The best games on Xbox One
From blockbusters to indies, over-the-top action rollercoasters to contemplative explorations, these are the best games available right now for Microsoft’s Xbox One, as selected by the voracious gamers of VG247. We’ll be checking back in with new games on the regular, as old favourites are succeeded and new challengers rise above the pack to win a place in our hearts.
And now, in alphabetical order: the best games on Xbox One.
A stand out both for the horror genre and the Aliens property, Alien Isolation came out of left field. A first-person adventure from a team near synonymous with real time strategy? A really, genuinely good licensed game? Who could have predicted this?
Alien Isolation isn’t a shooter – it’s a stealth game, and an unusual one in that the Alien AI is very hard to predict. Although it ruffled the feathers of those who like to “win” games by playing the system, for those in it for the atmosphere nothing beats the dread of having no clue where the creature might pop up next, or if it’ll sniff you out this time.
After the clumsy release of Assassin’s Creed Unity, Syndicate jettisons a lot of the fluff that muddies Ubisoft’s action adventure series and goes back to basics. Almost.
It’s helped by having two protagonists explore London, both with different approaches to goals. The environment feels fresher too, with roaming gangs and other ne’er do wells colouring the Big Smoke. If you do opt for Syndicate, we highly recommend getting the Jack the Ripper DLC too. It’s horrific, gripping and probably the best expansion the franchise has seen to date.
This really is the definitive Batman game and it feels like it’s taken a long time to get here. Not to take anything away from Rocksteady’s previous (great) efforts, but Arkham Knight is not only the end of their trilogy but also the pinnacle of the studio’s work to date.
Gotham is alive and seedy, the Batmobile is a tank, the rogue’s gallery of villains is dripping with hatred and menace. And you are the Batman; conflicted, committed, lethal. Quite possibly the best superhero fantasy committed to games.
Of all the remasters on the market, Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is perhaps the most welcome. The compulsive, near endless delights of the Borderlands formula are otherwise not available on new-gen consoles, and The Handsome Collection presents pretty terrific value for money by bundling up the absolute lashings of DLC released for Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.
If you’ve never tried Borderlands then you’re in for a treat at a discount ticket price. If you missed The Pre-Sequel due to its late launch last generation then this is the best way to get back on board the series at one of its highest points. And if you’re a diehard fan you already own and love this, because you know all too well that there’s always time for another Borderlands playthrough.
Microsoft and Activision were the industry’s power couple last generation. Drawing on the immense power of the Call of Duty brand and massive multiplayer appetite of Xbox gamers, they conspired to make Xbox the best place to play the annual juggernaut.
Those days are over, but Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sledgehammer’s debut, was a hell of way to go out. Accepting and refining current shooter trends for agile movement and gadgetry, Advanced Warfare was, as ever, the multiplayer event of the year – and remains one of the best multiplayer shooters, full stop. Your personal preference may be for earlier titles like Black Ops 2, but of the two Call of Duty games available on Xbox One we find Advanced Warfare preferable to Ghosts.
Dancing games are great, we don’t care what anybody says. Lock your housemates outside, close all the blinds, check for hidden spy cams and just have a nice time while getting some useful aerobic exercise.
Dance Central Spotlight is the first in the Harmonix series for Xbox One, making use of the bundled Kinect. It works a little better than most Kinect games, and although it’s still a bit patchy the on-screen camera feedback is a lot more useful than games that use controllers. Even with a slimmed-down music library, Dance Central Spotlight is a heck of a good time.
Magnificent. Very probably the franchise’s swansong, as creator Hidetaka Miyazaki is well and truly over it after five games, but what a way to go out. Packed with cheeky references and another episode of the baffling, looping lore fans love unpacking and recombining, it’s a Souls game for Souls fans as well as being the most accessible entry to date.
We say accessible, but we mean “fair”: bonfires are closer together, summoning works, upgrades are no longer potentially disastrous one-way horrors. But the challenge is still there, and PvP is even better than ever. Very much worth the effort.
