Feature

20 Games You Should Check Out On Xbox Game Pass

by Brian Shea on Dec 29, 2019 at 01:00 PM

Gaming is an expensive habit any way you look at it. Even after you get a TV or monitor and your system of choice, you still need to drop a ton of money to build you collection of games. In 2018, Xbox introduced Game Pass, a subscription service that grants you access to an ever-expanding library of games for a single recurring fee.

Since its inception, Game Pass has added hundreds of titles to its library. While many players treat it like a curation service in itself, sifting through hundreds of games to find the gems is a daunting task. Thankfully, we’ve done a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

This list won’t contain the games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Batman: Arkham Asylum; we assume that anyone remotely keyed into the games industry already knows those are great to check out. Instead, this list focuses on some games you may have missed, regardless of if they were created by a small indie studio or one of the largest developers in the industry. Check out 20 games we think you shouldn’t miss if you’re a Game Pass subscriber.

Braid

Clever time-manipulation powers elevate Braid above many of its peers, but the brilliant puzzle design is what causes it to remain relevant all these years later. In addition to helping to spark the indie renaissance near the end of last decade, Braid has been praised by many as one of the greatest games of all time. If you missed out when it first came out, Game Pass gives you a terrific excuse to give it a second chance.

Cities: Skylines

The city-building sim genre’s heyday may be in the past, but that doesn’t mean would-be mayors are completely left out in the cold. Cities: Skylines launched on PC to strong reviews thanks to its intuitive controls and deep suite of city-management tools. While the Xbox One edition doesn’t quite nail the control scheme as well as the PC version, it’s still a perfectly competent version of the game. Thankfully, both the Xbox One and Windows 10 editions are included in a Game Pass subscription, so you can play on the platform you want.

Dead Cells

Combine Castlevania-style action with procedural generation and a well-implemented roguelike structure and you have one of 2018’s best games in Dead Cells. Each death is maddening, but the game feels so good that you can’t help but dive back in. Precise controls, rewarding progression, and a killer soundtrack make Dead Cells a journey worth taking – especially if it’s at no additional cost.

Dishonored 2

Conspiracy, betrayal, and vengeance serve as central themes for Dishonored 2’s incredible journey. With masterful level design and an impressive suite of abilities to use against your unfortunate prey, Dishonored 2 expertly portrays the feeling of being a powerful assassin fighting back against the world that turned against him. Whether you want to play through the game with Corvo’s time- and reality-bending powers or Emily’s confusion-based abilities, Dishonored 2 is a masterclass in letting you approach the action your way.  

Fez

This 2012 indie darling turns the idea of a typical 2D puzzle platformer on its head thanks to an added dimension with which to find solutions. The dimensional shift from one 2D side to the next is always impressive, and adds unique twists to the well-traveled genre. On top of the puzzles, you can enjoy uncovering artifacts that tell the story of an ancient civilization struggling with the idea of three dimensions.

Gears 5

Once among the biggest franchises in the entire industry, the Gears of War franchise has lost much of the heat it had during the Xbox 360 years. While Gears of War 4 played it safe in many regards, Gears 5 takes the series in interesting new directions. With a terrific campaign, awesome iterations of Horde and competitive multiplayer, and an all-new co-op mode called Escape, Gears 5 might be one of the most complete packages in the series' history.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

If you yearn for the golden age of the Halo franchise, Halo: The Master Chief Collection lets you relive all your favorite moments from six of the best shooters of last generation. The launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection was notoriously terrible, with major problems plaguing the online play of this collection. Not only have many of those problems been remedied through years of patches and updates, but 343 Industries is still supporting it with new content more than five years later with additions like Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach.

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Ninja Theory delivered a terrifically dark adventure about mental health struggles with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Taking control of Senua and battling through a dark fantasy world that serves as a metaphor for her bouts with psychosis is powerful, with the titular character brought to life with a stunning performance by Melina Juergens. If you need more reasons to check this out, Hellblade II recently served as the centerpiece for the reveal of the Xbox Series X at The Game Awards.

Hollow Knight

Charting and exploring the macabre depths of Hollow Knight’s world can be at once thrilling and frustrating, but that hasn’t stopped it from being one of the best games of the last couple of years. With difficult battles and meaningful exploration, players who want a rewarding experience can do a lot worse than Team Cherry’s outstanding Metroidvania.

Lonely Mountains: Downhill

Flying down a mountain on a bike is dangerous, so why not enjoy the thrills of such an activity from the comfort of your couch? Lonely Mountains: Downhill delivers arcade-style action as you soar down the mountain on your bike, trying to complete objectives like hitting certain times or crashing fewer than a set mark. Despite the emphasis on arcade action, the soundtrack is surprisingly tranquil, letting you take in the nature sounds instead of an adrenaline-pumping synth-heavy soundtrack – unfortunately that also makes the sounds of your body crashing into a rock sound that much more gruesome.

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

After Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor was a fan-favorite release in 2014, its direct sequel Shadow of War upped the ante in all kinds of ways to become one of the best games of 2017. Unfortunately, controversy surrounding in-game microtransactions turned many off from the experience at launch. However, developer Monolith Productions has since removed the microtransactions. Whether you’re a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan or just want to experience one of the best power fantasies of this generation, Shadow of War is worth downloading on Game Pass.

Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition

Metroid inspiration abounds in this gorgeous game from Moon Studios. You take control of a tiny forest spirit in a quest to save your home, but despite Ori’s cute form, this game is anything but a walk in the park. Amassing new abilities as you go, you complete challenging combat and platforming scenarios on your way to a climactic final sequence. With a sequel coming in March, now is the perfect time to revisit this awesome game.

