This year marks the 20th anniversary of Xbox, a brand that has a vast history of innovation in the game industry. Through the last two decades, Microsoft introduced countless consoles and games that shaped Xbox’s reputation as a successful ecosystem. That’s why we’re going to list the 5 best years in Xbox history and how they represented a milestone to the brand. 

2001, The Beginning Of Xbox 

Amid an arduous industry dominated by big players, namely Sony, Sega and Nintendo, a team of developers at Microsoft took the initiative to introduce a new competitor onto the market. Despite the initial dissension within the company, the first Xbox console was successfully made available on November 15, 2001. As a demonstration of Xbox’s thriving start, the console sold approximately 1 million units in just 3 weeks.  

At that same day, Microsoft published the game that would become the greatest Xbox system-seller ever. In mutual collaboration with the then unknown Bungie, Halo: Combat Evolved was released to become a milestone in the industry. Later that year, the game was crowned with numerous awards. Among them: Game Of The Year, Best Shooting Game and Best Xbox Game just to name a few. 

It should be noted that besides Halo, Xbox’s launch lineup included Project Gotham Racing and Dead Or Alive 3. Both of them accomplished to sell over 1 million units globally.

Some other games launched for Xbox in 2001 includes:

  • Fuzion Frenzy
  • Max Payne
  • Madden NFL 2002
  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2x
  • Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams
  • Blood Wake

2004, The Rise Of Xbox 

2001 may have been a good start for Xbox, but 2004 consolidated the console as a strong competitor in the market. To kick-off that year strikingly, Team Ninja released the highly rated Ninja Gaiden, on March 2, as an Xbox exclusive. The acclaimed hack and slash was approved not only by the critics, but also by the public. A clear example of that is the number of 360,000 copies sold in the first month of release. Some of the awards received includes Best Action/Adventure Game, Xbox Game Of The Year and Best Xbox Action Game.  

Subsequently, on September 14, the British team Lionhed Studios introduced us the new IP Fable, set in the fanciful Albion Kingdom. Fable differs from most RPGs because of its Alignment System, which basically makes you choose between good and evil. If you save innocent villagers or kill monsters, you get good points. Whereas break the law or kill innocents, gets you evil points. Besides the interactions with NPCs, the alignment also influences on your character’s appearance. The RPG sold 600,000 units in the first month and was particularly praised for its combat system and solid plot.  

And last but not least, on November 14, we had the long awaited Halo 2. To keep up with the release, massive crowds gathered across the country. Before it was even released, Halo 2 was considered a cultural phenomenon, being highlighted on TV Shows in the US. A clear example of that success are the impressive 1.5 million pre-ordered copies worldwide.

Halo 2 was an instant runaway success on release. On day one, the game quickly became Xbox’s fastest selling game with an astonishing number of 2.4 million units sold. A few years later, this number would reach the mark of 8.4 million units.  

Crowds gathered across the United States to keep up with Halo 2 midnight release in 2004.

2007, The Golden Age Of Gaming

Besides being one of the best years in Xbox history, 2007 was arguably one of greatest years in gaming. Some even say it was the peak of a golden age.

Firstly, Forza Motorsport 2 was released on May 29 as a sequence to the 2005 game. The racing game differs from the first one with a considerable physics improvement along with the addition of new vehicles. To be more precise, Forza Motorsport 2 features 349 cars divided into 4 race classes. Apart from the traditional career mode, which focus on simulation, the game also includes an arcade mode.

2007 was also starred by the emergence of new franchises, some of which are: Assassin’s Creed, Skate, Crysis, The Witcher, Bioshock and Mass Effect. The latter was initially released as an Xbox 360 exclusive following a deal between Bioware and Microsoft.

Later that year, Halo 3 rapidly became the biggest entertainment launch in history. The third game of the franchise grossed roughly $300 million dollars in the first week. To this date, the game has sold more than 14 million units worldwide. 

The FPS game was also a key factor to the success of Xbox 360. According to Microsoft, the sales of Xbox 360 more than doubled compared with the weekly average before Halo 3. In 2007, the console hit the mark of 7.3 million units sold worldwide. Around 4.3 million of those were sold in the holiday season along with Black Friday and Thanksgiving week. 

