The Best Xbox Live Indie Games

By Kelly Packard, 8 months ago
There is no better time than now to talk about the best Xbox Live Indie Games. From September 29th onward, Xbox 360's indie storefront will be closed down. Since its inception, the program helped indie developers launch more than 3,000 games. Often dipping into the dollar price range, with quality ranging from outstanding to disgraceful, the service contributed to the healthier landscape of indie games that we see today. It was a stepping stone for Xbox One and Windows 10's indie program, ID@Xbox, which already boasts over 500 titles. Today, self-publishing is more accessible than ever before across every gaming platform.

It's only natural that collectors or experimental gamers want to snag a few of these for their libraries before they disappear. But with more than 3,000 games up for grabs through the soon-to-be-obsolete service, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. That's where we come in with the top games to add to your collection.

Beat Hazard - US$1.00

Perhaps a long-forgotten feature of the Xbox 360, players could import CDs and music to the console. Games that took advantage of this feature, like SSX, are a rare treat. Developer Cold Beam Games based Beat Hazard's premise entirely off the function, and users are able to "fight against" their own music collection in this shoot 'em up. The game reacted differently to each song, changing the way the enemies and level played. Of course, being able to listen to your own tunes instead of some generic game soundtrack is always a plus, too.

Dark - US$1.00

Dark was developer Andrew Russell's entry into Microsoft's 2009 Dream.Build.Play competition, where it went up against the likes of Dust: An Elysian Tail. Despite clocking in around only a half hour of gameplay across five levels, this atmospheric puzzle-platformer is well-designed and worth a romp, especially if you've already exhausted all the mainstream options in the genre. For only $1, you don't have much to lose.

FortressCraft - US$2.99

At first glance, FortressCraft is the poor man's Minecraft. With a 2011 launch date, it actually had the luck of gracing Xbox 360 before Minecraft arrived on the system a year later, making it the perfect purchase for Xbox gamers on a budget who were looking to scratch their creative itch. It accomplishes a surprising amount for three bucks: there are over 600 block types, it has online multiplayer for up to 31 players, and it utilizes Xbox's custom avatars as character models, something not many games outside of first-party Microsoft titles bothered with. The game even received more than ten free content updates. If you like the genre, also check out Total Miner: Forge and CastleMiner. The latter also spawned two spinoffs, CastleMiner Z, featuring zombies, and CastleMiner Warfare, a Call of Duty-esque shooter.

I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1 - US$1.00

This punctuation abomination is easily the most recognizable game ever offered through the service. The twin-stick shooter featured simple but solid gameplay with up to 4-player co-op and a theme song that is even more offensive to the ears than the name of the game is to the eyes. Developer James Silva was shocked by I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1's success; in 2009, he told Digital Spy that he was "half-expecting it to fail for being too stupid of a game." Silva wrote and belted out the game's signature song himself — which is about how he made a game with zombies in it — and it later became available to download for Rock Band. As it turns out, the Xbox Live community loves silly concepts and awful music, because eight years later, it stands as one of the most successful Xbox Live Indie Games. Oh, and we still can't get the song out of our heads.

The Impossible Game - US$1.00*

*Disclaimer: The $1 price point does not account for any broken controllers or televisions.

The Impossible Game doesn't look as intimidating as its name implies. After all, it's just a bunch of squares and triangles, and all you have to do is jump over the hurdles and guide your little orange square to the end of the level. It's so simple... so, deceptively simple. Unfortunately, you only get one chance to complete the massive obstacle course, and any mess-ups will send you straight back to square one — literally. It's stupidly addictive, and the "Attempt 9" at the top of your screen will turn into "Attempt 500" before you know it. If you really hate yourself, there's even an additional level pack. Call it sadistic, but we almost wish this one ended up on the Xbox One with achievements, just to see how punishing they'd be.

