Officially and painstakingly selected by VG247, these are the best Xbox One games.
We’ve got everything from the biggest blockbusters to the most innovative indies. These are the best games available right now for Microsoft’s Xbox One. We’ll be updating this list regularly with the latest and greatest gaming has to offer, so if your favourite’s missing – let us know in the comments.
We saw loads of potentially great Xbox games at E3. Returning greats like Halo Infinite and Gears of War 5 were super exciting, while new contenders like Cyberpunk 2077 put the cherry on the cake. But if you’re here, you’re more interested in what you can play right now.
The latest addition to the list is Dontnod’s flawed, but supremely interesting, Vampyr. There’s not much else like it available on Xbox One, and fans of Victorian gothic ambience and hefty exposition should definitely give it a look.
Earlier this year we added Capcom’s life-consuming action-RPG Monster Hunter World to the list, as well as overnight streaming sensation Fortnite: Battle Royale. Microsoft’s first AAA-exclusive of the year – Sea of Thieves – dropped in March. Despite some launch issues, it’s such swashbuckling fun that it’s made our list too.
And now, in alphabetical order:
The best Xbox One games
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.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Assassin’s Creed: Origins looks incredible in 4K on the Xbox One X, which is especially amazing considering the size and density of its open world. The bright desert landscapes and cities are a sight to behold – well worth a look if you’ve got the tech.
After a year off for the series, Assassin’s Creed: Origins takes a look at what started the war between the Assassins and Templars in the first place, following new Assassin Bayek as he fights for peace in a region beset by the threat of Roman invasion and political upheaval.
Revised combat and better traversal are top of the list of improvements that make Origins one of the best Assassin’s Creed games to date.
The king has returned, although for some younger players this may be their first taste of a DICE game releasing in a decent enough state for unhesitating recommendations.
When EA announced Battlefield 1’s WWI setting, we all sucked in our breath and glanced at each other uncomfortably. Whether the campaign is poignant and educational or exploitative and shallow is a matter of opinion, and we’re all a bit tired of the painful mental acrobatics we need to do to justify our discomfort with historically-informed virtual warfare versus modern or future warfare. But if you can switch that part of your brain off, wow: fantastic action.
Dripping with nostalgia from all directions, Cuphead combines old school run-and-gun platforming action with the animated stylings of an even more distant yesteryear. Famously challenging, although perhaps as much because it is in need of a more complete tutorial to string together its sandbox of tricks as because we’re all ageing out of twitch reflexes.
Master its intricacies, though, and you’re in for a good time. Originally a pure boss rush game, you’ll soon find these sections the most satisfying as you fall back into long-forgotten habits of memorising attack patterns. Microsoft has scaled back its first-party efforts but its “indie” publishing is still going strong. Worth the wait, and up to the hype.
Dance Central Spotlight
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.
Dark Souls 3
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, Dark Souls 3 is 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.
It’s Destiny, Jim, but not as you know it. The addition of a big number “2” to Bungie’s shared-worlds shooter has brought about a revolution in time wasting loot cycles and it is even more beautiful than ever. With a campaign that almost makes sense (!) and a gentle pull back from psychological manipulation (!!), Bungie is clearly growing into its powers; we can forgive it a a few gross loot boxes and a rather tiresome amount of quipping for the chance to blow holes in space faces with the universe’s tastiest collection of boomsticks.
Less grindy than the first one but with possibly even more delicious gunfeel, Destiny 2 has so far shown no inclination to keep trotting out new events and features to keep you plugging away at your Light – I’m sorry, Power – level and exclaiming over yet another new and tasty firearm. The hardcore still run out of stuff to do about three hours after weekly reset, but everyone outside the 2,000 hours family is having a great time.
Dead Rising 4
There are two Dead Rising games console-exclusive to Xbox One and to be honest there’s not a great deal to pick between them. Neither really nails the feel and formula that made the first game so special. Both of them dialled back the unforgiving mechanics, and the fourth entry removed the timer all together, much to the fanbase’s horror.
