The Xbox One might not have the same selection of exclusives as the PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, but Microsoft’s console still has a huge library of games worth playing. With a strong lineup of shooters and racing games, fans of those genres needn’t look any further that the Xbox, and there’s also a number of great platformers you aren’t going to find on other consoles. We know the Xbox One isn’t exactly known for its exclusives but the handful it does have are definitely worth checking out — and there’s still a ton of other great titles to indulge in.
Whether you’re looking for a lengthy single-player game with a great story or an online world to get lost in with friends, there is something for you. From Shadow of the Tomb Raider to Rocket League, these are our picks for the best Xbox One games.
From Software’s excellent action-role-playing game Bloodborne isn’t available on the Xbox One, but Microsoft’s players get their own Souls-like game in the form of Ashen. Like the best games in the genre, Ashen forces players to think tactically as they approach situations, dodging and carefully choosing their attacks in order to avoid being overwhelmed. Stamina must be preserved, and the game’s dreary and gray color scheme only gets you in the mood to kill.
Where Ashen really differs from its competition, however, is in its watercolor-like art style. Characters in the games don’t have faces, almost like you’re trying to remember who you saw in a dream, giving the game a surreal feeling. It also supports “passive” multiplayer, where you can choose to cooperate with other players or force them to continue alone.
Gears of War (series)
Epic Games certainly didn’t invent the cover-based third-person shooter, but the developer’s 2006 game Gears of War turned it into a worldwide phenomenon. The original three games and prequel Judgment are playable on Xbox One through backward compatibility, and the first game as also remastered as Gears of War: Ultimate Edition for the system.
If you’re looking for the latest Gears of War experience on Xbox One, Gears of War 4 has you covered with a gripping and horror-focused campaign that harkens back to Epic’s earlier work, as well as a well-balanced competitive multiplayer mode that sees the series at its very best.
‘Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition’
The launch of Diablo III is infamous. Hotly anticipated, the game was hit with awful server issues and serious gameplay flaws that simply sucked out the fun, like a real-money auction house. Thankfully, Blizzard revamped the game through a number of patches and one full-blown expansion. It released the game on console with support for up to four players in co-op.
The result is a fiendishly entertaining, supercharged action-RPG that’s a blast to play with buddies on a couch or online. While other RPGs have a better story or better graphics, Diablo III is pure stress relief. Sit down, obliterate some demons, and watch your numbers shoot into the stratosphere.
Read our full Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition review
‘Dark Souls III’
Taking inspiration from Bloodborne, the studio’s PlayStation 4 exclusive, Dark Souls III speeds up the Souls series’ distinctive tough-as-nails combat, without sacrificing what made fans fall in love with the franchise in the first place.
Though Dark Souls III continues the series’ legendary difficulty, even the most menacing foes can be dispatched through a mixture of practice and patience. The loop of killing enemies, trading in their souls to upgrade your character, and venturing back into the unknown will keep you glued to your console for hours at a time. If you ever get really frustrated, you can always summon a stranger to join in on all the fun.
It’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing another game in the Dark Souls series from From Software and mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki, but we couldn’t be happier with Dark Souls III as a conclusion to the series. It’s the work of a genius who has only further refined his art over time, and a shining example of how to make a franchise successful without sacrificing the more “hardcore” gameplay elements.
Read our full Dark Souls III review
‘Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’
Although story has always been the main draw for Metal Gear, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain eschews lengthy cutscenes and monologues, instead focusing on open world gameplay that provides the player with countless ways to approach any mission. Tranquilizers, sniper rifles, shotguns, a remote-controlled robot arm; all this and more is available, giving the game an endless sense of replay value.
After completing a mission using a stealthy, nonlethal approach, one may feel the urge to replay the same mission, marching into an enemy outpost with a machine gun and a rocket launcher, burning the whole thing to the ground. Few games encourage experimentation like MGSV. Some questionable narrative choices aside, MGSV is a powerful ending to one of gaming’s most important franchises, setting a new bar for open-world gameplay.
‘Grand Theft Auto V’
The most commercially successful video game – or media product – of all time, Grand Theft Auto V deserves its popularity. The open-world criminal action game builds on what Rockstar Games has been doing well for decades, with a staggering number of side activities to complete and locations to visit.
Its three-protagonist main story is both emotional and hilarious, with the psychopathic Trevor often stealing the show with his violent and over-the-top outbursts. It only gets better when you enter Grand Theft Auto Online, which allows you to gain influence in Los Santos and show the world why you deserve respect. Despite being nearly five years old, the game continues to get new content updates, and we anticipate it will live on for at least another five years.
Read our full Grand Theft Auto V review
Agent 47 always kills his target, but even Square Enix cutting ties with developer IO Interactive couldn’t keep the master assassin from continuing his mission. Building on the basic mechanics and structure of 2016’s Hitman – but packaged as a full retail release rather than an episodic game – Hitman 2 brings Agent 47 on a whole new set of assassination missions, sending him everywhere from Miami to New Zealand.
You’re more than welcome to just garrote or shoot your victim in Hitman 2, but the real fun comes when you get creative. Plan elaborate accidents, poison food, or even snipe a target while they’re in the middle of an F1 race. The possibilities are endless, and new content will make the game even better over time.
