Welcome to the leaderboards, which track the Top XBLIGs I’ve played & reviewed, and includes the Developer’s studio, the genre the game belongs to, and current price. The list may change from month to month, or it may not at all. Of course, this is only a guide, not a be-all end-all, so while the occupants are numbered according to my personal preference, you really can’t do wrong by owning any of these titles, in any order you choose.
Below the official site list, you will find a ‘Readers’ Top Ten’ section, with longtime readers of the site giving you their all-time favorite XBLIGs. Oh, and they’ve always been critical of my choices, so if you see something you don’t like, or feel a game should be ranked higher / lower, be sure to let them know! 😛
As always, click on each game’s title to be taken to the Xbox marketplace, or the review (if applicable).
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1. Bleed (Bootdisk Revolution / Action / $2.99)
To say that Bleed (REVIEW) raises the bar for XBLIG is an understatement. A bullet hell platformer with an emphasis on acrobatic feats of daring and peerless style, Bleed takes the simple fun and joy in playing a videogame, and extends that indefinitely. Even when you suffer a temporary setback, you’re smiling. Flawless stage layouts and multiple boss fights, each one memorable. In my mind it’s the best XBLIG available, but it’s also one of the best games you’ll likely play in your life.
2. Dead Pixels (CSR Studios / Action / $1.00)
Number two with a pixel bullet, Dead Pixels is really the only zombie game you’ll ever need. Combining RPG and outright-action elements flawlessly, it is a more complete, more polished game, than what you’re accustomed to with indies. As if you needed more incentive, the developer also updated the game with significant DLC, essentially making it two games in one. I hate to used a tired expression, but you do get a lot of bang for your buck. While it’s no longer an XBLIG exclusive (PC players can now enjoy it as well) you can look forward to a sequel at some point.
3. One Finger Death Punch (Silver Dollar Games / Arcade / $2.99)
An instant arcade classic that will have you doing your best Bruce Lee / Jet Li / Jackie Chan / Keanu Reeves impression in over 250 stages of stickmen ninjas. One Finger Death Punch (REVIEW) offers unrivaled cinematic action, with simple controls (X and B buttons only) but a challenging mindset (easy to learn, hard to master) that will take pleasure in kicking your ass over and over repeatedly, with you gladly coming back for more.
4. We Are Cubes (1BK / Arcade / $1.00)
One of the best games on the indie service, period, We Are Cubes takes the simple idea of shooting cubes (natch) inside of a narrow corridor (think Death Star trench run), and adds strategy, bullet-management, and essential power-ups. There’s also an equally-fun local co-op / competitive mode and worthwhile unlockables, all to the tune of an awesome soundtrack. Leaderboards you’ll actually want to climb. It’s a thinking man’s shooter that’s unbelievably addictive.
5. Magicians & Looters (Morgopolis Studios / Adventure / $2.99)
Metroidvania types are nothing new on console and PC. One could even say they’re coming back into vogue (not that they really ever left). On XBLIG, though, they’re far rarer. Especially one as polished and confident as Magicians & Looters (REVIEW). Never has an adventure / RPG hybrid hit the mark as consistently as this game, with a top-notch (only semi-serious) story, and nearly-flawless design and controls. If you buy just one Metroidvania game on XBLIG, make it this one.
6. Blood & Bacon (BigCorporation / FPS / $2.99 (or $1.00 ‘Lite’)
While almost no one is excited by the term ‘wave-based arena shooter’ these days (most of all me), Blood & Bacon (REVIEW) manages not only to inject some freshness into that tired genre, but blow the doors off what you think an indie FPS can do. Fine-tuned combat and online co-op go along with excellent mechanics and presentation, with enough care and little details to put a smile on your twisted, cow-shooting face. Enjoy.
