Skip to main content

Xbox Game Pass is knocking it out of the park this month

If you spend a lot of time reading about video games on social media, you’ve probably seen this week’s instantly tiring discourse. It started with a couple of journalists harmlessly noting that they planned to unsubscribe from Xbox Game Pass for a bit, which escalated into a classic console war debate complete with angry fans on every side and brand clap backs.

Like much gaming discourse, it’s a distracting sideshow that’s not worth adding to (I’ve already said more than I care to about it here). But if you’ve come out of the conversation wondering if you’re really getting your money’s worth out of the service these days, there’s a detail that’s been unfortunately lost among the noise: Xbox Game Pass is having its best month of 2022 so far.

Indulging your curiosity

At first glance, that might sound like a contrarian take. Microsoft’s service is struggling this month after Bethesda announced it would be delaying both Starfield and Redfall out of 2022. That means there likely won’t be a single AAA Xbox first-party exclusive available day-and-date on the service this year. For those who subscribe primarily for that value proposition, it’s completely reasonable to dip out until the taps turn back on.

But the value of Game Pass has never really been its tentpole Xbox titles. They’ve always been few and far between, something that was especially clear when the Xbox Series X launched without a new killer app to sell it. Instead, the service has always been more valuable as a discovery platform for independent games that don’t always get the time of day in a busy release year. And with a quieter release schedule in the industry at large right now, Game Pass is currently leaning on that strength to great effect.

A list of dialogue options appears in Citizen Sleeper.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When it comes to new releases, there are several new standouts to try right now if you’re feeling bored. Citizen Sleeper is a current indie darling that would be easy to skip out on normally. The narrative adventure uses tabletop RPG hooks to craft a sharply-written sci-fi story with an anti-capitalist streak. Similarly, the excellent Hardspace: Shipbreaker, which exits early access today, is now available on Game Pass, and it’s a must-try experience. The incredibly unique title is a sort of anti puzzle game about reverse engineering spaceships in zero gravity — and it does that while delivering some weighty commentary on unionization and workers’ rights.

Both titles are the kind of curiosities that makes Game Pass an appealing service. Games with left-field premises like that can be a tough sell on their own, especially for those who primarily play big-budget titles, but Game Pass lessens the financial stakes that come from buying a $25 game on a whim only to discover it’s not for you.

What else to play

While those two titles are clear highlights, there’s much more that’s worth checking out if you’re currently subscribed. Floppy Knights is a charming tactics game from Rose City Games that makes the historically tough genre more approachable with its card-based gameplay and delightful cartoon art style. Trek to Yomi is a stylish samurai action game that’s worth diving into for its striking black-and-white visuals alone. Loot River is an intriguing roguelike where players rearrange platforms on a river in puzzle-like fashion while fighting monsters.

A battle unfolds on a tactics grid in Floppy Knights.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Looking further down the line, Sniper Elite 5 is the closest thing the service has to a major release this month. It’s normally the kind of game that would be easy to ignore, but based on our demo of it recently, it’s shaping up to be a surprisingly inventive immersive sim that’ll be worth checking out (though its usual $60 price tag would usually make that a risky proposition).

When it comes to older titles, there are some must-plays in the bunch. Her Story, Sam Barlow’s FMV game where players scrub through police interviews to learn the real story behind a crime, is a bona fide classic. Vampire Survivors is something of a recent sensation this year along the lines of Loop Hero. The monster-slaying game plays out like a small-scale musou that’ll surprisingly push the power of your PC by tossing as many enemies on screen as possible.

Perhaps best among the entire crop of May titles is Umurangi Generation Special Edition. The standout photography game was a sleeper hit when it launched in 2020, gaining a sort of cult following among indie enthusiasts. Now that it’s readily available on the service, there’s no harm in finally checking it out if you haven’t already.

Hipsters pose for a photo in Umurangi Generation.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Speaking personally, I’ve gotten more value out of Xbox Game Pass this month than I usually do. I’ve already hopped into several games that would have cost me upward of $70 normally. And there’s still more I plan on trying out soon, like Pac-Man Museum+ and Little Witch in the Woods, which is riding a wave of positive buzz.

There’s no shame in unsubscribing from a service for any reason (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve subbed and unsubbed from Apple Arcade). But if you’re looking for a reason to stay just another month, there are plenty of innovative titles worth checking out before you skedaddle.

Editors' Recommendations

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
You can get a month of Xbox Game Pass for $1 right now
A tv shows the new Xbox Game Pass that comes to Samsung Gaming Hub soon.

If you aren't currently signed up for Xbox Game Pass, you can currently get your first month for $1. The deal only applies to Game Pass Ultimate and its PC version, though, as the console-only version is still at its full price.

Early in the Xbox Game Pass era, Microsoft would offer $1 onboarding deals for the service. The trick helped the company build a massive user base early on, but it has moved away from that cheap deal in recent years as the service has become a household name with gamers. It's finally available again for anyone who's been waiting for a reason to subscribe, though it's not as eye-popping a deal as it once was.

Read more
Grand Theft Auto V makes its surprise return to Xbox Game Pass today
A man drives away in a boat with stolen money in Grand Theft Auto 5 art.

Xbox Game Pass is kicking off July with a major surprise, as Grand Theft Auto V has returned to the service. Rockstar's sales juggernaut leads an otherwise light month for Game Pass, which brings Capcom's Exoprimal as a day-one launch.

This isn't the first time that Grand Theft Auto V has been on Game Pass. It was previously on the service circa 2021 but removed from it that August. Rockstar has a history of putting its games on Game Pass for a brief window before pulling it, as it also did with Red Dead Redemption 2.

Read more
One of my favorite 2022 games just came to Xbox Game Pass, and you need to try it
Arcade cabinets stand in a room in Arcade Paradise.

When I think back to 2022, there are a ton of critically acclaimed games that stick with me. Naturally, I spent countless hours adventuring through the Lands Between in Elden Ring. Splatoon 3 and Vampire Survivors ate up my entire summer, while I still think about Pentiment and Immortality months later. There's one lesser-known game, though, that was a go-to I kept coming back to throughout the year despite the fact that it wasn't talked about nearly as much as any of those games.

That would be Arcade Paradise, a quiet 2022 standout that's now available on Xbox Game Pass today. Developed by Nosebleed Interactive, it's a unique simulation game that balances 90s nostalgia with a thoughtful look at the line between hobby and work. If you spent any time during your youth hanging around arcades, you'll want to give it a try while it's on Game Pass.

Read more