The 12 Best Games On Xbox Game Pass

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The 12 Best Games On Xbox Game Pass
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Screenshot: CD Projekt Red)

Xbox Game Pass is one of the best deals in gaming today. For $10.95 a month, you get access to a Netflix-style library of video games that you can download and play whenever you want. Some marquee games hit the service the same day they’re released, as with The Outer Worlds. In other words, it’s no surprise that the subscription base has doubled over the past year.

But as good a deal as Game Pass is, it can also be seriously overwhelming. On console, you’ll find more than 100 titles at your fingertips. (Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is slightly more expensive and offers access to titles on PC, too, though we’re just focusing on console for this list.) Seeing as games are bigger now than ever”and that the standard Xbox One comes with just 500GB of storage”you can reasonably only have a handful of Game Pass titles on your console at any given time. So, where should you start?

Below, you’ll find a rundown of the best games currently on Xbox Game Pass. Since the Game Pass PC app is technically still in beta, we’re limiting the list to games that are available on console. (Gris, for instance, is a beautifully haunting museum-worthy piece of art that everyone should experience. At the moment, it’s only available on the PC Game Pass. Sorry, console players!) Games are also periodically added to Game Pass”and periodically leave, too. We will continue to update this list as availability shifts.


Screenshot: Obsidian Entertainment, Microsoft Store

The Outer Worlds

You’d be forgiven for thinking, at first glance, that The Outer Worlds is Fallout: Space. Yes, there are similarities. Obsidian, the game’s development studio, was also the developer behind Fallout: New Vegas. But there’s enough here to set this first-person role-playing game in a class of its own. For starters, the writing is sharp as a tack, a mix of hilarious one-liners and biting commentary on corporate greed. The core gameplay loop is a blast, too. Missions never feel bloated, and tend to hit the sweet spot between exploration and actual action. Also, did we mention it’s in space? Because it’s in space. (To be specific: The Outer Worlds takes place in Halcyon, a fictional colony wholly owned and operated by parasitic corporations.) Best of all, you can pretty much clear the whole game, most worthwhile side quests included, in under 40 hours. Let’s hear it for games that actually respect our time!

A Good Match For: Fans of space-based sci-fi. Folks who can’t get enough Fallout. The proletariat.

Not A Good Match For: People who don’t like or have the patience for inventory management. People who’d rather just replay Fallout 4, which is also currently on Game Pass. Corporatists.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: Mobius Digital, Microsoft Store

Outer Wilds

There isn’t a game on the planet like Outer Wilds. You’re best going in completely blind, but if you must know some stuff, here you go: You explore an unusual planetary system where each planet operates under its own set of odd rules. You won’t fire a single bullet. You won’t engage in a minute of what’s traditionally known as “combat.” You’ll die a lot, but it’ll rarely feel unfair. You won’t earn any experience points, or unlock any skills, gear, or other bits of tangible progression. Each gameplay session lasts up to 22 minutes, at most, if you don’t first meet an untimely demise. You’re armed with nothing but your own knowledge”the knowledge that even the smallest discovery helps you understand the game more, and that, yes, there’s still a whole lot out there for you to discover.

A Good Match For: Gamers with insatiable curiosity. Tom Cruise fans who wished Edge of Tomorrow was less an action flick and more a soulful meditation on the meaning of existence.

Not A Good Match For: Those who prefer their video games with guns, grenades, or other various violent gadgets. People who can’t deal with a spaceship’s awkward controls.

Read our review, and many game diaries about how truly one-of-a-kind this gem is

it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: The Coalition, Microsoft Store

Gears 5

You probably already know what you’re getting with Gears 5: a competent third-person shooter in which you wield a variety of weapons, duck behind cover, shoot bad guys, and laugh at how hilariously yoked every human character is. (Seriously, what the hell is up with COG’s protein powder?) In short, Gears 5 is “more Gears.” But this latest iteration levels up the series formula in pretty much every way. The dialogue is witty. There are open-world sections now, complete with side quests and RPG elements. And putting the player in the shoes of a female protagonist”Kait Diaz, a former Outsider”is a welcome step forward. Plus, the Horde mode, which has been a series staple since 2008’s Gears of War 2, is as solid as ever, and expands on the class system introduced in Gears of War 4.