If Destiny belong to the PS4, Xbox One has a pretty great substitute: Microsoft and Ubisoft cozied up to secure timed exclusives for the evolving RPG, with the result that Xbox is the place to play. Xbox, with its long history of competitive multiplayer, is the perfect home for the compelling risk-reward PvP of the unique Dark Zone.
There’s no denying The Division is suffering growing pains, as Massive goes through the same awkward motions as Bungie has, trying to nail a balanced, sustainable and fun daily experience. But the heart of the game is all good: good shooting, good RPG mechanics, good player interactions, good fiction. You’re doing yourself a disservice missing this one.
Diablo 3 faltered out of the gate but by the time it made the leap to consoles it was up and running, having ditched a number of systems, rebalanced everything, gained a bunch of new content and evolved into an ARPG worth investing in. Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition is particularly special because it represents the most complete and feature-filled version of Diablo 3 to date.
To our surprise, Diablo 3 works really, really well on Xbox One. Perhaps we should have expected this given the popularity of earlier series entries on consoles, but I doubt anybody really appreciates just how well Blizzard managed the transition to control pads until they actually have it in their hands. Co-op this with your buddies for best results – from the comfort of your couch.
The best BioWare game for new-gen, until it does another one. Dragon Age: Inquisition is absolutely huge, representing hundreds of potential hours of gameplay for the really keen, and despite a tendency to edge towards filler content it delivers with scaling challenges (lower difficulties are button mashers; higher settings require minuscule tactical control and serious preparation legwork) and a plethora of interacting RPG systems.
As usual, BioWare’s writing and especially its characters and dialogue are superb, and while you may pretend it’s all about the politics we know you’re in it for the kissing scenes.
A somewhat surprising inclusion, and not one we would have predicted back when TechLand parted ways with Dead Island and Deep Silver to make a new kind of zombie sandbox. A much less silly take on the zombie apocalypse, Dying Light is filled with moments of genuine horror, but it’s the process of levelling up and upgrading equipment that makes it so compelling. Every venture in the dark brings risk and reward – and the opportunity to return with an enormous automatic weapon and take revenge on the scary monsters. Take advantage of the new parkour system to explore the open world in every direction.
A controversial inclusion, with half of Team VG247 giving way to allow Shinji Mikami’s latest to take the place of Resident Evil HD Remastered. There’s much to be said for The Evil Within’s attempts to simultaneously keep it old school and move the genre forward, and for Bethesda’s bold bet on an unforgiving survival shooter.
Armed with a spooky and continuously present villain, astonishingly topped by its own DLC packs and quite, quite bonkers, The Evil Within is a divisive experience – half retro and half modern, not quite as terrifying as more minimal modern horror simulations, yet miles and miles ahead of recent Resident Evil efforts.
Old-fashioned and a little ugly, but still so damn essential. Fallout 4 has faults and it doesn’t look very pretty, but it’s an open world ripe for exploring, for building, for creating and surviving.
You can craft weapons and gear or scavenge whatever you find. You can follow the story or go your own way. There’s so much packed into Bethesda’s Boston Commonwealth it will keep you busy for months on end. From romancing companions to butchering whole factions, it’s never dull, often hyper-violent, funny and life-consuming.
Possibly the best traditional shooter of the generation so far, Far Cry 4 pops you down in an oven world with a toolkit full of deadly devices and a zillion things to do. Whether you go in stealthy with bow, silenced rifle and knife or strap C4 to an elephant and run into it in a car covered in land mines, you feel like a total badass – until you are savaged to death by a honey badger.
It’s pretty much Far Cry 3, but even more gorgeous and over the top. The mysticism-fuelled visits to Shangri-La don’t quite live up to the drug trips of its precursor, and Pagan Min is no Vaas, but on the other hand the charismatic villain doesn’t bugger off while you still have half the game in front of you and Far Cry 3 doesn’t let you fight alongside a tiger buddy, so.
