The 12 Best Xbox Game Pass For PC Games

The 12 Best Xbox Game Pass For PC Games
Image: Halo 3 / Yakuza: Like a Dragon / Slay the Spire / Microsoft Flight Simulator

There’s games for the Xbox Series X and S, and the best games across Game Pass generally. But if you’re on Xbox Game Pass for PC, you’re dealing with a whole different library. So what’s worth playing? Here’s the best Xbox Game Pass for PC games right now.

Even with the occasional game leaving the service, Xbox Game Pass for PC has an astonishingly good range. If you’re after oldschool point and click strategy titles? There’s plenty of those. Want some quirky indie adventures? They’re there too. PC classics like the Fallout franchise and Wolfenstein are available, and there’s plenty of short experiences if you just want to knock something out without too much investment.

At the time of writing, there’s 274 separate games on the PC version of Xbox Game Pass. It’s hard to whittle down, but if you’re thinking about trialling the service, here’s 12 games to start with.

xbox game pass pc games
Screenshot: Yakuza: Like A Dragon

Yakuza: Like A Dragon

While older Yakuza games could be a constant slog, Yakuza: Like A Dragon is vivid, endlessly entertaining and full of Yakuza’s trademark surprises. There’s the chicken you can promote to be CEO of a company, squawking at crabby investors. There’s the Dragon Quest inspired turn-based combat, and, most importantly of all, Ichiban.

If you’ve always been interested in the Yakuza series, but held off for one reason or another, Like a Dragon is a great start. Replaying the older Yakuza games can be enormously difficult. Like A Dragon modernises some of those systems and refines some of its more egregious flaws. But it’s also got a story that’s enormously heartwarming, backed up with the roguish, almost child-like innocence that Ichiban adopts to life.

Recommended For: People who love Japan and Japanese culture, fans of the Yakuza franchise, and anyone who enjoys large RPGs with lots of interlocking distractions and systems.

Not Recommended For: Anyone looking for a short experience, those expecting Grand Theft Auto-style design, people with slow hard drives (there’s a lot of cut scenes).

Read our tips for playing the game, and our further thoughts on Ichiban as Kiryu’s successor here.

Read our community review.

xbox game pass pc
Image: Slay the Spire

Slay The Spire

There are some games that come along with an idea, design and execution so good that it transforms the genre around it. Slay the Spire, which incorporates ideas from games like FTL, is one of those.

It’s functionally a dungeon builder where you add cards to your deck the further you progress up the titular Spire. Most of the card mechanics and interactions are relatively simple, even as multiple relics start adding more damage, armour, or interesting quirks that fundamentally change how you approach a game.

Slay the Spire was brilliant even before it was fully released, and it’s a functionally perfect game today. If you’re after a neat distraction that you can enjoy in bite-sized chunks, but a game with enough depth and ease of use that you could happily lose hours to, you won’t find anything better.

Recommended For: Anyone who has enjoyed any card game, ever.

Not Recommended For: Everyone should give Slay the Spire a go.

Read our review.

Read our tips for playing the game.

Control (Screenshot: Heath Gardner (Email))
Control (Screenshot: Heath Gardner (Email))

Control

You won’t get access to the excellent Foundation or AWE expansion packs through Game Pass, but the base Control is still an remarkably outstanding experience. It’s best played on PC, especially if you have access to top-of-the-line hardware and the ray-tracing it enables.

But even on mid-range systems, Control is one hell of a trip. You play as Jesse Faden, someone who has been searching for the paranormal Bureau ever since they were a child. Upon walking into their front doors, you quickly enter a world heavily inspired by Alan Wake, creepypastas, and David Lynch. It helps that Control‘s also backed by some of the best core gameplay Remedy has designed since Max Payne: floating in the air and Force Throwing office furniture around at will never gets old. An absolute masterpiece, and one all Remedy fans should play.

Recommended For: Fans of first-person shooters, David Lynch, games with Force powers (or something akin to Force powers).

Not Recommended For: Those who prefer more straightforward narratives, anyone with entry or super low-end PCs.

Read our review.

Read our tips for playing the game.

xbox game pass pc games
Image: Desperados 3

Desperados 3

It’s been a good time for fans of stealth tactics, and Desperadoes 3 is perhaps the best the genre has to offer right now. It’s no surprise really: the same studio made the superb Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, and Desperados 3 is those raw mechanics and ideas on a grander scale, with more humour, more enemies to mess with, and the Wild West. What’s not to love?

Recommended For: Fans of the Commandos series, fans of stealth games or real-time tactics, people who love setting elaborate plans.

Not Recommended For: Impatient gamers.

Read our review, and watch some gameplay.

age of empires 2 definitive edition
Image: Steam

Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

One of the seminal real-time strategy games, Age of Empires 2 has well and truly stood the test of time. The fanbase kept the historical RTS going for decades until it spawning the successful Age of Empires 2 HD remake, seemingly out of sheer will.

