Whether you’re a PC or console gamer, we’ve all loved, fought and died on countless imaginary worlds. And while there are some video game locales we’ve long since forgotten, the most special are filled with beautiful vistas, wonderful characters and truly memorable missions.
Whether it’s dispatching Mongol invaders on Ghost of Tsushima’s eponymous island, wandering the irradiated wasteland of the US Capitol in Fallout 3 or indulging in a game of Gwent on The Witcher’s Skellige Isles, these lands hold a special place in our hearts that make us homesick for a world we’ve never physically visited.
So when DLC packs offer up the chance to dive into these settings once more, we’ve booked our tickets and packed our weapons, ready to head into the fray once again. They give us another chance to rub digital shoulders with our favorite characters and engage in all-new story missions.
With that in mind, let’s revisit the very best video game DLCs that you should not pass up.
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare
Red Dead Redemption was a sublime hit that gave us John Marston, one of gaming’s most gruff and memorable antiheroes. Forced by the government to bring his former gang to justice, Marston is fighting a rising tide to right his own wrongs and rally against the forces of change in a new frontier.
In stark contrast to RDR’s typically western premise, Undead Nightmare serves up a slice of B-movie horror tropes. The untamed American setting is the perfect backdrop for the undead to roam and a chance for players to indulge in some deadeye action, pun intended. Instead of NPC gunfights, players must fend off all manner of unholy undead foes. The game also leans into the schlocky absurd, as we meet mythical creatures such as the Sasquatch and get to track down and ride the four horses of the Apocalypse. Gunslingers even get two multiplayer modes for their money: a 4-player coop horde mode and a PVP domination mode.
If you missed it the first time around, watch out for the incoming port of RDR and Undead Nightmare on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation on August 17.
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
The Witcher 3 has cemented its reputation as one of the finest RPGs of all time. Critics were also highly positive about its DLC, each of which could have been big enough to be separate games in their own right.
Following the events of the mainline game, our favourite monster disappearer Geralt receives a contract from the Duchess of Toussaint to investigate a series of grisly murders. What follows is a rich and deep mystery involving family conflicts and blood-sucking vampires. And in true Witcher style, multiple endings are possible, depending on Geralt’s actions.
The vibrant area of Toussaint also deserves a mention, with a castle set off a gorgeous backdrop of lush greenery and mountainous terrain. Sidequests are also seemingly simple yet unpredictably chaotic, thanks to some rich characters and excellent story beats. The main quest and side hustles, including running Geralt’s own vineyard, can soak up dozens of hours of playtime, making Blood and Wine excellent value for money and a must-play proposition for Witcher fans.
The Last of Us: Left Behind
Fans of the original The Last of Us who have already been rocked by the game’s gut-punch ending will find this DLC not without its bittersweet rug pulls.
In Left Behind, players take control of Ellie as she sneaks off from Boston military school to see her friend Riley, a character who only gets a cursory mention in TLOU. In it, we get to abscond into a deserted mall, as they’re forced to confront their own feelings and fears when it’s revealed that Riley is leaving to fight with the revolutionary group Fireflies.
With an emotional ending that truly resonates and kicks off the events of the mainline game, Left Behind is still the blockbuster blend of exceptional writing, acting and storytelling we’ve come to expect from this series. It’s an albeit short DLC, but nonetheless marries humour, tragedy and the melancholic fleeting of youth when all of us need to choose our own path in life.
Fallout 3: Broken Steel
Fallout 3 gained critical acclaim in this first-person action RPG set in the US following an apocalyptic nuclear war. With a vast land to explore, quests aplenty and a plethora of different ways to resolve them, the third entry of the series was a huge fan favourite.
In a rare turn, Broken Steel breaks the original game’s canon ending, where players sacrificed themselves to save the Capital wasteland. Instead, this storyline sees our Lone Wanderer miraculously survive, waking up from a coma and now tasked by the Brotherhood to eliminate the remnants of the Enclave. Of course, our hero can stick with or deviate from this quest in the manner they see fit, as Fallout’s morally grey world once again makes them weigh up each decision that has far-reaching consequences.