Read our full Hitman 2 review
A stunningly well-realized version of auteur director Yoko Taro’s vision, Nier: Automata is a depressing and existential action game that avoids many of the narrative traps associated with android stories. There are no questions regarding what it means to be human, but rather what it means to be yourself, and the struggle of protagonists 2B and 9S to come to terms with reality makes for some of the most emotional moments we’ve ever experienced in a game. With PlatinumGames handling the combat, it’s also a flashy and tight action game complete with twin-stick shooter segments to break up the monotony.
Read our full Nier: Automata review
Sometimes games don’t have to be anything other than fun, and Insomniac Games demonstrated that perfectly with the Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive. Mixing the goofy third-person shooting of the studio’s Ratchet & Clank series with the navigation of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Jet Grind Radio, Sunset Overdrive constantly has you on the move in order to build up your combo and take out more enemies.
Its silly anti-corporate story is certainly derivative, but it packs in plenty of hilarious characters and self-aware moments, and once you’ve completed the main story, it’s an absolute blast to just soar around the city and find all the secrets you can.
Read our full Sunset Overdrive review
‘Mark of the Ninja: Remastered’
Did you miss out on Mark of the Ninja on Xbox Live Arcade in 2012? Now’s your chance to remedy that poor life decision. Mark of the Ninja is one of the most imaginative stealth games of all time. For starters, it’s a 2D sidescroller, a perspective not known for stealthy mechanics. It works really well, though.
You can sneak past enemies or stealthily eliminate them, but you have to make sure to stay out of sight. Mark of the Ninja wants you to actually feel like the ninja, so if your character doesn’t have a line of sight on an enemy, you won’t be able to see them on screen either. You have to master both sight and sound to become a worthy ninja. The remastered version also includes noticeable visual updates.
‘Red Dead Redemption 2’
It’s rare that a AAA open-world game is able to surprise us at all in 2018, but Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to do it on a regular basis. The western is a prequel to the 2010 game Red Dead Redemption, but it is far more than a simple retread of that title’s themes.
As a member of the Van der Linde gang, protagonist Arthur Morgan must wrestle with his past and his uncertain future as the government hunts down the remaining outlaws in a Wild West quickly being tamed.
Every story mission is absolute gold, never falling into a pattern of repetition, and the emergent activities you’ll discover in the open world are engaging enough to keep you busy for hours. Want to cause chaos or just hunt game? You totally can, or you could try your luck at a few hands of poker.
Read our full Red Dead Redemption 2 review
‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the finale to the trilogy and builds on everything the previous games did and more. It unlocks the full version of Lara Croft as she’s no longer filled with fear but with confidence. Featuring engaging combat, fun environmental puzzles, and moving cinematics, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a brilliant conclusion to Croft’s origin story.
You should play the excellent Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider before diving into the shadows.
Read our Shadow of the Tomb Raider review
Taking inspiration from atmospheric adventure games like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Rime is a beautiful and depressing game that harkens back to a forgotten generation. Its distinct art style uses a gorgeous array of blues, reds, and greens to paint a picture as distinct as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but Rime manages to feel like its own game. Its puzzles never drag down the experience, either, and the game’s gorgeous score help to drive home its most important moments.
Read our full Rime review
Famous for its beautiful steampunk art style, dynamic combat system, and versatile open world, Dishonored 2 has all the markings of a game published by Bethesda (think Fall Out, Skyrim, and Wolfenstein). You can choose between two leads, Dishonored’s original protagonist, Corvo or his daughter Emily with each having their own supernatural powers.
Stealth is the highlight of gameplay and unlike in the more recent Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll be rewarded for actually trying. And yes, you can complete the entire game without killing any enemies.
‘Sea of Thieves’
If you have ever wanted to sail the treacherous seas roleplaying as a pirate with a group of your friends, Sea of Thieves is the Xbox One game to do it. Embark on voyages, discover treasure, raid enemy ships, customize your own rig, and be the best scallywag this side of the sea has ever seen!
Sea of Thieves could be called a lighthearted pirate simulator. You and your friends will go on adventures but will also work together to accomplish menial things like putting up the ship’s sails and navigating through dangerous waters. The best part about it is that the online experience is cross-platform so you can play with your friends on PC.
‘Resident Evil 7: Biohazard’
If Resident Evil’s deviation from its classic survival horror roots bummed you out in previous games, then you’ll be happy to know that it returns in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Don’t expect old school resident evil though, because this a modernized take that’s way more refreshing. Instead of the third-person visuals that Resident Evil 6 has, Biohazard immerses us in the first-person.
The story takes us somewhere we’ve never been before in Dulvey, Louisiana. You’ll play as Ethan Winters as he investigates an isolated plantation in search of his wife. You’ll fight desperately for your survival and uncover incredibly horrifying secrets that could be related to Umbrella Corporation. Resident Evil: Biohazard is one of the best games for Xbox One to satisfy that horror bug. It’s also available in VR for the PlayStation 4.
The first game to popularize the battle royale genre, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds remains one of the most watched games on Twitch.tv to date. If you’re unfamiliar with this style of game, a traditional match in PUBG lasts about 20-30 minutes, as one hundred players are pit against each other on a giant map in a fight to be the last man standing.
