Like it or not, we’re in the age of DLC. From simple cosmetic items to full-on story expansions, almost every major game released in the last ten or so years has had some form of downloadable content released after its launch. As the all-digital future gets closer and closer, it’s clear that, for better or worse, DLC is here to stay.
Despite the negative perception of DLC from many gamers, there are plenty of expansions that are well-thought out, and are worthy additions to their respective games. So let’s take a look at some of the best expansions out there, shall we?
Note: Since DLC is such a wide and nebulous term, this is strictly going to include story-based expansions. No horse armor, here, sadly.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel
Mass Effect 3 is a grim game. To be fair, any game that deals with the threat of annihilation across the galaxy is going to be pretty grim. The moments of levity are few and far between, which is what makes Citadel stand out all the more. It’s a bright light in a game that’s otherwise as dark as can be.
Citadel is essentially one big love letter to the Mass Effect trilogy. In it, all of Commander Shepard’s allies from the years come together one final time. The absolute highlight is the mission that brings together every party member from the series (well, those who are currently alive) for one giant, crowd-pleasing mission. And then there’s a party.
Citadel doesn’t expand the overall Mass Effect 3 story in any way, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to present an opportunity to say goodbye to these friends you’ve made across three games. Mass Effect 3’s (controversial, to say the least) ending may have marked the end of the chapter, but Citadel is the conclusion that Mass Effect fans deserved.
The Last of Us: Left Behind
Ellie is one of the most compelling characters introduced in a video game. A child who knows nothing but the post-apocalyptic world she was born in, Ellie is forced to be a survivor from birth. Right from the moment we meet her, we learn she is unique in this world. Somehow immune to the infection that’s plaguing society, Ellie quickly becomes one of the most important people in the world.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Ellie, and while Left Behind does touch on some of that mystery, it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. What it does do, however, is give greater context to what exactly Ellie is going through. We also get to see her be a kid, for once in her life. It also includes one of the most groundbreaking scenes in a video game, one that looks to be expanded upon in The Last of Us Part II.
Of course, this being The Last of Us, tragedy is going to be there. It’s a bittersweet tragedy, almost. With Ellie taking a central role in The Last of Us Part II, it’ll be fascinating to see how she’s grown.
New Super Luigi U
Ah, the Year of Luigi. One of very few games focusing on Mario’s less courageous younger brother, although the challenge is cranked to 11. New Super Mario Bros. U is one of the best 2D Mario platformers, and one of the Wii U’s gems. The levels in New Super Luigi U are shorter, but offer a much greater challenge.
The time limit for each level is slashed to 100 seconds, immediately starting things off tensely. The levels are also adjusted to better suit Luigi’s gameplay attributes, though you can still play as the Toads. The expansion also brings the ability to play as Nabbit who was an antagonist in New Super Mario Bros. U. Playing as him is essentially the game’s easy mode, immune to damage and turns any power-up collected into 1-ups.
Mario games aren’t necessarily known for their challenging gameplay, but New Super Luigi U is for the true Mario fanatics. A thrilling change of pace from your standard Mario game, New Super Luigi U is a worthy addition to the legendary series.
Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening
In case Dragon Age: Origins wasn’t epic enough for you (there’s a reason it was one of our Top 50 RPGs), Bioware went and added a whole new campaign. No, Awakening isn’t quite as expansive as the original, but it’s still a worthy expansion in itself.
Taking place six months after Dragon Age: Origins, Awakening features the Hero of Ferelden facing a new Darkspawn threat. Taking place in the Grey Warden’s base in Vigil’s Keep, Awakening is fascinating for the fact that only one party member from Origins makes a full-time return. Interestingly, all party members in Awakening are Grey Wardens, which is in contrast to Origins.
Awakening also introduces some of the most elements in the Dragon Age series, making it more than a simple addition. While rumors of a Dragon Age remaster persist, we can only hope Awakening is part of those plans.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
At the height of zombie mania, Rockstar’s Western epic completely turned on its head with Undead Nightmare. Turning Red Dead Redemption into a zombie horror game is probably not what many expected from Rockstar, but Rockstar was never really one to follow the expected path.
At around six hours, Undead Nightmare is still a meaty game on its own. Undead Nightmare is unique in the fact that it is completely separate from the main storyline, as it likely should be. When a zombie plague is unleashed, John Marston must saddle up and find a cure.
Even though it is essentially an expansion, Undead Nightmare still plays like you’d expect Red Dead Redemption (or any Rockstar game, really) to play. There’s an expansive open world filled with side quests for you to discover, all relating to zombies, of course. Rockstar’s arguably at its best when it gets weird, and Undead Nightmare is no exception. All we can hope for is for Red Dead Online to feature zombie-themed content of some kind.
Considering the sheer amount of DLC and expansions out there, this was certainly a hard list to create. What expansions are some of your favorites? Let us know!