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Best Xbox Series X games: the Xbox Series X/S games you need to play

Best Xbox Series X games: F1 2021
(Image credit: EA / Codemasters)

If you're looking for the best Xbox Series X games to play on your new Xbox, then you're in the right place. What a shiny new Xbox Series X (or Xbox Series S) needs is a gaming library filled with only the best Xbox Series X games available right now. We’ll continue to add to this list as more unmissable games are released.

If you’ve managed to get your hands on an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, or you’re planning on getting one in future, you’ll want to find the games that make the most of the new Xbox console's technical capabilities. 

Our selection of the best Xbox Series X games below is filled with titles. Whether it's last-gen games that benefit from Xbox Series X Optimization or brand new titles that make the most of the new Xbox hardware, there's something in our guide for you. 

Many of these games are free to download with an Xbox Game Pass or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. If you don’t have a Game Pass already, we strongly advise getting one if you want to make the most of your Xbox Series X. 

For ease, we’ve included information on which games of the picks below are optimized titles, as well as which are available on Xbox Game Pass. So, read on for our list of the best Xbox Series X games you should be playing right now

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

A Viking adventure

Reasons to buy
+Funniest game in the series+Eivor is brilliant protagonist+Every hub bursts with life
Reasons to avoid
-Huge open-world can feel sparse-Plot never gets you invested-Combat can feel messy

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

Whether you're sailing onto the shore or ransacking a village, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla recreates the Viking age with aplomb. If you’re a fan of Nordic folklore or simply enjoy plunging an axe into the chest of another man, Valhalla promises to deliver. 

Taking full advantage of the Xbox Series X's power, Valhalla offers a native 4K resolution and 60fps frame rate – a first for any Assassin's Creed game on console. While ray tracing is not among the next-gen version's enhancements, the game still looks gorgeous even without the much-hyped tech. If that wasn't enough, there are drinking competitions where you literally try to drink your opponent under the table. Skåll!

Check out our full Assassin's Creed Valhalla review.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

(Image credit: Activision)

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Back in black

Reasons to buy
+Visuals take full advantage of next-gen power+Addictive and immersive gunplay+Multiplayer and Zombies is fantastic
Reasons to avoid
-A clumsy campaign that retreads old ground-A few performance issues around launch

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

Another year, another Call of Duty. But what makes Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War worth buying? Well, for, one the latest COD looks incredible on the Xbox Series X. Cold War on Xbox Series X simultaneously offers 60fps gameplay, ray tracing and a resolution that targets 4K, meaning you won't have to sacrifice any one thing to get an absolutely gorgeous and buttery smooth experience on console. 

Of course, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War wouldn’t be complete without the walking dead, so you’ll be pleased to see zombies return. You can also play Call of Duty at 120fps for the first time on a console, which should make things even more competitive online.

Check out our full Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War review.

Control

(Image credit: 505 Games)

Control: Ultimate Edition

Free your mind

Reasons to buy
+Stunning particle effects+Inspired art direction+Crunchy gunplay +Includes DLC plus main game
Reasons to avoid
-Starts quite slow-A few structural compromises

Xbox Series X Optimized

The dark horse of 2019, Remedy Entertainment's Control is an action-adventure with a difference. And if you thought it was good on Xbox, wait till you try it on Xbox Series X.

Control sees you stepping into the shoes of Jessie Faden, the newest director of the clandestine Federal Bureau of Control (FBC) - a Government agency that researches, and ultimately aims to control paranormal activity. But Jessie’s new role has a few issues not exactly laid out in the job description, including the uprising of a paranormal force known only as the Hiss.

The affinity with which Remedy has courted multiple difficult genres both in film and in games with Control and still managed to deliver a mind-bending story evocative of True Detective and Twin Peaks is absolutely remarkable.

The Control Ultimate Edition sees you getting both the main base game and both expansions, AWE and The Foundation, packaged in too. What's more, Control Ultimate Edition also benefits from a next-gen upgrade on Xbox Series X/S. On Xbox Series X, players have a choice of two modes: Performance Mode, targeting 60fps performance with 1440p render resolution and 4K output, and Graphics Mode, targeting 30fps with ray tracing (transparency and reflections) at 1440p render resolution and 4K output. On Xbox Series S, you can experience Performance mode that’s targeting 60fps, at 900p render resolution and 1080p output.

Check out our full Control review.

