The 23 best XBLA games

The best Xbox Live Arcade games, according to us

Catan

6_XBLA_Games

Genre: Strategy

Cost: 800 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: [[xref:http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/xbox360/settlersofcatan?q=catan|81|81]

Who knew that a classic German board game could look so good and offer as much fun as Catan does on the Xbox 360? While Catan can be incredibly fun, it can also get quite challenging. Big Huge Games founder Brian Reynolds has said that "you can teach someone to play [Catan] in minutes and then spend years trying to master it." In Catan, you select a historic leader and then do your best to strategically outwit the competition for resources and land ownership. You can play it against the finely tuned computer A.I. or go online. It won't offer you the same high level of action as other strategy games, but Catan is still highly recommended for strategy game fans.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

7_XBLA_Games

Genre: Multi-directional Shooter

Cost: 800 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: 90

Widely believed to be the franchise that kick-started the popularity of Xbox Live Arcade, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 takes a near-perfect formula and somehow improves it. At its core, Geometry Wars 2 is the simplest of games: Survive intense waves of attacking enemies--that's it. The Xbox Live Arcade platform has a seemingly endless supply of dual-joystick shooters under its belt, and even if you're tired of the genre, Geometry Wars 2 does a fantastic job of making the genre feel fresh again. Besides reigniting our passion of leaderboard superiority that followed up throughout real-world arcades, Geometry Wars 2 offers some of the most fun to be had on XBLA for $10. You can also pick up the original Geometry Wars on XBLA for half that price.

Gunstar Heroes

8_XBLA_Games

Genre: Shooter

Cost: 400 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: 79

Rather than remake this classic side-scrolling shooter for the HD age, Sega thankfully released Gunstar Heroes as fans remembered it. Other shooters sometimes try to emulate its non-stop, frantic action, but Gunstar Heroes still maintains a place in our heart. And, for those on a tight budget, it's a cheap addition to your Xbox Live Arcade library, running you the equivalent of a mere $5. Just make sure to pad your controller because you might end up throwing it on more than one occasion; completing Gunstar Heroes is no piece of cake.

Ikaruga

9_XBLA_Games

Genre: Shooter

Cost: 800 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: 87

Perhaps one of the most intense Dreamcast games ever made, Ikaruga has found its way on many platforms including GameCube, arcades, and Xbox Live Arcade. Ikaruga defines the phrase "Bullet Hell," and while it's viciously difficult, it also offers a ton of replay value. It might sound silly to hear that a game with only five levels deserves your hard earned Microsoft Space Bucks, but you'll actually end up spending a lot of time replaying those levels over and over again in order to survive. And when you do, the hell you just went through makes Ikaruga's completion that much more satisfying.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2

10_XBLA_Games

Genre: Fighting

Cost: 1200 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: 82

While original versions of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 encouraged players to unlock a host of new characters, the Xbox Live Arcade version's focus is on competitive play. All 70+ characters are available right away, giving online fighting fans a slew of choices to mix and match fighters in order to create their own team up. While we're still fans of the original Marvel vs. Capcom 2, this new version affords players the possibility to play a game that is no longer readily available, unless you're willing to pay an arm and a leg for a Dreamcast, PS2 or Xbox version of it. It may not scratch that progression reward itch, but it's one of the fastest and most fun fighting experiences available today.

The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

11_XBLA_Games

Genre: Puzzle/Platformer

Cost: 800 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: 83

P.B. Winterbottom is a stocky man with a penchant for delicious baked goods. After chasing a pastry through his town, Winterbottom accidentally jumps through space and time, replicating himself ad infinitum. Unabashed by his misfortune, the top-hat sporting gentleman -- along with his seemingly never-ending stream of clones -- set off on an adventure to collect all the stray pies in the land to whet his insatiable appetite. P.B. Winterbottom is a stylish, black and white game inspired by silent films and developed by a team befitting of their moniker, The Odd Gentlemen. It's also one of the most charming, challenging and quirky puzzle games available on Xbox Live Arcade.

N+

12_XBLA_Games

Genre: Puzzle/Platformer

Cost: 800 Microsoft Points

Metacritic Rating: 83

It might sound like a difficult proposition to ask gamers to pay for a game that originated as a free-to-play Flash title, but N+ pulls it off. The concept of the physics-based platform/puzzler is simple: Make it to the exit of each level. But the game is hardly simplistic. Pixel-sized enemies haunt you at every corner waiting to decimate your stick-figure character and drive you insane with frustration. Multiplayer in N+ also allows two players to work together to make it through obstacles, which is definitely a rewarding experience.

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