Microsoft had a remarkable 2021, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at a list of Xbox games released this year. Series X/S owners only got two high-profile exclusives in Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite (which just so happened to be two of this year’s best titles). Instead, Microsoft focused on rewriting the rules of console success by landing multiple wins for Xbox Game Pass. Subscribers got games like Outriders at launch and even managed to get Sony’s MLB The Show 21 on day one.
Microsoft simply isn’t as invested in console-selling exclusives as it is in adding value to Game Pass. Strong third-party support is the core of Microsoft’s vision, making the Series X an obvious choice for those who play a lot of different games.
But 2022 is looking a little different. Microsoft has a few big exclusives up its sleeve thanks to its game-changing Bethesda acquisition. Here are some of the titles Xbox Series X owners can look forward to this year.
Rainbow Six Extraction (January 20)
Rainbow Six Extraction is a huge departure for the tactical shooter series. Rather than pitting players against other soldiers in grounded global conflict, it’s a co-op shooter where squads mow down aliens. Think Back 4 Blood, but substitute the zombies with black, oozing aliens. Extraction looks like a Rainbow Six game for players who enjoy Siege’s tactics, but don’t want to match up with high-skill players in online battles.
Elden Ring (February 25)
Elden Ring seems destined for glory. FromSoftware’s upcoming action RPG takes the punishing difficulty of Dark Souls and sets it in a less restrictive open-world setting. Based on my time with the demo, it feels like it could be the most approachable Souls-like game yet thanks to its greater sense of freedom in exploration and combat. Fans are already gaga for FromSoftware’s work, so the prospect of a better, more accessible version of that means that we could be looking at an early game of the decade contender.
Tunic (March 16)
If you’ve never heard of Tunic, prepare to firmly put it on your radar. The indie adventure game looks like an absolute charmer in the vein of 2020’s beloved Death’s Door. The isometric Zelda-inspired game stars an adorable fox who sets out on a grand adventure. For those who find themselves nostalgic for old-school Zelda games, Tunic looks like a delightful throwback with some warm, fuzzy visuals.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl (April 28)
It might be surprising to see S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl on this list considering the bad press it just received. Developer GSC Game World recently announced the apocalyptic shooter would get NFT integration, prompting outrage from fans. The studio immediately walked that back, resetting the hype meter. With that controversy aside, we can get back to focusing on a dark immersive sim that pits players against an army of radioactive monsters.
Starfield (November 11)
Frankly, we know next to nothing about Starfield. We’ve seen teases of it and have a release date, but no one has seen actual gameplay yet. So why is it on this list? One reason: Todd Howard. The mastermind behind The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is directing the project, which has fans sold on promise alone. If Howard can deliver on the game’s “Skyrim in space” expectations, he should have another hit on his hands.
A Plague Tale: Requiem (TBA)
A Plague Tale: Innocence is the kind of underrated gem that’s only become more special with time. The stealth adventure game follows two siblings trying to survive the Black Plague and Hundred Years’ War at the same time. Its sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, looks to build on what made the original work by bolstering both story and combat. It’s also bringing way more rats … like, a literal tidal wave of rats.
After Arkane Studios’ standout Deathloop in 2021, I naturally have my eye on the developer’s next game. Redfall is a co-op multiplayer shooter where players gun down vampires. While we haven’t seen actual gameplay yet, a reveal trailer showed off what looks like an absurdly stylish game with a personable cast of characters. That formula worked well for Deathloop, so it feels like Arkane could deliver another hit if Redfall actually lands this year.
Replaced is the kind of indie game that’s bound to be a Game Pass success story. The 2D action game got a fantastic trailer at E3 2021 that showed off its cyberpunk world. From riding the back of a speeding train to scaling a giant neon sign, Replaced seems like it’s filled with thrilling action set pieces in a detailed, pixel-art world. It’ll be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch, which should bring lots of eyes to what looks like a standout indie.
Somerville has a somewhat strange backstory. It’s the debut game by Jumpship, a studio that formed after the founders of developer Playdead reportedly had a falling out. Because of that, Somerville essentially looks like a new Playdead game. It bears a striking resemblance to Limbo and Inside, with a striking art style and unnerving atmosphere. That’s not a knock against it. If anything, it’s a major compliment. Somerville could be the kind of head-turning indie that captivates players and critics alike next year.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns (TBA)
There are going to be quite a few superhero games in 2022, from Gotham Knights to Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League. The most exciting game among the crop, though, is Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Created by Firaxis, it’s a tactical strategy game in the vein of XCOM … but swap in soldiers for superheroes like Wolverine and Blade. Firaxis are pros when it comes to the genre, so there’s a good chance this could end up being one of the better superhero games of the modern era.
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