Strategy & Simulation
Minecraft — $15
Minecraft is a game in need of little introduction, and though the Xbox version is a leaner rendition of the smash-hit PC title, the virtual sandbox still holds it’s own on the console. Like other ports, the Xbox title drops the player in a randomly-generated environment, ushering him or her to create a world only limited by one’s own imagination and creativity. Though there are end-game goals you can strive for, the game really doesn’t have a point aside from building things in the block-y, yet surprisingly alluring, virtual world. The Xbox version doesn’t offer the kind of robust modding found on the PC rendition, nor is it quite as expansive in general, but the multiplayer options and updated crafting interface make it well worth the $15. Oh, and monsters come out at night. So there’s that..
Rock Band Blitz — $15
Rock Band Blitz is a different breed of rhythm game than the guilty pleasure title everyone secretly loved a mere four years ago. Instead of Rock Band’s iconic plastic instruments and raucous multiplayer, Blitz opts for single controller and heightened focus on leaderboard supremacy. Like similar titles in the franchise, players are presented with a capricious, scrolling fretboard featuring a slew of notes corresponding to different buttons on the controller. The goal is to continually press the appropriate buttons when they hover over a particular region, thus garnering a multiplier and boosting your score. The graphics are just as eye-catching as they ever were, with bright light trails and humped ridges for all 25 songs, but sometimes they can be a little straining on the eyes. I guess it’s a good thing you know all the words to Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by heart isn’t it?
Magic 2013 — $10
Many people consider Magic to be the stuff of nerds, a card game played within deep, dark basements where average Joe don’t dare wonder. However true that may be, Magic 2013 is still persistently enjoyable if you revel in all things fantasy-related and don’t mind shuffling through the title’s ten customizable decks. The concept of Magic is relatively simple for the most, pitting two players against each other or up to three in Planechase mutliplayer format, while offering a host of beautifully-illustrated cards used to attack your opponents and drain his or her health points. The 2013 edition doesn’t deviate much from its predecessors, aside from a few minor tweaks such as mana tapping, but the improvements offer a welcome set of refinements and unlockables accessible in the single-player campaign or through the online multiplayer.
State of Decay — $20
It’s hard to argue a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t have its fair share of harrowing problems. Whereas most survival horror games revel in unlimited ammo and fixed settings, Undead Labs’ astonishing first effort is a game rooted in actualities and stats. It’s a vast, open world of hopelessness, highlighted by permanent death and fixated on suspense. Although there is a host of weapons constantly available at your disposable, they’re prone to harsh realities that often leave you mercilessly exposed. Your weapons and equipment may break at any moment, whether using a bat or the silencer on your rifle, but it always is one of the most disheartening experiences when it occurs. Although the mechanics can be flawed at times, the visuals and compelling gameplay are bloody enough to place it among the best zombie titles to date.
Plants vs. Zombies — $15
The newest installment of Plants vs. Zombies may be free-to-play, but the original will still cost you a whopping $15. However, how can you resist that innate urge to combat hordes upon hordes of undead zombies with a cornucopia of peashooters and cabbage-pults? Like it’s sequel, Plants vs. Zombies is a strategy-based tower defense game in which the player continually fends off waves of approaching enemies with a set of tactically-placed plants. The animation and graphics are not stunning, though they are littered with PopCap’s signature amiableness, and there’s enough additional unlockables available via Crazy Dave to keep your gameplay strategies diverse and constantly in limbo. However, it’s still no Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare.
What do you think of our top picks for the best Xbox Live Arcade games? Did we miss anything major worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments below.