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So you've just bought an Xbox 360, or you’ve had one for a while and the games you have are pretty boring. Problem is, you don’t have all that much cash -- maybe $100 at the most. You want that $100 to go a long way, and not just buy a game that you’ll play for a short while and put away. You want games that will have you playing or replaying them for months to come. Sure, the easy answer is to buy Halo 3 and a year of Xbox Live Gold. But not everyone likes Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, and nobody likes losing every round of a game because they haven't dedicated their entire life to it. Plus, people on Xbox Live aren’t always the nicest of folks.
Here’s a list of a few Xbox 360 games you'll enjoy for a long time. Five of them, to be exact, and one extra for a substitute.
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1. Mass Effect ($29.99 used)
At first, Mass Effect didn’t seem like the best of choices for this list, considering even used it’s about $30. However, this roleplaying game takes a while to finish (40 hours seems to be the average for most people). While that can be daunting, the story makes up for it. You play as Commander Shepard in a space-opera-esque campaign spanning several planets. The combat is similar to that of the Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic games -- you give orders to your troops, but control Commander Shepard directly with third-person gunplay and biotech techniques (think force powers).
2. Burnout Paradise ($26.99 used)
Burnout Paradise is a racing game that has a lot to offer even if you have no intention of racing. The entire game takes place in a fictional Paradise City (parts of which, especially the baseball stadium, are very similar to Chicago). You drive through the city doing stunts, discovering hidden paths, destroying other cars to add them to your junkyard, and also racing. Burnout Paradise gives the best sense of speed I have ever experienced in a racing game, and it never gets boring. It’s not a simulator like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport -- cars control very easily, and you don’t have to worry about exactly how you take each turn to get ahead of someone in a race. Burnout is much more about destroying your competition than outracing them. There are even events dedicated to taking down as many opponents as possible.
3. Sega Superstars Tennis ($17.99 used)
I had a hard time deciding if I should keep this game in the list, or replace it with the bonus game. I kept it in here because it’s a great multiplayer game that most anyone can enjoy. Who doesn’t love the idea of playing a ridiculous game of tennis as Sonic, playing against his faithful companion Tails?
4. Geometry Wars Evolved 2 (800 Microsoft Points/$10 on Xbox Live Arcade)
Geometry Wars Evolved 2 is a deceptively simple arcade-type shooter. You move your ship with the left thumbstick, and shoot with the right thumbstick (it’s a lot easier than it sounds, trust me). There is no immediate point to playing the game aside from getting the highest score possible and comparing it with your friends on Xbox Live (Gold account not necessary), or just having fun. The game features six modes of gameplay, each with a different way of playing. It's very bright, with simple art direction, but that adds a lot to the “retro evolved” tagline applied to both Geometry Wars games. It gets even more fun with others, even if they don’t know what they’re doing (though that can possibly make it even more fun).
5. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (800 Microsoft Points/$10 on Xbox Live Arcade)
Puzzle Quest is possibly the strangest combination of games ever: classic high-fantasy roleplaying game and Bejewled-esque puzzle game. It seems rather ridiculous at first, but after playing just a few rounds, it’s easy to get hooked. You choose a class that gives you abilities that can increase over time. You and one opponent take turns on the game board matching pieces in rows of three or more to collect elements to cast spells. These spells can be used to hurt your opponent. The objective of each game is to bring your opponents' hit points down to zero. There is a classic high-fantasy story attached to the game, but even if you hate high fantasy, the gameplay is well worth a look.
Dead Rising ($17.99 used)
This game was originally going to take the place of Sega Superstars Tennis, but I decided I needed another single-screen multiplayer (both Mass Effect and Burnout Paradise are single-player only). The concept of Dead Rising is simple: you play Frank West, a photojournalist trapped inside a mall full of zombies for three days. Sure, there's a story, but there’s also three days' worth of killing zombies with anything and everything you can find in the mall. That alone has me going back over and over again.