7. Penny Arcade’s Rain-Slick 3 (Zeboyd Games / RPG / $2.99)
You already know the names involved here (Penny Arcade, Zeboyd Games), just as you already know Gabe’s going to punch something (probably several things, repeatedly), and Tycho will have to explain the plot to Gabe, also obsess over the tiniest detail. What you didn’t know was that On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness’ (REVIEW) nostalgic de-make is every bit as full-featured and fun as its previous outings. Winning dialogue. Hats off to Zeboyd and co. on this one, for its terrific design and battle system.
8. radiangames Inferno (radiangames / Shooter / $1.00)
Released in late 2010, Inferno is another twin-stick shooter with deceptive depth that I went without playing until recently, strictly because of its once seemingly-exorbitant cost of 400 MSP. Having played it now, and thoroughly enjoyed the hell out of it in that time, I’d have to agree it was priced perfectly before. radiangames’ titles have always looked good, so it’s nice to find they play just as well. Lucky for me, and you, it’s been lowered to a dollar, and is an absolute steal.
9. Gateways! (Smudged Cat Games / Puzzler / $2.99)
It could be categorized as a 2D Portal, though with a much bigger selection of tricks and a time-bending, gravity-defying arsenal to draw upon. The pinnacle of intelligent and elegant puzzle design. You run the very real risk of destroying your brain and its ability to function in trying to solve some of Gateways’ (REVIEW) more fanciful rooms, but don’t let that deter you or your feeble mind. It’s not to be missed.
10. Survivalist (lolznoob / Adventure / $2.99)
It’s not every day you see a game with as much ambition, with as much sheer content, as something like Survivalist (REVIEW). You can spend hours just navigating the open-world wasteland. Sure, it’s just zombies, but like The Walking Dead has shown us, people are the real threat in an apocalypse. Form a community, forage for supplies and weapons, build a base, choose to be an angel or a dick to the survivors you come across; it’s all available here in a highly-recommended package.
11. Escape Goat (MagicalTimeBean / Puzzler / $1.00)
An imprisoned purple goat and a magical hat-wearing mouse team up to escape some deviously-designed puzzle chambers in MagicalTimeBean’s throwback to 8-bit era puzzle / platformers. With plenty of levels, an editor, and an excellent music selection, you may not want to escape after all. The recent PC version contains all of the above, plus extra levels and the option to share created masterpieces. I’ll say it once again— a purple goat, and a magical hat-wearing mouse… Need I sell this further?
12. Astralis (Foxhaut Games / Adventure / $1.00)
To some, having your game’s look and style compared to a N64-era action / adventure could be construed as mean, or a slap in the face. I assure you, it is meant entirely as a compliment. Astralis (REVIEW) and its fog-shrouded environs may remind you of the early 3D shooters of yesteryear, but it’s one of the best you’ll find on XBLIG. Aliens with tricky AI, a vast open world to explore, and exquisite controls / camerawork are the highlights of this must-play.
13. Shipwreck (Brushfire Games / Adventure / $1.00)
There’s plenty of imitators out there that want to be The Legend of Zelda. They have the style, they have the sword, the heart meter, and up to two items equipped at a time, but very few feel like The Legend of Zelda once you start playing. Shipwreck (REVIEW) not only succeeds at that, but features some very well-designed dungeons. So good are they at mimicking the real deal, in fact, that you might confuse them for the work of Nintendo itself. That’s a bold claim, maybe, but it’s also the truth.
14. March to the Moon (Califer Games / Shooter / $1.00)
A quirky vertical shooter (talking farm animals have invaded the moon?) that marches to the beat of its own drum, the game offers multiple character classes, each boasting expansive, upgradable loadouts and skill sets that put most RPGs to shame. Ignore the primitive visuals and get lost in the customizable wonder that is March to the Moon (REVIEW).
15. All the Bad Parts (Well Bred Rhino / Adventure / $2.99)
All the Bad Parts is still the best story-centric game for XBLIG I’ve played, featuring a man reliving various pivotal points in his life while battling bug-headed antagonists, with multiple paths / endings to the game. Haunting and thought-provoking, but not without some humor. Though it’s a bug-head-brawler at heart, I’ve called it a cross between Paper Mario and Silent Hill; a hell of a comparison to live up to, but it does so easily and forges its own identity.
