The Best Games Available in Xbox Game Pass

By Mark Delaney,
Concluding our week of Xbox Game Pass chatter is today's look at not necessarily the fastest completions to be had with a subscription, but rather the best games overall, according to critical success and fandom since release.

Together with my fellow staff writer, Andrew, we sought to highlight the best of the best. If you're looking to spend your Game Pass time on the highest quality games available while you wait for the launch exclusives, start here.

BioShock

Who's your Daddy?Who's your Daddy?

It's tough to imagine a gamer who hasn't played BioShock by now, but surely they're out there, and that's what makes its inclusion in Game Pass so awesome. It's a must-play for everyone. Though not everyone will come away thinking it's the all-time great it's generally regarded to be, it's still an important game for discussion when we talk about the evolution of the industry over its early life so far.

Borderlands

A generous description to say the leastA generous description to say the least

It's true that Gearbox didn't expect Borderlands to catch on as strongly as it did when it launched in 2009, but two sequels later (with another announcement around the corner), the IP has grown to be a fan favorite over the past near decade. The original still holds up thanks to its cel shaded visuals and addictive four-player co-op. It was also a Games with Gold title, so it should be easy to find some co-op partners with or without Game Pass.

Braid

Playback, delete, and rewindPlayback, delete, and rewind

You can sort of look at Braid as the modern indie gaming origin story. Before ID@Xbox and the Xbox One afforded us nearly all the indie games we could ask for, XBLA was a burgeoning market for these smaller games with big aspirations and Braid was one of the early titles that put the platform on the map. Later titles like Limbo and Super Meat Boy further solidified the movement as one that would be here to stay, but if you love indie games that break barriers and try new concepts, Braid should not be missed.

The Gears of War series

Brothers to the endBrothers to the end

One of the coolest features of Game Pass is how it includes nearly the entire Gears of War saga. Lacking only the oft-maligned Judgment, the program gives players the entire Marcus Fenix saga as it stands today. If you haven't played them before, they're worth giving them a go, both as Xbox platform headliners and as the how-to guide on creating excellent cover shooters. Marathoning the quadrilogy in quick succession would be a memorable feat.

Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

Halo from a new perspectiveHalo from a new perspective

The only property more recognizable than Gears as the Xbox mascot is, of course, Halo. This Game Pass addition is unlike most others in the franchise because it places the setting and characters in a realtime strategy game for what was the first time ever when it debuted. This Definitive Edition is the stackable Xbox One version too, so if you missed it on Xbox 360, you'll be treated to a smoother and prettier version with your Game Pass subscription. Are you new to the RTS genre? Halo Wars is a great introduction from a studio that knows what they're doing with this sort of thing.

Mass Effect

The one that started it allThe one that started it all

Another must-play game is BioWare's first foray into their space epic, Mass Effect. For many, the series was never better than it was in the original, with the deepest RPG elements, heavy choices to be made, and plenty of customization options. If you somehow haven't played Mass Effect, set aside 30-60 hours for yourself and prioritize it. It's aged, now 11 years on from release, but in all the ways most important to the series, like characters and story, it still holds its own.

Metro: Last Light Redux

Flashlights on!Flashlights on!

Metro is possibly one of the bleakest and somber FPS titles that you will come across on the console. Set primarily in the dark underground tunnels of the titular Russian metro, the title takes the player on a brutal and tough journey that mixes stealth, action and a degree of survival horror. It's a dark title, from its subject matter, the storyline, and poorly illuminated world in which it is set. The environments and soundscapes are superbly realised with dread-filled ambiance that envelops you with each step you take further into the darkness. One of the most brilliantly atmospheric games there is. Make time for the original, then come back and catch this underappreciated classic.

Resident Evil

Return to the mansionReturn to the mansion

Yet another game you simply have to play as an avid gamer is the original Resident Evil. Few have access to an original PlayStation anymore, so for anyone else, this remaster of a remake (stay with us) is the next best thing. Bringing the visuals into the modern day while keeping with the game's original tension, fixed cameras meant to disorient, and constant new and gruesome enemies to overcome, Resident Evil is a milestone title that deserves to all the generations it has so far and then some.

