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« Innovating The Established | Main | Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest - A KENZI199 Retrospective »

Xbox Live Arcade - The 10 Games You Should Already Own And Love

One of my regular commenters (actually, my only regular commenter) Luke D recently said he had almost no interest in any XBLA games. It got me thinking about the XBLA games I've downloaded and adore, and, with the Summer Of Arcade just around the corner I thought it would be the perfect time to express my love of smaller, downloadable games and the unique experiences they can offer. This is my personal top ten, made up of games I've played, all of which are available for download right now on Xbox Live Arcade.

(Also worth remembering is that all these games have free trials available, so try before you buy!)
(ALSO, also worth remembering is that throughout the year and particularly at Christmas/New Years, Microsoft have insane sales on XBLA titles, so just bear some of these games in mind and then snap them up when they're a bargain!)

10. Braid

Braid is a game that proceeds itself. It's renowned for it's ingenious puzzles and unique tone, aswell as a fiendish logic unlike any other game. You use time manipulation is various ways (more ways than you've probably ever even conceived of) in an effort to collect puzzle pieces which you use to unlock new levels. It's personal preference but for me Braid isn't the transcendent experience many other cite it as being. I don't think it controls tightly enough and the puzzles seem unnecessarily complicated but you can't help but be drawn in due to the sheer unlike-anything-else-edness of it. Lots of people would place Braid much higher on their list, and with a Metacritic score of 93 you can see why, but for me it's a solid 10th.

Puzzles like this seem simple at first, but take more brain power than your typical shooter ever would

9. Peggle

Popcap, makers of such games as Bejeweled, Zuma and Plants Vs Zombies, are also behind a little gem called Peggle. In Peggle your aim is to remove orange pegs from boards constructed from blue pegs. The position of the orance pegs is randomized at the start of each attempt at a board and you can pick between various characters, each with their own peg-busting special attacks activated by hitting special green pegs also scattered randomly across the board. The game is simple but irritatingly addictive. There's a story mode, multiplayer modes and a challenge mode with some insanely tough goals. There are hours of play time and actually quite alot of depth. It's got a great, subtle sense of humour and is, most of all, loads of fun!

It may not look like much, but I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised

8. The Secret Of Monkey Island - Special Edition

The Secret Of Monkey Island is considered a classic in the world of video games, it was one of the first well-written games and one of the best adventure games (if not the best) ever made. What's awesome about the Special Edition is that it gives you the option to switch between the extremely old, ugly graphics, or new, shiny graphics that really help the game feel modern. The game follows a very old mentality in regards to it's gameplay (which makes sense, seeing as it's 20 years old), requiring huge leaps in logic to solve puzzles, but the writing still shines, and the great voice acting also breathes new life into a classic experience. The game's not too long, but you won't feel short-changed by the end.

The game has a great cartoony style, but if you'd prefer the original graphics, you can do that too!

7. Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2

Twin-stick shooters have exploded over the past few years, and the reason for that is solely down to the original Geometry Wars. It didn't create the genre but it was the perfect iteration of it, spawning tonnes of copycats, some good, some bad, but none as good as Geometry Wars... BUT, as good as Geometry Wars was, the sequel is better. The graphics are spectacular (if a little seizure-inducing) and the sheer amount of ways to play is amazing. Multiplayer is done flawlessly and the game is super tough, but in a good way. The game/genre's a few years old now but Geometry Wars feels fresh and incredibly well made. If you only have to play 1 twin-stick shooter, make it this one.

The game in motion is staggeringly gorgeous

6. Torchlight

I never played Diablo, I never had a good enough PC when I was younger, but from what I hear Torchlight is essentially a modern day Diablo. It's a top-down dungeon crawling RPG with tonnes of loot and things to do, you have a pet which you can send back to town with your unwanted loot so you can keep exploring the dungeon without being interrupted by a full bag of items. I may not have Diablo as a personal frame of reference but I still enjoyed the hell out of Torchlight, and sunk many, MANY hours into maxing out my character and making him as savagely hard as possible. Games like this aren't for everybody, there's a fair amount of repetition but the game scales enemy levels really well, meaning you'll never be so high level that the game's no longer a challenge and collecting loot is a joyous feeling that will never get old. If you want an XBLA game that will give you tonnes of satisfying hours and you love getting exp, Torchlight won't steer you wrong.

Giant spiders deserve an arrow to the face!

5. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX

If I say Pac-Man, you immediately know exactly what I'm talking about: A little yellow pie that eats pills and runs away from ghosts. Now imagine that... but in the mind of a stoned 14 year-old and you're getting close to Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. In the game you choose a map and ghosts spawn in various patterns but "asleep", they wake up when Pac-Man passes by them and start chasing you. Your ultimate goal is to get the biggest train of ghosts you can and eat them all at once for a huge score. The game ramps up in speed depending on how well you're doing and gets unbelievably hectic, but it never feels too hectic. The game's look and sound is amazing, mixing the classic Pac-Man style with a modern sound and look that really pulls to game forward 20 years. If you like Pac-Man, or even if you just like fun, give it a go, it's something you have to experience.

