My Favorite XBox LIVE Arcade Games

XBox LIVE Arcade is an extremely unique and interesting gameplay service that fills a very distinct niche in the gaming market today. Sometimes people will want to buy a new game, while at the same time won't want to pay the $60 asking price of a new one from a retail store. XBox LIVE Arcade is there to provide you with your $5-$15 fix, while at the same time creating many classic style games that most major publishers aren't willing to invest any serious money into.
What's interesting however, is that many XBox LIVE Arcade games are actually much better than most retail games available. I consider a number of XBLA titles that I own to be significantly more fun than a large portion of my retail collection and this list is to honor those amazing games that will never win game of the year by virtue of their lower budget alone. These are what I consider to be the best XBox LIVE Arcade games out there. What's interesting, is that many of the greatest of the bunch come from indy developers, which is a great sign for the gaming community as a whole.

List items

  • Super Meat Boy has the total package. Gorgeous visuals, great soundtrack, crisp and precise controls, high difficulty with good learning curve, tons of levels and unlockables and a sense of humor to boot. It walks the very thin line that bridges frustration and reward, with a very satisfying result. This game succeeds in reminding me why platformers are, and always have been so great.

    My thumbs suffered a great deal of pain playing Super Meat Boy, but I loved every moment of it. I hope to see more of this quality from Team Meat. A very amazing bang for the buck.

  • Have you ever wondered what Super Metroid would be like if it were created in the modern age, with the most recent technology, while simultaneously retaining what made it so great in the first place? Well look no further than Shadow complex. Retaining the same gameplay style as Super Metroid, Shadow Complex displays that these types of games can be successful in the modern market. I'm looking forward to more of what developer Chair has to offer in the future.

  • Continuing the trend of "red background = awesome game", the Dishwasher is another great title from an indy developer. The winner of Microsoft's inaugural Dream-Build-Play competition in 2007, the Dishwasher contains a very dark, while at the same time impressive visual style which is impressive for an indy developer. The game is extremely difficult as a warning, however the different weapons and the satisfaction of seeing hordes of enemies explode in clouds of blood never gets old.

  • Braid is a completely unique game. Borrowing time control elements from Prince of Persia, Braid uses the concept in a completely different way. As opposed to enhancing action, the time control system instead allows for a plethora of puzzle design possibilities; An opportunity that creator Jonathan Blow did not squander in the slightest.

    Add in the beautifully artistic visual style and the surprisingly well fitting sounds, you'll find it difficult not to appreciate Braid for the masterpiece that it truly is.

  • What can I say about Castle Crashers? It never really takes itself too seriously (or serious at all really), but that only serves to assist the player in enjoying a great beat-em-up experience. Castle Crashers is challenging, while not punishingly so, and has a large cast of default and unlockable characters to enable a great deal of replay value. Much of what makes this game great, is the fantastic online Co-Op support. If you enjoy beat em ups, or action games in general, you owe it to yourself to try Castle Crashers.

  • Shooters are not for everyone. Regardless, I think everyone should give this little gem a shot. Utilizing a polarity system which offers an interesting risk vs reward mechanic, Ikaruga is certainly unique among its peers. The chain score system seamlessly combines puzzle elements and twitch reflexes to create a very enjoyable experience that helps define "just one more life". A great soundtrack helps to bolster Ikaruga's already stunning resume.

  • I used to love the classic Mega Man series on the NES as a kid, so it should come as no shock that I was ecstatic upon hearing that this gem was being developed by Capcom.

    Reviving the old school style of gameplay and visuals that made the blue bomber a household name, Mega Man 9 tried to go with the most classic look and feel possible, going so far as to adopt a classic NES style "box cover art".

    If you liked the old Mega Man games, everything you loved about the series is found in this game in spades.

  • Limbo has a gorgeous, yet diabolically sinister visual art style. A style that was no doubt intended to be reflected in the gameplay. Playing a mysterious young child, looking for his mysterious sister in a mysterious world, it should come as no surprise that you'll be wondering just what will come up next throughout your experiences with Limbo. What will be waiting for you, is a unique game with interesting (albeit fairly simple) puzzles and precise control.

  • Apparently there isn't an article on GiantBomb dedicated to Earthworm Jim HD. Will that's the one I intended to use for the record :P

    I loved both Earthworm Jim games on the SNES as a kid. This game was the opportunity for me to relive some of my favorite childhood experiences in gaming and it captured all of the essence of why I loved Earthworm Jim. With the same great gameplay and controls now in high definition, Earthworm Jim was a bargain at the 400MS points I paid when it was deal of the week. Multiplayer support and bonus levels only help to enhance the experience.

  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night will forever be known as one of the greatest video games on the Playstation, or of all time for that matter. It started the trend of "metroidvania" games and forever changed the Castlevania formula for years to come.

    If you haven't experienced this classic piece of gaming majesty, XBLA has offered another opportunity to show you what you've been missing or relive what you've already experienced.

  • Mega Man 10 is great for all the same reasons that Mega Man 9 is. Although I felt the addition of an easy mode kind of cheapened the classic feel a bit, I appreciate the thought of trying to bring new fans into the fold.

    Still the same great classic Mega Man action and still at the great cheap price. If you're a Mega Man fan, you should already own this.

  • This game exploded onto the scene and became the first hugely successful XBLA game to be released; And for good reason! Geometry Wars popularized the twin stick shooter genre, after showing that such a simple playstyle could be so fun and effective. It soon got a sequel which was equally addictive. I would recommend both.

  • Puzzle Quest offers something that you don't see every day: Puzzle and RPG elements combined into a surprisingly effective mix that combines different character classes and powers, with classic cognitive thinking and a storyline. It's surprisingly addictive, as I'm sure anyone who has ever played Puzzle Quest will be able to attest.