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The best Xbox Series X exclusives

Microsoft’s latest console, the Xbox Series X, is a powerhouse, oftentimes matching or outperforming the PlayStation 5 in multiplatform releases. But how are the exclusives? The Xbox Series X had a thin lineup at launch, but with our guide to the best Xbox Series X exclusives, you’ll know which games to download.

Technically, the Xbox Series X doesn’t have any exclusives right now, and with Microsoft’s Smart Delivery feature, it won’t for at least a couple of years. So, we had to make some concessions. We’re defining Xbox Series X exclusives as games that aren’t available on the PS5.

Similarly, we only included Xbox One games if they’ve been optimized for Series X and S (like Gears 5). Also, we’re ignoring PC entirely. If you factor in PC releases, Microsoft hasn’t had a console exclusive game in years.

Further reading

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite
85 %
4/5
T
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Shooter
Developer 343 Industries
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Release November 15, 2021
Of all the franchises out there, Microsoft is most closely tied with the Halo series. It essentially was the reason to buy the original Xbox when it first launched and pioneered not only the first-person genre on consoles, but revolutionized online multiplayer too. Xbox owes a lot to this franchise, so it makes sense that they would want to keep it alive. Despite being delayed for two years after the Series X and S launched, we finally got our first taste of a brand new Halo game on these upgraded machines in the form of Halo: Infinite.  Split between the free-to-play multiplayer and campaign, this Halo is a little light on content but promises to continue to grow over time. At the core, though, the gameplay is more than enough reason to jump in. This throwback to the classic arena-style shooter is a breath of fresh air in a genre filled with specialists, loadouts, complex abilities, and overpowered builds.
Read our full Halo Infinite review

Gears 5

Gears 5
81 %
4.5/5
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Shooter, Adventure
Developer The Coalition
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Release September 10, 2019
Gears 5 is basically an Xbox Series X launch game, despite releasing on Xbox One in 2019. Existing owners can download the Series X patch for free, which boosts the visuals and performance of the game past its last-gen counterpart. For performance, the game is basically locked at 60 frames per second during the campaign, jumping as high as native 4K in the resolution department during calm scenes. When the action heats up, Gears 5 can still drop its resolution to 1080p, though these dips are infrequent, much unlike the Xbox One X version. Based on performance and resolution, the Series X and One X versions are similar, though the Series X locks to 60 fps whereas the One X experienced frequent dips. It’s the details that make the difference, however. Variable-rate shading, screen-space global illumination, and improvements in shadows and lighting make the game look much better overall, and combined with the Series X’s ultra-fast SSD, feel like a next-gen experience. As for Gears 5 as a game, it’s great. The campaign is a little less bombastic than previous titles, with frequent breaks from the action to explore and experience the story, and multiplayer is better than ever. The Series X supports 120Hz during multiplayer in Gears 5, and like the campaign, the game locks there on Microsoft’s flagship console.
Read our full Gears 5 review

Sea of Thieves: Season 5

Sea of Thieves: Season 5
4/5
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One
Genre Adventure
Developer Rare
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Release December 02, 2021
Although criticized upon launch for a lack of content, Sea of Thieves has still become one of Microsoft’s largest exclusives, and it’ll likely stay that way throughout the Series X’s life. Unlike Destiny 2 and similar games-as-a-service titles, Sea of Thieves isn’t concerned with guiding players down one particular path. Instead, Sea of Thieves is a fluid experience. You can throw up a quest on your ship’s map to find new loot, engage in naval battles, or spend some time far out on the high seas, landing on a random island in a distant land. It’s that freedom that makes Sea of Thieves such a compelling experience, offering just enough content to quality as a “game” while never forcing players to actually undertake that content. Freedom is Sea of Thieves’ biggest strength, but it’s the game’s biggest weakness, too. A group of seafaring friends is essential in Sea of Thieves, so if you fancy yourself a solo player, it’s best to choose one of the other Series X exclusives on this list.