A Good Match For: Fans of Gears and other third-person shooters. People who say things like, “Wow, this might be the best-looking game on consoles right now,” because Gears 5 very well might be.

Not A Good Match For: Players who truly can’t stand long load times. The Gears 5 load screens can be excruciating.

Read our review of the campaign, and our impressions of the multiplayer.

Watch it in action.


Screenshot: Dontnod Entertainment, Microsoft Store

Life Is Strange 2

Not 10 minutes into Life Is Strange 2, 16-year-old Sean Diaz’s (the player character) father is fatally shot by a trigger-happy cop. His younger brother, 9-year-old Daniel Diaz, reveals a latent superpower”by using it to inadvertently kill the cop. Yeah, if you thought Dontnod’s followup would pull any punches, think again. Like the first game, Life Is Strange 2 laser-focuses on a relationship and asks you to make crucial narrative choices, but the story this time is set against the broader backdrop of our inescapable political reality. (In the first episode, the Diaz brothers are told to “go back where you came from.” In a later episode, you meet a character who ran away from home to escape conversion therapy.) As Gita Jackson put it in her review of the game, “Life Is Strange 2 doesn’t offer much of an escape from the world, but that’s why it’s worth playing.” In classic Life Is Strange fashion, each episode ends on a doozy of a cliffhanger. Impatient players should know that all episodes”each of which can be completed in about three hours”are now on Game Pass.

A Good Match For: People looking to Feel Things. Fans of indie pop (the game opens with a Phoenix tune).

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who struggles with indecision or prefers their games with high-octane set pieces and photorealistic graphics.

Read our review and our impressions of the climactic third episode, and learn why you should play the free prequel episode, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, beforehand.


Screenshot: Rocksteady Studios, Microsoft Store

Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight is an excellent game with some potentially off-putting baggage. That makes it the perfect game to dabble with via a service like Xbox Game Pass, rather than just buying it outright. The mid-2015 adventure capped off the series of Batman games made by Rocksteady Studios (plus a spin-off from WB Montreal) by putting players in control of a Batman who must explore the entirety of Gotham City and defend it from a horde of returning and new villains. That was the pitch, though it doesn’t get at one of the game’s best aspects: the scene-stealing performance of Mark Hamill’s Joker, who returns to the Arkham series in an unusual way. Arkham Knight plays out as a big open-world adventure full of goons to fight,puzzles to solve and an ending worth reaching. By this point in the series, Rocksteady was experimenting ambitiously, and the results are mostly terrific, what with some great narrative twists and the introduction of occasional single-player/two-character combat (think: alternating control of Batman and Robin as you use both to beat up the bad guys). The catch? The game introduced the Batmobile, which is used for racing, vehicular combat, and puzzle-based platforming. Not all of that went over so well with some players. Game Passer beware.

A Good Match For: People who love Batman, love seeing studios iterate on a proven formula, and dig a well-told story.

Not A Good Match For: People who don’t want Bat-tank combat in their Batman game.

Read our initial review, and our re-review.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: Arkane Studios, Microsoft Store

Dishonored 2

Everything players loved about the the first stealth adventure Dishonored“the open-ended mission structure, the not-quite-steampunk setting, the totally unique suite of gadgets and abilities, the Blink power”is present in Dishonored 2. For the sequel, Arkane Studios only built on a rock-solid foundation. First, there’s the setting: Karnaca, a city that’s far more lush than the previous game’s London-esque Dunwall. Then, there’s a new playable character: Emily Kaldwin, Corvo’s daughter, who has her own unique set of supernatural abilities. You can choose to play as Emily or Corvo. If you want a new experience, go with the former. If you want more of the same, go with the latter. Also, Corvo has a voice this time around. He’s voiced by Stephen Russell, who joins a star-studded vocal cast including Pedro Pascal, Rosario Dawson, Sam Rockwell, and Vincent D’Onofrio.

