The Ten Best Game Expansions (2022)

Whether it’s a good old-fashioned expansion pack or modern DLC, spinning additional content for already-released games has been a standard practice in the industry for decades. But the best expansions do more than simply add a few extra hours of the same game for you to play.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, on September 24, 2015.

They enhance the ideas and systems explored in their parent games, condensing them down into a smaller, tighter package that function as self-contained entities—some go even further, enriching the player’s experience of the original game itself by providing further insight into the game’s world, filling voids in the game’s story, or introducing new mechanics that offer fresh ways of play.

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With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of our 10 favourite game expansions, works that happily stand as brilliant creations in their own right, but also augment the ideas and themes of the game that came before them.

Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

Dishonored’s first expansion pack, The Knife of Dunwall, addressed many of the original game’s problems. Its switch of protagonist from the vengeful Corvo Attano to the amoral Assassin Daud proved a more sensible fit for the game’s adaptable play-styles, while the missions expanded upon some of the less explored areas of the world’s lore. But it also felt distinctly incomplete, almost like foundational work upon which to build something greater.

(Video) 10 Expansions BETTER Than The Main Game

This turned out to be The Brigmore Witches, the culmination of Arkane’s work on Dishonored. It enriches the experience as a whole, tying together Daud and Corvo’s stories, and providing greater insight into the weirdest elements of Dishonored’s world.

Moreover, its three missions infiltrating Coleridge Prison, exploring the factional conflicts in Draper’s Ward, and surviving the dilapidated Brigmore mansion - are the pinnacle of Dishonored’s level and environment design, and this is a game crammed with fantastic examples of both.

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Call of Duty: United Offensive

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(Video) Top 10 Game Expansions

It’s surprising that United Offensive doesn’t get mentioned more often during discussions of the best expansions. This explosive expansion takes the intense action of the first Call of Duty, and somehow concentrates its essence into something even more ferocious. Within minutes of the game’s commencement, you’re racing through the snowy forests of Bastogne on a jeep, trees exploding around you as you’re chased down by a German tank. And the fighting only gets fiercer from there.

These brutal early missions set during the Battle of the Bulge are undoubtedly United Offensive’s highlight, but it also includes a fascinating mission that involves manning multiple gun-batteries inside a B-17 bomber, alongside an homage mission to the Guns of Naverone, and a portrayal of the Russian battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. Indeed, much of United Offensive is stronger than the main game, and yet it is probably the least discussed entry in this long-running series.

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XCOM: Enemy Within

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Enemy Within is a very different expansion to the others in this list. Rather than delivering multiple hours of extra game in a single chunk, instead it spreads itself throughout the body of Firaxis’ Enemy Unknown, altering its DNA in subtle yet fundamental ways.

The most significant of these is the introduction of Meld, an alien substance comprised of nanomachines that lets players upgrade their XCOM operatives with superhuman powers. On missions, Meld canisters self-destruct after several turns, meaning you need to move fast to acquire them. This of course has to be balanced with tactically outmanoeuvring a technologically superior alien force, resulting in some agonisingly tricky strategic decisions.

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Enemy Within also introduces power mech units on both sides, an extra enemy faction in the form of alien sympathisers EXALT, and reintroducing the much-desired Base Assault mission which wasn’t included in the original release. Enemy Within is all about raising the stakes of Enemy Unknown, and it succeeds brilliantly.

Mass Effect 2: Lair of the Shadow Broker

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BioWare are probably worthy of several entries on this list. But I forced myself to choose just one. Mass Effect 3’s Citadel came close, but Lair of the Shadow Broker is simply more crucial to the story as a whole.

Indeed, as story-based expansions go, Lair of the Shadow Broker is one of the most important added to any game. Shepard reunites with Liara T’Soni as she attempts to track down and kill the mysterious information dealer known as the Shadow Broker. In the process we witness a significant evolution of Liara’s character, which plays into the story of Mass Effect 3.

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But Shadow Broker’s merits aren’t simply down to its narrative consequences. It’s also a fabulous little adventure in its own right, including a thrilling sky-car chase and a couple of impressively thought-out boss fights. It also concludes with a superb sequence set on the hull of a space cruiser speeding through a fearsome lightning storm. Lair of the Shadow Broker is a microcosm of BioWare at their very best.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena

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There’s some debate over whether Assault on Dark Athena constitutes an expansion or a full-on sequel, but the fact that it is considerably shorter than escape from Butcher Bay, and comes packaged with a visually upgraded version of that game, hints at the former. This works nicely for us, because it’s bloody good.

(Video) Top 10 Expansions That Made Games Even Better

Dark Athena shifts the action from Butcher Bay’s sci-fi prison to a mercenary spaceship, where Riddick is hunted by an army of remote-controlled cyborgs under the command of Captain Gale Revas. Dark Athena refines many of Butcher Bay’s interesting but wobbly systems, particularly the stealth. Riddick can now sneak through shadows effectively, and dispatch enemies quickly and cleanly with his signature Ulak weapons.

