The Xbox 360, in short
Though old (originally released in 2005), the Xbox 360 still is an excellent gaming console that will make you happy if you don’t want to spend too much, aren’t after 4K graphics, and are yet to play mind-blowing titles such as Gears of War, Halo, Mass Effect or Alan Wake. What’s more, you can easily find bundles including the console, controllers, and a ton of games for ridiculously low prices on the second-hand market.
If you don‘t already own an Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or Xbox Series S and have access to the Xbox Game Pass, an Xbox 360 is still an interesting option.
What’s great about the Xbox 360
- The console is cheap.
- 1500+ games to choose from.
- Slim models are reliable
- It’s still possible to play online.
What’s not so great about the Xbox 360
- The console is starting to show its age.
- No 4K gaming (1080p max)
- No Bluray player (CDs and DVDs only).
- Deserted online servers.
I bought a used Xbox 360 E — Stingray model —, and I’m super thrilled about it.
Now, before I tell you about my re-discovery of one of the best consoles ever made, let’s start with a bit of History.
If you don’t know much about the Xbox 360 and are considering buying one, you must read this part.
Really, don’t skip it.
Hi friend! Did you know the Xbox One is backward compatible with the Xbox 360? It means that it can play hundreds of 360 and Original Xbox titles. Second-hand prices usually range as follows:
- Xbox One: 50 – 80 $ / € / £
- Xbox One S: 80 – 100 $ / € / £
- Xbox One X: 150-200 $ / € / £
Read my Xbox One X review to learn more.
Running for 11 years, with nine different Xbox 360 models.
From 2005 to 2016, Microsoft manufactured and sold nine different Xbox 360 versions.
I want to stress the iteration part.
The X360 was first released in November 2005 and reigned alone on the seventh generation of consoles for a whole year (the Wii and the PlayStation 3 only stormed the market later in November 2006).
While this competition-free year gave Microsoft an interesting head-start, with millions of units sold, the Xbox 360 turned out to be the most expensive console launch of all time.
2005 – 2009: the Xbox 360 FAT models
From 2005 to 2009, Microsoft released 5 X360 models.
The Xbox 360 Premium (2005)
Sold with a 20GB hard drive storage and “chromed” parts, the Premium Model was classy and, quite frankly, good-looking. Of course, 20GB sounds ridiculously low today, but it did the job back in 2005 as it was not yet possible to install games, and downloadable content wasn’t anywhere close to what we know today — except for Xbox Live Arcade titles from the Xbox Live marketplace.
Today, a 20GB hard drive clearly isn’t enough.
The Xbox 360 Core System (2005)
Released alongside the Premium model, the Xbox 360 Core is simply a Premium console with no hard drive disk and no fancy chromed parts.
Whatever you decide, DO NOT BUY THESE OLDER MODELS ⚠️. If you can now increase the memory up to 2TB via external USB storage, these models are unreliable (more on that later). Additionally, they don’t have any HDMI output or WiFi antenna. So again, if you are to buy a FAT model, do not buy these.
Paving the way for the NXE (New Xbox Experience) —an update released in 2008 that revamped the interface of the Xbox 360 and added a couple of new features, such as installing games on the hard drive or enabling the use of external USB storage to expand the console storage—, Microsoft released a new black model, with 6x more storage space than the Premium version, an HDMI port, and a built-in WiFi antenna. The Elite model.
Xbox 360 Elite (2007)
The Xbox 360 Elite is sold with 120GB Hard Drive storage and is slightly more reliable than the previous Xbox 360 models.
Xbox 360 Arcade (2007)
Iteration of the Core version of the 360, the Arcade model had integrated 512Mo memory and was far more reliable than the previous Core consoles.
Xbox 360 Super Elite (2009)
The Super Elite is simply an Elite version sold with a 250GB Hard Drive (instead of 120GB).
Don’t get me wrong, the first X360 models were great. In fact, Microsoft announced that the 360 was made to be 80 times more powerful than the Original Xbox, which was already the most powerful console of the previous generation.
With that said, the first Xbox 360 models were also highly complex and relied on over 1700 parts shipped from over 200 different manufacturers. Because the 360 was a relatively small console filled with too many components, it dealt rather horribly with heat.
Too much heat eventually caused a general system failure for millions of gamers (I included, three times!!). The system failure was signaled by three red lights on the power button of the Xbox. The infamous Red Ring of Death (or RROD).