Devil May Cry 5

(Image credit: Capcom)

Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition

Dante want to live forever

Reasons to buy
+Great character variety+Beautiful visuals+Exceptional soundtrack+Embraces its absurdity
Reasons to avoid
-Story has some moments of poor pacing-New players will feel a little lost

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

Devil May Cry 5 is a magnificently over-the-top action game that serves as a good reminder of just how important showing off is.

Each fight is a genuine joy to get stuck into and seeing your rank climb and hearing the music swell never gets old. It does absolutely everything right for long-time fans when it comes to the story. Yet, the self-contained story is easy enough to follow for newcomers. The gameplay is the best it has ever been by a long shot too.

The Xbox Series X Special Edition includes new playable character Vergil, the Legendary Dark Knight mode and Turbo mode, as well as ray-tracing support and a high frame-rate mode.

F1 2021

Forza Horizon 4 (Image credit: Playground Games) (Image credit: EA / Codemasters)

F1 2021

The best overall racing package in years

Reasons to buy
+Brilliant story mode+Stunning graphics+1-2 player career mode
Reasons to avoid
-Some tracks are missing

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

Even if you aren't particularly a fan of F1 racing, EA and Codemasters' F1 2021 is a great entry point into the high-end motorsport, offering precision racing that anyone can jump into, regardless of skill-level.

Unlike many other races, which don't penalize you for bouncing off guard rails with reckless abandon, F1 2021 forces players to race with a sense of discipline, and manages to do so without sucking the fun out of the whole endeavour. Before long, you'll feel a great sense of accomplishment at performing a perfect pass or racing well enough to land on the podium.

Like with previous F1 games, Codemasters offers an excellent and in-depth career mode, however, this year not only offers an increased level of customizability, but also the ability to experience the whole thing with a friend.

Additionally, F1 2021 offers a brand new story mode called Braking Point, which takes you behind the scenes of a racing team as its two racers, Aiden Jackson and Casper Akkerman, attempt to climb the ladder while dealing with a great deal of drama on and off the track. It's a fantastic way to deliver a campaign in a racer, adding a great deal of personality to what would have been a very dry single-player experience otherwise. 

Xbox Series X players get the option to play the game in Quality Mode at 4K/60fps with ray tracing, or in Performance Mode at 1440p/120fps, while Series S players are capped at 1080p/60fps. Either way, F1 2021 looks incredible and plays even better. Highly recommended.

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 (Image credit: Playground Games)

Forza Horizon 4

Shut up and drive

Reasons to buy
+An open-world racing adventure+Rewards exploration+Structured campaign +Great Britain setting is gorgeous
Reasons to avoid
-Multiplayer takes a few hours to unlock

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

While the original Forza titles were about pristine driving skills around perfectly kept tracks, the Horizon series has a penchant for trading paint and isn't afraid to have you get down and dirty with off-road races from time to time. 

Forza Horizon 4, the latest game in the series, carries that tradition forward by taking us to the rolling hills of the English countryside and spoiling us with some of the most exotic cars on the planet.

Like any good open-world game, it rewards exploration and offers both a structured campaign mode and plenty of distractions around the campaign. And the new setting feels like something of a love letter from Playground Games to rural Britain; charming, idyllic and made for cross-country road trips.  

It's really good fun, and well-worth buying.

Don't miss our full Forza Horizon 4 review.

Gears 5

(Image credit: The Coalition)

Gears 5

Still as slick

Reasons to buy
+Visually intoxicating+Plenty of multiplayer modes+New mechanics make it feel fresh
Reasons to avoid
-Ope- world elements feel off-Doesn't flesh out narrative

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

Gears 5 is yet another Xbox One title that’s been optimized for the Xbox Series X. Thanks to Xbox Series X optimization, Gears 5’s campaign has significantly reduced loading times, both gameplay and cutscenes run at 4K at 60fps, while ray-traced screen space global illumination massively improves the campaign’s visual fidelity. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit for Gears 5 fans is that multiplayer now runs at up to 120fps at 4K - making the game more responsive than ever. We found that 120fps paired with the Xbox Series X’s Dolby Atmos audio support made for an extremely immersive and smooth gameplay experience.

Check out our full Gears 5 review.

Gears Tactics

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Gears Tactics

Turn-based tactics

Reasons to buy
+Feels like a classic Gears game+4K Ultra HD and 60fps
Reasons to avoid
-Some mission structure issues

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

Gears Tactics, as the name suggests, is a tactical turn-based shooter set in the Gears of World universe. So instead of running in guns blazing, players need to be more strategic about how they approach combat. 