But for all its failings – the new Frank West is unpopular, and the disconnect between the story, game and stated developer intentions is hilariously wide – Dead Rising 4 smooths many rough edges with more mature tech and the best action the series has ever seen. If you want to beat up endless zombies with daft objects, here’s your ticket.
Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition
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.
Someone has to keep the dream of immersive sims alive, and with Eidos Montreal’s Thief and Deus Ex efforts falling a bit flat, it’s a good thing Arkane is standing strong with its whalepunk stealth-em-up series. Building on the very solid foundations of the first game, Dishonored 2 adds a second protagonist and a suite of new powers to the mix.
Although the mixed-era aesthetic and quiet little lore details are a joy to explore, it’s Arkane’s level design that really shines in Dishonored 2. The Clockwork Mansion folding and unfolding around you is as unforgettable as it is initially daunting, and it’s only the best known of a number of warren-like arenas through which you hunt, a shadow with a single target.
Divinity Original Sin
In the year 2017 we are puzzlingly if delightfully blessed with a significant number of old-school style western RPGs. While the big triple-A brands move into 3D space action, a counter-revolution brings us a stack of retro releases like Torment: Tides of Numenera and Wasteland 2. Our pick of the bunch is Larian’s absorbingly self-aware fantasy RPG.
There is so much to discover in Divinity: Original Sin. The dev team’s commitment to simulation is unrivalled, so that very often the question “I wonder if I can do this?” is a resounding yes, and it’s one of the game ever to live up to the promise of freedom of play style and full systemic combat. Absorbing and entertaining solo, hilarious in co-op. pro tip: take the animal speech skill.
Look, no, it’s not the esport scene creating multiplayer banger Bethesda obviously hoped it would be, and you should feel free to completely ignore that part of it. But DOOM is something way more important than the publisher’s wet dream of a money spinning multiplayer game: it’s an incredible shooter that understands what made the original special and builds on that foundation rather than continuing on the path the genre has taken in all the year’s since.
DOOM’s single-player campaign plays so much faster than other FPS story modes, and totally eschews cover and hitscan in favour of rapid movement and real projectiles. You’ll lead your fire, you’ll dodge, and you’ll think about positioning as you master each enemy type’s attack patterns – and eventually you’ll get right up in their faces and melee them for that sweet health boost. You won’t ever stop moving, and that is the real winner here.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
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.
Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition
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.
The free support Techland threw at this one was amazing, and expansion The Following is a really worthy add-on. Bundling it all up for re-release as Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition is a move we applaud. What’s more, Dying Light Bad Blood is a new battle royale mode that’s scheduled for release this year.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Special Edition
One of the best games of the last generation remains one of the best games in this one, and now you can have slightly better visuals to go with it. What’s not to like? Bethesda made Skyrim Special Edition because it used Skyrim to figure out its new-gen tech for Fallout 4, and having done half the work already, it went ahead and finished the port. This is unlikely to happen again (sorry, Morrowind) fans, so it’s a good thing every Elder Scrolls RPG has an almost unlimited amount of content, isn’t it?
Skyrim set a new standard for RPGs and is still having enormous impact on the industry today. Without Skyrim, we wouldn’t have The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. We wouldn’t have Dragon Age: Inquisition and Mass Effect Andromeda. If you don’t know why, it’s time to check back in with Tamriel.
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.
FIFA 18 is out now and the reviews are as beautiful as the game itself. Once again, EA Sports has managed to outdo itself with more and better gameplay and features when it really could just do a roster update and still bringing in the cash – let’s be real.
Notably, this year’s release doesn’t strive off in a bold new direction so much as refine everything in a slightly more casual direction. This won’t please the absolute hardcore fanbase, but it does open the sim to a much broader audience who have a chance of a good time without burying themselves in spreadsheets and swearing over half their life to a single video game.
Final Fantasy 15
Some games simply cannot be separated from their history, and you can see the long, tortured development of Final Fantasy 15 in its abbreviated story, the sudden wonkiness of the final few acts, and the way it never quite puts it all together. Also, the in-game advertising.
