The Twenty Best DLC and Expansions in Video Game History

Best DLC

Everyone is familiar with that agonizing moment when you’ve just finished a game, book, or TV series, when the credits roll or the last page is turned, and you’re left with a feeling of total emptiness. It was all so good! If only there was one more episode, one more chapter, one more level. Alas! You have to accept that the story is finished, and the real world awaits.

NOT SO FAST! With add-ons, expansion packs, and downloadable content, gamers can delay the inevitable return to boring old reality just a little bit longer. Good DLC returns the player to the world they fell in love with for one more adventure. Great DLC actually improves upon the base game and feels like the missing piece of a larger puzzle. 

For this list, we’re counting down the 20 best DLCs ever released. Be warned: nothing makes you want to replay a great adventure more than lists like these, so make sure to clear your schedule before reading. 

20. Best DLC: Livin’ Large (The Sims)

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These days, The Sims has gotten a lot of flak for cutting up games and dripping content out to players through an endless DLC release cycle, but the series wasn’t always like that. In the nascent days of the simulation series, expansion packs were major updates that allowed players to more thoroughly project their desires and fears onto their sims. 

Livin’ Large introduced new elements that are now staples of The Sims, such as the Grim Reaper and Santa Claus. New items included the crystal ball, electric guitar, chemistry set, and magic lamp. Players could also create multiple neighborhoods, which was the first step into the wider world that The Sims would eventually inhabit.

19. Best DLC: The Old Hunters (Bloodborne)

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The Old Hunters does a great job of expanding on the gothic city of Yharnam first introduced in 2015’s Bloodborne. 

Expanding on the story of the main game, players got to uncover more of Yharnam’s secrets and challenge some of the hardest bosses the series has ever had. Like all good expansions, The Old Hunters kept what fans liked about the base game and even improved on a few of the game’s aspects that drew criticism. Fans should consider this DLC a step up from Bloodborne, both in terms of enjoyment and difficulty.

18. Best DLC: Harley Quinn’s Revenge (Batman: Arkham City)

Best DLC
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Arkham City was the perfect follow-up to Arkham Asylum. Bigger, more refined, and surprisingly emotional, the game features one of the best endings in any superhero game, culminating with the (spoiler alert) death of the Joker. After such a satisfying, impactful ending, how could the developers possibly set a story-based DLC in a post-Joker Arkham City?

By giving the plot over to Harley Quinn, of course! In this add-on, players control Robin as he looks for Batman, who’s been acting strangely since the ending of the base game. Turns out Joker’s long-suffering girlfriend, Harley, has vengeance on her mind. After longing for more Harley in Arkham City, fans of the Batman games got more than enough with this great DLC.

17. Best DLC: The Frozen Throne (Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos)

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What (tragically) marked the end of Warcraft as a real-time-strategy series also represented a high point in that generation of the beloved Blizzard series. Setting the stage for the Lich King, the Horde, Sylvanas amassing her undead army, and Illidan’s exile, The Frozen Throne really helped flesh out the Warcraft world.

The expansion also balanced and improved much of the gameplay, while introducing a custom game creator. In the end, this set the stage for a whole new genre in the Warcraft series. While World of Warcraft is certainly great, titles like The Frozen Throne make us miss the old Warcraft, even after all these years.

16. Best DLC: The Lost and Damned (Grand Theft Auto IV)

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The first of two expansions for GTA4 (the other being the excellent The Ballad of Gay Tony), The Lost and Damned put players into the shoes of Johnny Klebitz, acting president of the Alderney chapter of cut-throat biker gang The Lost. This was the first time Rockstar released an add-on for its beloved GTA series since 1999, which saw the release of Grand Theft Auto: London 1961. 

Luckily, the studio didn’t miss a step and delivered one of the best DLCs in recent memory. The Lost and Damned felt like a logical extension of the base game but featured a story that injected some much-needed fun into the GTA4 universe. 

15. Best DLC: Dragonborn (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)

Best DLC
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The last of the DLCs for one of the biggest games of the generation, Dragonborn saw a lot of lore and a lot of exciting mechanics added to Skyrim. First of all, players had to deal with the return of the first Dragonborn—the legendary Dragon Priest Miraak. Fans of the demonic side of the Elder Scrolls series had a lot to like about that.

But something that EVERYONE got to like about Dragonborn was the ability to ride dragons! Finally, players could climb atop one of the colossal winged creatures and soar all around the open world. If you’re jonesing for the sixth Elder Scrolls game, it’s worth replaying Dragonborn to satiate your thirst.

