Now that the 360 has been on the market for a number years now, we’re starting to see some big name titles come down to single-digit prices. And as long as you willing to go digging around in the used-game market, you can starting building an impressive game library for much less than the console cost you. Now, I haven’t played all of these, but I’m going mostly on critic’s reviews and word-of-mouth from gamers with similar tastes. I figured the $10 price point would the sweet spot for quality-versus-price, so I’ll list the top picks under that mark (Prices listed are an average eBay price and lowest Amazon.com prices for US games, including shipping.)
There’s actually a LOT of games that could be on this list, so, especially in the “Other Cheap Favorites” section, I know there is room for expansion. I’d love to hear your recommendations for additions!
Since retail Xbox 360 games aren’t the only thing you can play on your console, I’m also including some of the most critically acclaimed XBLA titles so far and my picks for the best cheap games from the original XBox that are backwards compatible on the XBox 360.
Check out the other Cheapest Games Worth Your Time articles
Best Retail Games $10 or Under
|Bioshock & Bioshock 2: $9
Just when the gaming world thought the first-person-shooter genre was getting stale, the Bioshock series used an artistic style, eerie atmosphere, and compelling story-telling to interest gamers that otherwise avoid the genre. Gathering many “Game of the Year” awards for 2008 racked up lots of sales of the original Bioshock, many of which ended up back on the aftermarket at reduced prices. Bioshock 2, which a solid game, didn’t live up to glory of its predecessor in the eyes of many gamers and quickly got discounted in the used market. You can now pick up both on the 360 quite reasonably.
Shop for Bioshock Series on eBay
Shop for Bioshock Series on Amazon.com
|Gears of War & Gears of War 2: $8 Each
After relying on the Halo franchise for a number of years, Microsoft added the Gears of War francise to its fold to solidify its roundup of combat action titles. Now that the third installment of the series has taken over the 360 crowd, the first 2 installments are becoming quite affordable and still very much worth the price of admission.
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|Halo 3: $7
Of course, the Halo series is a cornerstone of the XBox ecosystem and Halo 3 has finally been traded in and sold off enough that the aftermarket value has dropped considerably. So if you’ve been holding off on this one, it’s not a bad time to jump onboard.
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|Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare: $9
This FPS was one of the highlights of the 2007 holiday release schedule and received lots of play time in 2008 and beyond. However, now that two additional Modern Warfare titles have been flying off the shelves, this title can finally be obtained for less than $10.
Shop for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on eBay
Shop for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfareon Amazon.com
|Dead Rising: $8
Not content to rely on the Resident Evil series for thrilling horror games, Capcom started a fresh franchise with Dead Rising and fans couldn’t get enough of it. Even though it was released all the way back in 2006, it has just recently started to get into budget territory.
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|Forza Motorsport 2 / Marvel Ultimate Alliance Combo: $7
Once bundled with the console, this combo is now dirt cheap and both games are worthy of the price tag on their own (You can also buy them both separately for about the same price or a bit lower). Forza is Microsoft’s answer to the Gran Turismo fand eatures stunning visuals, plenty of customization and deep adriving physics. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is an excellent action RPG featuring tons of comic book favorites.
Shop for Forza Motorsport 2 / Marvel Ultimate Alliance on eBay
Shop for Forza Motorsport 2 / Marvel Ultimate Alliance on Amazon.com
|Fallout 3: $8
The first two Fallout were cult-classic RPG titles released in 1997 and 1998 respectively. The series went ten years with a strong following but without an additional sequel. Much to fans delight, Fallout 3 was released and had plent of marketing and word-of-mouth to bring the series further into the mainstream.
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Part Grand Theft Auto, part City of Heroes, Crackdown is a free-form action game is set in a futuristic, crime-ridden metropolis in which you can use initiate superhuman feats such as throwing cars and leaping across rooftops. It plays brilliantly and is astonishingly easy to get into. For outrageousness and pure entertainment value, you can’t go wrong with Crackdown.