But if you can forgive these foibles and accept that patches and additions Square Enix is hurriedly applying, there’s a lot to love here. Road tripping with your Best Boys is the heart of the experience, and the smashingly gorgeous world is just there to be a nice background to the fake Instagrams you take of your fake life. If this is royalty in crisis, it’s a wonder Noctis cares enough to pursue his destiny. (You may not).
Fortnite: Battle Royale
What happens when you drop 100 people onto a cartoony island filled with guns, traps and giant llama statue?
Just about everyone on the planet has heard of Fortnite by now, so I won’t patronise you by explaining the real basics.
Fortnite’s tight third-person gunplay is epically moreish and its super low free-to-play barrier to entry make it no surprise that it’s taken the world by storm. Season 5 has just dropped too, giving Battle Pass holders ten more weeks of challenges to complete as well as new skins, vehicles, weapons and toys.
Forza Horizon 3
This slot used to be reserved for Forza Horizon 2, but somehow the follow-up managed to be even better for ditching the northern hemisphere to go down under. The vision of Australia presented here is hilariously inaccurate in all the meaningful ways (the snowy expansion, released during a record breaking summer, is only the start of the amusement for antipodeans), which makes the attention to tiny details even more poignant.
As with the two previous Forza Horizon games, all those assets and weather effects normally constrained to the narrow view around tracks are put to good work in a sandbox you’ll love tearing around in. 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 but Forza Horizon 3 is a terrific package for more than just chipping away at your best times.
Forza Motorsport 6
While its more recent open world cousin deserves attention, Forza Motorsport 6 is the best vanilla racing sim experience on Xbox One. Racers always perform better at console launches, but with a few years extra experience on the console under its belt Turn 10 lived up to its name by cranking the dials skywards on this one.
With a new, lengthy story mode, twice as many vehicles as Forza 5 released with, rain and night racing in glorious HD, and seven new tracks you don’t already know backwards, the is the strap in excuse you’ve been looking for. We used to favour Project CARS for top racer, but with the dust settled on both of them, we found ourselves favouring the flagship series instead.
And by the way, no: we don’t think this one needs updating. Microsoft and Turn 10 have let microtransactions creep too far up Forza 7’s back passage.
Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4 has gone under the radar a little bit as Microsoft has fumbled around trying to work out how to sell games this generation, and that’s a damn shame. Despite the shift in developer, it’s a worthy continuation of the shooter series and far more memorable than prequel Gears of War: Judgment, which was produced with Epic still overseeing the ship.
What makes Gears of War 4 so good is The Coalition’s masterful identification of what made the original games so sticky, and its willingness to double down on that and throw everything else out in favour of fresh material. The result feels familiar in a good way, like a well-fitting pair of shoes, but is new and interesting enough that you won’t be bored. Cross-buy, cross-save and even cross-play with Windows 10 is a nice bonus, and a valuable lesson for all the other developers out there whinging that balancing multiplayer for keyboard and mouse as well as control pad is too hard.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
There’s only room for one open world, co-op Tom Clancy game on this list, and sorry, The Division; you’re not it. On of the bestselling games of 2017, Ghost Recon: Wildlands is almost excessively generous with its dramatically beautiful Bolivian landscape, endless list of things for you and your buddies to get up to, and countless combinations of gear and ability to bring to each new encounter if you’re the experimenting type.
Wildlands may not have the always-on mindset of your Divisions and your Destiny 2s, but to some people that’s a mark in its favour. Ubisoft’s trademark open world checklist gameplay may not precisely respect your time, but at leats it doesn’t throw a fit if your NAT settings are a little over eager, or demand you grind away in the name of RNGesus all the livelong day. An only slightly more connected twist on a classic formula, scratching the itch in a dry spell between Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed releases.
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.
Halo 5: Guardians
Master Chief still isn’t quite back up to form, but Halo 5: Guardians 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.
Halo Wars 2
The PC crowd may not be as impressed as the rest of us. but they aren’t clutching a controller, marvelling at how, once again, It Has Been Made To Work. – and work even better than before. Remember when console RTS was impossible? Yeah. Not so much.