14. Best DLC: Opposing Force (Half-Life)

Best DLC
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Adding more content to one of the tightest, most beloved games of all time is no easy task. Gordon Freeman’s perilous attempt to escape Black Mesa in Half-Life was such a wonderfully paced adventure that giving him more to do afterwards could feel like cheating him out of a well-deserved happy ending (Half-Life 2 and the additional episodes notwithstanding). 

That’s why Opposing Force shifted the action towards the US Marines tasked with hunting down and eliminating Freeman. Ultimately, just as Half-Life raised the bar for FPS games, Opposing Force raised the bar for expansion packs.

13. Best DLC: Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep (Borderlands 2)

Best DLC
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While Borderlands is another game with tons of great DLC, one expansion stands above the rest. Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep puts you in a Dungeons & Dragons-like fantasy game that’s being run by the titular Tiny Tina. Tina is an explosive-obsessed orphan who narrates the events of the DLC as you and a team of vault hunters embark on a quest to rescue a queen from an evil sorcerer.

Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon’s Keep provides all the fun, loot-and-shoot excitement that Borderlands is known for with a healthy dose of medieval decoration. It’s the perfect story-adjacent adventure when you’re looking for just a little bit of fun, but don’t want to replay the entire base game.

12. Best DLC: The Conquerors (Age of Empires II)

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Age of Empires II: The Conquerors had the impossible task of improving upon an almost perfect game. How did it accomplish this? By adding conquerors like Attila the Hun, Montezuma, and El Cid to the pool of leaders that players can control. The game also added more multiplayer maps, a variety of game modes, and five new civilizations—the Aztecs, Mayans, Huns, Koreans, and Spanish.

As the title of this expansion suggests, your goal in this add-on wasn’t just to make history—it was to take control of, and ultimately reshape, the great empires of Europe, Asia, and the New World. This injected a lot of fun elements into an already innovated and well-balanced base game.

11. Best DLC: Citadel (Mass Effect 3)

Best DLC
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After the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy left most players a little underwhelmed, some people started an online campaign asking the game’s developers to change it. In many ways, Citadel is the developers’ response to the complaints, as it gives players the chance to end the story in a satisfying way.

The best part of this DLC is the interactions with your squadmates. You get one last casual hang out with the characters you’ve grown to love before facing down the Reapers. This kind of emotion is sorely needed in games and fits naturally into the story- and character-heavy Mass Effect franchise. This is the kind of DLC every great game with a mediocre ending needs.

10. Best DLC: The Taken King (Destiny)

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Despite being an incredibly high-profile game with a major studio backing it, Destiny got off to a rough start when it first launched in 2014. The game’s thin and derivative plot drew heat from critics, as did the leveling system, which inevitably turned into a time-draining grind once players reached level 20. 

Luckily, Bungie was able to address these problems by releasing a major 2.0 update alongside the impressive Taken King expansion DLC. With a much more detail-focused story and a revamped leveling system, the new Destiny experience delivered on the expectations that fans had for the base game. 

9. Best DLC: Point Lookout (Fallout 3)

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All of the expansions for Fallout 3 were good in their own way, but Point Lookout took things to a whole new level. This DLC mixed atmosphere and story in such a way that it actually improves upon the base game, while still giving fans all the elements they loved about Fallout 3. Essentially, it did what every good DLC should do.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic version of Point Lookout State Park, players must trudge through a swampy marsh, uncovering mysteries and fending off the hostile locals. Point Lookout set the standard for all Fallout expansions that have followed and has only (arguably) been bested in that department once.

8. Best DLC: Throne of Bhaal (Baldur’s Gate II)

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This expansion is the definitive conclusion to the Baldur’s Gate saga. Following the events of the first two games, your party has drawn plenty of attention, though mostly from some pretty unpleasant people. A cabal of demigods starts trying to hunt you down, and only a mysterious wizard named Melissan can help you. Or can she? 

Not only did Throne of Bhaal add the Wild Mage class, but it also allowed characters to enter the epic levels. Most importantly, however, it provided a satisfying ending for the player character and all of your party members. This expansion offers a much-needed proper conclusion, so much so that it’s practically considered the third unique title in the series. 

