This console generation has seen an abundance of games that can only be downloaded from the internet as opposed to actual physical discs in stores. The flood of these games into the market has created an interesting new dynamic for gaming and many of these games have brought totally new ideas to the table. Here are VGU’s top ten downloadable games from this generation (Note: These games were download-only at launch but may or may not have gotten a psychical edition later).
10. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
The title of this game is misleading as it has very little to do with Far Cry 3. Blood Dragon is a standalone experience that utilizes the same mechanics as Far Cry 3 but in a totally new story that has nothing to do with Jason Brody’s island escapades. The game instead puts you into the role of Rex Powercolt, a cyber commando trying to take down the evil Colonel Sloane.
The game is a complete mash up of 80s action movies and ridiculous cliches that make it a complete joy to experience. Collecting VHS tapes, battling enemies to music from Rocky IV, and more all highlight the crazy and over the top experience that Blood Dragon offers.
The combination of the solid gameplay, entertaining story, great references to old movies, and the overall feel of the game (capturing the neon vibe of the 80s) is so much fun that you will forget that is has nothing to do with Far Cry 3 and instead see it as the true standalone experience that it is.
Fez, the brainchild of Phil Fish, had one of the longest dev cycles seen in the world of indie games. Unlike the disaster that is Duke Nukem Forever, the wait for Fez paid off in spades, with Fish’s perfectionist revisions of everything from the gameplay down to the sprite art itself producing a final project that was a revolution on several fronts.
Based on the rotation of a three dimensional world on a two dimensional plane of view, Fez is layered several times over with more and more intriguing levels of puzzles and mysteries. In-game QR codes, subtle clues embedded in the audio, and other metagame content turned completion of Fez into a collaborative effort on the part of its fanbase. Playing Fez becomes a multiplayer experience through interaction with other players, unraveling the game’s mysteries despite its single-player gameplay in the game itself.
Despite a potentially game-breaking bug plaguing its initial Xbox 360 release and subsequent inability of Fish to fix it due to Microsoft’s exorbitant update submission fees at the time, Fez garnered quite a following after hitting Xbox Live Arcade. 2013 saw the release of a PC version of Fez and fixes for the 360 version following a relaxation of the aforementioned update fees. Unfortunately, Phil Fish’s loud personality garnered enough ill will from the internet that he cancelled a proposed sequel shortly after its announcement but some still hold out hope for another rotational romp.
With a legacy on PlayStation 3 that included flOw and Flower, developer thatgamecompany had a record for interesting and unique experiences leading up to its PS3 opus, Journey. Instantly memorable for its beautiful and simple art style, Journey evokes the beauty of a vast, open desert that seems to have a life of its own despite the lack of life inhabiting it aside from a couple of ancient stone guardians, several varieties of animated textiles, and the player’s character itself. These beautiful visuals are paired with a brilliant soundtrack that ebbs and swells organically with the game’s goings-on.
Further setting Journey in a category of its own was the game’s unique takes on narrative in multiplayer. The entire game lacks any words beyond the game title and the credits sequence, preferring to tell its tale through visuals and the interaction of the player with the world. Multiplayer similarly shares this lack of communication, limiting player interaction to appearance on the same screen and distinct chimes assigned their own sigils. Players are randomly thrust into other games seamlessly from their single-player journeys without being told the other person’s username or even whether they’ve joined in the first place. This forces the two unlikely partners to work out communications based on their respective tones to try and ease progress and survive the building threats found along their path.
Journey features a fairly short completion time, with only two hours or so needed to finish it solo, but subtle character appearance changes and the mystery inherent in the multiplayer make it highly replayable and worth every penny.
Minecraft is the perfect example of creativity in simplicity. Continuously iterated upon since its initial inception, Minecraft continues to build slowly and offer players new and interesting additions to gameplay on a regular basis. Essentially a digital form of building blocks, the simple graphics and straightforward presentation of Minecraft belies an unprecedented realm of flexibility and freedom.
At its basest level, the game operates in line with its title; players mine for resources, refine them, and use them to craft objects and structures. The nightly onslaught of monsters offers the base imperative to create shelter in order to survive the first in-game day. From there, the sky’s the limit, approximately 255 “blocks” above the game’s lowest bedrock level. Flora and fauna both abound for harvesting, husbandry, or harassment. The numerous mines and biomes randomly generated when an in-game world is created offer new realms to explore. The game’s titular mines provide resources for better and fancier equipment, another realm of exploration, and monsters to vanquish along the way.
Minecraft also operates as a platform of its own, with a vibrant mod community creating new skin packs and complete in-game adventures independent of Minecraft’s initial parameters. Certain elements allow for the building of complex machinery, and many groups come together online for interesting in-game activities or just a little cooperative slashing, mining, and building. Originally and most up-to-date on PC, Minecraft continues to find further success on mobile platforms and the Xbox 360, and promises to continue delighting fans in the next console generation on the Xbox One.
Originally released on the Xbox Live Arcade in 2010, Limbo is a puzzle platform game in which you play as a silhouetted boy on a journey to find his missing sister. With a story so straightforward (and without any dialogue at all) accompanied with minimalist music and artwork, one of the game’s foremost appeals is the way it can use so little to create an atmosphere that is more dreadful and terrifying than many of the AAA horror games out there.
The setting and noir-style visuals also have a heavy influence on how creepy the game feels to play, a good example being while you are chased by a pure-black giant spider in sheer terror. If the mood and setting wasn’t enough, the puzzles are actually quite fun to play and fall at a nice balance between being too simple and frustratingly hard, which keeps the pace of the game at an optimal level. If you’re looking for a fun, affordable puzzle game that will give you the creeps, Limbo would be our first choice.
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