A Good Match For: Fans of the first Dishonored, or any other first-person games that give you a lot of fun tools and a bunch of playgrounds to use them in.

Not A Good Match For: Players who want a game to hold their hand every step of the way.

Read our review, and our in-depth look at the game’s time travel mission.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: Moon Studios, Microsoft Store

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

You’d be forgiven for thinking Ori and the Will of the Wisps would be a breeze to play. The main character looks adorable and the art could have come straight out of a Disney or Studio Ghibli film. It’s also a total tear-jerker”the type of game that can make you well up over a spider that, minutes earlier, tried to wipe you off the face of the planet. But make no mistake: this platformer is the real deal. It will absolutely destroy you, over and over and over again. Good thing the reload is near instantaneous. What’s more, Will of the Wisps adds a few significant quality-of-life improvements over 2015’s already stellar Ori and the Blind Forest (also on Game Pass). For starters, there’s an autosave feature now. There’s also a hub section where a cadre of other cute forest creatures live (and sell you stuff). But the biggest change is in the combat: This time around, Ori has a full arsenal that feels very Legend of Zelda, including a sword, a bow, and, should you choose, a boomerang.

A Good Match For: Anyone who loves tough precision platformers or cute forest creatures.

Not A Good Match For: Folks who don’t have tissues nearby, since this game has the same fuzzy sadness as a Pixar short.

Read our review.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: Xbox Game Studios, Microsoft Store

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Fun fact: According to Larry Hyrb, the director of programming for Xbox Live, all Xbox One exclusives are permanent fixtures of the Game Pass library. Put another way: If Xbox Game Pass is Netflix, then first-party games are Netflix Originals. Obviously, that includes the Halo games. And there’s no better way to gun down the Covenant and take on the Flood than with Halo: The Master Chief collection, a supersized bundle that includes Halos 1, 2, 3, and 4. (Halo: Reach, the prequel tale, is available as an additional download.) At more than 100GB, it’ll take up a sizable chunk of your harddrive. But if you’re a fan of Master Chief”what Xbox owner isn’t?”it’s well worth it.

A Good Match For: Fans of Halo, shooting games, or frenetic multiplayer modes. Gamers craving a dose of mid-2000s nostalgia.

Not A Good Match For: The Covenant. The Flood. Fans of Locke, the divisive main character of Halo 5: Guardians.

Read our initial impressions of the collection, and our review of Halo 4.


Screenshot: CD Projekt Red, Microsoft Store

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Even the most casual gamer will tell you that side quests can often feel like filler. Kill 10 wild boar. Collect 15 herbs. That sort of thing. In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, though, side quests carry as much emotional weight and narrative consequence as the primary story (which itself plays out in various unexpected ways depending on choices you make throughout the game). The result is a 100-hour open world RPG that feels like it couldn’t have been any shorter than 100 hours. Combat’s a blast, too, and the RPG elements are satisfyingly meaty. Best of all, if you’ve never played a previous Witcher game”or have no familiarity with the main character, Geralt of Rivia”you can still easily hop in. The Witcher 3 is a self-contained narrative. If you somehow missed this one, toss a coin to your witcher and download it, already!

A Good Match For: Bards. Fans of the Netflix adaptation. Players who like to hunt monsters, fight bandits, swing swords, cast spells, drink potions, and get utterly lost in breathtaking vistas.

Not A Good Match For: People with busy schedules.

Read our review of the game, and our thoughts on the Netflix show.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: Playground Games, Microsoft Store

Forza Horizon 4

There are racing games, and then there are Forza games”and Forza Horizon 4 is the ne plus ultra of Forza games. The eye-popping Horizon 4 is set all across a freely explorable recreation of England and plays out through a cycle of terrain-altering seasons. Chief among them: As of a December 2019 update, the game has a battle royale mode. (Yes, really.) And before that, developer Playground Games introduced a “Lego expansion” for $US19.99 ($34)”because why not?