Players must scour the map for weapons, armor, first aid, and more to increase their chances of survival. The stakes only get higher as a life-draining storm quickly closes in over the map, limiting the terrain players can be on and forcing them to confront one another. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is the perfect Xbox One game for people who just want to play something quick or enjoy fast-paced shooters. There’s also a squad mode for those who would like to group up with four of their friends.
Building off of the success of Injustice: Gods Among Us and Mortal Kombat X, NetherRealm’s Injustice 2 has quickly become our favorite fighting game of this generation of consoles. A myriad of mechanical tweaks enhances fight sequences, making the combat loop more intuitive and exciting. Visually, Injustice 2 has some of the best character models and facial animations around and makes good use of them in its surprisingly great story mode.
Injustice 2‘s best selling point, might be its robust customization and leveling system. Each fighter levels up and can be customized with gear obtained through loot boxes. The RPG elements are more than just a tacked on feature, they feel at home in Injustice 2. Combine the addicting leveling and customization features with the Multiverse — a constantly changing portal with reward-filled scenarios — and Injustice 2 easily becomes one of the greatest single player fighting experiences of all time. Simply put, Injustice 2 is the best fighting game you can find on the Xbox One.
Read our full Injustice 2 review
‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’
There have been dozens of Dragon Ball Z games produced over the years, and nearly all of them are unplayable piles of garbage. Arc System Works managed to not only set a new standard for the series with Dragon Ball FighterZ, but it also managed to create one of the best fighting games of all time.
The tag-team fights look like they were pulled directly from the anime, with crisp animation and all the classic series attacks you can think of, but FighterZ is also one of the most accessible fighting games around. Even someone who has never played a fighting game can get the hang of it quickly, but its remarkable depth has made it the new favorite of the fighting game community.
Read our full Dragon Ball FighterZ review
‘Halo 5: Guardians’
343 Industries wasn’t content to deliver exactly what fans expected in Halo 5: Guardians. Longtime protagonist Master Chief largely takes a backseat to newcomer Spartan Locke on an adventure that hops across multiple planets and features a favorite supporting character in a very different role.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous game full of jaw-dropping moments, but multiplayer is where Halo 5 really shines. Between the classic arena competitive matches and the large-scale Warzone mode, there’s enough content in Halo 5 to keep you fragging your friends for months or even years on end.
Read our full Halo 5 review
‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is the perfect introduction for Xbox One owners new to Microsoft’s console line. Containing the four numbered games in the series — sorry, Reach — it’s enough content to keep you busy for weeks on end. Halo 2: Anniversary, a remastered classic with new cinematics and sound effects, is an incredible game that occasionally even shows up Halo 5.
As you may have heard, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was a bit of a mess at launch, but the game’s server issues have stabilized. There are more than 100 maps to choose from, spanning from the original Halo to Halo 4, and though the majority are remastered versions of old favorites, a select few were rebuilt from the ground up specifically for the collection. Of course, if you’re like us, you’ll be spending all your time blowing your friends up in “Blood Gulch” anyway.
‘Destiny 2: Forsaken – Legendary Collection’
The original Destiny was clearly rushed to release, with a campaign mode that didn’t make much sense and a surprising lack of endgame content. Destiny 2 aimed to right these wrongs and its campaign is everything we expect from developer Bungie – loud, fast, funny, and a whole lot of fun.
Now more than a year after launch, Destiny 2 has evolved in surprising and great ways. While the first two smaller expansions didn’t add much in terms of depth, Forsaken, the most recent and largest DLC, gave the experience a welcome makeover. Rife with new endgame content, missions, and areas to explore, Forsaken changes the identity of Destiny 2 and will keep Guardians busy (and happy) for the long haul.
Read our full Destiny 2: Forsaken review
Id Software’s reboot of the iconic Doom franchise is a perfect example of how to adapt a classic game for a modern age without abandoning its roots. Returning to Mars and the depths of Hell, the game’s narrative is simple, but still manages to be a perfect nod to the ’90s. The original “Doomguy” returns, conveying emotion and a twisted sense of humor without saying a word. Flipping off your enemies has never felt so satisfying.
But if its combat didn’t deliver, Doom would have been forgotten as soon as it arrived. Fortunately, an arsenal of ridiculous weapons, such as the Super Shotgun and the BFG, make their glorious return, and an army of vicious demons provide a level of challenge not often seen in today’s shooters. The whole experience moves at blistering speed, too, forcing you to stay on your toes and rapidly switch between your weapons as demons swarm to your position.
Doom also features a small but very memorable selection of boss battles. Using every trick and strategy you’ve learned up to each fight, these high-intensity moments can end in your death with just a few slips of the thumbsticks. Yet, at the same time, finally conquering them will stand among your proudest gaming achievements.
Read our full Doom review
‘Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’
Wolfenstein: The New Order came out of nowhere to surprise first-person shooter fans with its glorious combat, thoughtful level design, and a weirdly touching story about killing Nazis on the moon. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus doubled down on everything players loved about the first game, but the United States setting made B.J. Blazkowicz’s mission even more personal.
Whether you want to kill a Nazi with a hatchet, a grenade, or dual-wielded machine guns while you roll around in a wheelchair, Wolfenstein II has you covered, and it also happens to feature one of the coolest twists we’ve ever seen in a video game.
