Though DLC is sometimes now sadly interpreted as a lazy way of distributing content that should of been within a game to begin with, expansion packs and nuggets of DLC are vital ingredients within the framework of a game that add even more longevity to an already great title.
Hailing from the expansive board games of old where expansions were first birthed, these additions not only bring new characters, items and maybe a mission or two to sink your teeth into for a few extra hours, a good expansion will completely alter the face of a game or become a microcosm of the main event gone before, but tighter and more succinct.
Or maybe it'll play out like Red Dead Redemption's ground-breaking DLC which was a complete shift in tone. But with all of this in mind, come with me as I wax lyrical about...
9 Of Video Games' Greatest Expansions And DLC Packs
See if you agree!
1. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
Though it was considered a firm sequel to the adventures of our second favorite plumber (real plumbers are way more badass), The Lost Levels stands as one of console gaming’s greatest expansions and one of the very first bits of additional content.
I say bits, the game had a whopping 32 levels across 8 worlds and bonus worlds some of which could be unlocked after playing it over 8 times! Way better than the muddled Doki Doki inspired mess of Super Mario Bros. 2.
2. Sonic & Knuckles - SEGA Lock-On Cart
SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive (1994)
I still remember the first time I got my hands on the iconic ‘Lock-On cartridge’ that housed the excellent Sonic & Knuckles. My mind was blown, you could pop Sonic 3 in and be treated to an entirely new game with an entirely new and badass character!
How the hell was that possible?! Well seeing as Sonic 3 was such a massive game, instead of releasing the game to an inevitable demise on SEGA CD, the legendary software kings created the ‘Lock-On’ which, when coupled with the cartridge, offered the game in its daunting entirety. Did you ever finish Sonic & Knuckles? I sure as hell didn’t!
3. Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969
OG Grand Theft Auto brought the gaming community to its knees back at the turn of the century, and for rightful reason too. The game was a PhD in teenage anarchism and manic respite that was so desperately needed at a time before emojis and modern cat-worshipping. Though I guess emojis and cat-worshipping existed long before smart-devices and selfies. Ancient Egypt, anyone?
I digress. The first expansion pack ever released for the PlayStation, GTA: London, 1969 required you to pop the disc in, then pop in OG GTA’s disc before popping London back in again in order to get to grips with its 39 new missions in the glory of England's capital city. Who would’ve thought the swinging Sixties would’ve been a perfect time to commit heinous, pixelated crimes?
4. Mew - Pokémon Red & Blue
Game Boy (1996)
Just when you thought 150 Pokémon was way more than enough to covet and kidnap, suddenly a wild Nintendo released a much-hyped expansion to the wholeheartedly seminal Red & Blue that introduced us to the game’s most powerful (and cutest) creature.
For a while Mew, the 151st ‘mon, was only attainable via Nintendo promotional roadshows, which is a genius way of spreading even more frenzy: make dude exclusive. Also, as it stands, I believe Mew might be the first instance of on-cart DLC...
5. Half-Life: Opposing Force
I was lucky enough to have gotten my hands on a super cheap copy of a Half-Life box-set that contained the original game, Blue Shift, Opposing Force and something else I forget (it was a while ago, man), and it was the most fun I had on the PC until Championship Manager 01/02 released.
The idea of playing through Half-Life again but as one of Gordon Freeman’s human antagonists was badass. It opened up the story even more so and showed just how far the rabbit hole of Black Mesa actually went. And as we all know, it was pretty damn deep.
6. Crackdown - Keys to the City
Xbox 360 (2007)
If you enjoyed the surprise hit of Winter 2007’s citywide assault on crime, Crackdown’s DLC cheats pack ramped the madness up to unfathomable levels. With the ability to turn your Agents into bonafide superheroes, maxing out the tiniest detail like grenade damage and spawning cars and weapon instantaneously, ‘Keys to the City’ turned the game into the explosive, co-op, super caper we never realized we needed. Well I had a shit ton of fun anyways.
7. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Xbox 360/PS3 (2010)
Arguably the greatest piece of DLC post-seventh generation of consoles, Undead Nightmare completely changed what was already a phenomenal game into an utterly hilarious, sometimes scary and genuinely melancholic (dat Sasquatch mission tho…) tour de force.
Even though the Zombie trope is as tired as Atlas, Rockstar managed to reignite the fun of the apocalypse by being simply mad! Never has setting the dead alight with a horse of firey, mythical glory been so much fun.
8. Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
Xbox 360/PS3 (2010)
This particular DLC holds a special place in my heart, because I never expected immense set-pieces and storytelling as good as Mass Effect 2’s in DLC I picked up for basically nothing. ME2 was as solid as a diamond salad, and as gritty too, but Lair of the Shadow Broker was something else entirely.
Playing out as some kind of grizzled detective story, the DLC had great boss battles, brilliant character building for a returning Liara T’Soni and a f**king mid-air car chase. What?! Yas, Bioware! Yas.
9. The Witcher 3 - Blood & Wine
Xbox One, PS4, PC (2016)
What other way is there to describe The Witcher 3’s new DLC than a literal all-new game. CD Project RED continue to outdo themselves and have managed to create a massive new area filled to the brim with new quests, new characters and even new voice actors too (with over 140,000 new lines of dialogue…). This is the thing lists are made for. Oh... wait.