The 20 best XBLA games you can play right now
18th Jun 2012 | 16:07
Myth #1: games are expensive. Sure, the ones you buy in boxes are, but the ones you can buy via Xbox Live, aren't. 1200 MS points works out at just over £10. Myth #2: XBLA games are all throw-away retro nonsense. No. Most are full, new games, and some are even AAA. So here are the 20 best, boldest, maddest and value-packed games on XBLA, and you can download most in a few minutes...
1. Alan Wake's American Nightmare
Price: 1200 Released: Feb 2012 Size: 1.33GB
Perhaps the best example of what XBLA is capable of. An Alan Wake sequel in all but name, it even improves on combat, pacing and story-telling. It sees Alan track down a serial killer willed to life by a small town. For 1200 points, it's a bargain, and better than most £40 adventure games.
Price: 800 Released: Feb 2008 Size: 13.03MB
Originally a simple browser game, N+ puts you in charge of a stick-man ninja who can leap through basic levels and cling to walls. The key here is in the simple controls, which makes the jumping a joy. It might look simple, but it's highly addictive.
3. Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
Price: 800 Released: Jul 2008 Size: 40.36MB
First appearing as a mini-game in Project Gotham Racing, this a colourful twin-stick shooter with both multiplayer and competitive leaderboards. And we mean competitive...
Price: 1200 Released: Feb 2011 Size: 993.65MB
One of the funniest games ever made. You play as a young chimney sweep (well, he's a small Russian doll actually) who climbs into larger dolls to solve puzzles and reunite his family. The charming art style and character-filled dolls make this an XBLA treasure.
Price: 1200 Released: Jul 2010 Size: 117.40MB
You learn by dying in Limbo. It's a game all about getting a small, silhouetted boy from the start to the end of each level, avoiding lethal traps and hazards as you go. Except avoiding them is tough. So you die, you quick restart, andyou improve.
6. Battlefield 1943
Price: 1200 Released: Jul 2009 Size: 559.32MB
Classic multiplayer Battlefield without the rubbish campaign mode? Yes please. You get an online game that's still active with all classic BF modes, and five great maps.
Price: 800 Released: Apr 2008 Size: 49.39MB
Want more bullets on your screen than you can hope to process? You've come to the right place. A scrolling, bullet-hell shooter, Ikaruga is hardcore, but utterly brilliant.
Price: 800 Released: Aug 2010 Size: 144.45MB
Hailed as the smartest game on XBLA, Braidis at once simple and incredibly complex. On the surface it'sa taxing, time-bending platformer. Look deeper and it's acollection game for perfectionists, and oh yeah, a comment on the destructive nature of man...
9. Serious Sam: The First Encounter
Price: 1200 Released: Jan 2010 Size: 493.28MB
Serious Sam, with his massive guns, deliberately generic look and epic boss fights harks back to classic Xbox shooters like Doom 3 and Quake 4. Sadly, the humour is a bit weak, but the action is gloriously excessive.
10. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Price: 800 Released: Mar 2007 Size: 95.32MB
The daddy of the bastard-hard 'Vania series. It still holds up as a great action adventure game, but it stands as more of a prestige title that you have to tell people you've played just so that they know you have exquisite taste.
Price: 1200 Released: Jul 2011 Size: 558.46MB
Harking back to the golden days of classic RPGs, here you play as the Kid as he attempts to rebuild his world after it's shattered by a cataclysmic event. It's deep, beautiful to both look at and play,and has one of the best endings to any game.
12. Rez HD
Price: 800 Released: Jan 2008 Size: 119.31MB
What looks like your Windows screensaver having a fit is in fact a classic rhythm shooter. Here you blast enemies in time with a beat in a psychopathic death dance as you fly through each Lawnmower Man-looking level.
13. Shadow Complex
Price: 1200 Released: Aug 2009 Size: 835.42MB
Shadow Complex not only looks brilliant, it also nails that chunky feeling of shooting everything to pieces that Gears does so well. On rails sections are, unusually, a highlight here.
14. Boom Boom Rocket
Price: 800 Released: Apr 2007 Size: 78.6MB
A rhythm action game; much in the vein of GuitarHero. Only here fireworks whoosh into the night sky and you press a button or direction (on the d-pad) to detonate them, all to the beat of remixed classical tunes. Colourful, classy fun.
15. Castle Crashers
Price: 1200 Released: Aug 2008 Size: 139.87MB
Forget Fable Heroes, this is the four-player hack 'n' slash game you're looking for. Yes, it's super-tough - even with four players - but the neat art style, geeky laughs, and excessive gore make the pain worth it.
16. Toy Soldiers: Cold War
Price: 1200 Released: Aug 2011 Size: 945.15MB
A surprisingly solid shooter that carries on the work Army Men started last generation. The shooting is entertaining, if not quite faultless, but the action is relentless and the vehicles varied.
17. Dead Rising Case West
Price: 800 Released: Dec 2010 Size: 1.14GB
So, you've finished Dead Rising 2 and need a little more zombie-killing in your life? Case West brings back original game hero Frank, along with his trusty camera, and lets you smash undead skulls for five or so hours. So simple, so pure.
18. Trials Evolution
Price: 1200 Released: Apr 2012 Size: 1.23GB
Not just a vanilla, physics-based motocross sim. Oh no. This is rammed with straight races, mini-games, excellent four-player multiplayer, competitive leaderboards, and an incredible track editor that lets you build the physics-defying obstacles and roadways of your fevered motorcycling dreams. Now based in the great outdoors, the tracks are brighter and more challenging (and there's a massive 50 of them in single player Career mode). Plus you can fully customise your bike and rider. It's huge.
19. Pac-Man Champ Edition
Price: 800 Released: Jun 2007 Size: 49.56MB
Yes, it's been around for an age, but this is the definitive version of Pac-Man. There's every flavour of pill-scoffing you could ever want - Championship mode, two Challenge modes and three Extra modes. But you know the form. Dash down darkened corridors avoiding the spooks and trawling up all the spotty goodness you can find, to the sound of a plinky plonky techno soundtrack. It's a bit like clubbing in the 1990s, only slightly less sweaty...
Price: 800 Released: Apr 2012 Size: 273.45MB
Part dimension-shifting puzzler, part code-breaker, all incredibly charming. In Fez you rotate the world to navigate your environment in search of cubes. Get cubes, unlock new levels. Simple. Until, that is, you realise that there's much more here than meets the eye - like translating an 'alien' language to find out what's really happening...