So, Which Bethesda Game Pass Game Should You Play First?

So, Which Bethesda Game Pass Game Should You Play First?
Illustration: Bethesda
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Starting today, you can play a bunch of Bethesda-published games on Game Pass, thanks to Microsoft and ZeniMax’s recent marriage. Some were previously available. Many are new. However you slice it, if you’re a member of Microsoft’s games-on-demand service, you now have 20 largely excellent games at your fingertips.

You obviously cannot play all of them at once. For starters, these games aren’t small. The beefy Xbox Series X might offer 1TB of storage, but that fills up fast, and there’s no use filling up your library with a ton of games that share a lot of DNA. Plus, there’s the small matter of your most precious resource: time.

So, where to start? That depends on what you want to play. If you’re looking for…

…a shooter: play Doom Eternal.

Screenshot: Bethesda Screenshot: Bethesda

Doom Eternal only has one speed: fast. Most shooters are about being careful: taking cover, lining up shots, saying fun military terms like “reloading” and “covering fire.” The modern hack and slash Doom games more or less say to hell with that. Since you restore health and ammo by punching enemies, you’re forced to stay in constant motion. Getting up close and personal is mandatory. Stand still for a second, and you’re done for.

As great as 2016’s Doom is (and it is indeed well worth playing), Doom Eternal ramps the overall bonkers-ness up to 11. In addition to new enemy types, you also get a grappling hook — the one tool that has never not made a game better — and a freakin’ sword. Don’t worry about catching up on the plot. All you really need to know is: Demons, bad, kill.

Read our review.

Check out our tips for the game.

…an immersive sim: play Prey.

Screenshot: Bethesda Screenshot: Bethesda

Arkane Studios may be best known for the Dishonored games (both of which are excellent and on Game Pass), but the studio really hit it out of the park with Prey. Though it’s technically the same intellectual property as the 2006 game, don’t worry: There’s no relation between the two. You don’t need to study up on any lore. You can go in completely cold. If anything, new Prey feels more like BioShock than like old Prey.

The modern Prey takes on a space station, the fictional Talos I, in the near-future of an alternate history in which JFK wasn’t assassinated, which apparently caused ‘60s-style mod décor to persist into the 2030s. Talos I is largely ransacked, ruined, and abandoned, the result of a malevolent extraterrestrial presence. That sounds scary — it is scary — but, on the flip side, it ends up granting you some seriously cool otherworldly powers, including one that allows you to occupy basically any object in the game. The story is somewhat of a drag, so most of the joy is in exploring the space station, discovering new passageways, unlocking new powers, and slowly but surely getting strong enough to actually take on the scary monsters. Just don’t get your hopes up for a solid ending.

Read our review.

Check out our tips.

…a role-playing game: play Fallout 4.

Screenshot: Bethesda Screenshot: Bethesda

You’ve no doubt heard that Fallout: New Vegas is the essential RPG under Bethesda’s purview. For sure, it’s a solid game, one where your decisions carry weight and consequence. It’s also a thousand years old. Those new to the broad genre of “Bethesda RPG” should frankly start with Fallout 4, the newest and most modern-feeling of the bunch.

Fallout 4, like every other Fallout, takes place in a version of America that has been nuked to smithereens. It’s a true mix of first-person shooting and first-person stats-mixing, in that you’re just as likely to end up in a firefight as you are in a series of branching dialogue options. That’s all wrapped in a staggeringly large open-world that begs you to explore it.

But Fallout 4 does what no other modern Fallout has: It shows you the “Before Times.” The first moments of Fallout 4 start with the day America gets turned into radioactive dust. You’re funneled into a vault, cryogenically frozen against your expectation, and wake up two centuries later, whereupon you’re let loose into a version of Boston that looks like Boston today after the Red Sox win a home game. (Side note: Why do Bostonians ransack their city when their team wins? Never understood that one.) That initial look is worth starting with Fallout 4. The game also has a robust base-builder element, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Read our review.

Check out our tips.

…a reason to toss your Xbox into the nearest river: play Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Great game. Fuck that final boss, though.

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