Top Five XBLA Summer of Arcade Games

XBLA Summer of Arcade

With this year’s Xbox Live “Summer of Arcade” now complete, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the best games the series has brought us over its five year span. This year’s batch was admittedly pretty weak, but the series has provided plenty of classics. Here are my top five:

Braid [2008]
5) Braid [2008]
Jonathan Blow’s indie hit had nearly unanimous positive reviews upon its release, and it still holds up well four years later. A puzzle/platforming hybrid with gorgeous art design, Braid is frequently mentioned in the endless “video games can be art” debate.

Trials HD [2009]
4) Trials HD [2009]
While now overshadowed by the superior Trials Evolution, Trials HD burst onto the scene with insanely addictive racing/puzzle action. I can’t even tell you how much time I put into this game — I didn’t even finish an “Extreme” level until just this year! Even though its sequel is better, this is still a blast to play (albeit often frustrating).

Limbo [2010]
3) Limbo [2010]
With stunning black & white visuals and an incredibly simplistic but engaging premise, Limbo is an unforgettable experience. The side-scrolling gameplay is basic and the campaign is rather brief, but I can’t think of another game like this. Creepy yet utterly beautiful.

Bastion [Xbox 360, 2011]
2) Bastion [2011]
One of my favorite games from last year, Bastion is an action RPG with eye-popping visuals, and it just oozes all sorts of charm. Who can forget the omnipresent narrator and incredibly fine-tuned hack ‘n’ slash gameplay?

Shadow Complex [2009]
1) Shadow Complex [2009]
Not only is this the best Summer of Arcade title, this is the best XBLA game, period. This “2.5D” side-scrolling shooter has elements from the Metroidvania style of gameplay and encourages exploration. The single player campaign is comparable to full-fledged $60 games, and there is even a bonus “Proving Grounds” mode. Replay value is high as there are all sorts of secrets and areas that cannot be accessed until certain power-ups are acquired. One of my favorite games from this generation, arcade and otherwise.

For reference, here’s the full lineup by year:

2008: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, Braid, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, Galaga Legions, Castle Crashers
2009: Marvel vs Capcom 2, Trials HD, Splosion Man, Shadow Complex, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled
2010: Castlevania: Harmony of Light, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Limbo, Monday Night Combat
2011: Bastion, From Dust, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Fruit Ninja Kinect, Toy Soldiers Cold War
2012: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD, Wreckateer, Deadlight, Hybrid, Dust: An Elysian Tail

How about you guys? Do you agree with my list? What’s your favorite XBLA Summer of Arcade title?

13 thoughts on “Top Five XBLA Summer of Arcade Games

  1. ratchet7764 says:

    I must agree with this list! I’m a Sony guy myself (*gasp*), but I’m a big fan of Braid and Limbo. The art in downloadable games always blows me away! I’d say that Flower, Pixeljunk Monsters, and Pixeljunk Shooter are my favorites of all time, though I have yet to play Journey. Thanks for the post!

    • Eric says:

      Yeah, I hear ya, so many indie games look even more beautiful than their big-budget brethren. I actually haven’t played the three games you mentioned, though I do have the two Pixeljunk titles sitting on my hard drive. Sounds like I need to finally check them out!

  2. Max says:

    I think Castle Crashers would be in my top 5 and then probably Geometry Wars 2, although admittedly I like the first one more for some reason. Shadow Complex is way too high. For what it achieved it was good, but it’s no where as good as the games that came before it.

    • Eric says:

      Wow, no love for Shadow Complex? Castle Crashers and Geometry Wars 2 would have been honorable mentions for me. Both are fun games but I just didn’t get into them the way I did with these five.

  3. Gary Smith says:

    I’ll continue the trend, I’m also a Sony guy. Don’t have an Xbox 360, but looking over the list of five I’ve played Braid (PC) and Limbo (PSN) and loved both of them.

    Looking at all the titles released as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion, the only other one that I’ve played is From Dust and I enjoyed the hell out of that one too.

    • Eric says:

      It’s too bad that most of these didn’t make it over to the PS3. If you get a chance to pick up Bastion for the PC, I highly recommend doing so. It seems to go on sale every so often, too.

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