Players also get to have their level cap boosted from 20 to 30, with new perk abilities and fresh new weaponry to set their sights on. Broken Steel is a worthy reason for vault dwellers to don their Pip-Boys and venture out into the wastes once again.
Mass Effect 3: Citadel
Few videogame protagonists can boast the kind of combat CV Commander Shepard has. The first human Spectre has dealt with a full spectrum of extraterrestrial threats, including rogue AIs, giant psychic arachnids, and an armada of synthetic-organic ships hellbent on eradicating complex life in the galaxy. So if anyone deserves some R&R, it’s Commander Shepard and the SR-2’s motley crew of deadly compatriots.
Of course, in the Citadel DLC, Shepard barely gets time to hang up their combat armour before a case of mistaken identity threatens the entire team and their mission. As a story that features much smaller stakes, Citadel is a welcome break from dealing with the galaxy-ending Reaper threat.
The Citadel’s wider attractions are also open for exploration, including a casino, arcade station and battle arena. We also get some much needed 1 on 1 time with the crew before finally getting to let loose in a shindig for the ages. Citadel is a chance to slow down and let the Mass Effect universe breathe, as a homage to the original trilogy and the characters we’ve come to know and love.
Bloodborne: The Old Hunters
Soulsborne players looking for more difficulty spikes (and actual spikes) in this Bloodborne expansion might have their hunger sated in The Old Hunters. Set in the Hunter’s Nightmare, a hell-infused reimaging of the wonderfully Lovecraftian Yarnham, players need to survive an onslaught of not only brutal enemies but blood-crazed hunters.
TOH offers plenty of challenges, with some surprises that’ll vex even the most hardened saw cleaver wielders. And of course, combat is as aggressive, crunchy and brutal as ever.
As you might expect, the creature design is grotesque and imaginative, while developer FromSoftware’s level design is once again on point, with yet another world brimming with dark secrets and seemingly inane objects filled with unimaginable lore. This version of Yarnham also serves as a locale full of twisted, imposing architecture stained by blood and forebodingly teased into the player’s perspective.
Just hope that the rivers of blood in this horrible hellscape aren’t added to with your own red stuff.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Far Cry 3 is widely regarded as the best of the series, so it’d be really easy for the game to cobble together an expanded story and questline for its DLC. However, Blood Dragon has thrown that idea to the sharks.
Instead, for those longing for the 80s heyday of action movies, this DLC’s got your back. Playing as the cybernetically enhanced Rex “Power” Colt, voiced by the inimitably gruff Michael Biehn (of The Terminator and Aliens fame), this Far Cry 3 DLC offers a pastiche of tongue in cheek solo hero bravado.
What you get is a reskin of the main game, set in hostile territory patrolled by cyber soldiers and yes, plenty of dragons. By the time the 8-bit training montage is over, the knowingly dumbed-down tutorial is done and the John Carpenter-esque synths kick in, you know you’re in for a good time. As a parody of those cheesy action films, Blood Dragon is filled with neon-drenched locales, one-liners, scratchy VHS tape screen effects and effortlessly cool reload animations. It’s big, dumb fun, but you can’t help but smile throughout.
Grand Theft Auto 4: The Ballad of Gay Tony
As technically impressive as it was, there’s a reason GTA 4 isn’t on many gamer’s favourite lists, and that’s because it lacked the fun, tongue in cheek nature that stood it apart from other po-faced action crime sandbox games.
The Ballad of Gay Tony goes to some lengths to address that shortcoming, with characters, missions and action dialled all the way up. Players step into the shoes of Luis Lopez, fixer and friend of Anthony “Gay Tony” Prince, extravagant nightclub owner and business. Along the way, Luis gets embroiled in a messy plot involving diamonds, drugs and rival gangs, and it’s his job to save not only himself but his employer from a violent end.
Replayable missions offer a ton of challenge, while races and drug wars modes offer extra nuance and fun to proceedings. All this is rounded off by a disco-themed soundtrack that’s perfect for any getaway. The Ballad of Gay Tony is the bombastic and explosive swansong to GTA 4 that sometimes felt lacking in the main game.