This article was last updated by Digital Trends contributor Tom Caswell on 7/13/2020.
The Xbox One might not have the same selection of exclusives as the PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, but the handful it does have is worth checking out. Some of the best Xbox One games are first-party titles, but you’ll find loads of other quality games from the likes of Electronic Arts, Bethesda, and Ubisoft that comprise a huge library of games worth playing. In addition, many of them look the best on Xbox with the power of the Xbox One X.
Thanks to a strong lineup of shooters and racing games, fans of those genres needn’t look any further than Microsoft’s Xbox. It also boasts many great platformers you aren’t going to find on other consoles. Whether you’re looking for a lengthy single-player game with a great story or an online world to get lost in with friends, there is something for you.
From Control to Rocket League, these are our picks for the best Xbox One games.
Here’s a quick-jump menu if you’re looking for a specific genre:
- Survival Horror
- First-person shooters
- Sandbox/building games
- Puzzle games
- Role-playing games
The other three Horseman of the Apocalypse use melee weapons in the Darksiders universe, but Strife prefers his handguns. In the prequel game Darksiders Genesis, developer Airship Syndicate turned the series into an isometric dungeon-crawler, and Strife’s attacks are reminiscent of twin-stick shooters. He’s joined by the melee-focused War, and the two can swap at any time when playing solo.
Darksiders Genesis ditched the open-ended design of the main series for mission-based stages, but they’re stuffed with secret collectibles and new abilities that make it imperative to replay missions. Numerous difficulty levels and unlockable areas ensure it won’t wear out its welcome.
Remedy Entertainment fans got a taste of the studio’s potential with the Xbox One game Quantum Break, but Control is a much more refined take on the third-person shooter genre. Set in the morphing headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Control, Control is a “paranatural” mystery that starts weird and only gets weirder.
As protagonist Jesse Faden, you’re given the role of director upon your entry and must work to purge the Hiss enemies from the Bureau. You do this with the help of your unique superpowered abilities, which include telekinesis and mind control. Alongside these, you have the Service Weapon, a unique handgun that shifts forms and functions like a shotgun or even a machine gun. It makes Control’s combat satisfying and encourages experimentation.
Read our full Control review
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software had the option to release another Dark Souls game. Instead, the legendary studio created an entirely new franchise with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. This action game takes plenty of inspiration from Dark Souls and Bloodborne, but the addition of a Posture system for deflecting attacks — along with a resurrection mechanic — help make it feel like a distinct game in its own right.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is ludicrously difficult, which could turn off From Software newcomers. Those who have the time and patience to battle through its boss fights, however, will find one of the most rewarding and addicting action games of the generation. The pain is good, and we want more.
Read our full Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review
Devil May Cry 5
After taking a darker direction with DmC from Ninja Theory (more on that developer in a bit) back in 2013, the original series returns with Devil May Cry 5. Set after the events of the four other games, Devil May Cry 5 puts you in control of three different characters, each with unique weapons and abilities to master. Nero’s brutality contrasts Dante’s flashiness, and both are about as different from V’s demon-spawning style as possible.
Devil May Cry 5 feels like the perfect blend of old and new, with a gorgeous engine making it one of the prettiest games on the Xbox One. It hasn’t lost the series’ challenge, however, and a second run on Son of Sparda difficulty mixes up the enemy variety to put your skills to the test.
From Software’s excellent action-role-playing game Bloodborne isn’t available on the Xbox One. Instead, owners get their own Souls-like game in the form of Ashen. Like the best games in the genre, Ashen forces players to think tactically as they approach situations, dodging and carefully choosing their attacks to avoid being overwhelmed. Stamina must be preserved, and the game’s dreary and gray color scheme only gets you in the mood to kill.
Where Ashen differs from its competition, however, is in its watercolor-like art style. Characters in the games don’t have faces, almost like you’re trying to remember who you saw in a dream, giving the game a surreal feeling. It also supports a passive multiplayer component, where you can choose to cooperate with other players or force them to continue alone.
The Coalition outdid itself with Gears 5, a third-person shooter that improves on its predecessor in nearly every way. Combat feels just as perfect as ever, with intense shootouts against both Swarm and robotic DeeBees. More open-ended areas feature side missions that add additional context to the game’s world.
Gears 5 is one of the best games in the entire series, with psychological horror elements sprinkled throughout its story and a tremendous selection of cooperative modes. The new Escape game mode is great for aggressive players, and the competitive multiplayer doesn’t change what was already nearly perfect.