Microsoft really wasn’t messing around with Halo Wars 2, bringing in strategy experts the Creative Assembly (Total War) to take up Ensemble’s mandate. Despite the studio’s hardcore chops this is an RTS that welcomes new potential strategy hounds; it’s a fantastic place to dive into the genre when you find yourself champing for greater depth.
Astonishingly good, Hitman is the first game to make us sit up and say hey, maybe episodic really can work for triple-A experiences. Hitman has always been about exploring each level, replaying over and over again to unlock the potential crammed into every corner, discovering new ways to infiltrate and execute. Challenges and checklists are all very well, but dropping one level at a time was a fantastic way to ensure more players enjoyed this intended experience.
IO Interactive upped its game with the excellent Elusive Targets, too. These time-limited, one-try-only events rewarded those who’d put in the hours to learn the material in advance, while remixing levels in ways that felt fresh and challenging again. But even now, when the dust has settled, Hitman is a hell of a stealth action game.
Displacing Mortal Kombat X, NetherRealm stabelmate Injustice 2 is the best fighter on Xbox One, easily ranking above Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and the Xbox exclusive Killer Instinct.
All the same tight fighting action is there, but the (mostly) DC roster takes the aciton in unexpectedly epic directions, especially since the sequel explores some more obscure corners of the comics universe rather than just trotting out the familiar faces.
They’re there too, though, and if you want to smash people’s faces in as Wonder Woman you have absolutely come to the right place. Welcome! Welcome!
Remember when Limbo came out and it was amazing and it took you on an emotional journey and stayed in the back of your mind for years? Inside is that, again, only this time PlayDead had so much money it was able to sit on it and refine away until what it got was so close to perfection as set a standard for everything else.
Forgiving puzzle platforming that demands problem solving rather than split-second timing, a carefully and deliberately unexplored setting, and an atmosphere fine tuned to the emotional breaking point (the game’s haunting score was recorded through a real human skull) make Inside an experience you should not sleep on.
Life is Strange
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.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm, a new prequel series, launched towards the end of 2017. But since it’s only a few episodes in, we’d stick with the complete series.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
Despite the post-launch fallout that has seen visionary creator Hideo Kojima leave his baby behind, Metal Gear Solid 5: 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.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Middle Earth: Shadow of War takes everything we loved about the first game and turns it up a notch. The series’ renowned Nemesis System – which makes powerful enemies remember your fights, gloating about their victories and bearing a grudge for their defeats – remains the jewel in the crown of an immensely satisfying experience that sees Talion step up his fight against Sauron by amassing his own army of orcs.
While the story can be heavy on exposition, Shadow of War is at its best when you’re fighting hordes of enemies, looting legendary gear and hunting down the strongest orcs for your army.
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. It’s got that glorious 4K update and cross-play now, too. PS4 …. does not.
Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter World has been one of the breakout hits of early 2018, selling more than 7.5 million copies since its release in January.
As a member of the fifth fleet to travel to the colony of Astera in the New World, your mission is to research the diverse biomes across the continent – as well as protect the more bookish types in the group from the menagerie of vicious creatures ready to pounce from the bushes.
Even though you’ll visit the same locations many times, there are so many different types of beast to track down and hunt that there’s always something to keep you busy. This is a deep game with tons of unique armor sets and weapons to craft. Some people might find the loot progression a bit of a grind, but the fights are tense, engaging and tough enough to still feel like a fresh challenge after multiple runs.
You can team up with three friends to hunt as a party of four, but solo play is a fun and viable option as well. You can join other people’s in-progress quests quite easily – and there’s a search function if you’re stuck on one in particular – so you don’t have to go it alone, even if you’re short on people to play with.
Monster Hunter World has also been consistently updated with free DLC since launch. The first new boss, Deviljho, was just added to the game.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition
A magical sidescroller with over 30 awards to its name, Ori and the Blind Forest lives up to the hype – especially in this new version, which boasts cross-save with Windows 10 as well as a stack of new content and features.
