The 17 Best Games For The Xbox Series X And S

The 17 Best Games For The Xbox Series X And S
At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

We’re now in the third year of the latest console generation, which means more new games are finally coming out and development on older Xbox One versions has all but wrapped up. So what is the best that the Xbox Series X/S has to offer?

A fair bit of this list still pays tribute to cross-gen games, including older ones that, thanks to definitive “next-gen” ports, are every bit as top-tier as new Xbox Series X/S exclusives. Simply put: if you just got your first Xbox Series X/S and haven’t already played these games before, what follows are the top “must plays” for the platform.

Yes, the Xbox Series X and S are basically souped-up Xbox Ones, which means you’ll rarely be pressed for awesome games to play. A good rule of thumb is this: If it was playable on the Xbox One, it’s playable on the Xbox Series X and S. (To that end, here’s our list of the best games for the Xbox One.) There’s also the matter of a little service called Game Pass.

Starting at $11.95 a month, you can access a library of more than 100 Xbox games, including first-party exclusives and a rotating slew of third-party hits. (Hey, look, here’s our list of the best games on Game Pass.) With all that in mind, here are the best games for the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

The best games for the Xbox

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

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Image: EA Games

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was an impressive pastiche of action-adventure game mechanics and Star Wars fan service. Jedi: Survivor feels like a defining step forward for the action-adventure genre whose best tricks are novel and inventive rather than borrowed from elsewhere. Jedi Knight Cal Kestis is all grown up, grizzled and battle-hardened, with new, deadly powers, and a larger world to navigate with them. It’s bigger and better without succumbing to the malaise and bloat that accompanies most sequels. Lots of games try to do everything and fail. Jedi: Survivor isn’t one of them.

A Good Match For: Fans of Star Wars and anyone who likes really good games.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who hates weird-looking aliens, lots of wild sci-fi sound effects, and generally having fun.

Read our impressions.

Purchase From: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia | Big W | Kogan

Hi-Fi Rush

Image: Bethesda

Hi-Fi Rush was the best type of gaming surprise. It came out of nowhere and did not disappoint with its refreshingly unencumbered approach to rhythm-based action and colourful level design. You play as Chai, an aspiring rockstar turned garbage collector in a robot factory who ends up fighting for his life to rebel against a giant corporate conspiracy. Brilliant art direction and frenetic boss fights help Hi-Fi Rush’s straightforward level design and simple progression feel more like well-earned treats than shallow set dressing. It’s also an Xbox console exclusive.

A Good Match For: Fans of early 2000s pop rock bangers. Anyone who likes to tap their foot to the rhythm of a beat-em-up platformer.

Not A Good Match For: Haters of the Black Keys. Someone looking for a brutal Soulsborne action experience.

Read our impressions.

Purchase From: Microsoft Store 

The Witcher 3

Image: CD Projekt Red

CD Projekt Red’s open-world RPG about the monster-slaying mutant Geralt searching for his surrogate daughter was one of the best games of the last console generation, and its upgraded port remains one of the best games of the current Xbox cycle. In addition to all of the strong points of the original—a gripping story, fantastic side quests, and a sprawling map that rewards exploration without just throwing tons of icons at you—the Xbox Series X/S version comes with a 60fps performance mode, a whole new level of graphical detail in the world, and more welcome quality-of-life tweaks. In other words, one of the best games of the last decade just got that much better.

A Good Match For: Anyone who’s ever wanted to play in Grand Theft Auto’s sandbox with a Renaissance Faire make-over.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who hates silly fantasy names and doesn’t have 100 hours to spare.

Read our impressions.

Purchase From: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia | Big W | Kogan

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

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Image: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

This is the Star Wars game you’ve been waiting for ever since you first saw the films back as a young kid. How could a Star Wars fan not be excited by a game that contains all nine main films and then combines them into one giant open-world video game package, complete with hundreds of sidequests, planets, characters, ships, and missions? And all of it is recreated in incredible detail using LEGO bricks and pieces. At times it’s hard to tell if you are playing a game or just watching real LEGO ships fly around. Even if you don’t love Star Wars or LEGO as much as the most devoted fans, Skywalker Saga is still worth checking out—especially if you have younger kids and want something fun to play with them. Just one catch: There is sadly no online co-op.

A Good Match For: Star Wars fans, LEGO lovers, younger kids, fans of collect-a-thons, and people who like silly things.

Not A Good Match For: Serious or boring people. Also, folks who prefer linear adventures and people who have stepped on LEGO bricks.