Sorry, PES – FIFA is the best football series. If you want to play virtual soccer, FIFA is the place to do it. Of the two games available on Xbox One so far FIFA 16 is the superior offering, although as is the nature of annual sports games that may be because it has the most up-to-date roster; we won’t really see the franchise shine on new-gen until we ditch the old set of hardware completely. That’ll probably be in 2024, when the next-generation starts, given how recently we were getting a PS2 version (FIFA 13).
If you’ve been away from FIFA for a few years you may not be aware that the actual sim itself has been somewhat upstaged by FIFA Ultimate Team. There’s a whole new world of fanatical obsession awaiting you.
The Forza series isn’t the current champion of the vanilla racing league, but it easily beats all comers in the glorious future of connected open world racers. Putting all those assets and weather effects normally constrained to the narrow view around tracks to good work, Microsoft built a European playground it is a genuine pleasure to explore.
As with every game of this kind – whether you’re a driver, a knight errant or a space marine – the compulsive need to do it all, collect everything and fill up your progress bars soon comes to dominate, although the sheer joy of racing and an urge to climb leaderboards certainly help. Drivatars make a lot of sense here, too. If you’re a purist you may prefer the newer Forza 6, but Horizons 2 is a terrific package for more than just chipping away at your best times.
It hasn’t aged as well as some of its contemporaries, but Gears of War is still an excellent game well worth revisiting – or picking up for the first time. The hulking characters and endlessly imitated cover shooting have not been equalled in competing franchises, and even its sequels don’t necessarily have the same impact as this first outing for Marcus and co.
Historical relevancy aside, this is a great HD brush up with none of the massiv cock-ups of the Master Chief Colelction, which bodes well for Gears of War 4. It’s definitely the best way to experience the beginnings of the franchise.
There’s no question of leaving GTA 5 off any best of list, even though it did launch last generation. You’d never guess it; Rockstar’s done an uncannily good job of brushing up its already astounding tech for newer hardware.
What can be said about the juggernaut of our times? Should we highlight the multiplayer suite that provides endless hours of dicking about and fantasy fulfilment? The sprawling campaign with its multiple playable characters and on-the-fly character switching? The sheer pleasure of cruising the streets of faux-LA with no purpose in mind at all? There’s a reason everyone and his dog played GTA 5, and you should, too.
Master Chief still isn’t quite back up to form, but Halo 5 tries so hard it’s easy to forgive its weaknesses. The campaign and accompanying story aren’t the events Microsoft wanted them to be. Fortunately, the online multiplayer is where the meat of the game is at.
Arena Mode is the classic Halo of old, but Warzone is where 343 Industries has successfully shaken up the formula. Influenced by MOBAs, you fight AI and other players, both adding points to your team total. It’s here that you get to play multiplayer first-person shooters differently, and the result is fresh and exciting, backed by the familiarity of the giant Spartans and friends.
Lego Dimensions is expensive. Let’s get that out the way first. But it’s easily the best toys-to-life game out there, and the best Lego minifigures game in a portfolio full of quality competition.
The portal is an extra controller, asking players to build real-life Lego models, and that’s all very cool. But the real pull here is the freedom of not being stuck with one theme. Dimensions is where The Simpsons meet Dr Who meets Scooby Doo meets Portal, Ninjago, DC Comics, Back to the Future and more. It’s not a clumsy mash-up, it’s a genuinely hilarious game that isn’t just for kids, but for families as a whole. It’s as essential in a family home as Monopoly and a Sunday roast.
A challenger to Telltale’s hold on the episodic adventure crown, Life is Strange boasts a much more dynamic approach to the formula – not to mention a much less buggy and stiff engine underpinning Dontnod’s efforts. Subverting the consequential choice trope with a time reversal mechanic, offering clearly defined borders and puzzles more involved than “click on the thing”, Life is Strange outshines its rivals in the space.
