Gaming

The best games on Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is the best deal in gaming right now. For $15 a month, you get more than 100 games across Xbox One and PC, including most first-party titles from Microsoft and a slew of third-party favorites. Here, we’re going to give you our top picks.

There really aren’t any bad games on Game Pass, though, there are some that stand above the pack. We focused more on titles available on Xbox than PC. That said, there are a handful of games that are available on both platforms and a couple that are exclusive to PC. Thankfully, those exclusive to PC don’t require a high-powered rig to run.

With that housekeeping out of the way, let’s get on with it.

Further reading

Action

Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 is the epitome of “easy to learn, tough to master.” Based entirely on unleashing brutal combos onto hellspawn, DMC5 puts you in the shoes of  Dante, Nero, and V. Rather than reskins, each character brings their own unique combat style. Nero brings in enemies close with Devil Breakers, Dante focuses on parrying and melee combat, and V uses a zoo of demonic animals to attack enemies from afar.

Even after nearly two decades, the hack-and-slash combat of Devil May Cry has yet to overstay its welcome, especially with the new combat styles introduced in the fifth entry. Devil May Cry 5 isn’t only one of the best games on Game Pass, but an essential Xbox One game in general.

Read our Devil May Cry 5 impressions

Grand Theft Auto 5

What can we say about Grand Theft Auto 5 that hasn’t already been said? It’s another GTA game, and like the entries that preceded it, the best one to date. With the open sandbox of Los Santos as your backdrop, you’re free to play in any way you want. Grand Theft Auto 5 doesn’t change the formula in any significant way, but it does offer modern graphics and the best narrative in the series thus far.

Although the game is starting to show its age — it was released in 2013 — it holds up surprisingly well in 2020. No matter if you want to follow the multi-character story or just play around in the title’s massive world, you’re sure to have a good time.

Read our full Grand Theft Auto 5 review

Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain

Before Hideo Kojima dressed up Norman Reedus for peeing animations in Death Stranding, he capped off his time at Konami with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. The game takes place 11 years before the original Metal Gear, with you playing as Punished “Venom” Snake. After falling into a coma, you awaken nine years later in 1984 to infiltrate Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.

Unlike previous entries, which focused on lengthy dialogue and story, The Phantom Pain gives you an open world to explore. Although stealth is still at the core of the series, you can approach missions in any way you see fit. Despite being the last game released in the Metal Gear franchise, The Phantom Pain is still a great place to start.

Read our Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain hands on

Adventure

Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds is a game you really shouldn’t know anything about. Focused entirely on exploration and discovery, Outer Wilds provides an open-world mystery with the only solution being to continue looking. Even a short synopsis could be considered a spoiler, so stop reading this section if you want to go in fresh.

Simply put, you play as an Astronaut who’s a member of the Outer Wilds Space Program. After 22 minutes of in-game time, the sun will explode into a supernova, ending the game. You’ll restart right away — with the same, 22-minute time limit — allowing you to explore the solar system and unravel the mysteries that lurk around you.

Thimbleweed Park

Thimbleweed Park is a point-and-click adventure game in the style of Monkey Island, developed by none other than Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert. In the game, you’ll take control of two FBI agents (along with three other playable characters), who are sent to Thimbleweed Park to investigate a murder. Along the way, you’ll meet a slew of interesting characters, including Ransome, a clown forced to wear his makeup forever.

Story is kind of Thimbleweed Park’s shtick, so we’ll leave the synopsis at that. If you’re a fan of classic point-and-click adventure games and/or witty writing that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Thimbleweed Park is the title for you.

Indie

Dead Cells

Dead Cells has a pitch that sounds like a lot of other indie games: A Metroidvania with roguelike elements. Despite that, it’s one of the most addicting games on Game Pass. The title doesn’t do much to iterate upon the genre — basically, you’re provided weapon upgrades and encounter increasingly difficult enemies as you run the gauntlet — but the fun comes from how the game feels.

At first, Dead Cells feels unwieldy, as your character doesn’t jump very high and is constantly getting snagged on outstretched platforms. Once you learn to control the game, though, it becomes invigorating. You can rip through levels with incredible speed, providing a sense of aggression not found in other Metroidvanias.

Read our full Dead Cells review

Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire is a deck-building game with roguelike elements. In the beginning, you’ll choose one of four characters, each of which has its own set of cards. You’re given a starter deck with basic attack and defense cards, and as you defeat enemies, you’ll be able to add new cards to your deck.

Although simple in premise, Slay the Spire’s gameplay loop becomes addicting fast. The game is balanced enough to encourage exploration with different cards, making each run unique. Maybe your character focuses on building up huge attacks, or maybe you focus on defense and inflict status effects of your enemies. No matter your path, Slay the Spire is a fantastic ride.

ClusterTruck

ClusterTruck has no business being as fun as it is. The premise is simple: You run and jump across a series of semi-trucks barreling toward destruction. The trucks aren’t on a set path, however. Rather, ClusterTruck uses physics and a predetermined number of trucks to make each dash to the finish unique.

