You should start collecting for the OG Xbox

Tom was previously EIC of Eurogamer.net and Head of Writing at Riot Games in Europe. He plays a lot of League of Legends and has a crazy SNES and Neo Geo AES collection.

When retro catches up with you.

The original Xbox was 15 years old last November, and Microsoft's first ever console has aged surprisingly well. At the time it was thoroughly beaten in the market by PlayStation 2, and pilloried in the press for its comical inability to gain any traction in Japan - the homeland of video games in the eyes of many critics who grew up with Nintendo vs Sega while missteps like the oversized "duke" controller (which just so happens to be receiving a remake) , or paying $375m for past-its-prime developer Rare, also made good copy. But the essential quality and imagination of this "PC in a box" ultimately won out, earning goodwill and fans across North America, in particular, and paving the way for Xbox 360 to become the preeminent platform of the subsequent generation.

We all kinda loved the OG Xbox, as it now has to be known thanks to Microsoft's stupid naming conventions. And guess what? If you feel nostalgic about it reading these words, now is the time to start collecting for it, because this thing is cheap, bountiful and has a catalogue of classic titles. Plus, a lot of these games will be brought to the backwards compatible program on the Xbox One, win-win. Here's what OG Xbox collecting looks like.

The system

The OG Xbox itself is easy to find in second-hand stores or on auction sites like eBay, and it currently sits in a sweet spot. People who bought it in the 2000s are starting to find it taking up space in their lofts and cupboards, and don't feel particularly attached to it, so they're getting rid of it. That means there's a solid supply hitting the market. Meanwhile, ahead-of-the-curve collectors like you are starting to feel that pang of nostalgia and take interest. All of that means that an unboxed console can be had for less than $20 if you look around, while a boxed one doesn't run to much more than $40-50.

You'll need to pay slightly more if you want one of the special editions - like the silver crystal version or the translucent green Halo edition - but those versions should hold their value, so if you get bored or experience buyer's remorse, you can always make your money back later. Video games are generally a lousy investment with the exception of a few big rares, most games and systems lose value versus inflation over time but don't undervalue the extra pleasure you'll get from having something beautiful like this on your shelf for a few years. It seems fair to factor it into your strained justification that's what we do!

In terms of what you need, make sure to get a couple of controllers for those epic couch co-op games (OG Xbox has four ports, of course, if you live with lots of like-minded friends), and a component cable should allow you to plug it into most recent TVs, although this was before the days of the ubiquitous HDMI, and don't expect 1080p or anything - OG Xbox can give you 480p with the right cable, but this is an old system. You shouldn't need a memory card though the internal hard disk has plenty of room for your save games.

One thing you can also look out for is modded Xboxes. The PC-in-a-box architecture was very hackable and a lot of people used their systems as media centers. In theory this voided warranties and made it tough or impossible to use Xbox Live, but those considerations are irrelevant now, so have at it. We're purists, so we didn't want any of that with ours, but we know not everyone is as insane about this stuff.

Oh, and you really need a duke controller for show, even if you play with the S!

The games

The greatest thing about collecting for OG Xbox is that the games remain incredibly cheap. There are a few exceptions - Outrun 2006 Coast 2 Coast and Futurama cost more than a new Xbox One game if you get them complete-in-box but in general you can pay a few bucks and end up with stone-cold classics in great condition. Your taste will inevitably vary, so we won't be too prescriptive, but here are a few we're glad we hadn't forgotten about.

  • Halo: Combat Evolved - The original Halo has one of the best FPS campaigns ever made strapped to some of the best couch deathmatch ever made. It stands up to this day, and while Halo Anniversary was solid and The Master Chief Collection works if you overlook the bugs, there's something irresistible about playing it on OG hardware.
  • Halo 2 - The main reason to play this was Xbox Live and that's not really possible any more, but this campaign is still worth revisiting too.
  • Jet Set Radio Future - OG Xbox was the closest thing we got to a spiritual Dreamcast successor thanks to games like Jet Set Radio Future and the re-release of Shenmue II, and this is still a high point for a very cute series.
  • Jade Empire - Easily overlooked next to BioWare's other stupendous RPGs, this one is a bit of a cult classic and well worth revisiting.
  • Fable - Lionhead's original Fable isn't as brilliant as its sequel, but its unique British flavor and particularly its sense of humor mesh well with imaginative mechanics. Fable is one of the best modern action RPG series of this century.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - One of BioWare's greatest ever games, and arguably the best Star Wars game ever made, this is a huge, sprawling RPG that dared to take the Star Wars IP and not simply retread Hoth and Endor and all the other highlight-reel moments.
  • Panzer Dragoon Orta - Another 'Dreamcast 2' moment, this is a brilliant shooter that obviously looks a bit less spectacular than it did at the time, but still stands up.
  • Project Gotham Racing - How we miss Bizarre Creations. The Kudos system at the core of PGR iterated on the brilliant Metropolis Street Racer from the, you guessed it, Dreamcast days, delivering a seminal arcade racing experience.
  • Project Gotham Racing 2 - Even better than the original, PGR2 is also the first place we got to see Geometry Wars in its pre-Retro Evolved days. A classic.
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell - An early third-party exclusive, Splinter Cell ultimately spread its wings across multiple formats, but the first game felt synonymous with Xbox alone, and its original take on stealth offered a riveting counterpoint to the then-PlayStation-exclusive cut-scene excesses of Metal Gear Solid.
  • Ninja Gaiden - A brutal fighting action game, completing Team Ninja's first Ninja Gaiden was a badge of honor way before we had the likes of Dark Souls.
  • Dead or Alive 3 - Speaking of Team Ninja, Dead or Alive lacked some of the depth of its fighting game rivals, and its pubescent preoccupation with disrobing its female combatants was a little embarrassing, but this was still one of the best fighting games on the system.
  • Steel Battalion - The rest of the games on this list cost a pittance, but this one will set you back because it came with THAT controller - a 40-button wraparound beast that emulated the interior of a mech. Steel Battalion famously deleted your save game if you didn't hit the eject button quickly enough before death. The game itself wasn't brilliant a bit of a crime considering the monetary and logistical commitment - but it's the sort of curio that any collector would love to have on their shelf.

"Life is short. Play more."

Collecting old games consoles is often as much about cradling the objects and remembering what they meant as playing the games, and OG Xbox has tipped over into that category for us. The great news is that, unlike kids who grew up with the Neo Geo AES or Super Nintendo, you're not going to get stung for hundreds of dollars trying to relive cherished moments lost in the never-ending downpour of video games since. An OG Xbox and a bunch of games costs less than a night out and a cab home in the early hours, so why not do it?

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