By virtue of its incredible Game Pass library, the Xbox is one of the best values in gaming right now. Pay a monthly subscription fee — anywhere from $10 a month for the base plan up to $15 a month for the ultimate tier that includes online multiplayer — and get access to a library of games that you can play at no additional charge.
A lot of the available games are brand-new Xbox exclusives or games that have been around for a while and are just making their way to Game Pass. But with 400-plus games to choose from, it can get a little daunting to figure out the ones that are worth your time — especially as time is at a premium during the holidays.
Here’s a brief list of Xbox games to get you started.
The Xbox Series S is smaller than the 4K-capable Xbox Series X, but it can still play the same digital games — albeit topping out at 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution.
This cloud-based service lets you play many Game Pass games through Wi-Fi or LTE / 5G. Get the first month for $1 and then $14.99 per month thereafter.
Xbox partnered with EA to bring its games to Game Pass via EA Play. So not only can you play the original Dead Space trilogy, just about every Battlefield game, and every Mass Effect game but also you can play Dragon Age: Inquisition — one of the better Western RPGs of the last 10 years. It’s got action, drama, romance, betrayal, and a decision system that really makes your choices feel like they matter.
I didn’t dig Pentiment, but despite that, I recognize how attractive the utterly gorgeous illustrated manuscript murder mystery could be for somebody else. In Pentiment, you’ll live the life of a 16th-century journeyman artisan interacting with peasant farmers, local tradesmen, and of course, the all-powerful church. Throughout the game, you’ll make decisions that have far-reaching consequences that will weigh heavily on your conscience and affect the lives and fortunes of those around you. Even though I wound up not being as fond of Pentiment as others were, I still couldn’t stop myself from playing over 15 hours, so it’s definitely worth a shot.
Despite a rocky launch a year ago, Halo Infinite is finally in the place it should be. The foundational shooter game that gave us the Master Chief is still one of the most important Xbox exclusives of all time. The game has added the long-awaited online co-op feature and the much-desired Forge mode, and with a recent update, it finally added The Pit into its multiplayer map rotation. If you were waiting for the kinks to get ironed out before getting into Halo Infinite, now’s the perfect time.
I said that Dragon Age: Inquisition was one of the better Western RPGs of the last 10 years. I had to qualify DAI with “Western” because Persona 5 Royal is, hands down, the best RPG of the last 10 years. You battle against evil, greedy adults in their egomaniacal Mind Palaces while juggling all the stress and anxieties of being a teenager. There is a colorful and endearing cast of friends, schoolmates, and more to help you (including a horny cat that talks). The game’s music is phenomenal, and even though combat is turn-based, it still manages to be interesting. I spent 90 hours in Persona 5 then spent another 120 hours in Persona 5 Royal. (It was the pandemic, okay?) Now that the game’s on Game Pass, you will lose your heart and your life to P5R, and you’ll love every second of it.
There is nothing more cathartic than using a power washer to slowly, methodically blast away grime from the side of a house… or using it to draw unsavory pictures on the sidewalk. Of the seemingly infinite simulator games, PowerWash Simulator is one of the most quirky. It actually feels less like a simulation of the awesome power of the power washer and more like a simulation of what it’s like to have a small business that’s not peddling Amazon affiliate links.
The entire Yakuza omnibus
You can play almost every Yakuza game on Game Pass. That’s it, that’s all you need to know. Every game, from Yakuza 0 to Like a Dragon, is available right now. Still need more convincing? Imagine an RPG about being a tough gangster prowling the bright but cramped streets of Tokyo’s red-light district, beating on yakuza thugs while also providing sex-positive advice to sex workers while getting your burgeoning real estate business off of the ground. That’s the kind of mixed bag one gets with a Yakuza game. Brawler action with hilarious and heartfelt sidequests.
Umurangi Generation is a chilling game that depicts what happens when you give a bunch of teens a camera at the end of the world. It’s like Pokémon Snap if the pokémon you’re snapping are the last ephemera of the human species. You’re given a camera with instructions on what subjects to capture, and then you’re let loose in different areas to accomplish your tasks. Players are free to explore, snapping pictures and learning through posters and other bits of indirect storytelling about the alien threat that’s come to end the world. Umurangi Generation is a sad, scary, and depressing game specifically because it holds a mirror (or camera lens) up to the world, asking us to confront the very real reality humans face as the world slowly, but oh so surely, burns.
Titanfall 2 is six years old and still finds itself on best-of lists because it’s just that good. New to Xbox and want to play a shooter that actually has some heartfelt storytelling? That’s Titanfall 2. Want to make friends with the best mecha murder machine with a mean fastball? Titanfall 2’s gotcha. Want to experience one of the best individual levels in a video game? Yup, you got it, Titanfall 2.