- Xbox Game Pass is a monthly subscription service that works on Xbox consoles and PCs.
- It’s basically a “Netflix for games” – you never own the games, you merely have access to them.
- The Game Pass lineup is constantly changing, as new games are added and old ones are removed.
- Game Pass is commonly considered one of the best deals for gaming enthusiasts.
While there were some cynical reactions when Microsoft first announced the Game Pass – essentially a “Netflix for Games” – those takes quickly faded. The Game Pass became one of the best deals for gamers everywhere. For $14.99 a month, Xbox users have access to over 100 great games – plus Xbox Live Gold (which was $10/month anyway) and EA Play. And if you also game on your PC, many of the benefits cross over to that platform too.
Microsoft is always adding new games to the Game Pass lineup, although they also have to periodically remove titles too, which is a bummer. Regardless, gaming fans of all ages are sure to find something they love to play on Game Pass. Here are our picks for the best Game Pass titles you can download right now.
It’s hard to pinpoint an exact genre for Control. Yes, it’s a third-person shooter. But it also has supernatural elements, giving you telekinesis powers to move large objects with your mind. Then there’s a shapeshifting Manhattan skyscraper that adds elements of horror, tension, and brutalism to the game.
This is a game that you truly have to experience -no amount of words will accurately convey what it’s like. It won numerous awards for its art design, special effects, music, and even a couple Game of the Year awards. Sadly, the (also very excellent) DLC add-ons are not part of Game Pass – but well worth the purchase once you’ve played the main game.
Deep Rock Galactic
If you’ve ever thought to yourself “Yeah, Left 4 Dead was fun, but what if it were in space instead?” then Deep Rock Galactic is probably for you. It’s a “players vs. everybody” shooter, where teams of four (or less) battle against multiple waves of space creatures. There are different characters to choose from, each with different class abilities and weapons.
This game is mostly set in underground mines, which is a bit of a disappointment considering the vast infinity of space that could have been used. However, it creates extra gameplay tasks, as you can mine for materials to use in upgrading your firepower. One warning, though: this game is best played with friends or teammates. Solo players may not find it as enjoyable.
Other than the iconic Master Chief from Halo, the Gears of War franchise might be the Xbox’s best and most recognizable. The latest entry to the Gears saga is 2019’s Gears 5. Fans of original protagonist Marcus Fenix might be sad to learn, however, that Kait Diaz takes over as the main heroine.
At its heart, Gears 5 is still a gorgeous cover-based over-the-shoulder shooter (with the occasional chainsawing). It also adds some role-playing elements, allowing you to slowly evolve a skills tree for your robotic sidekick. There are some open-world sections, and a decision-making process that can dramatically change the game’s ending. There’s also a very hefty multiplayer mode, co-op horde mode (similar to Call of Duty zombies), and a co-op escape mode. There’s a lot to do in Gears 5, making it a must-have for Game Pass subscribers.
Ori and The Will of the Wisps
Enough with the shooters. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the most artistically beautiful games you’ll find on any platform. It’s a 2D platformer that focuses on exploration, solving puzzles, and collecting (and upgrading) items.
You play as Ori, a white guardian spirit. You’ll unlock new abilities and upgrades for Ori as you play through the game with your sidekick, an Owl named Ku. As you adventure through a mystical forest full of surprises and wonder, you’ll constantly be awestruck by both the audio and visual components of the game.
Forza Horizon 4
For racing game purists, it doesn’t get much better than Forza Horizon 4. You can crank up the horsepower in more than 750 different real world car models on dozens of different tracks. Each course has multiple layouts too, giving you hundreds of different racing options.
The Forza series is often heralded as one of the best racing sims ever made. Indeed, Horizon 4 scored extremely well – currently a 92 out of 100 on Metacritic. This game looks great and plays even better. Buy yourself an Xbox-compatible racing wheel for an even more life-like experience.
The core gameplay of Celeste is simple: a character named Madeline uses a variety of different jumping tactics to climb a mountain. However, it’s so much more than that. The mountain is more of a metaphor for Madeline’s anxiety and depression. You often have to fail, try again, fail some more, and then keep trying in order to finally get over the hump. If that’s not the perfect metaphor for dealing with mental health struggles, we don’t know what is.
