If you owned an Xbox One X or Xbox One S in the last console generation, 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.
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 – 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 catalogue yourself, we’ve put together a list of the best, must-download 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
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
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
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. Doom Eternal
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.
5. Dragon Age: Inquisition
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.
6. The Elder Scrolls Online
Unfortunately you won't find Bethesda's sprawling fantasy epic The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Xbox Game Pass, but you will find the next best thing – The Elder Scrolls Online. An MMO set in the world of Tamriel, The Elder Scrolls Online has you select from one of three factions, aligned by their geographic locations in the world.
Within your faction you'll form guilds to fight against one another and quest to the far reaches of Bethesda's sprawling game world, all without paying a monthly fee.
7. Forza Horizon 4
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.
8. Gears 5
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.
9. Gears Tactics
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.
9. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
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.
10. Kingdom Hearts 3
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.
11. Mass Effect 2
Yes, Mass Effect 2 was released a decade ago, but that doesn't stop it from being not only the best game in the series, but one of the best games of the last decade. With branching story paths, likable characters that you'll spend way too much time trying to seduce and fairly deep RPG mechanics that allow you to customize the way your characters work in battle, Mass Effect works on a number of levels.
It might not have the graphical polish of something like Mass Effect Andromeda, but with a better plot and more to explore, it's well-worth the space on your hard drive.
12. Monster Hunter World
At one time a very niche franchise here in the West, Monster Hunter has finally gotten its comeuppance with the critically acclaimed Monster Hunter World.
This RPG franchise about hunting monsters sounds a bit childish, but the fast, frenetic gameplay and gear grind make for extremely satisfying gameplay that can either be undertaken alone or shared in the company of friends. Either way you can't go wrong.
13. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
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.
14. Outer Wilds
What if you only had 22 minutes to live? What could you learn in that time and, if given 22 more minutes, what would you do with that time?
This philosophical quandary is put to the test in the action-adventure-exploration game Outer Wilds that tasks you with learning as much about the pint-sized universe as you can in 22 minutes. At that point the sun will go supernova and you'll have to start all over again – this time just a little smarter and more seasoned than you were before.
15. The Outer Worlds
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.
16. Overcooked 2
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.
17. Rage 2
Rage 2 wasn't the most well-received game when it launched in 2019, but it is still a fun (and fast) first-person shooter that's only loosely tied to the 2011 original.
What you can expect is a Mad Max-like experience that pits you against wastelanders and super mutants as you bust your way through the badlands.
18. Rainbow Six: Siege
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.
19. Resident Evil 7 biohazard
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.
20. Sea of Thieves
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.
21. Slay the Spire
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.
22. Tekken 7
While there are a number of great fighting games on the service, Tekken 7 is easily the most polished of the bunch now that it's had two years to work out the kinks.
A 3D fighter with a two-decade pedigree, the Tekken franchise makes some significant strides forward with the tenth entry in the series that adds rage arts and power crushes to the mix, creating closer, more intense matches between players of different skill levels.
23. Tetris Effect: Connected
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.
24. Viva Pinata
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.
25. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Some have said The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the best game of the decade, and it's tough to disagree with them.
This massive open-world RPG can be a bit daunting because of its overwhelming size and 60+ hour completion time, but it presents incredible value as it'll keep even the most ravenous of gamers entertained for a week or two.