The best games of Xbox One
The Xbox One has a reputation for being a shooter fan's paradise, and, well, yes, ok, it is that, but it also has outstanding RPGs, arcade games, and experimental games, too. In fact, there's so much currently available for your Microsoft console that you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed by choice. Fear not, for we shall be your trusted guide to putting the best that gaming currently has to offer on your Xbox One.
Expect this list to change throughout the year as more of the finally see daylight and (hopefully) knock our socks off. And that list itself will be updated regularly - feel free to start singing "It's the circle of liiiiiiiiiife" and hoisting your Elite controller into the air like it's a newborn lion cub.
A whopping 23 years after Doom first appeared, and the series is still a leading light in transforming hideous monsters into piles of digital gore. This new Doom has a tight focus on the savage feel of its combat, mixing beefy weapons with horrific ‘glory kills’ to create something that… just feels great to play. And because it so successfully nails the combat, you’re happy to explore the game’s tightly-designed maps for secrets, and even have a crack at creating your own in the powerful SnapMap editor. The multiplayer is delightfully on-point too, recreating that smooth, twitchy feel that has been id’s trademark since Quake 3. A truly wonderful shooter, if you have the stomach for it.
We sort of knew what we were getting. It's big, it's buggy, it's Bethesda. Fallout 4 is a natural evolution, bringing with it the often aimless exploration, gentle humour and moral greyitude of the last two instalments, while propping it all up with a new-gen veneer. They might not be enormous shifts, but main character voice acting, better gunplay and (shock) not having to look inside crates to loot them all make this a streamlined version of a now-classic formula. Frame rate dips and occasionally horrifying glitches rear their heads as usual, but it's difficult to feel too bad when there's simply so much going on. Once again, Bethesda has crammed several games' worth of joyously inconsequential stuff in here, resulting in one of the most compulsive, moreish games of this generation. Get stuck in, and you won't emerge for weeks.
Metal Gear Solid 5: TPP
If we didn't know better (or should that be worse?), we'd say Konami took the Hideo Kojima brand off of his last stab at Metal Gear Solid because it feels quite so different to his previous efforts. Yes, it's packed with the off-kilter jokes, mechanical ingenuity and conspiracy theories so wild they're seemingly drawn from the darkest of the internet's depths - but at it's core, this is a very different kind of Hideo Kojima game.
The switch to wide-open spaces featuring multiple missions not only makes this an embarrassing masterclass for the rest of the world's stealth-action developers, but effectively turns every player into their own spy film director. That time you pulled off a tense, magical heist alongside your mute sniper buddy? That was all you. When it all went tits up and you were forced to detonate C4 stashed across an enemy base, before riding into the sunset on your own personal chicken-mech? You were the architect. It's long been said that Hideo Kojima has been more obsessed with emulating his favourite films than making true games. MGS 5 proves that to be false - he wants you to do that yourself. We'll happily spend a few hundred more hours obliging him.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Don’t be fooled by its frostbitten landscapes; this is the kind of barn-burning action-adventure that, until recently, only (ahem) other consoles used to get. Pivoting effortlessly from digital sightseeing to cinematic survival, then into stealth before exploding into brutal action, this is truly blockbuster stuff - appropriate for one of gaming's biggest icons. Amidst a gaming landscape packed with open worlds that sap full weeks of your life away, that Rise of the Tomb Raider packs all its thrills into a dizzying ten hours isn't just welcome, it's an accomplishment - this is non-stop fun. Except when Lara's murdered by your fumbling fingers. That's not so nice.
It’s such a good return to form for baldy that everyone should try their hand at this rebooted murder sim. The episodic approach might not have sat well with a few fans but the levels released so far are so rich, and deeply detailed that you need a little time between them to really dive in and discover everything you can do. There seems like an almost limitless way to reach and end targets - even without the online challenges, user-created contracts and time-limited one shot Elusive Targets there’s so much to do that weeks later you’ll still be finding new things. Right now it’s one of the best free roaming open world experiences on Xbox.