The Outer Worlds

After Microsoft acquired Obsidian Entertainment as a part of its growing roster of Xbox Game Studios, its highly anticipated game The Outer Worlds hit Xbox Game Pass on day one. Not only did this help create a large player base right off the bat, but it allowed subscribers to play one of the best games of 2019 from the day it launched at no additional cost, even though it wasn’t published by Xbox Game Studios. If you’re a fan of Fallout and Mass Effect, The Outer Worlds may be one of the most exciting games in the Game Pass catalog.

Sea of Thieves

Though its shallow waters may have turned you away at launch, Rare’s swashbuckling simulator has only gotten better as the months roll on. Thanks to terrific post-launch support, Sea of Thieves has blossomed into a delightful pirate fantasy featuring a steady stream of cosmetics, new modes, new adventures, and even a player-versus-player component. If you skipped this at launch, its inclusion in Game Pass is an excellent excuse to jump back in.

Slay the Spire

Taking the best of deckbuilding and roguelike role-playing games, Slay the Spire quickly became one of our top games of 2019. With different options every time, Slay the Spire presents seemingly endless replayability, as well as challenges that require you to rise to the occasion to progress through to the next area. Whether we fall into the hands of a big boss or are overwhelmed by lower creatures, Mega Crit Studios’ fusion of genres compels us to climb the spire again and again.

Subnautica

A gripping and eerie survival game, Subnautica plunges you into the depths of an alien sea and dares you to stay alive. During your adventure, you receive narrative missions that include finding others who have crash landed on the planet, giving you a sense of wonder and awe as you navigate the dangerous depths of the planet. Whether you want to explore the sea’s sites with casual or hardcore options, or you just want to enjoy a sandbox mode, Subnautica has myriad options to help you enjoy your virtual scuba trip.

Sunset Overdrive

Before releasing one of the most-played games of this generation in Spider-Man on PS4, developer Insomniac Games laid the groundwork for that gameplay style in the Xbox and PC-exclusive title Sunset Overdrive. Tainted energy drinks have mutated the entire city into zombie-like monstrosities and it’s your job to get to the bottom of it. While the movement isn’t quite as refined as it is in Spider-Man, Insomniac’s sole Microsoft-published title delivers a city that’s as fun to traverse as it is to blast through.

The Turing Test

A challenging first-person puzzle game, The Turing Test tasks you with uncovering the mysteries of a space station on one of Jupiter’s moons. While the story is compelling and full of interesting twists, the true star is the puzzles you must complete to get to those narrative moments. Fans of games like Portal and The Talos Principle would do well to check out this gem from 2016.

Untitled Goose Game

Taking up the role of a meddlesome goose, you get into all kinds of trouble. From stealing a poor kid’s glasses and trapping him in a phone booth to giving an innocent farmer endless grief, you can let the devil on your shoulder do the talking in this hilariously mischievous title from developer House House. After becoming a smash hit on social media when it launched on Switch earlier this year, Untitled Goose Game finally hit Xbox One and PS4 in December, and much to the delight of Game Pass subscribers, it’s playable at no additional charge for subscribers.

Wargroove

Strategic masterminds who adored Nintendo and Intelligent Systems’ Advance Wars series found a true spiritual successor in 2019’s Wargroove. This indie hit from Chucklefish offered similar art style and turn-based tactics as were found in the beloved Nintendo series. Not only do you have a lengthy campaign and multiplayer to take part in, but Wargroove also allows you to craft your own campaign using pre-existing assets from the game.

Products In This Article

Gears 5cover

Gears 5

Platform:
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Release Date:
September 10, 2019 (Xbox One, PC), 
November 10, 2020 (Xbox Series X/S)
Subnauticacover

Subnautica

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
January 23, 2018 (PC), 
December 4, 2018 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), 
2021 (Switch)
Untitled Goose Gamecover

Untitled Goose Game

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac
Release Date:
September 20, 2019 (Switch, PC, Mac), 
December 17, 2019 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Halo: The Master Chief Collectioncover

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Platform:
Xbox One, PC
Release Date:
November 11, 2014 (Xbox One), 
December 3, 2019 (PC)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Warcover

Middle-earth: Shadow of War

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date:
Lonely Mountains: Downhillcover

Lonely Mountains: Downhill

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, Linux
Release Date:
October 23, 2019 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux), 
May 7, 2020 (Switch)
The Turing Testcover

The Turing Test

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
August 30, 2016 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), 
February 7, 2020 (Switch)
Sunset Overdrivecover

Sunset Overdrive

Platform:
Xbox One
Release Date:
Ori and the Blind Forestcover

Ori and the Blind Forest

Platform:
Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
March 11, 2015 (Xbox One, PC), 
September 27, 2019 (Switch)
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrificecover

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Platform:
PlayStation 4, PC
Release Date:
Dishonored 2cover

Dishonored 2

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date:
Cities: Skylinescover

Cities: Skylines

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date:
Fezcover

Fez

Platform:
Xbox 360
Release Date:
Hollow Knightcover

Hollow Knight

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Switch, PC
Release Date:
Slay The Spirecover

Slay The Spire

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Switch, PC
Release Date:
The Outer Worldscover

The Outer Worlds

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
October 25, 2019 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), 
June 5, 2020 (Switch)
Wargroovecover

Wargroove

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
Dead Cellscover

Dead Cells

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
Sea of Thievescover

Sea of Thieves

Platform:
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Release Date:
March 20, 2018 (Xbox One, PC), 
November 10, 2020 (Xbox Series X/S)
Braidcover

Braid

Platform:
PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Linux
Release Date:
August 6, 2008 (Xbox 360), 
April 10, 2009 (PC), 
May 20, 2009 (Mac), 
November 12, 2009 (PlayStation 3), 
December 14, 2010 (Linux)