Stunning hand-painted graphics meet flexible upgrade paths for one of the most ravishingly lovely explore-‘em-ups of all time. Ticks a lot of those Metroidvania boxes we don’t see enough of these days, too.
The scariest game on consoles 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. Better than the sequel, we think.
Overwatch was born when Blizzard axed an MMO that had been in the works for a decade, and the surviving team had to find something to turn their frowns upside down. A first person quad shooter with MOBA-style hero balancing may not have been the obvious development, but in the face of all doubters Overwatch became an overnight sensation with its strange genre blend.
Despite the laughably slim meta-narrative, Overwatch won hearts and fired loins with its cast of characters. The friendships, enmities, familial and potentially romantic relationships between the cast are told in animated shorts, comics, and subtle in-game hints, with each new droplet falling on the fandom like water on a Mad Max: Fury Road extra.
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.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
When Capcom started touring a VR horror demo, we all made jokes about how amazing it would be if Resident Evil 7 took some cues from cancelled Konami project Silent Hills. We didn’t expect Capcom to actually do it, but Resident Evil 7: BioHazard is indeed a first-person creep through a closed location.
Somehow or other many gameplay systems survived this transition, reminding us that third-person shooting was never the real heart of Resident Evil, while terrified hoarding of green herbs against the possibility of whatever is around the next corner most definitely is. It could be longer. It could be scarier. But it could also actually kill you with fear, especially in VR, so maybe Capcom drew a sensible line there.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
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.
Although the earlier Xbox One release is missing some of the cosmetic goodies from the 20th Anniversary Edition on PS4, all the meaningful additions were patched in or made available as DLC. The Xbox One version is definitely no less special.
Fast cars playing football. Rocket League is instantly and infinitely playable, whether in couch co-op or online. Like the best arcade games, you’ll pick up the premise quicker than a click of your fingers, racing for the ball and smacking it into the back of the net.
Which is all very satisfying. And then you realise the clever physics system can be worked to your advantage and the next thing you know you’re trying all kinds of crazy stunts and tricks. Some work spectacularly and others fail miserably but at no point will you stop grinning. Developer Psyonix continues to add modes and fine-tune the gameplay, giving us every reason to believe Rocket League will continue to be played for years to come.
Sea of Thieves
With a crew of friends in tow – or complete randos you meet online for that matter – Sea of Thieves is a swashbuckling good time for sea-faring folk and landlubbers alike.
You embark on quests laid out by procedurally generated treasure maps, sailing the high seas in search of excitement, adventure, and most of all precious booty. While there might’ve been a list of error codes as long as your arm on release, online connectivity is getting more and more stable.
Clearing dungeons of skeletons is challenging and varied enough to keep you occupied for a good while, but the spontaneous PvP is the best thing about Sea of Thieves. Locking swords in an impromptu pirate battle is always a laugh, and adds an extra layer of tension when you’re to whisk a particularly big horde back to port.
Tales from the Borderlands
Gearbox freely admits it’s kind of rubbish at doing anything interesting with the hugely potent Borderlands setting, but Telltale has no such problem. Expertly honing in on key story hooks, tugging heartstrings and proving wickedly funny, Tales from the Borderlands ought to make Gearbox take a long, hard look at its own efforts and pull up its socks.
Somehow or other, Telltale managed to tell a story completely separate from the main Borderlands series so that anyone can enjoy it, while still tying back firmly to existing canon and even pushing the meta-narrative along. Maybe the new season of The Walking Dead will change our minds, but for now, Tales from the Borderlands is the best Telltale game of this generation.
Releasing disastrously close to bigger shooter brands in the crowded 2016 holiday season, Titanfall 2 has not received even half the credit it deserves. Although fans of the original complained about what Respawn threw out, the sequel still packs in so many new ideas and features that there’s no cause for complaint beyond adjustment disorder.
Technically stunning, Titanfall 2 presents one of the best single-player FPS campaigns of the decade, while pushing fast-paced, agile combat further than ever. Competing shooters simply cannot boast this flow, and the ace in the hole – the massive disruption of the Titans – has only improved now that everyone gets a decent go at it.
