It’s hard to imagine a time when Xbox Live Arcade wasn’t the haven for new IP’s, new experiences and (relatively) cheap gaming that it is now.
In reality, though, the service had the humblest of beginnings, dating all the way back to the days of the original Xbox.
The XBLA has faced its fair share of problems along the way; but technical limitations, an awkward certification processes, pricing structure nonsense and an uneven Achievement Point haul have all helped it become the beast that it is today.
It won’t be long before the next era of Xbox is upon us, and as Microsoft prepares to reveal its next-generation hand we can’t help but wonder what the future holds for the Live Arcade.
So before everything succumbs to a Kinect-powered world, X360 investigates the 12 games that have shaped XBLA into what it is today…
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved
- Developer: Bizarre Creations
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
- Release date: 22 November 2005
Reason for inclusion: Kick-starting an unlikely success story
The deliriously addictive twin-stick shooter captured everyone’s attention with a blistering soundtrack and deceptively deep gameplay; it saw many early adopters through a launch window drought long after the shiny allure of Perfect Dark: Zero wore off.
It was the first next-generation game to capture the leaderboard appeal of the Nineties arcade scene – fitting, considering its retro aesthetic.
While its sequel eventually surpassed its predecessor in almost every way, we can’t overlook the huge influence Geometry Wars had. If it wasn’t for its success, we might not have the service we know and love today.
- Developer: Playdead
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studio
- Release date: 21 July 2010
Reason for inclusion: Beautiful, deadly… expensive
Coming in at a hefty 2,100 Points for but a few hours of gameplay, it provoked a pricing vs longevity debate and set the precedent for all high-profile releases to come in it its wake.
That’s not to say Limbo doesn’t deserve its place on the list; it delighted players with its hypnotising black and white aesthetics and punishing puzzles.
Playdead certainly recognise the power of the market; a representative from the studio doesn’t think the game would have been possible without it:
“Before XBLA and PSN, it was difficult to imagine Limbo being anywhere near commercially viable… it’s hard to secure the funding.”
Limbo inspired quick thinking and fast thumbs, and still to this day it is a must-play for any owner of the Xbox 360.
The Walking Dead
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Publisher: Telltale games
- Release date: 2012
Reason for inclusion: Monthly torture of the soul
It’s a broken game, but at its core it has the most heartfelt and arresting storytelling ever found in a videogame.
After Telltale Games strung us along for five months through its fantastic implementation of an episodic system, it managed to surpass all expectations by actually sticking a landing.
As we desperately await a next-generation announcement from Microsoft, it’s likely the influence of The Walking Dead will be felt for many years to come; Telltale finally stepped out of the shadow of its collective résumé and has undoubtedly become the studio to watch through 2013 and beyond.
“I’m actually more optimistic about our industry now than I’ve been in a very long time,” said designer Joel Pinney. “Social gaming and the vibrant indie scene have massively livened things up in the last five years.”
- Developer: 4J Studios
- Publisher: Mojang
- Release date: 9 May 2012
Reason for Inclusion: Crafting a runaway success
With a reworked crafting system, new interface and options of both split-screen and online multiplayer, not only is Minecraft the best-selling XBLA title, it also holds the gauntlet for third most played game on Xbox Live.
“The console adaptation of the hugely popular PC game has broken all previous digital sales records, selling more than any other title in the first 24 hours on Xbox Live Arcade,” shouted press releases just days after it was made available.
Minecraft revealed a player base hungry for new experiences, and with its continued support it has spawned a community unlike any other.
What are the games you love playing on XBLA most? Let us know below.