As streaming services balloon in popularity and start offering up bigger and better game libraries at an alluring price tag, we thought it best to pin down the best games on Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s ever-evolving vault of gaming goodies. From classic series to brand new AAA experiences, we’ve curated some important games here for you to add to your probably already extremely out of control backlog.
The Metal Gear Solid Series
Starting incredibly strong here with Kojima’s revolutionary stealth franchise. Yes, Metal Gear Solid 2, 3 and Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain are all available on Game Pass and offer up a delicious invite for the inquisitive series beginner. Metal Gear Solid 2 is still one of the most unbelievably relevant games of the past twenty years, with a staunchly political story that will have you constantly kissing your teeth. The third entry, Snake Eater is a systems-led masterpiece with sandbox-sized maps, immobilizing detail and a wonderfully stylish 60s setting. If you’re looking for something more modern, The Phantom Pain and its ambient management systems and difficult to top stealth sandbox will be your bag. Many games struggle to feel as good as The Phantom Pain, even years after it’s influential release. There’s also Metal Gear Survive… but we don’t talk about that one.
Forza Horizon 4
Even as someone who doesn’t much care for realistic driving games, I absolutely understand the hype behind Forza Horizon 4. By threading the lines of realism with the festival narrative plus extremely cool Halo and Lego collaborations, Playground Games has crafted a near peerless toybox of unbridled joy for players and car fans of all creeds. There’s nothing better than kicking back with some snacks, sticking on your favourite playlist and tearing through the countryside in a custom-painted F1 car. Leave and return as you wish. Genre sceptics with a Game Pass subscription, don’t sleep on this one.
One of the most influential video games of all-time, Minecraft is right there waiting for you when you pick up your Game Pass subscription. Regardless of whether you were an early adopter during beta or if you first played Mojang’s blocky masterpiece with a controller in your hand, most of the gaming demographic has a fond memory or two of punching trees with their bare fists and slapping a door on a hovel in the side of a mountain, quivering at the thought of the simple but menacing creeps outside. We all remember our first fateful night of survival when we felt the potent melancholy of being the only person in this gigantic, procedurally generated land of opportunity. You also most likely remember that time your friend poured lava on the aesthetically-pleasing wooden roof of your magnum opus mansion. Peaks and valleys. Minecraft is a reliable, accessible and ever-changing fun machine readily available via Game Pass.
Batman: Return to Arkham
Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City are considered by many to be two of the best superhero games of all time, and that sentence would be just as acceptable if you scrapped the superhero suffix. Rocksteady introduced a combat system with it’s Arkham series that was so deeply satisfying that it’s since made its way into every series with a third-person protagonist, and that’s merely scratching the surface of how cool, gritty and brilliant the Arkham games are. Mark Hamill’s Joker scrubs up with the best of them, the star of a stacked cast of Batman’s comic book friends and foes who make up a cinematic storyline full of exciting action set pieces and excellent stealth sections, complemented by a plethora of secrets and mysteries if you wish to truly explore the world of Arkham. Both of these games are available in one tidy package via Game Pass, ready for a One X enhanced replay or to send a first-timer on the adventure of a lifetime.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
What next? Oh, nothing, just every single game in one of the most iconic shooter series of all time. Whether you’re a Halo veteran who just wants to play some Blood Gulch or a newcomer excited to see what all the fuss is about, the remastered charm of Halo: The Master Chief Collection is hard to ignore when it’s at your fingertips with a Game Pass subscription. Halo’s multiplayer combat is still the gold standard, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more thrilling co-op experience than any of the available campaigns on Legendary. You can even stick the game-modifying skulls on if you think you’re a tough cookie. Every facet of the Halo series holds up well in this console generation, and if you really can’t wait for Infinite, attempting to wrap up all the content in this ridiculous package will surely kill a good chunk of the time until launch.
The Gears of War Series
Your Game Pass subscription gives you access to every Gears of War game ever made, including the latest and greatest in Gears 5. As Marcus Fenix would say… NICE! No matter where you join the story from, it’s worth dipping your toe into the series at the very least, even if it’s just to eviscerate a couple of Locust with the Gnasher shotgun. Feel that vibration at your fingertips and the rest is history. The initial trilogy still weaves a magnificent narrative and holds up tremendously well in 2019, and whilst Gears of War: Judgment and Gears of War 4 were a little bit of a misfire, if the gameplay hooks you, you can’t go wrong with more of the same. That’s all without sinking any time into Gears 5, a critically acclaimed shooter that launched on the service itself. With multiplayer timesinks like Horde and Escape mode as well as the deeply satisfying new Arcade multiplayer, it’s well worth picking up some cog tags and enjoying the Gears series, as long as your weary hard drive can handle the downloads.
From one marquee collection of games to the next, Rare Replay is included with Game Pass and offers up every game in the companies back catalogue. Seriously, if you need a good way to spend hundreds of hours on some of the most charming, varied and fun games ever, you can’t go wrong with checking out this bumper package of creativity. The range is stunning, from more stalwart, reliable entries like Banjo Kazooie and Battletoads to the more obscene Conker’s Bad Fur Day, there’s something to please everyone here, especially if you’re interested in Rare’s experimental past. Try out their woefully underrated gardening sim Viva Piñata for a chilled-out festival of joy, and even Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a charming detour as long as you ensure you’re not expecting another old school platformer. Once you’ve had your fill you can then go see what they’re up to right now, as Sea of Thieves is also available via Game Pass.
Resident Evil 4
If you picked up the recently released remake of Resident Evil 2 and you’ve been wondering how you can spend even more time ogling Leon S. Kennedy’s gorgeous DiCaprio bangs, look no further than Resident Evil 4, a 2005 classic often held up as the series’ best outing that has been given a coat of polish for modern consoles. The core of the game still holds up shockingly well and the story is all kinds of surreal and scary, framed in rural Europe as violent cults attempt to weaponise the US president’s daughter. If you like the gameplay and get bored of the grimdark world, you could just boot up Resident Evil 5, which is also on Game Pass and somehow still one of the best co-op experiences you can try even today. Let those complex controls and silly puzzles lead to laughs as you push through the story with a friend.
The Fable Series
Say what you will about Peter Molyneux, but you can’t knock his ambition. Whilst some promised features didn’t make it into his beloved Fable series, they were still excellent RPGs in their own right, curating a potent atmosphere and living breathing world to get lost in. Fable II, III and the wonderful remaster of the original Fable Anniversary are all baked into Game Pass, and as a trilogy are well worth indulging to figure out your medieval moral code and open up those tricksy demon doors. With dreamlike ambience, excellent storytelling and a genuine feeling of consequence in the world, the Fable series is a rich, staunchly unique set of games that are beyond due a sequel. Bring back some fond memories or make some new ones by exploring Lionhead’s brilliance with Game Pass.
The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion
Everyone and their grandma has played Skyrim. It’s fantastic, no questions asked, but as we’ve learned from the rest of this list, indulging in the classics can be a deeply rewarding ordeal. No sweeter is the feeling than returning to the land of Tamriel and The Elder Scrolls Oblivion, a less watered-down entry in the series that is rich with lore and still vibrant and even more gorgeous with Xbox One X enhancements. Those who’ve played it are already hearing that wistful soundtrack in their heads and are raring to dive back in but for those of you who have yet to sample Cyrodill or The Shivering Isles, it’d be difficult to recommend a more rewarding adventure than Oblivion on Game Pass, especially if you desire more complexity than the systems and lore provided by its sequel, Skyrim.