This November marked the 8th year since XBLA was launched on the Xbox 360. The wide range of exceptional titles to launch on the service is the main reason the Xbox was my lead system last generation; I have purchased over 50 titles from XBLA which is an average of around 6 games per year. What started out as a means to download Geometry Wars has come a long way since that faithful day in 2005, but here we are. Below are some of my favorite memories/games from the service:
Cloning Clyde: This quirky game was the first downloadable title I absolutely fell in love with on XBLA. I got so good at it that I eventually broke into the top 10 all-time scores on the leaderboard, a feat I have never or will never again accomplish in a video game. The premise of the game is simple: use different clones of Clyde to reach the end of the level. For example, rock clydes sink in water to block a suction drain while chicken Clydes can fly to reach a hidden switch. Yes, chickens can fly (sort of). NinjaBee is a great little developer and I was glad to see how well the Keflings games did for them
TotemBall: What a piece of trash. Looking back this was Microsoft’s first real “Kinect” title and man was it terrible. The Xbox Live Vision Camera (which I bought) attempted to read your hands as you controlled a ball without the aid of a controller. It simply didn't work and I struggled to finish the first level.
Schizoid: As I skimmed through my XBLA titles on the 360 this is the game that inspired me to create this blog. It never garnered the love that other indie titles on the platform would later get, but it was a blast to play. Just like the recent “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons”, each stick controlled an on screen character (aka neon lobster). Have fun trying to avoid enemies and collect the correctly collected pellets with each character. I am pretty sure my brain has yet to recover.
Galaga: The only title I stayed up waiting to download at 3am or whatever ungodly time new titles appear on the East Coast store. I have fond memories of setting the high score on the Galaga machine at my summer camp back in the day, which was the reason I stayed up to download this classic piece of nostalgia. I never did crack the top of the leaderboards in this version; younger me would be embarrassed.
Marathon 2 Durandal: Unable to control my anticipation for Halo 3 I downloaded Marathon 2 back in 2008 to hold me over. You WILL get lost in these intricate and massive levels, but the game supported online co-op and wound up being a lot of fun to play. It’s basically Halo before Halo was Halo, and fans of the Master Chief will certainly recognize the game’s logo. At the time it seemed like a no brainer that the other two titles in the series would make their way to Microsoft’s downloadable service eventually but they never did. Here’s to an Xbox One release.
Uno: Remember when XBL games were only $5? Another gem from 2006, the game of UNO wound up being a sleeper hit after debuting on the X360 seven years ago. Apparently playing UNO in the nude is/was a big deal. Draw four!
Hexic: The post-launch game drought is a major bummer for every new console owner; owners of the Xbox One and PS4 are getting ready to enter hibernation as they wait for Titanfall and Infamous 2. Thankfully Xbox 360 owners had this pack-in title to entertain them. I vividly remember launching Hexic after rage quitting a multiplayer game of COD2 on more than one occasion. Since it took me months to create a cluster of black pearls and “win” Hexic, this pack in title was the perfect game to hold me over until Oblivion came out in March of 2006. For some odd reason MSFT never made this title available to download. If your HDD broke (which mine did), there goes Hexic.
Dust An Elysian Tail: I fell in love with Dust, Fidget and the world of Falana almost as soon as the game started. The fluid combat and easy to execute combo system makes Dust one of if not the best 2D side-scroller of recent memory. I am ashamed to admit that I never actually finished the game, but the time I spent with it was wonderful. I need to re-play this one soon.
Braid: The late great Ryan Davis gave this classic a 5 star review back in 2008 and I would have to agree. Braid challenged me in ways I never thought a 2D side-scroller could while constantly tweaking the time shifting mechanics to keep levels interesting. The Witness will be the first game I play once I pick up a PS4.
Geometry Wars Retro Evolved: In the beginning, there was Geometry Wars. There’s not much to say about this one, but I remember not thinking much about the demo in PGR2 at the time. After garnering a large buzz I hooked my X360 up to the internet for the first time in order to download this and wasn't disappointed. While I never got very good at the game (videos like this still make my head spin), Geometry Wars is the quintessential dual joystick shooter. While Geometry Wars Galaxy for the Wii was a worthy sequel, Geometry Wars 2 remains the pinnacle of the franchise. With the death of Bizarre Creations the future looks bleak for this franchise.
Notable Mentions: Assault Heros, Limbo, Duke Nukem 3D, Smash TV, Spelunky, Pac-Man: Championship Edition, Trials HD, Keflings, Ikaruga