Because of the semi-random nature of physics interactions, you’ll die a lot in ClusterTruck. Thankfully, the game never makes a death too punishing. After falling to an ill fate, you’re kicked right back to the start of the level so you can try again. ClusterTruck is pure, palm-sweating fun that asks very little of you.

Platformer

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a Kickstarter success story from Koji Igarashi. If you’re unaware, Igarashi is the mind behind the most popular Castlevania games, including Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow. Ritual of the Night is a modern “Igavania”-style game that breathes new life into the classic Castlevania experience.

The graphics are clearly inspired by early Castlevania titles, with Gothic characters adorned with stained glass tattoos. Although Ritual of the Night borrows quite a bit from the games that came before it, there are many new additions, too. Bloodstained has a robust inventory system, for instance, one that makes it feel more like an RPG than your simple, hack-and-slash platformer.

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight wears its Super Metroid and Dark Souls influences on its sleeve, but manages to provide an experience all its own. You control a silent, nameless knight with a nail, who is tasked with exploring the vast, insect-ridden kingdom of Hallownest. Like any good Metroidvania, Hollow Knight has a vast, interconnected map that you’re free to explore.

Although certain areas are locked off in the early game, you’ll quickly begin running from one corner of the map to the other. The title’s open design teaches you by showing. Rather than holding your hand, Hollow Knight asks you to explore and find answers for yourself, resulting in one of the most satisfying experiences of this genre.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful game, both from an aesthetics and narrative standpoint. At its core, Ori is a Metroid-inspired platformer. However, the visuals and story set it apart from the pack. Developed by an international team of designers known as Moon Studios, Ori caught the attention of Microsoft Game Studios, which eventually signed a development and distribution deal with the indie developer.

Recently orphaned, you play as Ori, a white guardian spirit who’s tasked with exploring the forest where you were raised. You’re guided by the voice of the Spirit Tree, who asks you to venture into the dangerous forest and restore the elements that make it up.

The Messenger (PC exclusive)

The Messenger looks like a Ninja Gaiden clone on its face, but after a few hours of playing, it becomes more than that. Switching between two different eras, you take the role of a ninja tasked with delivering a scroll that could save his village from a demonic invasion. The story is, admittedly, generic, something the game actively pokes fun at. The narrative isn’t what sticks out here, though.

What starts as a linear 8-bit action-platformer turns into a 16-bit Metroidvania about halfway through. The Messenger sends you back and forth between the future and past to re-explore levels, unlock secrets, and upgrade your character. That combined with ultra-tight gameplay and snappy writing makes it an essential platformer.

Fighting

Tekken 7

Tekken 7 is the best title in the series to date. Showing off a masterclass balance and community support, Bandai Namco has built Tekken 7 into the most prolific fighting game on the market. Thankfully, with Game Pass, you can jump in and give it a shot for free.

Like its predecessors, Tekken 7 is a massively competitive game, one that rewards deep knowledge of its characters and flawless combo execution. Although you’ll have to climb the competitive ladder, the game itself never gets in the way. Because of how well balanced the characters are, you’re free to experiment and find a play style that works for you.

Read our full Tekken 7 review

Role-playing

Fallout 4

There isn’t a lot to say about Fallout 4 that hasn’t been said already. It’s basically Fallout 3 — but better. Fit with tighter gunplay mechanics, a dense crafting system, and a visual overhaul, it’s is the perfect way to experience the wasteland.

Unlike the previous main title in the series, Fallout 4 puts a greater focus on gun mechanics. Instead of sinking an entire clip into enemies only to have damage left up to a random number generator, Fallout 4 is more akin to a shooter when it comes to combat. That said, the shooting mechanics are backed up by familiar RPG systems, including a robust crafting system.

Read our full Fallout 4 review

Remnant: From the Ashes

Remnant: From the Ashes takes the Dark Souls formula and puts it in a procedurally generated third-person shooter. Although the game has a handful of bugs and occasional performance issues, Remnant shows just how much influence the Souls series has had on gaming as a whole.

In it, you travel to four distinct worlds, each of which features randomized level sections and different bosses. Along the way, you’ll gather new items and equipment, which you can upgrade in Ward 13, the hub world in-game. Remnant is a blast alone or with friends, and comes with nearly infinite replayability.

The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is a sci-fi RPG from Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian Entertainment. Featuring a similarly branching story, tighter gunplay, and the same witty writing, The Outer Worlds is a Fallout clone that captures the dark humor of the series perfectly. That said, it’s a little short.

If you’re coming from Fallout 4, The Outer Worlds can feel scant, with a little more than 25 hours of gameplay in total. What the game lacks in quantity, however, it makes up for in quality. The title feels handcrafted from beginning to end, adding a level of polish unseen by even its Bethesda counterparts.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt caps off the beloved Witcher series in the best way possible. It’s a sprawling open-world RPG that combines tight action mechanics, brilliant storytelling, and an insane amount of content. If there’s one game you can settle into on Game Pass, it’s The Witcher 3.

Although the third entry in the series, Wild Hunt is the game you should play first, especially if you just finished the Netflix series. It’s the first truly open-world game from The Witcher franchise, offering a more RPG-focused experience than the action games that preceded it.