State of Decay

A great pick ahead of its Game Pass-bound sequelA great pick ahead of its Game Pass-bound sequel

If there was ever a title that fully captured that feeling of desperation, isolation, and the true struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world then this is it. State of Decay, took the zombie apocalypse and made it feel more tangible and more about the daily struggle for survival than just fighting zombie hordes. Here the player was charged to create safe havens, recruit new members to the group, manage resources — water, food, medicine, and ammunition — and even manage the temperament of their fellow survivors. In some ways, it became a survival simulation that brought a feeling of realism to the zombie genre, and with the threat of permadeath for NPC's, the player is always kept on edge.

Sunset Overdrive

A splash of color here, there, and everywhere elseA splash of color here, there, and everywhere else

This Xbox One exclusive was a Games with Gold title a few years ago, but if you missed it and now subscribe to Game Pass, you've redeemed yourself. Now you can play this uniquely colorful and ridiculous shooter from Insomniac which boasts all the studio hallmarks like crazy guns and a flashy sense of style and adds to that concoction an energetic mix of new elements, like a super fun traversal system that has you grinding, leaping, bouncing, and gliding all over Sunset City. Playing Sunset Overdrive makes it nearly impossible not to smile. It's crazy and it knows it, and it's hard not to love it for that.

XCOM: Enemy Within

Someone tell Tom DeLonge!Someone tell Tom DeLonge!

Strategy fans should consider the last few games in the XCOM series to be as must-play as anything else on this list. Permadeath, a smart soldier deployment system, and often brutally tough foes standing in your way make Enemy Within one of the best genre titles of all-time. It stands as a testament to one of Game Pass' greatest assets, that being its eclectic mix of games that tries to capture everyone's attention no matter their taste. If you've had enough of shooters and action-adventure games, XCOM should be among your first escapes from the norm and into something possibly new and surely memorable.



There are lots of lesser heralded games we adore too, like Mad Max and Hue. Which other games from Xbox Game Pass do you think deserve mentioning in this list? Tell us what you're playing or will be playing with your subscription!

Purchase Xbox Game Pass From the Microsoft Store
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.
Posts on this article have been added to a thread in the Editorials and Features Forum.
  • Posted on 28 January 18 at 04:08, Edited on 28 January 18 at 16:07 by xPut Name HerexPermalink
    Quick correction: State of Decay; Year One in the Game Pass, not the Survival Edition (which includes all the DLC). When they added it to the Game Pass, they unbundled the DLC from the base game in the Game Pass and put it in there.

    Edit: I see this has been fixed, great list of games.
  • Posted on 28 January 18 at 04:23Permalink
    Definitely downloading Braid, Halo Wars and Sunset Overdrive.
    I’ve got State Of Decay on my hard drive but not yet started it.
    Got the Bioshock and Borderlands collections ready to start on disc.
    Excited to try Halo Wars as I’ve not played this type of game before so hopefully there will be a bit of hand holding early on.
  • Posted on 28 January 18 at 04:31Permalink
    The Swapper. LIMBO
  • Bear5 Fan 4EverBear5 Fan 4Ever1,672,894
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 04:59Permalink
    Mad max is such an amazing free roam game! I recommend everyone to play it. I had more fun with it than some of the saints row games, and I love them. The Sam and max games, soul calibur 1 and 2, and comic jumper are some great 360 titles in the game pass just to name a few.
    Crackdown 3!
  • Posted on 28 January 18 at 05:03, Edited on 28 January 18 at 05:05 by HawkeyeBarry20Permalink
    Bioshock and Mass Effect are awesome classics. I know I should get into Boarderlands but that’s not a series that I want to get into right now. I’ve tried playing Resident Evil twice and could not get into it. I thought Metro was just decent, everything was solid but nothing great. Sunset Overdrive is one of my favorite games on the XBONE and Gears of War is why I bought a 360 over PS3 and couldn’t be happier, my favorite all time series, just wish I didn’t suck at MP so bad.

