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Best of the Decade - Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved

Platform: Xbox 360

Release Date: November 22, 2005

Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios

Developer: Bizarre Creations

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved has many honorable traits worthy of mentioning all on its own. During a time period where there was a notable drought of quality retail Xbox 360 games, it provided an oasis of cheap, downloadable fun. Its simple design hid an addicting game that could eat up hours of your time without you even realizing it. Its single-minded focus on topping your score and testing your reflexes channeled the simplistic appeal of the arcade games of yore, but brought the experience right to the living room and updated it with modern features and a fresh coat of paint.

You didn’t need a bag full of quarters from your mom to enjoy this gem. For a measly $10 or so, you could download it right to your console and play to your heart’s desire, whether for 5 minutes or 5 hours.

As laudable as Geometry Wars was, and its sequel surpassed it in nearly every way, what it represented in a more philosophical sense is why it’s on this list. There have been plenty of other downloadable games I have spent more time with than this, Geometry Wars 2 being a great example, but this title paved the way for all to follow. It heralded a new era of unique titles made possible through the magic of the Internet. Fantastic ideas for games that simply wouldn’t be possible through traditional retail channels, even at a budget price, could see the light of day thanks to digital distribution and lower costs all around, both for developers and consumers. 

Were I to be forced to choose one aspect of the modern console generation as my favorite, I would be hard-pressed not to choose digital distribution. The sheer amount of creativity it has allowed in such a short span is phenomenal. As game budgets skyrocket and more focus is placed on complexity, incredible graphics, and sheer scale, it’s nice to have a place to go for alternatives; for games that do something simpler and more focused; for games that channel either pleasures of days gone by or entirely new ideas otherwise too risky for the big money required of the HD era. 

Thanks to Geometry Wars paving the way and proving that downloadable games could be quite the force to be reckoned with, we now have a future in which Double Fine can produce smaller titles better suited to their charming niche, in which Hydro Thunder can be brought back from the dead and deliver a compelling sequel to a bygone favorite for only $15, and in which countless small studios can have a chance at big time success by producing stunningly creative games that are simply too awesome for retail. 

Both for being a terrific game on its own and ushering in a new era of downloadable gaming goodness, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is one of my Best of the Decade. 

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