Mexico that stands at the brink of war with itself.
And that’s just the single player game.
“Red Dead Redemption” in multiplayer feels like a whole different experience thanks to the inclusion of other players and “free roam” mode. Both a cooperative and competitive experience, players can form into posses to take out computer-controlled hideouts together or go up against rival human gangs for massive shootouts with up to 16 players. Players who level up and complete challenges can unlock faster steeds, better guns, player titles and a wide variety of skins. It’s interesting to note that the new Undead Nightmare content pack also adds a couple of new modes that pit players against hordes of zombies. Not bad for a DLC.