A gaming system is a significant investment. Once you’ve saved enough to cover the cost of the system itself, you are forced to contend with expenses like additional controllers, headsets, subscription fees, component cables, and so on. How, then, is the gamer on a budget expected to be able to actually buy decent games to play on their shiny new system? New games usually run somewhere around 60 bucks, leaving even the most monetarily well-endowed gamers with only enough leftover cash to purchase one or two.
Fortunately, there are quite a few awesome cheap games for Xbox 360 that can be purchased for less than 20 dollars. These are older titles that are still definitely worth your time and (little) money. A value-conscious gamer could purchase one or two new games with his hard-earned money, or take my advice and purchase all five of these great games, and probably save cash in the process.
1. Battlefield: Bad Company
The Battlefield series has long been a staple of PC action games but has only recently come into its own in the console market. Battlefield: Bad Company is an excellent multiplayer game with a fully-realized single-player component.
Players join the ranks of Bad Company, a single squad tasked with making a difference in a much larger conflict. In Bad Company, players are able to commandeer and pilot any vehicle on the battlefield, from tanks and jeeps to helicopters and patrol boats.
Environments and buildings are fully destructible, meaning there is no one set way to accomplish any mission objective. Just because there’s only one road into an enemy base doesn’t mean you can’t simply blow an enormous hole in a side wall and take them by surprise.
Multiplayer is also definitely one of the game’s strengths, and I strongly recommend it for anyone who plans on subscribing to Xbox Live.
2. Burnout Paradise
I’ve never been a huge fan of racing games but Burnout Paradise changed my entire perception of the genre. Taking place in a massive, open city, Paradise is the pinnacle of the Burnout series.
Winning races is not just about getting to the finish line before everyone else; for the more aggressive gamer (like myself), there are other ways of ensuring victory. Ramming your opponents into a guard rail or oncoming traffic is an equally effective strategy. In fact, the game rewards you for such actions by providing you with much-needed boost energy.
However, racing is not all Paradise has to offer. There are multiple event types, including Road Rage (take out a set number of opponents), Stunt Run (rack up massive points by stringing together long runs of death-defying stunts), and Showtime (create the most massive pileup possible). Players are also encouraged to explore the city to find secret shortcuts and billboards to smash through.
Multiplayer in Paradise City is amazing, and players can drop in and out of online play with a single button press.
Frequent free and for-purchase content upgrades to the game make Burnout Paradise a worthwhile long term investment.
3. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
By now, everyone has heard of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band phenomenon. Players use guitar-shaped controllers to simulate their way through classic rock songs using timed button presses and a strum bar. It sounds silly, but anyone who has played can tell you the feeling of actually playing the music is very real. Not to mention that the games are just plain fun.
Guitar Hero III was the first game in the series developed by renowned Tony Hawk Pro Skater developer Neversoft. They took the game in a new direction, adding a battle mode and boss challenges, but kept the basic gameplay intact.
The game features music from such big-name acts as Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, Kiss, and Guns n’ Roses, along with newer fare from the likes of AFI, The Strokes, and The Killers. The soundtrack is diverse enough that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The downside to this particular game is the necessity of an additional controller purchase. While the software can be picked up for less than twenty bucks, a guitar controller will probably run you another twenty to thirty dollars. A software/controller bundle may be the most cost effective way to go for those who don’t already own a guitar controller.
4. Half Life 2: The Orange Box
Half-Life 2 is one of the most universally praised first-person shooters in the history of gaming. By itself it would easily justify the sub $20 purchase price of this package, but The Orange Box is loaded with so much more.
In addition to Half-Life 2, players get the game’s first two expansion packs, Episodes 1 and 2, as well as the incredibly popular puzzle game Portal and the multiplayer smash Team Fortress 2. That’s five games, all amazing, for less than 20 dollars.
Practically any one of these components would be worth the price on its own. Portal is an absolute must-play, a unique combination of shooter and puzzle game elements completely wrapped up in a suspenseful and terrifying narrative with one of gaming’s creepiest antagonists.
Team Fortress 2 is an amazing class-based multiplayer shooter where players can choose from a multitude of classes including Pyro, Spy, and Sniper and defend or attack certain objectives in a variety of gametypes. No Xbox 360 game collection can truly be complete without The Orange Box.
5. Mass Effect
We’ve covered amazing multiplayer, racing, action, and even music games, but what do we have left for the Xbox 360 RPG fanatic? Fortunately Bioware’s (developers of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II) sci-fi roleplaying masterpiece Mass Effect is available for purchase for around fifteen dollars (according to Gamestop).
This massive space saga tasks players with unraveling a mystery that threatens the entire universe. There are barren planets, abandoned space stations, bustling galactic hubs, and ancient facilities to explore.
In Mass Effect, a player’s choices can have a very real effect on the game (and the sequel, as decisions carry over). If you perform evil deeds, certain good members of your crew will become distant and various NPCs in the galaxy will react differently to you. Dialogue trees offer a multitude of conversation choices, with so many options that it’s rare to experience the same conversation twice.
Mass Effect is a fantastic example of what a talented developer can do with a console as powerful as Microsoft’s Xbox 360.
Any of these five games would make a fantastic addition to any value-conscious gamer’s Xbox 360 collection. With such amazing games available for so little, though, why not pick up all of them?