Are there any “safe” FAT models?
Some are, but it’s not easy to recognize them.
Here are more details about it — and how to recognize the safer models.
The unsafe models
- Core and Premium Models (2005-mid 2007)
- 90nm GPU & CPU.
- Samsung or Hitachi disc drives.
How to recognize Xenons: they don’t have any HDMI input.
- Arcade, Premium, and Elite Models (mid-2007 to late 2007)
- YUV & HDMI Ports.
- Improved heat management (still not reliable, though).
- Samsung or Hitachi disc drives.
How to recognize Zephyrs: they come with a 203W power supply.
- Arcade, Premium, and Elite Models (late 2007-2008)
- YUV & HDMI Ports.
- 90nm GPU & 65nm CPU (slightly more reliable than previous models).
- Samsung, Hitachi, or BenQ disc drives.
How to recognize Falcons: they come with a 175W power supply.
The safe(ish) FAT models
- Arcade, Premium, and Elite Models (Late 2008-2010)
- YUV & HDMI Ports.
- 65nm GPU & CPU (far more reliable).
How to recognize Jaspers: You’ll find 12.1A written on the console’s back, and they come with a 150W power supply. These are the most reliable Fat Models. All new consoles sold after October 2008 are likely to be Jasper models.
In 2010, Microsoft managed to eliminate the RROD by introducing new slim models.
To be clear, I recommend that you set your mind on a slim model if you’re to buy an Xbox 360 – mainly because Microsoft won’t be able to replace your console if it dies as they’ve ceased manufacturing them a while ago.
2010 – 2013: the Slim models
From 2010 to 2013, Microsoft released two new Xbox 360 models, branded S (for slim) and E (or Stingray model). Smaller, silent, and slightly faster, these models are also very reliable.
Xbox 360 S 250 GB model (2010)
The S model was notable for its smaller size, integrated Kinect sensor, and 250 GB hard drive. The console also came with a black wireless controller and a black headset.
Xbox 360 S 4 GB model (2010)
You can find this model for a very reasonable price. The downside is that 4GB is very little. With this model, you will need to buy a proprietary hard drive or use an external USB hard drive (up to 2To).
Xbox 360 S 320 GB limited edition (2011)
Xbox 360 E | Stingray model (2013)
Conceived with the future (at the time) Xbox One in mind, the Xbox 360 E (or Stingray model) is now the best version of Microsoft’s console. It’s safe, relatively silent, and it’s looking great!
Enough about the technique. Let’s talk about games! After all, your decision to (maybe) buy an X360 in 2020 is probably more based on the games you’ve missed — especially if you did not own one back in the day.
An impressive Catalogue of 2100+ games
Halo, Gears of Wars, Alan Wake, Dead Rising, Amped, Forza Motorsport & Forza Horizon, Fable, Left 4 Dead, Project Gotham Racing, Blue Dragon, Viva Piñata, Lost Odyssey, or Mass Effect, the Xbox 360 has been a home for so many incredible licenses. If you add multiplatform titles such as the great Grand Theft Auto IV, the 360 totaled many more titles than the PS3 and Wii.
To give you something to compare it with, the PlayStation 3 has 1400+ games, and the almighty Nintendo Wii counts about 1500+ titles.
All in all, the Xbox 360 still has a lot to offer to those who’ve never had the pleasure to own it before.
Without even mentioning the backward compatibility.
Full Backward compatibility with the first Xbox
If the Xbox One is now backward compatible with many Xbox 360 games and a handful of original Xbox titles, the 360 can launch almost all the Original Xbox games without breaking a sweat.
This was essential for Microsoft to sell more consoles … and more copies of Halo.
Did you know? The Original Xbox was a commercial failure for Microsoft (with only 24.56 million units sold – when Sony sold 157.68 million copies of its PlayStation 2). That said, Halo 1 and 2 were such a console-buying driver for the OG Xbox that Microsoft had to make sure that Xbox 360 players could still play them. Hence the backward compatibility.
Something only the first and least reliable PlayStation 3 model also offered. The more recent PS3 models are partially backward compatible and only launch PSX and PS3 games — not PS2.
The introduction of “Achievements.”
Do you remember gaming before Achievements and Trophies? With the Xbox 360 and its “Achievements.”, Microsoft introduced a new way to play.