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The game also boasts a surprisingly strong story which sees Riddick protecting a young girl from Revas and her cronies. The last hour or so is a disappointment, switching out the engaging stealth for some rote and frustrating shooting, but it’s a minor blemish on an otherwise excellent expansion.

Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare

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One of the most original ideas for an expansion (despite the fact that it involves zombies). Undead Nightmare takes the beautiful Western landscape seen in Red Dead Redemption and switches out its cowboys and bandits for a host of shambling corpses.

The best thing about Undead Nightmare is how it enabled Rockstar to dispense with any pretense of grandeur and simply run wild with their wicked sense of humour. The original game’s wildlife, wolves and bears and such, are all replaced with undead equivalents, and wander the games world alongside mythical creatures like Chupacabras and Sasquatches. John Marston can even track down and tame the four horses of the apocalypse, using them as steeds to traverse the game world.

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It’s the first time in years that Rockstar have wholeheartedly embraced the inherently madcap nature of open world games, and as a result Undead Nightmare is one of their most entertaining creations.

Sonic & Knuckles

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No self-respecting discussion of expansion packs would be complete without mentioning Sonic and Knuckles, one of the earliest and most interesting examples of the form. Sonic and Knuckles was famously never intended to be an expansion pack. It was meant to be part of Sonic 3, but time and cost constraints meant the game was split into two parts.

SEGA rescued the situation through Sonic and Knuckles’ ingenious “Lock-on” technology, which enables players to insert Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 into the Sonic and Knuckles cartridge, making Knuckles playable in Sonic 2 and transforming Sonic 3 into the game it was originally intended to be. It epitomises the qualities of the best expansions, not only bringing something new, but adding something significant to its parent game as well.

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The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles

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Oblivion is often viewed as the weakest of the Elder Scrolls games, although it certainly has its share of interesting quests and locations (Hackdirt anyone?). A complaint that has endured since the moment of its launch, however, was that it lacked the weirdness of Bethesda’s previous entry, the brilliant Morrowind.

Shivering Isles was Bethesda’s defiant response to this, an expansion that’s entire premise revolved around being weird. The Isles are divided into two clear provinces, Mania and Dementia, the former wildly colourful and crammed with strange flora, the latter a dark and swampy wasteland. It’s ruled over by the mad God Sheogorath, who is obsessed with cheese and seems to view the removal of someone’s entrails as a kind of compliment.

(Video) Another Top 10 Best Video Game DLCs & Expansions

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Shivering Isles doesn’t make any significant alterations to how Oblivion plays, and there are times when it feels like it’s trying a little too hard. But its environmental design remains delightful, and it acts as a wonderfully zany counterpart to Oblivion’s staunchly traditional fantasy hodgepodge.

Bioshock 2: Minerva’s Den

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Minerva’s Den is a splendid example of expansion design. It takes the grandiose philosophising of Bioshock and its sequel and condenses them down into something much more personal and relatable. It tells the story of Charles Porter and Reed Wahl, two brilliant scientists who developed the Thinker, the AI machine that controls all of Rapture’s automation and security measures. Wahl ultimately betrays Porter and steals the Thinker for himself.

Minera’s Den sees you play an Alpha Big Daddy named Sigma, who is activated by Porter to take the Thinker’s machine code back, so Porter can rebuild it and use it for its original, philanthropic purpose.

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It’s a superb distillation of Bioshock’s best moments, tackling big ideas like the nature of free will and what it means to be human, but also finding time to reflect on more personal matters like grief and loss. It even has a twist at the end that rivals that of the original Bioshock.

Half Life: Opposing Force

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Opposing Force is a sequel in all but name. It ingeniously offers an alternative perspective on Gordon Freeman’s escape from the alien-infested Black Mesa facility, casting you as US Marine Adrian Shepard, part of a strike team sent to the facility to contain the situation.

It gleefully plays with the plot established in Half Life, intersecting with Freeman’s story at key moments, and adding neat twists of its own. The Marines are initially sent to exterminate any Black Mesa personnel who survived the disaster. Yet as the government’s desperation to contain the situation reaches fever pitch, the Marines themselves are hunted down by Black Operations. Shepard also encounters an entirely new species of alien known as “Race X”, who further muddy the waters by fighting both the humans and the Xen aliens.

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As a straightforward expansion it enhances everything that was great about Half Life; offering more fantastic scripted setpieces and further exploring the Black Mesa facility’s powerful sense of place. But it also broadens our understanding of the original game, showing us the motivations behind the Marines’ actions and revealing the conspiracy goes far deeper than what was seen in the original Half Life.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles. Follow them on @Kotaku_UK.

