The best Xbox One exclusives - these games are essential for your console

Xbox One exclusives exist in an odd space at the moment, what with Microsoft continuing to push its generous Play Anywhere program. This marvelous system lets you play select games on your console and/or Windows 10 PC (complete with cross-saving) with a single purchase. So while some of the following games can't be classified as 'true' system exclusives, they all proudly represent some of the very best titles that the modern Xbox brand has to offer. Before we jump into the ranked list, let's establish some ground rules: Game Preview titles are excluded for now, as they're not yet finished, and great remasters like Rare Replay, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition are out, as the original games have already thrived on older consoles. With that, let's take a look at the exclusives that'll get the most out of your Xbox One, Xbox One S, or the upcoming Xbox One X (try saying all that five times fast). 

10. Quantum Break 

It might've overextended a bit with its experimental TV tie-in elements, but Quantum Break from Remedy Entertainment (makers of Max Payne and Alan Wake) has moments where its mix of third-person shooting and temporal powers really soars. As Jack Joyce (played by Shawn Ashmore, the lead in a relatively star-studded cast), you've stumbled into time-manipulating godhood and must use your newfound superpowers to wipe out waves of armed goons and prevent the cataclysmic End of Time. It's worth playing Quantum Break just for those moments when you've trapped enemies in a prism-like stasis bubble, peppered them with soon-to-be-unfrozen bullets, then warp-dashed over to another baddie for a melee takedown, all in the span of a few seconds.

9. Halo Wars 2 

Real-time strategy games rarely flourish on consoles, but Halo Wars 2 manages to comfortably map every tactical function you need to the gamepad, putting the focus on fast-paced, top-down action while saving you the headache of having to constantly fiddle with the controls. This sequel adds the invaluable ability to create control groups for your units (all faithfully recreating Halo's most iconic vehicles and enemies), which makes micro-managing your army mid-combat a breeze. Halo Wars 2's campaign tells a gripping war story with plenty of impressive cutscenes, and the orchestral score is up there with the series' best. If you're jumping into the online multiplayer, be sure to check out the innovative Blitz mode, which couples classic RTS gameplay with a deck-building mechanic to become Halo Wars 2's best innovation.

8. Kalimba 

This criminally underappreciated 2D platformer is the epitome of couch co-op, where you'll spend just as much time praising your partner as cursing them out (all in good fun, of course). Kalimba stars pairs of adorable little totem-people running and jumping through colorful landscapes comprised of simplistic geometric shapes, with color-coded obstacles that require your totems to stack up and swap places constantly. You can play Kalimba solo or in two-player co-op (for a combined total of four totems), with every level introducing an ingenious brain-bending gimmick to keep you on your toes. Whether you're satisfied with simply beating each stage or striving to collect every devilishly placed orb without dying to snag a Golden Totem, Kalimba is one of the most distinctive and delightful platformers around.

7. Sunset Overdrive 

Insomniac Games made a name for itself with the beloved Ratchet & Clank series, famous for their varied assortments of outlandish weaponry - so the studio decided to take that expertise in crafting absurd artillery, build an open-world, Jet Set Radio-style metropolis bursting with color around it, and infuse the chaotic proceedings with a healthy dose of punk rock attitude. Sunset Overdrive lets you pull off some spectacularly absurd feats of mass destruction, where you can launch bowling bowls, fireworks, explosive teddy bears, and more, mowing down hordes of mutants, robots, and bizarre gang members while you grind along telephone poles with your physics-defying sneakers. Its attempts at edgy humor constantly fall flat, but the sheer fun and freedom of grinding, flipping, and air-dashing around Sunset Overdrive's urban playground make it well worth a go.

6. Dead Rising 3 

Dead Rising 3 represents a fine middle ground in Capcom's cult-hit series, which revolves around zombie genocide wrought by a variety of over-the-top weapons, all crafted DIY-style from combinations of everyday objects. It's still got the ridiculous Psychopath bosses and (an admittedly lax) time limit mechanic reminiscent of the first two games, realized in all the gory glory of Xbox One-powered visuals akin to Dead Rising 4 (without all the misguided changes that came with that Frank West reboot). Our hero Nick Ramos valiantly pulverizes, electrocutes, and cooks thousands of undead to save any friendly survivors he meets, and the game's goofy tone makes killing your way through the overrun, open-world streets of Los Perdidos all the more enjoyable. If you prefer your Xbox-exclusive zombie apocalypses with more survival elements, you may also want to check out State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition.