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This disc contains three amazing games that are availible as XBLA downloads (at about $10 each), but in a cheaper, physcial format (which may delight some 360 owners, but annoy others). The three games, Rez HD, Lumines Live!, and Every Extend Extra Extreme (E4) are each stunning audio/visual creations from Tetsuya Mizuguchi. If you enjoy retro shooter and puzzle in addition to eye and ear candy, this in an amazing value.
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|Street Fighter IV: $8
Capcom finally brought the Street Fighter series back to the masses with Street Fighter IV. It isn’t as niche and hardcore as Street Fighter III and uses 3D graphics without sucking. Street Fighter IV actually feels like a modern version of Street Fighter II more than anything. The only sacrafice with this cheap installment is that you are missing the additional characters and slight tweaking that Super SSVI and Arcade Edition recently brought to the game. But if you want to dip your toes into this new series without spending much, this is a great place to get started. (But for a few more dollars, you can get Super SFIV)
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|Lost Planet: Extreme Condition: $6
This blockbuster sci-fi shooter is just recently taking a dive in resale value, leaving bargain shoppers with a wonderful value. Everything from its well-designed single player campaign to the never-ending online battles makes this adventure well worth the price of admission.
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|Viva Piñata: $6
One of Rare’s first projects on the 360 was this friendly life simulator (think Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, etc). And while it was targetted towards kids, it still have appeal for fun-loving adults as well. So if you have kids or still feel like one yourself, this would be an excellent budget addition to your 360 library.
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|Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Series: About $6 each
As in earlier Ghost Recon games, Advanced Warfighter is filled with a variety of tactical mission types, including recon, escort, and full-on assault. The fantastic single player campaign will draw you in and the extensive online multiplayer options will keep you coming back for more. This finely-polished title from Free Radical (of TimeSplitters fame) is a must-own for fans of tactical warfare.
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|XBox Live Arcade Unplugged: $4
If you don’t mind having these games on a disc instead of the hard drive, this is a phenomenal deal and worth the price of admission simply for Geometry Wars. However, this disc actually includes six full Xbox Live Arcade games (Geometry Wars Retro Evolved, Wik: Fable of Souls, Outpost Kaloki X, Bejeweled 2 Deluxe, Hardwood Backgammon, and Texas Hold ‘em) along with a 1 month account to Xbox Live Gold.
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|Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas Series: $6 Each
Rainbow Six: Vegas was one of the hottest 360 games when it came out two years ago. If you prefer a first-person perspective to your tactical shooters, this is a great game to pick up for your 360 library. And as you can expect from the best Tom Clancy games, the single player campaigns are solid and the highly customizable multiplayer keep it going strong. Of course, if you want the latest and greatest, you can pay twice as much for the sequel, but if you’re on a budget, stick with the original.
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|Project Gotham Racing 4: $5
I’ve been a fan of this series since it transitioned from Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast. Personally, I’m not a fan of ultra-customizable and overly realistic racers (super-real graphics are ok) like Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. So the Project Gotham Racing 4 is just right for me when I want something a bit more arcade-like without spending much.
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|War Tech: Senko No Ronde: $7
If you are an old-school arcade fan that enjoys 2D shooting and fighting games, you seriously need to consider picking up Senko No Ronde. It is essentially a modern crossover of the two retro genres and, despite its rather subpar reviews, its actually a pretty good game if you know what you’re getting into.
Shop for War Tech: Senko No Ronde on eBay
Shop for War Tech: Senko No Ronde on Amazon.com
|Top Spin 2: $7
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Sega’s Virtua Tennis series, but Top Spin is its best competition when it comes to a tennis game that is easy to pick up and difficult to master. These games always make for a surprisingly good party game and you can’t go wrong with it at this price.
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|LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy: $8
Whatever you do, do not write this game off as a kids game. Lego Star Wars is an absolute blast – especially with two-player co-op. My wife wouldn’t stop bugging me to play “just one more level”. Just like the movies, “The Original Trilogy” is best of the bunch, but for a few more dollars, you can get the Complete Saga on the 360 instead.
