4X genre doesn't seem to be able to do without them
For sure, Civ 4 & 5 weren't the great games they are now until the 2nd & final expansion for each—and of course, the few bug fix patches thereafter to clean things up.

Civ 4—Beyond the Sword
Civ 5—Brave New World

Command & Conquer Generals—Zero Hour

Supreme Commander—Forged Alliance

Crysis—Warhead [standalone expansion]

Far Cry 4—Valley of the Yetis
Far Cry 4—Primal [standalone reusing FC4 map]
Far Cry 5—New Dawn [standalone expansion]
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Paradox' grand strategy games come to mind. Crusader Kings 2, Europa Universalis 3, Victoria 2 and Stellaris all got a ton of DLC that introduced major changes to the gameplay.

Total War: Warhammer II also got a ton of DLC, with Mortal Empires probably being the biggest of them.
The one that stands out the most recently for me was the witcher 3's expansion packs. Blood and Wine easily being the best of the lot. It was generous with content, had top notch quests and story and the environment was surreal and refreshing to behold after the dreary lands of the main game. it was also nice to see some sort of fairy tale happy ending questsfor a change. But that said they handled it well maintaining a harsh, seedy underbelly in there as well.
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Two of the best DLC's ever made in my opinion were The Shadow Broker for ME2, and The Citadel for ME3, both were story driven DLCs that added to the base game content, with The Citadel being what many players considered to be the real ending of the ME Trilogy.

Other DLC's I felt added much story content to the base game:

The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine, Hearts of Stone
Fallout 4: Far Harbor
Skyrim: Dawnguard, Dragon Born
Obivion: Shivering Isles
Fallout New Vegas: Honest Hearts, Dead Money, Old World Blues
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
Baldur's Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal
Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Dragon Age Inquisition: Jaws of Hakkon, Trespasser
Neverwinter Nights 1: Shadows of Underentide, Hordes of the Underdark
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That reminds me, I really liked Fallout 3's Operation Anchorage DLC, as I really liked playing as a stealthy assassin.

Mothership Zeta was pretty good too. Losing all my equipment made for a refreshing change of pace and I really liked sneaking up on those aliens and hitting them over the head with a baton.


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Yeah, 4X games just flat out use a different system: release the base game then release expansions until they can't anymore (which, for Paradox, is about a decade), then make the next iteration of the game.

To answer my own topic...

Blood & Wine was flat out amazing (and posting screenshots of it is what made me think to make this topic). I think B&W alone beats out the majority of RPGs I've played over the eons, including Witcher 2.

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer is another huge one that really added to the whole NWN2 story and gameplay.

Oblivion: Shivering Isles was a really good one with lots to do.

Divinity 2: Flames of Vengeance - added a bunch to the game and had a lot more Bellegar in it.
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I have to go old school.

As much as i like Vanilla StarCraft, I'd have to add brood war to this list. The huge campaign, with the addition of those key units made SC turn into the world wide super hit that changed gaming for ever. It's kinda hard not to put this one at the top.

One problem I have with OP's question is that there are a lot of games, like StarCraft, that I haven't played without DLC.
But you still know what parts of it are and aren't part of the DLC, right?

Not with all games. I have no idea what Starcraft Broodwar changed to the game. With CK2 DLC, I usually have at least an idea of which mechanics are introduced by which DLC, but not perfectly and it's hard to say whether they're good if I haven't played without them.
I'm pretty sure I played Mass Effect's Lair of the Shadow Broker, but I'm not even sure since it's been years since I played the game and it would have just been one more side quest.
The best expansion that comes to mind for me is Diablo 2's Lord of Destruction expansion. The added character classes, expanded skill trees, item revamps and additional act all improve upon the base game of Diablo 2 in meaningful ways. I know vanilla D2 has its stalwart defenders, but to me the game wouldn't have been anywhere near as popular as it is had it not been for the expansion pack.

Blizzard did pull off a similar feat with Diablo 3's Reaper of Souls expansion. The industry and gaming community had written off D3 but Blizzard really turned the game around with the DLC and subsequent content updates. It's still not perfect, but it's certainly worth playing.


Another personal favourite is ME2's Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC. It builds on Liara's persona in interesting ways and gives the relationship between her and Shephard more nuance and complexity. It makes it, to my mind at least, one of the most realistic and well-written relationships in video games. The actual gameplay in Lair wasn't always perfect, but some of the setpiece missions were certainly fantastic.
The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine & Hearts of Stone are both pretty high up there. Having your own vineyard is probably my favorite thing and that you can put painting, armor, and weapons in your house. Also getting Roach a stable (even if it not really that nice-looking) is something the horse really deserves. He has been carrying me for almost 100 hours now and never complained once.
My favourites are for Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator. Their expansions are reasonably sized and fairly priced.

I think Blizzard Mountain for Forza Horizon 3 was also great. Much better than either of the FH4 expansions.
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Jan 18, 2020
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The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine. Easily the best, in my opinion. Everything about the DLC was designed to improve upon it's original foundations. They took everything they'd learned up until that point, refined existing material, and built further on top of it.
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PCG Jody

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Dec 9, 2019
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Some great choices so far. I'd like to add XCOM: Enemy Within, the expansion that added a bunch of different stuff to XCOM: Enemy Unknown, like the MEC Troopers, Meld, and a whole new faction called EXALT. It's also responsible for one of my favorite missions, the one with the fish. If you've played it, you'll probably remember the one I mean.

Then they repeated the trick for XCOM 2 with War of the Chosen.
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