When the Xbox One dropped in 2013 it took gaming to another level. The entire Xbox console was redeveloped to make use of modern technology and compete with Sony's PlayStation 4, and it's fair to say, job well done. One of the key reasons for the console's success was ditching the PowerPC based processor of previous models and reverting back to the x86 architecture of the original Xbox. This enabled the Xbox One to run games with not only high frame rates but gorgeous graphics.
The reintroduction of previous technology got me thinking about how groundbreaking the original Xbox was, particularly the amazing animation many of the original console's games had. Classics like Half-Life 2, Burnout Revenge, and Star Wars: Knights Of The Republic showcased the capabilities of the Xbox as a graphical powerhouse. Of course, not every release lived up to the hype, with Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis, Sneakers, and the terrible Drake Of The 99 Dragons just some of the games that made me wish I had a PlayStation 2.
If you're like me and would love to whip out your old console now and again, you want to make sure you're playing the best looking games of that period. So here are my picks for 15 of the best and 15 of the worst looking games ever released on the original Xbox.
30 Amazing: The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
A video game prequel to the Vin Diesel-starring Pitch Black and The Chronicles Of Riddick, Butcher Bay is a fantastic first-person stealth game that ties into the mythology of the Riddick character.
The premise is simple; take control of Riddick and break out of the maximum security prison known as Butcher Bay. While this sounds easy it's quite a challenging game with some well crafted cut scenes and great level designs.
You really get the feeling you're trapped in a heavily fortified prison while playing this one.
29 Bad: Robocop
After the release date was repeatedly pushed back it quickly became obvious to fans and critics that Titus Interactive Studio's take on Robocop was probably going to be a letdown. Let me tell you, it's more than just a letdown, it's a complete disaster.
There's nothing to like about this one, from the tinny sound to the boring gameplay, but it's the low-grade graphics that really put me off. While they tried to capture the gritty feel of the film it just doesn't work, resulting in a poor game both gameplay and graphics wise.
28 Amazing: Psychonauts
This crazy platform game revolves around Raz, a young lad with psychic abilities who runs away from the circus to join a summer camp for kids with similar powers. At this camp, the kids are trained to become Psychonauts, spies with psychic abilities. While there, Raz unearths a conspiracy and gets caught up in trying to stop the bad guys by entering people's minds.
As wild as the plot sounds the psychic theme means the game is chock full of colorful visuals that are slightly offbeat. It really is an experience playing this game and the psychedelic graphics only add to the wild storyline.
27 Bad: Pulse Racer
Ever look at a game's cover and know it's going to be awful? That's the way I felt when first picking up Pulse Racer. This future-set Mario Kart ripoff finds players using their life force to race high tech vehicles around various tracks.
This game not only plays bad but looks extremely cheap, as if the designers only had a couple weeks to put together a racing game and this was the best they could come up with. This really is a shoddy game that deserves to be stored in the trash.
26 Amazing: Farcry Instincts
The Farcry franchise is well regarded by gamers these days, but before becoming a staple of the next generation of consoles it was a humble PC game. Farcry Instincts was a remake of original for the Xbox that managed to capture everything players love about the PC version.
Although the storyline is modified the animation doesn't suffer in any way, with Instincts very easy on the eye. The island setting is made lifelike thanks to the lush vegetation and clear waters present in the game.
25 Bad: Bruce Lee: Quest Of The Dragon
Bruce Lee is arguably the greatest martial artists of all time. I'm sure if he was alive today he would never have let his name be sullied by such a meager game as Quest Of The Dragon.
This 3D beat 'em up is a woeful attempt at strengthening Lee's legacy but results in a stunted fighter with few redeeming qualities. The characters are poorly rendered and the backgrounds often dark and disorientating. You're better off watching Enter The Dragon and remembering Lee's greatness.
24 Amazing: Prince Of Persia: Sands Of Time
Nobody was quite sure what to expect when Ubisoft announced they were going to reboot the classic platform game Prince Of Persia as a third person action adventurer. Thankfully, Ubisoft got all their ducks in a row and released a game that lived up to the original.
Not only does the game offer a thrilling storyline with improved game mechanics but visually, Sands Of Time delivers on all fronts. It will make you feel like you're actually in Persia during 9th century AD without having to deal with all the sand.
23 Bad: Batman: Dark Tomorrow
Batman: Dark Tomorrow is hands down the worst Batman game ever created. What was meant to be an open-world action-adventure game true to the Batman mythology, ended up a linear stealth-based game with a boring plot, terrible controls, and even worse gameplay.
The game is littered with bugs that not only affect gameplay but make the visuals glitchy and hard to look at.
While it must be said the cutscenes are shot rather well, the animation when playing is blocky and often features a dark and dull color scheme.
22 Amazing: Oddworld: Stranger's Wraith
A spinoff of the Oddworld franchise, Stranger's Wraith finds players taking control of a bounty hunter named Stranger who must seek out and capture a number of outlaws to earn enough money to have a life-saving operation.
