Xbox Game Pass is perfect for this moment. With plans priced at $5, $10 and $15 a month, subscribers get access to a massive library of games, ranging from new Xbox Game Studio titles to juggernauts from the previous console generation. Scroll through the library, and a shockingly large portion of the titles will elicit a, “Huh, I’ve heard of that one, that’s supposed to be really good” reaction.
I’ve always nursed a creeping suspicion that for many players, Game Pass is an aspirational subscription. I initially signed up for the massive catalogue of games, thinking it would be worth making time to play lots of titles, only to fall into the habit of playing one or two. Well, what better time to break that habit?
Here’s our list of the best offerings on Xbox Game Pass right now.
Each of the titles listed below has some kind of quirk or mechanic that plants it firmly outside of the mainstream. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, this collection is for you.
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire may not seem like it, but it’s a game about building momentum. It’s a card game in which you assemble a deck of cards (which represents acquiring different possible moves, such as attacks). As you work your way through a dungeon, the decisions you make early on will have serious ramifications. Think carefully about how you construct your deck — but not too hard. If you die, you start over completely anew, granted another chance to rebuild your deck and try again.
It’s best to say as little as possible about this first person adventure title. At the highest, most abstract level, this description works: You’ll be tasked with figuring out the clockwork mechanism of the universe you live in, and using your knowledge to solve galaxy-spanning puzzles. If you’re a fan of mysteries, give Outer Wilds a spin.
Other great titles: Dead Cells, Hollow Knight, Minit, Oxenfree, Superhot, Tacoma, Untitled Goose Game and What Remains of Edith Finch
Current generation AAA
Even non-gamers may have heard of these titles, produced by some of the world’s leading game developers and featuring the kinds of eye-popping graphics and gameplay you’d expect from big-budget productions.
The Witcher 3
I have started and put down The Witcher 3, a combat-driven open world RPG, several times now. This moment, finally, is likely the best chance I’ll ever have to sink back into its massive world and story, which was recently shared with a mass audience via the new Netflix series. If you’re looking for a fantasy epic, one giant game to pour all of your energy into, there’s hardly a better candidate than The Witcher 3.
Forza Horizon 4
Not to harp on the fact that we’re all stuck indoors, but we’re all stuck indoors. If you want a taste of the outside world, look no further than Forza Horizon 4, which drops you into a meticulously rendered version of the English countryside — in a car of your choice, to participate in races and stunts (or just to drive around).
Other great titles: Doom, Fallout 4, GTA V, Minecraft, Monster Hunter World and Yakuza 0
The titles listed below are the cream of the crop from a bygone console generation. If you’re bummed that you missed out on some classic titles from the Xbox 360 era, Game Pass has you covered.
The Master Chief Collection
The Halo trilogy was the height of AAA gaming in the 2000s. If you want to catch up on the story of Master Chief, or just revisit the multiplayer first-person-shooter scene of your youth, this first person shooter is worth your time.
Other great titles: Banjo Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, The Fable Trilogy, Fallout New Vegas, the Gears of War Series and Mass Effect
The following titles are all AAA-adjacent, but with unique systems, stories and quirks that separate them from their bigger, simpler cousins. These are the titles critics loved — and audiences maybe just didn’t play that much. If you want the polish of a AAA title, but with greater depth in any of the aforementioned qualities, these are the titles for you.
If you’ve played BioShock — or any of the story-driven titles that came in its wake — you may think you know what Prey is up to. You’re wrong. As you travel through a space station orbiting the moon in this first person immersive sim, you encounter a hostile alien presence that can transform into items scattered around the station. Trust nobody — and nothing.
The Walking Dead
Tense, consequential decision-making is the name of the game in this choose-your-own-adventure game. As you and a team of survivors work to, well, survive a zombie apocalypse, you’ll be confronted by moments which will require you to weigh your options and allegiances. Other characters will remember, and sometimes dislike, the choices you make.
Other great titles: Alien Isolation, Dishonored 2, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, The Outer Worlds, Stellaris and Sunset Overdrive
Best played with friends
The category speaks for itself, so line up a buddy or five to share the fun.
Jackbox Party Pack 3
If you miss partying and goofing around with your friends, try out Jackbox Party Pack 3. Each game in the Party Pack requires people to respond to funny prompts, and then vote for their favorite responses on their phone — meaning other players don’t even need to own a console to play. You’ll just need one person to stream the screen, and everyone else to check in on their phones. The Jackbox Party Pack is a great long-distance hang.
Sports are canceled, but Rocket League, which just hit its peak concurrent players, lives on. The game, in which you player soccer (or basketball or hockey) via small, remote control cars, is fun on its face. But if you want to go deeper, Rocket League hides an intense amount of depth in its mechanics. Goof around with your friends, or become a disciplined player with competitive dreams.