Microsoft eventually took notice and threw their full weight behind the franchise again, and they’ve worked in collaboration with the community and original developers to produce three pretty solid remakes. But Age of Empires 2 is by far and away the most beloved, the one with the most content and the game with the strongest community. Age of Empires 2 was always brilliant. Now, it’s better.

Recommended For: Fans of history, anyone who enjoys the nostalgia of LAN parties where you couldn’t attack opponents for the first 20 minutes, people who appreciate immense strategical depth but don’t want multiplayer games where actions per minute can be a permanently limiting factor.

Not Recommended For: Those who prefer strategy games with less resource management and fewer races to manage.

Read our review.

xbox game pass pc games
Image: Kotaku Australia

Microsoft Flight Simulator

An absolute triumph as far as Xbox exclusives go. Flight Simulator has always been a game, much in the same way that Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a game, or that roleplaying in GTA is a game. But what makes Asobo Studio’s latest iteration of the series is a massive advancement in cloud technology, allowing people to stream in satellite maps data while playing to create some absurdly astonishing vistas.

It’s not just the most well-known landscapes and landmarks that are featured, however. The entire globe is effectively your playable “map” in Flight Simulator 2020, allowing for trips like flying over your parent’s house. It’s missing a deal of accuracy — Bing Maps, unsurprisingly, isn’t perfect — but the extremely high quality textures, range of aircraft, constant world updates and revisions to airports, cities and the areas around them, make for a truly next-gen experience. The best part? Flight Simulator is perfectly accessible with an Xbox controller, meaning you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive pedals or flight yokes. (You will want to have a keyboard and mouse at hand for dealing with passenger-level aircraft like the A320, however.)

Recommended For: Fans of simulators, flying, anyone who wants to see their house in a video game, or people who just want a game to “chill out”.

Not Recommended For: Anyone who prefers their games to have more defined objectives or purpose, those who don’t enjoy the idea of slowly working through 8-hour bush trips.

Read our review.

Read our tips for getting started.

hollow knight
Image: Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight

There are a lot of accomplished platformers with Metroidvania elements, but the South Australian-made Hollow Knight might be the greatest achievement of them all. There’s some exceptionally tight controls and astonishingly non-stop beautiful hand-drawn art. The soundtrack is haunting and serene. The level design can be punishing; bosses hard, but always fair once you learn the patterns.

It is, in many ways, the perfect modern rendition of platformers old. The fact that it’s wholly Australian is an extra bonus. I’d just caution that Hollow Knight is a game that grows on you. The opening area is perhaps its weakest point, and it’s a game that you very much need to spend time with before it all clicks. If you prefer platformers that are a bit more forgiving, however, the excellent Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a superb second choice. Axiom Verge is also brilliant in its own right, especially for those who prefer the Metroid-era of pixel art.

Recommended For: Fans of Metroidvania games, those who enjoy a challenge, anyone who wants to see the quality of Australian studios.

Not Recommended For: People who hate platformers, people who prefer their games to have more leniency and assistance.

Read our review.

Read our tips for the game.

xbox game pass pc
Image: Crusader Kings III

Crusader Kings 3

The Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings series has always been the best grand strategy has to offer, especially if you think it’s funny to make a horse the ruler of Rome. Crusader Kings 3 does the best job at modernising Paradox’s notoriously convoluted UI and menu systems, however, making it the most accessible of the publisher’s historical strategy adventures.

Do you want to marry the Pope? Maybe you want to eat the Pope. Whatever your dreams desire, there’s usually a way to make it happen in Crusader Kings‘ evolving, immense replication of medieval era politics and diplomacy.

Recommended For: People who love setting and executing grand plans, people who enjoy the machinations of historical diplomacy, fans of Chess, fans of absurdist historical revisionism.

Not Recommended For: Those who get easily overwhelmed.

Read our review.

halo
Image: Halo Master Chief Collection

Halo: Master Chief Collection

It’s taken a few years to get right, but the whole Halo series is finally on PC — and after many patches, it’s also in a pretty good state. There’s lots of Halo multiplayer if that’s just your jam, but if you want to replay some of the best shooter campaigns of the ’00s era, then Master Chief Collection has that too. It’s still getting new content too, and if you’re looking for something to blast through with a friend, the online co-op support works like an absolute dream.

Recommended For: Fans of oldschool shooters, people looking for grand FPS campaigns they can play in co-op, those looking to scratch a nostalgia itch.

Not Recommended For: Anyone who doesn’t like FPS games. Those who prefer more demons and interesting settings in their shooter campaigns will probably prefer the DOOM reboot, or Prodeus.

Watch gameplay of Master Chief Collection on PC.

no man's sky
No Man’s Sky (Screenshot: @Yggdrazilla, Twitter)

No Man’s Sky

What started out as a chorus of anger has transformed into one of the best redemption stories in video games. The game has been added to and built on so much that fans launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy ad space outside the Hello Games office just to say thank you.