The game is super fun, despite the sheer amount of craziness on screen at all times

4. Shadow Complex

There are certain genres that just don't get made any more, and one of those is known in "the biz" as MetroidVania and basically the only 2 games that fall into the genre are Metroid and Castlevania games (hence the name!). For those unfamiliar with either of those games, the basic premise is that you are trying to explore a map but certain areas aren't immediately available to you. In order to access these areas you have to earn special items that will grant you new abilities, for example, in Metroid games certain doors will be locked by blast doors, but when you eventually earn missiles you can blow those doors open thus gaining access to new areas. There's your basic premise, and it's a premise Shadow Complex takes and runs with. You play as a regular guy who stumbles upon an evil scheme in an evil complex filled with evil people. You explore and gradually get more and more bad ass until you eventually feel unstoppable. It's a great game and even features challenge rooms to add to the replayability. One of the best games of the past few years, downloadable or otherwise.

Oh, and bytheway, the game looks FANTASTIC

3. Castle Crashers

What happens when people who make free internet flash games decide to make a game for consoles?Well as it turns out, what happens is one of the best co-op experiences of all time. In Castle Crashers you fight against the evil sorcerer who has stolen your princesses and must slice and dice your way through countless hordes of evil Eskimos, barbarians and teddy bears. You gain experience and money and can buy new items with which to bludgeon to death your foes. The game looks almost hand-animated and features satisfying combat and great interplay amongst you and your friends. If you have friends and have a good sense of humour you might just find yourself staying up until 5am playing this, like my friends and I did.

It seriously is the perfect co-op experience

2. Super Meat Boy

It's simple, Super Meat Boy features pixel-perfect control, movement with the control stick, a run button and a jump button and that's it, but where it gets tough is in the execution. You play as a hunk of meat (obviously known as Super Meat Boy) whose evil nemesis Dr. Fetus keeps kidnapping his girlfriend Bandage Girl... who's made of bandages. The conceit for the game is more than a little insane, but don't let that fool you, the game is one of the hardest ever made, but definitely not impossible. It gives you all the tools to succeed, and then leaves it up to you to figure out the split-second timing and route to Bandage Girl. Taking cues from modern Mario games, Meat Boy has the ability to wall jump and slide down walls but cannot kill any enemies so jumping on their heads is a no-no, it's all about avoidance. The game is played at a blistering pace, meaning most levels get completed in seconds, although you do get infinite tries at a level to get it right. It's a game built on trial and error, but the error is never the game's fault it's always your own, so you never get pissed off at the game, just your own clumsy hands. One of the most satisfying experiences I've had with a game in recent memory, and one I'll never forget... because of the mental trauma. It's so hard!!!

 As you can probably tell, the game's no walk in the park.

1. Limbo

Limbo is a 2D puzzle-based platformer... and that's where I stop speaking about Limbo as though it were a game. Limbo is in fact a piece of art (cliche I know, but apt in this case). It is a profound experience which forces you to think about death and life in ways no video game has ever even attempted before. You awake in a mysterious shadow-coated land with no indication of how you got there or how to get out. Along the way you'll experience horrific imagery, but bathed in silhouette so never so detailed as to disturb, though with as much implied suffering as your mind will allow, really turning it into a psychological experience. The look of the game is striking and an ideal accompaniment to the action that's taking place on screen. Moments of basic puzzle solving remove you momentarily from the nightmarish world you've been placed into but it won't be long before your psyche gets dragged back into the darkness. The game keeps plunging you deeper and deeper into the disturbing world it's created, until it's inevitable heart-breaking conclusion, and while the name "Limbo" may imply certain things about the game, the sheer, unrelenting truth of the final realisation is nothing short of devastating. If you don't play this game, you're missing out on a crucial experience and an entry into the medium of "gaming" that should make you feel lucky that this is your hobby. A perfect game.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest games ever made

Reader Comments (4)

This deep paragraph about Limbo intrigues me. Is it really that good?

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuke D

The way I played Limbo was that I locked myself in my bedroom all day, closed the curtains, made the room pitch black and the experience was amazing. I dunno about you, but I'm a pretty sentimental person. I've teared up at films or TV shows once or twice before so I'm not what you'd call macho lol, maybe someone who only likes harcore face-shooting games or as much blood in a game as possible wouldn't enjoy it but I doubt my description of the game would appeal to them anyway. At the end of the year they always do crazy sales and stuff, I'd be surprised if Limbo (and everything else on this list!) wasn't on sale at some point. If you're wary just wait until it's 50% off and take a bit of a risk :)

July 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterGaZZuM

I think I'm gonna trust your recommendation and buy it. I've bought a few Arcade games I've regretted so i'm wary (3 on 3 NHL Arcade do not buy at any cost, Trials HD) but this game intrigues me. I've always been a hardcore Halo player and played other multiplayer games like CoD (sigh) and Bioshock 2 but I've recently started getting into single player games and they've actually opened my eyes. I always saw gaming as something to do with friends but I released you can get quite immersed in a campaign. I'll buy this game and try it your way with the lights off :P Although if i get scared I will turn my xbox off and possibly cry. Possibly

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuke D

I smell the taste of wine. see you! "We do not talk more that day. We stood up, shook his hand and eye lookedeach and so on. Bees were shut out, but came to backhesitatingly. fwrkow fwrkow - Shop Hermes Kelly.

November 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergbfxlm gbfxlm

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