Score Attack! GI's Favorite Downloadable Proving Grounds

by Jeff Marchiafava on Jan 02, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Back when arcades were booming, competition in video games usually boiled down to who had the highest number next to their initials. Nowadays, FPS battlefields are the destination of choice for gamers who are looking for a little rivalry, but those who prefer chasing high scores to racking up headshots still have a plethora of inexpensive options at their disposable. Here's a list of our favorite downloadable titles that let you compete with your friends even if you're not online at the same time.

Pinball FX 2
If you've been following GI's editors on Twitter for the past couple months, you won't be surprised by this pick. Zen Studios hasn't just created one of the best versions of digital pinball we've ever seen - they also included myriad ways to compete with your friends and gloat when you beat them. The game gives you the option to send automated messages to your friends when you beat their high score on any given table (there's nothing worse than logging on to Xbox Live and seeing an inbox full of messages waiting for you). Pinball FX 2 also assigns you a definitive Superscore, a culmination of every high score you've racked up on the tables you own (ingeniously motivating you to buy all of the new DLC tables the company releases for the game). I've lost more than a few nights of sleep to chasing the high scores of co-workers in this game.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
With its newest iteration of Pac-Man Championship Edition, Namco Bandai has ratcheted up the action to ridiculous levels. Chomping down power pellets and tearing through dozens of fleeing ghosts has never been more satisfying, especially when it knocks your friend down the leaderboards. Who would have thought that thirty years after the original Pac-Man's release, we'd still be competing with our friends for the high score?

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Yet another update to a classic arcade formula, Geometry Wars 2 gives players six different game modes to compete against their friends in. What really makes the game addictive is how it displays your friends' high scores as you're playing. Sure, the game has co-op too - but who wants to rely on teamwork when you can blow up everything yourself and have your score taunt your friend every time they play?

Joe Danger
Joe Danger updates the 2D motorcycle-riding formula of Nintendo's Excitebike with current-gen graphics, a healthy sense of humor, and an impressive variety of levels and challenges. The gameplay, which focuses on navigating through a labyrinth of deadly objects to reach the finish line, is similar to Trials HD, but the absurdity of Joe Danger's stunt system makes it our game of choice - and also makes it a good platform for challenging your friends. The included level editor lets you create your own diabolical courses to challenge your friends with - can you still brag about your high score if you're the one who created the level?

Hydro Thunder Hurricane
Just because the arcade scene is dead doesn't mean we still can't have a great arcade racer. Hydro Thunder Hurricane delivers nostalgic racing that focuses on sense of speed and unabashed fun rather than realism. Even if the game's old-school modes don't motivate you, competing for a spot on top of the leaderboards will have you mashing the boost button as often as possible.

PopCaps' pachinko-inspired puzzler is capable of stealing hours of your life away. With the XBLA version of Peggle, the developer added a score of online options, including a duel mode, a 4-player party mode, and online leaderboards for both single and multiplayer modes.  Although the gameplay still only consists of watching a ball bounce its way down a maze of pegs, the added competition of vying for high scores gave us a new reason to keep on playing - which we really didn't need anyway.

Super Meat Boy
Part of the appeal of Team Meat's devilishly hard platformer is mastering Meat Boy's movement. Once you have the controls down, you will hurtle his fragile body through the game's death-trap-laden levels with alarming speed and precision. What makes the perfect run-through even more satisfying is seeing your name edge out your friend's best time by a fraction of a second. It makes the sore thumbs and haunting nightmares of all those dying meat boys worth it.