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10 Best Downloadable Games of 2011

The cream of the crop in the digital marketspace.

best_dowloadable_games_2011

It’s that time of year again, when editors from sites around the world gather together to argue out their year-end “Best Of” lists. We here at CraveOnline are no different. But before we tackle our 10 best overall games of the year, we’re shining the spotlight on the smaller guys by selecting our 10 favorite downloadable titles of the year from marketplaces such as Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network and Steam. These games may not have had multi-million dollar ad campaigns and $100 special collector’s editions, but they were all fantastic titles nonetheless. And each and every one of them deserves your attention.

As an added note before we get started, we will be publishing our 10 Best Games of 2011 list next Friday (as well as something a little more ambitious the following week). Just because a title makes our 10 best downloadable games does not disqualify it from our top 10 games overall. We just want to make that point clear.

OK, onward!
 

10Renegade Ops

Platforms: XBLA, PSN, Steam

renegade_ops

We had a lot of fun with Renegade Ops. It’s a twin-stick shooter with an emphasis on cheesy characters, strong visuals and a shit-ton of explosions. You upgrade your characters and loadouts as you level up in this game built on the same engine as Just Cause 2. It’s an addicting ride that rewards players in bangs (no, not those kind of bangs).


9From Dust

Platforms: XBLA, PSN, Steam

from_dust

Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, From Dust lets players play God, manipulating environments using a number of tools at their disposal to protect and enlighten a nomadic tribe. From Dust is a beautiful looking game with gameplay that’s both easy to pick up and addictive as all get-out. And who doesn’t enjoy playing God every once and a while?
 

8Swarm

Platforms: XBLA, PSN

swarm

We got a chance to check out Swarm at PAX East this past year and it turned out to be one of our favorites of the show. Thankfully, the final product didn’t disappoint either. In Swarm, players are tasked with maneuvering a… wait for it… swarm of mindless little creatures through stages filled of deathtraps — stuff like buzz saws, grinders, explosive fluid sacks, etc. The object isn’t to make it to the end with everyone intact. In fact, the goal is to have some of your brainless hive-mind bite the bullet in order to rack up higher score multipliers. In a nutshell, Swarm rewards death. And because of that, Swarm is one of the most unique, fun and hilarious games released digitally in 2011.
 

7Iron Brigade

Platforms: XBLA, PSN, Steam

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Iron Brigade, formerly known to the gaming world as “Trenched,” is one of two works from Double Fine in our list. It’s also one of the two tower defense-ish titles on our list. You play a mobile trench mech, straight out of a sci-fi version of the post-World War I world. Roboting tube monsters aim to attack your various bases and you use incredible upgrades and sweet towers to keep them safe. The gameplay, the humor and the fun are almost unrivaled.

 

6InFamous: Festival of Blood

Platforms: PSN

infamous_festival_blood

Taking a cue from Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare DLC, Sucker Punch released InFamous: Festival of Blood as a standalone PSN title to celebrate Halloween. Built on the engine powering InFamous 2Festival of Blood featured Cole being turned into a vampire and given 24 hours to track down and destroy the head vampire to save not only himself but all of New Marais in the process. Festival of Blood is a meaty PSN effort featuring a new story, new powers and PlayStation Move support built around the already addictive gameplay of the InFamous series.


5Stacking

Platforms: XBLA, PSN

stacking

The second game from Double Fine stands as one of the more unique downloadable titles playable this year. Stacking lets players take charge of a nesting Russian doll in the center of a workingman’s revolution. You’ll need to nest into other dolls in order to assume their abilities so that you can solve puzzles and push the game’s story forward. The art style is outstanding and this title is unlike anything we’ve ever played. Both points make it fantastic.

4Orcs Must Die!

Platforms: XBLA, Steam

orcs_must_die

The title doesn’t lie. A lot of orcs were killed in the making/playing of this game. You play as someone simply known as the “War Mage,” brings death and destruction to the little green goblins by way of tower defense and third-person action gameplay mechanics. To Orcs Must Die!’s credit, the game manages to combine these two vastly different genres into one cohesive-feeling package. That’s not an easy task, yet Orcs Must Die! pulls it off without breaking a sweat.
 

3Dungeon Defenders

Platforms: XBLA, PSN, Steam

dungeon_defenders

There’s a quote on the virtual boxart for Dungeon Defenders that uses the words “habit-forming;” that’s perfect for this game. The classed-based, RPG-esque, tower defense nature of this downloadable title come with an incredible amount of design know-how on the part of Trendy Entertainment. It’s some of the most fun you can have in the genre, and it’s one of our favorites from 2011.
 

2Ms. Splosion Man

Platforms: XBLA

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Taking a page out of Ms. Pac-Man’s playbook, Twisted Pixel revisited their quirky, off-the-wall platformer series, Splosion Man, by making the lead character a girl, turning her pink, and adding a pretty little bow to her head. The end result was glorious. Granted, Ms. Splosion Man wasn’t just a cosmetic touch-up to a tried-and-true formula. Twisted Pixel addressed nearly every complaint logged against the first Splosion Man while also introducing more bosses, new mechanics and providing nonstop laughs to keep players smiling from beginning to end. For all those reasons, Ms. Splosion Man is one of the biggest triumphs of the downloadable marketspace in 2011.

 


 

1Bastion

Platforms: XBLA, Steam

bastion

Bastion is damn-near perfection. The art, the story and the one-of-a-kind narration is crazy cool. This indie title could have stood up as a pretentious pile of ass, but it didn’t. It’s a great game on its own merits, and then it achieves an awesome level of design style and class. Bastion will give you hours of gameplay over the course of a beautifully told story with standard hack ‘n slash mechanics. It’s easily the best of the year in the downloadable land.
 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Back to the Future: The Game
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
  • PixelJunk Sidescroller
  • Fruit Ninja Kinect