Ever since the beginning of Xbox Live Arcade, game companies have been using it as a way to breathe new life into their once classic powerhouses. We have seen many classic arcade games from the past like Pac-Man and Rush ‘N Attack, as well as not-so-old but just-as-great ones like Marvel vs Capcom 2 and Alien Hominid. Yet still to this day there are some classic titles that have not received their day in a new light. We know some of it has to do with legal issues, but some of it is also due to neglect, which is why we will be covering our top ten picks that we wish were on XBLA, and why they deserve some new found love.
#1 Killer Instinct
This is by far one of the most amazing fighting games in the world. A huge combo system, several twists on the fabled “FATALITY” and of course who can forget “CA CA CA CA COMBO BREAKER.” Those words are still like music to our ears. With such recent games like Soul Caliber 4 and Street Fighter 4 recapturing the fighting sensation, and at least two more highly anticipated titles on the way, business-wise it’s the perfect time for a rebirth. With 1080p graphics, online matchmaking, tournament modes and a smoothed-out combo system, this game could compete with titles sitting on retail shelves.
#2 Mortal Kombat
We don’t want to see a direct port of this, although it would be nice to have the option there to play it old school retro style. We want this first installment to the classic series in pure HD glory. Mortal Kombat was groundbreaking and mind-blowing when it first hit arcades back in the early 90s. This game brings back so many fond quarter-pumping memories from our childhood, and we would love to relive those moments again from our couch. Just imagine how you felt using Sub-Zero to tear off Scorpion’s head or watching someone rip out Sonya’s heart as Kano. we know UMK3 is available for download, but MK1 was before combo systems. This was when a combo was knowing how to freeze your opponent, uppercut them and do a ground slide fast enough that you hit them again before they got up. We want this back because it comes from a time when anyone could play a fighting game, not just those who had enough time to memorize a million directions and buttons. To me, this is what we should have got instead of UMK3.
#3 The Simpsons (arcade)
Another classic from our childhood arcade days was The Simpsons arcade game. Almost every arcade in America had this game in it, from normal one-screen cabinets to custom built large-screen arcades. This was just a simple, side-scrolling 2D beat’em up, much like the TMNT 1989 arcade version already on XBLA, which has proven to still be a hit. You get to play as one of your favorite Simpsons; Home, Marge, Bart or Lisa, each one with their own unique weapon and fighting style. With weird enemies and bright, vivid levels, this game is just begging for a Live update.
#4 X-Men (arcade)
Speaking of side-scrolling 2D classics, right next to the aforementioned Simpsons arcade unit is the highly acclaimed X-Men arcade unit jumping in as our fourth pick. This thing was a beast – with six-player simultaneous action, most machines were a minimum of two connected screens, many being four screens wide. Cyclops, Colossus, Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler and the lesser know Dazzler were all playable characters with each having their own unique special abilities. Given Marvel’s huge popularity and the ever-growing love to play with friends online, this would make a great addition to XBLA.
There are many simplistic arcade games from the past that set new markers in the industry or changed the way we looked at games altogether. One of those for us was Rampart, a strategic defense game that requires you to build walls and canon towers around your castle to defend and expand your land. We don’t want to just see a simple port of this game, although we want to see the classic gameplay intact. What this game really deserves is a complete overhaul. If we took what we know about today’s strategy games and applied it to the proven and addictive fun of Rampart, we would have a new XBLA hit on our hands. The PS3 got one, why can’t XBLA?
Breaking out of the arcade trend we seem to have going here, we think ClayFighter from the SNES and SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive system makes a perfect fit for XBLA. This game was great fun back in the day, and it did something a lot of brutal fighting games couldn’t do, and that was slip by the parents. Because of that, ClayFighter was one fighting game that almost everyone we knew owned. This game belongs on the arcade for one simple fact – it is wacky fun. Nothing like picking Bad Mr. Frosty, an evil snowman, to kill Ickybod Clay, a ghost with a pumpkin for a head. If the thought of that doesn’t just bring a smile to your face, then I don’t know what will. Pulling from every popular fighting game on the market from combo systems to “CLAYTALITY,” how can you go wrong? Plus, if it were ported over to the 360 it would finally get a much-needed update to fix some of the annoying glitches that it never got back in the day.
#7 Arch Rivals
I think a genre on XBLA that is being highly overlooked is sports. There are a few good selections there, but for the most part nothing classic or epic. When most people think about sports arcade games, it seems that NBA Jam or NFL Blitz are some of the first to come to mind, but not for me. The first game we think of is Arch Rivals, Midway’s original basketball title. Without this game, many of the unorthodox sports games like Mutant League Football or Pigskin 612 A.D. that many have grown to love might not exist, and for this simple fact it needs a remake. We loved this game back then, and if it wasn’t for this game we would have never tried sports games, period. PC owners saw a digital remake and a download service come out some time ago, and it is time for 360 owners to receive the same love. We mean, what is the best thing about sports? It’s not the score, it’s the violence, and there’s plenty of that here.
#8 Solstice: The Quest for the Staff of Demnos
This is an overlooked and forgotten action-adventure puzzler from the NES era. This game was unique in many ways, from its isometric view to its puzzle-based missions. You move from room to room solving puzzles with keys, blocks and potions, all while employing evasion tactics to avoid enemies instead of the usual “kill and then solve.” Another thing that made it so unique was that there was no set path to complete your mission, only a list of tasks before one can move on, something unheard of at the time. This is a game that even today would stand out amongst all the clutter of action-adventure puzzlers out there.
#9 Metal Gear (NES)
The NES created a whole new love for home gaming due to the wide age their games appealed to. So yet again we turn to the 80s for the next game on our list. This game is so good that we still have new titles in the series coming out this year. What game, you ask? Why, none other then the original Metal Gear (no, not Solid). This game was ahead of the competition in its day on so many levels. It told a huge, encompassing story with long and beautiful (for its time) cut scenes and introduced us to a style of play we had yet to meet – stealth. Metal Gear and its many sequels set a standard for stealth, storytelling and cinematic cut scenes for years to come. We think it’s only fair that gamers get to have a go at the original story once more.
#10 Gauntlet Legends
One of the best memories we have of the past is playing Gauntlet Legends. We would love to see this game ported over to XBLA for many reasons. We had so much fun with playing with four people just sitting on the couch in the living room. Heck, it even got us and some of our friends back in the arcades for a short period of time. They took a classic brand that already had a place in the hearts of gamers and managed to bring it back to life. It felt so much like what Gauntlet would have been if it were a new series. You could play with up to four players in a full 3D environment with an RPG-style upgrade system. It is honestly one of the best hack-n-slash games of the 21st century (in our opinion), ranking right on up with others of its kind both before and since.
All of these titles deserve a place on XBLA. Many more titles belong on there too, and we am sure many of you feel others should have made it on our list. We also feel others like Hexen or even Jackal from the NES should be a no-brainer, but trust that we chose this list carefully. These are games that have really made an impression on us for one reason or another. I think that if everyone took the time to look into each of these games and try to play the ones that are available, you would see that even today, in their original and aged glory, that these titles still have the power to stand on their own.