FAQs

The Ten Best Game Expansions? ›

The 10 Best Expansion Packs
  • Doom Eternal: The Ancient Gods Parts 1 & 2.
  • Bioshock 2: Minerva's Den. ...
  • Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall/The Brigmore Witches. ...
  • Bloodborne: The Old Hunters. ...
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles. ...
  • Mass Effect 3: Citadel. ...
  • Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. ...
  • Call of Duty: United Offensive. ...
Apr 26, 2021

What video game has the most expansions? ›

Perfect Ten: The MMORPGs boasting the most expansions
  • EverQuest (25 expansions)
  • EVE Online (24 expansions)
  • EverQuest II (15 expansions)
  • Ultima Online (9 expansions)
  • Path of Exile (8 expansions)
  • World of Warcraft (7 expansions)
  • Dark Age of Camelot (7 expansions)
  • Lord of the Rings Online (6 expansions)
Jun 26, 2019

What are game expansions called? ›

Sometimes abbreviated as an expansion or XPAC, an expansion pack is software that adds to the original content of a game. They are useful for adding life to older games that may have gotten stale over the years.

What was the first DLC ever? ›

One of the first notable DLC features came through the real-time strategy (RTS) game Total Annihilation, created by Cavedog Entertainment, which would release new units every month on personal computers back in 1997.

What does DLC stand for? ›

abbreviation. downloadable content: additional content that can be purchased online and added on to a video game, as to enhance its features: If you buy the DLC, you'll have access to the new weapon packs.

Which is the best DLC for Skyrim? ›

The Elder Scrolls: The 10 Best DLCs In The Franchise, Ranked
  1. 1 Oblivion: Shivering Isles. The Shivering Isles is the largest DLC pack in Oblivion.
  2. 2 Skyrim: Dawnguard. ...
  3. 3 Skyrim: Dragonborn. ...
  4. 4 Morrowind: Bloodmoon. ...
  5. 5 Morrowind: Tribunal. ...
  6. 6 Oblivion: Knights Of The Nine. ...
  7. 7 Oblivion: Mehrunes' Razor. ...
  8. 8 Skyrim: Hearthfire. ...
Jun 27, 2021

Is Blood and Wine the best DLC ever? ›

Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine have both been remembered as some of the best DLC to have ever been released, with some fans even claiming that they both outshine the base game for various reasons.

Do you get Platinum for DLC? ›

In these games, you have to play through all episodes of the season to get platinum. If you consider episodes 2-5 to be DLC for episode 1, then this would be another case where you need DLC. Show activity on this post. No, you don't, but without dlc, your percentage will be lower.

Which Sims game has the most content? ›

What was a fantastic game at release also then saw many expansions and additional content, making for an overall Sims title that has yet to be beaten in scale. Perhaps the future of the series will follow suit, but for now, The Sims 3 holds its place as the biggest and best game from the series so far.

What does DLC mean Nintendo? ›

These games just keep getting better, thanks to downloadable content (DLC) that can add new stages, characters, and more. Home. My Nintendo Store. Games.

What is the original Dominion game? ›

Dominion, sometimes called Base Dominion, the Base Set, or simply Base, is the first Dominion game created by Donald X. Vaccarino. It was released in 2008 by publisher Rio Grande Games. The box originally contained 25 sets of Kingdom cards and Basic Supply cards to support up to 4 players.

Is an expansion a DLC? ›

For anyone who isn't, expansion packs and DLC are basically the same thing, with the latter being the more usual name these days. They provide more content for a game, be it superficial content like particular items or more substantial content like more playable levels.

What are DLC codes? ›

Downloadable content, or DLC, is what gamers call extra content players can download after purchasing a video game. While some DLC is offered for free, players typically must pay additional fees to unlock new content. Freemium games rely entirely on DLC to make a profit.

Does DLC cost money? ›

DLC can include extra items, characters, levels, costumes, and more. Most big games nowadays have DLC, which can be free or cost money, depending on the game.

Can I play DLC without the game? ›

If you purchase DLC before purchasing a game, the DLC will be added to your account but it will not be downloadable or accessible until you install the game it is intended for.

Is Cuphead 2 coming out? ›

Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course is set to be released June 30, 2022, for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

When did DLC get popular? ›

In the mid 1990's, expansion packs became increasingly more viable for companies and more appealing to gamers, paving the way for the current trend concerning DLC on both PC and consoles.

Is Cuphead DLC free? ›

Cuphead is Coming to Nintendo Switch … Plus New Free Content for Everyone!

What does DLC mean in GTA? ›

Downloadable content (DLC) is additional content created for a released video game. Several Grand Theft Auto games had DLCs.

What are DLC PC games? ›

Downloadable content (DLC) is additional content created for an already released video game, distributed through the Internet by the game's publisher.

Does Skyrim ever end? ›

No, Skyrim's radiant quests repeat endlessly, and you don't get any ending screens or anything.

