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.

Related Videos

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.

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.

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.

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

2023 is already an excellent year for rhythm games
The heroes of Hi-Fi Rush stand together.

Just days into 2023, my podcast co-hosts and I fell into a discussion about rhythm games. In talking about the golden age of music games like Guitar Hero, we began to mourn for a genre that had seemingly fallen out of fashion among mainstream audiences. Sure, niche indies like Melatonin still release regularly and Ubisoft’s Rocksmith quietly exists, but we were left to wonder if the genre was long past its peak.

I’ve never seen a video game conversation age so poorly so fast. Now two full months into the year, 2023 has already been a godsend for fans of rhythm games. That was initially thanks to Tango Gameworks’ excellent Hi-Fi Rush, but that’s only the most high-profile example. Between an excellent Final Fantasy title, indie hidden gems, and a wealth of VR music games getting a second life thanks to PlayStation VR2, 2023 is shaping up to be the year of the rhythm game.
Feel the beat
For music game aficionados, 2023 started off on the strongest note possible thanks to Hi-Fi Rush. The Game Pass title is a character-action game, not unlike Devil May Cry, but with a unique musical twist: every action is more effective when performed to the beat of the game’s soundtrack. While music-based action games aren’t new to gaming (see last year’s Metal: Hellsinger), Hi-Fi Rush cracked the genre wide open and discovered mainstream success.

Read more
Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is as much of a slam dunk as it sounds
Death Attacks Dead Cells' hero in the Return to Castlevania DLC.

These days, I don’t go into many video games with expectations. I’ve been burned enough times by disaster launches to know that I should approach every game with a bit of reservation. It’s to the point where I’ve wiped the word “fan” out of my lexicon almost entirely, refusing to get too excited about any upcoming game even if it's part of a series I usually like. Sure, I love the original Resident Evil 4, but you won’t catch me hyping the remake when I have no idea what state it’ll launch in this month.

Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania DLC - Launch Date Gameplay Trailer

Read more
PlayStation VR2’s best launch game isn’t the one you we’re expecting
fantavision 202x impressions hands on psvr2 outer space fireworks

With the PlayStation VR2 out now, all eyes are on Horizon Call of the Mountain. The action-adventure title is Sony’s first big exclusive for the platform, acting as its tentpole launch title. While it’s a must-buy for anyone picking up the device on day one, it's more successful as a strong technical showcase for the headset rather than as a fun game that stands on its own. If you’re looking for the latter, you’ll want to check out PSVR2’s real hidden weapon: Fantavision 202X.

『FANTAVISION 202X』 - ゲームプレイトレーラー

Read more