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Gamasutra's Best Of 2010: Top 5 Console Downloadable Games
Gamasutra's Best Of 2010: Top 5 Console Downloadable Games
December 24, 2010 | By Ryan Langley

December 24, 2010 | By Ryan Langley
More: Console/PC

[In his round-up of the year's top console downloadable games, sister site GamerBytes' editor Ryan Langley looks at a year that brought us standout titles and a flood of content alike, highlighting his favorite games for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and WiiWare.]

Previously in our end-of-year round-up: Top 5 Cult Games,
Top 5 Handheld Games, Top 5 PC Games, Top 10 Indie Games, Top 5 Developers, Top 5 Trends, Top 5 Major Industry Events, Top 5 Surprises, Top 5 Disappointments, Top 5 Controversies, Most Anticipated Games Of 2011 and Top 10 Games of the Year.]

It's been an odd year for the console digital download space -- lots of promotions, a ton of new titles, but honestly I felt underwhelmed overall. Developers attempted to go a little further and in the end fell a little flat.

Publishers are finally attempting something with the digital realm -- THQ, EA, Ubisoft and Atari have all tried to be a part of games made by independent developers.

But the initiatives have had their up and downs. THQ and EA have done well with Costume Quest, Shank and the DeathSpank titles.

But Ubisoft's dealings with Bloody Good Time and Atari's Blade Kitten and The Undergarden has made the idea of getting together with a publisher a little more worrisome for devs.

Doesn't mean that there weren't any quality games around, though -- we've collected the top 5 games available for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, WiiWare, DSiWare and on PlayStation Minis, based on our own playing experience:

5. RISK: Factions (Stainless Games/Electronic Arts, XBLA/PSN)

Now, I'm not much of a board game guy -- Scrabble's been about as far as I've gone in that realm, But EA's digital variant of RISK somehow pulled me in. It's just automated enough and just funny enough to become a ton of fun.

The campaign was a blast, and the different factions, from cats to zombies to robots, were all a great way to make a visually dull board game into something a little more unique.

4. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX (Namco Bandai - XBLA / PSN)

The original Pac-Man Championship Edition was a real gem for me - in fact it was one of the first games to get me interested in this whole digital download business. I'm only 25 - the original Pac-Man was well before my time, and well, I was never much good at it. Pac-Man CE changed that, though, and got me addicted to the Leaderboard chase all through my final year of University.

Now Namco have done it again with CE DX, proving that a maze game is still viable in this marketplace. Instead of attempting to keep the tension up by making it more difficult to get ghosts, DX goes in the opposite direction - ghost trains!

Pac-Man CE DX has one of the most satisfying game sounds ever created - munching down 20+ ghosts all at once is bizarrely exhilarating, and hasn't been topped in 2010.

3. Toy Soldiers (Signal Studios, XBLA)

A lot of other digital download titles might be going for the 'flashy and new' look, but Signal Studios' Toy Soldiers took it in a decidedly different direction. Classic-looking toy soldiers from the early 1900s play their part in an action / tower defense hybrid that just works really well.

In fact, Toy Soldiers, alongside its two pieces of downloadable content, has been a blast to go through -- and the replayability has been great across the different difficulty settings.

2. Super Meat Boy (Team Meat, XBLA)

I'm a platformer guy at heart - I grew up on the Sonic and Mario iterations of my generation, and Super Meat Boy just takes it to another level.

The game is devious, masochistic, controller breakingly difficult and yet still intensely fun to play. And it's jam-packed with content, from the numerous levels to all the bandages you have to collect to all the secret warp zones and the always updating free level packs; I've yet to get bored with it.

It also helps that the controls are super tight, that there are numerous unlockable characters that are all unique playing experiences, and that it has that one-more-time addiction that Trials HD had. Just a great game all around.

1. Monday Night Combat (Uber Entertainment, XBLA)

While Monday Night Combat's class-based action might initially look a little too much like Team Fortress 2, it makes up for it by having an incredibly good multiplayer experience awaiting for you.

