When the XBLA platform was announced years ago, few every doubted that it would be successful. Years later, it has managed to live up to every gamer’s high expectations and delivered great titles not just in quantity but in quality. Here are ten of the best games to ever grace XBLA.
#10 Worms 2: Armageddon
Worms 2: Armageddon is a faithful remake of the classic PC game. The premise is simple: you select a group of militarized worms to do war across a 2D stage with other groups of worms, who are under the control of other players, or if you prefer, the AI. Your worms are armed with a wide array of weapons, ranging from bazookas and grenades to the Holy Hand Grenade of Monty Python fame and exploding sheep. It’s like Gunbound, only a lot less crap.
Braid is Mario’s brainier brother. A platform game with time-based puzzles, Braid is the first game of its kind and one of the few titles to ever be accepted as a work of art by the snobbier gamers among us. With beautiful, hand-drawn art, Braid stands apart from all of its counterparts in both style and substance.
#8 Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex is a “metroidvania”. The word’s a portmanteau of two games: Metroid and Castlevania. Set in Orson Scott Card’s cyberpunk “Empire” setting, you take on the role of Jason Flemming, who for some reason decides to go spelunking with his girlfriend Claire when they stumble across a secret military base buried deep within. She decides to go off on her own and Jason spends his whole time looking for her and figuring out what the deal is with the secret installation. You’d think that secret military bases dreamt up by wingnuts like Card would have more security, but I guess not. Story aside, it’s an awesome game that lives up to the quality of Metroid and Castlevania.
#7 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game
With art by Paul Robertson and chiptune music provided by Anamanaguchi, it’s hard to go wrong with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. While the game isn’t without its flaws, Scott Pilgrim has been one of the best movie tie-in games ever produced to date. As a four-player side-scroller that pays an homage to brawlers like Double Dragon and Battletoads, Scott Pilgrim is as challenging as they come. You can play as Scott, Ramona, Stephen or Kim and battle Ramona’s seven evil ex boyfriends who turn into Canadian money upon defeat. The game’s only flaws come from its lack of drop-in play and online multiplayer, but it’s certainly one of the best games that the XBLA has to offer if you’ve got a buddy or two around.
#6 Costume Quest
Developed by the makers of Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, Costume Quest is every bit as intelligently written and fun as you would expect from Double Fine. An adventure/role-playing game by nature, Costume Quest puts you in control of a little kid who goes trick of treating on Halloween night when the duo are beset by monsters who confuse his or her sibling (you can chose which character to play) for a piece of candy. They want to steal all the candy in the neighborhood and you take it upon yourself to rescue your sibling and liberate the candy while you’re at it. As you travel through the neighborhood, you have to collect items for your costume, which in turn allows you to take on the aspect of the character you’re dressed as to do battle against the monsters in the game’s turn-based combat mode. Among the costumes are a knight, a Statue of Liberty, and a giant mecha robot. Along the way, you’ll also pick up companions.
It may look like a game made for children, but it’s suitable for gamers of any age. Given that it’s designed by Double Fine, you can expect quite a bit of humor and well written dialogue to enjoy.
#5 Plants vs Zombies
The world’s gone apocalyptic and zombies want to eat your brains. The only thing standing between them and your delicious brain bits are the plants you’ve been carefully cultivating for just such a situation. With a full bag of seeds at your disposal and the sunlight to grow them into zombie killing backyard defenders, Plants vs Zombies is the ultimate “tower defense” game. Earn new types of plants as you defeat increasingly aggressive zombies and participate in a number of interesting challenges to stir things up a bit. Plants vs Zombies is incredibly cute, addictive, and absolutely worthy of praise.
#4 Super Meat Boy
One of the strongest contenders in the “frustrating as f***” genre of insane platformers, Super Meat Boy takes the best parts of I Want To Be The Guy and countless other nightmarish games and puts it in one colossal bundle of masochistic goodness. You play the role of titular character Super Meat Boy who has to rescue his princess, Bandage Girl, from the clutches of some bad guy who has nothing better to do than to kidnap helpless characters. Along the way, you can unlock allies from various other games, including Braid, Castle Crashers and Minecraft (If you’re playing it on the PC) as a substitute for Super Meat Boy. The game has since been parodied by those jerks over at PETA in a poorly made game called Super Tofu Boy. As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, but Super Meat Boy is worth playing only in its original form.
#3 Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers is a modern take on the old beat-em-up genre. Instead of a couple of burly dudes named Billy and Jimmy, Castle Crashers features a set of four super deformed knights against an army of super deformed orcs, ogres and other bad guys. It’s designed to be played cooperatively in multiplayer, either with friends at the hotseat or over the internet. The graphics are cute, but not in a My Little Pony kind of way. Hell no. Castle Crashers is genuinely badass.
#2 DeathSpank: Orphans of Justice
If games could have babies, DeathSpank would be the offspring of Diablo and Monkey Island. It’s an action RPG with a truckload of dialogue, humor and hilariously written characters that will leave you in stitches. The previous sentence wasn’t supposed to rhyme, but it just sort of worked out that way.
DeathSpank is the product of the brilliant mind of Ron Gilbert, best known for his work on Monkey Island, and the team over at Hothead Games. You take on the role of the mighty DeathSpank, a hero in search of a wondrous artifact known only as “The Artifact”. It looks like a giant pretzel. His equipment gets stolen along the way by Sergeant Orque and his goons and he uncovers a heinous plot to kidnap orphans, whom he takes it upon himself to rescue. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. If you like collecting loot and playing a game with a great sense of humor, then DeathSpank is a game you need to play.
Limbo’s a game that spun out of no-name independent Danish developer Playdead Studios to become one of the best games ever made. Developed under a meagre budget, Limbo puts the player in control of a little boy who has to run through a series of obstacles in search of his sister in one of the bleakest environments ever imagined. Mistakes will get the little boy killed, and the graphics, though minimalistic, are utterly gruesome to behold. Presented in monochromatic black-and-white tones, Limbo is truly a work of art.
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