Microsoft has officially revealed the first 104 Xbox 360 games that you will be able to play on your Xbox One. As luck would have it, more than half of them are from Xbox Live Arcade, which of course we are big fans of.
The year 2013 has come and gone, and you know what that means: XBLA Fans dropped the ball on getting our Game of the Year awards out during the same calendar year the games released. Apologies for our tardiness, but we’re here today to make it up to you with our awards for the very best XBLA games to release in 2013.
After eight long and (mostly) wonderful years on the market, the Xbox 360 saw the beginning of its end in 2013 when its successor, the Xbox One, launched in November. Of course, Microsoft’s last-gen console and Xbox Live Arcade platform weren’t about to go quietly into that good night. No, major releases continued throughout the year for Xbox 360 XBLA, and that trend looks to continue well into 2014 and possibly even beyond. That meant that picking out the best of the best XBLA games released last year was every bit as difficult for us as it’s been any other year. Games like Charlie Murder and Skulls of the Shogun were strong competitors that just missed landing on our list of 2013’s best.
But enough about the games that didn’t make the cut. Let’s get down to what you came here for: the best XBLA games of 2013. Read on for XBLA Fans’ picks and let us know what your favorites were and which 2014 game you think will be worthy of being named Game of the Year at the end of next December.
Xbox Live Arcade began its life on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 simply enough. When eager gamers bought up Xbox 360s on launch day (November 22, 2005), they found a free copy of Hexic HD pre-loaded on their hard drives. Of course, it was another launch title that secured the platform’s success. Bizarre’s Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved both gave birth to the twin-stick shooter craze and demanded gamers take Xbox Live Arcade, which started in disc form back on the original Xbox, seriously as a digital games platform. Bizarre’s side project paved the way for the enormous variety of retro revivals, HD remakes, original indie projects, major studio releases, free-to-play games and more that have come to call XBLA home in the years since.
Today, we’re approximately one month away from the launch of the Xbox One, which will signal the end of XBLA as we have come to know it these past eight years. While Microsoft’s Xbox line will continue to be home to myriad low-cost downloadable video games, the XBLA moniker will not make the transition to Xbox One. It’s going down with the figurative (and literal) Xbox 360 boat. So what better time than now to count down the best XBLA games to ever grace the Xbox 360?
It wasn’t easy, but our staff has sorted through all of the best XBLA releases over the years and picked the ones that we feel are the true standout stars of the platform. Check back with us throughout the week as we run down five of Xbox Live Arcade’s top games every night. And don’t forget to head to the comments to let us know how much you love (or hate) our picks.
(Editor’s Note: voting was conducted in early September. No games released post-Summer of Arcade 2013 were considered eligible.)
John Laster, Editor-in-Chief — Pinball FX2 shot out of the shoot pretty quickly and even three years later has shown very few signs of slowing down. Recreating a fantastic-feeling pinball experience in a virtual environment, Zen Studios has crafted a virtual arcade that will save you a lot of quarters and allow you to forget that you aren’t playing on physical machines. Utilizing a mix of original and licensed IPs, Pinball FX2 takes players from classic Rome to a galaxy far, far away with an entire pack of Star Wars tables and a plethora of other downloadable content.
This week’s deal offers up some of the very best Xbox Live Arcade has to offer, dropping names and prices on a couple of the year’s bigger titles and …
Meet Haris Orkin, writer and voice director behind the critically acclaimed Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. He assisted Techland on the first Juarez game back in ’05, when he suggested the polish developer hire an American writer to get the dialogue right. He’s been working with them ever since.
In a ‘making of’ documentary posted by Ubisoft, Orkin recounts the process behind how Gunslinger came to fruition. From the beginning when Techland didn’t know if they needed a traditional story since this was a “downloadable game”, through the process of developing Silas Greaves and presenting the tall tale history of the Wild West.
“They came to me with the idea of the entire game being narrated a la Bastion,” Orkin recounts. “They told me they wanted narrative tricks in the game; that things in the game world would change depending on the narrators story. I thought that idea was pretty brilliant and mirrored exactly how the history of the West came to be written in the first place.”
To delve into that rich history of the Wild West, Techland wanted the larger-than life personas that cut out a living during the time. “They wanted the game to feature some of the most iconic Western legends and characters from the past,” Orkin says. “Together we crafted a story based on that premise. The character would be someone who brushed against all those famous characters.”
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was developed by Techland and published by Ubisoft. It was released May 22, 2013 for 1200 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
There’s a revered mysticism to the myths and legends of the Old West – larger-than-life characters carving out their own niche in American history through gritty living and frontier justice. No one can say for certain how much of it is true, and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger acknowledges that, embraces it and delivers one of the best examples of storytelling you’ll find west of the Mississippi. Its modern approach in form and function elevates the material rather than overshadowing it, and in the process creates a wholly unique experience that’s not to be missed.
Here’s what we liked:
How the West was won, sort of – Gunslinger weaves the tale of famed bounty hunter Silas Greaves as he recounts his murderous exploits to a handful of saloon patrons over the course of an afternoon and too many whiskies. You’ll play through a series of flashbacks as Silas, all the while his narration and foggy recollection frame and change each level like an evolving campfire story that plays off the audience. When he backs himself into a corner or spins a yarn too ridiculous to believe, he’ll slyly conjure up an escape route, parting the mountainside to reveal a new path or remembering things a little differently and going back to reveal how it really happened. It’s this light-hearted, self-aware delivery that makes Gunslinger so effective. Though the story itself is quite good – especially in those moments Silas grapples with personal demons – the banter between Silas and his audience and the way it transforms the game world mid-mission is the creative and endearing draw of the campaign.
Techland and Ubisoft’s Call of Juarez was a great game. Its prequel, Bound in Blood, was quality too. The Cartel changed the setting and disappointed fans. So in a surprise move the series is making a jump to digital with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. The game brings the series back to the old west; players will control an as-yet-unnamed bounty hunter going after famous outlaws like Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Hit the jump for the first screenshots.