7. Best DLC: Undead Nightmare (Red Dead Redemption)

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The great thing about Undead Nightmare is that it expands upon the mostly somber Red Dead Redemption with a larger than life (literally) premise. The result is a hilariously campy expansion that lets the player transform John Martson from gunslinger to zombie-killer. 

Taking place before Marston’s death, Undead Nightmare introduces a bunch of brand new weapons to defeat the zombie hordes, including holy water and a blunderbuss. This DLC also adds an exciting subplot about Sasquatches that, without spoiling anything, makes you reconsider a previous notion or two. 

6. Best DLC: Sonic & Knuckles (Sonic 2 & Sonic 3)

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Great add-ons aren’t just limited to the last decade. Expansion packs have been making great games even better for a long time, and one of the earliest and best examples of this is Sonic & Knuckles. Originally meant to be a big part of Sonic 3, Knuckles had to be exorcised from the game due to time and cost constraints.

But thanks to SEGA’s “lock-on” technology, players were able to insert Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 into the Sonic & Knuckles cartridge. This enabled them to play as Knuckles in both games! This revitalized both games and gave fans of the Sonic series a whole new dimension to explore. 

5. Best DLC: Left Behind (The Last of Us)

Best DLC
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Left Behind is a prequel of sorts to The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s highly acclaimed post-apocalyptic game from 2013. This DLC focuses on Ellie and her friend/romantic interest Riley as they sneak into an abandoned mall. The two must then evade a stampede of Infected, which is much easier said than done.

We know Ellie survives, as she’s one of the two protagonists in the main game. But this peek into her past puts a lot of Ellie’s character traits into perspective and shows us how Ellie got her bite. It also provides players with an indication of where Ellie’s head may be in the upcoming The Last of Us II. Left Behind is a logical choice for this list, as it admirably expands upon one of the greatest games of the last decade.

4. Best DLC: Honest Hearts (Fallout: New Vegas)

Best DLC
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Of all the games on this list, New Vegas was the hardest to choose just one DLC for. All four of the expansions were unique and amazing in their own ways, but in the end, Honest Hearts proved to be the most distinct and, likewise, the most memorable. From the characters to the stories, to the setting, Honest Hearts is so engaging it practically deserves to be its own game.

This expansion trades the irradiated sands of the Mojave desert for the sun-bleached (and likely still irradiated) stones of Utah’s Zion National Park. There, the Courier gets caught up in tribal warfare, and soon runs into the legendary “Burned Man.” What follows is an unforgettable adventure that we’re already looking forward to experiencing again as soon as we finish this list.

3. Best DLC: Minerva’s Den (Bioshock 2)

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Even though Bioshock 2 failed to live up to the excellence of its predecessor, it’s still an extremely fun and beautifully crafted shooter with a compelling story. However, it’s strongest story element isn’t a part of the base game, but instead can be found in the DLC Minerva’s Den.

In it, you play as a Big Daddy who runs missions for Charles Milton Porter, the creator of Rapture’s supercomputer AI, the Thinker. Unsurprisingly, many players found the Minerva’s Den story to be even more engaging than the base game story, as you discover the secret of how Porter created The Thinker in the first place.

2. Best DLC: The Shivering Isles (The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion)

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Bethesda has been releasing Grade-A DLCs for nearly two decades now, and this one might just be the best. The Shivering Isles was the only major DLC expansion for Oblivion, and it allowed players to access a new area full of madness and terror known as Sheogorath’s Plane. The expansion added 30 hours of content to the base game, making it a huge add-on to an already titanic game.

The developers of The Shivering Isles put a lot of work into the new map, making sure it feels different from the rest of Oblivion. Oblivion is often treated like the red-headed step-child of the modern Elder Scrolls titles, but Shivering Isles takes almost every element of a classic Bethesda game and turns it all up to 11.

1. Best DLC: Blood and Wine (The Witcher 3)

Best DLC
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While most DLC expansions feel like just one more chapter of the base game, Blood and Wine is practically an entirely new book. The amount of content available here is incredible, and it’s even more remarkable that it was released after the excellent Hearts of Stone DLC. Blood and Wine brings Geralt to the land of Toussaint, a gigantic new open-world area with its own sunny environment.

It also packs a handful of engaging quests and oodles of greater dialogue and character interaction. All together, Blood and Wine adds another 20 or so hours of story-rich content, and it gives Geralt an incredibly satisfying send-off. This is one of the few DLCs that’s a bargain at any price.

Featured image: DepositPhotos © VitalikRadko

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