Read our full The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review

Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter: World is the de facto way to play the long-running series. Coming off a long series of exclusivity deals with Sony and Nintendo, World is the first Monster Hunter game to make its way to both Xbox and PC. In it, you explore one of the largest open worlds gaming has to offer, discovering new territories, finding new items and, of course, taking down huge monsters.

World is fun as a single player experience, though, the grind can get repetitive fast. The game shines most when you tackle quests with a group of friends. As long as you have fellow hunters along for the ride, World provides an addictive loop of hunting, gathering, and upgrading, with the Iceborne DLC expanding the game even more.

Read our full Monster Hunter: World review

Strategy

Age of Wonders: Planetfall

Age of Wonders: Planetfall is better experienced on PC than an Xbox One, though, thankfully, it’s available on both. That said, if you’re gunning for a PC strategy experience on console, Planetfall provides one of the better ones. It’s a 4X strategy game that combines the city-building of Civilization with the combat of XCOM.

In many ways, it’s similar to the Total War series, where you bounce back and forth between large-scale strategy and up-close combat. Planetfall makes this list, however, because of its excellent controller support. The interface is designed well enough to be enjoyed on a monitor or TV, so no matter where you’re playing, you can enjoy the game.

Into the Breach

Into the Breach, the second game developed by FTL developer Subset Games, is a small-scale turn-based strategy game where you protect humanity against an army of monsters known as the Vek. You control a small team of mechs, often asked to defend structures or defeat the alien threat.

Unlike similar games, though, Into the Breach has a turn timer. No matter what, as long as your objective is fulfilled by the turn limit, you win the match. Because of this, it switches up the aggressive formula of most strategy games and asks you to focus on playing it safe.

Read our Into the Breach review

Wargroove

Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that borrows a lot from the Advanced Wars series. The single-player experience is satisfying — allowing you to quickly learn about the different armies, leaders, and their units available at your disposal — but the game really comes into its own when it comes to multiplayer. With support for custom maps and campaigns, PvP, and co-op, Wargroove asks you to master its deep tactics system.

Although you’ll quickly learn about the bread and butter units of each army, Wargroove stands out with 15 unique commanders. Each of these commanders leads a different army and comes with their own unique “groove.” These special abilities characterize the factions, some of which provide area-of-effect healing and others that deal devastating blows to enemies.

Shooter

Doom (2016)

Following the more story-driven Doom 3, the self-titled Doom is a return to form for the genre-defining shooter. Rather than throwing you against hordes of demons and hoping for the best, it places you in the shoes of the Doom Slayer. This 80s-esque action hero isn’t just a guy with a few guns, however, but rather a figure that the demons actively fear.

Taking the role of a seemingly omnipotent demon killer and the power fantasy that comes along with it is a quick way to a good time. Doom isn’t just a mindless shooter, though. The push-forward combat and expert level design leads to one of the most satisfying shooting experiences of recent memory.

Read our full Doom review

Gears 5

After more than a decade of huge biceps and chunky guns, Gears 5 breathes new life into a series that has gone stale. With some of the best storytelling the series has seen and the implementation of RPG elements, Gears 5 builds upon the third-person shooter genre in just about every way.

Story aside, the bones of any good Gears game are present. The fifth entry has excellent co-op and multiplayer support, including Escape, Versus, and Horde game modes. For a series as prolific as Gears of War, The Coalition could’ve easily phoned it in for the fifth entry. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Read our full Gears 5 review

Halo 5: Guardians

It’s hard to talk about Xbox without mentioning Halo in the same breath. Although the series has long passed its Bungie glory days, Halo 5 is a solid return to the formula that was lost in the games that preceded it. The story is fine, though it’s best experienced with friends. As other Halo entries have shown, however, multiplayer is where it’s at.

Developer 343 Studios has done a lot to support the game since its 2015 launch, rotating new game modes constantly and offering rewards through REQ packs. It’s a Halo game through-and-through, just one that has evolved from the series’ roots to be one of the best shooters around.

Read our Halo 5: Guardians review

Prey

Prey is a return of the immersive sim genre of Deus Ex and Bioshock that’s been forgotten in recent shooters. You play as Morgan Yu, who’s a scientist upon the Moon-orbiting space station Talos I. The game takes place in an alternate reality where John Kennedy survived his assassination, resulting in Kennedy putting more money into the Space Race.

Three years after living in a virtual environment on Talos I, you wake up to discover the space station overrun with aliens known as the Typhon, who were discovered during the Space Race of the ’60s. Using a number of unique weapons and Typhon-powered neuromods, you must fight your way through the space station to find your brother trapped within.

Read our Prey review

Puzzle

Opus Magnum

Coming in as the only puzzle game on this list, Opus Magnum not only earns a spot, but earns its own section. The title has you playing an alchemist who must use base metals and classic elements to produce new materials through a machine. The machine you build is up to you; all you’re given is a box of components and list of commands.

There are literally countless solutions to each puzzle. Unlike other puzzle games, Opus Magnum isn’t about if you solve a puzzle, but instead how you solve it. Although finding an initial build may be simple, streamlining and iterating upon it is where the game shines most.

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