16. Amazing Princess Sarah (Haruneko / Platformer / $4.99)
There’s been plenty of Castlevanias and Metroidvanias, but few have thought to re-invent the overworld battles and auto-pilot gameplay between boss fights. Until now. Amazing Princess Sarah (REVIEW) offers a stiff challenge, forcing you to fight for every inch of ground. It also uses its defeated enemies in a unique way; as fodder you to throw at other enemies. Clever and tough, and one of the better ideas to come around.
17. Avatar Laser Wars 2 (DigitalDNA Games / FPS / $1.00)
Think of Avatar Laser Wars 2 (REVIEW) as a miniature Call of Duty, with lasers, one sprawling arena, starring your avatar, and you’d be spot on. Now level up, configure your loadout / pointstreaks, blast some fools, have fun, and then repeat as desired. You’re welcome.
18. Compromised (Super Soul Studios / Shooter / $2.99)
The dust had barely settled on Compromised, and it had already taken a high spot on my personal leaderboard, a testament to developer Super Soul Studio’s talent and patience in crafting a twin-stick shooter with substantial working parts and a good amount of variety. Epic bosses! The resemblance to Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is there, but Compromised is more than competent to stand as its own game. Oh, and look forward to free DLC at some point.
19. Snops Attack!: Zombie Defense (Snops / Shooter / $2.99)
The most visually impressive vertical shooter on the marketplace, Snops Attack! (REVIEW) handles expertly and plays brilliantly. It’s beautifully-ordered chaos, as much as a dog flying a jet going up against zombified cats can be, all done in a distinctly-Japanese style. CAVE would be jealous.
20. Pixel Blocked! (damnigames / Puzzler / $1.00)
Remember the first time you played Tetris? That easy concept, making the pieces fit, left open to chance, yes, but indisputably fun and habit-forming? While not Tetris per se, Pixel Blocked! fills those shoes admirably, tasking you to fill in or replace the pieces of increasingly-larger puzzle images. Naturally a fair amount of challenge is involved. You’ll have to think fast and place blocks in careful order, while enjoying the charming pixel backgrounds and music.
21. EvilQuest (Chaosoft Games / RPG / $1.00)
EvilQuest is a very literal interpretation of the game’s premise. Flipping the script and taking on the role of Evil Overlord in Galvis, you’ll hack & slash across the land, fighting monsters, murdering innocents, and generally being an asshole, in a quest heavily-influenced by the classic 8 & 16-bit Zelda games. Action / RPGs are sometimes a tough nut to crack. Kudos to Chaosoft Games for trying something different and pulling it off so splendidly. Also, EvilQuest 2 hitting sometime in 2013(!).
22. Wizorb (Tribute Games / Arcade / $1.00)
Tribute Games’ homage to the BB genre is anything but a stale reproduction with lovely visuals. It blends brick breaking (say that three times fast) with magic casting and some light adventure elements into an intriguing amalgamation. There’s several themed worlds and boss battles, and a sumptuous dose of nostalgia in the Zelda-tinged levels and art. If you like brick breakers but not their sometimes bare-bones offerings, Wizorb brings much-needed girth.
23. Shutshimi (Neon Deity Games / Shooter / $1.00)
Like Super Amazing Wagon Adventure did so well and so frantically before it, Shutshimi (REVIEW) takes quickened bits of odd gameplay (each level and interim lasts exactly ten seconds) and throws it in a blender. The result is an addictive shooter— starring a fish on steroids— that plays differently every time you press start.
