There are- or, rather, were- over 3000 games on Xbox Live Indie Games.

Here are 16 of them.

(And, well, a whole bunch more that snuck onto other platforms but that's less dramatic-sounding).

Originally known as Xbox Community Games, the Xbox Live Indie Games section of your Xbox 360's game marketplace was... Weird. Developed with Microsoft's own XNA framework, basically as long as you had a retail 360, a Windows PC. and met the requirements such as a small total file size and a subscription to the App Hub service, you could submit something and, after passing peer review, have our actual game up on a real marketplace to buy for, uh, pittance, to the point where Zeboyd Games' Steam rereleases of their XBLIG games Breath of Death VII and Cthulu Saves the World made what the XBLIG versions did across their life... In six days. No, really. The service did help to grow some studios who'd go on to bigger and better things, and you can see some of those companies in this tribute to the service, which will close down by the end of 2017 as it's being 'sunsetted'. All those games are going to disappear forever! Isn't that sad?



Well... As you may have guessed from the fact there are over 3000 games on the service, beyond peer review there wasn't much in terms of oversight or curation or anything that protected against total steaming garbage clogging the thing, and yes, there is a lot of garbage. A lot. 'Massage' apps that just make your controller rumble, ~sexy~ games that were in fact the polar opposite of sexy, whatever the fuck No Luca No is, endless endless Flappy Bird and Minecraft clones, every possible use and combination of the terms 'Zombie', 'Craft' and 'Avatar', at least one game that traced its character art from a Touhou game, and a game that seriously looks like it was made in Comipo. Basically, I don't envy anyone who's made it their job to try and archive and preserve all of that. I certainly don't blame you if you're not up for trading in your shovel for an excavator to plough through all the trash to find what gems there are before it closes forever.

So, what follows is a brief look at some of the games we found interesting on the service. See these as shorter, 'capsule'-esque overviews of these games, although one has an older article ready for you to read. We decided to keep this list strictly to games that aren't currently available anywhere else, which means, in our minds, there's several key titles missing. We'll be giving a very brief look at some games available elsewhere afterwards, but for now, you may wish to read this Alpha Secret Base overview we did years ago as many of thier games are our favourites and, as we'll find out later, you can get them on Windows. For now though, here's our 16-shot Sunset Selection! Just, uh, watch out for the screenshot quality. Gotta work with what we have!



Astroman



2010, Starquail Games
Genre: Platformer

Astroman comes to us from Starquail Games, whose better-known work is Tiny Barbarian DX, and this is a very peaceful, chilled-out Metroid-esque adventure, with Astroman himself stranded in deep space and looking for parts of his destroyed ship to get back on his way in one piece. There's no aiming up or down, and your gun actually has limited ammo, but you can pick up additional hit points along the way via hidden capsules, and there's plenty of ammo lying around. It's a little slow-paced, but it feels very relaxing in a strange way- the music is very subtle and understated, checkpoints are frequent and you can retry a section from them as many times as you like, and each area is actually its own separate stage so you won't get lost, although the end of a stage is not necessarily where you'll find a ship part. Ship parts let you explore more of the wold map, slowly expanding you level selection. A nice game to relax with, to take your time playing and take it easy.




Chieri no Doki β˜… Doki
Yukemuri Burari Tabi




JP Title: ちえりのドキ★ドキ湯煙ぶらり旅
2010, MountPunch
Genre: Shoot-em-up

One of the failings of the XBLIG marketplace is that finding Japanese games takes a bit more effort, as they're almost always at the very end of the list. Some list their names in English, but Chier no Doki Doki Yubemuri Burai Tabi did not. That's why the JP text is there for you if want to grab it! Tasked with saving your dad from a hot springs filled with nefarious ducks, you're armed with a hook that can latch onto grapple points, and a rapid-fire weapon used by latching onto a point and aiming with the thumbstick. So, in a way, a cross between a shoot-em-up (except reversed- enemies appear from the bottom!) and Umihara Kawase (especially as you have momentum and need to avoid falling into the water at the bottom). Throw in a points system, with enemies and bullets deflected with your china dropping fruits you can grab by letting go of the grapple point and leading to extra lives at certain thresholds, and you have a standout title for XBLIG- a very neat and inventive shoot-em-up.

