Hidden Gems for the Xbox 360

Whether you're dusting off your Xbox 360 console or booting up a backward-compatible title on the Xbox One, there are a host of underplayed and under-appreciated Xbox 360 games for you to enjoy. Some of the names may ring a bell. Some you may have never heard of. All provide worthwhile experiences that, years later, still fly under the radar when compared to the more well-known franchises on Microsoft's second console. And the best part? If you own an Xbox One, all but two of these titles are backward compatible, meaning you can load them up on your current-gen system without having to dig in the closet for your old system.

Blue Dragon

This game not only has the distinction of being the Xbox 360's first multi-disc release, but was also one of the games Microsoft Executive Vice President of Gaming Phil Spencer most wanted to have backward compatible. Blue Dragon is a Japanese-developed RPG that boasts Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi as its head writer. That must mean the story's great, right? Well, maybe not. Critics found Blue Dragon's narrative a little ho-hum, but the cartoony, graphically impressive world and stellar score still deserve to be experienced at least once.

Condemned: Criminal Origins

Developer Monolith would later go on to find fame with the Middle-earth franchise, but the studio also put together one of the Xbox 360's most underrated gems. Condemned: Criminal Origins is a survivor horror title where the player assumes the role of an investigator on the hunt for a serial killer. The game takes place in the first-person perspective, but there isn't much shooting. Instead, melee combat takes precedent as the player tries to survive, solve puzzles, and make it through scary moments with nerves still intact.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

After pitching legend Curt Schilling left the world of baseball, he entered the world of game development, borrowing money from the state of Rhode Island to fund 38 Studios and begin development on Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. The game is largely associated with poor sales and the closure of 38 Studios, which is a shame, because this action RPG released to mostly positive reviews. 

Famed fantasy author R.A. Salvatore created the universe the story draws from, a fantasy setting rich with swords and sorcery. And the combat also received some kudos from critics, who found it mixed quick-time events (QTEs) with classic third-person action combat in a satisfying way. Bad news, though: the state of Rhode Island now owns the rights to Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, which means that, unless backward compatibility becomes a ballot measure, you'll need to boot your 360 up to enjoy this title.kin

Shadow Complex

Chair Entertainment and Epic Games didn't just partner on Infinity Blade, a mobile-only fighter released on iOS. They also teamed up to develop Shadow Complex, a 2.5D side-scrolling Metroidvania where players are asked to platform, shoot down enemies, and upgrade abilities in order to reach new areas. Reviewers overwhelmingly enjoyed Shadow Complex, citing its satisfying story and on-point gameplay, and the title took home Spike's Downloadable Game of the Year award in 2009.

Spec Ops: The Line

Fans of Spec Ops: The Line will tell you this game is worth playing for the story alone. It's a third-person shooter that takes place in modern wartime, but it doesn't march into battle quite as gleefully as some other comparable titles. Players are asked to enter sandstorm-stricken Dubai and search for survivors, but along the way, bad guys will be slaughtered, morally dubious decisions will be made, and hallucinations will blur the line between reality and the mind's machinations. The combined package produces memorable moments that remain long after the campaign has ended. The gameplay itself is a bit forgettable, but the narrative is not. Spec Ops: The Line is absolutely worth a playthrough.

Trials HD

To call Trials HD a racing game isn't quite fitting. It's so much more than that. Five minutes with the game will intrigue you, frustrate you, and then make you try again. And again. And again. Truth be told, Trials HD is as much a puzzle game as it is a racing game, forcing you to practically master physics so your bike remains upright and on course. It's the type of addictive, pass-the-controller gameplay perfect for playing in groups, and the game's sequels, Trials Evolution and Trials Fusion, keep the fun going.

Lost Odyssey

Not only is Lost Odyssey the second Japanese RPG on this list, it's the second one written by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. Unlike Blue Dragon, however, the story in Lost Odyssey fared far better with critics, who praised both the narrative direction and the game's fictional, magic-infused world. If you like JRPGs, you'll find a lot to like about Lost Odyssey's traditional battle system too, even if some reviewers found it traditional to a fault. There aren't many RPGs available to Xbox players these days — why not go back and give this one a shot?

Mark of the Ninja

Mark of the Ninja is a 2D side-scroller with heavy stealth and action elements, not unlike the modern-day Assassin's Creed: Chronicles titles. As the game's protagonist, you're tasked with moving between light and dark to remain hidden, while using your ninja skills to dispatch enemies when necessary. Fair warning: there are some areas in the game where the controls become a bit frustrating. For the most part, though, Mark of the Ninja hits the, well, mark. Fans of stealth should enjoy this one, though they'll have to do so on the Xbox 360. For some reason, this title is not yet a part of the backward compatibility program.

Red Faction: Armageddon

The release of Red Faction: Armageddon is years in the rear-view mirror, but the game remains a satisfying romp through a highly destructible Mars setting, complete with hostile aliens and awesome weapons. It's unfortunate the game didn't light it up in the sales department, and even more unfortunate that THQ, the game's publisher, is now defunct. But there's hope! Nordic Games, later rebranded as THQ Nordic, scooped up the Red Faction license (along with a few other THQ properties), so there's still a chance we could see another game in the series. Until then, this one's waiting for you, and it's worth checking out if you want some fun third-person action.

Stacking

If there's anything developer Double Fine is known for, it's making weird games. Stacking, a puzzle-slash-adventure game starring a Russian nesting doll, is no exception. The player takes control of Charlie Blackmore, one of the aforementioned dolls, who is capable of stacking up and down to grow and shrink in size. This ability comes into play during the puzzle-solving process, a novel mechanic that reviewers found refreshing. Factor in the game's quirky-but-cute story and family-friendly tone, and you have a title that didn't get nearly as much love as it deserved.

Comic Jumper

Before finding success with games like 'Splosion Man and Ms. 'Splosion Man, Twisted Pixel Games cut its teeth on Comic Jumper, a hilarious, self-aware title starring a failing comic book hero who "jumps" into other comics in an attempt to steal the show. If you've ever wanted to play a comic book, regardless of the genre, you'll enjoy Comic Jumper tremendously. The 2D side-scroller's beat 'em up style feels right at home in the comic setting, and Deadpool would have no choice but to salute the way the game breaks the fourth wall on a regular basis. This is one you shouldn't miss.