Read our full Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus review
Arkane Studios’ reboot of Prey shares nothing with Id Software’s 2016 shooter from which it got its name, but it does carry on a legacy of sorts. The latest game from the studio behind the Dishonored franchise follows in the footsteps of immersive, open-ended first-person action games like Deus Ex and System Shock 2.
You play as Morgan Yu, and at first, it seems like an ordinary day as a new worker on the Talos-1 space station. But that ordinary day is on a Groundhog Day-style loop until Morgan realizes that not everything is as it seems. The station is in chaos, and monstrous alien creatures with deceptive cloaking abilities take control of Talos-1, forcing Morgan to adapt and survive.
Prey capitalizes on atmospheric tension, making each encounter with the inky creatures that much more exciting and terrifying. In order to fully immerse you into the world of Talos-1, Arkane Studios rendered the facility with expert detail. All the while, Prey‘s story unspools in a methodical pace, forcing players to make choices that always have consequences.
Prey received a DLC called Mooncrash that adds a new, unique, pint-sized gameplay chunk that’s not a direct extension of the main story. Another upcoming DLC called Typhon Hunter will add a multiplayer mode with VR support.
Read our full Prey review
‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’
Microsoft pushed PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and its console exclusivity as a major selling point for the Xbox One in late 2017 and 2018, but the reign of that game may have finally come to an end. The battle royale mode “Blackout” included in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 plays like a more polished and intense version of PUBG, with the smooth shooting and powerful weapons we’ve come to expect from the series.
The other modes don’t disappoint, either. Competitive multiplayer is as strong as ever in Black Ops 4, with plenty of customization options, and the return of Specialist characters. With three different missions available at launch for Zombies, fans of the goofy horror murder-fest also have reason to celebrate, even if they don’t have friends to play it with.
Read our full Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 review
‘Far Cry’ (series)
No shooter franchise is better at doing explosive and the stupid than Ubisoft’s Far Cry, and it has managed to do so everywhere from the Himalayan mountains to the hostile plains of Montana. The fish-out-of-water premise in most of the games makes for emergent and exploration-focused open-world gameplay, and the more recent games have included fantastic villains to make your mission feel extra important.
With a ton of different weapons and vehicles to choose from, the only limit to the mayhem you can create is your imagination, and we’re pretty sure it’s the only game series on our list that lets you kill a bull with a tractor and a Molotov cocktail before jumping off a mountain in a wing-suit.
Read our full Far Cry 5 review
Overwatch has become nothing short of a phenomenon since it launched in May. The team-based “hero shooter” features a refreshing take on objective-based multiplayer action that emphasizes teamwork and strategy over brute force.
With a selection of more than 20 playable heroes, plus at least one additional character added for free through post-release updates, Overwatch encourages you to experiment with different styles of play. Though Soldier: 76 may appeal to longtime shooter fanatics and Reinhardt seems like the obvious choice for RPG lovers, you’ll quickly find that keeping teammates alive as Mercy or holding down a crowded area with Hanzo can be just as rewarding.
Read our full Overwatch review
Respawn Entertainment struck gold with 2014’s Titanfall, but the game lacked a single-player campaign and quickly lost most of its players. With the sequel in 2016, the studio delivered one of the best campaigns of the generation, focusing not just on tight first-person shooting and mech combat, but also thoughtful platforming challenges.
Titanfall 2’s multiplayer is even better than the first game’s, as well, with a great mix of modes and one of the best progression systems around – and all of its post-launch maps were released for free, ensuring more casual players wouldn’t get left out of the fun. Titanfall 2 unfortunately disappointed on the sales charts, but we’re praying that Respawn is given a chance to continue the franchise in the future.
Read our full Titanfall 2 review
After two lackluster campaigns in Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, Electronic Arts and DICE finally managed to pull it all together and deliver the complete package in the World War I-themed Battlefield 1. Focusing on several soldiers’ experiences during the “war to end all wars,” the campaign delivers emotional, heartfelt moments that contrast with the large-scale, destructive warfare for which the series is known.
As polished and exciting as the campaign may be, multiplayer remains the real star of the show. Returning modes such as Conquest and Rush feel right at home in their World War I setting, with wide-open spaces, armored trains, heavy tanks, and Behemoth vehicles help create what is possibly the most chaotic Battlefield game ever made. The new Operations mode, which takes teams across a series of multiplayer maps in an all-out, extended version of Conquest, is where Battlefield 1 is at its absolute best. The 64-player firefights see both teams clawing forward to try to get the advantage, while the game’s environmental destruction system sends buildings plummeting to the ground left and right.
Read our full Battlefield 1 review
Fortnite needs no introduction. Epic Games’ third-person shooter – and its free battle royale mode – took the industry (and the world) by storm with its unique mix of last-man-standing action and building mechanics. It has overtaken children’s conversations at school, it has led to countless imitators, and it even managed to surpass PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, which used a similar structure that served as the main inspiration for Fortnite: Battle Royale.
With a consistent stream of content updates always giving players something new to do or see, the player-count has stayed high for months, and some parents have even begun buying tutoring sessions to improve their kids’ skills – and their own.