If you are an achievement/trophy hunter, remember that the Xbox 360 was home for +2100 games. However, if you are a completist, keep in mind that many online servers are now closed, making it impossible to unlock online achievements.
Some online servers are still active, but it’s coming to an end
The Xbox Live was the king of online gaming on consoles. Stable servers, millions of players, and … microphones!
Today, Xbox Live servers are still active on a fair amount of Xbox 360 games, but so-called “hackers” may ruin everyone’s fun in open game sessions. Of course, you can still create private games and invite your friends to join you – if, like you, they are interested in buying and playing older games and consoles.
Don’t waste your money on an Xbox Live Subscription for the Xbox 360
Unless you own an Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or Xbox Series S and already have an Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass subscription, spending 60 bucks a year to play on empty servers on your Xbox 360 is debatable.
An acceptable secondary media center
Microsoft built the 360 to be more than a console. They created a media center:
- An excellent console
- A DVD player (if you’re looking for a cheap console also to read Blu-Ray disks, buy a PlayStation 3 and not an X360)
- A music player
- Live TV
- A streaming device (Amazon Video, Netflix, ESPN, etc.)
Most applications aren’t receiving updates on the Xbox 360, making it impossible to launch them for obvious security reasons.
What media format can you read on the Xbox 360?
Xbox 360 supports videos in WMV (Windows Media Video) and MP4 using H.264 or MPEG-4 codec. Unfortunately, it doesn’t support MKV or FLV files.
No surprises here, but the Xbox 360 can also read CDs.
Introducing Kinect: trying to reach a new audience
The Xbox 360 game catalog, just like Playstation’s, was mostly targeting mature gamers. Now, seeing the Nintendo Wii’s success, targeting all family members, Microsoft introduced their Kinect Sensor — a camera equipped with an advanced movement detector.
Kinect is an interesting add-on to the Xbox 360, BUT it’s not groundbreaking. Controls were not as precise as the Wiimotes, and you need to stand far enough from the captor for it to work correctly. This means that you should forget about it if you live in a small apartment or play in a small room.
It later proved to be a bullet in the foot for Microsoft and its Xbox One, but that’s a different story.
Five games to start your Xbox 360 adventure
Something great when looking into previous generation video game consoles is … the price of games. They are incredibly cheap! Some may cost you an arm, but that’s only true for rare gems.
You can find most 360 games (used, of course) for 5-10 bucks or less if you look hard enough.
Here are five games I highly recommend you acquire if you haven’t had the chance to play them before.
Starting with Halo 3 😱.
Halo 3 (FPS)
FPS | 1-16 players online* (1-4 players local)
Halo 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie for the Xbox 360. Third installment in the Halo franchise, the game concludes the story arc that began with Halo: Combat Evolved and in Halo 2.
Halo 3 is one of the best titles you can play on the Xbox 360. The game was released in September 2007 on the 360 and later in 2014 as part of the Master Chief Collection on the Xbox One.
* Halo’s online servers closed their doors on the 360 at the end of the year 2021. To play Halo 3 online, you need to play via the MCC on the Xbox One.
Mass Effect (Action RPG)
Action RPG | Singleplayer
Released in November 2007, the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect is an action role-playing game that takes place in a science fiction setting. The player takes on the role of Commander Shepard, an elite soldier who must stop a powerful enemy from taking over the galaxy. The game features a large cast of characters, and the player must make choices that will affect the story (within reason). The game also features a unique combat system that allows the player to use cover and special abilities to defeat enemies.
Read my review of Mass Effect.
Gears of War (TPS)
TPS | 1-8 players online (1-2 players local)
The Gears of War series focuses on the conflict between humanity and an alien race known as the Locust Horde. The first installment, Gears of War, was released in 2006 for the Xbox 360. The game’s story follows Marcus Fenix, a human soldier who is dispatched to planet Sera to lead a last-ditch effort to destroy the Locust Horde and save humanity. The game was well-received by critics, with praise particularly directed at its graphics and multiplayer mode.
Left 4 Dead (FPS)
FPS | 1-8 Players online* (1-2 players local)
Left 4 Dead is a fast-paced cooperative first-person shooter video game developed and published by Valve Corporation. Up to four players can cooperate in campaign mode, battling through hordes of zombies. There are also versus and survival modes in which players can compete against each other, as well as AI-controlled zombies.
* The online mode isn’t so active anymore.