But it’s the atmosphere that really gets us, tugging at a deep-rooted nostalgia for adolescence – or perhaps just for the media that celebrates it. Max and Chloe’s creators may not have got the hang of natural-sounding teenage dialogue, but they nailed the rest of it.
Despite the post-launch fallout that has seen visionary creator Hideo Kojima leave his baby behind, The Phantom Pain is still a fantastic game – one of the very best on this generation of consoles.
That’s because it’s a bizarre and unique, hilarious, violent, exhilarating stealth sandbox. It offers an almost overwhelming amount of choice to tackle missions, and throws out a bunch of boring stealth cliches we’ve become numb to over the years. The story is uncharacteristic in that it’s subdued, but the meta game of building Motherbase will keep you busy for months. The only downside is that we’re pretty sure there will never be another game like Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.
So here’s the situation: you’ve got a highly customisable character with a bevy of growth options. You’ve got an enormous open world navigable by stealth, parkour and all-out battle. You’ve got a hell of a license. How do you convince jaded players to dive into the oodles of content you’ve packed into this weighty adventure?
The answer is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor’s award-winning Nemesis system, which has semi-randomly-generated mini-bosses standing between you and your final goals. Taking these foes down, manipulating the command structure of Sauron’s army, and watching the consequences of your kills unfold is a fascinating and very personal piece of organic story telling unique to every playthrough.
The phenomenon that is Minecraft is found on every platform, but it was the Xbox 360 version that really blew the roof off. It has since been supplanted by its new-gen cousin, chiefly because Mojang and 4J kindly put in the extra work needed to make it possible to import your existing worlds. The enormous Minecraft player base has very little reason not to upgrade to the newer version, with its larger worlds and more bells and whistles.
Xbox has always been the home of console Minecraft, and now that Microsoft owns Mojang we only expect that to become more pronounced.
The slickest fighter of the generation, Mortal Kombat X does a great deal more than just turn the franchise’s trademark gore up to 11 – although that definitely happens.
Perhaps the most interesting new addition (besides Johnny Cage and Sonya’s daughter, a baffling development to a plot already stretched thin to breaking) is the addition of multiple fighting styles for each character. Essentially expanding the roster of fighters, the ability to select different approaches with a single character means you can never quite be sure what you’re facing until the action kicks off, complicating the meta and putting the emphasis back on emphasis and on-the-fly tactics rather than tried-and-tested strategies.
Microsoft is very proud of first-party fighter Killer Instinct, but despite Rare’s legacy it’s not quite on Mortal Kombat’s level, is it? No competition. There may come a day when Street Fighter 5 knocks NetherRealm’s latest from the throne, but even a few months on from launch, that day is not today.
Okay, yes, it will always be remembered for hilarious face scan errors, but NBA 2K15 is the best basketball game of the generation. The love Visual Concepts has poured into the new-gen versions of its annual basketball series is more than obvious in the plethora of graphical and physics flourishes. We’re sticking with 2K15 over the newer entry despite its intriguing, narrative-driven career mode.
NBA 2K is one of the best-selling games of the year every year for a good reason. With the exception of football, skewed by the Euro contingent, Xbox is where sports fandom is most concentrated, and where the multiplayer side on NBA 2K really shines.
The scariest game on PS4 now that Silent Hills teaser P.T. has been pulled, Outlast is a mostly combat-free survival horror in which running and stealth are your only defence. You think you’ve seen enough spooky abandoned psychiatric hospitals in your time to be immune to the horrors of a new one, but you are wrong.
A more polished effort than Zombie’s Daylight, Outlast is memorably terrifying. The plot and events are absolute nonsense, but you won’t care, because you’ll be shitting yourself. Highly recommended, except for pregnant women and people with heart conditions.
Hands down the best racing game on any platform – something Sony and Microsoft ought to be worried about, given they both front big first-party exclusives in the genre.