As far as the gameplay goes this is a very unique experience, matched only by the interesting levels the Stranger must explore. There's a variety of weird and wonderful creatures in the game that are all gloriously designed, giving Stranger's Wraith a compelling visual edge.
21 Bad: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The Grand Theft Auto series never disappoints and that was proven by the 2004 release of GTA: San Andreas. Set in a sprawling open world environment modeled after Los Angelas, San Andreas certified Rockstar Games status as one of the premier game developers in the world.
But there is one issue most critics had with the game, the graphics. While the gameplay improved vastly since the release of the previous installment, Vice City, the animation is blocky, character resolutions are underwhelming, and many of the vehicles poorly are rendered. While this didn't have much impact on the game's sales, it does deter you slightly when playing.
20 Amazing: Burnout Revenge
A favorite amongst Burnout fans, Burnout Revenge is a fast-paced car simulator that's part racer, part vehicular combat. Racing through traffic trying to take out your enemies has never felt more realistic thanks to the detailed environments and cities you traverse.
Not only do the landscapes look spectacular but the cars themselves are well designed – at least until they get smashed up during racing. But it's that attention to detail, being able to see every scratch and dent on your car, that makes this game so great.
19 Bad: SeaBlade
This unusual game finds players taking control of some sort of ship that you can control both in and out of the water. There's something about natural disasters having left the world in peril and warring factions fighting for survival, but none of this really matters when you're confronted with SeaBlade's graphics.
The entire world that's been created looks bland and fails to spark your imagination. The six levels all look very similar and the underwater world looks even worse. Then there are the cutscenes that combine still photos that change every few seconds to show characters facial changes. Computer says no.
18 Amazing: Dead Or Alive: Ultimate
Combining the previous two Dead Or Alive games together for one release on the Xbox, Ultimate is a surprisingly exciting fighting game. Both games have been redeveloped to take advantage of the Xbox's powers at the time, resulting in wonderful background designs and well-rendered characters.
The look and feel of Dead Or Alive 2 is particularly gratifying, with the 3D graphics working well and the experience of playing as close to arcade quality as you can get.
17 Bad: Monster Garage
Based on the reality television series hosted by Jesse James where contestants are given a vehicle they must modify within seven days at a cost of no more than $5,000, this is another in a long line of television to video game adaptations that fail spectacularly.
Monster Garage is a weird puzzle game that copies build seen in the actual show, meaning only die-hard fans will enjoy it. The builds are mind-numbing, and this isn't helped by the dull visuals that often make your creations look like inoperable vehicles you might find in a junkyard.
16 Amazing: Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
Creating a role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe is something fans of the science fiction series have been waiting hanging out for, and they weren't disappointed. The ability to explore various planets and use the force in third-person is a fun and exciting experience made even better by the visual element of the game.
It might look a little dated now but at the time of the game's release in 2003, the graphics were state of the art. There's little to no pixelation and the characters move smoothly around the variety of environments you encounter. The Force really is alive with Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic.
15 Bad: Kabuki Warriors
Considered one of the worst fighting games ever released (it has a score of 32 on Metacritic), Kabuki Warriors is let down by a complex and often unresponsive control system and some truly poor graphics.
Everything from the backgrounds to the menu screens and the character designs are hard to look at. The environments are boring and although they try to make the fighters interesting with colorful masks and costumes, they come across as cheap and add nothing to the experience.
14 Amazing: Ninja Gaiden
Inspired by developer Tecmo's 90s Ninja Gaiden series, this Xbox exclusive release took five years to make but was well worth the wait. Playing as skilled ninja Ryu Hayabusa, you must guide your character on a mission to recover a stolen sword and enact revenge on those who disposed of your fellow clan members. Standard stuff.
The game is quite violent and the various methods of dispatching your enemies are wonderfully showcased by the striking visuals. The enhanced graphics complement the engaging gameplay and help make this reboot of the original Ninja Gaiden a huge success.
13 Bad: Superman: The Man Of Steel
There hasn't been a decent Superman film in decades and that extends to video game adaptations. 2002s Superman: The Man Of Steel is another in a procession of poor performing games dogged by boring gameplay, a long-winded plot, and some poor visuals.
The environments are very blocky and lack detail, with only Superman himself actually hoarding the goods. The tedious missions are also reflected in the half-finished graphics that make this game look like it was rushed to release.
12 Amazing: Doom 3
The Doom franchise continues to live on with a reboot of the original game released in 2016, but it's 2005's Doom 3 that gets a mention on this list. The first official remake in the series presents an open portal between Mars and the underworld and all manners of demon hordes unleashed. Players must find a way to destroy the baddies and shut down the portal.
The gameplay is similar to previous installments but made much more appealing by the level designs. You never feel like you're wandering down the same corridors, with the attention to detail shown between with each level only adding to the creepy atmosphere of the game.
