2011's Summer of Arcade downloadable festivities on Xbox Live Arcade aren't even over yet, but with titles such as Bastion, From Dust and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet already out, it's safe to say the yearly promotion has been a success. The annual boost given to Microsoft's digital space got me thinking two things: Sony needs to do this on PSN - in walks PSN PLAY - and about all the great games of XBLA's past. In that spirit, we've compiled the best titles to grace Xbox Live Arcade, in alphabetical order.
Bastion is an endlessly impressive game posing as a simple action RPG. The narration, combat, mechanics, aesthetics and story all feel carefully planned and equally poured over, creating a surprisingly deep and unique experience, one unlike anything else out there. This also makes Bastion an extremely player-friendly game that constantly presents clever ideas and choices where you wouldn't expect them.
Braid takes a very deep approach to story telling, encouraging players to think more about the actual dialogue as opposed to just spoon feeding it to them. It's compelling and intriguing, and the open-ended nature of the game encourages a new kind of puzzle to solve. The actual gameplay and puzzle solving elements are truly brilliant and it makes the game a joy to play.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
Geometry Wars was one of the first tastes gamers got this generation of a quality downloadable title. The addictive twin stick shooter helped usher in the revival of the genre through digital distribution. Retro Evolved's success fueled interest in Xbox Live Arcade as a platform.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a breath of fresh air for the Tomb Raider franchise. Switching focus to the downloadable space and isometric platforming really paid off. It has very high production values and gameplay which fully complements it. With the addition of the co-operative campaign, it's not difficult to recommend this game to anyone who enjoys this genre or gaming as a whole.
Limbo is a unique puzzle platformer for Xbox Live Arcade. The game's use of a simplistic, black and white art style, and ambient sound design help create a surprisingly eerie, bleak atmosphere that compels the player to move forward. Coupled with a mysterious premise that largely lets you draw your own conclusions, the world of Limbo is never a dull one.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
Championship Edition DX, released late last year, is the latest iteration in the iconic Pac-Man franchise, arguably the largest reinvention since its inception. Who would have thought Pac-Man could be re-invented? Well, we may not have asked for it, but Namco cleverly expanded on what Championship Edition started and created a completely fresh experience. With racing mechanics, addictive challenge modes, and an incredible soundtrack, DX has it all.
Peggle not only appeals to a mass audience of "casual" players, but anybody who considers themselves a fan of games in general. Peggle consists of the simple task of shooting balls into a play area of pegs with the goal of removing all orange pegs from the board. It's a simple enough premise, but it has exceedingly addictive gameplay that causes one to lose themselves for hours trying to get that one last peg.
Built by Chair Entertainment and powered by Epic Games' Unreal Engine, Shadow Complex brought high production values and presentation to the downloadable space in a way rarely seen at the time. It also didn't hurt that the Metroid-style platformer turned out to be a well-designed, worthwhile game in its own right.
Splosion Man is easily among some of the best platformers out there. With great graphics, a fun theme, challenging levels, hilarious music, and unmatched single and multiplayer gameplay all rolled into one package, it's impossible to pass up this opportunity.
Super Meat Boy
Apparently nobody told Team Meat that games are supposed to be getting easier in the modern age. Their brutally challenging, charmingly violent platformer completely throws out the hand-holding approach favoured by many these days. Thanks to extremely precise controls and short levels, the challenge rarely becomes overwhelming or seemingly unfair.
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