Gears Tactics is yet another Xbox game that had released on Xbox One and PC, but it also served as a launch title for the Xbox Series X/S thanks to some excellent next-gen enhancements. Those playing on Xbox Series X will benefit from gameplay in 4K Ultra HD and 60fps, with enhanced textures, increased world detail and a choice of 60 or 30 frames per second for cinematics. But those on Xbox Series S benefit too, with Gears Tactics running at 60fps and 1440p on the smaller console.

Tactics is a great spin-off for those who love the Gears of War franchise, but want to try something a bit different, making it one of the best Xbox Series X games around.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

A collection of greats

Reasons to buy
+Six Halo games in one+4K at 120 fps on Xbox Series X+FOV slider+Improves split-screen
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't include Halo 5

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

Halo: The Master Chief Collection was already one of our favorite Xbox One games and now, thanks to Xbox Series X/S optimizations, it's even better than ever. 

The Master Chief Collection includes six Halo games in total, including every single multiplayer mode. That means you get Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 4, Halo: ODST and Halo Reach.

Xbox Series X/S Optimization means that all games in the collection are now playable at 120fps, and at a maximum resolution of 4K on Series X and 1080p on Series S. Other enhancements include improved split-screen play for couch multiplayer and co-op, along with the introduction of an FOV (field of view) slider.

If you're a Halo fan eagerly awaiting the release of Halo Infinite later this year, then The MCC is sure to keep you busy in the meantime.

Hitman 3

(Image credit: IO Interactive)

Hitman 3

Perfectly executed

Reasons to buy
+Great living and breathing locations+Looks fantastic on next-gen+Tweaks to the expected formula
Reasons to avoid
-Cutscenes don’t look the best-Could be more replayable-New camera tool doesn’t add much

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

Hitman 3 is the dramatic conclusion to the acclaimed stealth series - and what a conclusion it is. While the third entry in the Hitman series doesn't stray too far from what made the 2016 reboot (and its sequel) great, it adds some brilliant little twists to the formula to keep you on your toes.

While the way you assassinate your targets hasn't changed much, the new locations - such as Dubai, China and Argentina - are some of the most memorable of the series. Add to that more experimental objectives and a gripping story (plus native 4K at 60fps on the Xbox Series X) and Hitman 3 rightly deserves its place on our best Xbox Series X games list.

Check out our full Hitman 3 review.

It Takes Two

(Image credit: EA / Hazelight Studios)

It Takes Two

Team work makes the dream work

Reasons to buy
+Family friendly+Takes elements from lots of genres+Fun for gamers and non-gamers+Friend's Pass available
Reasons to avoid
-Can only be played co-op

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

If you're looking for one of the best co-op games on Xbox Series X then look no further. It Takes Two is a fun, tongue-in-cheek adventure that will provide hours of entertainment for both gamers and non-gamers alike. Taking elements from a variety of different games and intertwining them a rom-com-like narrative, It Takes Two has something for everyone - even kids. 

It's worth noting this game can only be played in co-op (either online or couch), but comes with a Friend's Pass allowing you to invite an online friend to join your adventure, even if they don't own the full game. 

Knockout City characters

(Image credit: EA)

Knockout City

A genuinely innovative multiplayer experience

Reasons to buy
+Unique competitive multiplayer+KO's feel oh-so satisfying+Deceptively deep gameplay
Reasons to avoid
-Controls take some getting used to

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

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.

One of Knockout City's best features? It's available to play for free for Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate subscribers at no extra cost, meaning there's absolutely no reason to grab a few friends for some futuristic dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and dodging action.

mass effect legendary edition jacob

(Image credit: EA)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

A beautifully remastered collection of classic games

Reasons to buy
+Improved controls+4K resolution mode+120fps performance mode
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks multiplayer modes

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

The Mass Effect trilogy that released during the Xbox 360 era is beloved by gamers the world over thanks to its immersive role playing gameplay and deep science fiction lore. While the original Xbox 360 trilogy is currently available on Xbox Game Pass, it has aged considerably over the last decade or so, making the trilogy ripe for a remaster. 

That's exactly what we've gotten with Mass Effect Legendary Edition – a collection that significantly cleans up all three classic games with a number of visual, audio and gameplay enhancements, bringing the series into 2021 while keeping our rose-colored memories of it completely intact.