11 Bad: Chicago Enforcer
I'm all for crime-related games but Chicago Enforcer is bad enough to turn me off them for good. Trying to work your way up the ladder in Al Capone's outfit you must undertake various tasks, often involving taking out your enemies in various ways.
This is pretty much a first-person shooter without the fun.
Despite hitting shelves in 2004 the graphics make the game look like it was made in 1994, with environments that are extremely dull to look at. The audio isn't great, nor is the storyline, making this a forgettable Xbox title.
10 Amazing: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Along with the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series is amongst the best stealth games ever released on any console. Chaos Theory is the third game in the series and easily the best looking.
This game is visually spectacular, from the way the lights cast shadows to the intricate details of every building you enter, it's a fantastically realistic experience. Main character Sam Fisher is also rather striking in his black kevlar outfit and night vision goggles, giving him a distinct and memorable look.
9 Bad: Sneakers
No, this game isn't based on the exceptional Robert Redford starring thriller of the same name, but an action adventure release about a mouse named Apollo. As Apollo, you are joined by your fellow mouse brethren as you hunt down rats to find one of your friends missing brothers.
Not only is this an extremely dull game but the controls are hard to master and the graphics very uninspiring. There really isn't anything great to say about this one and the Metacritic score of 28 sums it up best.
The game is so bad there are hardly any screenshots on the net.
8 Amazing: Forza Motorsport
Despite being released over a decade ago the original Forza Motorsport is still one of the best installments in the popular racing franchise. Featuring over 200 different cars and real-life tracks and circuits, Forza is one hell of a racing simulation.
Not only does the gameplay stack up but the graphics and exceptional, with Forza Motorsport being one of the most visually stunning games of its time. Even today it looks great, with the cars modeled perfectly after the real thing and each car showing small amounts of damage if you hit other vehicles or objects, adding to the realism of the game.
7 Bad: Stake: Fortune Fighters
I'm not sure why but fighting games released on the original Xbox have a knack for being very poor. Stake: Fortune Fighters is just another in a very long line of unsuccessful fighters churned out for the system.
The game utilizes multiplayer and first-person perspectives to create a unique experience, but all this actually achieves is numerous bad camera angles along with poor sound and some terrible visuals. If you really want a good fighter just go for the classics like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter and forget about anything else.
6 Amazing: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
I love the Elder Scrolls franchise. Every game offers something new and exciting and 2002's The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is another immersive RPG from Bethesda. Along with a compelling storyline and wonderfully crafted open world, Morrowind is defined by its unique and rich visuals.
The creation of the world and how it looks makes this game so playable, and I admit to being wowed numerous times by the graphics. While it may be dated by today's standards, Morrowind is still a wonderful game with awesome animation.
5 Bad: Trigger Man
Trigger Man is one of those stock standard third-person shooters that fail to deliver in all aspects. You play the no named "Trigger Man" and must perform various missions for crime boss Don Coladangelo.
This game is chock full of boring level designs and poorly animated characters, with blocky environments and pixelated faces. The gameplay is also weak and the repetitive nature of the game will have you quickly losing interest.
4 Amazing: Mercenaries: Playground Of Destruction
This extremely fun game lets you play as one of three mercenaries in a huge open world where mayhem and destruction is the order of the day. Taking place in a war torn North Korea you tackle various mission in this over the top action game with multiple endings.
Part of what makes this game so enjoyable is the chaotic graphics that transport you right into the middle of the battle.
The cut scenes are also top notch and flow seamlessly throughout the game, only adding to the great look of Mercenaries: Playground Of Death.
3 Bad: Drake Of The 99 Dragons
When it comes to terrible games they don't get much worse than this. The third-person shooter about an undead assassin out for revenge is frighteningly bad and will leave you shaking your head.
The low-quality graphics aren't helped by headache-inducing camera angles and some really awful sound effects. The gameplay is also low-grade and the control system hard to master. In short, Drake Of The 99 Dragons is a huge disappointment. How it even got past development is beyond me.
2 Amazing: Half-Life 2
Considering it took five years and over $40 million to complete Half-Life 2, it's no surprise the game is visually stunning. Everything about this game is outstanding but the way Valve Corporation managed to construct a believable world that's so lifelike is a credit to the team.
The game has a great frame rate that contributes to the realistic animation, with the water and lighting effects commendable. The textures are really gritty and add to the post-apocalyptic world.
1 Bad: Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis
Unlike the recent Aquaman film that's now the highest grossing DC film property of all time, the 2003 Xbox release, Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis, is an absolute bomb. Trying to save Atlantis from doom, you must battle through tedious level after level of underwater locations that eventually start looking the same.
This game is not well-designed and the animations look worse than my drawings as a five-year-old.
Everything about this game feels rushed, from the gameplay, to the sound, to the horrible visuals. It's no wonder this game quickly ended up in the bargain bins.