Playing a video game demo is a bit like tasting the wine before buying the full bottle at a restaurant. You like the look of it, but you need to know for sure whether it’s worth your money before splashing out on the entire thing. Because developers want you to buy their product (shock!), these demos are usually one big playable sales pitch for what makes the game special.
Better yet, on Xbox One, Microsoft often allows you to permanently keep hold of any Achievements you earn in a game’s trial run. That’s free Gamerscore points for playing a free demo, which are often worth playing for the entertainment value in and of themselves! Instead of having to trawl through the Xbox Marketplace looking for the right freebies for you, I’ve selected some of the very best Xbox One demos available and listed them below for your browsing pleasure.
Curious about that eerie first-person shooter reveal at Microsoft’s 2017 E3 conference this year? The one with the giant rat? It’s the third game in 4A Games’ grounded, melancholic survival series, Metro, and continues the story left off by Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light. Both of those titles were remastered and resold as one package (Metro Redux) a few years ago, and you can try the demos right now on Xbox One.
That’s right, demos, plural. You can download and play trials for either or both of the titles, playing around a third of the campaign for each, which gives you a good deal of flexibility and freedom for your consideration. Luckily, they’re both excellent games, and your progress will carry on if you decide to jump in full time for the Russia-set rambling.
The good news gods must have been smiling upon earth when it was announced that Respawn would be making a third Titanfall game with EA, but you might not have yet had the chance to play the recently released sequel.
The least you can do to show your support is give the demo a whirl, which contains approximately an hour of gameplay, using a mid-game chapter from Titanfall 2’s stellar campaign. Be warned, though, you’ll be aching to play more by the end of it, especially once you make friends with BT.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
Bethesda has a pretty good track record when it comes to demos of late. You can download trials for Dishonored 2, Prey, Doom, The Evil Within 2, and now Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, which only released in October.
Machine Games’ FPS sequel is a loud and proud Nazi slaying simulation, but its unforgiving run-and-gun gameplay isn’t for everyone, so this demo is a good excuse to see if your penchant for its bold flavour of gunplay can last to see the story through to its conclusion. The best part, though, is that the demo is the entirety of the game’s first level: the one where you’re killing Nazis from a wheelchair. Excellent.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
You’ll have to buy the complete product if you want to witness Lara Croft’s promised ascension in full, but the first two chapters contained within the Rise of the Tomb Raider’s demo give you a good sense of how it’s all going to play out.
There’s shooting, crafting, raiding, upgrading, and exploring to be done, and it can take you anywhere between two to three hours before the demo is up, depending on how you prefer to play. Oh, and it features at least one scene where Lara dies in some horrible, excruciating way. Sorry about that.
Watch Dogs 2
If Watch Dogs 2 protagonist Marcus Holloway had known that Ubisoft is offering a three hour trial of open-world adventuring in his game for no charge, he’d probably have never hacked the studio’s offices in the first place.
The demo includes full access to the single player and multiplayer features of the San Francisco-set sandbox, but be warned - you’re on a timer for the entire thing, so spend your minutes wisely before the demo automatically comes to a close. If three hours isn’t enough (and let’s face it; it isn’t), you can continue on seamlessly from your trial’s progress once you decide to cash in on the full game.
Gears of War 4
As far as value for no money goes, The Coalition has outdone itself with the Gears of War 4 free trial. You can enjoy up to ten hours of the game at no cost, which includes the opening Act of the campaign, and as much PvP and Horde multiplayer that you can wring out of the experience.
You’ll know by the end whether you want to pay up to keep going or not, and even if you don’t, that’s ten hours of high quality gaming for the price of nothing. Go on, pat yourself on the back for being such a frugal gamer.
Forza Motorsport 7
You might enjoy the odd driving sim every now and again, but never enough to warrant a full blown purchase on the next big racing game. The Forza Motorsport 7 demo has you covered, then, offering a small but not insubstantial set of racing experiences that have enough replay value for you to return to whenever you feel the need for speed.
There are three unique tracks, each boasting a different car to test them out in, and the demo even includes a race at at the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit, which is a nice showcase for Motorsport 7’s breathtaking dynamic weather technology. Better yet, you’ll never have to worry about those pesky and overbearing microtransactions plaguing the full game.
Halo Wars 2
The original Halo Wars came out so long ago, that it’s difficult to know if the recently released sequel to the cult hit RTS is something that could hold your interest. It’s exactly the kind of game that can benefit from a demo, and Microsoft isn’t oblivious to this, offering a free trial that introduces players to all the important nuts and bolts of its strategically-minded gameplay.
It uses the campaign’s opening mission, so you won’t have free reign of every gizmo and gadget available in the full game, but it does give you a basic understanding of the kind of Halo experience that Halo Wars 2 is. At the very least, it’ll save you from making the horrible mistake of buying the full title thinking that it’s another classic Halo FPS outing. Welp.
Dead Rising 3
Sometimes you’re not in the mood for enrapturing narratives, elaborate role-playing, or tough-as-nails PvP. Sometimes, you just want to whack a few zombies round the head with a baseball bat. Dead Rising 3 offers exactly that kind of therapy for the low, low price of nil, with a demo that chucks you head-first into its open world, with 20 minutes to do as you please with whatever you can find.
Tear zombies in half with a cement saw if you want, or head towards a nearby side quest for something more purposeful. Whatever you’re doing, it’s mindless gratification from the get go, and tells you all you need to know about the kind of game that Dead Rising 3 is.
There’s a reason that every annual FIFA demo consistently breaks its own records as the most popular demo released on consoles, year after year, without fail. Not only is it the FIFA community’s first chance to test out the new software for themselves, but it always boasts a striking amount (pun intended) of replay value, thanks to the fact that players can enjoy match after match to no end, even if the conditions and choices contextualizing each game are necessarily limited.
If you’re not a massive fan of video game footy, but don’t mind having a quick kickabout whenever a friend is round, this demo is the perfect option, allowing you to easily boot up a game of FIFA 18 without ever having to spend dime.