In the shadow of The Great War, Dr Johnathan Crane returns home to London to find a strange pestilence sweeping the city: a vampire epidemic. Freshly turned – against his will – Dr Crane must not only find a cure for the illness, but unravel the twisted plot that led to his transformation, rubbing shoulders with the humans and higher vampires vying for control in the chaos.
At its best, Vampyr is a masterclass of gothic ambience and investigation-based storytelling that repeatedly tests your morale fortitude. The strength of your abilities is linked to gaining XP, which can be gained in large quantities by feeding on named citizens. The only problem is that these citizens have names, backstories, families and problems – making Johnathan choose between upholding his Hippocratic Oath to do no harm and slaking his thirst for blood.
Pacing issues, which include near-constant backtracking and massive dumps of dialogue, can be frustrating. And the combat gets a little repetitive too, especially when the difficulty spikes towards the end of the game, but what Vampyr does get right is engrossing and memorable.
If you like your games talky and stylish and can put up with grinding then Vampyr is worth a try.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
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. The DLC only improved on this strong beginning. Geralt’s adventures may be drawing to a close with this one, but he’s going out in better form than ever before.
The release of The Witness will be looked upon as the next great leap forward in video game puzzles in a few years to come. It took its time to come to Xbox One, but it was worth the wait.
It’s a game that flips the player’s emotions from infuriated to elated within seconds, as the seemingly impossible goes *ping* in your brain and the next thing you know you feel like the cleverest person on the island. When baffled you’ll do well to wander away from one puzzle and explore the others, because the secrets to unlocking this massive conundrum lie all over the beautiful landscape. Surrender to the world of The Witness and you’ll eventually escape. Eventually.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein 2 is about one thing: killing Nazis, and boy does it do it well.
After a series revival with 2014’s brilliant Wolfenstein: The New Order, The New Colossus picks up with BJ Blazkowicz as he takes on an occupied United States in an alternate history 1960s. Tough, but fun, shooting – with some of the coolest guns around – makes Wolfenstein 2 a real blast and one of the best action games on Xbox One.
Turn-based strategy is not naturally at home on consoles, but as with the first in Firaxis’s alien-hunting series XCOM 2 makes the transition to console with laudable grace and style.
It helps that XCOM 2 is such a good-looking game, zooming effortlessly from the necessary battlefield view down to an almost cinematic third-person view of the actual action, allowing you to take in all the tiny details that give it so much charm. It also helps that XCOM 2 is so bloody more-ish; one more turn, one more go, one more save scum while you try to get through this level without losing your favourite soldier guy and his souped-up gun.
- Battlefield 5
Battlefield 5 is probably the best Battlefield game since Bad Company 2. Yes, the union jack face masks were a bit tone-deaf, but you can’t deny that Battlefield 5 is an excellent shooter.
You have your single-player War Stories that take you across different theatres of war and a solid multiplayer experience which values tactics and positioning over twitch skills and a keen focus on team-playing and support classes that makes you feel like your role in the team really matters.
It captures the camaraderie described by those who survived through the war, whilst giving you a taste of the horrors that would have ensued on the battlefield. War is hell, after all.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 – Blackout
Black Ops 4 released in October to rapturous success and introduced the first battle royale mode in the series, Blackout.
Blackout is by far the best battle royale mode out there, taking all the best bits from the previous Call of Duty multiplayer modes and creating a map filled with easter eggs, zombies and a collapsing circle. What else do you really need?
It’s a welcome change to the mode made popular by the likes of Fortnite and PUBG, and hardcore Call of Duty fans are revelling in how much fun Blackout is to play. Just watch out for that zombie horde when you’re searching the Mystery Box.
- Red Dead Redemption 2
We had high expectations for this prequel and oh boy, did Red Dead Redemption 2 deliver. The game follows Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang, as he struggles to stay on side with the gang’s leader, Dutch, as his plans become more erratic and dangerous.
With exciting shoot-outs, dynamic and ever-changing environments and some real, wholesome moments throughout the game, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a serious contender for GOTY and sets a new benchmark for what we can expect in video games for years to come.