Read our full Gears 5 review
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Although the story remains the main draw for the Metal Gear franchise, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain trades lengthy cutscenes and monologues for open-world gameplay that provides countless ways to approach any mission. Tranquilizers, sniper rifles, shotguns, a remote-controlled robot arm; all this and more is available, giving the game an endless sense of replay value.
After completing a mission using a stealthy, nonlethal approach, one may feel the urge to replay the same mission, marching into an enemy outpost with a machine gun and a rocket launcher to burn the whole thing down. Few games encourage experimentation like MGSV.
Despite some questionable narrative choices, MGSV is a powerful ending to one of gaming’s most important franchises, setting a new bar for open-world gameplay.
Grand Theft Auto V
The most commercially successful video game — or media product — of all time, Grand Theft Auto V deserves its popularity. The open-world criminal action game builds on what Rockstar Games has done well for decades, with a staggering number of side activities to complete and locations to visit.
Its three-protagonist main story is both emotional and hilarious, with the psychopathic Trevor often stealing the show with his violent and over-the-top outbursts. It only gets better when you enter Grand Theft Auto Online, which allows you to gain influence in Los Santos and show the world why you deserve respect.
Despite being nearly five years old, the game continues to get new content updates. We anticipate it will live on for at least another five years.
Read our full Grand Theft Auto V review
A stunningly well-realized version of auteur director Yoko Taro’s vision, Nier: Automata is a depressing and existential action game that avoids many of the narrative traps associated with android stories. There are no questions regarding what it means to be human, but rather what it means to be yourself. Protagonists 2B and 9S struggle to accept reality, making for some of the most emotional moments we’ve ever experienced in a game.
With Platinum Games handling the combat, it’s also a flashy and tight action game complete with twin-stick shooter segments to break up the monotony.
Read our full Nier: Automata review
Sometimes games don’t have to be anything other than fun, and Insomniac Games demonstrates that perfectly with the Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive. Mixing the goofy third-person shooting of the studio’s Ratchet & Clank series with the navigation of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Jet Grind Radio, Sunset Overdrive constantly has you on the move to build up your combo and take out more enemies.
Its silly anti-corporate story is certainly derivative, but it packs in plenty of hilarious characters and self-aware moments. Once you complete the main story, it’s an absolute blast to just soar around the city and find every secret.
Read our full Sunset Overdrive review
Red Dead Redemption 2
It’s rare that a AAA open-world game can surprise us, but Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to do it regularly. The western is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption, but it is far more than a simple retread of that title’s themes.
As a member of the Van der Linde gang, protagonist Arthur Morgan must wrestle with his past and his uncertain future as the government hunts down the remaining outlaws in a rapidly changing Wild West locale.
Every story mission is absolute gold, never falling into a pattern of repetition. The emergent activities you’ll discover in the open world are engaging enough to keep you busy for hours. Want to cause chaos or just hunt game? You totally can, or you could try your luck at a few hands of poker. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass, sweetening the deal for the subscription service.
Read our full Red Dead Redemption 2 review
A charming addition to the world of Minecraft, Minecraft Dungeons provides a new type of gameplay to the series for those looking for a more focused game.
Dubbed a family-friendly Diablo, the game is much more than that. It’s one of the most shallow dungeon crawlers, but that also makes it the most accessible. What features are here are built well enough to let players know if this genre is right for them, giving them a stepping stone to more ambitious titles. And while it may be of the same simple design as the main game, the execution has been taken up a notch with exquisite lighting and shading. Simply put, Minecraft has never played or looked this good.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t exactly the most original or innovative game we’ve played. It’s a blend of elements from big-name game franchises like Uncharted and Dark Souls, but with all the classic Star Wars tropes. Despite this, it excels because it so smartly pulls mechanics and structural pieces that fit the Star Wars formula well.
Split between exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat, Fallen Order never feels like it’s wasting your time. When you finally get protagonist Cal Kestis outfitted with his best Force powers and a customizable lightsaber, he feels like an unstoppable warrior who can take on waves of Stormtroopers without issue.
With brilliant performances and a mesmerizing score, you have one of the best Star Wars games since BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic series.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the finale to the trilogy that began with the Tomb Raider reboot in 2013. It builds on everything the previous games did and more, highlighting the Lara Croft we know and love who finally ditches fear for total confidence. It’s packed full of engaging combat, fun environmental puzzles, and moving cinematics.
