Owning The Couch: The Best Downloadable Competitive Games

Sometimes we can’t all just get along.  Sometimes, something more than words is needed.  For those times, sometimes you need to give a good old-fashioned thrashing to someone.  We don’t mean physically of course, we’re talking video games!

There is no shortage of competitive AAA games out there, but this piece focuses on some of the smaller, digital-only games that may have flown beneath your radar.  So pull out those extra,  dusty controllers you have somewhere (including the one with the sticky triangle button), and launch one of these games next time someone got beef.

Battlefield 1943 :  XBLA- 1200 MS             PSN- $14.99

One of the original digital shooters, Battlefield 1943 remains one of the best.  While not as grand in scale as its console brethren, 1943 managed to bring an incredible online shooter experience to console gamers, without them having to leave the room!  At first glance, people were a little taken back by the pared back feature set.  There was absolutely no single-player experience, the class list was pared down to three (Infantryman, Scout and Rifleman), and only three maps (with a fourth one being eventually unlocked).  However, the doubters were put to rest when they finally played the game.

1943 also proved that digital-only releases could stand toe-to-toe with any retail game.  XBLA and PSN were still kind of coming into their own in 2009, and Battlefield 1943 helped show us that full-fledged, high-quality games could be not only viable, but fun.  There have been any number of competitive shooters released since, some of them superior, but this list simply wouldn’t be complete without 1943.

Trials Evolution:  XBLA- 1200 MS               PSN- $14.99

  Trials HD was already dangerously addictive, but developer RedLynx (an Ubisoft studio!) really knocked it out of the park with Evolution.  One of the best additions was simultaneous multiplayer, a feature the Trials community had been anticipating for years.  Evolution made it look easy to, engaging racers with its well-designed courses and over-the-top racing action.

However, the best competitions take place off the multiplayer arena.  Top Trials players post some absurd times on the leaderboard, and Evolution does a great job of letting you know how you’re doing compared to both the greats, and the other Trials players who populate your friends list.  The game is constantly challenging you to beat your friends times, offering a competitive edge to a traditionally single-player series.

Section 8: Prejudice:  XBLA- 1200 MS      PSN- $14.99

  Does anything quite match the thrill you get when you drop in from 15,000 feet to squash an enemy player…to begin your respawn?  I’m not sure, but Section 8: Prejudice is full of moments like that.  A lot of people didn’t know what to expect when Prejudice was announced, but what they got was a polished, content-rich competitive experience.  A varied assortment of modes, a fairly big player cap and spot-on gunplay were all combined with Section 8’s signature power armor and tower defense elements.

Section 8 isn’t perfect, but it can be shamelessly fun.  The customization options, while not as robust as some other offerings, are fun to tweak and add some personalization to the experience.  Split-screen play is unfortunately not supported, but for those of you looking for an online fix, it is hard to beat Section 8.

Monday Night Combat:  XBLA- 1200 MS                PSN- N/A

  This criminally underrated title features one of the best class-based shooter experiences available on consoles.  A unique blend of FPS and tower-defense game, MNC merges fantastic shooting mechanics, a vibrant and unique art style and robust battle option to great effect.  While some find the in-game announcer a little grating, I thought he fit well with the games unique sense of humor, and a few of his lines had me outright laughing.

MNC has a very strong Team Fortress 2 vibe going on (and I mean that in a good way), and the multiple classes all play off each other nicely.  Whether you are sneaking around murdering people as the Assassin or buffing the team as the Support class, it is easy to feel you are having a strong influence on the match.  Even better, split-screen play is fully supported.

Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition:  XBLA- 1200 MS                                PSN- $14.99

If you don’t know what Street Fighter is by now, you’re probably on the wrong website.  Everyone else, all you need to know is that SF4 made a very graceful transition to XBLA and PSN, and you should pick it up.  Like, now.  Yes, we know you probably already own it on 14 other consoles, but you can’t list the top downloadable competitive games without mention this one.

Everything you know and love about Street Fighter 4, the full cast of characters (including Evil Ryu and Oni), the robust online offerings (including the expanded Replay mode) and all the new EX moves and Focus Attacks.

Worms: Armageddon: XBLA- 800 MS                      PSN: $9.99

If you have four people sitting around a television but only one controller, I’m going to boldly say that Worms is the best possible video game to have.  And that is saying a lot.  If you’ve never played, I’ll layout the concept for you:  You control a team of four worms as they, turn by turn, decimate the opposition with combination of crazy weaponry and environmental dangers.  Yes, it is as fun as it sounds.

Ina ddition to the fantastic and hilarious gameplay, Worms Armageddon offers a metric butt-ton of customization options, ranging from weapon selections to outfits to what voice your worm uses for his battle cry.  Trust me, wiping out three worms with a single Holy Hand Grenade is as fun as it gets.

Small Arms: XBLA- 400 MS                                           PSN: N/A

For only five bucks, Small Arms offers a passable Smash Bros. style brawler that can be a deviously good time with four people.  A fair number of unique characters, weapons and stages ore included, although you’ll find few incentives to play by yourself.  Variety may not be Small Arms’ specialty, but if you have three extra controllers and a grudge to settle, you should look no further.

Plus, it is only $5.  Better than spending that on something frivolous, right?