Downloadable content (DLC) as a concept initially seemed foreign, like it could perhaps never work for the gaming industry. The thought of perhaps shelling out more money on a game did not appeal to everyone.
As time went on, it became more clear that not only does DLC work as a way of generating renewed interest for a video game, it further increased the revenue and content for a particular franchise.
DLC is a great way to expand the already established worlds and give the players something to keep coming back to – with more story, collectables and even hints as to where franchises will go in the future.
This list is the cream of the crop and some of the best DLCs in video games.
1. Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker
By creating one of the deepest and most impactful science fiction worlds ever put to fiction, Bioware put themselves on such a high pedestal with Mass Effect 2 that people wondered if they were not Icarus flying too close to the sun.
By weaving a story akin to a spy movie as well as reuniting the player with the beloved, Liara T’soni, no one would argue that Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC was Bioware at their best. It gave the player a rollercoaster of thrills from the very second you boot up the game until the end.
Removing the veil of mystery surrounding the Shadow Broker was always going to be tough to pull off. Especially considering the teases the first game gave us.
The Bioware writers managed to create an amazing two-act story which stands the test of time in terms of what video game expansions can achieve for a franchise.
2. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
How do you end one of the most beloved franchises in video game history? With vampires, of course!
By adapting the famed Polish book series, CD Projekt Red managed to craft not only one of the most well-loved video game franchises of all time but also one of the best video games of all time with The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.
Set in the Italian-esque landscape of Toussaint, The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine gave the player an amazingly rich world to explore and live out their wildest fantasies. The DLC wraps up Geralt of Rivia’s story where he may spend his years in retirement (if he manages to get that far).
Blood and Wine gives the player an extra 30 hours of gameplay in a DLC which could have easily been released as a standalone game. It serves as an excellent swan song to the franchise.
3. Shovel Knight: Spectre of Torment
Despite the amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign that Yacht Club Games managed to achieve with Shovel Knight, nobody was ready for just how good the game would actually be.
The amazing side-scroller earned over $300,000, and because of that, we got a multitude of extra story content added. With the release of the original Shovel Knight campaign, which was renamed to Shovel of Hope post-release, Yacht Club Games developed a number of follow up campaigns to expand the lore of the world, with Spectre of Torment being perhaps the most interesting one.
Following the eponymous Specter Knight, we get to see more of the man behind the mask. We learn parts of the backstory and how he recruited the Order of No Quarter. The DLC added a lot of replayability, a hilarious body swap mode and a co-op mode so it can all be played with a friend.
4. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
When Rockstar announced that they were creating a Sergio Leone inspired western game as a spiritual successor to their earlier work Red Dead Revolver, it is safe to say that excitement was a little tempered. While Grand Theft Auto 4’s well-crafted vision of Liberty City was enough to leave fans of that franchise in awe, it was hard to place faith in Rockstar making an old-western style game.
Red Dead Redemption blew it out of the water. They set a high bar which games to this day still fail to meet. The bar was extended even further when they released the Undead Nightmare DLC.
By creating a huge expansive world, and hiding stuff in every corner for players to find, Red Dead Redemption offered plenty of content to sink your teeth into. Adding zombies into the mix somehow only added to the experience.
Undead Nightmare was released at the height of zombie popularity. Due to this, the expansion was a roaring success and still holds its place as one of the most successful DLC’s ever released.
5. Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep
After completing Borderlands 2 and defeating one of the most charismatic villains featured in a video game, Handsome Jack, nobody was quite sure what direction Gearbox’s DLC would go in.
While the previous three expansions were all good in their own ways, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep was an unexpected humorous way of capping off this part of the Borderlands saga. It offered an 8-hour Dungeons and Dragons-style campaign.
Tiny Tina is the Game Master, and knowing Borderlands, it was always bound to be hilarious but this is Gearbox at their funniest. There are countless jokes and numerous pop-culture references. Even a situation where you get to smack the borderlands’ facsimile of King Joffery from Game of Thrones.