Given this is the third installment, you should play the also excellent Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider before diving into the shadows.
Read our Shadow of the Tomb Raider review
Sea of Thieves
If you ever wanted to sail the treacherous seas roleplaying as a pirate with a group of your friends, Sea of Thieves is the Xbox One game for you. Embark on voyages, discover treasure, raid enemy ships, customize your rig, and be the best scallywag this side of the sea has ever seen!
Sea of Thieves feels like a lighthearted pirate simulator. You and your friends go on adventures but also work together to accomplish menial things like putting up the ship’s sails and navigating through dangerous waters. The best part? The entire game is cross-platform, so you can play with your friends on PC. Over time, it has grown into a respectable online service game with more content to pursue than ever before, despite its really rough launch.
Resident Evil 3 Remake
Resident Evil 2 Remake raised the bar for what a remake could be when it released in 2019. Just a year later and Capcom wowed fans of the series again with its follow-up in the form of Resident Evil 3 Remake. This iteration takes place right around the same time as Leon and Claire’s tale in the previous game, but with Jill Valentine returning as the main character.
The same survival horror elements are all here as players have to contend with limited resources and terrifying creatures that are stalking the gorgeously-rendered streets of Raccoon City. That isn’t even taking into account the relentless, gruesome Nemesis who stalks you with some serious firepower. With a bit more action thrown into the mix, you can’t go wrong playing this terrific remake.
Read our Resident Evil 3 Remake review
Streets of Rage
After over two decades without an entry, Streets of Rage roars back to life with its excellent fourth entry, one that provides a gorgeous visual makeover.
Streets of Rage 4 remains true to its roots with sticky combat but modernizes the gameplay by adding features such as special attacks and juggling enemies. The story is paper-thin, as all good beat ’em ups should be, but the game more than makes up for it with addictive mechanics set to a brilliant soundtrack. It also provides quite the challenge, with several levels giving players a run for their money, and forcing them to strategically manage the game’s offensive and defensive systems.
Depending on the player’s ability, the story can be completed in a matter of hours. However, unlockable characters and hidden easter eggs offer tons of replay value as fans of the franchise eagerly await the fifth entry.
Mortal Kombat 11
Some game franchises suffer from fatigue after their first few entries, with later games paling in comparison to the originals. NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat is not one of those series.
Mortal Kombat 11 is a fighting game designed by masters of the genre. It offers brutal and complex combat while also including tutorial and practice systems so newcomers can enjoy the game. The addition of the Fatal Blow system makes every second of a fight suspenseful, even if one player has a huge advantage. Not to mention,the infamous Fatalities are gorier than ever.
Mortal Kombat 11 is also, hands down, one of the prettiest games on the Xbox One. Animations — both for faces and attacks — are stunning, and there’s a sense of fluidity that we rarely see outside of NetherRealm’s work. With a ton of different modes to choose from and an over-the-top story to play through, Mortal Kombat 11 is well worth the price of admission.
Read our full Mortal Kombat 11 review
Dragon Ball FighterZ
There have been dozens of Dragon Ball Z games produced over the years, and nearly all of them are poor or just decent at best. Arc System Works managed to not only set a new standard for the series with Dragon Ball FighterZ, but it also managed to create one of the best fighting games of all time.
The tag-team fights look like they were pulled directly from the anime, with crisp animation and all the classic series attacks you can think of. But FighterZ is also one of the most accessible fighting games around. Even someone who has never played a fighting game can get the hang of it quickly, but its remarkable depth has made it the new favorite of the fighting game community.
Read our full Dragon Ball FighterZ review
Few first-person shooter franchises are as big as Borderlands, and its numbers-based approach — as well as its heavy emphasis on looting new weapons — helped to make it a hit for shooter fans and role-playing fans alike. Never before had a game felt like Diablo with guns, and Borderlands 3 delivers on the all-out action, goofy humor, and bizarre characters we’ve come to expect from the series. Gearbox didn’t reinvent the formula after all these years, but the studio didn’t need to.
Borderlands 3 also greatly expands the scope of the series, taking it from just the planet Pandora to several other locations. The variety helps make the game feel fresh without losing what made the series so beloved in the first place.
