Google Stadia takes a quality over quantity approach to its library of games. There aren’t a lot of titles available — though that’s rapidly been changing over the past few months — but the few that are available are excellent. From massive RPGs like Red Dead Redemption 2 to indie horror adventures like Gylt, Google Stadia has a little something for everyone. Here are the best Google Stadia games you should start playing first.
Most of the games on our list cost some money, even if you’re a Stadia Pro subscriber. There are a few, however, that are available for free through a Pro membership, so we’ve marked those games with a “pro” tag.
Destiny 2 (Pro)
Destiny 2 is the perfect game for Google Stadia for one reason: Cross-save support. Although Destiny 2 is a great game in its own right, the fact that you can play on multiple systems or transfer your save from another system greases the Google Stadia transition wheel. Plus, Destiny 2 is perfect for some quick battles while you’re on the go. It launched with Google Stadia as the standout title on the platform, and to this day, Destiny 2 heads the Pro roster.
You’ll need Pro to play it, though. Destiny 2 is free on all other platforms, but not Google Stadia. If you’re just using the Base subscription, the only way to play Destiny 2 is by purchasing one of the expansions. That turns what is otherwise one of the best free-to-play games into a $25 game, minimum. Still, Stadia Pro subscribers can download and play Destiny 2, including all of its expansions.
Read our full Destiny 2 review
Darksiders Genesis is the fourth entry in the long-running Darksiders series, but unlike the previous three games, it ditches the third-person beat ‘em up style. Instead, Genesis is more akin to something like Diablo or Torchlight, with an isometric point of view and action RPG mechanics.
It was actually developed by Airship Syndicate, the same studio that developed the excellent Battle Chasers: Nightwar. In it, you can switch back and forth between the fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, Strife, and his brother, War. Jumping back and forth allows you to approach combat in a variety of different ways, breaking up the often monotonous button mashing of other action RPGs.
Borderlands 3 is, for the most part, just another Borderlands game. Although that’s a selling point in its own right, the third entry in Gearbox’s humorous FPS-RPG feels like more of the same. Still, there are some small improvements that bring Borderlands into a modern light. With the addition of climbing ledges you’re close to and a sliding mechanic similar to Apex Legends, the game feels more fast-paced than ever.
In previous games, the best approach was usually to stay far back and pick off a few key enemies before jumping into the battle. Borderlands 3, however, takes a lot of notes from the 2016 reboot of Doom. Combat happens in open arenas, with you in the center. With your new move set in tow, you’re easily able to jump and dash your way around enemies, leading to much more visceral combat.
Read our full Borderlands 3 preview
Gylt is the first and only Google Stadia exclusive on our list. It’s a puzzle game developed by the small Spanish studio Tequila Works, who also created Deadlight and Rime. Like previous Tequila games, Gylt is a story-driven game with puzzle elements, though it dives deeper into the horror aspect of the studio’s previous titles.
You play as Sally, a young girl searching for her lost friend Emily. On your journey, you’ll encounter myriad different devilish creatures to sneak past. If, however, you’re caught in their eyesight, you can use your flashlight to fight off the beasts. Gylt is a short game without much in the way of mechanics, but the story and atmosphere are enough to make it an enjoyable Stadia title.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed has a tumultuous history. The first few entries in the series were some of the best to come out of Ubisoft, but the onslaught of new titles, spinoffs, and collections quickly grew stale. Odyssey breaks the tradition, however, with more RPG mechanics than previous titles, a larger open world, and an engaging story.
Odyssey may be the only Assassin’s Creed game on Stadia, but that’s not why we’re including it. It’s one of the best games in the series, expanding the stealth-action focus of previous titles to include dialogue choices, branching quests, and multiple endings. Outside of the mechanics, Odyssey also goes where the series has never gone: Ancient Greece. You play as a mercenary caught in the middle of a fictional war between Sparta and Athens. There are two mercenaries you can play as, but we recommend playing through the game as Kassandra.
Read our full Assassin’s Creed Odyssey review
2016’s Doom is an excellent game, but Doom Eternal is simply better. It’s a natural evolution for the rebooted series, fit with more guns, tighter combat, and more robust mechanics. More than that, though, Doom Eternal recognizes that most players have played the first game. It’s not the same retread through hell: Doom Eternal is something completely different.