Read our full Fortnite Battle Royale review
‘Paladins: Champions of the Realm’
If you’re looking for a free alternative to Overwatch, Hi-Rez Studios’ Paladins: Champions of the Realm is a perfect choice. Featuring similar objective-based gameplay focused on capturing and moving a payload, Paladins includes dozens of playable characters, each with unique special abilities that allow them to dish out extra damage or heal their teammates.
Using a card-based loadout system, Paladins allows you to further customize your favorite heroes to fit your play-style, and with cross-play between platforms, you can play on your Xbox One against an opponent on Nintendo Switch.
A hobby-grade free-to-play online action game, Warframe has been supported with consistent updates since its original launch several years ago, and its cooperative missions make it a great choice to play with a group of friends online.
With deep customization options, a surprising amount of lore, and engaging moment-to-moment gameplay, Warframe doesn’t feel like a free-to-play game, and the number of quests and activities you have to complete can keep you playing without regard for any other game for weeks. Its parkour navigation and a mix of third-person shooting and melee combat will take some time to master, but having a solid team by your side will make the experience much less daunting.
‘Path of Exile’
There are a surprisingly few dungeon-crawling games like Diablo III this generation, and even fewer of them are available on Xbox One. Path of Exile is not only a great alternative to Blizzard’s game – which released more than six years ago – but it’s also completely free to play.
Path of Exile combines skills and items into its skill gem system, which changes how your abilities work depending on the gems you have slotted into your gear. There are nearly 20 different Ascendancy Classes to choose from, including Gladiator, Inquisitor, and Deadeye, each offering their own passive skills to change how you play.
One of the most popular games of all time, Mojang’s Minecraft was a hit on Xbox systems long before Microsoft bought the developer. Its nearly endless creation tools allow players to make unique and impressive structures, and its simple survival gameplay offers a challenge for those looking to venture into the unknown and slay the monsters they find.
The Xbox One version of the game is one of the best, as the recent “Bedrock” update has enabled cross-play with other platforms like iOS, PC, and Nintendo Switch. No matter where your friends are playing Minecraft, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to build and explore together, though Minecraft is also an awesome choice for relaxing on your own.
It might have begun its life as a spiritual successor to the Harvest Moon series, but Eric Barone’s Stardew Valley has arguably become more influential and revered than the series it tried to emulate. A farming adventure styled after classic 16-bit games on the Super Nintendo, Stardew Valley is packed full of charm and character, and in addition to offering a variety of different crops to plant on your farm.
It also features dangerous dungeons to explore and 12 different characters to romance. The game’s polish and stunning variety are particularly impressive when you consider that Barone was a first-time game developer, and an upcoming multiplayer patch will make the game even better.
‘No Man’s Sky’
Xbox One fans had to wait more than two years to get their hands on Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky, but the game they eventually received was far better than the one released back in 2016. The “Next” update overhauled many of the games’ systems and requirements, resulting in more engaging adventures that no longer felt like blind busywork, and improvements like base-building allow you to feel like you’re truly living in the game’s enormous universe, rather than merely looking at it from a distance.
The biggest addition, however, was multiplayer, as it finally gave players the chance to explore uncharted territory together and attempt to survive the harsh conditions found on many mysterious planets.
Read our full No Man’s Sky review
‘XCOM 2’ and ‘War of the Chosen DLC ’
Firaxis Games managed to revive a long-dead strategy series in 2012 with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, and things only got better from there. XCOM 2 is a harder, more diverse, and more engaging game than its predecessor, requiring players to master both turn-based strategy and resource management as they attempt to overthrow alien occupiers before they’re able to unleash a mysterious weapon.
Failing to move your units into correct positions or taking too long to complete objectives could result in them being overrun and killed, and once they’re dead, they’re dead for good. It’s enough to cause an anxiety attack, but with enough perseverance and a hefty dose of luck, you can repel the invaders and save the world.
Read our full XCOM 2 review
The Banner Saga (series)
If you’re in the mood for a stylish tactical role-playing game, The Banner Saga and its two sequels are a perfect choice. The games’ old-school cartoon aesthetic is gorgeous enough in their own right, but they’re backed by a deep cast of playable characters, several different classes, and important choices that can completely change the course of the story in, not just the first game, but all of them.
The save data you create for the original game can be imported into The Banner Saga 2 and The Banner Saga 3, allowing you to create an ongoing narrative that is uniquely yours. Improvements and additions to the combat system in the sequels only makes the tactical battles more rewarding, as do the new playable characters.
Inside, the spiritual successor to developer Playdead’s smash-hit platformer Limbo is perhaps the strangest game available on the Xbox One. Its puzzle-solving gameplay blends elements of science-fiction with creepy, trial-and-error death traps, and emergent gameplay mechanics seamlessly into its narrative.
While just as nihilistic as Limbo, Inside‘s story contains an element of strange, twisted beauty that only Playdead can deliver. The unnamed protagonist — a small child who wears the only bright item of clothing — reacts with fear, anxiety, and determination to the events transpiring in this depressing world. By the end you might wonder, “What did this person do to deserve this?”, and what did we do to deserve a game as refreshing as Inside?
