The best games on Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is only getting bigger. With over 100 heavy-hitting games on the roster and promises of Project xCloud integration soon, it’s clear that Microsoft is banking on Game Pass with the upcoming release of the Xbox Series X. That’s a solid tactic, too, with Game Pass offering day-and-date releases of first-party games, as well as a slew of third-party offerings. Although you can blindly pick a game from the lineup and have a good time, we’ve dug through the library to bring you the best games on Xbox Game Pass.

Further reading

Action

Red Dead Redemption 2

After a long run on Game Pass, Rockstar decided to remove Grand Theft Auto V from the service. Thankfully, it replaced one of its massively open-world games with another. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a masterpiece by nearly all accounts, and with the amount of content it has to offer, it’s worth the price of a Game Pass subscription alone.

Set 12 years before Red Dead Redemption, you play as Arthur Morgan, a thief who’s part of the Van der Linde gang that John Marston is also a part of. After a train heist gone wrong, Arthur and the gang decide it’s time to end their lives of crime and retire. That transition, though, doesn’t come without resistance.

Read our Red Dead Redemption 2 review

The Surge 2

Game Pass has seen its fair share of Souls-like games, though none of them are as good as The Surge 2. Deck13’s sci-fi take on the Dark Souls formula is much more than a B-grade attempt, offering excellent combat mechanics, a unique setting, and a semi-open world.

The game takes place in Jericho City, and although it’s not completely open at first, you’re free to explore in any way you wish. Combat is the standard affair for Souls-like games, outside of The Surge 2′s limb targeting system. Instead of just hitting an enemy, you can target a certain body part that’s unshielded. In addition to taking off more health, hitting an exposed limb will allow you to cut it off, stealing whatever cybernetic enhancement is attached.

Nier: Automata

Platinum Games, the same studio behind Bayonetta and Astral Chain, has a long history of making flashy, over-the-top action games. Nier: Automata, however, is the studio’s magnum opus. Featuring the same frantic combat as the studio’s previous games, Nier: Automata goes a step further with an engrossing story, a beautiful setting, and multiple endings.

If the post-apocalyptic world and robot deities aren’t enough to hook you, then the combat will. Nier: Automata makes you feel like a badass, slicing through robots with ease while your drone fighter backs you up. Combat encounters are comically intense, making the moment-to-moment gameplay deeply satisfying.

Read our Nier: Automata review

Adventure

A Plague Tale: Innocence

screenshot of a plague tale innocence on pc
Focus Home Interactive

A Plague Tale: Innocence follows the journey of Amicia and Hugo De Rune, two children of the royal Kingdom of France in 1349. Any history buff knows why that year is important: It’s the center of the bubonic plague in France. After a troubling event at the palace, Amicia and Hugo escape, hunted by the Inquisition. It’s unclear why, at least in the opening moments, but murmurs from surrounding villagers make the cause clear: The disease has something to do with Hugo.

Gameplay-wise, A Plague Tale plays the role of a stealth game. The stealth mechanics are interesting — especially when certain vermin are brought into the mix — but the artificial intelligence (AI) falls flat. Still, the game keeps the moment-to-moment gameplay engaging. The story is what stands out here, setting the stakes for each encounter with the Inquisition. Your AI opponents couldn’t see a rock flying directly in their face, but with the surrounding narrative, A Plague Tale sets up a world you want to play in, no matter how desolate it may be.

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.

Gris

Gris is better defined as an experience than a video game. You should play it without knowing anything, so if the screenshot above looks interesting, stop reading and download it now. For those who aren’t convinced, let us give you a rundown.

You play as Gris, a young girl who’s recently gone through a traumatic experience. Trapped in her own reality, Gris must restore the colors to her world one at a time. As you progress through the game restoring colors, you’ll earn new abilities, allowing you to traverse the hand-crafted levels with ease. Beautiful, provocative, and transformational, Gris shows just how powerful the medium of video games can be.

No Man’s Sky

No Man's Sky

It’s been four years since No Man’s Sky hit the PlayStation 4 and PC after arriving on Xbox in 2018, but the game continues to feel fresh thanks to continuous updates from developer Hello Games that offer compelling content that keeps players on their toes.

Perhaps more than any other game in this roundup, No Man’s Sky illustrates freedom in a video game. It allows you to explore its ever-growing environment and create your own little slice of happiness in the digital world. But like any good game, it’s the combination of combat, exploration, and interactions with fellow players that keeps you coming back. Indeed, No Man’s Sky might have one of the most compelling communities anywhere.

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves puts you in the shoes of a pirate, and not in the same way as Black Flag does (even though that’s still one of the best Assassin’s Creed games ever). It’s not just an open-world action adventure game with a pirate skin — Sea of Thieves is a pirate simulator. From looting unexplored islands to piloting your ship with a group of friends, Rare manages to gamify every aspect of Sea of Thieves, making each game task engaging no matter how mundane it may seem.

More importantly, the gamification leads to a sense of freedom. Nothing in Sea of Thieves is stringent, from the loose leveling system to the Tall Tales that make up the campaign. You’re free to explore and tackle objectives in any way you see fit, or simply ignore objectives all together. Although a lonely experience on your own, Sea of Thieves is a must-play with a group of friends. The game even supports cross-platform play between the Game Pass and Steam versions, so stringing together a group of pirates is easy.

Read our Sea of Thieves review

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.