Is there a max level on Skyrim? ›

But what's the maximum level you can achieve in Skyrim? Since the addition of Legendary skills, players can now level up indefinitely in Skyrim. However, if you plan to unlock every single perk available for your character, you'll need to restart any skill tree 164 times, achievable by reaching level 252.

Which Skyrim DLC should I play first? ›

If you feel ready to start with the DLCs, the order of Dawnguard or Dragonborn does not matter. Feel free to do Hearthfire anytime you like, as it doesnt require any power.

Is Heart of Stone better than wine and blood? ›

Hearts of Stone has the more unique characters and storyline. Blood and Wine has the more lovable characters, new region, immersive storyline, and a fitting ending. Just curious as to what you vets think since this is the first game in a long time to do DLC and expansions the right way.

Is Heart of Stone longer than Blood and Wine? ›

While Hearts of Stone may be much shorter than Blood and Wine, it introduces a formidable opponent in bandit captain, Olgierd von Everec, a man who has discovered immortality. The adventure you embark on will lead you to encounter new monsters, a unique romance, and more.

Is The Witcher 3 Blood and Wine better than main game? ›

My answer is play both. They are both excellent and worth the money. The Hearts of Stone DLC is around 10 hours playtime. It plays out like a larger side quest, very hilarious in some scenes but overall it is a dark and grim quest with a magnificient story.

What is the hidden trophy for Iki Island? ›

Ghost of Tsushima Iki Island - How to Get the Monkey See Trophy. To unlock the Monkey See Trophy, Jin has to interact with three different monkey statues on his way up to the top of Saruiwa Mountain. Then, he must complete the Monkey Sanctuary activity at the very top.

How do you fully liberate Iki Island? ›

Liberate Iki Island by defeating the Eagle and driving the invaders from Mongol territory. For this you need to do two things: Finish the Iki Island main story (9 Tales – Trophy: Out of the Past). Conquer the 4 Enemy Camps by defeating all enemies in them.

Does dying light platinum have all DLC? ›

Apart from the DLCs and extra game modes, Dying Light: Platinum Edition includes all previously released content such as weapon bundles, outfits, skins, and special items.

Is Sims 2 or 3 better? ›

Sims 3 had better graphics, but ran a lot crappier than Sims 2. Sims 2 has better family gameplay, and I love the Bon Voyage expansion pack; Sims 3 World Adventures was very lacking as a vacation pack. I love the open neighborhood in Sims 3. I appreciate it a lot more now that I have a computer that runs it better.

Is Sims 2 or 4 better? ›

Is the Sims 2 BETTER Than The Sims 4? (Spoiler: not really) - YouTube

Is sims 5 coming out? ›

The Sims 5 has no official release date yet but it could even be as early as 2022. In 2020, EA hinted that the next game was in development, meaning it's been in some form of development for two years at least. While a 2022 release is definitely optimistic, it isn't outside the realm of possibility.

Are Nintendo expansions worth it? ›

The value of the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack is based on the player interest in the titles on offer. If they have zero interest in checking out old-school titles on the N64 or Genesis, and if they have never touched one of the three titles that offer DLC, then the pack is obviously not worth it.

Is the 3DS eShop shutting down? ›

In late March 2023 we'll wave a tearful goodbye to the Wii U and 3DS eShop, stores with some wonderful exclusives and excellent ports. It's certainly disappointing that they're closing, and we'll all need to get our downloads and purchases in order before they're gone forever.

How much will Nintendo online expansion cost? ›

The Switch Online Expansion Pack is only available as an annual membership; there's no option to pay monthly like the base plan. Subscribing to the Expansion Pack costs $49.99 for 12 months, compared to $19.99/year for the regular subscription.

Is Blood and Wine the best DLC ever? ›

Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine have both been remembered as some of the best DLC to have ever been released, with some fans even claiming that they both outshine the base game for various reasons.

Which is the best DLC for Skyrim? ›

The Elder Scrolls: The 10 Best DLCs In The Franchise, Ranked
  1. 1 Oblivion: Shivering Isles. The Shivering Isles is the largest DLC pack in Oblivion.
  2. 2 Skyrim: Dawnguard. ...
  3. 3 Skyrim: Dragonborn. ...
  4. 4 Morrowind: Bloodmoon. ...
  5. 5 Morrowind: Tribunal. ...
  6. 6 Oblivion: Knights Of The Nine. ...
  7. 7 Oblivion: Mehrunes' Razor. ...
  8. 8 Skyrim: Hearthfire. ...
Jun 27, 2021

Do you get Platinum for DLC? ›

In these games, you have to play through all episodes of the season to get platinum. If you consider episodes 2-5 to be DLC for episode 1, then this would be another case where you need DLC. Show activity on this post. No, you don't, but without dlc, your percentage will be lower.

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