When Phil Spencer announced that Xbox 360 games would be made backward compatible on the Xbox One at E3 in 2015, Xbox fans everywhere rejoiced. The desire to replay some of the older Call of Duty and Gears of War games had been voiced loudly and seemingly everywhere – from the internet to the canteen of my office. Microsoft had listened, and made it possible.
From the start, the backwards compatible status of some games was all but assured – games that were still having sequels produced were obvious choices for the programme, as were those published by companies that Microsoft continue to maintain close relationships with. All well and good – assuming your favourite games of the 360 generation fell into that category. If they didn’t, however… you might be like me. Still waiting, and hoping against hope that a couple of the games you still love from last gen will make their way onto the backwards compatible list (or in some cases get their own remaster!).
This is the list of my favourite 360 games that are not back compatible. At this point, they probably never will be. They’re not the best games of the generation – they’re probably best described as cult classics. The things they have in common, for the most part, is that they were enjoyed by all the people I know who played them… and they didn’t sell well enough to warrant sequels. They all contained something interesting and unique, be it a gameplay mechanic, a world setting, or a narrative framework – and to my mind, the fact that they’ll probably never be experienced by any volume of new players or receive sequels is a massive shame.
So, in no particular order, here we go.
Child of Eden
Child of Eden was released in June 2011, and was immediately unusual by virtue of being a Kinect game that actually worked quite well. It wore its influences on its sleeves, with Rez being the most obvious one – and saw the player shooting glowing lights on screen in time with music. A couple of different methods of attack were available, mapped to different buttons if playing on a pad. If playing with Kinect, you had to clap your hands together to swap between them. This might sound dry. It wasn’t.
It was a stunning looking game with a stylised aesthetic that still holds up well today. The soundtrack by Genki Rockets enhanced the whole ‘flying through space’ feeling. It was criticised at the time for being short (you can play the game from start to finish in about an hour once you know the tracks well enough), but for some the experience was good enough to warrant multiple playthroughs.
Unfortunately, sales for Child of Eden were well below what were expected – the game sold 34,000 units in its first month. It’s currently languishing at only 2169 votes for backwards compatibility on the Microsoft website, so seeing this game running on an Xbox One seems highly unlikely.
Remember Me was developed by Dontnod and published by Capcom, releasing in June 2013. If Dontnod sound familiar, that’s because they went on to develop Life Is Strange (which in itself has become something of a cult classic) and are currently working on the highly anticipated Vampyr.
With the benefit of hindsight, Remember Me can be looked on as a proving ground for a lot of the features that made Life Is Strange so popular – a strong female protagonist, an amazing soundtrack (Remember Me’s was largely orchestral, while Life Is Strange used licensed music – but both stand out as making a massive contribution to the atmosphere of the game) and sections that involved rewinding time and manipulating events to change a future outcome.
Set in a future noir version of future Paris, Remember Me also featured some game environments that stood out from other releases of the time. Combat featured a system that allowed users to build their own combos, and the twist at the end was among the more memorable of the generation.
It’s currently sat at 5,140 votes for backward compatibility. The odds of a sequel seem narrow too – the game led Dontnod into a difficult financial situation that was fortunately resolved by the success of Life Is Strange, so their reticence to re-visit the franchise is understandable.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
I can’t lie – Enslaved: Odyssey to the West is probably in my top 5 games of the 360 generation. Hell, it might even be in the top 2. I absolutely adored this game when I played it, and I still compare elements of other games to it to this day – most recently Destiny.
Enslaved was released in October 2011 – the same month as Dark Souls, Rage, and Battlefield 3 – and it didn’t manage to stand up against any of them in commercial terms. Enslaved failed to sell 500,000 copies in spite of review scores averaging 8/10 and the involvement of Andy Serkis.
The game featured a lush, green post-apocalyptic world where jungles and forests had reclaimed roads and skyscrapers. The combat was heavy and satisfying, and the story was up there with the best game narratives of the time (not surprising – it was written by Alex Garland). The set pieces – in particular the one that the game begins with – were incredible. What I loved most about the game though was the interaction between the player controlled Monkey and his captor Trip, and the way in which the dynamic of the relationship between them changed so slowly and with such subtlety through the course of the game. The ending was poignant – I recall “suddenly finding I had something in my eye”, if you know what I mean. To say any more would be a spoiler; my hope is that after reading this you’ll go and find a way of playing this game for yourself. You won’t regret it – I promise.
Enslaved currently has 6,159 votes for backward compatibility – one of them is mine. Part of me really hopes for a full current-gen HD remake of this one as I’d buy it in a heartbeat and do everything I could to make everyone else do the same thing. The odds of a sequel seem almost non-existent though. Since shipping Enslaved, developer Ninja Theory has released DMC: Devil May Cry and are now deep in development on Hellblade.
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron
El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron landed on Xbox 360 in September 2011, and in spite of lots of 8/10 reviews failed to break the UK Top 40 – probably in no small part due to it sharing a release window with Dead Island and Gears of War 3. If you were gaming at the time you probably remember the famous trailer and advertising campaign for the former… and Gears of War 3 is Gears of War 3, so enough said there. In retrospect, a little game with a weird name such as El Shaddai probably never really stood a chance.
Which is a crying shame. Everything about El Shaddai screams ‘odd’. It’s based on a bible story (albeit extremely loosely), has a visual style that literally changes level by level – to the point that some levels look like 16-bit era platformers, another looks like a cel-shaded version of Bladerunner, and yet others appear like watercolour paintings. The hack and slash combat was satisfying and varied, and the story made almost no sense at all. It’s the kind of game that probably wouldn’t actually ship today – to be honest it’s just too strange and too niche; but some of us loved it for exactly those reasons.
So far, 1,438 people have voted for it to be made backwards compatible. Let’s face it – it’s never gonna happen.
Alice: Madness Returns
Alice: Madness Returns was developed by Spicy Horse and released in June 2011 to mixed review scores.
The game itself was a 3rd person action adventure, with the player taking control of the titular Alice and exploring areas of Wonderland. Weaponry kept up with the overall style of the game by virtue of its borderline insanity – Alice: Madness returns is the only game I know of that allows you to beat enemies to death with a Hobby Horse, use a Pepper Grinder as a machine gun, or fire explosives from a Teapot Cannon.
I loved the other-worldly strangeness of it – it felt like Wonderland was a translucent layer sitting over the ‘real’ world rather than another world in its own right. The graphics were good enough to sell it, and some of the music in the game was awesome (especially the stuff contributed by Chris Vrenna – who at one time was heavily involved with Nine Inch Nails). Alice herself seemed to become more and more psychotic as the game progressed, and overall the game was an extremely unsettling one – even if the gameplay was inconsistent at times. The game felt like a fairy tale that had been tied up and tortured until it descended into an insanity that was bizarrely beautiful. Nothing I’d played prior to that was quite as disturbing.
Alice: Madness Returns has currently garnered 10,455 votes for backwards compatibility – making it the most commonly requested game of the ones on my list. My fingers are actually crossed that something might happen with this one. Call me a defiant optimist.
Edit – two minutes after going live, the first commenters pointed out that Alice: Madness Returns is already backwards compatible! Sorry guys, missed the memo. But hey! The good news about me being wrong is that you can all play it – I’d highly recommend you do!
Don’t forget, you can still vote for games to be made backward compatible by going here.
Are there any games that you really want to become backwards compatible that you know probably never will be? What are the games you loved that commercially flopped? Let the conversation flow in the comments below!