Along with improved controls (especially when it comes to aiming in the first Mass Effect), this Legendary Edition also brings two graphical modes: a resolution mode which allows you to play at 4K/60fps, and a performance mode that runs at 1440p/120fps. Additionally, you get full HDR support, improved lighting and textures, and enhanced audio resolution across the whole trilogy. 

Ori and the will of the wisps

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

A magical masterpiece

Reasons to buy
+Stunning visuals+Great platformer+Emotive story
Reasons to avoid
-Not as challenging as some platformers

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

Just like The Touryst, Ori and the Will of the Wisps has received next-gen enhancements that make full use of the Xbox Series X's immense power, such as native 4K resolution at 120fps for those with HDMI 2.1 compliant TVs. 

Additionally, players can opt to render the game in a 6K "supersampled" mode, which is then displayed at 4K resolution and 60fps. It's said that the benefit of this mode is an even higher level of visual fidelity, which outshines even that of the standard 4K mode.

Psychonauts 2

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios/Double Fine)

Psychonauts 2

A mindful adventure

Reasons to buy
+Unique levels and characters+Tongue-in-cheek humor+Plenty to collect
Reasons to avoid
-Combat is a bit clunky

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

Psychonauts 2 is a psychedelic journey that you won't forget. The sequel to 2005's Psychonauts, and following directly on from Rhombus of Ruin, Psychonauts 2 once again follows Raz, a young psychic attempting to join the Psychonauts, an international group of psychic secret agents. 

Psychonauts 2 is a hilarious, heartfelt adventure that embraces a humourous take on mental health while offering unique (and often bizarre) worlds for players to explore. It's easily one of the best Xbox Series X titles around and - whats more - it's available on Game Pass alongside the original.

Resident Evil Village

(Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil Village

Lycan it a lot

Reasons to buy
+Well-paced story (mostly)+Inventory management improved+Memorable characters
Reasons to avoid
-Boss fights can feel anticlimactic-Less focus on scares-Story spoon-fed at the end

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

Resident Evil Village is a worthy successor to the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 7 - but while that game managed to revive the survival horror roots of the series, Village builds on it with an experience that draws from all the highlights of the series. What results is a Resi game that promises to thrill veteran fans of Resident Evil and delight newcomers.

Resident Evil Village follows on from the events of Resident Evil 7 - taking place a few years later. Village sees protagonist Ethan exploring an Eastern European village in hopes of finding his kidnapped daughter - but the village residents are.... less than welcoming.

Resident Evil Village is more action-focused than its predecessor - and it's visibly closer to the classic Resident Evil 4 in its moment-to-moment gameplay - but it blends this with the survival horror elements that we love about older entries. Factor in a slew of quality-of-life improvements, a roster of memorable characters, a well-paced and gripping story, and Resident Evil Village is one of the best Xbox Series X games around.

Check out our full Resident Evil Village review.

Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Rare)

Sea of Thieves

Yo ho ho!

Reasons to buy
+Regular exciting updates+Unpredictability and chemistry of players
Reasons to avoid
-Not as fun alone

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

Hooked up to a 4K HDR capable display, Sea of Thieves still remains one of the most beautiful games around thanks to its vibrant colors and stunning vistas. So how is the experience improved on Xbox Series X? Well, if you’ve yet to have your maiden voyage with Rare’s popular pirate game, now is the time.

Sea of Thieves benefits from a sizable boost to its frame rate. Previously capped at 30fps, with the occasional drop when things get particularly hectic, the game now runs at silky-smooth 4K/60fps, and the improvement is tangible. Whether you’re sailing across rough waters as a storm begins to break, or battling skeletons on the shoreline in the hunt for treasure, the game feels far more responsive and enjoyable as a result. The game also now loads incredibly fast thanks to the Xbox Series X’s SSD, taking around 35 seconds compared to the minute plus load times we were previously used to. 

It’s a fantastic upgrade over the Xbox One version, then, and one that will ultimately keep people playing as the next-generation unfolds.

Check out our full Sea of Thieves review.

Tetris Effect: Connected

(Image credit: Enhance)

Tetris Effect: Connected

A cosmic adventure

Reasons to buy
+Wonderful multiplayer modes+A true showcase for HDR+It's Tetris
Reasons to avoid
-You don't like Tetris...

