The cream of the crop
With Christmas so close all the big releases are out, so how's our list of best Xbox One games looking? There's no major changes this week with Assassin's Creed Origins and Wolfenstein 2 still the most recent additions, and both Enhanced for Xbox One X in case you were interested.
Elsewhere you'll find the best Xbox One games full of classics like Fallout 4, Cuphead, Titanfall 2, Minecraft and Gears of War 4. If it's an essential Xbox One title it's here, and as there's only 25 places competition only the best get a look in. Every time something new comes alone we review it, appraise it and then, if it's good enough, it might be added here.
In terms of upcoming Xbox One games, that's more or less it for this year (bar one notable exception) with the big releases now dropping on the other side of Christmas. That includes:
25. 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.
After delays that led to maybe just a touch of apathy, Cuphead is here and has instantly become one of the best shooters all time (according to our review). While the presentation is crafted beautifully from 1930 cartoon art - things like Betty Boop shorts and Disney's Silly Symphonies - this takes gameplay cues from sources like Mega Man, Contra, Metal Slug, and Gunstar Heroes. The levels aren’t huge but it’s the challenge, not the size that matters here as you dodge bullets and learn enemy patterns. Everything tests your skills and reactions in a range of interesting ways and, most importantly, are a joy to beat.
23. Halo: Master Chief Collection
*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.
Is that mug a Mimic? How about that chair? Or even that corpse....? There's nothing quite like exploring Talos-1, just waiting for its terrifying alien predators to appear when you least expect it before splatting them senseless with a wrench. But that's only the beginning of the joys of Prey. Before long, you're expertly juggling Neuromods, experimenting with new abilities and attempting to stay out of sight of horrific Typhons and the frankly intimidating Nightmare. Prey requires to explore every inch of its space station, heading into tunnels when you'd rather go the other way and hunting down corpses of those who came before. Add in the twisting narrative that gradually unravels before you and this is an instant addition to our best Xbox One games list. Just remember your GLOO gun. You'll need it.
21. 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.
20. 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.
19. 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.
18. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
With a bigger, richer world and more tightly honed mechanics Shadow of War is a great sequel - the combat is more immediate and satisfying, the environments more detailed varied, and everything combines beautifully. It's also one of the best Xbox One X enhanced games if you want to show off all that power. This is a big game though - seriously, seriously huge. 15 hours or so will finish the prologue; another 25 odd will unlock the rest of the map, so don't pick this up for a quick fling - you need to commit. The series' nemesis system that defines the series has had expanded to create a twisting narrative of encounters, defeats and victories as you meet and battle various orcs - yours and their progress defined by who wins the fight. This time it's also been expanded to include castles you can storm, building and training an army up to the task. Even if you don't like Lord of the Rings, it's a massive and exciting open world to explore.
17. FIFA 18
It's another step on for FIFA 18 this year, with some great tweaks to the action: taking a shot from a distance now has more impact, crosses are improved with a genuine whip added to the ball. AI's been improved as well with far more individual character and personality to different star's playing styles and, while lower league team don't feels quite as good, teams do have different feeling tactics when you play them. The continuation of the single player Journey also continues to impress with an exciting and even occasionally touching campaign as you follow his career. It's this mode that gives FIFA 18 the edge over PES this year as it's leagues ahead of any comparable mode you might find in similar games. And, finally, the monster that is FIFA Ultimate Team is improved by Squad Battles which let you progress better without spending real money. A welcome addition if chasing cards and coins is big part of your life.
16. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein: The New Order is one of the most unique, brutal, brave, hilarious, and intelligent shooters of the generation so far. MachineGames' sequel, The New Colossus, confidently doubles down on all of that. Moving BJ Blazkowicz's very personal war further into the alternative-universe '60s, and transposing it to an America under Nazi rule, The New Colossus is uncompromisingly relevant. It's a smart, sensitive, and emotive discussion of callousness, prejudice, and cruelty, that nevertheless knows how to be fun at all times. A biting portrait of human failures and social horrors, that does its biting with big robot teeth and hatchet blades. It's a game that exemplifies heart and brains throughout, but never with more unremitting flair than when it comes to the noble art of tearing Nazis to shreds with bloody and balletic style.
