I have chosen for the sake of this list to separate Indie titles from developer titles as it would be relatively unfair to put some up against others. So, with that said, letís begin.
10. Wolf of the Battlefield: Commando 3
Simple and utterly foolproof in execution, Commando 3 may not be perfect when it comes to game design, but fun and perfect are not exactly synonymous. Able to be played by one to three players, it gives the impression of lacking accommodation, but this couldnít be more distant from the truth. While the characters may seem a bit generic, their stat values differ enough to offer a slight degree of variety. Blasting through the levels and laying waste to various bosses, I believe, epitomizes the Xbox Live Arcade theme of readily accessible games that are fun and cheap, regardless of whether or not they can be completed in one playthrough.
Before you go ahead and remind me that it is based on a flash game, think about this. While the game weighs in at 800 points on Xbox Live, it has a vast amount of maps and 4-player co-op / competitive modes. Combine this with a stellar level editor and the sheer amount of addictive gameplay, the demo only gives you a small taste of and youíll begin to twitch at the sound of the epic background music. Overall, an experience that combined with the Xbox 360 controller and the ease of multiplayer, this is a title not to be missed. And while N+ has contributed to at least one sick day as a result of playing all night, I can take comfort in knowing that three other people had to do the exact same thing.
8. Heavy Weapon
In recent years, PopCap games has successfully created titles that should be registered as unlawfully addictive and Heavy Weapon is no exception. Playing as a tank that goes back and forth across the screen shooting down Red Star Army fighters, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Massive bosses greet players at the end of each stage and the power-ups granted thereafter make you feel nigh invincible against the onslaught of enemies. However, the weapons you receive never leave you feeling completely safe, especially when the screen is literally full of opponents. While the obvious parallels between Cold War Soviets and Americans are seemingly ridiculous, they add a lighthearted comedic feeling that serve to amuse the player between levels. But the gameplay is the true star of the show with multiplayer capable of serving up to four tanks on the screen discarding hapless carnage wherever they roll.
7. Puzzle Fighter HD
Being one of the few puzzle titles that have pushed me to compete in a ridiculous manner, I felt Puzzle Fighter deserved to make the list. While it nearly served to drive me completely out of my mind more than once, the game was challenging and that is where itís replay value lies. Various gameplay modes redone from the ground up for Xbox Live only makes this title stand out more as a classic. While the AI is difficult, it can keep many coming back for more. However, playing with a friend is more than reason enough to invest in a controller that you may not mind hitting a wall, floor or person
6. Splosion Man
Harking back to the days of the original Super Mario Brothers or Sonic the Hedgehog, Splosion Man strives for simplicity and succeeds extremely well. Capitalizing on the Splosion mechanic and platforming therein, itís refreshing to play a game that is so easy to learn but vastly more difficult to master. The immense amount of single and multiplayer levels combined with ďThe Way of the CowardĒ for the levels that may seem impossible at the time help keep the title accessible. With a level of humor that is rarely seen in many video games, Splosion Man is worth a demo playthrough at the very least and a purchase for those looking for a worthwhile challenge.
5. Geometry Wars 2: Retro Evolved 2
After having the original on my 360 for so long, I still forget that I actually bought it as opposed to it being included on the hard drive. The sequel takes everything that made the original great and adds a whole lot more. check out the demo and youíll be hooked.
A artful reimagining of what a platformer title is suppose to be, Braid is one of the more profound titles Iíve played on Xbox Live. While the time mechanic is interesting, it is really the music and beautiful style that kept me playing. Furthermore, the narrative is one of the higher quality aspects is regards to other XBLA titles and while the title has been both praised and criticized, it is one of the few games I keep loading from the dashboard. Simplicity combined with powerful storytelling and gorgeous artwork has kept Braid in my top 5.
3. Penny Arcade Episode 1
I confess that my preference here is swayed out of love for Penny Arcade in pretty much any form it comes in or it could be due to the fact that the game beings with your house being crushed by a giant, freakiní Fruit Fucker. From the duo who spent years critiquing and rightfully calling out the game industry, the title is enjoyable and overall laudable for itís presentation. While having a tone of an epic role-playing game, it never takes itself too seriously, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. And with the ability to fight along Gabe and Tycho, it really is worth the points. Oddly enough, the sequel isn't half bad either. So check both of them out, whether you like PA or not.
2. Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers appeals to my sense of nostalgia in a way that I wouldnít like to admit, but it does. And it does it very well. Playing in the role of one of four different knights, players go from level to level crashing their way through enemies and bosses alike. The clever aspects are presented with swappable weapons and animals that offer various perks as well as magic abilities and a full-fledged leveling system. Multiplayer and competitive arenas, along with exceptional game mechanics that play out well through various themed levels keep the game feeling fun. However, for a game that is simple enough to make me remember Golden Axe fondly, Castle Crashers feels better in every single respect.
1. Shadow Complex
I grew up playing both Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as well as Super Metroid and Iím pleased to say that Shadow Complex reminds me of both. Yes, the game is certainly a love note to past titles that focused on exploration heavy gameplay with combat thrown in for good measure, but this isnít a bad thing. Some of the best titles can be tributes to games that have long since been forgotten by some gamers. Shadow Complex, while set in a universe shaped by Orson Scott Card never feels didactic, compelling the player to explore a bit more and more until it looks like the sun is rising and your boss is calling wondering where you are. The narrative does only really serve to drive the player forward in a small capacity, as the gameplay is the real muscle here. Breaking the sales record on Xbox Live, after playing the demo, it will be very clear as to why.
Bonus Round: Monkey Island / Rez HD:
Iíve decided to include these both because I was determined to have only one real remake on the list if I could help it and yes, I gave that spot to Puzzle Fighter HD. First, Monkey Island is the prime example of what an adventure game should be. Well, at least an adventure game that is extremely fun, remastered in an exquisite way and is about freakiní pirates. While it makes me feel the same way I did when playing it as a little kid, it is interesting to see the direction they took while revising the title from the ground up. The writing is still funny and the addition of actual voice work to the written dialogue along with the redone music makes the game feel new despite being older than some of the people who are going to read this list.
Rez HD, while being yet another remake, really came into its own on XBLA. Not initially being a fan of rhythm based titles or music games; I missed this when it came out years ago. Its release via the arcade gave me a chance to enjoy it and despite my ineptitude at understanding the title during the first playthrough, I came to realize that this was the kind of musically themed game I could consistently enjoy. And so far it is has held true as I have come back again and again. If you may not have really ever enjoyed a title like Rock Band, give Rez HD a shot. It is memorable in that it is true synergy between art and music.
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