Read our full Inside review
‘Mega Man 11’
Mega Man 11, the first mainline entry in the renowned franchise in more than eight years, is somewhat of reimagining of the Blue Bomber — at least visually. Capcom ditched the retro-pixelated aesthetic for a bright and modern 2.5D look. This change allows the simply stunning levels to truly pop, from the eight, equally interesting robot bosses to the excellent platforming sequences. Each level feels different than the last and the power-ups are both useful and satisfying in action. Mega Man 11 shows that Capcom still has it. A truly sublime platformer.
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‘Ori and the Blind Forest’
So much is made of the technical aspects of graphics, it is easy to forget how far a strong grasp of style can go. With striking watercolor backgrounds and character designs that evoke Miyazaki films, Ori and the Blind Forest is among the most beautiful games of this or any other generation, putting many AAA titles to shame. The sensuous visuals would suffice to make a great film, but a game needs gameplay, and Ori shines there as well. Inspired by classic games like Metroid, the game puts the player in control of the nimble forest spirit Ori, who must navigate a large 2-D world, collecting items and abilities that allow Ori to reach new areas. Certain abilities are necessary to complete the game and thus are easy to find, but there are many things hidden off the beaten path, rewards that adventurous players will find useful.
Despite its adorable protagonist, Ori and the Blind Forest is a viciously difficult game. Combat often requires the player to dodge numerous projectiles, pirouetting through the air as they fight enemies, and some sections add difficult platforming into the mix. Thankfully, the game is generous with checkpoints, a welcome gift from an otherwise harsh mistress. For those who long for the challenges of old-school games, Ori and the Blind Forest is a revelation, infusing Metroid’s style with modern sensibilities.
A perfect example of acknowledging inspiration without being weighed down by it, Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is a brilliant action-platformer that combines the boss design of games like Mega Man 2 with the platforming expertise of DuckTales, and the result is glorious.
The game’s retro pixel-art aesthetic doesn’t feel like it was really pulled from yesteryear, as it makes use of effects only possible on recent consoles like the Xbox One, but it adds a sense of charm and familiarity that it lacking in contemporary platformers. With several additional campaigns such as Spector of Torment available as free updates, you don’t need to stop playing after the credits roll the first time, either.
Ubisoft has been making Rayman games since the ‘90s, experimenting with everything from 3D platforming to arena combat, but the recent 2D platforming games like Rayman Origins return to the series’ simple and engaging roots.
Sequel Rayman Legends is the best of the bunch, with creative level and enemy design, intuitive and clever puzzles, and some of the best music on the Xbox One – with special musical escape levels at the end of most chapters, you’ll see just how carefully-crafted Rayman Legends truly is. If the difficulty is getting to be too much for you, a friend can always join in on the fun and help you get through some of the game’s trickier sections.
Read our full Rayman Legends review
Looking for a tough-as-nails platformer and rogue-like that also rewards you for each small success? Then you have to check out Dead Cells. This fast-paced game tasks you with exploring levels and fighting vicious enemies in an effort to escape a ‘cursed’ island. While the setup isn’t much different from Dead Cells’ peers, the game’s highly responsive controls take the combat to a new level.
You’ll also come to appreciate the many special abilities your character can acquire across multiple runs. They feel powerful despite the fact that you are, in fact, almost constantly at risk of dying if you slip up. This high-risk, high-reward gameplay creates wonderful tensions and will make you crave just one more run.
Some games are hard. And then there is Cuphead. The 2D sidescrolling game combines challenging platforming gauntlets with some of the most difficult bosses on the planet, each of which is capable of taking down the titular hero in just a few hits, and it requires some of the quickest reflexes of any game we’ve ever played.
You won’t mind dying to the same enemies over and over too much, however, as it’s also a gorgeous love letter to classic animated films of the ‘30s such as Steamboat Willlie, and the hand-drawn animations and environments are nothing short of breathtaking. Combined with an era-appropriate soundtrack that’s heavy on the swing and the piano, and you have an absolute classic.hit
‘Life is Strange’
Dontnod Entertainment included supernatural elements and some over-the-top disaster scenarios in its puzzle-adventure game Life is Strange, but the studio never strayed from its core premise: believable teenage relationships. The story of Chloe Price and Max Caulfield reuniting after years of separation is often heartbreaking, especially after we learn of Chloe’s troubled upbringing, and the performances from the cast are among the best we’ve ever seen in a game.
Its core gameplay mechanic – rewinding time to explore different outcomes both in the environment and in conversations – helps to eliminate the need to replay sections in order to see everything, and it leads to some tremendously creative puzzles. A second season begins this September, and the free The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit is also available to get you in the mood for another tragic story.
‘Life is Strange 2’
Like Dontnod’s first outing, Life is Strange 2 is an episodic adventure with minimal gameplay and an emphasis on the writing and characters. Thankfully, the story of Sean and Daniel Diaz is well-done through the first episode. Once again, a supernatural force infiltrates the lives of our main characters and leads to the brothers leaving their hometown.
Life is Strange 2, so far, has the makings of a game that comments on relationships with the police and race relations. Dontnod deftly navigates these tough issues to create a compassionate and moving beginning to the story. Episode one is well worth playing and it will have you anxiously awaiting the remaining four.
The Witness is a game that only Jonathan Blow could make. An atmospheric and existential game focused primarily on circuit-based puzzles, it features a familiar amnesiac protagonist element, but the world Blow has created is interesting enough to make it feel like much more than another tale about regaining your memory and uncovering some big secret.
