NFs Unbound Xbox

EA finally lifted the lid on Need for Speed Unbound this week, after months of rumours surrounding the 2022 series entry. British developer Criterion Games is back at the helm of a brand-new NFS for first time in about a decade with this one, which makes us unusually excited for a new Need for Speed.

Unbound looks like it's delivering a fresh take on the series, which is no surprise to us given the studio's history. Criterion has made some of our favourite arcade racers of all time, especially when you look at the Burnout series, where the team hit a slew of home runs in the original Xbox & 360 eras.

So, if you're liking the look of Unbound but you're not quite as familiar with Criterion's past as us, here are four amazing arcade racers, and one Criterion surprise, that you should definitely try out:

Burnout 3: Takedown (Xbox)

Burnout 3: Takedown is where this famous old arcade racing series really hit its stride, closing out the original Xbox era with an absolute classic. It built on the first two games perfectly, culminating in an absolute symphony of high octane racing, traffic dodging and yeah, a lot of crashing we must admit. In fact, the game's signature 'Crash Mode' became one of the highlights of the overall package, where your job is to basically cause as much mayhem as possible on the road, racking up points while doing so. The Burnout series is on a bit of a hiatus right now, but if you've never played Takedown, you owe it to yourself to give this one a whirl. Remember, Burnout 3 is playable on the Xbox 360 via OG Xbox backwards compatibility, so that's one way to play it in 2022!

Burnout Paradise Remastered (Xbox One)

Note: Remaster was developed by Stellar Entertainment - original was by Criterion Games.

Continuing with the Burnout series brings us to the franchise's last release: Burnout Paradise. This Xbox 360-era racer modernised the series by introducing a huge open world, which was and still is a novel experience for Burnout. As expected with Criterion, the driving physics here are still bloody good fun, even if we preferred the more closed-circuit offerings of Burnout 1 through Revenge. Still, this is absolutely worth a play, especially if Need for Speed is more your pace and you prefer that open world style. It has a banging soundtrack to boot and even a modern remaster from a few years back, so you really have no excuses with this one!

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit Remastered (Xbox One)

Note: Remaster was developed by Stellar Entertainment - original was by Criterion Games.

After moving on from Burnout, publisher EA drafted in Criterion's help for moving the Need for Speed series forward, and what a move that turned out to be. Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit is one of the finest examples of an NFS game, reintroducing the ability to drive on either side of the law. After 2009's track-based Need for Speed: Shift, it felt so good to get back to some proper street racing, especially with that touch of arcade flair we've come to know from Criterion. This is another racer that's been recently remastered and it held up very, very well, so that version is highly recommended by us. Oh, and it's on EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate!

Need for Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360)

Following the success of 2010's Hot Pursuit, Criterion was back in the hot seat just two years later with another reboot, this time of the 'Most Wanted' brand. The 2005 original is one of the most revered Need for Speed titles ever, and Criterion had some living up to with this 2012 reboot. While we must admit it didn't quite live up to Black Box's original, the newer version provides a pretty unique take on NFS. Vehicles are scattered all over the map to be acquired at any time, removing some of the grind, and billboards plastered all over the game's open world made it feel somewhat like a Need for Speed / Burnout Paradise hybrid. Most Wanted 2012 ain't Criterion's finest effort, but it's still one of the best Need for Speed games of the past decade and is absolutely worth a play even now.

BLACK (Xbox)

Now, this one is a bit of a bonus. After we'd reeled off some of our favourite Criterion racers, we took a look at the team's full portfolio and remembered that they once created the iconic BLACK for the original Xbox! This first-person shooter was a visual marvel at its time of release, and in full 4K via Xbox One & Series X|S backwards compatibility, it still looks fantastic to this day. Its mission structure and overall themes may have aged a little bit in 2022, but the shooting mechanics feel as tight as ever. As another EA play offering, BLACK is worth a play just to see what Criterion is (or was) capable of outside of the racing genre.

Well, there you have it! Criterion is returning to the limelight with 2022's Need for Speed Unbound in just two months, but we reckon these five games from the studio are still worth a playthrough in the meantime, if you can squeeze any of them in that is!

Will you be playing any of these before Unbound launches on Dec. 2nd? Let us know in the comments.