Critical hits: The 20 biggest third-party exclusive games

CVG looks back at the landmark deals that tied brilliant titles to a single console

These days third-party exclusives are as rare as a stylish mullet. For publishers such as Activision and EA, developing and publishing games for just one platform has become uneconomical.


In the age where the blockbusters - the likes of Call of Duty and GTA - require eight-figure budgets to meet quality expectations, the safest way to recoup those expenses is to put a game out on as many core platforms as possible.

However, from time to time there are exceptions to the rule. According to the latest rumour, Microsoft is paying EA a significant sum of money to ensure that Respawn Entertainment's debut title will be a next-gen Xbox exclusive.

If the deal is secured it would be an extraordinary coup for Microsoft. With that in mind, CVG has cast its eye over the most notable third-party exclusives in the history of games.

(First, a little clarification as to which games qualified for the list. All the titles listed below were generational third-party console exclusives - so it includes games that were later ported to other systems, such as in HD collections or XBLA remakes.

Final Fantasy VII

PlayStation exclusive / Squaresoft
In the early days of what was then known as the Ultra 64, Nintendo took great pleasure in announcing that the next game in the Final Fantasy series would be coming exclusively to its 64-bit console.

The previous six Final Fantasy games had been only available on Nintendo consoles, so news that one of Japan's biggest games brands was sticking with the Kyoto company was enough to have many gamers enumerating the benifits of their brand loyalty.

As it emerged that the Nintendo 64 would continue to use cartridges for storage, whereas newcomer Sony was planning to use CDs for its PlayStation console, Squaresoft crossed the divide and signed a deal to make Final Fantasy VII a PlayStation-exclusive. Many Nintendo fans were furious, especially when Final Fantasy VII turned out to be one of the most critically acclaimed RPGs ever.

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Metal Gear Solid 4

PlayStation 2 and 3 exclusive / Konami
While the original Metal Gear Solid was a PlayStation exclusive, the fact that the second and third game was also available on the Xbox suggested that Snake and Big Boss were free to partake in tactical espionage action on any platform Konami saw fit.
But at the outset of the current generation, when the console battle lines were drawn, it was revealed that Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots, the climatic conclusion to the story of Solid Snake was a PS3 exclusive. Despite the routine rumours flare-ups of speculation, Metal Gear Solid 4 remains a Sony-only game.

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Xbox 360 exclusive / Mojang
Minecraft isn't just a game that managed to shift twenty million copies and propel its creator Markus Persson to internet stardom; it is also the clearest signal yet that indie titles are now on a more even playing field as the traditional games publishers.

For several years, Minecraft - in its various alpha and beta stages - remained a PC exclusive, leaving console owners itching to play this quaint and widely acclaimed virtual Lego set. It led to many publishers knocking on Persson's door (EA former chief John Riccitiello even managed to stay for dinner), but in the end only one company managed to secure a deal, and it wasn't Sony. In 2011, Minecraft arrived on the Xbox Live Arcade service, making it console-exclusive on the Xbox 360.

Some were unsure if Minecraft - a game built for the PC user - would replicate the same success on a foreign platform like Xbox 360, but in a single year it was downloaded more than six million times.

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Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes

GameCube exclusive / Konami
During Konami's brief partnership with Nintendo to expand the Metal Gear series, the Canada studio Silicon Knights was hired to develop an enhanced remake of the original Metal Gear Solid for the GameCube.

The Twin Snakes looked and played more like Metal Gear Solid 2, with improved enemy AI and the ability to shoot in first-person view. The cut-scenes were also brand new and directed by cult Japanese film icon Ryuhei Kitamura (director of zombie film Versus).

While the original Metal Gear Solid is readily available for PlayStation fans to buy on PSN, Twin Snakes remains a GameCube exclusive to this day and, thanks to Nintendo's involvement, will probably never touch any other system.

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Dragon Quest IX

DS exclusive / Square Enix
While it's always been dwarfed by Final Fantasy in the west, Dragon Quest is often viewed as the biggest RPG series in Japan. The games are so popular that its publisher released them on Saturdays so fewer people would ditch work or school to buy and play them.

Much like the Final Fantasy series, Dragon Quest switched to Sony for its seventh outing, with Dragon Quest VII a PlayStation exclusive and Dragon Quest VIII PS2-only. Because of this, many expected the ninth game to appear on PlayStation 3.

However, Square Enix and Nintendo held a landmark press conference announcing that Dragon Quest IX was coming exclusively to the DS, making it not only the first Nintendo-only Dragon Quest in fourteen years, but the also first ever main Dragon Quest game to be a handheld game.

This Nintendo exclusivity continues with Dragon Quest X, which is currently only available on Wii and Wii U.

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