Instead, you’ll be given philosophical tidbits that could help you in your understanding of your own world as you make your way through more than 500 puzzles. If you’ve been subscribed to Xbox Live Gold for a while, you likely already have The Witness in your “Ready to Install” section, so you can try it out right now.
Read our full The Witness review
‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is an ambitious RPG that almost feels unrecognizable within the framework of the long-running Ubisoft series. Taking place in Ancient Greece circa the Peloponnesian War, you get to pick your character for the first time. You can choose between Alexios or Kassandra, siblings who have an unfortunate family history. Sandwiched within the struggle between Athens and Sparta is a story of a nefarious cult and a well-done family story of betrayal, revenge, and reconciliation.
The star of Odyssey is its massive and gorgeous open world. Though the combat and missions become tedious due to excessive level grinding, if you’re a history buff or a longtime fan of the franchise, you’ll probably find a lot to love here.
Read our full Assassin’s Creed Odyssey review
‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’
Dragon Age: Inquisition had a lot to prove. BioWare had disappointed fans a few years earlier with the small and rushed Dragon Age II, and the Mass Effect series had just come to an end with quite a bit of controversy surrounding its ending. This didn’t get BioWare down, however, and it released an absolute masterpiece in Inquisition.
The fantasy role-playing game combined all the best parts of Dragon Age: Origins with a few things that worked in its sequel – such as the action-packed combat – and a clever story involving time travel and political turmoil kept us hooked from beginning to end. We just hope the in-development sequel can live up to Inquisition.
Read our full Dragon Age: Inquisition review
Fallout 4 from Bethesda has everything one expects from their games: a massive open world, hundreds of ways to customize a character, quests, and stories hidden in every nook and cranny, and of course an unfortunate slew of bugs. As with Fallout 3 and New Vegas, the game drops players in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a big overarching goal (in this case, to find your kidnapped son.) From there, players are free to explore the world, doing whatever quests they feel like, and treating the wasteland like one big sandbox. There are guns to collect, mutants to fight, wacky characters to talk to — or murder, if that’s your thing.
Perhaps the biggest addition is that players can help build settlements, constructing homes, defenses, and other things a community needs to thrive in the wastes. The crafting system encourages obsessive scavenging and provides a regenerative aspect to a series that has so often seemed bleak. Fallout 4 won’t convert anyone who has disliked Bethesda’s past games, but veterans of the wastes will feel like coming home.
Read our full Fallout 4 review
‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’
Following up on the events of the previous game, The Witcher 3 follows the continuing adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter searching for his lost lover, Yennefer, and Ciri, the child they raised. Although its central plot offers a long and entertaining quest, there’s far more to the game than finding Geralt’s loved ones. The world is massive, dense with characters great and small who have their own problems they’d like Geralt to solve. Whether it’s exorcizing a spirit haunting a village or helping a blacksmith rebuild his business, there are hundreds of little adventures to go on, and some even intersect in surprising ways.
The world of The Witcher is dark. An early scene finds Geralt riding into a war-torn province, the camera pulling back to reveal a massive tree from which prisoners of war have been hanged. It’s a grim image, and it sets the tone for much of what is to follow. Often the game will present choices that can have wide-ranging, unforeseen consequences. Not everyone gets a happy ending. Despite all the gloom, there are moments of warmth: an orphan reunited with relatives, drinking games with Geralt’s war buddies, a night of passion with an old flame. Wildly ambitious and epic in scope, The Witcher 3 is a watershed moment for role-playing games, setting a new gold standard the genre.
Read our full The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review
‘Battle Chasers: Nightwar’
Based on the Battle Chasers comic, Battle Chasers: Nightwar feels like a throwback to classic turn-based-combat role-playing games, but with progression and environments that are entirely contemporary. Randomly-generated and hidden dungeons will make sure you’ll always have something unexpected waiting for you, and the game’s crafting system allows you to make powerful items and enhance the abilities of the six available heroes. Nightwar doesn’t try to emulate the visual style of the comic it’s based on, but the flashy character animations and enemy designs still feel like they fit right at home in its universe.
‘Final Fantasy XV’
The Final Fantasy franchise has always been over-the-top, and this is especially evident in Final Fantasy XV. Prince Noctis and his crew look like they were pulled from a J-pop music video, and they make use of a flying car that we’re really hoping becomes a real thing in the future.
The tale of betrayals and invasion isn’t that out of the ordinary for Final Fantasy, but Final Fantasy XV’s diverse mix of locations and gorgeous visuals help to give it a sense of style and charm that we hadn’t seen from the series in years. Its combat was also reworked, using real-time action without sacrificing the strategy fans are looking for. Additional content updates have improved Final Fantasy XV since its original release, as well, so now is as good a time as any to jump in.
Read our full Final Fantasy XV review
‘Monster Hunter: World’
It’s not exactly the most traditional Monster Hunter game but that’s what makes it so damn good. If you enjoy a good open world RPG where you can track rare monsters, engage in tough combat, and craft awesome armor out of their remains then Monster Hunter: World is right up your alley.
Monster Hunter: World modernizes a classic RPG and makes it easy for anyone to jump in. It features beautiful zones that feel alive, monsters with improved AI, and really cool DLC crossovers with Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Horizon Zero Dawn. There’s also a multiplayer mode where up to four players can suit up in their best gear and take down dangerous beasts together.
