Best Xbox Live Arcade games

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Sports and recreation

Pinball FX 2 — $10

Nothing will ever rival the pure enjoyment that comes from button mashing and frantically rattling a good ol’ fashioned pinball machine, but Pinball FX 2 is likely the closest you’ll come. Awash with a sea of colors and brightly flashing lights, the title features some of the most realistic and accurate pinball physics of any virtual pinball game to date, whether playing solo or vehemently tackling players via Xbox Live or the using the built-in, split-screen support. The multiplier options are vast and engaging, as are the comprehensive leaderboards, and the game comes loaded with enough table variety at launch you shouldn’t have to purchase additional tables for some time. Now if only they offered the Mars Attacks edition.

Pinball FX 2

Motocross Madness — $10

There are truly few games that appeal to all ages and demographics in the way Motocross Madness does. Although the latest title in the franchise is plagued by minor graphical details and lack of visual variety, it’s also the most expansive and feature-rich to date, offering nine multi-path courses and a bounty of multiplayer game modes. The graphics are a bit of a trip due to the realistic textures siting alongside the cartoon-y avatars, but the visuals are still lush and coupled with a surprising amount of depth, no matter if you’re engaging in straightforward racing or exploring every nook and cranny of Iceland in search of treasure. It has a good deal to offer for $10, especially when you factor in the showboating mode and eight-player online capabilities.

Motocross Madness

Hydro Thunder — $15

I remember the glory days of Hydro Thunder with vivid nostalgia. It was the kind of ’90s arcade classic you’d dabble with in between movie hopping or during a short trip to the mall with your mother. The Xbox Live Arcade version boasts many of same features — the rocket-powered jet boats, the dynamic water physics, the unavoidable sea serpents — while adding a couple new game modes and swapping out the former levels for a string of updated courses. Although maneuvering can prove difficult at times due to the game’s flawed physics, it’s still engaging, especially when taking on seven other players online.

Hyrdo Thunder

NBA Jam: On Fire Edition — $15

Although I could spend the next 150 words rambling on about the hallmark merits of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition — the razzle-dazzles, the boom-shakalakas, etc. — I could never sum it up with the matching eloquence and and blunt reality of IGN‘s Tristan Ogilvie.”If you take a bowl of fruit, boil it down to chunks of pulp and add a little sugar, you get jam. Similarly, if you take the sport of basketball, boil it down to chunks of dunks, douse it in kerosene and set it on fire you get NBA Jam, arguably the greatest arcade sports series in the history of awesomeness.” It’s a bit of hyperbole, but Ogilvie is right in many ways. The latest edition in the recently-revamped arcade franchise sports a hodgepodge of unlockable content, fluid animations, improved game modes and plenty of Tim Kitzrow’s iconic commentary to go around.

NBA Jam: On Fire Edition

Trials Evolution — $15

Trials Evolution came as a personal recommendation from several co-workers in the office, one of whom’s recommendations I remain skeptical about (he told me to the Doritos play for Christ’s sake). Thankfully, the manic, physics-blazoned motocross title offers terrific, 50-track single player career and the kind of real-time multiplayer anyone can pick up and enjoy regardless of skill level. The visuals and controls are remarkably crisp, the stunt bar at an all time high, and the intuitive level creator allows players to easily build and share new courses with players from around the globe. The end-game is absurdly difficult, but the learning curve is gradual enough you won’t be taken aback immediately. It’s no Excitebike, but then again, we aren’t complaining.

Trials Evolution
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