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4 Games That Changed XBLA Forever

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

While a pre-loaded puzzler reintroduced the world to the new face of XBLA, it was Bizarre Creations’ Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved that showed us its true potential.

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

Limbo arrived with Gothic swagger when it kicked off the 2010 Summer Of Arcade.

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

A lot has been said about The Walking Dead.

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

Minecraft changed everything. Easily surpassing everything around it, the popular crafting game made the jump from PC and became an overnight sensation.

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.

One comment on “4 Games That Changed XBLA Forever

  1. This list is absurd. Two – yes, TWO – games changed XBLA forever, and those games are Braid and Castle Crashers, in no particular order.

    Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved? Great game, *even better* sequel; neither of which did anything to change XBLA.

    Limbo? Again, a great game (if a tad disappointing), but XBLA was already THRIVING by the time Limbo hit. The reason why it’s on this list? Millions in revenue. That’s why.

    The Walking Dead? The exact same as the above. INCREDIBLE game(s), but it did nothing to change XBLA in any way, shape or form.

    Minecraft? Need I repeat the above two paragraphs?

    Quality of games>sales, always, and this list represents the complete opposite of that. If none of these fours games ever existed, XBLA would still be exactly what it is today, except with less sales on account of the aforementioned.



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