If you read XBLA Fans with any regularity — or even any irregularity, for that matter — then you’ve probably noticed something about us: we cover indie games. A lot. …
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.)
Matthew Smail, Contributor — Featuring a solid 10 to 20-hour-long campaign, a fun and engaging storyline and a range of deep and rewarding gameplay mechanics, State of Decay is considered by some to be a better game than many boxed AAA zombie titles. Arriving as it did in 2013 (during what is essentially the Xbox 360’s twilight year) State of Decay has certainly proven one thing: digital delivery of serious gaming content not related to Minecraft can be both commercially and critically successful on the Xbox 360.
Monday Night Combat was a favorite amongst the XBLA Fans team. From the summer of 2010 up until some time in 2012 we’d often take a few nights a month to get our game on. But as time went on promises made by MNC developer Uber Entertainment weren’t being fulfilled. Fans didn’t know why. Uber brought the game to the PC, where it received several updates, including a new map, Uncle Tully’s Funland (seen below). Rumors even floated around about the possibility to let players create their own maps using the Unreal Development Kit (UDK).
So why the move? As we reported in June 2011, the Xbox 360 version had more players than the PC version, so why wouldn’t it make sense to continue supporting it? Things got even more confusing three months later when Uber announced that it was dropping support for the game all together in favor of its sequel, Super Monday Night Combat, which was to be a free-to-play PC exclusive. Fans were split on the matter, many supported the struggling developer, while others were outraged.
Monday Night Combat, the class-based, third person online multiplayer shooter from Uber Entertainment has had it’s price permanently reduced this week. The game will now set you back a mere 800 MSP …
While everyone knows what strategy games are, and role playing games, and massively multiplayer online games somehow the multiplayer online battle arena genre remains confusing and mysterious. Perhaps this is because, despite being a combination of strategy, RPG and MMO (aka SRPGMMO, but nobody liked that acronym) being something everyone can understand, it in no way adds up to MOBA. However, like every other genre, MOBA is branching out, growing and adding elements from other beloved genres, so before things get out of hand let us explain what MOBA is.
The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre is a micro-MMORPG experience with strategical elements surrounding it, hence the combination of the three. MOBA combines some of the key features of each genre, and bakes a peculiarly delicious cake. First and foremost, however, MOBA games are team-oriented, with one team competing against one other team. Each team has a core (or something like one) which they must protect. If their core is destroyed, they lose.
Monday Night Combat developer Uber Entertainment recently announced Super Monday Night Combat. The game is essentially the next evolution in their gameplay, sporting new classes, adjusted gameplay and new locales. But so far it’s only been announced for PC. Uber has declined to comment on other platforms which could possibly mean that it would come to Xbox Live Arcade as well. But what about XBLA players of MNC and their promised additional DLC? Uber stated that with MNC being their freshman effort on consoles they didn’t fully understand the process. The continued updates and content proved to be a daunting process, and one that they could not sustain themselves on. Sorry, XBLA players, you’re not getting your promised DLC–not even the PC-exclusive map Uncle Tully’s Funland. Executive Producer Chandana “Ekanaut” Ekanayake had this apologetic statement for fans:
We fully expected a sh*tstorm from our console players and rightfully so. We’re sorry you feel like we’re kicking you while you’re down but for us to continue as a developer we need to push for changes and be able to sustain ourselves as a development studio. I wish I could say more about ongoing developments, but like you’ve seen with our posts, changes happen fast sometimes and somethings take a lot longer then we think.
This is somewhat of a departure from what we gathered back in June. Ekanaut stated that “Everything we’ve posted over the years on this forum has been the truth at that time. We gain absolutely nothing by leading or lying to our fans.” He further cited Valve’s Managing Director Gabe Newell’s desire to bring Steam service to the Xbox 360, noting that until this happens frequent, live updates are much more difficult.
Fan reaction was about as varied as you could get.
It’s a question we get fairly often: Why does the PC version of Monday Night Combat get all sorts of cool updates while 360 players are “stuck” with just the Spunky Cola Special? Well, to those who aren’t regulars on Uber Entertainment’s forums the answer to that question is shrouded in mystery. To bring it out more into the open we’ve summarized what Uber Entertainment’s Chandana Ekanayake (aka Ekanaut or Eka) had to say on the matter. He noted that the Xbox 360 version has more players than the Steam version, so why isn’t there new content? Simply put he said it’s about control and turnaround times.
We’re starting yet another feature here at XBLAFans that will showcase any newly announced Xbox Live Arcade-based avatar awards from are friends over at AvatarAwards. They’re a great site that somehow gets news on avatar awards for all 360 games before they’re released. Be sure to check them out if you’re curious about any non-XBLA related avatar awards. For simplicity’s sake and so that we don’t leech from them, each of the links below will take you to their site. Remember, these are awards, so they’re given out to the player by completing criteria in each game. For more detail hit up the Avatar Awards site. You can also follow them on Twitter at @AvatarAwards360.
We’ve got a big backlog to fill between the AvatarAwards and things that pre-date their site, so this one’s a lot longer than usual. Hit the jump to see the list. Also, let us know if we missed one.
With no NPD-style analysis of XBLA and Microsoft announcements of sales data few and far between, Gamasutra has made it a habit to do monthly analyses of leaderboard data to get some kind of grip on relative success and failure in the marketplace. April’s deluge of new releases alongside a handful of sales for previously released titles meant that Gamasutra contributer Ryan Langley had a lot to parse.