The Metro series breaks from the trend of most post-apocalyptic shooters’ “fun during the end of the world” themes for a bleak and borderline nihilistic story that underscores the horror of nuclear war. Metro Exodus, the third game in the series, is 4A Games’ most ambitious project, moving much of the action out of the titular subway system and onto a diverse landscape filled with various mixes of sand, trees, and snow.
It remains Metro at its heart, however, with scavenging and resource management still crucial as protagonist Artyom braves the game’s hostile environments. The focus on gear customization also allows you to approach combat in whatever way you see fit, including pure stealth or guns blazing action. There isn’t a correct option for these encounters and the dangers you encounter while moving to the next objective can often result in your plan going down the drain before it begins.
Read our full Metro Exodus review
Halo 5: Guardians
343 Industries wasn’t content to deliver exactly what fans expected in Halo 5: Guardians. Longtime protagonist Master Chief largely takes a backseat to newcomer Spartan Locke on an adventure that hops across multiple planets and features a favorite supporting character in a very different role.
It’s a gorgeous game full of jaw-dropping moments, but multiplayer is where Halo 5 really shines. Between the classic arena competitive matches and the large-scale Warzone mode, there’s enough content in Halo 5 to keep you fragging your friends for months or even years on end.
Read our full Halo 5 review
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is the perfect introduction for Xbox One owners new to Microsoft’s console family. Containing the first four numbered games in the series — as well as their prequel, Halo: Reach — it’s enough content to keep you busy for weeks and months on end. Halo 2: Anniversary is a highlight of this package, a remastered classic with new cinematics and sound effects, that even shows up Halo 5.
As you may have heard, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was a bit of a mess at launch, but the game’s server issues have stabilized. There are more than 100 maps to choose from, spanning from the original Halo to Halo 4. The majority are remastered versions of old favorites, but a select few were rebuilt from the ground up specifically for the collection. Of course, if you’re like us, you’ll be spending all your time blowing your friends up in Blood Gulch anyway.
Read our full Halo: The Master Chief Collection review
Destiny 2: Forsaken – Legendary Collection
Bungie seemingly rushed the original Destiny to release, offering a campaign mode that didn’t make much sense and a surprising lack of endgame content. Destiny 2 aimed to right these wrongs and its campaign is everything we expect from developer Bungie – loud, fast, funny, and a whole lot of fun.
Now more than a year after launch, Destiny 2 has evolved in surprising and great ways. While the first two smaller expansions didn’t add much in terms of depth, Forsaken, the most recent and largest DLC, gave the experience a welcome makeover. Rife with new endgame content, missions, and areas to explore, Forsaken changes the identity of Destiny 2 and will keep Guardians busy (and happy) for the long haul.
With Shadowkeep and more now out as well, there is more than enough reason to dive into Destiny 2 as the online first-person shooter continues to grow.
Read our full Destiny 2: Forsaken review
A sequel that is even better than the 2016 reboot, Doom Eternal is a confident and lightning-fast first-person shooter from the masters at id Software. It expands on its predecessors’ movement-centric combat with Glory Kills providing health when performed on staggered enemies, and there are more than twice as many types of demons ready to tear the Doom Slayer limb from limb. They’ll have a hard time doing so, as he’s packing a spring-loaded arm-blade, powerful chainsaw, and a huge arsenal of guns.
Where Doom Eternal far surpasses 2016’s Doom is its competitive multiplayer Battlemode, which shifts the generic deathmatch modes to asymmetrical battles between one Doom Slayer and two demons. Every battle is a tense affair from beginning to end, with the demons capable of spawning more allies to their side and ganging up on the Slayer as he attempts to evade and launch his own counter-attack.
Read our full Doom Eternal review
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare defined the Xbox 360. Its intense single-player campaign played out like a blockbuster film while it’s competitive multiplayer kept the disc in players’ consoles for years.
Infinity Ward returned to the sub-series with the reboot Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a game that understands what fans loved about the original game without feeling trapped by its legacy. This time around, the story is told in a more grounded and realistic way, with disturbing content that is not included for mere twists or shock value.
Competitive multiplayer has also been refined, adding the massive Ground War mode alongside staples like Team Deathmatch and Domination. With the recent release of Warzone battle royale, there is even more to love about this game.
Overwatch has become nothing short of a phenomenon since it launched in 2016. The team-based hero shooter features a refreshing take on objective-based multiplayer action that emphasizes teamwork and strategy over brute force.