Besides the above-mentioned games, we also had: 

  • Call Of Duty 4 
  • Lost Planet: Extreme Condition 
  • Guitar Hero III 
  • Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 

Surely, that was a great time to be alive.  

Mass Effect was originally released as an Xbox 360 exclusive.

2011, Xbox 360 At Its Prime

Now, we’ll dive into a year that was full of big blockbuster games as well. Along with the release of traditional games, Microsoft was also focusing on Kinect. The motion sensing device had just been released and needed more games to remain entertaining. For that reason, Microsoft adressed the development of specific games for Kinect. Among them: Dance Central 2, Disneyland Adventures, Kinect Sports and more.

On September 20, Gears Of War 3 came out two years after its predecessor. Following the climax of the Locust War, Gears 3 finally puts an end to the trilogy. The game was well received by the public and it is unsurprisingly often regarded as the best of the saga. After the release, Epic Games and Cliff Bleszinski departed from the franchise to become independent and work on new projects. Later on, Microsoft founded Zipline Studios, which would eventually turn into The Coalition to fill the gap left by Epic.

In the subsequent month, a handful of long-awaited games finally became a reality. We saw the release of Forza Motosport 4, Battlefield 3, Batman Arkham City and Rage just to name a few.  

Similarly to Epic Games, Bungie also left Halo with the objective of becoming independent and develop new games, like Destiny. To take the franchise on, 343 Industries was created to solely focus on Halo projects. In 2011, the newly formed studios released Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, their first work in charge of the saga. Halo CEA is a remake of the 2001 game and it was announced alongside Halo 4 at E3 2011.

Lastly, In 2011, Xbox 360 outperformed Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii and became the best-selling console in the world. In just 12 months, over 12 million Xbox consoles were shipped worldwide.

Gears Of War 3 marks the end of the original trilogy and the departure of Epic Games from the franchise.

2015, The Comeback

Back in 2015, Xbox One was having a hard time caused by its troubled release in 2013. Sales weren’t going well, Kinect was on the ropes and Xbox desperately needed a good year to bounce back. One of the reasons 2015 is included in this list is the importance it had for the Xbox One. In addition to that, a spectacular lineup, which was regarded by Microsoft as the “Greatest Games Lineup In Xbox History”. 

Starting off with the unique Metroid Vania that captivated everyone’s attention with its breathtaking visuals. Ori And The Blind Forest is the very first game developed by the Austrian team Moon Studios, founded in 2010. The plataformer was well received by the public and even received a sequel in early 2020.  

Succeeding a heart-stopping E3 showcase, Microsoft consecutively launched several first party games. Gears Ultimate Edition landed on August followed by Forza Motorsport 6 in September.

A month later, the great star of Xbox in 2015 was released: Halo 5: Guardians. Although it wasn’t acclaimed neither by the public or the critics, Halo 5 undoubtedly succeed when it comes to sales. The game officially became the fastest-selling game in the saga with $400,00 million in sales (hardware included). Within 3 months of release, 5 million units were sold.

While the campaign was heavily criticized, the multiplayer mode was praised. In general, Halo 5 features a dynamic gameplay coupled with action-packed PvP modes that make up for the single-player.

We cannot forget the addition of Backwards Compatibility to Xbox One consoles. The feature allowed players, for the first time in Xbox history, to play games from a previous console. It still stands, to this day, as one of the main reasons to own an Xbox.

Backwards Compatibility was long-requested feature added by Microsoft in 2015.

What Are Your Thoughts?

So that’s our list of the 5 best years in Xbox history. Do you disagree with the rank or consider any other year as one of the best? Let us know over on our Discord sever! Tune in to Generation Xbox for more Xbox content!

Read also:

Halo: Combat Evolved Review – The Genesis

Xbox Gamescom 2021 Showcase

How Can Xbox Make Halo Appeal To A Younger Audience?

Destiny 2: The Witch Queen Showcase – Recap

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