5. Killer Instinct 

Killer Instinct's sheer sense of excitement is infectious. Everything about this one-on-one fighter's presentation - flashy graphics with particle effects galore, hard-hitting sound design, buttery smooth framerates, and the most hyped-up announcer in all of fighting games - is engineered to get you as pumped as possible for every intense match. The launch roster of a mere six characters has ballooned to an impressive cast of 26 unique combatants, with classic KI superstars like Fulgore and Glacius butting heads with appealing newcomers like ghost lady Hisako and stellar cameos including Battletoads' Rash (pictured above in all his amphibian glory) and Halo's Arbiter. Whether you're pulling off a ludicrously long combo, waiting for the opportune moment to reverse the opponent's momentum, or just taking it all in as a spectator, the over-the-top bouts in Killer Instinct will have everyone in the room shouting "C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER!" with enraptured glee.

4. Halo 5: Guardians 

It's nowhere near the best Halo game, but as sci-fi FPS adventures go, Halo 5: Guardians makes for a solid system exclusive. Master Chief shares the spotlight with newcomer Spartan Jameson Locke, leader of the four-strong Fireteam Osiris. Halo 5's campaign is best enjoyed in online co-op (supporting up to four players, though sadly there's no splitscreen option), and though the plot itself lacks sufficient oomph, the new focus on verticality in the level designs keeps the tense, tactical firefights feeling fresh. Meanwhile, the multiplayer is as exciting as ever, especially in the large-scale, multi-objective skirmishes of the 24-player Warzone mode. As for all the other tried-and-true modes, you really can't go wrong with Halo multiplayer in any capacity.

3. Gears of War 4 

All the Locusts may have been wiped out, but humanity's war for survival is far from over. Gears of War 4 follows a new generation of lovable super-soldiers clad in bulky armor - Kait, Del, and Marcus Fenix's son JD - as they huddle behind cover and tear through legions of baddies with an assortment of bullets, explosives, and Lancer chainsaws. Whether you're playing solo or in two-person co-op (split-screen or online), Gears of War 4's campaign delivers one thrilling third-person shootout after the next, full of fast-paced, stop-and-pop combat against smartly designed opponents using a plethora of satisfying artillery. Diving into the PvP fray of online multiplayer is a great way to satiate any leftover bloodlust, and the revamped Horde mode (which introduces buildable structures generated by the Fabricator station) brings an appreciated tower defense vibe to the endlessly replayable PvE holdouts.

2. Ori and the Blind Forest 

The sheer artistry of Ori and the Blind Forest must be seen to be believed. This beautiful 2D platformer puts you in control of the adorable fluffball Ori, accompanied by a watchful spirit named Sein as you explore a lush, treacherous forest structured in brilliant Metroidvania fashion. It's all brought to life with beautiful hand-drawn art, silky smooth animation, and a stirring soundtrack that'd be right at home in a Hayao Miyazaki movie. As if the base game wasn't enchanting enough, the Definitive Edition expands Ori's adventure with new areas and additional abilities that shape how you nimbly dart around the expansive environments with invigorating fluidity. If you're not one to back down from a challenge - some difficulty spikes really test your skill and perseverance - Ori's adventure will enthrall you from start to finish.

1. Forza Horizon 3 

Forza Horizon 3 is that rare breed of racing game with universal appeal, even if you're not typically keen on the genre. Getting behind the wheel of a high-end vehicle - chosen and customized from a selection of hundreds, with everything from Ferraris to 4x4s - then zooming around an open-world, near-photorealistic version of paradisal Australia is an absolute treat. Doesn’t matter if you're merely cruising to take in all the beautiful sights or excitedly flooring it in pursuit of a personal best time. The sheer variety of challenges to take on let you set the pace however you see fit, and the campaign's online integration puts you in full control of how many players you want to share the road with, if any. With accessible handling, drop-dead gorgeous visuals, and a near-endless supply of things to do, Forza Horizon 3 can take anyone for a thoroughly enjoyable ride. And when you're in the mood for a decidedly ridiculous drive across miles of orange plastic, the Hot Wheels DLC is just fantastic.

Looking for more top Xbox One picks? Check out our lists of the best Xbox One games and the upcoming Xbox One games for 2017 and beyond!