With a selection of more than 20 playable heroes, plus at least one additional character added for free through post-release updates, Overwatch encourages you to experiment with different styles of play. Though Soldier: 76 may appeal to longtime shooter fanatics and Reinhardt seems like the obvious choice for RPG lovers, you’ll quickly find that keeping teammates alive as Mercy or holding down a crowded area with Hanzo can be just as rewarding.
Read our full Overwatch review
Fortnite needs no introduction. Epic Games’ third-person shooter — and its free battle royale mode — took the industry (and the world) by storm with its unique mix of last-man-standing action and building mechanics. It dominates children’s conversations at school, sparked countless imitators, and even managed to surpass PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which used a similar structure that served as the main inspiration for Fortnite battle royale.
With a consistent stream of content updates always giving players something new to do or see, the player-count remains high while some parents even buy tutoring sessions to improve their kids’ skills — and their own.
Read our full Fortnite Battle Royale review
With deep customization options, a surprising amount of lore, and engaging moment-to-moment gameplay, Warframe doesn’t feel like a free-to-play game. The many quests and activities you’re required to complete can keep you playing without regard for any other game for weeks.
The parkour navigation and a mix of third-person shooting and melee combat will take some time to master, but having a solid team by your side will make the experience much less daunting. Its cooperative missions make it a great choice to play with a group of friends online. Warframe arrived on Xbox One in 2014 and has since received continuous updates.
Apex Legends is a squad-based battle royale from Respawn, the studio behind the excellent Titanfall series. While it doesn’t have the Titans or the awesome wall-running, Apex Legends is a refreshing entry in the battle royale genre. The 60-player format splits players up into teams of three, with each contest choosing from a pool of eight legends with unique abilities.
Apex Legends has the best nonverbal communication system we’ve seen in a multiplayer game. The ping system lets you place markers on weapons, enemies, and other points of interest to help you keep your teammates informed. There’s no need to even speak through a mic. It’s that good.
The spacious sci-fi map is full of surprises and little details. The gunplay is as good as Titanfall and feels great in the battle royale format thanks to varied options and a bunch of cool attachments. And in a change from other battle royale games, you can bring teammates back to life after a bit of recon work.
The best part about Apex Legends? It’s free-to-play and none of the microtransactions give you a competitive advantage.
One of the most popular games of all time, Mojang’s Minecraft was a hit on Xbox systems long before Microsoft bought the developer. Its nearly endless creation tools allow players to make unique and impressive structures, and its simple survival gameplay offers a challenge for those looking to venture into the unknown and slay the monsters they find.
The Xbox One version is one of the best, as the recent Bedrock update enabled cross-play with other platforms like iOS, PC, and Nintendo Switch. No matter where your friends are playing Minecraft, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to build and explore together. Minecraft is also an awesome choice for relaxing on your own.
It might have begun its life as a spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon series, but Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone’s Stardew Valley has arguably become more influential and revered than the series it tried to emulate. A farming adventure styled after classic 16-bit games on the Super Nintendo, Stardew Valley packs full of charm and character, and in addition to offering a variety of different crops to plant on your farm.
It also features dangerous dungeons to explore and several different characters to romance. The game’s polish and stunning variety is particularly impressive when you consider that Barone was a first-time game developer.
No Man’s Sky
Xbox One fans had to wait more than two years to get their hands on Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, but the game they eventually received was far better than the one released back in 2016. The Next update overhauled many of the game’s systems and requirements, resulting in more engaging adventures that no longer felt like blind busywork. Improvements like base-building allow you to feel like you’re truly living in the game’s enormous universe, rather than merely looking at it from a distance.
The biggest addition, however, was multiplayer. It finally gave players the chance to explore uncharted territory together and attempt to survive the harsh conditions found on many mysterious planets.
Read our full No Man’s Sky review
XCOM 2 and War of the Chosen DLC
Firaxis Games managed to revive a long-dead strategy series in 2012 with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and things only got better from there.
XCOM 2 is a harder, more diverse, and more engaging game than its predecessor. It requires players to master both turn-based strategy and resource management as they attempt to overthrow alien occupiers before they unleash a mysterious weapon.
Failing to move your units into correct positions or taking too long to complete objectives could result in them being overrun and killed. Once they’re dead, they’re dead for good. It’s enough to cause an anxiety attack, but with enough perseverance and a hefty dose of luck, you can repel the invaders and save the world.
