Top 5 XBLA Games of All Time (So Far)

Obviously we feature a lot of XBLA games here on CBR, so we thought that we’d throw together a little something to highlight what we think are some of the best titles on the service.  We spent painstaking minutes collecting data from a couple of gamers using a rigorous and highly scientific means of selecting participants (we bribed them with some avatar props).  The results you see below ignored a lot of that data, but we’re going to go ahead and post them anyway!  Obviously this list, like most top anything list, is by no means definitive, and we openly encourage you to post your top 5 in the comments below.  So lets get started with…

One of the titles most people are bound to bring up when you mention XBLA is Splosion Man.  Twisted Pixel’s follow up to The Maw was a high speed, goofy platformer that had you literally exploding in order to make it through the levels quickly, or even at all.  The game is a love it or hate it for sure, but most gamers seemed to fall in love with the title, spawning the soon to be released sequel, Ms. Splosion Man, and it is fairly easy to see why: The fairly large amount of levels for single player, the unlockable premium themes and avatar awards and of course a whole separate set of levels to experience co-op.  Splosion Man wasn’t a perfect game, but it certainly helps set the bar in terms of bang for your buck on XBLA.

DeathSpank, in our humble opinions, doesn’t get enough love.  For the sake of this article we are considering both games as one, but even viewed separately the games are a riot.  The fantastic voice acting, coupled with a superb script, makes it pretty much the only game to make it on our list more for the narrative than the actual game play; but that is plenty fun too.  The RPG elements allow you to get more into it if you wish, but also makes it incredibly easy to just play and enjoy yourself.  The sheer number of side-quest can be overwhelming, but the game’s humor make it worth playing through its’ entirety.  It’s like The Tick meets Gauntlet Legends, and we are actually contractually obligated to like that.

Super Meat Boy can be frustrating, but it isn’t frustrating in the cheap sense.  The game’s many levels are difficult, but you know they can be beat and the feeling when you do so is the pinnacle of why so many gamers love games.  The sheer amount of content in Super Meat Boy alone makes it a noteworthy title, and that is an aspect the developers have only improved on since launch.  This throwback to the NES generation of games is frustrating, awesome and sometimes frustrating awesome, and that’s why it comes in at number 3.

MNC may seem a bit odd to put on this list as it can be said with utmost certainty that the definitive version of the game is on the PC, but we have our reasons.  Not only was it mentioned a surprising amount among those we surveyed, but MNC deserves special mention for being one of the few primarily multiplayer XBLA games that still has a strong community months after release.  Beyond that, the game is quite fun once you get the hang of it and figure out what character layout suits your gaming style.  It’s an interesting mix of tower defense and third person shooter that can easily turn just one or two matches into an all night affair.

By far the most mentioned title in our super un-scientific survey was Castle Crashers.  We kind of understand why.  The game has pretty much everything you want from an XBLA game.  The hand drawn art looks great, it’s fun to play either single player but especially co-op, just enough RPG elements to feel worthwhile, incredible replay value and it is fun for all ages.  Castle Crashers is one of the only games I am as likely to play with my friends as I am with my niece and nephew.  Yes the gameplay is in many senses repetitive, since at its’ heart Castle Crashers is just a hack and slash brawler, but that doesn’t stop the game from being incredibly fun for an incredibly long time.  The plethora of characters you can unlock, weapons and animals to search for and of course leveling up your character on either normal or the unlockable hard more all provide for a much longer shelf life than most XBLA games, and that’s why we put it at number 1.

So there you have it.  Our top 5 XBLA games (so far).  Now we’re sure a few of you are scoffing at some of the titles we’ve left out, such as LIMBO, Braid, Trials H.D., Shadow Complex, and many, many more.  The simple facts are: 1. We couldn’t include every single great game on XBLA, and 2. We made the list so we get to do what we want!  Obviously there are plenty of great games we failed to mention, and we encourage you to not take this list too seriously, although we would totally recommend at least trying each title on our list.  As said before, we also encourage you to tell us your top 5 in the comments below!  Most importantly though, have fun and good gaming!

  • I have all of them except Deathspank and the sequel. Making a top 5 is hard so I’ll rather not make one of my own. I’d hope that deathspank will eventually go down in price or go on sale so I can play it too. 😛

    • Both were on sale a while back, which is admittedly why I own them. Great games. I actually had to check to see if the voice actor for DeathSpank did the tick, it reminded me so much of him (90’s cartoon). It wasn’t, but still.

  • My top 5 would be quite different – I own both Splosion Man and Castle Crashers and whilst I enjoy(ed) both, they’re not the best XBLA I own.

    The ones I would rate higher are those I keep coming back to time & time again: examples being Trials HD; PacMan Championship Edition DX, UNO, Geometry Wars, Puzzle Quest, ilomilo, Peggle, Portal: Still Alive, Carcassonne etc. And those I’ve not gone back to much but the first playthrough was fantastic, such as Shadow Complex and Costume Quest.

    But it’s all subjective, I suppose 🙂

  • Hey where is Shadow Complex!?! Just kidding, good list here. Since I wrote my preferences, I would probably amend it to include The Undergarden now that I’ve had more time to process, loved the music in that game. @hodsey77 Wow, how did I forget Portal???

  • It’s great news to hear that you guys feel this way, as I have all of these titles save for Castle Crashers. I’ve played the demo to Castle Crashers, but it just never appealed to me in the same way that some unmentioned titles, such as the innovative Stacking and the hilarious Comic Jumper, have. I suppose it’s because I’m more inclined to play single-player games–I just can’t bring myself to spend the money on a service–and I’d rate them based on that alone.

    And while Monday Night Combat is a pretty fun game, I think another game would have been better-suited in second. Perhaps Stacking.

    • Picking a top 5 was certainly difficult, even just on a personal level, I mean I have about 90 games on my HD. Now that it has been posted for a few days I might as well mention my rudimentary system for this: I came up with 5 games and mulled them over for a couple of days. Basically if after 2 days if I was still debating something, I figured I’d better kick it off, 1 game fell victim to that and was replaced with the one I had been thinking about adding. (I won’t mention which, but it hasn’t been mentioned in the article or comments) I then had about 20 people send me their top 5 list. I decided if 5 people included a game I didn’t have I would consider it, and would base the position on the list based on how many people mentioned it. I think 2 games were considered via this method, one, a surprise, was Doritos Crash Course which I opted to not include because I a. Disagreed with it being in the top 5, and b. it is free so who cares if it is bad? The other game I believe was Limbo, but between my personal dislike for it and the fact that it is very evenly love/hate I decided against. Beyond that, Castle Crashers was named around 15/20 times so it got #1. MNC got a large amount of votes and I gave it some bonus points for having a quick learning curve and being a multiplayer game on XBLA with a strong community.

  • Would love to see #6-10, since there are some glaring omissions self-admitted by Tristan … such as BF1943, Shadow Complex, Pac-Man CE/DX, and Limbo. Let’s face it, the SoA 2010 was a great one!

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