Part of that comes from the setting (Eternal takes place on Earth, not in hell). The main difference comes from combat, though. Although just a visceral as Doom, Eternal tasks you with controlling your resources to a far greater degree. You’ll need to use the chainsaw to pick up ammo and score glory kills to regain health. Combined with the verticality of combat arenas, Doom Eternal sends you flying around enemies, forcing you to use every tool at your disposal to take them down.
Read our Doom Eternal review
Octopath Traveler has a strange history. It was originally released exclusively for Nintendo Switch, but Square Enix eventually ported the game to PC. Now, despite not being available on Xbox One or PS4, the game joins the rapidly growing lineup of Google Stadia. Octopath Traveler is a 16-bit era JRPG re-imagined through nostalgia goggles. The art style is stunning, maintaining the pixel art aesthetic while elevating the visuals for a modern audience.
Square Enix elevated the gameplay, too. Battles are still turn-based, with random encounters, and you’ll still spend most of your time going from town to town. However, Octopath Traveler adopts a similar combat system as Bravely Default, where your team can unleash multiple attacks in the same turn. Combined with the weaknesses system, Octopath Traveler‘s combat encounters are engrossing, as you balance risk and reward with each choice.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV gets a lot of flack for being stuck in development hell for so many years, but despite the long wait, it remains one of the best Final Fantasy games around. If nothing else, seeing the stunning landscapes and handcrafted character models on your phone or laptop is a sight to behold.
You take the role of Prince Noctis in the game, who sets off on a road trip with his three friends to meet his wife-to-be, Lady Lunafreya. Disaster strikes, however, when Noctis’ home of Insomnia is attacked and his father killed. Now, miles and miles away from the kingdom Noctis must lead, your job is to fight the threat to your homeland and cement yourself as king.
Read our full Final Fantasy XV review
Metro Exodus (Pro)
Metro Exodus is the third entry in Deep Silver’s post-apocalyptic FPS series. Like the previous titles, you play as Artyom in Exodus, a survivor of the nuclear war in Russia who has joined a group of survivors in the Moscow Metro.
Discontent with the leadership inside the Metro, Artyom sets off on the Aurora, one of the few functioning trains left, to prove that other survivors exist. Like other Metro games, Exodus has a lot of twists and plenty of choices, which lead to vastly different endings.
Read our full Metro Exodus review
Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 seems like more of the same, and for the most part, it is. However, it’s the third Mortal Kombat game developed by NetherRealm Studios, who also created the two Injustice games. As is the case with previous NetherRealm games, Mortal Kombat 11 introduces new mechanics to the time-tested fighting formula.
The two new additions are Fatal Blows and Krushing Blows. The former allow you to unleash a massive amount of damage to your opponent if your health drops below 30%. Krushing Blows, on the other hand, are cinematic versions of a character’s special moves, requiring specific button inputs and circumstances to occur.
Read our full Mortal Kombat 11 review
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a jaw-droppingly massive game. Like the previous entry in the series and other Rockstar titles, RDR2 is an open-world game with sandbox elements. There’s a main story and various side quests, all of which are interesting. However, you’re also free to explore, hunt, loot, and camp on your own time.
RDR2 is actually a prequel, starting 12 years before the events of the original game. In it, you play as Arthur Morgan, a high-ranking thief part of the Van der Linde gang, which John Marston, the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption, is also a part of. RDR2 explains the events leading up to the 2010 entry, but instead of forcing you to play as Marston again, the game shows a different perspective through the eyes of Arthur Morgan.
Read our full Red Dead Redemption 2 review
Kine is a weird game for Google to include in its Stadia roster, since it’s developed by only a single person: Gwen Frey. It’s not a large game, both in terms of length and popularity, but it deserves a lot more attention than it’s been given. Throughout the game, you play as three different machines, each of which are trying to be a musician.
In terms of mechanics, Kine is a 3D puzzle game. Controlling one of the machines, you’ll need to flip your way around the environment to see the best path to take to make it to the end. Gameplay-wise, it’s simple. However, the barebones mechanics are made up for with a gorgeous hand-drawn art style and fantastic music.
