The latest generation of Xbox consoles recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, but like the PS5, your chances of easily buying one aren’t that great (the $300 Series S is much easier to find in stock than the $500 Series X). Nevertheless, there have been a few must-play games released on Xbox in the past year that make the search for one of these consoles worthwhile.
We’ve rounded up a handful of great games. Fortunately, many of them are available through a Game Pass Ultimate subscription. That gives you access to online multiplayer, along with access to a library of games for a flat monthly fee.
You can of course still buy these games piecemeal, but unless you’re a collector there’s little reason not to go the Game Pass route and use a monthly subscription to access all of the games below.
Of course I wanted to start this list with Halo Infinite. The latest (long in development) installment in the cherished sci-fi first-person shooter franchise delivers a hefty campaign, along with a free-to-play multiplayer mode. In terms of how it compares to the classic Halo games released in the aughts, endless certainly delivers plenty of nods to its past, while Master Chief is equipped with crisp, detailed visuals and new tools, such as a grappling hook, that make the gameplay refreshing.
Both campaign and multiplayer modes are available through Game Pass. Halo Infinite costs $60 itself, if you don’t want to subscribe to Game Pass.
Forza Horizon 5
As compared to Forza Motorsport, a racing sim that allows you to race on famous tracks around the world, Forza Horizon is all about taking you off road to explore. From the latest games in the series, Forza Horizon 5 is the best entry yet, laying down your wheels in a fictional take on Mexico. It’s not a game that takes itself too seriously, both in terms of objectives and how the game talks to the player. You participate in various festival challenges and try to become the best racer, and you can play with others online if you want to race against real people instead of AI.
You also get free access to this game with a Game Pass subscription. Otherwise it will cost you $60 to buy.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Flight Simulator for Windows PC has long been one of the best and most realistic ways to imagine what it would be like to fly a small airplane or jet. The latest version of Flight Simulator is on the latest Xbox consoles, where it pulls out all the stops with impressive graphics and intelligent cloud technology that pulls in localized weather data in real time. It is the ultimate flight simulator experience, and as such it is a slow paced game that invites you to get lost in the beauty of aviation. This one isn’t really for gamers who want non-stop action.
This game is available to play with Game Pass or for $60 if you prefer to own a copy.
If you felt burned by Cyberpunk 2077 last year on consoles, but can’t quench your thirst for that cyberpunk aesthetic, check out the ascent. It is an isometric twin stick shooter with RPG elements with fast paced gameplay. Built by a small team, this game is packed with highly detailed environments, branching dialogue options to let you play the way you want, and deep RPG elements that allow you to level up your character to have area strengths of weapons, hacking and more.
This game is available on Game Pass and you should really try it if you want to play a moody shooter. Otherwise, it’s $30 to buy outright.
Psychonauts 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the cult classic platformer released in 2005, was a huge success when it hit Xbox consoles earlier in 2021. It retains the lighthearted but slightly awkward aesthetic reminiscent of some of the weirder cartoons that used to air on Nickelodeon. The mix of platforming and item collecting feels wonderfully focused compared to the way many games are built these days, with tons of missions to tick off and vast worlds to explore. The gameplay itself is fun, but Psychonauts 2‘s clever level design and great writing style make it a must to play.
Psychonauts 2 is available on Game Pass for Xbox consoles. Unlike most of the other games on this list, it’s also available for PS4. It costs $49.99 for a copy.
A small team in London created saber, an exploration game that has wonderfully few things to keep track of or fight against. Compared to most open world games that are packed with objectives, Sable is an experience made to make you relax and appreciate its beauty. There are plenty of things to collect, as well as surprises to encounter, but as my colleague Ash Parrish put it in her review: “saber gives you a pod racer and some encouraging words of self-determination and discovery, then let you go.”
This game is available on Xbox Game Pass or digitally through the Xbox Store for $24.99.
Aside from PC, the Xbox Series X and S consoles are the only other platform you can play the relatively new game on Exo One, a planet (and dimension) traversing title that hides an interesting story beneath its simple gameplay. You play as a shape-shifting object that uses gravity and the elements to gain enough speed to get airborne so that you can reach greater heights. If that sounds boring, believe me, Exo One finds a way to make it an engaging, yet zen-like experience that should keep you entertained for a while.
This game is available with a Game Pass subscription or costs $17 if you decide to purchase a copy.
MLB The Show 21
The Xbox finally has a great baseball game, and it’s made by Sony. The show franchise has only been released on PlayStation consoles in the past, but for the 2021 version of the game, it went multiplatform. So now Xbox gamers can enjoy photo-realistic graphics, get an updated list of their favorite players and experience some of the best baseball gameplay.
This game is available on Game Pass, or you can buy a copy for about $20.