Every year, E3 seems more hectic than the last. We spent five hectic days getting our eyes and hands on every XBLA game possible and we’ve picked out eighteen games that stood out from the crowd. Here is the run-down on the very best XBLA titles from E3 2012.

Co-Written by Todd Slickbernd with thoughts by Jeff Yenzer, Nick Depetris, Nick Santangelo, and Ross Adams

XBLA Fans presents E3 2012’s Best…

…Reason to RISE to the level of God: Ascend: New Gods 

More so than any XBLA game at E3, Ascend: New Gods is trying new things. The trailer during the Microsoft Press conference  didn’t do it justice. With gory, visceral combat — at one point my character drank a puny human’s blood–, working smart glass integration, the ability to curse and bless friends in their game real time, and alternative pricing models that are rumored to be free to play, Ascend: New Gods could allow Signal Studios to rise up as new gods of the XBLA space.

…Right Hook: Bellator

Bellator fighters might not have the same name recognition as of those in the UFC, but 345 isn’t throwing in the towel. They’ve added in a highly robust create a fighter mode, which players will be able to use in the demo. The ability to create a fighter and then purchase the game unlocking him may prove to be just the right hook.

E3 Preview: What’s a Bellator and why is it so fun?

…Best Strategy Smoothie: CastleStorm

Killing waves and waves of enemies is satisfying, undoubtedly. Destroying castles is also a laudable achievement. Of course, then, combining the two is an absolute blast! CastleStorm blends action and strategy with equal parts thought and reflexes. Outsmart your opponents or simply bulldoze them, the choice is yours!

E3 Hands-on: Forecast for CastleStorm shows torrent of arrows

…Blend of Past Hits: Deadlight

A quick glance at Deadlight immediately brings back memories of Limbo and Shadow Complex. While the game truly finds a life of its own, it manages to blend interesting aspects from both XBLA greats. Make sure to check it out this summer!

PAX East: Making a run for it in Deadlight

…Reason for War: Happy Wars

Going through life can be dreary indeed, especially during times of war. Happy Wars will be the getaway 15 vs. 15 multiplayer action game for those of us needing an escape! Accessible combat and RPG mechanics combine with rich replayability options and a deep item system to create a multiplayer game worth participating in.

E3 Hands-on: Storming the stylish battlefields of Happy Wars

…Reason for a Fluffy Bunny to Take on Hell: Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

If paparazzi caught me doing obscene things with a rubber ducky I’d be mad too! This is no Peter Cottontail. This bunny charges through hell with a chainsaw jetpack. Hell Yeah!’s brilliance is its ability to not take itself to seriously, blended with some incredibly engaging gameplay.

E3 Hands-on: Dancing the day away with a bear and a hare in Hell Yeah!

PAX East: You’ll be saying Hell Yeah! too after playing this game

…Evolution of Movement: Hybrid

It was only a matter of time before a game truly embraced the jetpack as its primary method of transportation. Who needs legs? They only get shot off anyways! This third person cover-based shooter challenges players to “fly” and gun in a war for control of Earth.

E3 jetpacks-on preview: Hybrid

Hybrid – When being different pays off

…Clown Car Full of Content: Joe Danger: The Movie

Joe Danger: The Movie packs more vehicles than we can count. From motorbikes and jetpacks to unicycles and cupcakes, Joe Danger: The Movie packs even more content than the original. At the moment, we’d wager this will likely be the best movie game ever made.

PAX East: Lights, camera, danger with Joe Danger: The Movie

…MOBA to Rule Them All: LOTR: Guardians of Middle-Earth

You shall not pass!… this game up this fall. Guardians of Middle-Earth aims to bring a more traditional multiplayer online battle arena experience to the console, while adding some this and that. Play as characters from Lord of the Rings lore, some known, some ridiculously obscure, and enjoy this no-nonsense  MOBA game.

E3 Hands-on: Lord of the Rings goes core MOBA in Guardians of Middle-Earth

…Ninja Who is Actually Sneaky: Mark of the Ninja

Mark of the Ninja has an achievement to never kill a single person, never alert anyone… and to kill everyone. Can you say variety? This here is the thinking man’s sneaking game. Kill from the shadows to stay hidden, peak into rooms to plan your next move and deftly accomplish your clandestine goals in this stealth-faithful platformer.

PAX East: Slash and hang in Mark of the Ninja

…World in which to get Lost: Pid

Ever been on the way home from school when you suddenly got teleported to a mysterious planet? No? Us neither, but Kurt, the protaganist in Pid certainly has. Use beams of light to manipulate physics and solve challenging platforming puzzles in this whimsical platform puzzler.

E3 Hands-on: Floating through Pid’s intriguing planet

…Reason to Believe in Multiple Dimensions: Quantum Conundrum

Quantum Conundrum will make you think. The games atmosphere comes to life as subtle changes occur between the shifting dimensions. We can’t wait to defy physics this summer when Quantum Conundrum hits consoles!

PAX East: Going through the many dimensions of Quantum Conundrum

…Example of why the ‘80s and ‘90s Rocked: Retro City Rampage

If it was cool and it happened in the ’80s or early ’90s, it probably found its way into Retro City Rampage. Hearkening back to the roots of games like Grand Theft Auto, Retro City Rampage cuts away the fat — missions aren’t there to be long, but to be fun — and infuses a nice 8-Bit Style. We can’t wait to hop in our Deloreans and remember a life before people actually watched the Jersey Shore.


…Cannibalism Etiquette: Skulls of the Shogun

We’ve been blessed to play through over half of Skulls of the Shogun, a deep, intuitive strategy game. At first blush it looks like a feudal Japanese version of advance wars mixed with chess. Gone are tiles, replaced by movement circles. The basic gameplay is simple to pick up but the strategies are tougher to master. Releasing on Windows Phone, Surface and Xbox 360 later this year.

Skulls of the Shogun preview: strategy games go to the afterlife

PAX East: Conquering the afterlife in Skulls of the Shogun

…Sentient Hole in the Ground: The Cave

Ron Gilbert sure does love adventure games, and so do we! Double Fine’s next one is about seven individuals who venture into The Cave, three at a time for some reason, to find their greatest desire. Picking up stuff and putting it places to solve puzzles has never been so strange. Well maybe it has, but it was probably still Ron’s idea.

E3 Preview: So seven strangers walk into The Cave…

…Best Reason to Head Back to School: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

A little over a decade ago, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater released and became a perennial best seller. For many, it helped them get through college, as late night multiplayer sessions came with bragging rights more prized than the numerical assessment of faculty. Not to mention, who hasn’t wished they could grind all over their school campuses like a pro.

…Use of the Term “Episode 2” in the Last 20 Years: Walking Dead

Many modern games claim choice matters. And it does to an extent; but only to binary extremes. Very few games are able to give thought provoking decisions that actually come to fruition hours and hours down the line. So far, The Walking Dead has done that in just one episode. We can’t wait for the rest!

…Use of Kinect as a Destructive Force: Wreckateer

Kinect smash! Why? Because… SMASH! Load all manner of different projectiles, from the winged to the exploding, into a massive ballista and fire them at medieval structures. Why? I think we’ve been over this already. Thanks to accurate Kinect controls, Wreckateer is going to be one powerful addition to Summer of Arcade 2012.

PAX East: Taking XBLA back to its arcade roots in Wreckateer

…Best of E3: Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust is beautiful. Not only the aesthetics, but the combos themselves are like art, brought to life by the disney-esque animation of Dean Dondrill. Everything feels so precise and intentional. We can’t wait to get our hands on the final version.

Dust: An Elysian Tail impressions from PAX East