Ranking the Microsoft-Exclusive Franchises

With this week’s release of Titanfall on the Xbox One, Microsoft establishes a strong new franchise to pioneer the way for their next-gen software.  While PC-users will also have a chance to play Titanfall, Sony and Nintendo users will have to enviously look on while playing Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze or awaiting the release of the highly-anticipated Infamous: Second Son.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has scored a big exclusive.  Here’s a list of the best exclusives for the Microsoft consoles.  Franchises are ranked on numbers of titles, quality of titles, exclusivity of the franchise, and association with the Xbox brand.

 

10. Alan Wake

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The team at Remedy Entertainment have proven their proficiency at converting serial pulp drama into an interactive medium.  Starting with Max Payne, the company demonstrated a skill to build a central character and wrap them in a genre story that pays homage to obvious source material.  So it is no surprise when the studio transitioned from noir-graphic novels to suspense-horror fiction they nailed it.

Alan Wake is closest thing players will get to a Stephen King video game.  Set in the American Pacific-Northwest, Wake takes a vacation with his wife to try and find inspiration for his next novel.  When Wake’s wife is taken from him, he begins a journey down a path which would not seem out of place in his narrative catalogue.

Despite a cult following, the game did not yield a sequel.  However, Remedy still works exclusively at Microsoft and are currently developing the much anticipated exclusive Quantum Break.

 

9. Jade Empire

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Bioware has quite the pedigree when it comes to engaging RPGs filled with choices and relationships.  While the studio has stuck closely to familiar sci-fi/fantasy territory with the majority of its titles, Jade Empire is untreated ground to say the least, not only for Bioware, but many games in general.

While there are plenty of samurai tales and Japanese fantasy finding its way onto consoles, the Wuxia genre is relatively untouched.  Jade Empire is a rare exploration of this unique story-telling style, weaving a story about kung-fu masters and their journey to save an ancient China-like world.  The game boasts all of the choice-making and romancing one would expect from a Bioware title, but also delivers interesting action-RPG mechanics closer to it’s Mass Effect future than its Baldur’s Gate past.

Jade Empire was a commercial failure, despite its critical praise, and thus also failed to get a sequel green-lit.  But the game’s action-RPG mechanics hold up today and the game is a treat if you missed it all those years ago.

 

8. Dead Rising

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Dead Rising started as on Xbox 360 exclusive, then went to a multi-platform release with it’s sequel, then wandered back to Xbox exclusivity with the Xbox One title Dead Rising 3.

The series is a strange brew, a world of undead more akin to George A. Romero’s over-the-top gore, than the more serious treatment zombies get in The Walking Dead.  Everything is a weapon in Dead Rising, from TVs to cardboard boxes.  The game loads zombies onto the screen and lets you run around in abandoned cities, finding survivors and fighting monsters.

Produced by the infamous Keiji Inafune, the games seemed to have found a solid following.  They don’t boast a lot of depth or ingenious mechanics, but it has built a successful franchise on being good, dumb fun.

 

7. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

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During the height of the JRPG era, many people overlooked the fine work going on at Bioware, but the names that would go on to make the Mass Effect series, Casey Hudson and Drew Karpyshyn, were making one of the best RPGs of all time in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  For many, the Star Wars RPG series was the most enviable exclusive for Microsoft.

Using old-school D&D mechanics, similar to many of its early RPGs, Knights of the Old Republic is not only one of the best Xbox exclusives, but one of the best Star Wars games ever made.  The game tells the story of the Sith and Jedi many years before Lucas’ films begin, and paints an interesting lore to the Star Wars universe that drives the impressive pace of the story.

From Dantooine to the Kashyyyk, Knights of the Old Republic guides you through a tour of a galaxy far, far away in impeccable fashion.  Unfortunately, Bioware did not see fit to make a sequel, handing the reins off to Obsidian whose effort is divisive.  Nonetheless, Knight of the Old Republic is a game you should definitely play.

 

6. Dance Central

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There are plenty of people who roll their eyes whenever the Kinect gets mentioned, with good reason.  The motion-sensing device has led to a series of painful gimmick games that toy with the idea of motion control, but fail to provide a meaningful experience.  The exception to this is the enjoyable Dance Central series.

