I love Game Pass. Like, a lot. I’ve had an Ultimate subscription (Game Pass + Gold) for about 6 months now and it’s given me a plethora of new choices whenever I turn on my Xbox One. It’s a nightmare for people like me with gigantic backlogs, but the cost is so cheap that I don’t mind having hundreds of extra games looming over my head. Ultimate itself is $15 per month, but I’ve had good luck finding three-month subscription keys online for $25 total. You can also just subscribe to Game Pass for $10 per month if you’re not interested in Gold.
With COVID-19’s self-quarantine being in effect for lots of folks out there, I wanted to shout out my 20 favorite games that are currently included in Xbox’s Game Pass subscription for consoles, just in case you’re looking for something new to sink your teeth into. This started as a list of 10, but honestly, there are so many great games on there that I didn’t want to stress out over narrowing them down and decided instead to expand the list to 20.
Before we get started, I wanted to acknowledge some massive titles that’ll give you endless entertainment, but aren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Sea of Thieves has been consistently updated over the last two years, Monster Hunter World is a behemoth of a game, and the vanilla version of the excellent Elder Scrolls Online is there to fill your MMO needs (though it’s massively improved by its expansions, which aren’t included).
Without further ado, let’s get into my 20 favorites! In no particular order…
1) Bad North: Jotunn Edition
This fun little tower defense-style title is the perfect pick up and play game whenever you have short bursts of free time. It’s a roguelike that tasks you with defending islands against increasingly difficult waves of bad guys, unlocking new captains and leveling up your units along the way. I love the look of Bad North and its gameplay hook instantly grabbed me for hours on my first playthrough.
2) Blair Witch
The Blair Witch Project is my all-time favorite horror film (I’m biased and from Maryland, okay) and I think Bloober Team is one of the best developers when it comes to delivering atmospheric horror — Observer and Layers of Fear, for example. Their take on the Blair Witch universe certainly isn’t perfect, but its clever use of camcorder-driven puzzles and plot twists made it one of my favorite games from last year. It’s short, sweet, and worth checking out if POV horror is your jam.
3) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I’ve only managed to sink about 10 hours into Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, but that was on Switch — where it ran like boiled dog shit. This is an excellent 2D metroidvania (which makes sense) that’s bound to hook any fans of Symphony of the Night. Speaking of which, if the mere mention of that game has you salivating, then also check out the excellent Timespinner, which is also on Game Pass.
4) Devil May Cry V
This was one of 2019’s most popular games, so it needs no introduction. It looks incredible and plays equally so, with its flashy combos and brilliant environments. The soundtrack also fucking rips.
5) Doom (2016)
With Doom Eternal fresh in everyone’s minds, I’ve been seeing my fair share of opinions on Twitter that claim Doom’s 2016 reboot was better. I’m not sure how any FPS campaign can be more enjoyable than this one anyway, with only Titanfall 2 coming close, in my opinion.
6) Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition
If you’ve been following along for a while, you already know that I LOVE Final Fantasy XV. It was my Game of the Year the year it released, I still gush about it on Twitter, and struggle daily not playing this instead of the other 200+ games in my backlog. Seriously, it’s tied with Final Fantasy VIII as my series favorite. The Royal Edition includes the extra DLC character chapters, gameplay updates that let you play as all four chocobros (instead of just Noctis), new costumes, new explorable areas, and more.
7) The Gardens Between
This novel puzzle game has you manipulating time to solve environmental puzzles while unraveling the story of two best friends. It’s endearing, emotional, and the less you know going in, the better. This one is especially worth checking out if you’re a fan of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
8) Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The series that got me to buy an original Xbox console on launch day, The Master Chief Collection features updated versions of the first four Halo games, along with the ODST and Reach side stories. All six games are fantastic, especially when played with friends. My girlfriend and I love playing these locally in split-screen, regularly hum the series’ theme song, and genuinely obsess over the games in general. We love Halo. Now you can love Halo. It’s such a shame that Halo 5: Guardians turned out to be a massive disappointment.
9) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
When Microsoft went on their studio buying spree, the one that caught my attention the most was Ninja Theory. I loved Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and their reboot of Capcom’s Devil May Cry series, and their Norse-influenced adventure game Hellblade was one of my favorite games the year it released. I also still think the game’s Fenrir encounter is my favorite boss battle of all time, with its blend of FMV, binaural audio, and killer character models.
