Microsoft dropped a surprise unveiling at the end of this year's E3 press conference, announcing plans to expand its existing backward compatibility program for the Xbox One. While select Xbox 360 titles have been playable on the console for some time, support will soon be arriving for original Xbox titles.
With a rollout expected for this fall, Microsoft has already begun to confirm the games set to support the feature at launch. We decided to look back at our favorite games of the generation, to choose our top candidates for backward compatibility.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was one of the earliest releases from now-renowned developer Bioware and generally regarded as one of the best Star Wars titles to date. Set thousands of years before the main line of movies, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic put players in control of Jedi Knight thrown into the galaxy's conflicts.
During the events that follow, you'll be forced to make tough decisions, with an alignment to either side of the force will be determined by your judgment. With a diverse set of unique locations, characters exclusive to the game and deep interwoven story, the RPG still provides one of the deepest Star Wars video game experiences on the market.
Project Gotham Racing
While the Forza series currently sits among the Xbox One's most prolific releases, Project Gotham Racing (PGR) was previously the top-dog of racing on Microsoft's gaming platform. Launched alongside the original Xbox back in 2001, the game came behind Halo: Combat Evolved as one of the best-selling exclusives on the console.
Taking influence from Metropolis Street Racer, a sleek racing title for the Sega Dreamcast, PGR's mechanics reward both speed and style. Unlike a traditional racer where players sprint from point A to point B, in PGR the way you approach the destination is just as crucial. PGR was also praised for its complexity at the time, with outstanding detail on car models and the racing locations.
It should be noted that licensing racing games for backward compatibility can sometimes prove difficult, however, due to the extensive integrated music libraries.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
With talk of a new Splinter Cell in the works, it's hard to not look back on Chaos Theory – an iconic classic which solidified the series's authority in the stealth genre. The game, which perfected various mechanics now commonplace in today's biggest triple-A titles, undoubtedly stood out with wide acclaim.
Assuming the role of covert-ops agent Sam Fisher, players infiltrate enemy territory to complete various objectives. While the game serves up an effective story and world, the focus of Chaos Theory lies solely with gameplay – making for a pure, genre-defining experience.
Although its online multiplayer offerings are no longer accessible, the single-player element of Chaos Theory alone is worth a revisit. As one of the games that shaped the third-person stealth genre today, the game will be a must-play if offered via backward compatibility.
Of all the games available on the original Xbox, Halo is one of the franchises that undeniably made the platform what it is today. As one of the few household names almost as iconic as the console itself, Halo's timeless gameplay reinvented both single-player and competitive online multiplayer on the console.
After the strong debut of Halo: Combat Evolved for the console's launch, Halo 2 had some big shoes to fill. Continuing the adventures of the Master Chief, Halo 2 expands its narrative to even further reaches of the galaxy. Revisiting the conflict between the UNSC, Covenant, and Flood, the game covers all the bases for a great Halo adventure.
Delivering improvements to the plot, an expansion on core gameplay and a significant graphical leap, Halo 2 builds the strengths of its predecessor in almost every way. Most notably the game also debuted online arena multiplayer to the Halo franchise and still remains a favorite for competitive players.
While the Shenmue franchise is commonly associated with the Dreamcast, original Xbox owners also had an opportunity to explore Hong Kong via an enhanced port in 2002. Following its debut in Japan, Microsoft led the game's expansion into the west, with an Xbox-exclusive debut in North America.
Following teenage martial arts expert "Ryo Hazuki," Shenmue tells a tale of revenge, in search of his father's killer. Thrown in a stylized representation of 1980s Hong Kong filled with criminal gangs, players will explore the world, search for clues and uncover the mystery of behind the death of Ryo's father. Shenmue was also praised for its combat at launch, with an advanced fighting system influenced by Sega's own Virtua Fighter series.
With a sequel in the works for PlayStation 4 and PC, its revival on the Xbox platform should be an appealing addition after the series's 16-year hiatus. Just don't bother trying to hunt down a physical copy on the cheap.
MechAssault was one of the numerous Xbox games published under "BattleTech" – a military sci-fi franchise with roots across tabletop games, novels, video games and more. Allowing players to pilot towering walking machines known as "BattleMechs," gameplay focuses on third-person combat harnessing these robotic beasts.
With the "Word of Blake" executing an attack on the planet Helios, players must fight back and repel enemy forces. With various mechs to be unlocked and used across the campaign, players must adapt to the abilities at their disposal.
Where MechAssault truly excelled was its online functionality, pioneering Xbox Live's offerings with dedicated competitive multiplayer. Giving players access to 21 mechs across 14 bespoke maps, eight players can battle it out in the game's fully-destructible arenas.
Jet Set Radio Future
Although the first Jet Set Radio made a high-definition come back via Xbox Live Arcade, its successor, Jet Set Radio Future was left behind on the original Xbox.
Like the first game, players control a nefarious inline skater gang known as the "GGs," who aim to leave their mark across Tokyo. Bringing back the same core mechanics, players are challenged to skate around Tokyo, avoid cops and spray graffiti across the world. Rewards are also provided for style, with increased speed and agility when utilizing the surrounding world.
Although the game failed to capture the same sales as the original, Jet Set Radio Future is another classic Xbox exclusive. With a funky design, premise and accompanying music, there's no title quite as stylish on the console.
Silent Hill 2
Considered by many as the best in the series, Silent Hill 2 shows survival horror in its prime. Praised by critics for its unique and ingenious delivery of the genre, the game brings out a rollercoaster of emotions unrivaled by its competition.
Instead of traditional horror games that rely heavily on jump scares and excessive gore, Silent Hill pushes fear through psychologically-driven events. Exploiting the player's mind with events outside of everyday horror tropes, the game manages to portray tension through methods uncommon for the medium at the time. While competing franchises have since inherited similar mechanics, few capture the same emotionally-driven narrative as Silent Hill 2.
The future of the Fable franchise may look bleak, but back in 2004, it was among the flagship offerings of the Xbox platform. What started off as an ambitious role-playing game soon expanded numerous sequels and to this day it still remains closely associated with Microsoft's gaming efforts.
At launch, the first Fable stood out for the immersive traits of its world, allowing players to live complex and deep lives within a fantasy medieval setting. All decisions you made would affect your journey as a player, with help of the franchise's defining feature – a good and evil alignment system. With a visual representation of your actions, players could clearly forge their own personas in the Fable universe. Although Fable ultimately overpromised on its offerings, its depth and diversity were still praised back in the day.
Manhunt was a game almost defined by controversy, with widespread public outcry accompanying its launch. Following an escaped prisoner blackmailed into a killing spree, the unmatched level of violence eventually led to the game's ban in several countries. By today's standards, the title may not carry the same shock-factor but it still provides a well-crafted survival horror experience.
Manhunt kicks off with James Earl Cash, a prisoner on death row, waking up from a supposedly lethal injection. With your life in debt to a mysterious savior, you must follow his every command to protect your life. Although the dark premise isn't for the faint hearted, the game is an unmissable classic of the original Xbox era.
Did we miss a game that really should be on this top 10 list? Let us know what you think in the comments.