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Best Xbox Game Pass games: 30 games you absolutely need to play

Best Xbox Game Pass games: Sea of Thieves pirate on a green background
(Image credit: Future/Rare)

Finding the best Xbox Game Pass games can be a difficult task. With so much choice available, what should you play first? Don't worry, we're here to help you find the cream of the Xbox Game Pass crop, as it were.

If you happen to already own an Xbox One X or Xbox One S, you probably know how fantastic Xbox Game Pass is – but, if you're just joining the Green Team for the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, let us be the first to tell you that it's probably the best way you can start off your game collection on the new console.

Xbox Game Pass is like if the ease and convenience of Netflix met the video game rental store you remember as a kid, and the result is an all-you-can-download service that offers over 100 titles that are available to download whenever you want, and are yours to keep as long as you stay subscribed to the service.

Buying an Xbox Series S? Buy this, too

Seagate Storage Expansion Card

Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Series S are a perfect match for each other... well, OK, almost perfect. The only problem with the combination is that, because it only has 365GB of usable storage, the Xbox Series S SSD fills up quickly. We recommend picking up some expandable storage – like this memory card from Seagate (opens in new tab) – to give yourself some extra room for more games.

On it, you'll find brand-new first-party Xbox games like Gears 5 and Halo Infinite there on the day they launch, plus classic gems from the original Xbox and Xbox 360 era. 

If those weren't enough to choose from already, Microsoft and EA now offer the entire EA Play catalogue of games on the service – with games like UFC 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, FIFA 20 and more – at no extra cost.

As great as the service is, however, it can be a bit overwhelming for first-time users. The way the service is organized isn't exactly conducive to finding the best games, or even the most popular ones. It's more or less just a mish-mash of games all thrown together with the newest additions at the top.

So, rather than force you to dig through the catalog yourself, we’ve put together a list of the best, must-download Game Pass games from the service. 

That way you know what to look for when you load up the service or, if you haven’t yet subscribed, what you’re getting should you decide to commit to Microsoft’s massive all-you-can-download subscription service.

1. Alien Isolation 

An Alien comes towards you as the player character opens fire in Alien Isolation

(Image credit: SEGA)

There are a lot of places you can start on this list, but few are better than Alien: Isolation, a survival-horror game from Creative Assembly and SEGA that task you with surviving an alien-infested ship. 

If you've always admonished the characters in horror movies that make an easily avoidable mistake that turns out to be fatal, here's your chance to prove that you'd make the better first mate.

2. ARK: Survival Evolved

A player and a dinosaur attack a shielded base

(Image credit: Studio Wildcard)

ARK Survival Evolved is Minecraft meets Jurassic Park - which, even on paper, sounds amazing. It's an action-adventure survival game that puts you on an island with basically nothing in hand, and tasks you to build up a basecamp. 

From there, you'll need to go out and capture the local fauna - everything from dinosaurs and pre-historic mammals to straight-up monsters - and breed them. The only problem? It's all an open-world MMO, and you'll have other players to contend with too.

3. Batman: Arkham Knight 

Batman and Nighthawk are surrounded by goons in a vault

(Image credit: WB Games)

We might be waiting a while for the next Batman movie with Robert Pattinson, but if you need your fix of the caped crusader before that, check out Batman: Arkham Knight on Xbox Game Pass. 

The final entry in Rocksteady's Batman trilogy also works as a great standalone title as you don the cowl to stop Batman's entire rogues gallery from taking over Gotham in what has to be the longest night in Batman's career. 

4.  Control 

Jesse Faden throws a cabinet at enemies in Control

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

 If you’ve ever wanted to star in your own action-thriller, Control is 100% the game for you. 

As Jesse Faden, you’ll have to master strange new powers and weapons as you race to bring order back to the mysterious Federal Bureau of Control and find your missing brother. And be sure to try Alan Wake when you’re done with it, developer Remedy’s previous, and equally stylish, horror game.

5. Destiny 2: Beyond Light

A frozen Fallen in Destiny 2: Beyond Light

(Image credit: Bungie)

 Destiny 2 is one of the best games-as-a-service titles out there. From its grand story to its great gunplay and mechanics, Destiny knows how to make you feel like a hero while keeping challenges at just the right level of difficulty and addictiveness. As a Guardian of the Light you’ll be tasked with exploring the solar system, fighting hordes of aliens and sometimes facing off against other players too! 

Beyond Light marks a great time for first-timers to jump into the shooter, with content designed to bring new players up to speed quickly – though the latest expansion is also sure to delight any returning fans, too.

