January 4th 2009 6:00 pm PT

The Top 20 LIVE Games of 2008

Last year was a great year to be an Xbox 360 gamer as is evident by the quality of titles that Xbox LIVE members were playing. After a few days of number crunching, here are the top games for 2008 based on Xbox Live connectivity.

Xbox 360 Top Live Titles
(based on UU’s)

1 Halo 3
2 Call of Duty 4
4 Gears of War 2
5 Gears of War
6 CoD: World at War
7 Guitar Hero III
8 Battlefield: Bad Company Demo
9 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Demo
10 Rock Band
11 Fable II
12 Mirror’s Edge Demo
13 Madden NFL 09
14 BF: Bad Company
15 Rainbow Six Vegas 2
16 UNO
17 Castle Crashers
18 COD: World at War Multiplayer Beta
19 Forza Motorsport 2
20 Too Human – Demo

 Top Arcade Titles (Full Versions purchased)

1 Castle Crashers
2 Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
3 Braid
4 A Kingdom for Keflings
6 Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
7 Fable II Pub Games
8 Duke Nukem 3D
9 Bionic Commando: Rearmed
10 Worms
12 Portal: Still Alive
14 1942: Joint Strike
15 Bomberman Live
17 N+
18 Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3
19 Marble Blast Ultra
20 Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

The above arcade list is based on full versions purchased.


Original Xbox Top Live Titles (based on UU’s)

1 Halo 2
2 Fable
3 Star Wars: Battlfrnt 2
4 Counter-Strike
5 Fable: Lost Chapters
6 Doom 3
7 Conker: Live Reloaded
8 Splinter Cell Chaos
10 SW: Republic Commando
11 Star Wars: Battlefront
12 Burnout 3
13 Guilty Gear XX #Reload
14 Gauntlet Seven Sorrows
15 Call of Duty 3
16 Ninja Gaiden Black
17 Crimson Skies
18 MechAssault 2
19 Call of Duty 2
20 Rainbow Six 3



Xbox 360 By Larry Hryb, Xbox LIVE's Major Nelson

  • Xbox Sonic

    interesting post.
    I do love CoD4 and GH3.

  • WHAT?

    COD4 has been topping Halo 3 WAY MORE! For almost a year it was on 1# and Halo is on top…this list is crap GOW2 on top? GOW1 top? and its better then W@W? and it has been beating GOW2 for more then a month! as GOW 2 has been 1# for 1 week and since then #3 or 4# place it gotten to! did you know the 3 games on the top (GOW 1,GOW 2 AND HALO 3) are all published by Microsoft!

  • Raz 360

    Kinda strange that COD4 has been (mainly) at the top of each weeks list for the year and yet Halo 3 is top of the all year list. Maybe its just this last month and a bit that WaW has been out that H3 has managed to make up the numbers to overtake COD4? Im pleased for it though, and COD4 for being beastly games.

    Can’t really believe that Gears 1 has beaten COD5? I know Gears 1 has been available all year and that COD5 has only had a month and a bit to make up its numbers, but that just goes to show how many ppl musta played it week in week out all year with the likes of Halo 3/COD4/GTA4 around (+ other gd games) to get to where it is given its been out 2 years now! Good stuff Epic…not just fix Gears 2 multi!

  • Arganthar

    It funny that Bad Company demo was higher than the actual game!!

  • Anon

    I was wondering something Major Nelson. If you were to merge the 360 and XBox lists, would Halo 2, Fable, and possibly even Star Wars: Battlefront 2 be on the top twenty? Just wondering. Good to see BF:BC and R6:V2 on the top twenty list.

  • AngelusInsomnus

    Having those demos listed makes for some interesting conversation, I guess, but why bother listing them among full retail games? They’re demos! They’re free. On top of that, the Arcade list makes the “full versions only” distinction. I’d like to see what should really be in those last five slots.

  • Los255


    I guess everyone who played Gears 2 missed the Shotgun in Gears 1 and went right back to it.

  • MainCityImp

    Braid is garbage.

    Where are the real good games on that list? Catan? Carcassonne?

  • Anon24

    I agree, where is the love for Carcassonne(By far most epic multiplayer puzzle game ever, I mean when you lose by one point because of postgame scoring, the words start flying lol.) and Catan? I guess to many people these days are only interested in the hyped(Braid, Nukem,Keflings,pub games) or violent(Castle Crasher, and almost every other on the list), I say go Worms, N+, Marble Blast, and Portal, showing that there is still a puzzle audience left in this community.