24. Arcadecraft (Firebase Industries / Arcade / $2.99)
Remember the 80s, when the only thing in 3D was life, spending hours in the local arcade trying to beat someone’s high score? No, you don’t. You’re probably years younger than me. But why just play retro games when you effectively relive gaming’s past and manage your own authentic arcade? With dozens of cabinets in every genre, loads of tokens to be collected, plenty of little petulant bastards to be tossed out for causing trouble, and future content updates to keep things fresh, Arcadecraft (REVIEW) is a winner.
25. Murder Miners (JForce Games / FPS / $1.00)
Murder Miners (REVIEW) combines a multiplayer FPS with Minecraft’s world-building. If that’s not enough to sway your money to leave your wallet, the developer continues to support the game with constant post-release patches and new content. The closest you’ll likely ever get to Halo on the XBLIG channel.
26. Giant Hunter (Raoghard / Adventure / $1.00)
If you were to take Minecraft‘s blocks and crafting style, and apply it to Shadow of the Colossus, you’d get Giant Hunter (REVIEW). Not entirely an original idea, sure, but a damn fun one that impressively recreates the feeling of taking down a giant.
27. ApocZ (Sick Kreations / FPS / $1.00)
Currently the closest thing to DayZ on XBLIG (and possibly, Xbox 360), ApocZ (REVIEW) offers a lot of what its inspiration does; an open world full of zombies, survival, …. and shooting strangers in the back in order to loot their corpses. The game loses some points for being derivative, but there’s still an incredibly fun time to be had with friends. Get out there and murder someone!
28. Cute Things Dying Violently (ApathyWorks / Arcade / $1.00)
The time-honored tradition of needlessly killing very cute things is completely acceptable in Cute Things Dying Violently. In fact, it’s encouraged, as you’ll need to fling (and therefore sacrifice) plenty of little ones in the process of saving them from sawblades and other such messy ends. Hey, if you want to make an omelet, you’re going to have to break / burn / explode some blue M&Ms.
29. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (sparsevector / Arcade / $1.00)
With Atari-style graphics and gameplay doled out in bite-sized servings, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure (REVIEW) takes a classic tale of westward expansion and survival (Oregon Trail), drops all the boring bits, and adds guns and acid trips. Yes, literally.
30. Smooth Operators (Andreas Heydeck / Arcade / $1.00)
You probably don’t ever want to run a Call Center, but Smooth Operators (REVIEW) hands off all of the responsibility, micro-management, and… strange fun?… of doing so with none of the regrettable life decisions that will turn you into the black sheep of your family, conveniently ignored at every Thanksgiving dinner thereafter.
31. Hidden in Plain Sight (Adam Spragg Games / Arcade / $1.00)
A party game that’s all about deception and mistaken identities, Hidden in Plain Sight is quite simply the most pick-up-and-play fun you can have with murder without being arrested. Sadly, you will need a group of four people gathered around the console to properly play and enjoy what HIPS has to offer, but it’s worth the effort and extra controllers.
32. Diehard Dungeon (tricktale / Action / $1.00)
A roguelike hack & slash in the vein of The Binding of Issac and The Legend on Zelda (original). Not content to just be random crawling and looting, Diehard Dungeon (REVIEW) keeps things fresh with multiple routes and minigames. Oh, and it also has a nifty twin-stick shooter game as a side mode. All for a buck.
33. Take Arms (Discord Games / Shooter / $1.00)
Take Arms is a 2D, class-based shooter with multi-tiered arenas that’s playable offline with bots, but really hits its stride once you’re online and up against actual human competition. One of the highlights of the 2011 Indie Uprising, it’s still as fun today as it was then.
34. The Undead Syndrome (MukagoSoftware Development / Adventure / $2.99)
A Japanese import that is equal parts Killer 7, Parasite Eve, and Deadly Premonition, The Undead Syndrome (REVIEW) could have been ripped straight from Suda51’s cutting room floor. The game is far from perfect, though it has some considerable depth underneath the rough exterior. If nothing else, it can’t be rivaled in terms of absolute weirdness.