Read our review.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia | Big W | JB Hi-Fi

Elden Ring

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Image: From Software

You may associate legendary developer FromSoft’s oeuvre with PlayStation. (The studio’s hit game Bloodborne is currently PS4-only, while a recent remake of Demon’s Souls was exclusive to PS5.) But Elden Ring, the studio’s latest chart-smashing hit, is easily one of the best games on Xbox Series X/S. It’s not just “an open-world game.” It is, in perhaps a way no other game has done since Nintendo’s Breath of the Wild, an open-world game that reimagines what an open world can be. Absent heavy-handed direction, you can go wherever you want. You can do whatever you like. You just might get your ass kicked by a building-sized immortal god who feasts on the bones of fallen soldiers.

A Good Match For: All of you who wished Xbox had its own version of BotW or Bloodborne.

Not A Good Match For: Folks with packed schedules.

Read our review.

Purchase FromMicrosoft Store | Amazon Australia | Big W | JB Hi-Fi

Life is Strange: True Colours

square enix e3
Image: Square Enix

Life is Strange: True Colours is the first in the series of adventure games to release as a whole batch rather than episodically. You play as Alex Chen, a mind-reader who’s accepted an offer from her estranged brother to move to a painfully twee town in the Rockies. Make no mistake. This is still a Life is Strange game, with all that entails. (In an early cinematic, as mellow acoustic music plays while Alex ponders her thoughts on a bridge, the camera methodically pans over shots of flowers and other natural imagery.) And the game can be a gut punch at points. But man, when it’s at the height of its powers, the Life is Strange formula hits the spot.

A Good Match For: Fans of choice-based adventure games and complex dialogue trees. Indie musicians (and their labels).

Not A Good Match For: Life is Strange fans who enjoyed the parcelled-out nature of episode releases.

Read our review.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store

Guardians of the Galaxy

guardians of the galaxy cheap gaming deal
Image: Square Enix

You may think Guardians of the Galaxy is just another slickly produced action game based on a popular superhero franchise, but you’d be about as far from the truth as possible. The action, believe it or not, is actually…fine. At best. You’re really here for the razor-sharp writing, which manifests in supremely well-directed cinematics, yes, but also in the margins: Every battle, every puzzle, every stroll through an eye-popping alien environment is punctuated by quips and banter. Over the course of its 16 chapters, which take you through a rollercoaster of twists, you’ll come to feel like you’re the honorary sixth Gardener of the Galaxy (to steal a quip from some of the funnier NPCs).

A Good Match For: Marvel superfans (GotG presents a take on the characters wholly different from the films or comics).

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who plays games purely for the running and jumping and punching and skill-point-allotting. Chris Pratt. Adam Jensen.

Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia

Forza Horizon 5

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Image: Playground Games

Forza Horizon 5 is a riotous racing game on any platform but an absolutely stunning next-gen showcase. If you’re at all invested in the never-ending fidelity horserace, you’ll want to play on Xbox Series X, where its fictional rendition of Mexico is eye-popping at every turn. The game itself is quite fun, too, of course. An open-world map packed with objectives, plus some 500-odd vehicles—all fine-tuned to the degree they feel unique—keeps things consistently fresh. But Forza Horizon 5’s secret sauce is a focus on relentless positivity, which makes you feel like you’re always winning, even when you’re not.

A Good Match For: Fans of fast cars, breezy racing games, and…The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Sure!

Not A Good Match For: Anyone seeking a real-world-accurate simulation experience.

Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia | Catch 

Halo Infinite

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Image: 343 Industries

Halo Infinite is having a moment. Its multiplayer portion, which is free-to-play, started off strong and has only improved in the months since, with a steady drip of new modes and seasonal events. The campaign, meanwhile, is somehow both a continuation of the newer games and a return to form to the glorious original trilogy. (You play as the stalwart series protagonist Master Chief the whole time.) Halo Infinite is also the first series entry to feature something resembling an open world, though it’s a totally manageable one, opting for a feasible slew of bespoke objectives over a mind-numbing spreadsheet of cookie-cutter collectathons. The plot’s pretty moving, too—if you’re steeped in Halo’s story, at least.

A Good Match For: Fans of arena shooters and sweeping sci-fi epics.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who wants to play co-op Halo, a battle royale, or an open-world game packed with Ubisoft-level swathes of objectives. The plot and characters of Halo 5: Guardians.

Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia

Hitman 3

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Image: Bandai Namco

For a slow game, Hitman 3 moves fast. You, as international superspy Agent 47, are tasked with eliminating various high-profile targets on expansive, open-ended levels. Like the previous two Hitman games — and every spy movie, ever — these levels span the globe: Dubai, Dartmoor, Berlin, Chongqing, Mendoza, and the snowy Romanian backcountry. (You can also import owned levels from the previous entry into Hitman 3.)

Rather than duck-and-cover shootouts, as you’d find in many other third-person games, Hitman 3 is about scanning your environment, discerning clues, learning about your targets, and, of course, knocking out poor civilians and stealing their outfits. You may have a gun, but the shooting mechanics aren’t nearly on par with, say Uncharted. In nearly every instance, you’re better suited playing stealthily. The result is a breathlessly tense game of cat and mouse — even in moments when you’re slowly strolling through a packed dance floor.

A Good Match For: Fans of stealth, puzzles, travel, terrific fashion, and playing the same level ad infinitum to nail down a more creative solution.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a tight third-person shooter.

Read our review.

Find all* of the bananas.

Purchase From: Microsoft Store

Gears 5

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Image: Gears of War 5

You probably know what to expect from Gears 5. Like every Gears of War game before it, save for the excellent Gears Tactics (see below), it’s a cover-based, third-person shooter starring people with frighteningly large biceps. For the launch of the Xbox Series X and S, Gears 5 received a makeover, buffing the visuals and generally improving performance across the board. Those with compatible displays can now run the game at 120fps, and it’s safe to say that Gears 5 is one of the best-looking games on console right now. In early December, the game received the meaty Hivebusters expansion, which members of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate are able to snag for no extra cost. Starring three characters from outside the main cast, and featuring some innovative combat abilities — including one that restores your ammo — Hivebusters brings a fresh take to an old game. Gears 5 may have released in 2019, but it feels newer than ever.

A Good Match For: Fans of third-person shooters. Anyone who enjoyed Gears 5 the first time around, in its less resplendent state.

Not A Good Match For: Players who’ve had enough of Gears. Series newcomers who aren’t willing to at least parse the game’s Wiki beforehand.

Read our review, and our impressions of the Hivebusters expansion.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store

Destiny 2

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Image: Bungie

Yes, Destiny 2 has been around the block, but it’s still got a spring in its step. Thanks to an early December next-gen optimisation, it’s one of the tightest first-person shooters on the Xbox Series X and S. The annual expansion, Beyond Light, introduced players to a whole new region (the snowy wastes of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons) and further refined the compulsive nature of that loot grind. The shooting is still as tight as ever. And those with top-shelf displays can run Crucible, Destiny 2’s PVP mode, at 120fps, which rules for them. (Like Gears 5, the enhanced Destiny 2 is a real looker.) But the major, undeniable sell for Destiny 2 on Xbox is how easy it is to pick up and play. In November, Destiny 2: Beyond Light joined the Xbox Game Pass library. And those who’ve played on other platforms can easily carry their characters over.

A Good Match For: Fans of first-person shooters, loot grinds, in-game lore text, deliciously pulpy sci-fi, and a never-ending stream of satisfying headshots.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a comprehensible story, or a competitive mode as tight as, say, Halo 3.

Read our review of Beyond Light.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Image: Moon Studios

Ori and the Will of the Wisps was already one of the best platformers of 2020. Following a launch-day update for the Xbox Series X and S, it’s even better, and includes video settings that support supersampled 6K resolution at 60 fps. (If you have a fancy enough screen, the game can run in 4K at 120 frames per second.) The biggest knock against Ori and the Will of the Wisps was that, at launch, it was marred by some performance issues: lockups, screen stutters, things of that nature. All such issues are wholly eliminated on the Series X. Ori now leaps through the whimsical magic-forest of Niwen with the precision and dexterity of an Olympic gymnast. Menus and combat are smooth as butter, as are character animations. In short, one of 2020’s best platformers is officially one of its best-performing ones, too.

A Good Match For: Fans of airtight platforming, Studio Ghibli-like art direction, and whimsical forest spirits.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for an easy game. Big criers.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

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Image: Ubisoft

Round any corner in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and you’ll stumble upon something fascinating. Despite the game’s staggering size, you won’t find any traditional, cookie-cutter side-quests. Rather, Valhalla’s open-world take on 9th-century England and Norway is dotted with brief activities called World Events. They’re all bespoke, and vary from platforming challenges to environmental puzzles to brief, narrative vignettes. The narrative structure, too, consistently surprises. Alongside an overarching story, each one of the map’s dozen or so regions has its own self-contained set of missions. But recurrent characters pop up, giving you the feeling that you’re playing through (very murder-happy) seasons of a TV show. Combine all that with the RPG elements that made the more recent series entries (Origins and Odyssey) so awesome and you have a standout game. Oh yeah, and the hidden blade is back.