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 Will of the Wisps

In previous versions of this list, Moonhead Studios’ excellent Ori and the Blind Forest occupied this spot. With the sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps out, though, it’s hard even looking at the original game. Will of the Wisps is three times the size of Blind Forest, offering more exploration, mechanics, and boss encounters.

The game plays the same as the original, just with some fine-tuning of the controls. Although we still recommend playing through Blind Forest — it’s a short game at around eight hours — Will of the Wisps is the better title. Just get ready to cry, like, a lot.

Read our Ori and the Will of the Wisps preview

The Messenger

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.

Levelhead

Super Mario Maker 2 is a fantastic game — we gave it a near-perfect score in our review — but unless you own a Switch, you can’t play it. Enter Levelhead. It’s a 2D platformer where you can design your own levels, with an editor that gives Super Mario Maker a run for its money. It’s even playable on PC, which makes building levels faster and easier than ever.

You play as a new hire at The Bureau of Shipping, the galaxy’s largest intergalactic package delivery service. Your job in the Levelhead Division is to create L.E.V.E.L.s — Limited Exercises for eValuating EmployEe Limitations — for delivery bots so they’re equipped to handle every delivery scenario possible. Levelhead is easily compared to Super Mario Maker, but with its mechanics and charm, you’ll quickly find out it’s a game that needs no comparison.

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

Yakuza 0

Grand Theft Auto V isn’t on Game Pass anymore, but you can still get your open-world, organized crime fix with Yakuza 0. If you’re unaware, “yakuza” is basically the Japanese phrase for “mafia,” and sure enough, Yakuza 0 puts you in the shoes of a soon-to-be yakuza boss, Kazuma Kiryu.

Yakuza 0 serves as a prequel to the rest of the series, which dates all the way back to the days of the PS2. As you explore Kamurocho and Sōtenbori, fictionalized versions of Tokyo’s Kabukichō and Osaka’s Dōtonbori, you can take on sidequests, compete in fighting challenges, or take on one of the many mini-games. Although Yakuza has been a Sony-exclusive franchise for a long time, you can now play Yakuza 0 and a remastered version of the first game, Yakuza Kiwami, on Game Pass.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Released a full 14 years Kingdom Hearts 2, the anticipation surrounding Kingdom Hearts 3 was massive. Thankfully, it delivered on the hype. Kingdom Hearts 3 is a charming and lovingly crafted action RPG featuring some of the most iconic characters from all of media.

The story is a mess unless you’ve played literally every other Kingdom Hearts game, including the spinoffs, but the moment-to-moment story is still great. Beating up baddies with Donald and Goofy in worlds inspired by classic Disney films is just as fun as it was in the early 2000s. The only difference now is a few extra worlds and some beautiful HD visuals.

Read our Kingdom Hearts 3 review

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

Final Fantasy XV Royal Edition

Final Fantasy XV is far from the best Final Fantasy game, borrowing heavily from Western RPGs in terms of scope and mechanics. That said, it’s the first and only truly open-world Final Fantasy game. The world of Eos is massive, stuffed to the brim with side quests, beast hunts, dungeons, and plenty of post-game content. It’s not a perfect Final Fantasy game, but it’s a damn good one.

You play as Prince Noctis Lucis Caelum, the heir to the throne in Lucis’ capital city, Insomnia. Although the story beats aren’t explored during the main game, the lore is surprisingly deep. With the Royal Edition, you can play the multiple DLC packs released for the game, which flesh out the characters and story in a huge way.

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.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics is way better than it has any right to be. It’s a turn-based strategy game where you command a small group of elite soldiers. Playing as Gabe Diaz, it’s your job to ensure your troops survive each combat encounter unscathed, all while training up reserves.

If you’ve played the recent XCOM games, this setup sounds familiar. Gears Tactics tweaks the formula in a few big ways, though. Movement is open instead of based on a grid, and the progression systems for your soliders is much deeper. Gears Tactics could have been nothing more than a half-baked Gears of War spin-off. Thankfully, that’s not the case.

Read our Gears Tactics 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

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 impossible to discuss the Xbox without also mentioning the Halo franchise. One of Microsoft’s most well-loved exclusives, the series has lived past its early glory days with Bungie, but Halo’s recent forays back into Master Chief’s world make impressive returns to the things we loved about the old days. In particular, Halo 5 had a great single-player campaign, but the game shines most in multiplayer mode.

Since the launch of Developer 343 Studios in 2015, the company has taken huge strides to support the game by providing rewards through REQ packs and constantly rotating new game modes. It’s a Halo game through-and-through, but more than that, it’s a game that has evolved from the series’ roots to be one of the best shooters around.

Read our Halo 5: Guardians review

Dishonored 2

If Dishonored 2 were simply an action game, it’d still be a great game, but it’s more than that. Think of this game like a sandbox full of different toys you can play with, showing how Arkane has mastered the immersive sim genre.

The game offers a surprising number of solutions for getting rid of your enemies and offers some unique gameplay experiences, like crafting gadgets or possessing vermin.

True to form, you can also handle every enemy encounter in a non-lethal way (and snag a rare achievement along the way). You will find yourself replaying encounters until you figure out how to defeat enemies or escape.

There are lots of ways to handle encounters, which means you can replay the game multiple times, and by learning from your mistakes, it won’t be long until you’re a winner.

Read our Dishonored 2 review

Editors' Recommendations