Miner Dig Deep - US$1.00

Never has the objective of a game been so perfectly summed up in its title: Miner Dig Deep. The game sees players a miner with the simple goal to dig as far as possible. The deeper you dig, the more valuable treasures will come your way, allowing you to upgrade your equipment. Be careful with your digging, or tunnel collapses and other concerns will arise. There's not a lot to it, but, like many games where the objective is to get further every time, hours can pass by without you noticing.

Mount Your Friends - US$1.00

Everyone needs at least one game in your library where when your friends see you playing it, they wonder what the hell you're doing with your life. Mount Your Friends is that game. Setting aside the Speedo-clad men piled high atop each other, Mount is a "physics based competitive climbing game" where players keep climbing each other in an attempt to create the highest possible tower, and "adept competitors can create massive towers by flinging themselves faster than simple climbing methods can attain." Essentially, it's Jenga. On crack. With human beings. For what it is, the climber has solid mechanics to boot, along with local co-op for up to four players, so that's where your friends come in. If you're a lover of the ridiculous-but-amusing, Baby Maker Extreme, Baby Maker Extreme 2 and Try Not to Fart also got a laugh out of the Xbox community.

Radiangames - US$1.00 each

In 2010, former Volition employee Luke Schneider formed Radiangames and took to the XBLIG scene, pumping out seven titles in seven months. He just "thought it'd be cool to make five — or more — games in one year." Bright and colorful, they're schmups that give off a Geometry Wars vibe in both aesthetics and gameplay. While all seven titles were fairly well-received, Inferno, his third game, is the "best-rated and best-selling," according to Schneider himself. The other six titles were: JoyJoy, Crossfire, Ballistic, Fluid, Crossfire 2 and Fireball.

Techno Kitten Adventure! - US$2.99

The concept of Techno Kitten Adventure! isn't unique. Like many browser flash games we played growing up, it's a side-scrolling runner where the goal is to survive as long as possible. As the game goes on, the obstacles become more difficult to dodge, the play area gets tighter, and the speed ramps up. But with an unbelievably catchy song, visuals so flashy they needed a health warning, and a lot of sunshine and rainbows, developer 21 Street Games made Techno Kitten a runner that was addictive like none other. It's the game that will make you ask yourself, "Have you ever really seen a rainbow?" If kittens, rainbows and endless runners are your jam, also pick up Nyan Cat Adventure for another overdose of cuteness.

White Noise Online - US$1.00

As the saying goes, "Crapping your pants is always more fun in a group." White Noise Online sees four adventurers exploring an eerie locale as they search for clues to complete a scenario. All the while, a monster is trying to kill all of you. Yeah, it's basically Slender with co-op, something the developers at Milkstone Studios have acknowledged, but the online co-op part is what made this game successful. It's a bit hard to recommend with a multiplayer community that is likely waning, but if you already have a group, you're sure to have a good time. There was also an accompanying single player experience available through the Xbox Live Indie Game program, White Noise: A Tale of Horror, and this year Milkstone released a sequel on Xbox One, White Noise 2.

Other Shoutouts

The above XBLIG suggestions are a small fraction of an ecosystem that allowed the publication of more than 3,000 titles. In the user comments of our earlier article announcing the discontinuation date, users recommended a variety of other games, including:
If you happen to read this article beyond September 29th, don't despair. Many games later made their way to other platforms. Whether it be Steam, mobile, PlayStation, Nintendo or even PC freeware, some of these legacies will persist elsewhere. Others, unfortunately, will not.

Whether you'll be picking up a few last-chance titles before September 29th, or you just want to recommend a few to your fellow gamers, we'd love to have you chime in the discussion.
Kelly Packard
Written by Kelly Packard
In a few descriptors: college student, longtime gamer, writer and junk food enthusiast. I contribute to TrueAchievements as a news writer and reviewer. Usually, you can find me knee-deep in a multiplayer game while ignoring my growing backlog or on one forum or another discussing all things gaming.