6 | Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Traditional fans of the Lara Croft series may be initially put off by her latest downloadable title, but don't let appearances deceive you, this version of the catacomb exploring heroine is one of her strongest yet. Instead of exploring a third-person, Uncharted-like world, the Guardian of Light takes place from an isometric perspective. You're still solving the same puzzles as always (move this block here, light that thing on fire over there), but this time you're doing it with a partner.
Online and local co-op ensures that you'll always have a tomb exploring buddy to explore the game with. And the puzzles are just as good single-player, since the game adjusts its difficulty (and puzzles) based on how many people are playing. Thing are a lot more arcadey in Guardian of Light as well -- not only is their a bigger focus on gunplay (you'll find an assortment of high-powered weaponry and tons of enemies to mow down), but the game tracks your score as well. It's a mash-up we wouldn't have thought would work, but this arcade-sytle action game is just as much fun as Lara Croft's previous best adventures.
5 | Shadow Complex
Borrowing elements from some of gaming's most beloved side-scrolling action franchises including Contra, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid, Epic's Shadow Complex is one of the finest Xbox Live Arcade-exclusive titles available today. The game is presented in "2.5 D," where you move around in two-dimensional levels with highly-detailed 3D backgrounds and enemies. Shadow Complex's critical and commercial success can be attributed to the creative minds involved in the XBLA project, which include Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski as design consultant, comic book writer Peter David as scriptwriter, and award-winning science fiction author Orson Scott Card who licensed his Empire series for the game's universe and plot.
4 | Bastion
It's difficult to believe that Bastion is Supergiant Games' first title. From the incredibly colorful artwork to the unique storytelling, this indie title has polish that easily rivals that of Braid or LIMBO. But where the game succeeds most is roping you into the story, as it slowly pieces together over time -- just like the titular Bastion itself.
Playing as "The Kid," Bastion drops you into a world that's already come to an end. Although you can't save your friends or the other villagers, you can still put everything back the way it was by rebuilding the Bastion. As you explore the broken world around you, pieces of your background are slowly revealed by the old man softly narrating the story as it happens. Although this gimmick in itself is unique, Bastion also stands out with surprisingly open combat. From revolvers to hammers to machetes, the weapons are fun to mix up, along with the generous handful of gameplay tweaks you can use to make enemies more or less powerful. Add in a soundtrack that'll stick with you well past the game's end, and you have a sleeper hit that's easily worth playing twice.
Chalk up a solid debut for Supergiant Games: Bastion is an excellent balance of story and action, and one of the best XBLA games that's worth your Microsoft Points.