    Oh and Kudos to Mega Man 9, pure epic, makes me feel like a kid again.

    Also I guess the free games(Aegis Wing, Dash for Destruction, and Yaris(Bad memories)) Don’t count right?

  • P Fighter

    halo 3 numero uno!!!1

  • Mcmax3000

    I’m wondering now if the list records Unique Users based on IP addresses (which is what the Wikipedia article implies) or by Gamertags (which would make more sense as a measurement to me).

    If it goes by the number of unique Gamertags that logged into Live on each game throughout the year, that could explain how some games seemed to be ahead during certain weeks but not overall for the year.

  • Reason

    For those confused about the list, it is total unique users during 2008. Example figure – Halo3 had 5 million different people sign on and play during 2008, while COD4 had 4 million, so H3 is on top.

    Week-to-week, maybe all 4 million COD4 players played, while only 3 million (out of the possible 5 million) played H3 – so COD4 goes on top of the weekly list for that week.


    Are you use #9 is the demo and not the actual game? Yikes!

  • Anthony

    What happened to the Community Games?

  • Tom

    How was Left 4 dead not on the list, yet it won best multiplayer game of the year in the OXM?

  • Warrengonline

    Hmm, after looking over this list I am wondering if the Ninja Gaiden II Demo, Burnout Paradise Demo and Retail and Lost Planet Colonies Retail, Poker Smash games made the charts at all? And where does Alien Hominid HD fit in though it was released in 2007, but ‘upsold’ via Castle Crashers in 2008?

  • KP ScuzzyBunny

    The numbers make pretty good sense to me…Halo 3 and COD4 went back and forth for most of the year, which would imply the numbers were “close” every week, and then when WaW came out the COD4 numbers took a major hit, while Halo 3’s stayed constant. H3 fans will always play Halo, but a lot of COD4 fans at least tried WaW, even if they went back later. I do think there should be a “popular demo” list, though, leaving the top 20 games to actual games played. It just doesn’t seem fair to knock a game like Fallout 3, Grid, or NCAA Football 09 off the list to make room for free demo games that almost everyone downloads, but that only get played a time or two. A better stat would be to track TIME played by UU on a certain title, which would give more credit to a game that was actually played, rather than one a million people downloaded and played once.


    Are you sure that’s the TFU demo and not TFU itself? Ouch.

  • The 7raveler

    “A better stat would be to track TIME played by UU on a certain title, which would give more credit to a game that was actually played, rather than one a million people downloaded and played once.”
    That would work- except for the fact that some people may play longer. One game can have 5 million people playing one hour a week, and another can have 3 million 2 hours a week. That doesn’t reflect the popularity of the title- it just says some people play some games longer.

  • Lucasarts

    Wow, 5 Star Wars titles overall on all the lists. That’s gotta suck for the other games. Heck, KOTOR made the list, and it only had one downloadable map, and Republic commando made the list, and it’s multiplayer was considered sucky, yet enough people still played it…

    Reason TFU demo is up there because you download the TFU demo on live, we haven’t had much of a chance for TFU downloadable content just yet. I guess a map pack does count though so that is /kind/ of sad.

  • jim

    This list is flawed. There’s no way Keflings is that high when Street Fighter HD had more sales every week.

  • Hale 079

    Goes to show: the few of you who haven’t tried either Halo 3 or COD4, buy them now. Ignore the mindless Halo hate. It’s still the best shooter on Xbox 360.

  • AOClaus

    I still want to see a merged list again. I realize why they separated the Xbox and Xbox 360 lists (because for a long time Halo 2 was on top of the list–beating out GoW–and it’s kind of embarrassing for a last gen game to be on top) but I would really like to see a merged list as well. I want to know where the old Xbox games stand relative to 360 games.

  • Imrane 117

    1 Halo 3
    4 Gears of War 2
    5 Gears of War

    I love these games !

  • Solid Warri0r

    Gears 2 FTW!!

  • http://www.qeek.ru/ qeek

    Fallout 3?

  • dirty whirlwind

    I have never figured out how people can play the same game over and over. Sure, I played Call of Duty a lot (November 07 – April 08) but than I got sick of it and stopped playing it. The fun should eventually come to an end, everything else just doesn’t make much sense to me.

  • Shahid Iqbal

    I love Amar.

