Despite how unpopular the practice is, downloadable content has been a part of the industry for longer than many younger gamers have been on this earth. The concept of DLC has existed since the Dreamcast, the first console to ever support online connectivity. Although minimal due to memory card and broadband limitations, Dreamcast saw DLC for Skies of Arcadia and Sonic Adventure Battle. After Dreamcast, the original Xbox received larger DLC packs such as the map packs for Halo 2. Since then, downloadable content has been an ever-evolving industry practice that has mixed reception.
Some publishers are notorious for taking advantage of consumers with microtransactions and charging players additional money for “add-on content” that was cut from the game’s original release. But for every bad piece of DLC that takes advantage, there’s a good one that brings value to the gamer and makes the games we love even better. We’ve compiled a list of our favorites below but have deliberately omitted the overwhelmingly successful The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt expansions.
My favorite expansions are for The Binding of Isaac. I wrote an article about it and how with each expansion, the game’s ingenious use of RNG only opened up more possibilities. The initial game is solid by itself, but with each expansion (Wrath of the Lamb, Rebirth, Afterbirth), a superfluous amount of added worlds, items, rooms, bosses, and what-have-yous, the replay ability of this demented 2D dungeon-crawler is simply unmatched. With the recent announcement of the final expansion, Repentance, I’m eagerly awaiting to see what it has in store.
If it isn’t an expansion to a multiplayer world, then no matter how much I love a game, I rarely go back once story DLC drops.
So you’ll have to forgive me for saying Halo 3: ODST. I loved this new take on the Halo universe. I know it was marketed as a stand alone game, but it’s still considered an expansion to Halo 3. I was never all that immersed in the Halo universe. I don’t even think I ever completed Halo: Combat Evolved or Halo 2 until MCC dropped and I decided to revisit them. But Halo 3: ODST was a nice and needed take on the war. I just really enjoyed playing as a team of grunts trying to survive the events of Halo 3. Seeing it from a different vantage point made it feel so much more real.
My favorite expansion would definitely be The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion’s infamous horse armor DLC. The upgraded appearance and level of detail in the meticulously designed armor added such a valuable aesthetic to an already magnificent… I can’t even finish that sentence. Clearly, I’m kidding. However, the Shivering Isles expansion was one of the first DLCs I ever purchased and it was well worth the money. It was so far from the feeling and mood set by the base game and could’ve easily been a separate release in and of itself. It created an even more eccentric fantasy within an already vast and deep fantasy world casting aside expectations that had been built from countless hours of gameplay.
That being said, I also have a deep appreciation for Far Cry 3′s Blood Dragon standalone. Upon release of its teaser video on April 1, 2013, many believed it to be an April Fool’s joke, myself included. But, once the game released with a heavy 80s sci-fi theme and ambiance my nostalgia certainly got the best of me, right down to the music, voice acting and corny dialogue. It was like, totally radical.
My favorite expansion is the Episodes from Liberty City expansion for Grand Theft Auto IV because it completely overshadows the base game in every way possible. While the base game was a bit too dreary and serious for a series of games based around making fun of the “American way of life”, Episodes from Liberty City ditches the seriousness in favor of absurdity and fun, with special kudos given to The Ballad of Gay Tony.
Another expansion I need to point out is the Titans expansion from Age of Mythology. Gigantic monsters killing an army of sphinxes and Norse warriors? What’s not to love?
I have never been one to play expansions. Once I’m done with a game, I usually move on to the next. However, there are exceptions to the rule and the expansion that I really dove into like the base game was Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. Technically, this is a stand alone and you don’t need to own any other Dishonored game to play it, but there are enough ties and references to the events of Dishonored 2 that I felt it was apart of the same timeline. Death of the Outsider was really a full fledged game with a fitting wrap up to one of the series’ most interesting characters.
Without a doubt my favourite expansion is Dying Light: The Following. The Following took the fantastic base game’s dense maps and replaced it with a beautiful country side with a fully customizable buggy to drive. Not only that, it fixed the base games story by adding a great end game twist. I spent a lot of hours with this one.
A runner up for me would have to be Dishonored‘s The Brigmore Witches DLC episodes for having fantastic level design and fleshing out the universe.
Without any hesitation I can say that Dragon Age Origins: Awakening is my favorite expansion. It’s an expansion so huge and in-depth that it’s essentially its own game. Awakening felt like a true successor to Dragon Age Origins, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. It built upon the rich world that was already established and provided a compelling story about your band of heroes standing against a new mysterious wave of Darkspawn and the discovery of how they were able to reemerge after the fall of the Arch Demon from Origins. It had everything from an intriguing story, to well fleshed out characters, to incredibly imaginative new bosses. I wish the other actual Dragon Age sequels could have been as stellar.
My favorite expansion made a game I detested into one of my currently most played: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. I was not the biggest fan of the game at launch, but Reaper of Souls ripped out the auction house, added in a tiered difficulty system, made the item system not suck, and added an exploration mode so you could skip the story and keep the action going. All that content with an additional new class and the largest act in the game changed the playing field so to speak. Few expansions have done as much for me.
Hands down the best expansion out there is Bloodborne: The Old Hunters. The majority of Bloodborne takes players through a world of Victorian horror with werewolves and oversized bandaged humanoids, a la Frankenstein. But as hunters traveled deeper into the night, the horrors evolved from metamorphosed farmers to ancient and unseen cosmic beings. The Unseen Village was the most frustrating area for me to progress through, but I was deeply engrossed in the nightmare world and Lovecraftian creepy crawlies.
So when The Old Hunters was released, it was a no-brainer day one buy for me. The new expansion introduced some of my favorite trick weapons in the game, specifically the Holy Moonlight Sword and Rakuyo blade. But better yet, The Old Hunters expansion introduced my top three bosses from the game; Ludwig, Orphan of Kos, and the vigilant Lady Maria. I would argue that The Hunter’s Nightmare contained the best elements of Bloodborne‘s overarching story and whenever I replay, I rush through the rest of the game just to get to reach the twisted version of the Cathedral Ward.
What are your personal favorites? Sound off below!