The Best Games Available in Xbox Game Pass

By Mark Delaney and Andrew Ogley,
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.


Big DaddiesWho'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.


01/03/15 - ClaptrapA 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.


5-4Playback, 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

Gears 3Brothers 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

HWDE LogoHalo 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

Mass EffectThe 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

Easter Egg ImagesFlashlights 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

Resident Evil carousel imageReturn 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

SoD (1/20/15) 5A 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

SOA 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

carouselSomeone 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!

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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.
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