Xbox’s storied history of over two decades has seen many classic games and franchises fall by the wayside as tastes and the market have changed… here are some that we would absolutely love to see make a return.
It’s been over 20 years since Microsoft first launched the Xbox, so it’s little surprise that some of the games and franchises that were once big parts of the Xbox experience have been left to rot over the years. Among them, though, are some bona fide classics just begging to see a return to the gaming scene, so let’s talk about a few forgotten favourites which we hope aren’t forever lost to time… and maybe a few that absolutely are, but we refuse to let go.
Air combat games aren’t exactly common these days, which leaves Ace Combat, good as it may be, to easily claim full air supremacy within the genre’s top flight. But back in the day, Microsoft published a spectacular dogfighting title in the form of Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge from FASA Studio, the gaming branch of a tabletop gaming firm who helped bring other board and role-playing games like MechWarrior and Shadowrun to console and PC players. Crimson Skies is fondly remembered as a true cult classic of the original Xbox era and fans would surely love to see it return. The original is backwards compatible on modern Xbox consoles and still holds up well in terms of how it plays (it looks better than you might expect, too) so if you don’t mind the lack of achievements, give it a look to see what we’re missing by not having more games in this short-lived venture into video games for the high-flying board game.
While neither of the two Blinx games were necessarily great, it was always a franchise with enormous potential, with some key Sega and Sonic devs striving to give Xbox a mascot character akin to Mario or Crash at the time. The original was one of the first games to take full advantage of a console having a built-in hard drive, keeping a silent log of your gameplay and the world state to later allow you to rewind time to reverse certain actions or events. Despite this being an ingenious mechanic not possible on other consoles at the time, the game around it was just frustrating above all else, with limited uses of each of the time control powers turning some puzzles into grindy trial-and-error affairs. The sequel went super-weird, adding playable gun-toting pigs as a rival faction and with Blinx himself only appearing in a few cutscenes in favour of custom playable characters. Time-bending mechanics are always neat in games — things worked out pretty well for Braid — so even though developer Artoon no longer exists, we’d love to see another studio have a crack at making a game about a cat with a time vacuum cleaner work.
True Fantasy Live Online
This one died before it could even live, but oh, what could have been. True Fantasy Live Online was an MMORPG in development for the original Xbox at Level-5, who would go on to make classic PS2 JRPGs Dragon Quest VIII and Rogue Galaxy in a similar style, albeit as single-player experiences. This was supposed to be a killer app in helping Xbox break Japan, but between Level-5’s being somewhat new to online games and Microsoft’s lack of experience in dealing with Japanese developers, the MMO was cancelled after several delays despite apparently being fully playable, and Level-5 would never release a game on Xbox (unless you count QLOC’s remaster of Ni No Kuni last year). For many, this was a hugely anticipated release at the time, and its cancellation stung not only for players eager to try the game, but also in souring relations with a big Japanese dev when Microsoft needed them most if it was to get a foothold in Japan. Given that other big MMOs from around the same time and even before are still going, this could have been massive… and maybe it still could, but sadly, we’ll likely never know.
Project Gotham Racing
Microsoft has parked some great racing franchises over the years (pour one out for RalliSport Challenge), but this is the one that hurts the most. It’s not really MS at fault, though, with Activision acquiring PGR developer Bizarre Creations in 2007 only to shut it down four years later. Now, though, we could be in a position to see some magic happen, should the Activision Blizzard deal go ahead and the PGR brand comes home to Xbox. The Project Gotham Racing games served as spiritual successors to Dreamcast favourite Metropolis Street Racer, and were there at the launch of the first two Xbox consoles — think of them as a combination of the two Forza sub-series we have today, offering the same kind of focus on skill chains and fancy driving as Horizon, but on tight urban circuits set in some of the world’s most famous cities. As a kind of halfway house between Forza’s Motorsport and Horizon offerings, there’s absolutely room for PGR in today’s market, although who would develop it is another matter. MS would be unlikely to pull Turn 10 or Playground away from Forza to work on what is today a much weaker brand, but with the right team behind the wheel, a comeback could be amazing. Oh, and if we’re digging up Bizarre Creations, let’s get another Geometry Wars while we’re at it, please and thank you.
