The lights are on
Our essential multiplatform DLG list examines the games you can play no matter what console you play on. This week, we’re outlining some of the best games across the life of the major console download services. With an eye towards including the important early games on the service as well as the latest and greatest hits, our goal is to provide you with a comprehensive survey of the essential titles on any given downloadable platform. We've updated our list from last year, adding a whole new page of titles that have come out since we first published our selections. To read the newest additions, just click to the final page of this article.
For this list, if you can purchase the game on some combination of PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and/or WiiWare, we’ve included it on this list. In some cases, these games also appear as retail products, which we’ve noted where appropriate. If it only shows up on one of the home consoles, or the only other way to play is on PC, look for your game of choice on one of the lists later this week. We've already posted updated lists for PlayStation Network and WiiWare.
Take a look at our picks, and share your own in the comments below. With so many great games, it’s impossible to name all the titles worth playing. Instead, we’ve stuck with those that moved the downloadable game scene forward. Our choices are presented chronologically, based on the first system upon which they released.
UnoDeveloper: Carbonated Games (XBLA)/GameloftRelease Date: May 2006 (XBLA), November 2008 (iOS), October 2009 (PSN), December 2009 (DSiWare), January 2010 (WiiWare)Format: PSN, XBLA, WiiWare, DSiWare, iOSWe can hear the foul cries from here. Uno? What’s that doing on this list? Take a step back, and recall that the popular card game was one of the earliest downloadable console games to successfully court the more casual gaming crowd. In fact, it was the very first XBLA game to cross the million-download threshold. More importantly than its popularity, Uno’s video game adaptation was a smart, well-designed adaptation. The Xbox Live Arcade version, in particular, has received numerous updates, broadening its appeal and supporting the extensive player base. Bring a group of hardcore gaming buddies together, and Uno probably isn’t going to be the first thing on the screen. But bring the family together at Thanksgiving, and Uno will be a surefire hit.
PeggleDeveloper: PopCap GamesRelease Date: February 2007 (PC), March 2009 (XBLA), May 2009 (iOS), November 2009 (PSN)Format: PSN, XBLA, PC, iOS
Anyone who has played a decent amount of Peggle is familiar with the experience of introducing it to someone new. Almost without exception, the newbie stares incredulously at the bouncing ball, and wonders aloud why in the world you’d want to play something so simplistic. And then they start to play, and they understand the charm. Peggle is the poster child for the “Keep it simple, stupid” school of game design. It mixes elements of pachinko, pinball, and the flashy colors and graphics that characterize all PopCap games. Despite the ease with which players can start playing, layers of strategy and challenge blossom over time. That and a whole a lot of luck are the key to Peggle’s fun as well as its success.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the WarlordsDeveloper: Infinite InteractiveRelease Date: March 2007 (DS, PSP), October 2007 (XBLA, PC), November 2007 (Wii), October 2008 (PSN)Format: PSN, XBLA, Wii, PSP, DS, PCTake the color matching of Bejeweled and layer it with familiar RPG tropes, and you get Puzzle Quest, a time-consuming and entertaining ride that came at just the right time to succeed. Infinite Interactive recognized the way that the simple match-three gameplay could be translated into a role-playing experience. By doing so, the team assured the sort of long-term commitment that kept players coming back for dozens of hours of leveling up, monster slaying, and loot collection.
Pac-Man Championship EditionDeveloper: Namco Bandai GamesRelease Date: June 2007 (XBLA), December 2009 (iOS), February 2011 (PSN)Format: PSN, XBLA, iOSWhile technically a multiplatform release, Pac-Man Championship Edition made its big splash on XBLA. The game did the impossible; take one of the oldest formulas in the video game world and make it fresh again. Adding time limits, thumping music, and clever board design, Pac-Man CE brought players back to the little yellow chomper in droves. The only thing that could beat it was upping the ante; its sequel, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, was even better. If you’ve dismissed either game out of hand as another random Pac-Man re-issue, you’re missing out.
Bionic Commando RearmedDeveloper: GRINRelease Date: August 2008 Format: PSN, XBLA, PCBionic Commando is one of the most lauded NES games, so it should come as little surprise that this well-done remake was such a success when it released to downloadable platforms in 2008. Updating both graphics and gameplay, Rearmed manages to remain faithful to the original game and makes it better at the same time. Strong enemy AI, great controls, and perfect use of the titular bionic arm assure that players no longer have to dig out their old Nintendos to play this great title.
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