In an era of games development where titles can be (and regularly are) patched after release, expansion packs in the form of DLC have become all the more commonplace. Nowadays, it’s unusual for a high budget game to get by without at least one major piece of post-launch DLC, but this practice often comes with mixed results.
DLC storylines have lost their luster in recent years, often coming off as content that should have been in the base game to begin with. That said, this only makes it easier to appreciate expansion packs that actually outdo their base game. While rare, there have been instances of smart developers using DLC to create a better storyline than the main game.
10 Assassin’s Creed III: The Tyranny Of King Washington
Ubisoft sidestepping Assassin’s Creed III as the finale Desmond’s story arc (and by extension the series) had been building up to was something of a disappointment to invested fans at the time, doubly so because Connor lacked the same depth Ezio had.
While the DLC does little to remedy Desmond’s story, The Tyranny of King Washington fleshes out Connor considerably while exploring a fascinating what-if story. More importantly, The Tyranny of King Washington gets to explore the more magical elements of Assassin’s Creed without consequence, slowly turning Connor into the deadliest Assassin in the series by the end of the DLC.
9 BioShock 2: Minerva’s Den
BioShock 2 is considered the black sheep of the series, but it arguably has the best core combat of the trilogy – along with a strong emotional center that rivals Infinite’s main plot. BioShock 2 may not have the same literary aspirations as its sister game, but it’s better off in some cases. Minerva’s Den builds upon everything that makes the main game so unique, crafting an emotionally gripping story that rivals BioShock at its very best.
8 BioShock Infinite: Burial At Sea
BioShock Infinite almost feels torn between two worlds – the original BioShock’s Rapture and the brand new Columbia. This is an issue that ends up plaguing the game narratively, as the plot stops exploring themes of racism and jingoism in favor of multiverse shenanigans that pivot heavily towards character drama.
Infinite’s story is gripping in its own right, but it lacks the same depth the original BioShock had: something Burial at Sea makes an effort to fix. Both Episodes bring the best qualities from the original BioShock and Infinite into an unforgettable DLC that recontextualizes BioShock as a franchise.
7 Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
Few developers make DLC as consistently good as FromSoftware. The entire Dark Souls trilogy is better off with their copious amount of DLC, and the same goes for Bloodborne. The Old Hunters fleshes out Bloodborne in every sense. From introducing new weapons, copious amounts of lore, the best bosses in the game, and excellent level design, it’s hard not to love The Old Hunters. Best of all is the DLC’s brutally hard difficulty curve, offering some of the hardest (and fairest) challenges in the SoulsBorne series.
6 Dark Souls: Artorias Of The Abyss
The Old Hunters does wonders for Bloodborne’s core gameplay, but it doesn’t quite compare to Dark Souls’ Artorias of the Abyss – a legendary DLC that made an already incredible action RPG even better. Dark Souls’ back half is notably weaker than everything before Anor Londo, so Artorias of the Abyss helps to flesh out the late game with some genuinely fantastic content.
Each boss goes through multiple phases, setting a precedent for the types of battles players would face in Bloodborne. Similarly, the level design is far more eldritch and background noise is utilized extensively to create atmosphere. Every aspect of Artorias of the Abyss – from the new weapons to Artorias’ tragic story – help make Dark Souls an even better game.
5 Fallout New Vegas: Dead Money
Fallout: New Vegas has a multitude of story based DLC, all of which enrich the world surrounding the Courier while offering unique gameplay challenges & bonuses. Of the main DLC, Dead Money is the most ambitious of the lot. The Sierra Madre Casino is a genuinely chilling setting with a fascinating backstory, and the gameplay puts the Courier completely on the defensive – forcing players to make use of extensive stealth and smart resource management to survive all of Dead Money.
4 Grand Theft Auto IV: Episodes From Liberty City
Tonally, Grand Theft Auto IV is nothing like the rest of the franchise. Dark, depressing, and morbidly realistic, Niko Bellic’s time in Liberty City is anything but pleasant. Grand Theft Auto IV uses this change of scenery to tell a story that was ahead of its time in its depiction of an immigrant’s struggle in the United States, but it lacks that same GTA flair.
Enter Episodes from Liberty City: DLC that combines both of GTA IV’s expansion packs into one game. The Lost and Damned is more tonally in-line with IV’s main story, but plays out almost like a Shakespearean drama while introducing bikes as vehicles. The Ballad of Gay Tony feels like a love letter to the PS2 era of the series by comparison, featuring a comparatively lighthearted story and one of the most likable protagonists in the franchise.
3 L.A. Noire: Nicholson Electroplating
L.A. Noire’s original release notoriously cut out cases from the main storyline, resulting in a campaign that occasionally jumped forward in time. The game’s re-release has since stitched the entire story together, resulting in a much smoother pacing along with some of the better cases in L.A. Noire.
Nicholson Electroplating is Cole Phelps’ last full case in the game before the final mission, offering some important context into where he’s at mentally and emotionally during Jack Kelso’s sudden taking of the reigns. Along with just being a gripping mystery, Nicholson Electroplating transitions perfectly into A Different Kind of War building L.A. Noire towards an apt conclusion.
2 Resident Evil 5: Lost In Nightmares
While not a bad game by any means, Resident Evil 5 all but abandoned the survival horror that once defined the series. The main story is a fitting conclusion to a narrative stretching back to the very first game, but the lack of genuine horror makes it hard to fully appreciate everything Resident Evil 5 has to offer.
Set before the events of the main game – and inside the Arklay Mansion from the original Resident Evil – Lost in Nightmares details Chris and Jill’s last mission together as the two work together to seemingly put an end to Wesker’s machinations once and for all. Lost in Nightmares is a fantastic companion piece to Resident Evil 5, but it also stands out as a captivating prequel in its own right.
1 Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna – The Golden Country
Notably lighter in tone than either of its predecessors – and notably less mature as a result – Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was a radical departure for a franchise that grounded itself in thought provoking storytelling layered in dense themes. Torna – The Golden Country heads back in time to detail Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s backstory, fleshing out a tragedy with a cast even more likable than the main game’s. Along with some beneficial combat changes, the script is considerably better thanks to tighter pacing and a considerably less juvenile protagonist (whose role in the main game is only made all the more potent due to her role here).