Some time ago, we put out the call for Top Five suggestions and received many that we definitely felt were worth a look. Among them was a suggestion by Kennyannydenny that was look at the Top Five XBLA games that could have received the full retail treatment and size.
For purposes of this list, we wanted to look at games that only got release via XBLA, so anything that had a disc version was ruled out. This means, as awesome as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was/is/will always be, it's not welcome on this list, since it already received a disc release. Also, games that are offshoots of a retail series, like Portal: Still Alive, Dead Rising 2: Case West, and Alan Wake's American Nightmare were excluded because they're intended to be bite size versions of the full thing. Finally, episodic titles were also removed. This is for two reasons:
1) They often wind up on disc anyway, as is the case with Telltale titles such as The Walking Dead or Capcom's Resident Evil Revelations 2.
2) Part of the spirit of the list is that the games included needed more space to work with, and this is something that episodic games get around by releasing multiple entries. Thus, a game like Life Is Strange (Xbox 360), also doesn't make the cut.
Now, with the exceptions out of the way, let's get to the list.
State of Decay
When throwing around the list, the title that perhaps came up most often was Undead Labs' State of Decay. State of Decay arrived on XBLA back in June 2013 fully packed with an open world where resource management was key to survival. It also had characters who were adaptive to the world around them and sound design that rivaled some of gaming's biggest titles. According to our own review, the game was only really lacking some in the visuals department, but the expansive nature and the fairly restrictive platform contributed to that. Despite that, this was a game that felt like it could have been way bigger if given the retail treatment.
The reason why it lands in the honorable mention space is that an Xbox One release - at retail - is imminent, so the developers have already begun to expand the game world. Still, at this very moment, that release hasn't happened yet, so we'll let it sneak into honorable mention.
Recently featured as an Easter Egg here on TA, Torchlight checks all of the right boxes. Developed by Runic Games, a team consisting former Diablo II developers, the game was initially released to PCs before making the jump to XBLA in 2011. The dungeon crawler features a revamped AI and interface crafted specifically for use with the 360, which is absolutely a credit to the developers who wanted to make the game accessible to console audiences. As Jonathan stated, the game comes off as something of an appetizer against the full Diablo III meal. Imagine, then, how appetizing this course could have been if it was, itself, a full retail game.
4. Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex has already received some Top Five love here, as it was considered one of the top games released on the service. Chair Entertainment copied the Super Metroid formula to perfection and created one of the most beloved XBLA titles of all time. Not only did it have the typical map exploration elements we expect from the genre, but it included leaderboards that would update you as you played (Oh, I now have more kills than my buddy? Go me!!!), but a compelling story and world that has left many gamers asking for more in the five years since its release. While it was a good package on XBLA, imagine what it could have accomplished with a full retail disc release. Even more maps to explore, more items, more depth.
A major part of the allure of Bastion was how the world drew in around its protagonist, referred to throughout as "The Kid". Not only did the physical world come to life as The Kid traversed the landscape, but the game also featured context sensitive narration that gave the player the sense that everything was being done real time. With the aid of a full disc release, even more lines of dialogue could have been recorded, there could have been more options available for where to go, and the game world could have been that much larger. It's not to say that the amount presented in the XBLA was lacking, but their could be seemingly limitless possibilities where, as awesome as the release was, it was possible to run into moment of repetition, especially in the dialog.
2. Contrast (Xbox 360)
Unlike other games on this list, where the motivation for inclusion is simply the desire for more in an already full package, Contrast is a case of a game where our time with it just felt too short. With a unique game mechanic involving the use of shadows as platforms, it felt like the world and story of Contrast were just getting started when the game wrapped up.
1. I Am Alive
Maybe it's a touch unfair to include this, as it was originally slated to be full retail before being pulled back to XBLA size. I Am Alive takes place in a post apocalyptic Chicago where a man is trying desperately to reunite with his wife and daughter who may or may not have survived the cataclysm. Throughout the game, gamers explore the broken buildings and streets and have interactions with other survivors, who often are looking for help. Like State of Decay, resource management is very important, as it is necessary to choose wisely the moment during which to use the single bullet that is available. Due to the limitations of being an Arcade title, there are full areas of the game that are conveniently blocked off, and the number of other survivors that can be interacted with is really limited. With the aid of a full disc release, this world could have been more fully realized, making the game's conclusion even more striking.
The TA Team will be bringing you The TA Top Five every Sunday until we run out of coolness to debate and discuss. If you have an idea for a Top Five you'd like us to do, be sure to let us know in the comments!
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