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Cheap Backwards-Compatible XBox Must-Haves For Your 360
If you’re a 360 owner, you really shouldn’t overlook the quality titles that are in the original XBox’s library. There are so many solid games that are still worth playing years later. However, many of them have been out for a while, so you can scoup them up for next to nothing. I’ve limited this section quite a bit, but if you want a more detailed guide, check out the Cheapest XBox Games Worth Your Time.
|Halo & Halo 2: $8
There is no doubt that Halo is still one of the most popular console FPSs out there and is the cornerstone of the XBox library. If you want to see the beginning of this landmark series, you can do so on the cheap while waiting for Halo 3 to come down in value.
Shop for Halo on eBay
Shop for Halo on Amazon.com
|Jet Set Radio Future / Sega GT Combo: $4
The original Jet Grind Radio from the Dreamcast is still one of my all-time favorites, and its sequel on the XBox simplifies the gameplay a bit in some areas, bring the story forward a number of years, and puts some XBox polish on the already slick graphical style. JSRF is an incredibly unique and entertaining game that should not be overlooked. What’s better is JSRF was combined with Sega GT for an XBox pack-in disk. You should be able to find the combo disc just about anywhere for next to nothing.
Shop for Jet Set Radio Future / Sega GT Combo on eBay
Shop for Jet Set Radio Future / Sega GT Combo on Amazon.com
|Panzer Dragoon Orta: $6
Even though your typical XBox owner probably isn’t even familiar with the Panzer Dragoon series, that shouldn’t stop you from spending a little cash on checking this gem out. The Panzer Dragoon series is a collection of cult-classics on the ill-fated Sega Saturn, but the on-rails shooter made a stunning return on the XBox. This under-appreciated title is one of Sega’s last great masterpieces.
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Shop for Panzer Dragoon Orta on Amazon.com
|Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge: $4
If you enjoy flight action games, you couldn’t ask for much more from Crimson Skies. In additional to it’s killer dog-fighting gameplay, it has outstanding graphics, an awesome soundtrack, easy controls, top-notch production values, a fun online mode that has a huge following, and professional voice acting that adds a blend of drama, noir, and comedy.
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Shop for Crimson Skies on Amazon.com
The Best XBLA Games Under $10
There really are so many excellent games on XBox Live Arcade — and most of them are under $10. This could be a rather lengthty list (maybe a topic for another time), so I’ll just list my highest recommendations.
- Ikaruga: $10
- Rez HD: $10
- Braid: $10
- Super Meat Boy: $10
- Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2: $8
- Alien Hominid HD: $10
- Bionic Commando Rearmed: $10
- Bomberman Live: $10
- Every Extend Extra Extreme: $10
- Mega Man 9: $10
- Pac-Man Championship Edition : $10
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2: $10
- Puzzle Quest: $10
- N+ : $10
- Soul Calibur: $10
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: $10
- Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix: $10
- Lumines Live!: $10
- Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting: $10
- Metal Slug 3: $10
- Prince of Persia Classic: $10
360 Games Near The $10 Mark
Here’s a few more 360 games that you may be able to snag for $10 if you’re really lucky, but average out to be a bit more. But if you’re patient, these should drop under $10 before you know it.
- The Orange Box: $15 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Forza Motorsport 3: $11 – eBay / Amazon.com
- LIMBO/Trials HD/Splosion Man 3 Pack: $15 – eBay / Amazon.com
Other Cheap XBox 360 Favorites
- Fable II: $5 – – eBay / Amazon.com
- Lego Batman the Videogame & Pure Combo: $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Virtua Fighter 5: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Ninja Gaiden II: $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Konami Classics Volume 1: $9 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Perfect Dark Zero: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
Other Cheap Backwards-Compatible XBox Favorites
- Burnout 3: Takedown: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- OutRun 2: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Indigo Prophecy: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee: $6 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Metal Arms: Glitch in the System: $5 – eBay / Amazon.com
- Shenmue II: $8 – eBay / Amazon.com