games / Columns

Top 8 Games from Microsoft Franchises: Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach, More

April 14, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Gears of War 3

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! Last week I said the topic was going to be about the best games in popular franchises, but I decided to amend that some. I think it might be more interesting to take a look at each of the main console makers, as well as some of the bigger third-party developers, and see what are some of the best game in some of their more popular franchises instead. The general rule here is that the games have to be either developed, or published by Microsoft. So, Forza would obviously qualify, but Minecraft wouldn’t’ since they just bought it later in life. Let’s begin:

#8: Ms. Splosion Man

To be fair, Ms. Splosion Man is very similar to its predecessor, Splosion Man. You still mainly platform around levels, exploding to jump to higher areas or to destroy obstacles/enemies in your way. I liked this one more though because of the expanded overworld (like…actually having one), and it just had more platforming stuff, like grinding on rails, cannons, hidden stuff in levels, etc. This franchise seems dormant now, but could always return.

#7: Crackdown 1

Often times, the first game in a franchise is the best one, and that includes Crackdown. Crackdown 1 might not win any awards for deep characters or writing, but it was just a very fun city playground for you to jump around, kill enemies with interesting weapons and to collect orbs. Unlike in the other two (bad) Crackdown games, these orbs didn’t run from you, they just stayed stationary. Microsoft seems to keep wanting to replicate the success of the first game but both Crackdown 2 and 3, the quality has been terrible. It’s a bit of a shame.

#6: Fable 3

I know the first, and especially second, Fable games are well-regarded. I didn’t like either of those though but enjoyed Fable 3 quite a bit. I think a lot of it was due to them not focusing on the social aspects much. You could still smile, pose, or fart on people, but it really wasn’t needed. I also thought combat was a lot easier and more fluid, and you could pretty much decimate all enemies once you learned the spell-combining stuff. Fable 3 is generally looked down upon but it’s the first (and only) game in the franchise I actually liked.

#5: Forza Motorsport 3

Honestly, there isn’t a ton of differentiation between later-era Forza Motorsport games. They still look great, control well, and have a ton of cars for you to mess with. I’m picking Forza 3 though because that was the first one on the Xbox 360 and it showed a substantial upgrade in terms of graphics and features from the last two games. Like, the Auction House and player storefronts being much more front & center with this game. Or actually having a single-player race season, so you will want to play against the CPU. Also, the game just looked fantastic and helped cement why Forza is still scene as the graphical test for Microsoft systems.

#4: Toy Soldiers: Cold War

The first Toy Soldiers was a pretty cute tower defense game but it was all WW1 aesthetics and didn’t have much of a personality. Cold War had a ton of personality due to it being set in an America vs. USSR with a lot of humor about it. The biggest addition was “Barrages”, basically kill-streaks that spun a random wheel that could unlock powerful units, barrages, or even letting you run around as an ultra-powerful soldier, letting you decimate enemy units. There was a third Toy Soldiers game with actual licensed properties (Assassin’s Creed, GI Joe), but it just wasn’t as fun at this one.

#3: Gears of War 3

Gears games tend to blend together for me. I remember the first one a lot because it was so new at the time. I disliked the second one, and only played the fourth one because a friend of mine wanted to run through it on co-op, which was actually my first time playing any of these games with someone. Picking one Gears game though, I think I liked Gears 3 the most. The biggest reason is because it felt like it was actually closing out a story. It was nice to see Marcus and his dad finally having some closure, as well as having Ice-T in a game, since he automatically makes any game better. I think you could also tell your AI guys to fire at certain enemies, which made them actually useful in combat as well.

#2: Halo: Reach

Like with Gears, most Halo games blend together for me also. I distinctly remember disliking ODST because of the open-ended city and the fact I couldn’t find missions. On the flip side of that coin is Reach, which is probably my favorite Halo game. Having a good squad of characters helped, with most of them having distinct personalities. I liked that you could change how your guy, Noble 6, looked, so I ended up giving him some flaming head or something. Plus, I thought the story was really interesting, it was a prequel sure (so you knew how it ended), but there were some good beats as to how you actually get there.

#1: Forza Horizon 1

By almost every measure, Forza Horizon 4 is a better game than 1. It has more diverse racing types, it (obviously) looks way better, it has a bigger game world, seasonal weather, etc. It is lacking two things to me though, which helped make Horizon 1 still the best Forza game, an amazing soundtrack and an actual bad guy to race. The soundtrack for the first Horizon is great, going from hard rock, to EDM to general pop music. The second thing is more important though. The later Horizon games don’t actually give you a reason to race, outside of some vague “Well, you want to be no. 1, don’t you?” pablum. Horizon 1 had Darius Flynt, an entitled, arrogant guy who screws you over in the opening parts of the game, so it becomes an actual motivation to de-thrown him by the end. It’s the same reason why the 2005 version of Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which has Razor Callahan, is still the best NFS game, because it gives the player motivation to actually finish the game. The first Horizon is still a gem of a game and the best in the franchise.

For comments, list your favorite games from Microsoft franchises and why.

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Top 8 Games from Sony Franchises