Top 10 Xbox Live Arcade Games

XBLA

When Live Arcade launched on the original Xbox, it was a clunky disk-based download service that offered a few dozen games of varying quality. Now, XBLA has become a console-within-a-console, offering unique experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Below are ten titles that every 360 owner should have in their virtual library, and each can be tried for free on Xbox Live.

#10: Pac-Man: Championship Edition

Pac-Man CE

What would any arcade be without Pac-Man? Released over twenty years after the original, Championship Edition takes the vintage dot-collecting gameplay and slaps a time limit onto it. The dots constantly respawn, and you have to stay alive to rack up as many points as possible before the clock hits zero. With newly redone visuals and catchy techno beats, Pac-Man C.E. is a super addictive revamp that improves the original gameplay and is a great pick-up for anyone out there that still has the Pac-Man Fever.

Price: 800 Microsoft Points/$10

#9: Ikaruga

Ikargua

“Bullet hell”: defined as a game where every pixel of on-screen space is overflowing with things that can kill you. Ikaruga is considered one of the finest examples of this genre: a 2-player top-down spaceship shooter where you can switch the polarity of your craft between darkness and light to match that of your enemies. Shoot the light ships with the dark weaponry to kill them faster, and change your ships color to match the fire coming at you to become immune to it. While the screen is still packed with bullets, being able pass through half of them makes Ikaruga far more playable than its peers and offers a level of strategy that will thrill hardcore fans looking for a challenge.

Price: 800 Microsoft Points/$10

#8: Rez HD

Rez HD

If your mind somehow exploded and all of your thoughts escaped into the air, Rez HD is probably what you would see. A synergistic rollercoaster that takes blends music-creation with on-rails shooting, Rez HD is quite unlike anything else that you have ever seen or played. Colors explode out of the environment and form shapes, all while the pulsing techno music matches up to the movements that you see. Playing Rez puts you to a state that can not be described, and everyone should give this unique experience a try in a dark room with the sound volume on max.

Price: 800 Microsoft Points/$10

#7: Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episodes 1 & 2

Penny Arcade Adventures

Killer mimes! Upgradable rakes! Urine-based science experiments! The twisted comic team of Gabe and Tycho have managed to squeeze all of the above into their episodic RPG/Adventure series Penny Arcade Adventures: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. Encompassing the first two parts of a trilogy, both episodes let you create a character and join the Penny Arcade duo as they attempt to squash the fruit-obsessed robotic menace that is trying to take over the world. The PAA games have a terrific sense of humor in addition to fun turn-based gameplay, and anyone who loves the online comic or wishes to stomp a few hobos ought to give Rain-Slick a download.

Price: 1200 Microsoft Points/$15 per Episode

#6: Uno

Uno

Yes, Uno. If you have played it, you know why its here, and if you haven’t played it, you don’t know what you are missing. The Live Arcade iteration of Uno is the perfect casual online experience where you can jump into a quick game, play a few rounds, chit-chat with other players, and have a great time doing it. The Uno play style lends itself incredibly well to this format, and this version lets you tweak a number of options to vary up the experience. You can also download a number of themes that add new gameplay rules, graphics, and sounds to mix up the action even further, and the game’s support for Avatars and the Xbox Vision Camera bring some flavor to the online modes.

Price: 400 Microsoft Points/$5

#5: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

The grand-daddy of fighting games has returned, this time with some spiffy new looks! Super Street Fighter II Turbo gave us Super Combos, bug fixes, and–most importantly of all–T.Hawk, the Native-American nightmare. HD Remix maintains all of these and adds enhanced music, numerous gameplay tweaks, and the most stunning 2D graphics ever to grace a console. Factoring in flawless online play that links Street Fighter fans from around the world like never before, HD Remix is the ultimate package for fans that once dropped quarter after quarter into arcade cabinets and is a perfect companion to the newly released Street Fighter IV.

Price: 1200 Microsoft Points/$15

#4: Castle Crashers

Castle Crashers

“Smashin’ stuff up real good.” The arcade-scene was once chock full of games whose sole purpose was to do just that, but when games started getting more complex, the ‘beat-em-up’ slowly faded away into obscurity. Thankfully, the developers at the Behemoth have found a way to infuse some depth into this tired old genre in Castle Crashers: a 4-player cooperative hack-and-slash action game that merges old and new mechanics together wonderfully. As you battle the hordes of soldiers, giants, and woodland monsters, you gain experience for your character that lets you earn new moves, grab better weapons, and unlock new abilities that guarantee to keep you and your buddies glued to the couch for a long time.

Price: 1200 Microsoft Points/$15

#3: Portal: Still Alive

Portal

The last year has been kind to GlaDOS, the Companion Cube, and even the Cake, as the mounds of acclaim from gamers worldwide has lead Valve to release their darling puzzle-experiment Portal onto Xbox Live Arcade. The original mind-blowing adventure is included here intact, and is as clever, off-beat, and overloaded with personality as it was in the Orange Box. New to Still Alive are 14 challenge maps that will test your Aperture-enhanced thinking skills in all new ways. I’m making a note here: huge success.

Price: 1200 Microsoft Points/$15

#2: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Geometry Wars 2

It is hard to imagine Xbox Live Arcade being what it is today without the title that started it all: Geometry Wars. Launching alongside the Xbox 360, GeoWars quickly grew to become many console owner’s favorite launch title, outclassing games with much bigger budgets and a lot more content. The game is a dual-analog shooter that floods the screen with dozens of neon-colored foes, any of which can lead to instant death for a player. Using a mixture of reflex-dodging and wild shooting, you have to take down as many as you can while staying alive long enough to beat your buddies high score. Players became addicts and addicts became heroes, as the leaderboard is constantly toppled by players on a hot streak. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 includes everything that the original had and five new modes to play, all of which are as addictive as their predecessor’s. While not as emotionally fulfilling as some of the other games on this list, the Geometry Wars titles should be in every Xbox 360 owner’s virtual and are guaranteed to please with their infinite replayability.

Price: 800 Microsoft Points/$10

#1: Braid

Braid

When released last summer, Braid caused quite the stir in the gaming community. It accomplished a feat that not many games can say they did: take an established genre that has been around for over two decades– in Braid’s case the 2D sidescroller–and create an entirely unique gameplay experience around it. Using a number of time-bending abilities, Braid tasks you with solving brilliantly designed puzzles by learning the ins and outs of your powers. The game forces realistic thinking upon the player, as complete understanding of each world’s rules is required to make it to the end and discover the tragic story behind your character’s travels. It is hard to describe Braid without ruining the surprises that make it so special, so be sure to give one of the most thought-provoking games of the past decade a play and see why this was named TGR’s 2008 Game of the Year.

Price: 1200 Microsoft Points/$15

Did your favorite title not make the list? Disagree with some of our choices? Leave a comment below and tell us what else should be on here.

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