Beyond the deeper message of the game, Celeste is a beautiful 2D platformer. It features cute pixel art and an amazing soundtrack. We especially recommend Celeste for busy gamers – you can complete the whole thing in about 10 hours.
Hollow Knight has a bit of a running joke around it. They say that you might need to try a few times before you truly get into it. Once you do, however, fans of the game swear it’s one of the best they’ve ever played. So be patient if things don’t click for you right away the first time you launch it.
The game itself is a 2D platformer about an insectoid kingdom that is faced with a huge problem — a growing and dangerous infection. You play as a warrior for the kingdom, travelling across levels while you battle enemies and explore new areas. Can you save the kingdom before it’s too late?
A Plague Tale: Innocence
Perhaps this one is a little too on-the-nose, given the real life events of 2020 and 2021. On the other hand, A Plague Tale: Innocence is simply too good to leave off this list. You play as two young children on the run from the French Inquisition. Given the name of the game, the whole thing is framed around the Bubonic Plague running rampant around Europe.
This game is primarily stealth-based. So if you’re a fan of sneaking around to avoid discovery, you’ll love it. If you prefer action games where you can just fight your way out of every predicament, it might not be for you. One final warning: the game gets very real, very fast. There are some very disturbing scenes and narrative choices that showcase the true desperation of trying to survive the Black Death.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill
Lonely Mountains is either the most relaxing or most stressful game on this list. On one hand, the game simply features you riding a bike down various mountain trails. The scenery is beautiful, the audio is tranquil, and the birds flutter around peacefully.
On the other hand, it’s also a time trial. So once you get the hang of the controls, you’re going to be barreling down the trail as fast as you can. That leads to mistakes. Those mistakes lead to crashes. So. Many. Crashes.
As you look for the quickest route down, it becomes quickly apparent how clever the track designs really are. Every one of them has multiple paths, offering quicker times (but also harder obstacles). Meet certain challenges like finishing within a certain time or crashing less than ten times to unlock new bike parts, which are faster and more durable, of course.
Tetris Effect: Connected
The classic falling blocks of Tetris never really get old. You only need to slightly tweak the gameplay in order to give it a fresh feel, which is exactly what Tetris Effect: Connected does so well. With a new multiplayer element and four different game modes, this version of the old school classic delivers in every way.
The main mode sees you team with other players to go 3-vs-1 in a battle against the AI. It’s a great experience. First, the AI tries to throw a wrench in your games. If you overcome those hurdles, the three user games eventually combine into one giant collaborative game where you take turns placing pieces in order to defeat the Tetris Boss (yeah, that term makes sense, we guess). Of course, the game is also filled with colorful visuals and that entrancing Tetris soundtrack too.
Slime Rancher had no business being as fun and addictive as it ended up being. And yet, I found myself sinking countless hours into this adorable farm simulator. In short, you arrive on a distant planet to start a new career ranching slimes – cute little creatures that are roaming around everywhere. You grow food, feed them, and they produce “plorts.” Then, you trade the plorts for currency to upgrade your ranch. Rinse and repeat.
This game keeps you hooked, though. There’s also a new slime type to discover or a new gadget to upgrade or a new area of the map to explore. Even after “beating” the game, you’ll want to return for the DLC expansion or the action-packed Rush Mode (where you earn as much money as you can in 51 in-game hours) – think of it like going for an arcade-style high score.
Sea of Thieves
Time to trade in your boring office job for a life of adventure and swashbuckling on the high seas. In Sea of Thieves, you basically get to play a full pirate simulator. It’s not just Grand Theft Auto on water. It’s much more than that.
You spend time exploring islands, looting rivals, building your pirate crew, and upgrading your own pirate ship. There’s a full-fledged campaign to play, but you can also easily ignore it in favor of just … you know, being a pirate. You can play this one by yourself, but it’s even better when you team up with some friends to form a dedicated pirate crew. Best of all, the game supports cross-platform play, so you can play with fellow pirates on PC too.