Project CARS isn’t everything we hoped for from the crowd-funded and crowd-sourced racer (the rest of the roadmap appears to have been earmarked for the sequel) but even if it didn’t live up to Slightly Mad’s wholly insane ambition, it’s incredible. Nothing else looks this good, handles this well, or provides you with as much customisation of your experience.
In the year 2016, Microsoft published a narrative-driven first-party exclusive with no multiplayer and lo! It was pretty good.
The big gimmick of Quantum Break is that there’s a live action TV show of sorts included with it, and what you see changes depending on what you do. This was all supposed to be a seriously big deal back when Microsoft was pushing the TV angle for Xbox One, but ended up being pretty low-impact when the platform holder dropped that approach like a hot rock.
Never mind though! As old-school action adventure goes, this is great.
A finely crafted single-player adventure, with our intrepid Lara going back to her roots; exploration and scrappy fighting across beautiful vistas and wild terrain.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a true return to form for Croft, but also a technical marvel. Crystal Dynamics’ skill when making this game cannot be underestimated: Lara bangs against walls and stumbles through the light, grips to the highest of ledges with only death below, and kills with precision when the situation requires it. And there’s genuine adventure here, where puzzles need to be solved and treasures found. If you grew bored of Tomb Raider a long time ago, you’ll find this a more than welcome return to form.
If Arkham Knight is the best Batman experience you’ll find on consoles today then Battlefront is the Star Wars equivalent.
Despite coming from DICE it has no intention of being another Battlefield. This is about accessibility and that 30-second combat loop. You die, respawn, kill and die again. DICE has nailed it. Add to that all the Star Wars fan service you could ask for – 40-player Empire versus Rebels showdowns on Hoth! – and it’s a whip-crack fast shooter dressed in the best pop culture clothes you could ask for.
The Xbox One’s most important early exclusive hasn’t had the impact its proud heritage suggested, but it’s still an incredible game that gets nowhere near as much credit as it deserves. One of the first – and possibly still the best – of a new wave of shooters emphasising agile movement, Titanfall packs in so many new ideas it has to jump up and down on its suitcase to get the clasp closed.
Despite this it retains that all-important core shooter goodness that is Respawn’s pedigree, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more intense multiplayer experience anywhere.
Remember Watch Dogs? One of the most exciting properties of the brand new generation, it couldn’t quite live up to its own hype. Then again, what could? Anticipation for a new Ubisoft open world was absolutely sky high, and the publisher would have had to ship Watch Dogs with a second console to strap to the first one in order to power the over-promised vision many of us expected to turn up with new hardware.
This disappointment aside, Watch Dogs is a great big open world Ubisoft game with tons of content, pretty graphics and cars instead of horses. It’s everything the modern gamer wants, apparently.
The winner of the all-star 2015 open world championship, The Witcher 3 beat all who came before it and has set a bar for every game to follow. Nobody but CD Projekt RED has produced such a large world of such incredible detail, nor found a way to populate it with things people actually want to do, as opposed to collectibles.
There are hundreds of hours of things to do in The Witcher 3 and all of them revolve around a central narrative studded with moments of high-tension drama, political intrigue and genuine human warmth. Geralt’s adventures may be drawing to a close with this one, but he’s going out in better form than ever before.
We won’t lie: this one took us by surprise. Despite Bethesda’s cautious approach to publishing, we didn’t really expect farming iD Software’s venerable properties out to other studios to pay dividends, and we were utterly wrong.
Machine Games crafted an absolutely superb old-school linear shooter, resisting the temptation to shoehorn in an unnecessary multiplayer mode or network features or RPG systems or an enormous cluttered open world. In doing so it uncovered a treasure trove of fun that has been obscured by the guff of modern gaming, and we will always be grateful. Not sure why sequel The Old Blood sank without a trace, to be honest, but this one is superior.