Microsoft has got a lot right this generation with the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S consoles. The former is the more premium choice offering gaming at 4K and a larger SSD, while the latter is a more affordable digital-only option that’s perfect as an Xbox Game Pass machine.
Even the infamous exclusive drought is coming to an end, with titles like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 releasing imminently. That’s not to mention titles like Perfect Dark, Fable, Everwild, and more coming next year and beyond.
Yet one of the greatest triumphs of all for Xbox this generation, continuing on from the last, is its dedication to backwards compatibility. Tons of Xbox 360 and some original Xbox games are available to play on Xbox One and Series X/S, playable via the original disc, purchasable from the Microsoft Store or downloadable from Xbox Game Pass or the monthly Games with Gold rotation.
Yet while an admirable effort has been made to preserve many of the best games from the days of the 360, the original Xbox still feels somewhat underrepresented. Here’s five OG Xbox titles we’d absolutely love to see get the green light in future.
Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2 (2003)
Arguably one of the most important games ever created, Phantasy Star Online was one of the pioneers of online console gaming when it first released on the Dreamcast, and continued to be with its Gamecube and Xbox ports.
While we certainly don’t expect the “Online” part of Phantasy Star Online to make a return, the game is still fully playable in offline and local split screen modes on the original Xbox. The online multiplayer aspect of PSO is definitely what made it stand out from the crowd the most, but it’s an incredibly fun game to this day both online and off.
Your player-created character can be of one of three different races, each with their own stats and class assignments. Hunters can wield swords and spears, while Rangers fight from a distance with rifles and launchers, for example.
Higher difficulty modes and a wealth of content kept PSO incredibly fresh. Each tier of difficulty provides experience bonuses, and access to rarer enemies and loot. It’s quite similar to western looters like Diablo in that sense, which PSO drew direct inspiration from.
Now, do we expect Sega to grant backwards compatibility to PSO on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One? Not a chance. The company is currently supporting the wildly popular Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, and likely won’t want to dedicate resources to the original game, let alone one with a re-established online connection. Still, we’d love nothing more than to be proven wrong here, as Sega and Microsoft have always been on good terms since the Dreamcast days.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 arguably did for fighting games what Phantasy Star Online did for online gaming. The game’s influence on its genre cannot be understated, and it’s an extremely popular spectator game to this day, regularly being hosted at large-scale tournaments like EVO.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2 features one of the largest fighting game rosters of all time. Players fought with teams of three heroes and were able to switch between them on the fly. In skilled hands, this could lead to mesmerizingly long combos that string together special moves and character assists.
Of course, one large appeal of fighting games lies in its characters, and MvC2 hardly disappoints in this area. So many Capcom stalwarts are present and accounted for, including Mega Man, Jill Valentine, Strider Hiryu and Chun-Li. The Marvel side is equally impressive, featuring Avengers like Captain America, Thor and Hulk mixed in with X-Men including Wolverine, Rogue and Storm.
The big tragedy here is that there’s currently no contemporary way to purchase Marvel vs. Capcom 2 without coughing up a fortune for a second-hand copy on eBay. An HD remaster was released on Xbox 360 in 2009, complete with online play and achievement support, but that version has since been delisted.
So what are MvC2’s chances of a backwards compatible release? Slim, but certainly not impossible. Licensing on the Marvel side is of course very complicated, but an ongoing campaign to register interest in the game, dubbed #FreeMvC2, has borne fruit. Porting legends Digital Eclipse are reportedly in talks with Marvel to get a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 port greenlit.
Jet Set Radio Future (2002)
Arguably one of the best games on the original Xbox, Sega took a look at the Dreamcast cult classic, ironed out the kinks and created a game that was in many ways quite ahead of its time.
Jet Set Radio Future maintained the rollerblading, graffiti tagging, cop-outsmarting gameplay of the original but just made it far more polished and accessible. The strict time limit of the original was gone, replaced with a fully explorable open world loaded with secrets, superb level design, characters to unlock and challenges to beat.
Of course, you can’t mention Jet Set Radio Future without also talking about its legendary soundtrack. Composer Hideki Naganuma returned to offer up some of his best work, alongside several underground artists whose music remains far better than the vast majority of mainstream hits of today and of the time.
But what are the odds we get a Jet Set Radio Future releases via Xbox backwards compatibility? It’s certainly not impossible. As mentioned, Sega has maintained a friendly relationship with Microsoft over the years. Several Sega exclusives have made their way to Xbox platforms, and most recently, the entire mainline Yakuza franchise was made available to download on Xbox Game Pass.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run (2003)
At the time, it was easy to be cynical about the release of The Simpsons: Hit & Run. As a licensed title based on a hugely popular franchise, Hit & Run had absolutely no right being as good as it was.
Some dodgy mission design aside, Hit & Run largely let Simpsons fans do what they’d wanted to do for ages: explore an open-world Springfield with their favorite dysfunctional characters from the show. And while the game wasn’t truly open-world, it was a fantastic effort in bringing a level of cohesion to Springfield, featuring many of its iconic locations such as the power plant, Kwik-E-Mart, and (naturally) the Simpsons’ home on Evergreen Terrace.
While you could freely explore on foot, Hit & Run’s gameplay mostly sat behind the wheel. So it’s a great thing that the game featured tons of unlockable vehicles to try out, many of which were recognizable from the show including Mr. Plow and the Duff truck.
So is The Simpsons: Hit & Run likely to see a backwards compatible release on Xbox? It’s hard to say. No other Simpsons game is present on Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S currently, so there’s no precedent for them being re-released as of yet. Now that the franchise is owned by Disney, which has been more open to video game releases overall, whether that be with Marvel or Star Wars projects, or more original concepts like the Kingdom Hearts series.
Project Gotham Racing (2001)
While Gran Turismo 3 left the pit stop first on PS2 a few months prior, Xbox was able to answer swiftly that same year with Project Gotham Racing, and developer Bizarre Creations was able to offer something genuinely different – and arguably more fun – than Sony’s flagship racer.
The progenitor of the Forza Motorsport series, Project Gotham Racing was one of the first killer apps on Xbox alongside Halo: Combat Evolved. Liverpool-based Bizarre Creations had previously worked on Dreamcast cult classic Metropolis Street Racer, and many of that game’s mechanics carried over into the PGR series on Xbox.
Chief among those was the Kudos system, which dynamically rewards the player based on your actions within a race. It’s trivial now, but back then being consistently rewarded for drifts, overtakes and more during a race was thrilling and gave an incentive to drive daringly.
Project Gotham Racing would enjoy a long run on Microsoft’s consoles before giving way to Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport series. Many of the staff who had worked on PGR transitioned to Forza, and as such, it’s fairly safe to say that PGR walked so that Forza could run.
But what are the chances of a backwards compatible release? You’d think it would be a choice candidate for backwards compatibility, considering Project Gotham Racing is a pretty important part of Xbox’s history. Here’s hoping Xbox sees eye to eye with us here, and not only grants PGR a fresh set of eyes, but also the wider Xbox library in general. There are tons of fantastic games that were exclusive to the original Xbox, and they’re just waiting to be reintroduced to a modern audience.