A mixture of a 3rd person shooter and Defense Of The Ancients, Monday Night Combat was the most fun I've had on Xbox Live Arcade this year. It's easy to get into a game and a multitude of strategies awaiting each of the maps.

Classes like Snipers, Support, and Tanks each have their own unique way through the level, and each can take down the other. Overall, fantastic work by Uber Entertainment, especially as its first independent title.

Honorable Mentions

Dead Rising: Case Zero (XBLA, Capcom)
Darwinia+ (XBLA, Introversion Software)
DeathSpank (XBLA / PSN, Hothead Games)
Jett Rocket (WiiWare, Shin'En Multimedia)
Limbo (XBLA, PlayDead Studios)
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom (XBLA, The Odd Gentlemen)
Swords & Soldiers HD (PSN, Ronimo Games)
Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition (XBLA, Ace Team)

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Chandana Ekanayake
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Thanks for the Monday Night Combat mention!

Christopher Thigpen
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As a developer and Rabid Fan of gaming. MNC...all i have to say is...bring on the bacon! One of the most fun games to come out this year. Thank you for adding vitality to the game. Need more!!!!

I would love to mention that amazing ilomilo as well. Sharp marketing campaign.

Dead Rising Case Zero was a polished "level" that was released. I hope it doesn't create a trend though. :/

The morose LIMBO was pure brilliance, and I still say that Roger Ebert just needs to watch that gameplay all the way through, then try to convince himself that games are not art.

Dorito's Crash Course is the best free game ever! It is just awesome.

Costume Quest was another wonderful game from Double Fine.

Now I just referenced XBLA games, because that is my current system focus. So please forgive my tunnel vision.

Also, I have to say I love LEGO UNIVERSE. No, not a download, but a shameless plug for a game I love. Great for everyone.

Happy Holidays!

Dru Bagaloo
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Didn't know only consoles get paid downloadable games. Several of the titles mentioned here came out on PC/Mac as well.

Daniel Boy
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"Monday Night Combat was the most fun I've had on Xbox Live Arcade this year"

Not "on any service", just XBLA. This makes clear what he thinks about wiiware, psn and PC/Mac. So it's no wonder that he can't even get the console references right:

Risk factions is on psn right now, sword&soldiers is also 2009 wiiware title.

Simon Carless
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To be fair, Daniel, Risk Factions came out since Ryan wrote this and before we posted it, and I believe he deliberately left out WiiWare on Swords & Soldiers because that version didn't debut in 2010.

In any case, we changed the titles to make it clear that this is console-only (it does say that in the intro). As for PSN and WiiWare - I'd love to see suggestions on strong titles that he didn't recommend. Here's a couple I would at least suggest people check out:

PSN: Blue Toad Murder Files, Hoard, Joe Danger, Dead Nation

WiiWare: Toribash, WarioWare D.I.Y. Showcase

WiiWare is particularly rough to recommend for because of the lack of demos, even I (as a massive console downloadable fan) am fairly hazy on the amazing stuff in 2010 there, sadly.

Felix Reichert
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Since it wasn't mentioned in last year's list at all (it came out December 10th, maybe to late to make it on the list?) I'll have to mention:

PixelJunk Shooter

One of the best downloadable titles there are. What is missing most from this list though:

Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light

The best (for me at least) story-driven Coop-game I have ever played.

Oh, and Marvel Pinball.

Matt Matthews
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Agreed. If PJS wasn't listed last year, then it should be on the list for this year.

Also agree that the new Lara Croft game is excellent, and deserves mention on any such list. Its enjoyment:dollar ratio is exceptionally high.

Frankly, the whole "downloadable" moniker is a bit tricky. My downloadable game of the year was God of War: Ghost of Sparta. For many people, yes, this was a retail game, but I didn't buy the UMD version ... I bought the version Sony offered on the PS Store. So for me, at least, it was a downloadable game.