It’s a remarkable tale of development. But No Man’s Sky has always been a wonderfully chill, space explorer experience from the beginning. Over the years, Hello Games has simply refined that core concept to add not just multiplayer, but so many additions to the core experience that it’s functionally unrecongisable from what originally launched.

The game’s visuals — one of its strongest assets — have been radically improved. The game’s performance has been optimised relentlessly on all consoles and especially for PC. It’s one of the best games you can play in VR — and with Microsoft Flight Simulator and Tetris Effect: Connected, one of the best VR titles on Xbox Game Pass for PC.

And that doesn’t even get into what you can actually play or do. The core “idea” of No Man’s Sky is to journey to the centre of the galaxy. In practice, you’ll discover and meeting alien pets, build your own pilotable mechs, go on pre-planned expeditions as a community, build and maintain bases alone or with surprise new friends, explore spooky derelict space dungeons, and grow your own organic spaceships.

You can, comfortably, spend hundreds of hours in No Man’s Sky accomplishing everything, or precisely nothing. The stars are yours: what you do when you get there is up to you.

Recommended For: People looking for a vivid, gorgeous virtual space to explore and chill in. Those who enjoy the mechanical loops of crafting, building and resource hunting. Fans of space adventures.

Not Recommended For: Players looking for a more “serious” space adventure with more realistic flight models, or those who want space games to have a greater focus on combat.

Read our latest coverage. 

Tetris Effect: Connected

Pure perfection in game design, Tetris Effect: Connected is effectively the multiplayer (and Xbox) update to the original PlayStation exclusive. Tetris Effect at its core is more Tetris, transformed into a visual and musical spectacle. It’s a brilliant showcase in the difference presentation can make to an experience, with the beat and rhythm of each ‘level’ ebbing and flowing as each tetromino twists, turns and falls into place.

If you don’t want your Tetris experience cranked up to twitch shooter-levels of speed, the original Journey mode provides 27 themed levels each tuned to their own beat and music. You can also customise the game down to just be a pure Tetris experience, and there’s Relax modes that remove fail states from the game entirely.

Tetris Effect: Connected is also playable in VR, and it doesn’t require a roomscale setup to work either. For anyone who has ever needed a bit of escapism after work, or something where you can completely get lost in a visual and aural space, Tetris Effect is it. The multiplayer add-on is a bonus and works well, but you really need to enjoy this alone with headphones for the full experience.

Recommended For: Fans of Tetris, VR players looking for a visual treat, fans of rhythm games, and anyone who wants to be mesmerised by a combination of sound, sight and mechanics.

Not Recommended For: People who really hate Tetris. 

Read our review, and watch more gameplay.

nier automata
Image: Microsoft Store / Steam

NieR: Automata

It is easy to look at the dominatrix-esque clothes, the anime stylings, the constant shifts of perspective and gameplay, and think NieR Automata is some sort of gimmick. If that’s you, or if you’ve sat on the fence playing NieR Automata because of some uncertainty that you can’t quite put your finger on, that’s understandable.

But you would be making a mistake. NieR Automata is a game that continues to reveal itself not just as you play it, but as you beat it multiple times. It’s a story of androids as they try to retake the planet for humanity thousands of years in the future. It’s a game featuring multiple games. There are multiple endings. (26 in total.) Multiple characters. Tragedies. Inclusions you won’t see in other video games. A story that continues to develop well after your first playthrough, with the New Game+ mode giving you a new perspective on the story you’ve just experienced. A third playthrough you gives access to another character and even more perspective, with its own combat mechanics and abilities. There’s even an oldschool cheat code, one that took years after the game’s release to discover. And don’t even get me started on the incredible range in the 40 songs on the NieR Automata soundtrack, where every song is broken down into seven separate parts.

Along with PlatinumGames’ stellar combat design, the story of NieR Automata also has plenty of punch, with lots of subtlety for those willing to look. To say much more would spoil what is one of the most unique experiences in design.

Recommended For: Fans of platformers, people who enjoy games that continually subvert expectations, students of video game design, fans of games that leverage multiple genres.

Not Recommended For: Those looking for sub-10 hour games, or those lacking the patience to replay a game more than once.

Read our review, and watch some gameplay.


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

The Best PC Games • The Best PS4 Games • The Best Games On PS Now • The Best Xbox One Games • The Best Games For The Xbox Series X And S • The Best Games On Xbox Game Pass • The Best Nintendo Switch GamesThe Best 3DS Games • The Best PS Vita Games • The Best Xbox 360 Games • The Best PS3 Games • The Best iPhone Games • The Best iPad Games • The Best Android Games

Comments

  • I’ve been tempted a few times, but do you get sufficient warning that a game is leaving Game Pass? I tend to enjoy longer, open-world type games and taking my time with them. I also usually have half a dozen games on the go at once, so I enjoy taking my time with them and I can be playing them for months. I worry about getting into into something then it being removed before I’ve finished it.

    • You usually get about 4 weeks notice I think. And if its a game you’ve sunk that much time into, then you’ve also got the option to buy it like any other game (for 10% off).

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