Developed by Harmonix, makers of Rock Band, Dance Central has earned itself a couple of sequels attempting perfect the motion controls and help players learn the game’s dance moves with an improved, “Break it Down” mode.  Much like Harmonix’s Rock Band series, the songs purchased would carry over from one game to the next.  The series has become a party-game favorite, and one of the few reasons to own a Kinect.

 

5. Forza Motorsport

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What is a console without a racing game?  Microsoft published the Forza series as an answer to the long running racing simulation PlayStation-exclusive Gran Turismo.

Since Forza Motorsport’s release in 2005, the series has been applauded for its simulation and mechanics.  Forza has replicated a large number of different cars in real-life production with applauded specificity and is known for its spectacle.  The series started with a strong critical reception, but the recent releases of Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport 5 failed to garner the same praise.  Regardless, with six different titles to the series’ credit, the game is an irreplaceable part of the  Microsoft library.

 

4. Left 4 Dead

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After debuting on the PC, Left 4 Dead was ported over as a console exclusive to the Xbox 360.  Later, Left 4 Dead 2 launched at the same time as the PC version, also a console exclusive.

There are many zombie games, but none have executed the concept of co-operative shooting Left 4 Dead revolves around.  Left 4 Dead is a rollercoaster ride of action, streaming zombies in from every corner of your screen while hiding nasty surprises throughout its excellently crafted levels.  The strategy, gameplay design, and tactics employed by the game make it one of best games in Xbox library.

After its first two entries, Left 4 Dead’s publisher, Valve Software, has been mum on completing a trilogy.  Valve’s silence hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from spinning and there may be a third game in the series on the horizon.

 

3. Fable

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While there are better games than the Fables series, few titles are as iconic to Xbox fans as Lionhead’s fantasy action-RPG.  Ever since Peter Molyneaux started the series in October of 2004, Microsoft has continually invited players back to the magical world of Albion.

The Fable series may have languished as of late, between the awful Fable: The Journey and the underwhelming Fable 3, but the series was once a brave exploration in multi-path narrative.  When Fable started it was one of the first games to offer real choice, showing a path of two heroes, one who serves the people through actions of good and another who serves himself through questionable deeds.  It allowed players to interact with their surrounding, invest in shops, towns, and people, long before The Elder Scrolls would start doing the same thing.

When it first was released, Fable was a fascinating blend of RPG, story, and world-building, showing that gameplay and narrative could be woven together.  The series is not what it once was, but when it was at the top of its game, it was a must-own for Xbox fans.

 

2. Gears of War

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The adventures of Marcus Fenix and his squad of soldiers against the emerging Locusts hoards provided players with one of the most iconic and exciting adventures on the Xbox consoles.  Gears of War used the cover-shooting mechanic as the focus of its gameplay, while it may be old hat today, the series perfected and championed the idea.

Battling through Sera gave fans some of the most memorable moments on the Xbox 360.  The series blended the narrative of an action-war movie with it’s non-stop combat, connecting fans to the characters and creating a feverish fan base for the series. On top of the fantastic single-player campaign, the game offered Horde Mode, a cooperative multiplayer experience borrowed as much as its cover based shooting.

While creator Cliff Bleszinski may be trying to distance himself from the Gears of War legacy, Microsoft are owning it, literally.  We are sure to see more of the 2nd most iconic Xbox-exclusive franchise in the future.

1. Halo

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Halo is the most iconic, beloved, and critically praised Xbox exclusive franchise, bar none. From Master Chief to ODST to Noble Team, the adventures of the Halo universe have inspired novels, TV series, and movie rumors.  Dismissing the other media and focusing on the games, no titles in the Xbox library have been sold as well or been as critically praised.

Halo pioneered the twin-stick shooter and paved the way for Xbox Live.  As the original Xbox attempted to find ground in console market, Halo gave the game legs to stand on.  While the game may no longer mean as much in a multiplayer sense with games like Call of Duty and Battlefield supplanting its dominance, no game has consistently delivered both a single-player and multiplayer experience with as much prestige as Halo.

Without Halo the Xbox may have failed to become the brand it is today.  The series is tied to the console’s history, and we will see much more of Master Chief and the Halo universe in the future.

You’ve heard our list.  Now let’s hear your favorites.  Let Explosion know your favorite Xbox-exclusive titles in the comments below.