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

It might be almost three decades old, but Tetris' addictive gameplay continues to stand the test of time. It's a terrific puzzle game that's easy to pick up and sometimes impossible to put down, and although there has been many iterations, spin-offs and homages, Tetris Effect: Connected is probably the best version of the game to date. 

A feast for the eyes and ears, Tetris Effect: Connected takes the classic game and shapes it around an audio and sensory experience. You'll journey through the cosmos, dropping tetrominoes across ever changing backdrops and sounds, as time just slips away. Everything looks razor sharp thanks to its 4K/60fps presentation, and eye popping HDR support. 

What makes the game really stand out, though, is the new co-op and competitive online and local multiplayer mode. Tetris has always been a blast playing alone, but with friends or new foes online, it's even better.

The Medium

(Image credit: Bloober Team)

The Medium

The first Xbox Series X/S exclusive

Reasons to buy
+Retro horror vibe+Plenty of twists+Score elevates atmosphere
Reasons to avoid
-May be too linear for some

Xbox Series X/S exclusive and Xbox Game Pass

If you've been itching for a horror that doesn't rely solely on jump scares and clichés, The Medium is an excellent psychological horror game, and the first true Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S exclusive - that means you can't play it on Xbox One consoles.

The Medium brings classic fixed-camera horror to the modern day, but makes sure to add its own touch through the ‘split’ feature that sees the game's lead leading character, Marianne, moving between both the ‘real’ world and the spirit world. This adds a new dimension to the puzzle elements we’ve seen in similar titles such as the early entries in the Resident Evil series, and makes for quite a unique experience. 

Check out our full The Medium review

The Touryst

(Image credit: Shin'en Multimedia)

The Touryst

A much-needed holiday

Reasons to buy
+Stunning visuals+Plenty to do+Family-friendly fun
Reasons to avoid
-Can be a bit repetitive at times

Xbox Series X/S Optimized and Xbox Game Pass

You may be tempted to sleep on blocky, action-adventure The Touryst - but absolutely don’t. The game itself sees you playing as a tourist (go figure), who hops about various exotic islands completing tasks for island residents and fellow tourists alike, with the overall goal being to uncover the secret of the ancient monuments located on these islands - but that can wait.

The Touryst may have released on various platforms before, but it looks and performs best on the Xbox Series X. The color and visual fidelity is captivating, which is not a huge surprise given that the game renders at 6K/4K on Series X and then downsamples to the target resolution. What results is that you get a vivid tropical experience, super-fast loading times and an overall smooth experience. 

The Touryst is a fantastic indie gem and the true dark horse of the Xbox Series X launch lineup

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

(Image credit: Activision)

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2

A nostalgia-filled return to form

Reasons to buy
+Great soundtrack+Countless challenges to beat+Gorgeous graphics+Native 4k @60FPS
Reasons to avoid
-Sparse create-a-character options-Some levels haven't aged well-Online multiplayer is limited

Xbox Series X/S Optimized

A sublime remake that will feel like a grand homecoming for fans and an exciting revelation for newcomers, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is a gnarly remake of two classic games. 

While Pro Skater already looked fantastic on last-gen consoles, the Xbox Series X makes Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 look stunning and run as smooth as butter, with support for 120fps @1080p or Native 4k @60fps (Xbox Series S version renders at 1440P and upscales to 4K). 

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

(Image credit: Sega)

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

A bonkers RPG

Reasons to buy
+Hilarious and unique+Side missions are just as interesting+Great entry to Yakuza series
Reasons to avoid
-Some elements feel outdated

Xbox Series X/S Optimized 

The Yakuza games have always mixed mature themes with utterly bonkers shenanigans, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon really lets loose in the latter regard. While you can still expect plenty of hard-hitting plot points during the game’s lengthy and turbulent story, the entire fighting system has been re-imagined as a turn-based JRPG – and it works surprisingly well. Each character can take on various classes, such as becoming a crooning musician or cutesy J-Pop idol, and each has their own abilities in battle. It’s certainly a different approach, then, but one that really lets the series’ freak flag fly.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon takes advantage of the Xbox Series X hardware by providing two distinct display modes to choose from: ‘Normal’ targets 60fps at 1440p, while ‘High Resolution’ bumps the resolution to 4K but halves the frame rate to 30fps. While we’d personally opt for a smoother experience over a slightly higher pixel count, it’s great that users have the choice.