The phrase “digital game” is beginning to lose its meaning, because nowadays every game is available as a digital download. But there’s still usually a difference between games released physically and games released digitally only.
Xbox Live Arcade games are digital only, and the generally have a tighter focus than big $60 retail games. They tend to move quicker and focus in on one or two game mechanics. They also tend to be the products of smaller teams with smaller budgets, so they can take more risks and offer niche gameplay AAA titles simply can’t afford to attempt.
Below, we take a look at the 10 highest-rated XBLA games for Xbox One. As for our methodology, we surveyed all of the XBLA games listed on Metacritic and created a composite score between the critic and user ratings. For example, a game with a 95 critic score and 9.3 user score would receive a 94 composite score. This should gives us the clearest picture of how well the games were received overall between the time of release and now.
10. Child of Light
Composite Score: 79
Child of Light may come from the director of Far Cry 3, but it’s an entirely different kind of game. Billed as a modern take on classic Japanese role-playing games like Final Fantasy VI, Child of Light offers fast combat, a swiftly moving story, and gorgeous visuals.
You play as Aurora, a girl who’s spirited away from her home in the real world into the fantastical realm of the game. You’ll meet plenty of strange characters, many of whom join your party as you try to make your way back home. The game rings in at around 10 hours, but it leaves more of a lasting impact than many 40-hour JRPGs.
9. Game of Thrones: Episode One – Fire from Ice
Composite Score: 79.5
This game brings players into the brutal world of HBO’s take on Game of Thrones. You’ll encounter many faces and voices you know from the show, including series favorites like Tyrion Lannister and Margaery Tyrell. While developer Telltale could have simply retold stories from the novels and TV show, the game weaves an entirely new narrative. The story here focuses on the Foresters, a house that finds itself in the unfortunate position of being loyal to the Starks of Winterfell just as the Lannisters assert their control.
8. Resident Evil HD Remaster
Composite Score: 81
Resident Evil, the PS One game that’s generally credited with kicking off the entire survival horror genre, has gotten an HD remaster. Like the original, this spiffy version has you explore a mansion full of tough-to-kill zombies and undead dogs, eating herbs to regain health and using a typewriter to save your game.
As a nod to modern gamers, it even includes a simplified control scheme for anyone who doesn’t want to use the original “tank controls.” The result is a game that’s every bit as good as you remember.
7. Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones
Composite Score: 82
Sneaking through shadowy environments patrolled by eagle-eyed enemies never seems to lose its appeal to gamers. Stealth Inc. 2 puts you in the shoes of an adorable clone who has to escape from a series of tightly-designed test chambers that are rigged to end your life the moment you’re detected.
So you’ll have to stick to the shadows, avoiding attack dogs, patrol robots, and spotlights as you hack into terminals to open the doors to the exit. Fans of stealth games will want to check this one out.
Composite Score: 82
Limbo is a dark, creepy side-scrolling platformer game that’s built of the stuff of nightmares. You play as an unnamed boy wandering through a seriously demented world that’s full of things like giant spiders and burrowing brain worms. There’s little joy to be found in the game world, but it still manages to be a fantastic game you won’t soon forget.
5. Tales from the Borderlands: Episode One — Zer0 Sum
Composite Score: 82.5
Telltale Games has had a run of excellent adventure games that basically play out as movies, with the player being called on to explore new environments, tap buttons during action sequences, and choose how conversations progress. Tales From the Borderlands is based on a series of popular first-person shooters set on a Wild West-like planet called Pandora. Tales may feel very different from the games that inspired it, but still manages to fit right into the game world. That’s quite a feat, and it makes for a game that’s well worth playing.
4. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee — New & Tasty
Composite Score: 82.5
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee was a very fun action puzzle game that came out in 1997 for the original PlayStation. It followed the story of Abe, a green alien who helped his fellow Mukodons escape slavery from a factory where they were about to be ground up for meat.
This New ’n’ Tasty edition is a remake with improved graphics, tweaked gameplay mechanics, and a handful of control concessions that make the game less frustrating to play. The one thing that has remained the same, however, is the brilliant level design, which stitches together puzzle after puzzle in a way that’s tough to improve upon.
Whether you played the original or not, Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee New ’n’ Tasty is a smart one to check out.
Composite Score: 83.5
Often described as a side-scrolling version of Minecraft, Terraria is kind of like a bunch of games rolled into one. At the start, you’re dropped into a randomly generated world that you can interact with however you want. Some people focus on collecting materials and shaping the environment to fit their whims. Others explore the vast and diverse environments, fighting off enemies as they go. It’s your world, so use it however you want.
2. Shovel Knight
Composite Score: 85
This retro-inspired action platformer is like a mash-up of the glory days of the NES. With obvious inspiration from games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Duck Tales, Shovel Knight has you hack, slash, and shovel-jump your way through a series of gorgeously pixelated levels, fighting innovative enemies and massive bosses along the way.
But don’t mistake this game for a thoughtless rehash of the classic games of yore. It throws in enough new ideas and gameplay mechanics (like checkpoints and a risk-reward system for collecting coins) to keep any modern gamer happy.
1. Ori and the Blind Forest
Composite Score: 87.5
This side-scrolling adventure stars a forest spirit on a coming-of-age journey. Developer Moon studios has been working on this title for four years, trying to give it a similar feel to Nintendo classics like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid. That’s a high bar to clear, but they actually did it, creating what gamers and critics alike agree is the best game you can download on the Xbox Live Arcade.