The inclusion of Roland in the DLC was a bonus as well as finally seeing Butt Stallion for the first time. The added additions mixed with the Borderlands staples gives players a reason to come back time and time again.
6. Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
When Guerrilla games set out to make Horizon Zero Dawn, expectations were not that high. Eventually it turned out to be a masterpiece, giving us a gorgeous fantasy world combined with science fiction elements.
The popularity of franchises such as Game of Thrones and Star Wars led to a lot of video game developers trying their hands at epic worlds. Guerrilla certainly managed to pull it off, giving the player a rich 20-plus hour story with a wide open-world to explore.
The release of The Frozen Wilds expansion presented, not only a new area to explore, but a compelling 10-hour narrative, furthering the Aloy’s journey. It also featured new enemy types and collectibles to find.
Giving us a new land to explore only furthered our need to see more of this beautifully developed world. Something we will finally see next year with the release of Horizon: Forbidden West on the PS5.
7. Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City
FromSoftware were always going to have to tough time on their hands when making The Ringed City. Creating extra content for one of the most well-known sequels of all time is certainly a task not many would even attempt.
By giving us a world full of intrigue in every nook and cranny, as well as an already great piece of content with the Ashes of Ariandel add-on, FromSoftware worked hard to give us a wonderful end to one of the most well crafted Action-RPG franchises ever made.
The Ringed City provided countless easter eggs and references to previous entries in the series. It also had a huge new area to explore and many new items to find, allowing you to explore for hours on end.
The narrative explores the ramifications of the Ages of Ancients, Fire and Dark, but at the very end of the timeline. It connects us to what came before through the character of Slave knight Gael, passive in his inclusion in Ashes but powerful and aggressive here through use of the Blood of the Dark Soul corrupting him.
The Ringed City managed to tie off the franchise in such a satisfying way that any further delving into the lore would feel a little distasteful.
8. The Last of Us: Left Behind
We all know what a masterpiece The Last of Us is and how it struck a chord with a whole generation of gamers. Its beautiful storytelling and character depth took us on a journey none of us were ready to forget. Then came Left Behind. The story of a crucial moment in protagonist Ellie’s life – her first loss and how her immunity from the lethal fungal virus came to be.
This DLC pulled at the heartstrings. It created some of the most touching moments in the franchise. To experience Ellie in her youth, playing with her friend, reminded us that they are still just kids. Kids stuck in a horrific world full of awful decisions.
While playing the DLC you also get several choices as to how your relationship plays out with your friend Riley. Whether just friends or something more, the scenes which unfold are sweet and a great addition to the main protagonist’s story.
9. Spider-Man: The City That Never Sleeps
Insomniac’s first outing into the world of the famous web-head left fans ecstatic. With its glorious graphics, heartfelt story and that smoothly satisfying swinging mechanic, we were all left amazed and wanting more.
The City That Never Sleeps gave us exactly that. Not only did it expand the story – adding new characters, collectables and in-game events – it also added a lot more spider suits to unlock and collect. Referencing everything from the comics, movies and even other games it served to please fans from every corner of the media.
Black Cats introduction to the game kept fans on their toes, with the story taking many twists and turns along the way. It also pleased those of us that love a good collection – with easter eggs galore, time trials and a difficulty increase.
The DLC also helped to develop the relationship between Peter and Miles Morales. The two have some great scenes and conversations together, providing humour and hope for the upcoming Miles lead project releasing in November.
10. The Champion’s Ballad DLC (The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild)
With a player base already divided by the previous instalment, Skyward Sword, Nintendo decided to develop an expansion pass to expand on the world they created in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The Champion’s Ballad is neatly woven into the game after you beat all 4 Divine Beasts. The player must set out on a series of quests which follow the backstory of the four original champions.
It adds a further 16 shrines, the Master Trials, and a new way to traverse Hyrule in the form of the Master Cycle Zero. Nintendo clearly knew what they were doing, and have created a stunning DLC, adding to the hype of the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2.