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2
90 %
4/5
T
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Platform, Adventure
Developer Double Fine Productions
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Release August 25, 2021
If you’re an old school fan of DoubleFine games, then you’ve probably been eagerly awaiting the sequel to the cult hit Psychonauts for a decade or more now. Thanks to some help from Microsoft after purchasing the studio, the team was able to expand their original vision for Psychonauts 2 and include more content and polish to this creative and daring game that likely never would have happened otherwise. Playing as Raz once again, you traverse through some of the most creative, subtle, and thought-provoking levels of any 3D platformer ever developed. The story is as bizarre as you would expect, but also full of heart and strong messages about mental health. This is a modern take on the genre that we unfortunately don’t see enough of.
Read our full Psychonauts 2 review

Bright Memory

Bright Memory
70 %
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox Series X|S
Genre Shooter, Adventure, Indie
Developer FYQD-Studio
Publisher PLAYISM
Release March 25, 2020
Bright Memory: Infinite is an ambitious game, combing elements of agile shooters like Titanfall 2 with brawling mechanics reminiscent of Devil May Cry 5. Even more impressive, Episode 1 was developed by a single person. Despite a short runtime and some shoddy translation, Bright Memory was enough to grab Microsoft’s attention, as it’s funding a full-length version of the game — Bright Memory: Infinite — which came exclusively to Xbox Series X and S in 2021.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics
73 %
4/5
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Strategy, Tactical
Developer Splash Damage
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Release April 28, 2020
One of the major Xbox Game Studios releases of 2020, Gears Tactics didn’t actually launch on an Xbox console, reserved exclusively for PC for the first few months of its life. With the launch of Xbox Series X, Gears Tactics is now a console game, and a good one at that. As XCOM 2 showed, turn-based tactics are possible on consoles, but Gears Tactics goes further. It keeps tactics mechanics like an overwatch ability and restricted movement but amplifies the action in a number of ways. Small changes, like enemies spawning on all sides of you and the ability to issue commands while another unit is carrying out a command, make Gears Tactics a more brisk experience than other tactics games. Outside of combat, you can spend caches you find on the battlefield to unlock new equipment to outfit your troops, as well as spend skill points to make them stronger. What’s remarkable about Gears Tactics is that the game never feels like it’s trying to be something it’s not. Even with the camera zoomed out and the flow of action regulated to turns, Gears Tactics feels undeniably Gears of War. It runs beautifully on Series X, too, at a flawless 4K60, and with excellent controller support.
Read our full Gears Tactics review

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5
86 %
4/5
E
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Racing, Sport
Developer Playground Games
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Release November 09, 2021
Without question, Forza Horizon 5 is one of the best racing games there is, not just on Xbox. The Series X enhanced version runs excellently, too. You’re getting a locked 60 fps during events and when driving around the open world, as well as vastly improved load times compared to the Xbox One version. Racing games always strive for high-quality graphics, and Forza Horizon 5 is the best-looking (and best-sounding) racer yet. Even in performance mode, you might have to do a double-take to realize you’re not looking at actual racing footage. The new locals are all breathtaking, and there’s never a shortage of things to do. Forza Horizon 5 is friendly to both racing enthusiasts and those who prefer a less simulation-style experience.
Read our full Forza Horizon 5 review

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps
88 %
E
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S
Genre Platform, Adventure
Developer Moon Studios
Publisher Xbox Game Studios, iam8bit
Release March 10, 2020
Even among Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4, Ori and the Will of the Wisps may be the best showcase of the Xbox Series X’s power. On Xbox One X, Ori and the Will of the Wisps ran at 4K60, though not without problems. The experienced frequent frame drops below its target on Microsoft’s last-gen hardware, though stayed impressive in the resolution department. The Xbox Series X solves all of those issues. 4K is still the target resolution, though now with a locked 120 fps. The game even includes supersampling to run at 6K at 60 FPS. Simply put, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a visual treat, especially with HDR enabled. It’s a great game on its own, too. Moon Studios matches the somber, dream-like atmosphere of the original game while adding plenty of new content (including boss battles). Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the best Metroidvania games around, and although it’s technically available on Nintendo Switch, the game feels most at home on Series X.

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