6. Doom Eternal

Doom Guy fires a laser at demons in Doom Eternal

(Image credit: id Software)

Having Doom Eternal on Xbox Game Pass only proves how great value the service really is. This game came out in March 2020, and by October, it was already on the service. 

Not only is it cool that it's a recently released game, but Doom Eternal is actually one of the better shooters released this year. It's fast-paced and frenetic, putting you against the hordes of Hell with nothing but a butt-load of armor and artillery. A great one to download if you're into the idea of going full tilt against an army of demons.

7. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Soldiers fighting monsters in a forested area in Dragon Age Inquisition

(Image credit: EA)

Thanks to the recent partnership between EA and Microsoft, gamers can now get EA Play games as part of their Xbox Game Pass subscription at no extra cost. While EA Play brings a ton of great new games to download, the one that stands above the rest is Bioware's ambitious open-world RPG, Dragon Age: Inquisition. 

It was our Game of the Year back in 2014 when it released, and it still holds up as one of the best games from last generation. If you missed it before, now's as good a time as any to give it a shot.

8. Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition

Dragon Quest 11 hero readies himself for battle

(Image credit: Square Enix)

If you're after a engrossing turn-based JRPG, with gorgeous art from Dragon Ball Z artist Akira Toriyama look no further than Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition.

Yes, the title is a bit of a mouthful, but the game is critically acclaimed and the Definitive Edition is packed with extras. Additional scenarios, an orchestral soundtrack and the ability to play the entire game in 2D mode are just some of the perks you'll find.

9. Forza Horizon 4

Cars racing in the Fall (surrounded by orange leaves) in Forza horizon 4

(Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

Forza has always been Xbox's bread and butter when it comes to racing games, but Forza Horizon 4 truly transcends the genre with its wide open English countryside setting and changing seasons that alter how cars handle through the game. 

While this game is great as a solo experience, it's even better when you have friends playing it as well as you'll then see their drivatars appear in races alongside you. 

10. Gears 5

Humans fighting terrifying beasts in Gears 5

(Image credit: The Coalition)

One of the best parts about Xbox Game Pass is getting newly released first-party games for free at launch – like, for example, Gears 5. 

Not only does this game have a fantastic single-player story that follows the events of Gears of War 4, but it has a ton of great multiplayer modes that are available as part of the package, too.  

11. Gears Tactics

The middle of a battle between players and a tank in Gears Tactics

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Gears Tactics turns the traditional third-person shooter franchise on its head with an over-the-top, birds-eye view of the battlefield. Tactics still has you leading Gears against the Locust invasion, but this time it's all turn-based combat with specialized soldiers taking on various roles like a sniper, melee unit or medic. 

The missions usually follow a similar formula that can drag on a bit towards the end of the game, but otherwise Gears Tactics is a fun way to dive into the lore of the franchise without spending hours looking down the sights of a lancer.

12. Hades

Zagreus looks down on Tartarus in Hades

(Image credit: Supergiant Games)

Hades is without a doubt one of the best rogue-lites ever made. Even if you aren’t a fan of the genre we’d recommend trying Hades out because it makes some subtle changes that mean you’ll soon see each failure as a success in disguise.

You play as the son of Hades trying to fight your way out of the Underworld in a story that is perfectly crafted for the gameplay loop. Along your journey, you’ll meet a wide range of Greek legends - from mortals to the gods - who will both aid and hinder your progress in a world with a beautiful art direction that we can’t get enough of.

When you die you’re sent back to the House of Hades to be scolded by your father and ridiculed by Hypnos - a god who comments on what killed you. While you’ll lose a lot of what you found during your escape, you’ll keep a hold of many useful resources that allow you to upgrade your weapons and abilities to make your next escape attempt much easier.

13. Halo: The Master Chief Collection 

Wielding a minigun in Halo: The Master Chief Collection PvP

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

While Gears 5 and Ori take top billing as the best Xbox One-exclusive games on Xbox Game Pass, Halo: The Master Chief Collection comes in a very close third. 

If you haven't heard of it, it's basically the discography of the Halo universe, replete with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, and the anniversary edition of Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4. The Collection includes all those games plus all the multiplayer maps. It's basically the best thing to happen to any Halo fan ever.  

14.  Hollow Knight 

The Knight stands in a green area on a small platform

(Image credit: Team Cherry)

While the phrase is overused, it’s accurate to call Hollow Knight the Dark Souls of the Metroidvania genre. If you’re a fan of Dark Soul’s darker art style, story structure, and grueling gameplay challenges then you’ll find plenty to love in Hollow Knight.