Russell Carroll
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But seems like a lack of playing the games (...and I'm not sure a demo would really count as 'playing' a game anyway), would simply discredit the statement that the list included WiiWare (or at least the list should get a caveat at the front along the lines of *WiiWare games were largely not considered).

I'm not trying to be difficult or anything, it just seems that claiming you are covering an entire console worth of games you didn't actually play is disingenuous. It would better to just say up front that it was excluded b/c you didn't actually play them (though it's rather disappointing that they wouldn't be considered in the personal play of anyone working for Gamasutra! You're missing out on some great games!)

(though sadly...I think you FAR from alone)

Absolute BEST games for WiiWare this year (my opinion):

Cave Story - (really stunned this one isn't mentioned at all in the article, it's so good it doesn't need an intro)

Fluidity - (recent release, so that may be why it was has a Demo, so check it out!)

Art Style: Rotozoa - (I personally enjoy the Art Style games, but this one is HEADS and shoulders above the's amazing how distinct the different modes feel and how wonderful the music and visuals all work together - think fLow, but MUCH more engaging)

Very Good games (again my opinion...everyone's is different...but I did play the games ;):

Frobot - (Style, puzzles, shooting, and a demo [may have been too late for you though])


Bit.Trip.Runner - (Which I actually don't enjoy at all, but it was clearly a favorite of other people ;)

Art Style: LightTrax

Rage of the Gladiator - (Which is the one game here I haven't played, but again was a favorite of many, so worth mentioning)

Max & the Magic Marker - (PC Demo exists, but the game fits the Wii platform really well, just has the right 'feel' + using a joystick & pointer is better than keyboard & mouse [I played it through on Wii and a few levels on PC])

Jett Rocket - (Which was mentioned)

Mega Man 10 - (However, it was released everywhere, and it didn't make your it probably be skipped here too)

Art of Balance - (Wonderful Puzzle game with fun physics and great visuals, a hidden 'gem' on the service)

Blaster Master Overdrive - (Barely makes this list, it has some great parts, and some tediousness, but fun a recreation of the Blaster Master world)

...and of course Airport Mania recently came to WiiWare ;)

Anyway, it seems WiiWare being not considered b/c it wasn't played doesn't sit right. It probably shouldn't be mentioned at all if it wasn't equally considered.

Robert Green
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I think I'm the only person who just doesn't get games like Super Meat Boy. They compare it here to Trials HD, and I loved that game, and I can think of a few other 'trial-and-error' games I've enjoyed as well, but when it comes to SMB (and N+ before it) I tend to find that there's a level of precision required and a frequency of failure that just sucks most of the fun out of it.

Am I alone here? Is there anyone else who finds "devious, masochistic, controller breakingly difficult" to be something of a turn off?

Tyler Glaiel
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did you play it?

Robert Green
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Yes, of course.

Aaron Truehitt
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I can agree somewhat. I feel like some of the harder levels I got past by luck rather than skill. Because I know if I went a tried it again, I would still fail countless times. I still have a moderate amount of fun with it. But nothing amazing.

B Reg
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PixelJunk Shooter? Deathspank? Lara Croft? Dead Nation? Limbo?

Emperador Alencio
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yeahhh, dead nation and Limbo beat them all.

ferret johnson
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how those 4 weren't even mentioned is beyond me. Dead Nation and Laura Croft are so insanely good.

Michael Kolb
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Good read and I have to agree with you.

My top five:

Risk Factions

Pac Man CE DX

Lara Croft & The Guardian of Light

Super Meat Boy

Pinball FX 2

Runners Up:

Toy Soldiers

Hydro Thunder Hurricane


A World of Keflings

Most were already discuessed before but Pinball FX 2 and Lara Croft Guardian of Light have given me plenty of hours of fun solo and co-op. Both gave out free content also which helped.

Ujn Hunter
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Pinball FX2 is my Digital Download GOTY.