Dark Souls 3
It’s difficult to sell a game about slime, ash, tears and failure, but let’s try. Dark Souls 3 delivers the complete Miyazaki experience in a tighter, more focussed adventure. When you reach the end of your journey, you’ll look back with an unparalleled sense of reward and remember icy cities, crumbling tombs, bleak dungeons and breathtaking spires. It may lack the grandeur of the first game, but is still Dark Souls 3 is a bold, savage experience that stays with you forever. Also: you can turn into a pot and murder other players, so that’s nice, too.
Final Fantasy 15
The Final Fantasy name isn't exactly synonymous with Microsoft's console, but we're happy just the same as Final Fantasy 15 is easily one of the best RPGs of the year. It blends the vast open-worlds of Western RPGs with Final Fantasy's hallmark over-the-top anime absurdity to great effect, crafting a world based on the highways and byways of Middle America while filling that world with ferocious monsters, massive crystals, and powerful magic. There are times when Final Fantasy 15 feels like an idiosyncratic mishmash of ideas, but when you throw everything together - the strange world, the thrilling, real-time combat, the lovable characters who stick with you for your entire journey - it becomes something much greater than the sum of its parts. It becomes one of the best Final Fantasy games in ages; a game well worth the wait.
Grand Theft Auto 5
Gaming's biggest blockbuster deserves its place at the head of the list. GTA 5 was already an excellent, brutal, beautiful open-world game, and is made even more so on Xbox One with a visual tidy-up, a glut of new content and the addition of first-person pedestrian-beating. With the addition of online Heists to make its online component even more enticing, Rockstar edges closer to making a game world so vast and varied that you could start to do away with anything else. Which, come to think of it, was probably the plan all along.
Nobody expected this to be quite such an explosive success but then think objectively and put the words ‘cars’ and ‘football’ together and suddenly it all makes beautifully insane sense. Both local and online modes for its petrol fuelled madness makes Rocket League multiplayer gold. Slews of DLC - Back To The Future’s DeLorean anyone - since release and now a new Xbox One/PC multiplayer option means it’s now bigger and better than ever, and there’s no better time to put your hand on your wallet and foot on the gas. Make it one of your life… goals.
Forza Horizon 3
If someone told us that 96% of car crashes in Australia are caused by drivers too busy ogling the scenery to pay attention to the road, we'd have no choice but to believe them. Because if you're looking for a showcase for how much power is under your Xbox One's hood, look no further than Forza Horizon 3. A sensational sunny racer with enough faithfully recreated vehicles to keep motorheards happy, but also with fast, power-fantasy racing that guarantees great drifting fun along the Australian coast for the rest of us. It's the best Forza ever, and we can offer few higher compliments to a driving game than that.
Gears of War 4
It was during Act Four, when the storm was raging, bullets were flying from all sides, blood was gushing all over us as we chainsawed close-up enemies and then tried to aim at those sniping us from afar, when suddenly the music rose at the perfect moment. It was as if God himself was singing 'I'm really sorry for Gears of War: Judgment'. Apology accepted. A bloodbath with real brains, Gears of War 4 adds an army of new monsters, each demanding fresh tactics to dispatch and bringing new ideas to how we approach combat. It means the first sequel since Gears 2 that can surprise newcomers without sacrificing the excellent cover-shooting that made the series famous. Bloody essential.
*braces for complaints* Yes, we are well aware of the problems that plagued this particular entry, but now that it works, there's no doubting the craftsmanship here. Bungie's genius meets 343's love in a package that truly does justice to an industry-shaking legacy. Buffed-up, revarnished and back in the shop window, The Master Chief Collection leaves us to wonder if Halo always looked so lovely. And you know what? It more or less did.