Alan Wake (Action-Adventure)
Action-Adventure | Singleplayer
Alan Wake is a psychological thriller video game developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft Studios. The game revolves around the fictional character Alan Wake, who is a writer suffering from insomnia. The game is set in the town of Bright Falls, Washington, and follows Alan as he tries to uncover the truth behind his wife’s disappearance.
The game was released for the Xbox 360 in 2010, and received positive reviews from critics. The game was praised for its atmosphere, plot, and graphics — but was criticized for its combat gameplay and uneven pacing.
Xbox 360 Accessories to buy
To better enjoy the “Xbox 360 experience”, I recommend the following accessories.
Wireless controllers (necessity)
The Xbox 360 is compatible with USB and Wireless controllers. If it quickly became an industry standard, it was a luxury to play with a wireless controller in 2005. And, to be honest, after playing the NES Mini, it is darn hard to go back to wired controllers…
What’s more, compared to OG Xbox’s Duke controllers, the Xbox 360’s were excellent. In fact, some would argue that the Xbox 360 controller is the best controller ever made.
Hard Drive (necessity)
In 2007, Microsoft added the possibility to install games on the Xbox 360, considerably reducing the framerate and loading time on games such as Mass Effect, GTA IV, and Gears of War.
There are two models of proprietary hard drives for the Xbox 360.
- Hard drives compatible with the five first FAT models (from 20 to 250GB)
- Hard drives compatible with the Xbox 360 Slim models (from 4 to 500GB)
Play and Charge Kit and Rechargeable Battery Pack (nice-to-have)
This particular accessory is what I’d call a nice-to-have. However, if you have LR6 rechargeable batteries and a charger, you should do just fine. Count about +50 hours of charge, on average.
Universal Media Remote (nice-to-have)
This accessory can be interesting if you plan to use your Xbox 360 to watch your old DVD collection. Otherwise, this is useless. While I’m at it, Microsoft also released an external HD DVD drive for their Xbox 360. Unfortunately, as you know by now, the HD DVD lost the battle to the Blu-Ray Disc – making this accessory obsolete. So, if you want to watch HD movies, the Xbox 360 is not what you need.
Where to find an Xbox 360? And how much does it cost?
Microsoft stopped producing Xbox 360 consoles in 2016.
For this reason, it will be challenging to find a new console nowadays. Of course, you can find new models, but they are usually unnecessarily expensive.
You’ll be better off trying to buy a used model.
Used models from $30 to $70
How much is an Xbox 360 worth in 2022?
Depending on the model you’re looking for, you’ll spend from as little as $30 (for the first models) to a maximum of $70 (for the Xbox 360 E model). Knowing all the technical issues the first models encountered, I can only advise you to buy a Slim model or a Stingray E model.
⚠️ If you can afford it, look into buying an Xbox One X instead. The Xbox One X can be found (second hand) for around $150 and significantly ups the performance of the original and Xbox 360 games it can play.
⚠️ Beware of banned consoles!
The Xbox 360 was massively pirated. However, Microsoft managed to identify most consoles running on hacked software and banned them altogether from the Xbox Live (this means no more online capabilities, whatsoever).
If you buy a used model of Xbox 360, there’s a chance it’s banned from Xbox Live. If you’re not planning to play online, it’s not such a big deal, but it also means that you won’t be able to download game updates either (you can update and patch games from a USB drive, but it’s certainly not as convenient).
In other words, I would recommend buying your Xbox 360 from a specialized store to avoid bad surprises. However, if you want to risk it and buy it directly from a complete stranger, try it before spending your money.
Verdict: good buy, or goodbye?
The Xbox 360 is a must… ONLY IF you don’t already have an Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or Xbox Series S and have access to the Xbox Game Pass.
The Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S are compatible with over 550 Xbox 360 games (find the complete list on Xbox.com). And most of those are blockbusters. That said, this leaves over 1500 games behind. Keep that in mind!
It’s also worth mentioning that Xbox 360 consoles are now more than affordable (you can easily find a slim model for less than 50 bucks) and reliable, first-class gaming platforms. What’s more, if you head to your local game store (or eBay 🧐), you will find tons of cheap yet high-quality games.
All in all, the 360 is still worth buying in 2023!
Let me know what you think of the Xbox 360 in the comments below. What are your most vivid memories? What are your favorite titles?
Thank you for the insight.
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