For all its similarities Hollow Knight isn’t just a carbon copy though, as it provides its own spin with 2D platforming that is sure to test even veteran players. If you can struggle through everything Hollow Knight has to throw at you though you’ll be rewarded with immense satisfaction that you bested some of the most difficult fights and platforming in all of gaming.

15.  Injustice 2

Green Arrow vs Black Adam in Injustice 2

(Image credit: NetherRealm)

For its single-player content and story alone, Injustice 2 shines through as a stellar fighting game that you absolutely have to pick up, though multiplayer fights are just as enjoyable.

DC fans will have a chance to place themselves in the shoes of their favorite characters from across the comics line-up while fighting game aficionados will have an engaging combat system that’s easy to learn and enjoyable to master. 

Who hasn’t wanted to go toe-to-toe with Batman?

16. Kingdom Hearts 3 

Buzz, Woody and Sora look up at something scary in Kingdom Hearts 3

(Image credit: Square Enix)

It took years to finally release, but Kingdom Hearts 3 was worth the wait. 

The story is a bit slow and slightly convoluted for newcomers to the series, but once you're past the intro you'll find a charming and action-packed adventure that we called "the fantastical nature of Final Fantasy with the magical familiarity of Disney in worlds that are almost indistinguishable from the films they depict". Yeah, it's that good.

17. Knockout City

Knockout City characters throwing dodgeballs at each other

(Image credit: EA)

Knockout City is more than its awkward debut trailer would have you believe, and ends up offering something truly unique in the competitive multiplayer space. Drawing comparisons to other oddball multiplayer fests like Rocket League and Splatoon, Knockout City carves its own niche through blisteringly fast dodgeball that we hope stays popular for years to come.

While the game's controls do take some getting accustomed to, once you've got them down, you'll be knocking out opponents left, right and center across a multitude of madcap maps. Getting KO's feels fantastic, too, with developer Velan Studios seemingly picking the most dopamine-inducing sound effects for when your ball connects to your opponent's jaw.

18.  Maneater 

A shark hunter runs as a shark leaps from the water

(Image credit: Tripwire Interactive)

Sure games have plenty to offer you with photo-realistic graphics and stories that would put some Oscar winners to shame, but who needs any of that when you can instead play the world’s best shaRkPG?

In this game, you play as a shark looking to assert your dominance on natural wildlife and human hunters in order to grow into the powerful megashark and get revenge for your mother’s death. It’s as wild and humorous as it sounds accompanied with some delightfully gruesome gameplay and all wrapped up in one package that knows exactly how to not outstay its welcome. If you’re after an open-world RPG that’s fairly short and sweet, this could be for you.

19. Ori and the Will of the Wisps 

Ori consoles a sad woodland creature in Ori and the Will of the Wisps

(Image credit: Microsoft Game Studios)

For years, Ori and the Blind Forest was one of our favorite Metroidvania 2D dungeon crawlers on Xbox One – it was heartfelt, beautiful and challenging, and the world simply oozed personality and intrigue. 

Years later, Moon Studios and Microsoft have released Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel that adds some new combat elements like a shard system that allows for more customization of Ori's abilities, and big boss battles that make it more memorable and break up the puzzle-solving.  

20. The Outer Worlds 

The Saltuna plant in The Outer Wilds

(Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment)

The Outer Worlds from developers Obsidian Entertainment takes everything you loved about the Fallout franchise – the humor, the writing and the arsenal – and brings it to the wider universe. 

What follows is a wacky, satire-rich RPG that injects loads of fun into the classic Fallout formula we've grown to love. 

21. Overcooked 2 

A kitchen in chaos in Overcooked 2

(Image credit: Team17 Digital Limited,)

If you need a fun multiplayer game in a pinch, pick up Overcooked 2 on Xbox Game Pass. This cooperative cooking game saddles you up with other players to try and operate a restaurant kitchen efficiently, fulfilling orders as they come down from customers. 

It sounds easy, but things get tricky when parts of the kitchen move or malfunction randomly – the trickiness and silliness of it all, though, are well-worth any and all irritation you may experience.  

22.  Project Winter 

Project Winter characters ganging up on a bear that is attacking them

(Image credit: Other Ocean Interactive)

Project Winter is a fantastic social deduction game ready to strain your friendships to the limits as you try to survive in the freezing wilderness. Work together to gather resources, keep warm and fend off wild animals as you aim to escape with your life, just watch out as everyone might not be who they say they are.

What helps Project Winter stand out is the variety of its roles and challenges, allowing every game to feel different yet just as fun as the last!

