The 15 Best XBLA Games

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We nominated, we debated, we yelled and we argued. But after much deliberation, the GamePro staff has created the definitive list of downloadable Xbox 360 games on the Micorsoft Xbox Live Arcade service. In this guide to the best of XBLA, we discuss everything from addictive beat-em-ups to stealthy adventure games to some absolutely fantastic platformers. This list will constantly evolve based on new releases, so be sure to check back for the latest updates as new games knock old favorites down the list.

15 | Outland

Enveloped in a story of destiny and the conflict between balance and chaos, Outland is as visually stunning as its story is epic. Running through levels on a 2D plane, the avatar representing the game’s protagonist wanders about worlds saturated in ethereal light, contrasted with dark structures that pop out of the screen like shadows in an antique shop.

Setting the stage for Outland’s digital journey, the nameless hero is a living reincarnation of an ancient hero, one who fought to save the world from the two Sisters of Chaos 30,000 years ago. One sister controlled the light from the Sun and the other controlled Darkness from the moon, and at the moment the ancient hero seals the sisters away in their prison, he perishes. It then becomes the task of the present day hero to recapture the sisters, who have escaped their imprisonment without jailer to keep guard.

Traveling down the Crossroads of the World through four areas: the Jungle, the Underworld, the City, and the Sky, arriving finally at the Temple of Eternity, Outland has an epic story that plays out well with its action-adventure gameplay that occasionally edges on the frontier of “bullet hell” shooters. Our own reviewer of the game, Steve Haske, argues that Outland is “a worthwhile experience waiting to be unearthed for lovers of aesthetics and adventure alike.” For 800 Microsoft Points, or a digital a Hamilton, you can be well on your way to bringing peace to a near-eternal conflict.

14 | Ms. Explosion Man

Despite Ms. Splosion Man's aggravating, non-stop, belligerent references to wretched pop songs and movies -- the sequel to Splosion Man is fantastic. It's a vibrant, hilarious, and well-designed platformer that offers so much variety for a game where you can essentially only do one thing: explode. Thankfully, there's also an option to mute Ms Splosion Man. And for a smaller Xbox Live Arcade game, Ms. Splosion Man certainly doesn't feel small. In fact, you could think of it as a funnier Super Mario Bros. that's even taken some inspiration from franchise juggernauts like God of War. The action-packed opening level, for instance, has you battling a towering robot that's a direct reference to God of War’s trademark boss battles. You don't even need to have played the original to enjoy this awesome game. Twisted Pixel has also ramped up the difficulty considerably in order to provide more of a challenge for players familiar with the original. And for 800 Microsoft Points (or $10 in real world money), you really can’t go wrong with what’s genuinely one of the most enjoyable platformers available on Xbox Live Arcade.

13 | The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom

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.

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