For another look at this game from a friend, please pop over to Lunatic Obscurity!




Cosmic Caverns



2011, Maximinus
Genre: Flying

A little shuttle-em-up, reminiscent of games like Lunar Lander and the Net Yaroze title Gravitation, as Stuntman Dan you have to make it through treacherous space caverns, with infinite fuel but a limited amount of hits you can take before exploding. As you unlock more levels, with a map that usually opens two branches every time you clear a stage, more traps get introduced, including lock-on laser beams, black holes and rival spaceships. A bit like Astroman, it's subtle and quiet, with some odd touches like Stuntman Dan being visible at all times and offering sage words of advice at the start of each level, and the orchestra-esque music throughout. There's not that many levels, but it's definitely worth a look if, like me, you have an odd soft spot for games where you fly a tiny spaceship and have inertia and momentum to deal with.




Earth Shaker



2010, Battenburg Software
Genre: Maze

Alroght, this is the one cheat on our list, as while the others are all homegrown XBLIG games unavailable elsewhere, this is a bit different- it's actually a port of a ZX Spectrum game- a Your Sinclair covertape game- of all things! There were a few other odd ports like this- Timeslip from PS1's Net Yaroze programme made it to XBLIG, as did ZX Spectrum stablemates Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy- and we decided to shine a light on this one because of its relative obscurity and the fact our American readers may not be too familiar with the ZX Spectrum style. As for the game itself, it's pretty much a Boulder Dash clone, so standard fare for a covertape game, but it includes a few extra things like forcefields and new hazards like fires, and also comes with a level editor to make your own levels. Plenty of Boulder Dash clones out there, even on XBLIG, but there's something charming about the ZX Spectrum presentation preserved in this release.




Irekae Maho-chan



JP Title: いれかえまほちゃん
2010, ITL Inc.
Genre: Puzzle

Another game on XBLIG hidden right at the back because of its Japanese title, this is an updated version of a game called EXCHANGE POSITION, nominated at the XNA Game Studio Japan 2008 Spring Contest, and it's a cute single-screen puzzler. You have to get to the exit door on each stage, but Maho-chan can't attack- she can only launch a star horizontally or diagonally up/down, and when that star hits an enemy, she'll swap positions with them. It's not super-difficult, but if you are stuck it'll let you skip a stage, and some stages will require a bit of dexterity and understanding of what you can do with your limited mechanics. You can also select any cleared stage, and it actually has achievements- not official ones, but Records available on a separate screen. Perhaps not the best puzzle-platformer on our list- the difficulty does weirdly fluctuate rather than get steadily harder, and the extra lives seem a bit superfluous when you can restart from cleared stages- but a neat idea, executed relatively well.




Jewelry Master Twinkle



2009, ARIKA
Genre: Puzzle

Aha, this one's easy! A very engaging and challenging puzzler with many similarities to a pet favourite, Cleopatra Fortune, this is probably our favourite game available exclusively on Xbox Live Indie Games. We like it so much, in fact, we already wrote a big thing on it that goes into the game's origins and why we like it so much. So, not much to say here, go and look over there instead!




Koron de JUMP



JP Title: コロンでジャンプ
2009, YUWAKA
Genre: Platformer

Oh, I really wanted this one to be a favourite! It's an auto-scrolling platformer where you control an adorable girl with a leaf she can use as a parachute to slow her descent. The stages are relatively short and the presentation is very cute, but it's kinda done in by the collision detection, which is more than a little off. In particular, platforms that lower and raise will not automatically move your character up or down, and small moving obstacles like birds are much more likely to hit you than you might think. It's a shame because it's otherwise inoffensive- it looks cute, it's not an original concept but it does what it does fairly well, it's just a lot more unforgiving than it ideally should be, and the death noises are a lot louder than everything else. Oh well! If you have a bit of patience, maybe it's worth a try.