15. Battlefield 1
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?
14. Rocket League
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.
13. 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.
12. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Let's face it. Resident Evil had gone a bit like a foot left out of the fridge too long. A bit, well, off. After the glorious heady heights of Resi 4 defining the third person shooter as we know it, it all got a bit mediocre. Well 2017 is the year Resi got its groove back and you should be very afraid. Turning the franchise on its head, Resident Evil 7 is a first person survival terror-fest that sees you sneaking through a decrepit Louisiana mansion hunting for your missing wife. Texas Chainsaw Massacre style fiends? Check. Horrific body horror? Check that too. Add in a story that'll leave you forgetting to breathe for a little too long and Resident Evil 7 manages to be an exhilarating rollercoaster ride that reinvents the franchise. Sure you'll recognise those green herbs but this is a new brand of horror that just demands you creep through its hallways even if it feels like you should run in the opposite direction.
11. Forza Motorsport 7
Improved AI, collisions, handling - what Forza Motorsport 7 gets right reads like a list of everything a racing game should do perfectly. Cars all feel great to control, giving you the confidence you need to push the handling to its limits - drifting on cue, or hugging the rails when you need dig the tires in. In fact, throughout, this a game that tweaks and adjusts everything the previous installment got wrong. It’s all about delivering the best player experience and creating a game that’s both realistic and fun. Some of the progression is a little demanding, with numerous barriers to surmount as you collect cars and win events, but there’s nothing that really take the shine of one the greatest racers currently available.
10. 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.
9. Titanfall 2
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.
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.
7. Destiny 2
After the endless, life absorbing life sink of the original game what could Destiny 2 possibly do to beat it? The answer is actually obvious: more of the same, only richer, more accessible and... just... more Destiny. The sequel takes nearly every element of the space travelling, gun collecting, number raising MMO and polishes it to a fine sheen. You can see almost every area where Bungie learned from the last game, making the areas you explore richer with things to do, adding depth to both the systems that progress your character, and hte activities you take on to do so. Few games mix combat, multiplayer and character progressions so well and it's an addictive draw as a result.
6. 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.
As simple or as complex as you want it to be, Minecraft is the perfect example of a game that lives up to the hype. Whether you just fancy pottering around in creative mode, or jumping into survival to take on various blocky nasties in your quest for the End, Mojang's masterpiece always feels perfectly yours and unique. This is a world worth just wandering in for eternity. Plus, the constant evolution with new packs, new textures and gameplay tweaks means that Minecraft is always moving forward. If you thought it was just about stacking up green blocks, it's time to catch up.
4. Assassin's Creed Origins
Assassin's Creed Origins is the long awaited reboot the series has needed. And ye gods, is it ever exactly what we hoped for. It's also a flagship Xbox One X Enhanced game so a great way to show off your new console. Remodelling Assassin's Creed into a true open-world RPG, full of creative stabbing, character stats, and malleable gameplay (What is best in life, Conan?), the ancient Egyptian adventure is a vast, sprawling, actual, bona fide country of a game, packing with detail, side-quests, and secrets to tackle your own way, at any time you want.
With the overhauled combat now fuelled by a fully customisable gear system (Want twin daggers that put people to sleep, and a poisonous shield? Or a sword that buffs your health, and a bow with controllable arrows? You can have all of these things), any hint of the old series’ weary gameplay is long gone. Packed with wit, warmth, and a staggering scale of options, it's really rather fitting that the game that goes back to the beginning of the story is also the one that gives Assassin's Creed a fresh start.
3. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
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 MGS 5: The Phantom Pain 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.
2. Fallout 4
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.
1. 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.