‘Forza Motorsport 7’
The Gran Turismo series was once the king of the racing simulator, but that time is long gone. Forza Motorsport 7 is the latest in Turn 10 Studios’ stunningly gorgeous line of Xbox One racing games, with the most realistic cars and tracks ever rendered in a video game. It can be borderline car porn, but for those who fawn over the smallest details of automobiles, including the fabric of seats and the stitching on steering wheels, Forza Motorsport 7 is the game you need to be playing.
The changes in Forza Motorsport 7 are incremental compared to previous games, but they still add up to the best version of a racing game that had already claimed the top prize. The artificial intelligence is smarter in races, making each victory that much more satisfying. The cars are varied and fun to drive, and there are more than 700 available to choose from. And though the game lacks the variety and player-driven progression of the Horizon games, its attention to detail is simply second-to-none.
Read our full Forza Motorsport 7 review
‘Forza Horizon 4’
Playground Games has proven itself as one of the best racing game developers on the planet, and the studio has outdone itself with Forza Horizon 4. Taking the action to Britain this time around, Forza Horizon 4 is packed full of racing challenges and open-world fun to partake in, and running on an Xbox One X at 4K or 60 frames per second, it’s an absolutely stunning display of power.
A new seasons system changes the environments, as well, freezing over lakes or turning easy roads into muddy deathtraps, and with real players always racing around you in the world, you’re just a few moments away from a race at any time.
Read our full Forza Horizon 4 review
Dirt Rally sees Codemasters’ long-running racing series at its absolute best, offering off-road racing mayhem with unmatched physics and precision, making it a perfect choice for hardcore racing fans looking for something more realistic than The Crew 2 or Forza Horizon 4.
There are over 70 different stages to choose from along with six huge rallies in places like Greece, Finland, Pikes Peak, and Sweden, and if you get a group of friends together, you can start your own racing league. Solo players still have plenty to love, as well, as the game features a full rally championship mode, and you can make custom rally events with cars of your choice if you get bored with the included offerings.
The best game designers can sometimes be community members, and the Trackmania series has embraced that fact for years. Trackmania Turbo’s robust Trackbuilder system lets players create wild courses to race across, and the game also includes 200 pre-built courses split across environments including a tropical paradise and an international stadium.
With Double driver mode turned on, you and a friend can control one car using two controllers, and a campaign mode includes multiple difficulty levels to keep you on your toes as you climb up the leaderboards and earn your place as the top racer around.
The king of basketball simulations, Take-Two and Visual Concepts’ NBA 2K19 offers the most realistic and engaging gameplay you’ll find anywhere. It has a staggering number of modes to choose from, including online multiplayer modes like MyLeague Online as well as the popular MyCareer single-player offering.
If you’re interested in customizing your own court or creating a team from scratch, those are options as well and the MyGM mode even includes a story you can alter based on the decisions you make. NBA 2K hasn’t received any drastic revisions in recent years, but that’s largely because the games have been so good for so long.
Read our full NBA 2K19 review
NHL 19 greatly improves on the underwhelming NHL 18 in terms of both gameplay and modes. For starters, the online portion of the game, dubbed World of Chel, combines series staples such as NHL Threes into a singular, overarching progression system. It may sound like a small change, but the streamlined nature of the online component compels you to spend more time playing with friends and engaging with the community.
The moment-to-moment hockey gameplay is realistic thanks to the power of EA’s Frostbite engine. Animations have great nuance and intuitive stick controls keep the gameplay fresh. NHL 19 is really the only suitable hockey sim out there. Luckily, it’s pretty great.
The FIFA games are among the best Electronic Arts releases every year, with easy-to-learn mechanics allowing for even the most inexperienced soccer fans to grab a controller and start scoring goals.
FIFA Ultimate Team can be an all-consuming mode on its own, with card-based teams competing against each other online for bragging rights and additional in-game currency, and the last few entries have also offered the story-focused The Journey. The mode, which chronicles the life of the young star Alex Hunter, is surprisingly heartfelt and well-written, and it still manages to get in plenty of soccer action between cinematics.
Read our full FIFA 19 review
Pro Evolution Soccer (series)
Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series has continued to improve over the years, rivaling Electronic Arts’ FIFA franchise with its emphasis on total ball and pass control, as well as improved animations and new strategies to help you manage your players exactly as you want to.
Using the Fox engine – the technology behind Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – Konami is able to create an absolutely gorgeous soccer game, with detailed players and natural movement that make it feel like you’re watching a live soccer match rather than simply playing one on your Xbox One. It isn’t as popular as FIFA, but that underdog position has only motivated Konami.
Who would have predicted that one of the best “sports” games on the Xbox One would involve rocket-powered cars driving alongside glass domes as they work to knock an oversized soccer ball into a net?
Psyonix’ Rocket League is a goofy game, but don’t let its wacky premise fool you – Rocket League demands your full attention, as players with enough practice are able to pull off some truly masterful goals and block balls in a last-ditch effort to keep their lead in a tough match. The simple controls are easy enough to grasp, however, so you should be able to get the hang of things quickly and begin (trying) to score a few goals.