Lolita of Labyrinth



2011, aorz
Genre: Platformer

Somehow, this game is even stranger than the title would lead you to believe. A bored princess starts exploring the worlds inside a giant painting, taking the form of a slow-paced and awkward platformer. You've got a double-jump, a dash to get under low ceilings, special magic such as thunder to attack foes and a magic umbrella to float, and... A stamp attack, where you stomp on top of fallen enemies (including pigs with dinner carts and pollen-spewing plants) for extra points. The presentation is probably the most striking thing about this one, with a rendered CG sprite style which makes it look like a very late 16-bit game (not a complaint, necessarily) but the animation is very awkward, and the game has ill-fitting jangly guitars for its soundtrack. It doesn't help that the controls are also very floaty and strange with weird hit detection, making the game quite frustrating to actually play with you constantly missing platforms and bumping into enemies you didn't intend to. At least it looks distinct enough from the 1000-or-so other platformers on XBLIG, and that's something, isn't it?




Mama & Son - Clean House



2010, Ludosity Interactive
Genre: Platformer

A surprisingly clever little single-screen platformer that, unless you're more dextrous than I am, really needs to be played in co-op. Really Shooter and his mama run a cleaning service that shifts into alien-blasting when UFOs invade, and so they must work together and rely on the other pulling their weight to survive. Really Shooter will revive every time after dying and has a machine-gun to blast aliens, but his ammo is limited and he's defenceless without it. Poor Mama (that's her name) can jump, but can't attack and can only be hit so many times before she dies and the game is over. The bullet casings left in Really Shooter's wake, however, can be brushed along by Mama into bins to make new ammo for him, and she can also clean the walls for bonus points. So, Really has to protect Mama, and Mama has to keep Really armed. You can play by yourself with twin-sticks, but really this needs a second player- if you have one though, this is a very neat co-op game, one of the more pleasant surprises on our list.




My Chabudai



2012, konoha
Genre: Shoot-em-up / RPG

I'm not entirely certain you can call My Chabudai a good game, necessarily, but it's certainly novel and not something you'd easily find elsewhere. It's a hybrid of a top-down RPG and a... shoot-em-up? You control a flying tea table and, much like Scramble, shoot down enemies with either straight shots or angled bombs and... That's it, really. You can take a few hits before dying, but the real quirk with this one- such as it is- is that you can grab money from destroyed enemies and, critically, keep it if you die. You'll need to do that, because then you can go to the nearby shop and buy upgrades to your ship table and get new weapons like... XBLIG is awash with shoot-em-ups of all kinds, so you're better served by almost anything else on the platform- this one goes at an almost glacial pace- but I put it on this list because c'mon, how often are you gonna see a shoot-em-up/RPG hybrid starring a girl flying around on a tea table?




Ninja Chop!!



2010, zerozerozero
Genre: QTE

I don't actually remember downloading this. I had trouble finding out the game's developer, or the year it was released, because none of this is listed on the title and the game itself has already been delisted from Xbox Live Indie Games. This game doesn't exist anymore. But here we are, I guess? This is a very simple game where you just press the button at the right time on a meter to chop the milk bottles (or, if you want, human heads) in one hit, a bit like the beer bottle challenge in Art of Fighting, except you get splattered afterwards. At certain levels you also unlock bonus challenges such as knocking a set of dominos over in one blow, but it's just a QTE game, and a weird one at that. This feels like the kind of game you'd play at the very back of a dodgy arcade with the windows blacked-out, but I felt obliged to throw it in here simply because it does not exist anymore. The developers, it would seem, went ahead and remade it substantially for Android as Ninja Chop Z Sakura, so go look that up if you really want.




Nyan-Tech



2011, dot zo games
Genre: Puzzle

Now this is a gem, recommended to us by a friend (ta, Kitten). A single-screen platformer, it starts off exceedingly simple- get the key, open the door, don't run out of time- but quickly introduces the main game mechanic of using every button on your 360 controller. Platforms and blocks are controlled by holding or tapping the buttons shown on-scren- green blocks are controlled with A, blue with X, and so on. This quickly escalates, leading you to have to hol your controller in strange and unusual ways to keep all the buttons pressed, and this gets even more complicated when you remember you need to use A to jump- plan your approach so the blocks are active/inactive as necessary so you can make it to the exit! My favourite element is the fact that the time only ever advances when you are moving- you have time to think about how to make it to the end (and some stages require you to move only when necessary to get to the end). One of our favourite hidden treasures on the service. We also recommend looking at the developer's other game on XBLIG, Ninja-Bros., with similar controller-bending ideas.