Read our full XCOM 2 review
The Banner Saga (series)
If you’re in the mood for a stylish tactical role-playing game, The Banner Saga and its two sequels are a perfect choice. The games’ old-school cartoon aesthetic is gorgeous enough in their own right, but they’re backed by a deep cast of playable characters, several different classes, and important choices that can completely change the course of the story in, not just the first game, but all of them.
You can import the save data you create for the original game into The Banner Saga 2 and The Banner Saga 3, allowing you to create an ongoing narrative that is uniquely yours. Improvements and additions to the combat system in the sequels only makes the tactical battles more rewarding, as do the new playable characters.
Who would’ve thought that the strategy genre would work wonders with the Gears of War franchise? Well, Microsoft did, and the resulting Gears Tactics is one of the finest games in the series and easily the best spin-off game. It takes the traditional third-person action and translates it to a top-down, turn-based environment.
Battles here are a bit slower than what most Gears fans might be used to, as players have to navigate environments one turn at a time to take down swarms of Horde enemies. While it feels very different from a normal entry in the series, it does retain the beloved gameplay of hiding behind cover and thinking about your next move.
With a new take on Gears lore and a strong campaign, this is worth checking out for Gears and XCOM fans alike.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Following the underwhelming Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Konami placed the series on the back burner. Former Konami producer Koji Igarashi had no interest in letting spooky action-platforming die, however, and created Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night so that the spirit of the classic “Metroidvania” could live on.
Designed to be a very similar experience to games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Bloodstained features horror-inspired enemies, crafting, backtracking, and a plethora of enemies and bosses to defeat. Before launch, its art style also underwent a radical overhaul that makes it look far sharper and more fluid, with the 2.5D perspective retaining depth and fidelity.
Inside is the spiritual successor to developer Playdead’s smash-hit platformer Limbo and perhaps the strangest game available on the Xbox One. Its puzzle-solving gameplay blends elements of science-fiction with creepy, trial-and-error death traps, and emergent gameplay mechanics seamlessly into its narrative.
While just as nihilistic as Limbo, Inside‘s story contains an element of strange, twisted beauty that only Playdead can deliver. The unnamed protagonist — a small child who wears the only bright item of clothing — reacts with fear, anxiety, and determination to the events transpiring in this depressing world.
Read our full Inside review
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the best Metroidvania games ever made, blending simple but effective combat with terrific platforming and exploration. Its sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps took five years to release, but it was well worth the wait. The game is even more gorgeous than its predecessor, with a more refined art style and an atmospheric orchestral soundtrack. It keeps the brilliant escape sequences of the first game, and though it does away with its unique checkpoint system, it still understands what made the original so successful.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a bigger game, too, but that size doesn’t change the emotional and touching story it tells. Microsoft may have a new mascot for Xbox and not even realize it yet, and it’s from a game developed by a strikingly small team at Moon Studios.
Some games are hard. And then there is Cuphead. The 2D sidescrolling game combines challenging platforming gauntlets with some of the most difficult bosses on the planet, each of which is capable of taking down the titular hero in just a few hits, and it requires some of the quickest reflexes of any game we’ve ever played.
You won’t mind dying to the same enemies over and over too much, however, as it’s also a gorgeous love letter to classic animated films of the ‘30s such as Steamboat Willie, and the hand-drawn animations and environments are nothing short of breathtaking. Combined with an era-appropriate soundtrack that’s heavy on the swing and the piano, and you have an absolute classic hit.
The Messenger puts a unique spin on the classic action-platformer, with there being more to meets than the eye to its gameplay.
The player takes control of the titular character, tasked with bringing an important scroll to the top of a mountain. The game occurs in two different timelines, the past and the future, presented in 8-bit and 16-bit graphical stylings respectively. The Messenger masters nearly every aspect of its gameplay, providing an incredibly precise experience that becomes more enthralling as the story progresses. Littered with hidden collectibles and bonus levels, eagle-eyed players will be rewarded with a deep and enriching experience.
Not to be confused with the unrelated The Outer Worlds from Obsidian Entertainment, Outer Wilds is a unique first-person adventure game that tasks you with uncovering the secret behind an endless time loop constantly threatening the galaxy. Depending on when you reach a location, it can change and offer a different experience, potentially helping you to unravel the mystery at the center of the time loop.