Destiny is many things to many people. It's a PVE shooter that rivals the very best of MMOs for complex, teamwork-focused raids. It's a true successor to Bungie's multiplayer legacy, taking Halo's strategic combat and repurposing it in the Crucible. It's a game where you get to ride cool Star Wars speeder-bike knock-offs and dance on cliffs. It's even different for those who started last year, and those who joined a year later. The Taken King Expansion didn't just add the best story content the game has to offer - it changed the fundamentals of what was once a problematically complex grind into an inviting, modern shooter template that big games are already scrambling to copy. An insanely addictive MMO space shooter - oh, and it also has some of the nicest skies you'll see this side of your front door.
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
One of the most immersive RPGs ever made - a standout, mutable storyline, endlessly satisfying detective-cum-hitman Contracts, and side quests deeper than many games' main campaigns. The Witcher 3's world is one of the few game spaces to deserve that title - full of political intrigue, folklore and gross beasts to slice into ribbons. And all of that's failing to mention CD Projekt RED's raft of free DLC, and a couple of expansion packs - the first of which, Hearts of Stone, is responsible for this shooting up to the highest reaches of this list. Beautiful, rewarding and essential, this is a game we'll remember for years and years to come.
Tom Clancy's The Division
The cover shooter gets a more grounded MMO alternative to Destiny. Get together with friends, then shoot through a wintry, virus-stricken New York, the most detailed open world Ubisoft have yet given us. Concerns that even tactical shooting as addictive as this would get repetitive fast were curtailed by varied missions and a seemingly never-ending list of unlockable guns, perks and, er, wooly hats. Then there's the Dark Zone, a PvP area of New York which is basically The Division’s Wild West, with shaky alliances and bitter rivalries made within seconds of each other. If Ubisoft can keep a consistent supply of fresh surprises, we see many Winters lost to this ahead.
Rainbow Six Siege
The first few minutes of a Rainbow Six: Siege match feel more like a slasher film than an all-guns-blazing FPS. The pitter-patter of combat booted feet sounds through the roof. Defenders erect Home Alone defences. Was that the whine of a rappel buckle? It's a sense of tension that beats most horror games. And once all hell does break loose, you're suddenly thrown into the midst of deep, strategical, brutally unforgiving warfare. Ripe with tactical options and built for "one more go" appeal, this is by far Xbox One’s smartest multiplayer shooter.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Imagine a lavish, beautiful storybook world… that slams shut on your stupid, bleeding fingers for seven brutal hours. This is Ori and the Blind Forest, the result of Microsoft handing a group of retro fanatics enough money (and freedom) to make a worthy successor to the platformers of old. Not only is this a pitch-perfect update to the formula set up by Metroid and Castlevania, combining mechanical satisfaction with tear-jerking narrative sequences, it's also quite probably the best-looking 2D game of all time. So yeah, it's pretty special.
Any FPS that lets you run along walls and then double jump into a giant mechanical Titan instantly has our attention. Titanfall 2 does that and so much more. “But where's our single-player?” we moaned, when the first Titanfall came to Xbox in 2014. “Fine!” retorted Respawn. “How about for this sequel, we tell the story of a pilot and his Titan? One where you steadily unlock Titan weapons that look powerful enough to burn the universe in half? How about a stage wherein you can travel through time at the touch of a button? How about several hours of dizzyingly paced, ideas-stuffed action that makes every shooter since we made Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare look lazy?” Well that certainly shut us up. Throw in Bounty Hunt, a capitalist nightmare of an essential multiplayer mode, and we promise never to accuse Respawn of laziness again.
We were worried DICE had set themselves up for a fall with a WW1 shooter, when Battlefield 1 was announced. Taking on one of the most bloody and tragic conflicts in human history isn't typically the best starting point for a fun game. But the anthology format is a masterstroke, using different perspectives to capture the sensational action of conflict, while sensitively showing the human cost of war. The story of the British chauffeur turned tank driver alone is more emotionally nuanced than anything we've seen from Battlefield before. But this isn't some weepy drama – it's a WW1 epic, an overwhelming shooter like nothing else on Xbox One, with 64 player multiplayer mode to keep you coming back. It's a gamble that paid off. Just be careful how you Tweet about it next time, OK EA?