23. Psychonauts 2 

Raz runs from a crowd as they throw tomatoes at him

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios/Double Fine)

Whether you’re a fan of the original who’s waited over a decade for the sequel or have never heard of the series before, Psychonauts 2 is an absolute must-play from the Game Pass lineup. This action platformer dazzled us with its superb approach to mental health-related subjects and its unique worlds bring a much-needed freshness to the collectathon genre.

We adored absolutely everything Psychonauts 2 had to offer us - from its gameplay to its quirky characters - so we aren’t surprised that many see it as a contender for 2021’s Game of the Year. Once you’ve spent an hour or two play as Razputin Aquato, you’ll understand the hype too.

24. Rainbow Six: Siege

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege characters posing in a rainy street with a hammer and a shield

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Fans of first-person shooters might be bummed that there aren't any Call of Duty games on Xbox Game Pass, but between the Battlefield series and Ubisoft's outstanding first-person shooter, Rainbow Six: Siege, there are plenty of other options. 

What we like most about Siege is that it relies less on twitch skill, and more on tactical planning. Where you lay explosive charges, how you cover corners and when you move between rooms all matter, and it's decisions like those that give the game a high skill cap. If you're a first-person shooter fan, you can't miss it.

25. Resident Evil 7 biohazard

Ethan Winters defending himself from Jack in Resident Evil 7

(Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil 7 biohazard is a return to form for the series - a renaissance of survival-horror for consoles that we haven't seen since the fourth game in the series back on the Nintendo GameCube. 

It's truly, viscerally scary in the best of ways, and its haunted-house setting is so gleefully disgusting that you never cease to marvel. If you have the stomach for horror, you'll absolutely love it. 

26. Sea of Thieves 

A pirate ship exploring the open seas in Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Rare)

Rare's swashbuckling adventure Sea of Thieves lets you take on the role of a pirate sailing the seas of a fantastical world – either alone or as part of a crew of up to four members.

It's up to you whether you choose to focus on trading, treasure-hunting or plundering the loot of others. This is a great title for those who enjoy playing with others in an open-world environment with a Pirate-themed twist. 

27. Slay the Spire 

Using a card that summons lightning in Slay the Spire

(Image credit: Mega Crit Games)

For strategy fans, Slay the Spire is like Magic: The Gathering meets Spelunky. This rogue-like deck builder has you modifying a deck to work your way to the top of the spire. 

As you battle your way to the top of the tower you'll have to make decisions on which cards to upgrade, which potions to stock and which relics to take, all of which can be the difference between life and death in a boss battle. If you like mind-bending card battlers, Slay the Spire is well worth the disk space. 

28.  Tell Me Why 

Tyler takes in the fresh air in Tell Me Why

(Image credit: Dontnod)

Winner of the Games For Impact award at the 2020 Game Awards, Tell Me Why is a game where you will decide how the story plays out based on your actions. 

From the developer of the well-beloved Life is Strange Series, Tell Me Why continues the studio’s trend of tackling complex issues in a meaningful way. And even if you aren’t a massive gamer, this one’s for you as it often plays out more like an interactive film than a typical video game.

29. Tetris Effect: Connected

A Tetris Effect level in a cityscape at night

For its time, Tetris was a masterpiece. It was the perfect blend of addictive game mechanics, twisting logic and, in the final levels, a test of quick reflexes. But what if Tetris could be more than that? What if it could be an emotional - or even a spiritual - journey? That's Tetris Effect. 

A twist on the old game that combines beautiful backdrops, evocative music and ever-increasing speeds to get you into the perfect state of flow. The latest version, Connected, on Xbox Game Pass adds a multiplayer co-op mode so you can bring your player two for the emotional rollercoaster as well.

30. Viva Piñata  

Fox, Hedgehog and Horse Piñatas enjoying life in Viva Piñata

(Image credit: Microsoft)

If you're tired of warzones, explosions and fisticuffs, this tranquil sandbox sim is like a virtual chill pill. This Xbox 360 gem puts you in charge of a pinata garden that you'll whip into shape over a few hours. 

Each design decision you make brings out various new pinata creatures who'll become residents if certain conditions are met. The hunt to capture new creatures, make them happy and get them to breed is a seriously addicting game loop and one that’s well worth experiencing a full decade after its release.  

Hamish Hector
Hamish Hector

Hamish is a Staff Writer for TechRadar (@Hamish_Hector (opens in new tab) on Twitter) and has been writing about tech for almost five years. He now lends his experience to cover news and reviews across everything on TechRadar (from Computing to Audio to Gaming and the rest). In his free time, you’ll likely find Hamish humming show tunes while building Lego or playing D&D with his mates.