  • xerquez

    ” The fun should eventually come to an end”
    Why? I’ve only bought 9 games in my life: halopc, halo2, halo 3, fable1, fable 2, rome total war, medieval total war, age of mythology, gears of war.
    Still play them on a regular basis and I’m still enjoying them.

  • Killer Killeen

    Way to go Halo 3!

  • Overdoz1z

    Fallout 3 can’t be played on Xbox Live hence it not being on the list.

  • Captiv

    The majornelson website should track the top 20 xbox live titles every week

  • Warrengonline

    @dirty whirlwind
    Myself and other friends who do not play sports games wonder the SAME thing about guys who HAVE to have the ‘NEW’ Madden or ‘NFL’ or ‘NBA’ – basically the same game with an updated roster, textures and a few more animations – all for $60 each time. But the only answer we have is like ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, “The game is fun to whom enjoys it.”

  • itzallgud

    I can’t believe how quickly Gears 2 and COD 5 climbed the ranks. They are good games, so I guess everyone owns them.

  • JustinJDW

    Nice to know that I own all the Top 5 games on this list. I guess I only play the best of the best.

  • dirty whirlwind

    Anon33: And I’m glad you can have that enjoyment. For me though, I always want fresh air. Even if fun is the most important factor for a game I do seek a more fresh type of intriguing experience, something that you could discuss with your friends on a deeper level. You know, when you go to the movies and afterwards you go to a fine dinner to eat warm hot apple pie and discuss the movie you just witness. That kind of experience is what I’m looking for in a game as well, to have a complex talk about the interesting and unique aspects of a game you just played. I’m probably in the minority on this one, but I don’t get that from Halo 3.

    Warrengonline: Yeah, you’re right. It’s not that I dispatch people for doing that. But yeah, unless there is something more substantial to it than new rosters and such I’m on the same line as you. Although I can see people getting the new Madden to not lose track on the community aspects of the game. Nowadays online can be a major factor in sport games, and with every new release the old one gets closer to their expiration date. Although, I did get tired of this years Madden real fast and won’t be getting a new one until the dawn of the next generation consoles (that is, if EA don’t leave stuff behind like they did with the 360-version of 06).

  • Gangsta Grillz

    Wtf. No Street Fighter Anniversary Edition.

  • JoeyCoolNutzz


  • Haywood Jableau

    Keep in mind, this is not a list of the *best* games, but a list of the games being played most. And yes, I would think that if a game shows up being played as a demo, but not the full-version, it means that people learned from the demo that they didn’t want to play it. Mirror’s Edge was that for me… the demo showed me what it was about and that it didn’t interest me. Not a value or quality judgement, just not my type of game. I saw the same thing from watching someone else play Fallout 3 – the freeze-frame aiming and shooting just seemed lame to me.

  • Matt

    XNA community games please!

  • MAS 86

    Wow I don’t see Saints Row 2 or Left 4 Dead and Gears 2 in 4th place wow.

  • brandon

    how did gears 2 and gears 1 beat cod waw… if gears 2 mp got fixed it could easily contend with halo 3 and CoD 4(and 5 when its released) but in till then we will take our licks

  • Cortez the TimeSplitter

    I’d bet that TimeSplitters: Future Perfect would be on that list if the backward compatibility were added. I heard Microsoft complain that nobody was using the b/c, and I say: of course! No one is going to use it if you don’t make great games compatible! Bring me the ORIGINAL Xbox Live Arcade disc and all Free Radical games!


    @ anon 33

    Thats more like 5 games.

  • AriesDog

    Loved the expanded list. Gives it more depth. Like to see that on an ongoing basis.

  • Jacob

    Would you mind ammending your post to include how this data was gathered? I find it difficult to believe that Mirror’s Edge Demo had more “online” play than Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Madden 09, or CoD 5 even.

    Is this simply data from what games people played while connected to Xbox Live? In that case, the heading should read: “Top 20 Games” and that’s it. As, obviously you can’t collect game data on people who aren’t connected to Live.

    Doesn’t make any sense?

  • padilla21 Live

    take that call of duty


    padilla21 Live

    How can you say take that call of duty? When Call of Duty shows up 3 times on that list.

  • Joemomma360

    I think its awesome Halo 3 is still on top. Go Halo!

  • The 7raveler

    Do you people not read?

    THIS LIST IS BASED ON UU’s. Every time a IP plays a game, it is recorded. This means more INDIVIDUAL IP’s played Halo 3 then any other game this year- while being signed onto Live. Please read before you comment about how the list is flawed. It’s not.