Outer Wilds is designed to be played repeatedly as you gradually uncover the answers you need — almost like a playable version of the film Edge of Tomorrow. It’s a race against time, but one you won’t truly lose if you’re making the most of your exploration. If you want to ignore that and just roast a marshmallow instead, that’s also an option.
The Witness is a game that only Jonathan Blow could make. An atmospheric and existential game focused primarily on circuit-based puzzles, it features a familiar amnesiac protagonist element, but the world Blow has created is interesting enough to make it feel like much more than another tale about regaining your memory and uncovering some big secret.
Instead, you’ll be given philosophical tidbits that could help you in your understanding of your world as you make your way through more than 500 puzzles. If you’ve been subscribed to Xbox Live Gold for a while, you likely already have The Witness in your Ready to Install section, so you can try it out right now.
Read our full The Witness review
Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
Tom Clancy’s The Division had some problems with its competitive Dark Zone and endgame content when it launched back in 2016, but it was still an enjoyable shared-world shooter with an addictive progression system. The Division 2 doesn’t radically alter the MMORPG-like formula, but the move from New York City to the nation’s capital gives you more variety in the environments you’ll fight through. Blasting through a Mars exhibit in a museum is unlike anything we’ve experienced in a game before, and it’s even more fun when you bring some friends along for the ride.
The Division 2 tweaked the time-to-kill for enemies and agents alike, leading to more intense and risky firefights than in the first game. Make a few wrong decisions and you’ll be gunned down, and the enemies you face are smart enough to take cover and avoid letting you get too many shots off before switching locations. The Division 2 is a game of small changes, but they lead to a very satisfying whole.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Following up on the events of the previous game, The Witcher 3 follows the continuing adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter searching for his lost lover, Yennefer, and Ciri, his adopted daughter. Although its central plot offers a long and entertaining quest, there’s far more to the game than finding Geralt’s loved ones. The world is massive, dense with characters great and small who have problems they need Geralt to solve. Whether it’s exorcising a spirit haunting a village or helping a blacksmith rebuild his business, there are hundreds of little adventures to go on, and some even intersect in surprising ways.
The world of The Witcher is dark. An early scene finds Geralt riding into a war-torn province, the camera pulling back to reveal a massive tree from which prisoners of war have been hanged. It’s a grim image, and it sets the tone for much of what is to follow. Often the game will present choices that can have wide-ranging, unforeseen consequences. Not everyone gets a happy ending. Despite all the gloom, there are moments of warmth: an orphan reunited with relatives, drinking games with Geralt’s war buddies, a night of passion with an old flame, and more. Wildly ambitious and epic in scope, The Witcher 3 is a watershed moment for role-playing games, setting a new gold standard for the genre.
Read our full The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review
Monster Hunter: World
It’s not exactly the most traditional Monster Hunter game but that’s what makes it so damn good. If you enjoy a good open-world RPG where you can track rare monsters, engage in tough combat, and craft awesome armor out of their remains, then Monster Hunter: World is right up your alley.
Monster Hunter: World modernizes a classic RPG and makes it easy for anyone to jump in. It features beautiful zones that feel alive, monsters with improved AI, and cool DLC crossovers with Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Horizon Zero Dawn. There’s also a multiplayer mode where up to four players can don their best gear and take down dangerous beasts together.
Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts III is the first game to release on a Microsoft console right at launch. That’s spectacular news for Xbox One owners, as it also happens to be the very best offering of this zany action RPG series starring Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy. While you may be more than a little lost if you’ve never played the previous games, Kingdom Hearts III does include some recap features to catch you up on the story. Additionally, many people will say that the Kingdom Hearts story is already hard to follow even if you’ve played every game.
With all that said, you should play Kingdom Hearts III for the Disney chapters that live inside the overarching story. In Kingdom Hearts III, you’re transported to the world of Frozen, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Tangled, and more. Each world is beautifully recreated and the action is equally magical. Along with hack and slash combat, Sora and friends have a ton of neat summons, including bombastic attacks courtesy of Disney theme park rides.
Kingdom Hearts III is an all-around enthralling experience that should be played by both fans of Disney and action game aficionados.
Read our full Kingdom Hearts III review
The Outer Worlds
If you ever yearned for Fallout in space, this is the closest relative you’ll likely ever see. That’s because the masterminds behind the popular series, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, are at the helm of this incredible first-person role-playing adventure.