A Good Match For: Fans of Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey, or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Renaissance Faire attendees. Anyone with 1,645 hours to burn.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who has a fear of consequences; the choices you make in the main story will bite you in unexpected, Witcher-y ways.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia | Dick Smith | Kogan

Tetris Effect: Connected

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Screenshot: Tetris Effect: Connected

Here’s the pitch: Tetris, but with friends. And EDM. And an incandescent light show constructed from some of the snazziest particle effects in gaming. Yes, Tetris Effect: Connected is an audiovisual delight, one that packs even more punch since we’re not allowed to go to raves in 2020. As for how it plays, the foundation remains unchanged from Alexey Pajitnov’s 1984 original. But there are plenty of modal twists and reworks. The best is a multiplayer mode, called “Connected,” wherein you and two other players team up to “fight” against a series of bosses, who flip the script in unexpected ways. (Maybe you’ll have your board inverted, or you’ll find a super-sized brick in your queue.) After a minute or so, the music drops, your three boards fuse together as one, and you take turns placing pieces wherever you want — with the goal of clearing triple-wide lines — before reverting to your own solo space. It breathes new life into the most quintessential classic, all while paying homage to what made the original so enduringly special in the first place.

A Good Match For: Fans of covers that sound like brand-new songs but retain the same tune. Anyone who’s spent hours playing Tetris on a smartphone and craves a bigger screen.

Not A Good Match For: Those with photosensitivity issues; the game warns you up front that the game could “trigger dizzy spells or epileptic seizures in a small percentage of people.”

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store

Gears Tactics

best xbox series x games
Image: Splash Damage/The Coalition

You know Gears of War as the brawniest Xbox series, but it’s also one of the brainiest ones. Gears Tactics, which first released on PC before receiving a console release alongside the Xbox Series X and S, trades cover-based third-person shooting for cover-based third-person tactics. Set before the events of the main series, you command Gabe Diaz (the father of Gears 5 protagonist Kate Diaz) and a small contingent of frighteningly muscular soldiers in XCOM-style tactical combat against foot soldiers of the Locust horde. Each unit falls under a different class, and each class has a robust skill tree, allowing you to customise your Gears’ talents beyond just “shoot real good and punch real hard.” Masochists will be thrilled to hear about a relentlessly punishing mode, Ironman, which prevents any back-tracking.

A Good Match For: Fans of chess or XCOM. Sentient protein shakes.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone seeking a third-person shooter; just go play the excellent Gears 5 instead, which has also been revamped for Xbox Series X and S.

Read our review, and our impressions of the console port.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store

Yakuza: Like A Dragon

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Image: Sega

Yakuza: Like a Dragon isn’t the best Yakuza game you can get. It is, however, maybe the best you can get on the Xbox Series X and S, since it’s the first to have been released with next-gen systems in mind, and is also the perfect place to start with the series if you’ve somehow never played one before and were put off by previous games’ reliance on real-time brawling. This one replaces that action gameplay with JRPG-style turn-based combat, which results in a far more chilled experience — or as chilled as kicking bikes into people’s faces before crushing them with a giant vibrator can be.

A Good Match For: Yakuza fans, Yakuza newcomers, and anyone in between.

Not A Good Match For: The time-crunched; this is one massive game.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase from: Microsoft Store | Amazon Australia | Dick Smith | Kogan

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

The Best PS5 GamesThe Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Games On PS NowThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Games On Xbox Game PassThe Best Nintendo Switch GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android Games

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 13/07/2023: Said bye-bye to Shredders and welcomed the next-gen version of The Witcher 3Hi-Fi Rush, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

Update 27/02/2023: Immortals Fenyx Rising has been removed, while Shredders, Elden Ring and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga have all been added.

Update 04/03/2022: Gone is the 12-game limit! We’ve removed Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Though it’s terrific, Halo Infinite is clearly the place to play Halo right now, so that game joins alongside Forza Horizon 5Guardians of the Galaxy, and Life is Strange: True Colours as new additions to our current list of 13.

Update 13/07/2021: We’re closing in on that 12 game limit for the best Xbox Series X and S games! Agent 47 hit the mark in Hitman 3.

Update 25/12/2020: The recent add-ons and next-gen optimizations of Destiny 2 and Gears 5 make both old games feel brand-new and worthy of inclusion. We’ve also immortalised Immortals Fenyx Rising.

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At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


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