Protect Me Knight



JP Title: まもって騎士
2010, Ancient.
Genre: Tower Defence

If there's only one game on this list you're already aware of, it's probably Protect Me Knight. Developed by Yuzo Koshiro's company Ancient, we call Protect Me Knight a tower defense game but it's a bit different from the norm. Taking on the appearance of an 8-bit game (with a skippable intro that even has you doing a bit of cassette fufu to get the game to run), you pick one of four character classes with different special attacks and set out to defend your princess from monster attacks (as she's not a tower, she walks around and you can even push her out of danger if necessary). Bashing monsters earns you Love Points you can use to upgrade your stats between stages or build new barricades and upgrade existing ones into little towers or even catapults, and, well, that's it really. Don't let your princess die, basically! There's a lot to like here, and there's a reason it's fairly well-known on the service- the presentation is top-notch, the action is constant and at times overwhelming but never totally forlorn, and more than anything the game supports local co-op for up to four players, which is, needless to say, a lot of fun. If you have friends for this, it's a very easy recommendation. Luckily, even when XBLIG goes down, Protect Me Knight will live on in the form of its sequel, Gotta Protectors, on the 3DS eShop.




Rushing Punch



JP Title: ラッシングパンチ
2011, Divider Games
Genre: Scrolling Brawler - 3D

Alright, you got me, here's the poison chalice, the game that's just plain ol' bad. There are more than enough terrible games on XBLIG to fill this list a hundred times over, so we had to have a representative, no? A 3D homage to belt-scrollers, Rushing Punch is not very good. The mechanics are very simple, enemies are completely single-minded and will head to you immediately, leading them to gang up on you in giant gaggles and making it much more likely you'll be lamped before you can attack, and the stages are just straight roads hemmed in by walls. At the very least, it's unintentionally amusing, mostly due to the fact that after you defeat all the normal punks on a stage, you have to fight skeletons. Sometimes the skeletons are red, sometimes they are green. It doesn't matter. You will fight these skeletons. That's not the sentiment I expected to end this on, but there we are.




SHOOTING CHICKEN BrutalSuckers



2012, Kohei Gallery
Genre: Platformer - Run and Gun

This is a very strange one, as in theory it could be a pretty solid run-and-gun, but it feels very scattershot and, well, a little all over the place. A heavily-upgraded rerelease of SHOOTING CHICKEN Revenge (yes, you'd think that was the upgrade, but no), Kohei Gallery's poultry-themed run-and-gun sees you fending off bizarre-looking chickens with a shotgun, grenades, and any extra weapons you can get your hands on. There's a surprising amount of things going on, with a combo meter and a Yakitori Bonus for killing chickens a certain way, but even on the easiest setting, the game is so chaotic and haphazard that it's hard to get a bead on exactly what's happening. The sceen is almost constantly covered with chickens and getting a Yakitori Bonus requires such a specific set-up that it's hard to concentrate on it when chaos is all around. It doesn't help that the special weapons cause the game to drop frames- it doesn't slow down, just skips frames all over the place, making it even more difficult to parse. There's a decent game hiding in here, probably, and perhaps it'll appeal to you if you can deal with the calamity on-screen, but it feels more like a headless chicken than anything else (Arf! Arf!).




The Tempura of the Dead



2011, 8bits fanatics
Genre: Platformer

A game that uses a sorta-6-bit look to tell the story of President Thompson (armed with guns) and Sugimoto (armed with a sword) saving America from a zombie infestation, it's hard not to be charmed by this one. Especially if you have a soft spot for KAZe and Meldac's bizarre NES shoot-em-up Zombie Nation, as while the two games play completely differently, visual style-wise the games are very close. Switching between Thompson and Sugimoto at will to use their different abilities, Tempura is almost like an expanded single-screen platformer as you have to hunt down certain Germ enemies with fairly basic movement/combat mechanics, the main wrinkle being that juggling zombie heads turns them into tempura which gives you extra lives you can exchange in the shops for health boosts and new abilities. Thing is, I remember this being fantastic when I first played it, but my second time around was a bit less fun. Mainly, while the game introduces more enemy types as the game goes on, it doesn't feel like it gets more complex, just that you take so much more damage as you progress that you'll be stalled (especially on Stages 17 and 24) unless you buy upgrades. It's hard to articulate but it doesn't feel like a game you really get better at, exactly, your numbers (be it number of abilities or hit points) just go up, which feels weird for a game trying to evoke the spirit of 8-bit action. The jumping controls being a bit fussy don't help (I've walked off platforms to my death when I swear I pressed Jump in time). Not a terrible game, and the setting and story sequences are a superb homage to 8-bit nonsense make it very likeable and charming. I really wanted to talk this one up too, but I guess my memory failed me, alas!