A Good Match For: Fans of racing games. Car enthusiasts. Jalopnik readers.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who didn’t like Forza Horizon 3. NUMTOTs and other pro-transit advocates.

Read our impressions of the battle royale mode.

Watch it in action.


Screenshot: Sega, Microsoft Store

Yakuza 0

Yakuza games are a juggling act. One ball is a daytime soap opera. Another ball is a third-person beat-em-up action game. And the third ball can only be described as truly bonkers minutiae. Maybe that means helping a street musician relieve himself. Maybe that means bowling with the goal of winning a turkey. Or maybe that just means singing karaoke. As you wander around Kamurocho”the Yakuza series’ version of Kabukichō, the entertainment district of Shinjuku, Tokyo”you’ll come across all manner of seemingly random mini-games of this ilk. They’re welcome pit stops that break up what the game is ostensibly about: beating up 15,391 dudes at once.

A Good Match For: Anyone who’s wanted to visit Japan. Tattoo aficionados.

Not A Good Match For: Grand Theft Auto fans; Yakuza games are a different beast.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Screenshot: Capcom, Microsoft Store

Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter‘s first major foray onto modern consoles sure doesn’t disappoint. The weapons are appropriately huge, the areas are jaw-droppingly massive, and the monsters are”¦ well, they can fit on the screen now“but that doesn’t mean they’re any less gigantic than in prior entries. Monster Hunter: World conveys the truly epic scale of Monster Hunter battles in a way previous hardware simply couldn’t. Better yet, it’s an excellent franchise entrypoint. The gameplay is still bonkers, but Capcom streamlined much of the minutiae (good riddance, painstaking pickaxe crafting). Oh, and there’s online co-op. Buddy up!

A Good Match For: Gamers who watched Pacific Rim and thought, “Yeah, I could take that thing.” Series newcomers.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who doesn’t want to run to Google every time a game doesn’t adequately explain something beyond the basics.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.


Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC Games “¢ The Best PS4 Games “¢ The Best Xbox One Games “¢ The Best Nintendo Switch Games “¢ The Best Wii U Games “¢ The Best 3DS Games “¢ The Best PS Vita Games “¢ The Best Xbox 360 Games “¢ The Best PS3 Games “¢ The Best Wii Games “¢ The Best iPhone Games “¢ The Best iPad Games “¢ The Best Android Games


Update 3/24/2020: We’ve added Yakuza 0 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. They knocked out Quantum Break and Sea of Thieves, both of which are still on Xbox Game Pass (and still fantastic). 

Comments

  • I understand every list is subjective, but big disagree on Batman Arkham Knight.. You’ll love it going into it and then as the game progresses, the love will dissipate in proportion to the focus on the batmobile.. I finished it, but I found it a bit of a slog in the end, compared to AA and even AC which were great all the way through..

    This article must be a little old.. it’s missing some great recent titles like GTA5..

    Not to mention there’s a bunch of games which could have made the list like Rocket League, Minecraft (it may not be your cup of tea but it’s HUGE), Mortal Kombat X, Doom, DMC5.. and that’s just the ones I can instantly remember..

  • I was a late user of the GamePass but now I’m on it, there’s no looking back. It’s a really great service and definitely the way of the future.

    A couple of games I’ve been playing.

    Minecraft. Well I’ve been playing it for years on and off, but the GamePass version is new and shiny and has lots of cool new features, well new for someone who hasn’t played for a while.

    Subnautica. A friend advised me to play this game since I love Minecraft. It’s completely different but an immersive, beautiful and fun game in it’s own right. I’ve been playing this almost exclusively for the last few weeks.

    Sniper Elite 4. I bought this ages ago but a mate just got it off GamePass and we had a blast over the weekend, playing through the campaign co-op. Heaps of fun.

  • The Surge 2 was recently added.

    This along with Nioh 2 & Revenant got me on my Souls-Like binge

  • If you get a Series X and have game pass, you need only pay for the purchase of the console, and nothing more for anything to play onit.

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