The setting is an alternate timeline that sees corporations colonizing other worlds. Your character originates from a colony ship, The Hope, that becomes lost as it travels through space to the Halcyon star system. One-hundred years later, scientist Phineas Welles wakes you from cryosleep with a mission to infiltrate the Halcyon colonies and save fellow humans from The Board, a conglomerate of corporations.
You eventually gain a ship and travel to various settlements scattered throughout the system. As with any other modern RPG, players gain side missions alongside the main story quests. Your choices heavily dictate how the story unfolds, such as diverting power from a local colony or withholding secrets from The Board.
Overall, there’s a definite Fallout feel under all the alien landscapes and technology. What’s missing is a memorable radio station pumping oldies into our ears.
Forza Motorsport 7
The Gran Turismo series was once the king of the racing simulator, but that time is long gone. Forza Motorsport 7 is the latest in Turn 10 Studios’ stunningly gorgeous line of Xbox One racing games, with the most realistic cars and tracks ever rendered in a video game. It can be borderline car porn, but for those who fawn over the smallest details of automobiles, including the fabric of seats and the stitching on steering wheels, Forza Motorsport 7 is the game you need to play right now.
The changes in Forza Motorsport 7 are incremental compared to previous games, but they still add up to the best version of a racing game that had already claimed the top prize. The artificial intelligence is smarter in races, making each victory that much more satisfying. The cars are varied and fun to drive, and there are more than 700 available to choose from. And though the game lacks the variety and player-driven progression of the Horizon games, its attention to detail is simply second-to-none.
Read our full Forza Motorsport 7 review
Forza Horizon 4
Playground Games has proven itself as one of the best racing game developers on the planet, and the studio has outdone itself with Forza Horizon 4. Taking the action to Britain this time around, Forza Horizon 4 is packed full of racing challenges and open-world fun to partake in, and running on an Xbox One X at 4K or 60 frames per second, it’s a stunning display of power.
A new seasons system changes the environments, as well, freezing over lakes or turning easy roads into muddy deathtraps, and with real players always racing around you in the world, you’re just a few moments away from a race at any time.
Read our full Forza Horizon 4 review
NBA 2K20 continues to prove my 2K Games’ basketball series is the best of the best. With new physics, ball handling, defensive adjustments, smarter A.I., and another great story mode, there is enough content to keep basketball fans busy for months. This is also true for MyGM mode, which is more accessible this year and will let aspiring tacticians feel more welcome.
Not every change is universally positive, such as the greater focus on microtransactions, but NBA 2K20 remains far superior to its competitive and one of the best sports simulations available. Few games are this visually impressive, too, with lifelike players that look even better on an Xbox One X.
Read our full NBA 2K20 review
FIFA 20 builds on what has made the soccer series so revered for years, with improvements to its Ultimate Team mode allowing for more single-player opportunities, improvements to shooting and defending, all-new physics for the ball itself, and smoother animations. The play on the pitch isn’t drastically different from last year’s game, but it has welcome improvements for longtime fans.
Where FIFA 20 shines, however, is in the new Volta Football mode, which moves the sport to a small court-like pitch and teams of just three to five people. It turns soccer into a hockey-like game with tons of scoring opportunities and much fewer penalties than the traditional game, making it perfect for newcomers and veterans alike.
Pro Evolution Soccer (series)
Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series continues to improve over the years, rivaling Electronic Arts’ FIFA franchise with its emphasis on total ball and pass control, as well as improved animations and new strategies to help you manage your players exactly as you want to.
Using the Fox engine — the technology behind Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — Konami can create a gorgeous soccer game, with detailed players and natural movement that make it feel like you’re watching a live soccer match rather than simply playing one on your Xbox One. It isn’t as popular as FIFA, but that underdog position has only motivated Konami.
Who could predict that one of the best “sports” games on the Xbox One would involve rocket-powered cars driving alongside glass domes as they knock an oversized soccer ball across the field?
Psyonix’ Rocket League is a goofy game, but don’t let its wacky premise fool you – Rocket League demands your full attention, as players with enough practice can pull off some truly masterful goals and block balls in a last-ditch effort to keep their lead in a tough match. The simple controls are easy enough to grasp, however, so you should be able to get the hang of things quickly and begin (trying) to score a few goals.
This article was last updated by Digital Trends contributor Cody Perez on 5/08/2020.
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