We’ve lumped these two together as they sort of fit into the same box in that you wouldn’t really consider them Xbox brands. But since Rare became a part of Xbox Game Studios, they very much are, even if Microsoft hasn’t done an awful lot with either. Collectathon 3D platformers have seen something of a resurgence in recent years, with the likes of Yooka-Laylee, Super Lucky’s Tale, and A Hat in Time all evoking one of yesteryear’s most popular game types, even if Nintendo still dominates this field with its own first-party output. But nobody is better poised than Microsoft to go toe-to-toe with the house of Mario, with the ability to turn two of its biggest weapons from back in the N64 era against it. Conker and Banjo have seen minimal Xbox action to date — a remake of potty-mouthed N64 favourite Conker’s Bad Fur Day for OG Xbox and a weird Hololens tech demo in Young Conker, and bizarre crafting spin-off Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts alongside the XBLA ports of Kazooie and Tooie — and it’s wild that these once-huge characters haven’t been used more. Heck, the most exciting thing for Banjo fans in years has been the duo making it into Smash Bros… talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
1 vs. 100
An interactive quiz show where Xbox 360 players could compete for real prizes, this playable take on the TV show of the same name was something of a sensation back in the day. Having scheduled live events where you could tune in and play along whether you were selected to be The One, one of the 100, or just as part of the audience was captivating, even if the concept was perhaps a little ahead of the technology. Now, though, we very much have the technology, and it was surprising that MS didn’t go back to the well with this in the early days of Xbox One when it was all about the device being an all-in-one multimedia hub rather than just a games console. Rumours have been swirling for a while about a possible comeback, and with or without the license tying it to the show, we’d love to see another large-scale interactive game show like this — it’s like a massive Jackbox session where you don’t have to deal with the hassle of setting everything up!
It’s a niche pick but one that we’ll stand by, and you can chuck in Quantum Redshift in the same category, especially now futuristic racers have lost their front runners as we’ve seen little to nothing from WipEout or F-Zero in years. Phantom Crash, though, was part of the pretty popular mech combat scene that Microsoft had a solid footing in thanks to big exclusives like MechWarrior and Steel Battalion (replete with one of the most ludicrous peripherals ever). It proved a more arcade-style, playful take on similar games — closer to Sega’s Virtual On than to Armored Core — but it zipped along brilliantly and was a rare example of the genre to have that sense of speed when so many other games emphasised the weight and power of these hulking machines. It’s not the kind of game that is likely to hit the mainstream (Guerrilla Cambridge’s flagship PS VR title Rigs was a superb take on a similar format but underperformed to the extent that the studio was shuttered the year after it released), so this is more a pipe dream than anything, sadly.
Lost Odyssey/Blue Dragon
This follows on from True Fantasy Live Online to a degree, with Microsoft once again in a position to get some big Japanese names on board for the long haul but seemingly squandering the chance, hence its ongoing struggle to make a real impact on the Japanese market. In the early Xbox 360 days, Mistwalker, formed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, would drop its first two JRPG projects exclusively on Xbox, albeit more due to Sakaguchi’s reported dislike for Sony’s PS3 architecture and then-boss Ken Kutaragi than a conscious decision to partner with Microsoft. Both Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon (which had Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama on board) were well received and remain fondly remembered, though MS seemingly didn’t do enough to turn this into a lasting partnership — Mistwalker took later Blue Dragon games as well as several others to Nintendo before pivoting into the mobile scene, where it operates to this day. How different things could have played out had Mistwalker stayed with Xbox… and how good would it be to return to either of these worlds with modern reimaginings?
What other defunct Xbox games or series would you love to see return? Let us know down below!