10) Killer Instinct
My absolute favorite Xbox One console exclusive is still their reboot of Killer Instinct, which launched alongside the console in 2013. A launch game hasn’t stuck with me this far into a console’s life cycle since Super Mario Bros on the NES. This version includes all three “seasons” worth of content, which is to say every character, costume, arcade ports of the original two games, and an amazing single-player mode in Shadow Lords. It also has a great tutorial mode to ease you into its many layers of gameplay, so it’s very noob friendly. Maybe not online, though, since it’s been 7 years, but it’s still worth looking into.
Imagine playing the original Legend of Zelda in 60-second intervals, with Link dying whenever the clock ran out, but you got to keep all of your money and items, and all of your puzzle progress carried over. That’s basically Minit. Its monochromatic aesthetic is great, the music is superb, and the concept is super novel, which says a lot in this day and age.
12) Panzer Dragoon Orta
Since its inception this generation, Xbox has been going all in one backwards compatibility. Having access to three generations worth of games on a single console is absolutely AWESOME. With Panzer Dragoon being one of my favorite series of video games, I was happy to see the original Xbox exclusive Orta included on Game Pass — and not only that, but the original Sega Saturn game is unlockable as well. This is an excellent, beautiful rail shooter that should not be slept on.
13) A Plague Tale: Innocence
One of last year’s biggest surprises was Asobo Studio’s horror adventure game A Plague Tale: Innocence. It was especially surprising given the studio was mostly known for working on licensed games in the Pixar universe before this. Taking place in 1348 during the Hundred Years’ War, you control a pair of siblings evading the Inquisition, while simultaneously avoiding swarms of plague-carrying rats. It’s such a great story that made it well worth enduring some of the gameplay’s shortcomings and wonky stealth mechanics.
14) NieR Automata: Game of the YoRHa Edition
Quite possibly my favorite video game ever made, and easily my absolute favorite this console generation, NieR Automata transcends the definition of “video game.” It’s self-aware, philosophical, and a damn good action RPG penned by one of the greats, Yoko Taro. It also has one of, if not THE best soundtrack ever composed, courtesy of Keiichi Okabe (who also composed a few tracks for the above Final Fantasy XV DLC chapter Episode Gladiolus). This is another game where the less you know going in, the better, but it’s definitely a time commitment since it NEEDS to be completed at least three times (once with each character) to get the full story. You’re looking at about 50 hours of gameplay here, maybe more if you’re a completionist. Glory to mankind!
15) Slay the Spire
This can easily be described as a card-battling roguelite, where you fight against increasingly difficult enemies and bosses by strategically using cards earned along the way. You have a set amount of points to spend each round, with certain cards costing a set number of said points. Some add to your defense, some attack, while others do more interesting things like apply status effects. It’s easy to pick up and play, but may take a few hours to fully get into the swing of things. Whenever I wasn’t sure what game to jump into, I defaulted to Slay the Spire for a good month or so. It’s fantastic.
My Game of the Year for 2018, Wandersong is a super endearing puzzle platformer heavily rooted in music. You play as a bard who overcomes all odds by befriending locals, helping with their problems, and singing. It’s colorful, has a great soundtrack, and a heartwarming story that’s usually absent in these types of games.
17) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This game needs no introduction and 90% of you have probably played it already. It’s a MASSIVE open-world RPG with tons of content, excellent writing, and one of the best heroes in modern gaming. Play it. Then buy the expansion pass for two more meaty chapters to experience.
18) Yakuza 0
Part open-world beat-em-up, part Japanese crime drama, the Yakuza series fucking rules and every single person on the planet needs to play them. Being the first game in the series, this is a great place to start.
19) Rocket League
I’ve never been big on playing games against other people, outside of fighters. This is basically soccer with cars and it’s so easy to pick up and play that anyone can hop on and have a great time. You can also play against A.I. bots if that’s more your speed. What makes Rocket League so special is that it’s great about giving everyone plenty of chances to shine, so you always have those cool “moments” where you feel like a god for accidentally bumping a ball into your opponent’s goal.
20) Gears 5
The entire Gears of War series is included in the Game Pass library and you’ll want to play the numbered entries in order, but I named the fifth entry here as it’s my overall favorite (and my 2nd favorite game from last year). New to the series, it includes some bite-sized open worlds to explore and lots of mellow story beats that really elevate the series to new heights. It’s still an action-heavy cover shooter, but man, what a wild ass ride Gears 5 is.
What are your thoughts on Game Pass? Are you a subscriber? If so, what games would you recommend others to check out if they subscribed today?