Thumper is weird but in the best way possible. It’s a rhythm game where you play as a metallic beetle, hurling toward something at breakneck speed. Unlike other rhythm titles, however, Thumper isn’t about hitting the beats of popular songs. Instead, it features original, hellish music with certain themes. As you progress through each stage, those themes become more involved, building toward a boss battle that looks like it was ripped straight out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Mechanically, there are only a handful of moves you can perform in Thumper. You can jump to avoid obstacles, slam to hit notes, and lean to hit curves in the track. These elements create a sound that mirrors the themes of the soundtrack, creating a unique call-and-response rhythm.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
All three of the Tomb Raider reboot games are on Stadia, but Rise of the Tomb Raider is the best. Unlike 2013’s Tomb Raider, which was more of an origin story for Lara Croft than an actual Tomb Raider game, Rise fully embraces the cinematic action the series is known for. Set a year after the first game, you play as a PTSD-ridden Lara Croft, who sets off on an adventure to explain the supernatural events she experienced in the first entry.
Rise hits a sweet spot in the series. Expanding upon Tomb Raider in terms of mechanics, story, and scope, the game feels more robust in just about every way. However, its follow-up, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, feels like more of the same. If you’re a fan of the series, we recommend playing all three. For those just wanting to dip their toes in, however, Rise is the best place to start.
Read our full Rise of the Tomb Raider review
Trials Rising is the latest in Ubisoft’s popular physics-based cycle racer series, adding even more bikes, tracks, and secrets to the two-decade-old franchise. If you’re new, Trials puts you in the shoes of a motorcycle racer, as you complete short races with deadly obstacles. The camera isn’t behind your rider, however. Instead, you see them from the side, using leaning and physics to build up momentum as the race goes along.
Countless mobile games have copied the formula, but Trials did it first, and Rising shows how two decades of experience can pay off. Although Rising has microtransactions — a “feature” the game was rightly berated for upon launch — there’s enough content out of the gate for dozens of hours of gameplay.
Celeste perfects the art of balancing challenge with reward. It’s a knuckle-busting 2D platformer in the vein of Super Meat Boy and Shovel Knight but takes itself much more seriously. You play as Madeline, a young girl riddled with anxiety and self-doubt. On a journey of self-discovery, Madeline decides to climb Celeste mountain, where she encounters demons internal and external. Celeste is a challenging game, but it’s one that everyone should play. It’s one thing for a game to brood in the corner like a spoiled child, but that’s not what Celeste does. It offers a compelling narrative that gets right to the edge of being on the nose but never goes past that line.
The story sticks out, but Celeste is still a challenging platformer, first and foremost. Tone is what sets it above its counterparts. As a character, Madeline faces a challenge she can just barely overcome, and in the same way, Celeste tasks you with challenges you can just barely overcome. It’s a tough game, but not an unfair one. The controls are ultra-tight, much more so than other platformers, giving you precise control over how Madeline jumps and dashes. With that, Celeste is less about blindly failing screens and more about learning the exact movement to get past them.
Read our Celeste review
Superhot, a shooter-style game, offers a one-of-a-kind angle thanks to its time-based mechanic. At first glance, this game may appear complicated to a first-time player, but it’s simple if you stay focused on the fact that time only moves when you do. The object of the game is to avoid enemies and their attacks by using your arsenal of guns and weapons.
Superhot’s gameplay is impressive as it is, but the over-the-top story behind it all takes it to a new level. Many first-person shooter games focus more on gunplay than developing an actual storyline, but Superhot’s engaging plot makes the game stand out.
Superhot’s appearance on a large platform like Stadia is pretty impressive when you consider that the original build took one week during a game jam. The Superhot Team continued to develop the full game over two years, with support from Kickstarter.
The Superhot series currently has three games, although the only one available on Google Stadia is the original for the time being. If you’re feeling nostalgic, the original game jam version is available in your browser. Playing through your browser is a fun way to revisit older games, but be aware that frame rate issues might cause lag and frustrate your gameplay.
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