35. (Tie) DLC Quest / DLC Quest 2 (Going Loud Studios / Platformer / $1.00)
If ever there were spokesmen (er… in video game form) for our current time, DLC Quest and its sequel DLC Quest: Live Freemium or Die (REVIEW) from Going Loud Studios are it. With absolutely spot-on humor that parodies this generation’s nickel-and-diming practice of DLC, post-DLC, launch day DLC, preorder bonuses, retailer-specific preorder bonuses, timed exclusivity, content exclusivity, season passes, and free-to-play models, these two games have it all. Comedic Gold.
36. Grid Space Shooter (Meh Games / Shooter / $1.00)
A more frenzied Geometry Wars, with huge bosses, varied enemies and powerups, and a handful of different ships that each have individual attacks and strengths. Grid Space Shooter (REVIEW) recalls radiangames’ Inferno for the sheer amount of fun and strategy blended so exquisitely together.
37. (Tie) STRACO Ep. 1 / STRACO: Purge and Conquest (NVO Games / Strategy / $1.00)
Pairing a twin-stick shooter with Tower Defense, NVO Games’ STRACO series (REVIEW) is the truest encapsulation of indie development; a competent and confident effort that takes an existing idea and makes it its own— albeit on a smaller scale. Full of humorous writing and featuring an in-depth upgrade system, the games should have a place in any strategy-lovers collection.
38. JamSouls! (Chromatic Dream / Arcade / $1.00)
With an adorable cast consisting of evil, vice, and pestilence (not a phrase you’re used to reading, no doubt), a suitably epic soundtrack, and plenty of impressive arenas to fight in, JamSouls! (REVIEW) has the best of both worlds, in terms of brawlers; an immediately accessible, easy to follow fight system (just bop ’em and go), and powerups that dynamically change the flow of a fight. Battles are quick and unpredictable, and, with up to three friends (or AI), incredibly fun.
39. Demon House (Photonic Games / FPS / $1.00)
With an emphasis on skeletons, witchcraft, and the color green (in some shade or another), Demon House (REVIEW) is Steampunk-Everything to its core— environment, weapons, enemies. Features an impressive co-op wave shooter secondary mode that’s good enough to stand on its own, and it currently offers the best single-player campaign of any XBLIG FPS.
40. qrth-phyl (hermitgames / Arcade / $1.00)
Games that proclaim to be a form of ‘art’ usually end up lacking in some key category, the price to be paid for trying to say or do ‘something different’. qrth-phyl (REVIEW) is the latest in developer hermitgames’s interesting oeuvre, taking the well-done concept of a ’snake’ game and putting a slick coat of modern technology and ideas over it. As an arcade game, it’s nearly perfect fun. As art, it’s a beautiful piece worthy of admiration.
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Readers’ Top Ten
As assembled by ‘ImTheMetalLord’
As assembled by ‘andregurov’
- Little Racers STREET
- Shark Attack Deathmatch
- Blood & Bacon
- Zombie Football Carnage
- Beat Hazard
- (TIE) Echoes+ / Grid Space Shooter
- (TIE) Any & All ‘radiangames’ Titles
As assembled by ‘Soosh’
- Dead Pixels
- Cursed Loot
- One Finger Death Punch
- Odyssey 3011
- Super Amazing Wagon Adventure
As assembled by ‘GNAWMAN’
- Apple Jack 2
- Along Came a Spider
- Cthulu Saves The World
- Blood & Bacon
- Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES
- One Finger Death Punch
- Snops Attack!
- Avatar Golf
As assembled by ‘Derp’
- Murder Miners
- Blood & Bacon
- Dead Pixels
- ZP2KX: Zombies & Pterodactyls!
- White Noise Online
- Castleminer Z
As assembled by ‘Doug’
- Amazing Princess Sarah
- Uncraft Me (Series)
- Escape Goat
- Miner Dig Deep
- Dead Pixels
- Giant Hunter
- Grand Theft Froot
- Globe Clicker
- (TIE) SFG Soccer & SFG Beach Volleyball