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From additional maps and quests to super expensive pieces of horse armor, downloadable content ranges the spectrum. While DLC has generally been accepted as just another part of modern gaming, however, it's not always welcomed by the players with open arms. Sometimes, though, that additional content is well worth the added price of admission.
The problem with DLC is that a few bad examples can ruin the entire experience for everyone. Charge players too much money for too little content or, even worse, content that feels like it should have been included in the core game, and folks will start to view additional content, in its entirety, as a bad thing.
But while it's probably easier to complain about those games that got DLC wrong, we shouldn't forget that some developers managed to hit it out of the park with their downloadable content. Here's our list of some of the best games that got DLC so, so right.
BioShock 2: Minerva's DenWhile most gamers seem to remember BioShock 2 as the follow-up that never quite lived up to the brilliance of the original, the Minerva's Den DLC had folks singing a decidedly different tune. A separate tale from the main game, Minerva's Den takes place in a new branch of Rapture where technology is king. You take on the role of another Alpha series Big Daddy, Sigma, who must unravel the mystery of Charles Milton Porter, the man who built the supercomputer that runs much of the underwater city. One of the BioShock series' greatest strengths is its ability to tell a compelling story, and condensing such a yarn into a more bite-sized piece of DLC allowed Porter and Sigma's tale to pack an even meaner punch. There was plenty of great gameplay crammed in, too, with upgrades accelerated to take you from zero to hero of the course of a small campaign.
Assassin's Creed IV: Freedom CryAn expansion to Assassin's Creed IV and eventually sold as a standalone adventure, Freedom Cry picks up 15 years into the future and stars your former first mate, Adawale, who has now been trained in the arts of the assassin. You're going to notice a trend with quite a few of the entries on this list: They're offshoots of the core game that tell their own story, rather than simply tacking on some new gear or a new PvP map. Adewale's story is a shorter affair which, for games set in open worlds, is actually a positive. Rather than spread out the story beats amidst loads of side quests and exploration, you can consume Adewale's intriguing tale in about five hours, making for a better narrative. Freedom Cry boeasts all of the gameplay you love from Assassin's Creed IV, but throws in some new areas to navigate and plenty of shady slave traders in need of dispatching.
The Last of Us: Left BehindIf there's one thing that the folks at Naughty Dog know how to do, it's build a fantastic action game with a story worth paying attention to. In their follow-up to the legendary Uncharted series, the team gave gamers new heroes to root for in the form of grizzled but golden Joel and the feisty but reliable Ellie. While The Last of Us unraveled a fantastic yarn about an unlikely duo trying to survive the apocalypse, we only ever caught brief glimpses of Joel and Ellie's days before the world came crashing down. The Left Behind DLC did a magnificent job of filling in one of the key gaps for Ellie, telling yet another hard-hitting story in a more condensed space. Naughty Dog even retooled some of the game's mechanics to create some additional touching moments, as well as introduced a whole new way to interact with the infected monsters and bandits that kept trying to give our survivors a hard time.
Skyrim: DragonbornWhat's the best way to enhance a fantastic game? Pile on even more of it. Skyrim's Dragonborn DLC is most notable because of how much new content it crams into an already massive game. Players of the third game in the Skyrim series will get an especially nostalgic kick out of the Dragonborn DLC, as it returns to the island of Solstheim. There, you'll meet the first Dragonborn, Miraak, who will trigger yet another grand adventure for you to undertake. Like the main game, Solstheim is full of locations to explore, missions to undertake and side events to distract you from your main objective. You'll find new gear and yells to add to your arsenal, as well as the ability to tame and ride a freaking dragon. While you killed plenty of dragons in Skyrim, the Dragonborn DLC let you turn them into fire-breathing teammates. What's not to love about that?
Red Dead Redemption: Undead NightmareWhenever someone complains about money-grubbing publishers and crooked DLC practices, Red Dead Redemption's Undead Nightmare pack is one of the first examples I'll offer as a counterpoint. This wonderful bit of gaming awesomeness took everything that was great about Rockstar's fantastic open world Western and dropped it into the middle of a campfire horror story. Read Dead was given a complete makeover for the Undead Nightmare, including a new soundtrack, a new look to the UI and even a tweak to the game world that dropped it into a state of perpetual, eerie sunset. Not only does the game look different, but it also played different, as the tactics you needed to utilize to take out hordes of zombies was completely different from what worked against evil desperados. Throw in some monster-themed missions, mounts and hunting targets, and you've got yourself a fantastic piece of gaming content that does DLC proud.
Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes from Liberty CityAnother piece of evidence that Rockstar knows how to give players bang for their buck when it comes to DLC, Episodes from Liberty City is technically two major pieces of DLC (The Lost and the Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony), either of which would fit perfectly on this list. Similar to the Red Dead DLC from above, these additional campaigns tell their own unique stories about additional colorful characters from one of the best open world games to date. From high class mobster types to biker gang showdowns, Lost and Ballad gave more flavor to an already rich recipe. Both packs featured lengthy separate campaigns, new vehicles and plenty of more ways to waste your time causing chaos in Liberty City.
XCOM: Enemy WithinXCOM: Enemy Unknown was already a brilliant strategic combat game and then the developers went and introduced us to Enemy Within, one of those DLC packs that’s so full of content it might as well be its own new game. Enemy Within not only injected XCOM with a wide array of new maps to learn and a brand new campaign to work through, but it also introduced some changes that actually improved the base game. A spruced up tech tree allowed for more upgrade paths that offered interesting and viable options, while a new resource called “Meld” introduced a brand new way to upgrade your troops and gear. Even better is the fact that Meld was sprinkled across the map and attached to self-detonating timers, meaning that more conservative players needed to change up their old habits and play more aggressively if they wanted to unlock that wild new gear more quickly.