Yukkuri no Meikyū



JP Title: ゆっくりの迷宮
2010, HOSSIE
Genre: Dungeon Crawler - First Person

I can think of no weirder note to end on than whatever the hell Yukkuri no Meikyū is, a game so strange I had to make a US account for it as it's nowhere to be seen on the UK store. Oh, and surprise! It's a Touhou game! Well, a fangame, based on the Yukkuri shiteitte ne! meme from 2ch, with Touhou characters represented as giant disembodied heads with strange expressions. You must wander the maze and punch Yukkuris in the face while they shout "TAKE IT EASY!" in Japanese at you, with different-coloured Yukkuris raising different stats such as attack, defense and 'sight' (which adds a minimap), and fina the exit before time's up. Your performance is then graded and you'll slowly reveal a poorly-modeled Touhou character, and you get a little gallery of them if you fully reveal the model. The main quirk of the game is the treasures chests can contain... People from your friends list! The more Gamerpoints that friend has, the bigger time bonus you get, so better hope you don't get one of your alt accounts. There's really not much more to it than that, but it's oddly compelling, much like Yukkuris themselves.




We have a couple more titles to briefly mention before we're done here, though!



While all the games on the XBLIG service are going to disappear- if you're reading this any time after September 2017, they have already gone to join the choir invisible- many of them have shown up elsewhere. By far the most extensive selection comes from Alpha Secret Base, whose website has Windows downloads of all their games, as they were originally released for free on there. That includes several notable games that showed up on XBLIG, such as the world-rotating Kaiten Patissier (and the For Super Players version, Ura Kaiten Patisier), Umihara Kawease sans physics-em-up Ganbare Natsuki San, single-screen shooter Exelinya Burst, and the bubble-themed puzzler Green Island (which bears the distinction of appearing on two dead services- it was also released on Playstation Mobile). They're mostly puzzle-platformer games, so if that genre is your bag, you shold absolutely check their website out, as it'll be your only chance for playing these games once XBLIG bites it!



Some other notable games that managed to escape XBLIG and live on other services include interconnected platform adventure LaserCat (Steam), Toaplan-inspired shoot-em-up Twin Tiger Shark (itch.io), scrolling brawler Twin Blades (PSP) games by Mommy's Best Games (pack on Steam), Zeboyd Games' RPGs Breath of Death VII and Cthulu Saves the World (pack on Steam), and finally live-action scrolling brawler Streets of Fury (Steam). Oh, and The Maid_san's Caving Adventure I suppose (Steam) which was actually on our list until they announced a Steam release days after I started this. Ahem. I'm certain there's others I've missed, so do email us if we have!

You may also be interested in the XBLIG overviews available at Lunatic Obscurity- as well as their own look at Chieri no Doki β˜… Doki Yukemuri Burari Tabi, you can read stuff on Exelinya Burst, Mimi in the Sky, Leucistic Wyvern and δΈ€>β—‡. Give them a look, their screenshots are way better than ours! Finally, friends of the site RetroPals did an XBLIG: In Memoriam stream with a showcase of the true XBLIG experience- starting strong with Yukkuri no Meikyū, and later looking at nonsense like AAH, HALLOWEEN PIE! and whatever RE: Get To Schol On Time is. Look on in awe!





That's your lot, then. Certainly not a list that represents every aspect of Xbox Live Indie Games- no massage simulators, Avatar tower defense games or even Try Not to Fart, but we just wanted to talk about a bunch of interesting games that are going to disappear forever, I suppose. Gotta let us have that, at least! Don't mourn too hard for most of those games getting sent to the void, though- you'll really need a lot of time and patience to comb through those 3000+ games to find the gems, or even the games that are so bad they're good. It's probably not worth it at this late stage, but hey, if you give some of the ones on our list a try (and remember, every XBLIG game has an eight-minute demo!) then hopefully we'll have done something useful today.

OK, we're all done now! Now let's do the same for Playstation Mobile and OH NO TOO LATE