The only thing that we love more than a particularly good game is an expansion that gives us even more of the best bits. Even when we’ve finished the main story and powered through all the sidequests and optional challenges, we’re never quite ready to say goodbye.
So when we get extra downloadable content (that’s DLCs for short), it gives us the perfect excuse to dive right back into the games we love most. What could be better than new story content, access to whole new areas, extra insights into our favourite characters, and a stack of cool new stuff to take back to the main game afterwards?
So in no particular order, here are 8 amazing DLCs from over the years. Be warned that there may be a few main game spoilers ahead!
1. The Last of Us: Left Behind
Set months before the tumultuous events of The Last of Us, this expansion turned standalone game gives us more of an insight into the fateful events that brought Ellie and Joel together.
After an extended absence, Ellie’s friend Riley makes an unexpected return to their boarding school late at night, leading to the two girls sneaking out to explore an abandoned shopping mall together. It’s an emotional and bittersweet story set in a world already corrupted by the zombie infection, and there’s a perfect mix of light-hearted fun (soaking Riley with the water pistol is always classic) and suffocating tension (lots of zombies, no proper weapons… you do the maths).
It works either as a perfect introduction to The Last of Us, or as an equally perfect follow-up to the game’s fateful ending. Basically, you can’t go wrong – just play it.
2. Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ignis
Let’s face it – the heroes of Final Fantasy XV wouldn’t have got very far without their bespectacled royal chancellor/chauffeur/tactician/personal chef. That’s why we were so thrilled when he got his very own DLC that not only expanded on the lore and world of the main game, but also broke our hearts into tiny pieces along the way.
At a certain point in the main game, Prince Noctis is separated from his royal retinue as the Empire attacks the city of Altissia and a rampaging water god begins to wreak havoc of her own. The DLC follows the same series of events, but from Ignis’ perspective instead – and it casts a completely new light on the whole scenario.
With a whole new section of Altissia to explore, tongue-in-cheek items like kitchenware and novelty specs to find, and even an alternate (and emotional) ending to the main story, Ignis’ DLC is about as indispensable as the man himself.
3. The Witcher: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine
Its excellent story aside, this particular DLC gets extra brownie points just for its sheer scale. It introduces a whole new duchy to explore, with a pile of side quests to complete, new beasties to slay, and multiple endings to aim for.
In this monster DLC (pun fully intended), Geralt of Rivia heads to Toussaint on the request of its Duchess Anna Henrietta to investigate the deaths of two knights. Of course, things aren’t quite as simple as they first appear, and Geralt ends up embarking on a complex and thrilling adventure involving monsters, jewel theft, mistaken identities, and even an enchanted world trapped within the pages of a book.
All in a day’s work for a witcher.
4. Marvel’s Spider-Man: The City That Never Sleeps
Have we ever mentioned how much we loved Marvel’s Spider-Man? There’s something about swinging around as everyone’s favourite friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man that ticks every box from our childhood dreams. And while The City That Never Sleeps is technically three DLC chapters rolled into one, we’re still counting the whole thing as one awesome expansion.
We finally got to meet the scene-stealing Black Cat (also known as Felicia Hardy, Spidey’s ex) in person, as well as getting to know more about recurring baddie Hammerhead and chilly mercenary Silver Sable.
Oh, and on top of the new story content we also got nine awesome new suits, stacks of new missions, and whole new enemy factions to boot. Definitely worth it.
5. Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den
If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent about as much time running away from the Big Daddy monsters in Bioshock 2 as you have fighting them. But in this DLC, you get to see things from the perspective of the bad guys – because you get to play as an Alpha Series Big Daddy named Subject Sigma.
Your task is to travel through the city of Rapture’s security station (also known as Minerva’s Den) in order to make a copy of the supercomputer contained within. This supercomputer, called the Thinker, controls the city’s automation, and its creator Charles Milton Porter wants to create another copy of it above ground so that its superior brain power can be used to do good. Of course, things get complicated and poor old Sigma has his work cut out trying to get there in one piece – especially as the story begins to take some pretty unexpected turns.
With seriously limited space in your inventory, managing your resources is absolutely key for survival, and it’s pretty neat to see corners of Rapture that we’ve never seen before.
6. Half-Life 2: Episode 2
The Half-Life 2 DLCs could very nearly be merged together to make a game in their own right, which is awesome. Each of the DLCs followed a different theme, and Episode 2 focuses on relatively open-world exploration, both on foot and with a variety of vehicles. One of our favourites was the souped-up Dodge Charger which changes gear with some delightfully satisfying clunks.
Picking up in the aftermath of Episode 1, in which (spoiler alert) City 17 was destroyed, Episode 2 sees Resistance fighters Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance journeying through the Outlands in search of the White Forest Resistance base. It turns out that the destruction of the Citadel enabled the enemy Combine aliens to open a portal through which they can summon reinforcements, and it’s the job of the Resistance to close it.
Yeah, turns out it’s not quite that simple…
7. Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening
Anything that builds on the already huge story and world of Dragon Age: Origins was going to be an instant favourite with us, and the Awakening DLC definitely delivered.
You get the option to play either as a brand new Grey Warden from Orlais, or as your existing main game character – and if you choose the latter, your choices (and equipment) from the main game carry over. The NPCs will also have very different opinions of you.
Either way, you get to be the Grey Warden leader, who travels to Vigil’s Keep six months after the events of Origins to rally the remaining Wardens together and attempt to rebuild the Order. After saving the Keep from a Darkspawn attack, you then discover that a new Darkspawn variety capable of speech has joined the masses of baddies. Cue an epic adventure in which you recruit new Wardens, spot familiar faces from Origins, and try to avert a massive war with the Darkspawn. Just be aware that even if you win that war, the world is going to change. A lot.
8. Oblivion: The Shivering Isles
After sinking hundreds of hours into Oblivion, our first glimpse of the Shivering Isles came as a bit of a visual shock. Now, we’re not saying for a minute that Oblivion is dull and grey (it’s really not), but walking into Mania is still a bit like Dorothy stepping into the Wizard of Oz.
The titular setting for this DLC is also known as the Realm of Madness, and it’s split into two main areas: the super colourful Mania and the much more subdued Dementia. And at about 25% of the size of Cyrodiil, there’s a lot to explore. There’s also a mountain of stuff to do and things to find (a mere 200 new weapons, for instance), so if you’re looking for a good excuse to spend even longer in Oblivion, this is probably it.
It’s up to you whether you want to help out the Dark Seducers or the Golden Saints, or you can always just ignore the main quests entirely in favour of sheer exploration (we’ve all done that). Either way, you can’t fail to find something here to pique your interest.