Top 10 Xbox Live Arcade Games

XBLA logo
Microsoft

The Xbox Live Arcade is simply awesome on Xbox 360 and has consistently delivered some of the best games on the platform. Here are our picks for ten of the best, but there are a lot more out there that are great too!

These are all downloadable games, so you'll need an Xbox Gift Card available through Amazon.com to buy them.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Starbreeze Studios/505 Games

What We Like

  • Interesting, varied backdrops with lots of side stories and deep characterization.

  • Memorable, moving plot.

What We Don't Like

  • Controls are cumbersome.

  • Characters aren’t as visually appealing as the settings.

A contender for one of the best Xbox 360 games overall, not just Xbox Live Arcade, is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It is a fantastic story of two brothers on a journey to find medicine to cure their sick father. The gameplay has you controlling the two brothers simultaneously and is absolutely unique and wonderful in its design. The story is amazing, the gameplay is fun (once you get used to it) and there are lots of little touches that make it incredibly memorable. Everyone should play this game.

Minecraft

Characters running in Minecraft from cinematic shot

 Mojang Synergies AB

What We Like

  • Harnesses and fosters creativity.

  • Easy to play and chat with friends.

What We Don't Like

  • No mods, skins, or textures.

  • World is limited to width of map.

Minecraft is amazing. Don't let the simple graphics fool you, this game is addictive and wonderful and the freedom it gives you to do whatever you want is unmatched. Technically, it is an adventure game where you're trying to enter the underworld and kill a dragon, but you don't have to play it that way if you don't want to. You can turn enemies off completely and just build stuff if you want. And thanks to the addition of creative mode, time is the only thing stopping you from building anything you can imagine. It costs $20​ and is worth every penny.

Shadow Complex

Gameplay of Shadow Complex
Epic Games

What We Like

  • Appeals to fans of older games, but offers superior visual design.

  • Well-crafted, addictive game that's a good value for the cost.

What We Don't Like

  • Nothing that hasn’t been done before.

  • A few glitches (objects that overlap and enemies who are unaware of players’ positions).

Imagine if Super Metroid and Metal Gear Solid got together and had a baby. The result would be Shadow Complex. It is a game of upgrades, exploration, crazy conspiracies, boss battles, and more all in an isolated military complex. And the best part is that it looks like a current-gen, Unreal Engine game but is played from a 2D side-scrolling perspective. It pairs amazing presentation with amazing gameplay to create one of the best XBLA games yet. It costs 1200MS Points ($15), but the replay value is through the roof so there is no question you'll get your money's worth.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Gameplay of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

 Screenshot

What We Like

  • Enjoyable soundtrack.

  • Huge world rich in elements and characters offers extended gameplay.

What We Don't Like

  • Might not be challenging for experienced gamers.

  • Some secret places aren’t mapped.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of the greatest games ever made, and even though it's twenty years old, it is still very impressive. It features amazingly satisfying action/exploration gameplay, tons of secrets, and one of the best soundtracks ever to grace a videogame. This is a fantastic old-school game that hardcore gamers will really appreciate. Castlevania: SOTN is highly recommended.

Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark logo poster

Microsoft 

What We Like

  • Good music.

  • Controllers work well despite the game’s Nintendo 64 origins.

  • Fun for those who feel nostalgic about playing original version.

What We Don't Like

  • Dated graphics.

  • Artificial intelligence can’t compare to modern games.

One of the most anticipated Xbox Live Arcade titles ever is finally upon us with the release of Perfect Dark. It may be a port/remake of one of the best N64 games, but there is still plenty of magic in the title whether you are a PD vet or are playing the game for the first time. It still plays amazingly well, and in terms of the sheer volume of content, Perfect Dark XBLA is one of the best gaming values you’ll find for a mere $10.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Gameplay of Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2
Activision

What We Like

  • Fast, action-filled play.

  • Leaderboards on game selection screen.

What We Don't Like

  • No online multiplayer.

  • Control is frustratingly loose.

Take everything that made Geometry Wars great – simple graphics, fast paced frantic gameplay – and multiply it by ten and you’ll end up with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. It is bigger, better, more beautiful, and packs six distinct modes that will keep you coming back for more. The new modes are also noteworthy because many of them are quick and easy to jump in and out of and you don’t have to spend half an hour and score into the tens of millions to be satisfied like you do with the first game. Geo Wars 2 is unquestionably better than the first game and is one of the best titles on XBLA.

Puzzle Quest

Screenshot of Puzzle Quest gameplay

 FOG Studios

What We Like

  • Extremely addicting.

  • Various options for play (e.g., with a friend, a quick fight, a chosen opponent).

What We Don't Like

  • Can get repetitive for seasoned players.

  • Despite the storyline, still a basic puzzle game.

Puzzle Quest is pretty much the result of what happens when a puzzle game and an RPG meet up after a night of drinking. It is a puzzle game at its core, but rather than trying to get a high score, you are battling an enemy. You alternate turns with your opponent, trying to match three or more of the same color of pieces in order to earn magic so you can cast spells. You cast spells and attack and try to whittle their hit points down to zero, just like an RPG. As you play, your character gets stronger and learns new skills. Puzzle Quest might weird, but it is absolutely addictive and completely fresh and original, and widely regarded as one of the best puzzle games.

LIMBO

Promotional poster of LIMBO for XBOX

 Microsoft

What We Like

  • Slick imagery and settings that create an ominous, suspenseful feel.

  • Challenging puzzles.

What We Don't Like

  • Rather short.

  • Controls not as responsive as they should be.

LIMBO is a monochromatic, 2D side-scrolling puzzle/platformer/horror game exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade. It is also one of the best games you'll play all year. It is a perfect blend of an amazing art style, great sound design, and terrifically smart and clever gameplay that will hook you from the moment you pick up the controller.

Peggle

Screenshot of gameplay of Peggle on Fever Score

Origin

 

What We Like

  • Online multiplayer mode.

  • Simple but entertaining.

What We Don't Like

  • Can get monotonous.

  • A little too short.

Peggle is a puzzle game that plays like Plinko from The Price is Right. The board has pegs on it and your objective is to shoot a ball and take out all of the orange colored pegs on the board. Each of the playable characters has a different power-up ability, and having the right ability on a given board makes all of the difference. Peggle is addictive and satisfying and just plain fun and the great sense of humor displayed as the game is loading up lets you know you are in for a good time. At 800 MS points ($10) it is a pretty good deal.

Plants vs. Zombies

Promo poster of Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare

Electronic Arts

What We Like

  • Increasing complexity keeps play challenging.

  • Various modes maintain interest.

What We Don't Like

  • Relatively expensive.

  • Lacks online multiplayer capability.

Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game where you use plants to defend your house against invading hordes of zombies. It is a simple concept, and tower defense games are a dime-a-dozen these days, but Plants vs. Zombies utilizes a great sense of humor, perfect controls, amazing depth, and a surprising amount of content to really stand out from the crowd. It is 1200 MSP ($15), but you are getting a ton of content, which makes it a lot easier to swallow.