Heard of Game Pass, Microsoft’s attempt to create a Netflix for games? If you haven’t you need to get on it, quick smart. If you own and Xbox, be it a last Xbox One or a current gen Xbox Series X, Game Pass is a must have subscription service.
It currently has over 100 games, with more added each month. There are dozens of excellent titles, both AAA and indie, for you to delve into for $10 a month (or $15 if you get Game Pass Ultimate, which lets you select games to play on PC too). Its list of games has also expanded since November last year, when titles from EA Play joined the service for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.
Editors’ top picks
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Here are our picks for some of the very best games on the service.
Doom Eternal is one of Xbox Game Pass’ bigger third-party games. It’s a sequel to 2016’s Doom, a reboot of the classic shooter franchise, and involves killing lots and lots (and lots) of demons. The game was well received upon its March 2019 release, getting an 8/10 from our sister site GameSpot.
Not to be confused with The Outer Worlds — below — Outer Wilds is a video game experience unlike any other. Explore what amounts to a tiny, fully functioning solar system with its own carefully drawn mythology. Become absorbed by the mechanics and the writing and the gorgeous way everything hangs together. Outer Wilds is one of the very best video games released in the last decade.
It’s not every day you get to describe a video game as “Lynchian”.
Control is one of the best AAA, big budget video games of recent years. It’s definitely one of the boldest and won multiple game of the year awards back in 2019.
The Outer Worlds
Speaking of imaginative games, The Outer Worlds is an RPG from Obsidian, the gang behind Fallout New Vegas, and it’s a winner. It’s set in an alternative universe where Theodore Roosevelt didn’t regulate big US firms in the early 20th century, which led to them… colonizing the galaxy, obviously. So in essence, it’s Fallout in space. Game Pass Ultimate users can play it on both PC and Xbox.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a beautiful game from Moon Studios that’s a sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest. A heartfelt platformer and adventure game, it’s a little like a mix between Metroid, Castlevania and Rayman. It received much praise upon its 2017 release, with CNET’s sister site GameSpot calling it “a remarkable synthesis of artful design and beautiful moments.”
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Master Chief Collection is a remastered package that includes Halo 1, 2 and 3, ODST, Rach and Halo 4. Yep, that’s a lot of Halo. The game was criticized upon release for poor online multiplayer and technical glitches, but patches have since fixed those problems. This is a great way to prepare yourself for Halo: Infinite next.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
RPG games don’t get much bigger than Dragon Quest. That’s both figurative and literal: The Dragon Quest brand has been an RPG benchmark for decades, and Dragon Quest XI S is a giant game. It’ll take you over 50 hours to beat and well over double that to see everything. Over those dozens (or hundreds) of hours, you’ll meet colorful, memorable characters and enjoy some of the genre’s best turn-based combat.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is a rare type of game: A licensed title that doesn’t suck. This action adventure retains the feel and charm of Star Wars, so it’s a solid way to tide yourself over until the next Star War comes to Disney Plus.
Note: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of many new games to join the service courtesy of EA Play, and is only downloadable by Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.
Gears 5 Ultimate
Gears 5 Ultimate is one of Xbox Game Pass’ crown jewels. The 2019 blockbuster is one of the Xbox One’s biggest first-party games, and the very fact that games of its ilk are on Game Pass speaks to how seriously Microsoft is investing in the service. It’s available on both Xbox One and PC.
Age of Empires II Definitive Edition
Age of Empires II is the comfort food of gaming. The Definitive Edition of this iconic PC game launched last November on PC, upscaling the game to 4K and adding new campaigns, and you can play on both the PC and Xbox One through Game Pass.
Rainbow Six Siege Deluxe Edition
If you’re after a multiplayer shooter, this is a good place to start. Rainbow Six Siege was released in 2015, but don’t let that turn you off. It was designed to be an esports game, and has evolved with updates over the years. A squad-based shooter, it has a vibrant online community to this day.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
Skyrim is one of the most iconic role-playing games of the last decade, and for good reason. It’s big, it’s bold and, most importantly, has dragons. The special edition of Skyrim, which is a remastered version of the original, is now on Game Pass, a great option for those wanting to re-visit Tamriel — and especially great for people yet to visit.
Forza Horizon 4
As far as non-first person shooters go, Forza is arguably Microsoft’s biggest and best exclusive franchise. Forza Horizon 4 takes place out in a world based on Great Britain, and received huge acclaim upon its 2018 release. It’s available alongside Forza Motorsport 7, in which you race on a track rather than the open road.
If you’re tired of big budget first-person-shooters, give Dead Cells a go. It’s a beautiful, colorful Metroidvania style action platformer that was released in 2018 to critical acclaim. It continues to be a cult favorite and is absolutely worth a download if you haven’t yet played it (and even if you have). It’s playable on both Xbox and PC via Game Pass Ultimate.
Destiny 2 is a hugely popular loot shooter developed by Bungie, the gang that brought you the original Halo. It’s not new though, having hit the Xbox One in 2017. Now is a perfect time to jump in — or back in — to Destiny 2 though, with a big expansion, Beyond Light, having launched in November.
Night School Studio
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller originally released for PC, Mac and Xbox One in 2016 and since ported to iOS and Android, among other platforms. It’ll take you less than five hours to beat, but it’s a memorable tale worth experiencing.
Extremely OK Games
Celeste is one of the biggest and most loved indie games of the last few years. It’s superficially a platform game about climbing a mountain, but, as noted in GameSpot’s 9/10 review, the less you know about the themes and true meaning of the game before playing, the better.
Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves is developer Rare’s No Man’s Sky. A game set around exploration, it was criticized on release, but later, after many updates and tweaks, it was lauded as being great. Unlike No Man’s Sky, which is all about space exploration, Sea of Thieves is an open-sea adventure centered on you becoming a legendary pirate. It’s a game you can sink dozens and dozens of hours into.
No Man’s Sky
Oh yeah, and speaking of No Man’s Sky… it’s also on Game Pass. So if you’d rather explore space over the seas, do download Hello Game’s much improved (since launch) game.
Wasteland 3 is an isometric RPG. That description really doesn’t do it justice in any sense though, as this postapocalyptic game is filled with an admirable mix of both tension, quirk and charm. It’s set in 22nd century Colorado, and includes both psycho clowns and a cult dedicated to Ronald Reagan. What more do you need?
What Remains of Edith Finch
This is the perfect game for a service like Game Pass. What Remains of Edith Finch is a two-hour title that you’ll finish in one sit through. It’s hard to describe the gameplay in a way that does it justice, so I’ll just say that it’s a haunting exploration of the history of the Finch family. Play it.
A curious game that goes super meta, The Messenger starts out mimicking 8-bit platformers from the NES era. But then, at one point, evolves into a parody of 16-bit Metroidvanias from the SNES era! The Messenger is a very smart, incredibly compelling video game. A must play
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5
This is a good one for people who never owned a PlayStation 2. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 features almost every game in the franchise: Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 2, Birth By Sleep, and watchable versions of DS game 358/2 Days (don’t ask) and mobile game Coded. If you give the series a go and get into it, Kingdom Hearts III is also on Game Pass.