    Hue is the best game I’ve played not on this list. An easy 100% with a very unique gameplay of changing colors. My one complaint with that game is the puzzles are not difficult, they left out some real opportunity to challenge the player.

    I’m on zombie burnout so State of Decay is in the trunk of my backlog. Side note, the Sam and Max games are easy completions but they might be the worst games I’ve ever played.
  • matdanmatdan677,379
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 05:21Permalink
    I would never recommend the Gears series to anyone, such mediocre games with a mediocre story. Never would call them excellent cover-based shooters when the run button is the take cover button and everyone bounces around with a Gnasher online.

    Would recommend Fable II, Toy Soldiers either one both are great or Viva Pinata over that slop.
    Out of the abyss peer the eyes of a demon, Behold the Razgriz, its wings of black sheath!
  • Lost LegendsLost Legends1,215,685
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 05:41Permalink
    Meh.
  • Nightmare xXNightmare xX217,990
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 06:13Permalink
    The Swapper is a great game on Game Pass as well , If you enjoy a decent racing game, WRC 5 I am having tons of fun with as well!
  • VGM 007VGM 007489,954
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 06:38Permalink
    DmC should be mentioned. While not everyone was a fan of the new look & developer, the game is really damn good. Many difficulty levels, an increasing arsenal & complexity the further you get, some really inventive & memorable levels & boss fights, this game really delivers.
  • GRAND NOBLEGRAND NOBLE290,819
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 06:42Permalink
    Braid
    Brothers
    Guacamelee
    Hue
    Limbo
    LUMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The Swapper
    Leap Frog 2017 - 4x 6.4+ Ratio!! (Croaked on Day 29) -- www.instagram.com/grandnoble
  • MugenKairoMugenKairo243,358
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 07:10Permalink
    Braid was brilliant, one of my most memorable and challenging completions to date. Should not be missed.
    'Life begins beyond the edge of your comfort zone'
  • ElyohElyoh738,481
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 07:10, Edited on 28 January 18 at 07:11 by ElyohPermalink
    A couple of these I didn't know were in there. Something to look forward to one day!
    No God, know fear. Know God, no fear.
  • MugenKairoMugenKairo243,358
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 07:16Permalink
    Braid was brilliant, one of my most memorable and challenging completions to date. Should not be missed.
    'Life begins beyond the edge of your comfort zone'
  • KoldomordorKoldomordor328,011
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 08:18Permalink
    Smallville2106 said:
    Got the Bioshock and Borderlands collections ready to start on disc..
    The first Borderlands was not included in the collection...
  • NMANOZNMANOZ608,315
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 08:20Permalink
    matdan said:
    I would never recommend the Gears series to anyone, such mediocre games with a mediocre story. Never would call them excellent cover-based shooters when the run button is the take cover button and everyone bounces around with a Gnasher online.

    Would recommend Fable II, Toy Soldiers either one both are great or Viva Pinata over that slop.
    I completely disagree. Mind you I feel that way about the Halo games.
  • JDFurbzJDFurbz529,742
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 08:40Permalink
    Koldomordor said:
    Smallville2106 said:
    Got the Bioshock and Borderlands collections ready to start on disc..
    The first Borderlands was not included in the collection...
    I think he might mean that he has the collection "on disc" which is pretty clearly stated in his post as opposed to the "collection" on GamePass. I also have the Borderlands collection of games on disc ready to be completed...I really need to finish them before they release the new one.
  • AllAlexiAllAlexi116,278
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 09:11Permalink
    No arguments with the games highlighted above but, I'm surprised there's no mention of Halo 5 or Metal Gear 5.

    Plus, I'd be giving shout-outs to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Banjo-Kazooie and Ninja Gaiden Black.
  • NawtyCawtyNawtyCawty509,191
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 09:38Permalink
    And there's the thing with Game Pass right there. All ancient games. Yawn.
  • Watty8883Watty88831,668,690
    Posted on 28 January 18 at 09:42Permalink
    NawtyCawty said:
    And there's the thing with Game Pass right there. All ancient games. Yawn.
    Apart from the day one exclusives ?
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