Skip to main content

The best Xbox One exclusives you need to own

Sea of Thieves

Technically, the best Xbox One exclusives don't exist. Microsoft is focused on bringing together the PC and Xbox ecosystems, so an Xbox One exclusive is a bit of an elusive beast as even Microsoft's own titles launch simultaneously across PC and Xbox One nowadays. Of course, that doesn't mean that there aren't games you can't get anywhere else outside of this ecosystem, and these are what we are calling the best Xbox One exclusive games. If you're interested in trying these games carte blanche, you should consider subscribing to Xbox Game Pass, where you dip your toes into dozens of Xbox games. And to find the best gear to play them with, be sure to check out our feature on the best Xbox One accessories.

If we're honest then there's probably a quite a long game being played for Xbox One exclusives overall, especially after Microsoft bought some first party studios last year - don't expect to see much from those just yet. We know that Halo Infinite is on the horizon, although that's far more likely to be a next-gen thing. There'll more than likely be some announcements at E3 2019, but no one's getting a game out from that fast enough for this year. There's also the next-gen factor, so start thinking Xbox Scarlett, or whatever the new console ends up being called. 

Before we get to the list, we should call out two notable runner-ups. Crackdown 3 has tons of destructive, chaotic action featuring Terry Crews, though it might be a bit too familiar for its own good. And Cuphead was an incredible Xbox One exclusive - but now it's on Nintendo Switch as of April 18. With that, check out the best Xbox One exclusives to date! 

10. Ashen

Ashen

Release date: 2018
Developer: A44
Genre: Adventure
Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes 

Ashen makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's closely modeled after FromSoftware's Dark Souls, taking inspiration from that distinct brand of challenging combat, punishing deaths, and expansive world design. But for everything Ashen borrows from the Souls series, it lovingly adds its own spin, like a gorgeous minimalist art style, a base camp that you can improve over time, and NPC companions that will join you on your adventures. Ashen's dungeons can get a bit frustrating if your determination starts to waver, but it's a worthwhile love letter to FromSoftware's formula for grandiose, intensely difficult RPGs. 

9. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

You can't really say you've owned an Xbox unless you've played at least one Halo game. It's the series that cemented the console's gaming credentials, and for that reason Halo: The Master Chief Collection is pretty damn near essential. Not only does it include Halo 1, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4, but also optionally remasters the earlier games so you can enjoy them as they were originally created, or in a spruced up high fidelity version. There's even multiplayer although that had a rocky start and, a few years down the line, isn't as busy as it used to be. No, the main draw here is the chance to play through four of the Xbox's most formative games in their best possible versions - the early games are remade with improved graphics, there are frame rate boosts, re-done hi-res cutscenes and more. Everything's brought up to a modern standard, remastering and reinvigorating the classics. 

8. Quantum Break

Quantum Break

Release date: 2016
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Genre: Action
Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes   

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.

7. Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest

Release date: 2015
Developer: Moon Studios
Genre: Platformer
Xbox One X Enhanced? No   

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.

6. Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive

Release date: 2014
Developer: Insomniac Games
Genre: Action
Xbox One X Enhanced? No   

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.

5. Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4

Release date: 2018
Developer:
Playground Games
Genre:
Racing
Xbox One X enhanced?
Yes

It wouldn't be an Xbox games list without a Forza and the latest, Forza Horizon 4 is a worthy addition. Everything you love is back and this time placed in a beautiful, race ready rendition of England. The location is the real star as ever, full of amazing landscapes to test your driving skills and impossible to hit magic sheep (go on, just try. Plus there are the exciting Showcase Events to really focus the experience and add thrills like the chasing the Flying Scotsman locomotive, and watching a giant hovercraft that smashing through country ahead. And, if you want to get all the cars  we've got the Forza Horizon 4 Barn Find locations to help you along. 

4. Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5: Guardians

Release date: 2015
Developer: 343 Industries
Genre:  Shooter
Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes   

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. Forza Motorsport 7

Forza Motorsport 7

Release date: 2017
Developer: Turn 10 Studios
Genre: Racing
Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes   

After a questionable previous installment, Forza Motorsport 7 finally perfects its racing game. Everything is as flawless as those 4K visuals with better AI, improved handling, more substantial collisions - everything you need to make the cars all feel superb. The precision of the controls creates some great moments as you push cars to their limits - screaming around corners on the edge of the tyres grip. It all combines to deliver an experience that's both realistic and fun, as long as you don't mind working for it as some of the progression can be a little demanding as you try to collect cars and win events to get ever further. But, even though there's a hint of grind, this is still one the greatest racers currently available.

2. Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves

Release date: 2018  
Developer: Rare
Genre: Adventure
Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes 

Possibly the biggest boon for Xbox One owners is the fact that Sea of Thieves is all theirs. Rare's emergent pirate adventure sees players sailing across the big blue, finding treasure where the X marks the spot, defeating hordes of skeletons and undead sea captains, and even collecting chickens and other items to sell to travelling merchants. Of course, you're doing all that in between swigging grog, singing sea shanties and having a laugh with your mates. Because, if you know nothing about Sea of Thieves, all you need to know is that's it's the best game to play with your friends. 

1. Gears 5

(Image credit: Microsoft Xbox)

Release date: 2019
Developer: The Coalition
Genre: Shooter
Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes   

Following straight on from the events of Gears of War 4, Gears 5 – as it is now simply called – focuses on the story of Kait Diaz. Struggling to comes to terms with the death of her mother, Kait is now focused on finding out more about her past after in her mother's last moments she's passed a necklace that bears the Locust Horde icon. All the old favourites are back too of course, from Marcus Fenix to his son JD, and it's all in for a brilliant Gears experience. It's not just limited to single-player, or brilliant co-op, story moments though, as there's an extensive multiplayer component to the game too, ranging from PvP frays to a glorious horde mode that literally keeps on giving. 

Need more Xbox? Here are the best Xbox One X deals for anyone looking to go 4K and make the most of these games