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Enormous, handsome and in love with the subtleties of world design, storytelling and combat, BioWare's many years toil on their sexy world's-end combat fantasies has paid off with their best game yet. Thedas is magnificently beautiful and populated by some of the most likeable characters the medium has to offer - proven by ex-writer Kate's near nervous breakdown when one of them rejected her advances. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the best RPG on Xbox One so far.
'Remove the planks to open up the passageway'. As puzzles go, it's not really one that gets your pulse racing is it? That's likely why Playdead make you do it while fleeing a pack of rabid dogs in Inside. Building on the macabre atmosphere of Limbo, this puzzle platformer makes the decades-old model of running from left to right in two dimensions feel like the freshest thing in years. It's often terrifying, tenser than realising you forgot to clear your search history before lending someone your laptop, and occasionally so brilliant you just want to drop the controller and applaud. It's final thirty minutes in particular are so inspired, they risk overshadowing the perfectly paced four hours that preceded it. If we're due a game of this quality from them every five years, then here's hoping Playdead never discover what happiness is.
Well if Valve aren't going to bother making Team Fortress 3, we'll have Blizzard do it instead. The World of Warcraft studio had never made a shooter before, so it makes no sense at all that Overwatch is one of the best multiplayer FPS' ever. A ridiculously varied cast of colourful heroes, each with powers that should logically break the game (Tracer can travel back through time for crying out loud!) Yet it all checks and balances, letting us fire bows and arrows, sky dragons, walls of ice and whip chains through the air for hours and hours without ever feeling like its cheaty or unfair. Months later, and still the only flaw we can find is Tracer's horrid cockney accent. By this logic, if Blizzard ever offer to make us dinner, expect world hunger to be eradicated within the hour.
Halo 5: Guardians
Halo's always been a balance of campaign with multiplayer, but this entry's a tad lopsided. The story of Locke chasing Chief isn't quite the era-defining moment we were hoping for but, luckily, it's the series-best multiplayer that gets our visors misty. Halo 5: Guardians offers so very much to prospective online warmongers. Arena is a return to the Halo of old, tense cerebral skirmishes that are an oasis of sanity in a sea of crude shooters. If you fancy some madness, then you have Warzone - mega-battles powered by a desperately addictive card-collecting system. And more's being added - 343 just reintroduced Big Team Battles and a new version of classic map, Blood Gulch for free. We're home.
The key to Dishonored 2 is its fantastic powers and the freedom they deliver. Both the returning Corvo and the newly playable Emily Kaldwin have a suite of skills that beg for experimentation - what happens if you use Domino to link several guards and set one on fire? Can you possess someone, walk them off a building, then teleport to safety as they fall? Most of the time, if you can think of something then you can do it, making this an incredibly personal experience. Then there’s the setting of Karnaka, filled with incredible locations and architecture. There are levels here that have to be seen. If you’ve heard of the Clockwork Mansion but not dropped by, then you’re missing out on one of gaming’s greatest locations.
If aliens had invaded Earth when XCOM: Enemy Unknown hit Xbox 360, chances are they would have easily taken over the world. We were all too horribly distracted by the best console turn-based strategy game ever. Appropriately enough, this sequel - XCOM 2 - is set on an Earth that lost to the aliens and lives under their rule. New enemy types make for a far more challenging, and unfortunately, no less addictive experience. Pick a crew of soldiers, name and characterise your squad, using the much improved customise options to get too attached, and then fight back tears as they perish helping you pick off the alien menace. Any liar who tells you turn based strategy doesn't work on Xbox One is clearly one of them.
That's our list of the best Xbox One games available right now. All of you will disagree with some of it, and some of you will disagree with all of it. That's cool, we're all friends here. Now that we've given you a bit of a verbal hug, and some personal validation, why don't you go and play some Xbox games or something?
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