Okay, so with that $1 Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription option during E3 2019, a lot of us picked up subscriptions to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Problem is, there’s like 500 freaking games on there. Now we’re stuck with the question “What games on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate are actually worth playing?” As someone who plays games like crazy, I’ve already played a lot of these games, and since I’ve had my subscription I’ve burned through a lot more. As I play, I’m going to lay out the games that I think are worthy of your time.
This being the first entry, there’s a lot to catch up on. I’ll also point out that games periodically leave the service, so if one sounds good, play it while you can!
Ark: Survival Evolved
Maybe… Minecraft, but with dinosaurs. Ark has been around for a long time on PC, and I found the Xbox version to be hard to work with since the whole interface is really PC-oriented. It has split screen co-op support, but damn you’re going to need some epic eyesight in order to use it.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
Maybe… If you’re thinking of Banjo-Kazooie as a “3d Mario clone” then this game is going to break that mold for you. It’s more about building crazy vehicles than it is jumping from platform to platform. It’s a pretty old game, though, dating back to the early days of the Xbox 360.
Batman: Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Arkham Knight
Play It! This series is getting older, but it’s still the most definitive Batman experience available anywhere. I’ve listed them in chronological order, and it’s worth playing them that way. If you’ve already enjoyed these to the fullest, look into the Mordor series (which I’ll get to in a bit…)
Maybe… Reminds me a lot of the ship/crew dynamics of games like FTL, but set in a sort of a cartoonish take on WW2-era tech. Here again, this was a PC game that didn’t really seem designed for a controller. It’s a juggling/action/strategy game with plane/crew management stuff on top.
Play It! Braid is one of the first games in the modern ‘Indie Renaissance’ and one that makes a lot of “best game ever” lists. It’s quite old at this point, but it’s still very unique. Mostly it’s a puzzle platformer, which doesn’t require much in the way of twitch reflexes.
Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons
Play It! This is a quite unusual game – you control two different characters, one with each analog stick. You have to get these two brothers to solve environmental puzzles. It’s worth at least trying, and is a lot better than the follow-on game “A Way Out” (at least, in my humble opinion)
Play It! The city-building genre used to be all about SimCity – until that series took a nose dive into the ground. The good news is that Cities: Skylines carries the genre forward in almost every single way.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Play It! There are very few good story driven stealth/action series, and Deus Ex is one of the best. The only downside is that Mankind Divided continues the story of Human Revolution – and the plot may make less sense if you haven’t played the previous game, which isn’t on XB1GP.
Play It! It’s DOOM. I mean, come on. You don’t need me to explain DOOM to you. It’s a pretty good DOOM too.
Play It! Fez broke the internet’s brain when it was first released. There are some crazy deep puzzles and mechanics here that reward careful study (or studious internet searching/guide reading). I’m not 100% convinced that we’ve seen everything there is to see in Fez, even years later. Just remember to make sure your controller’s rumble is turned on…
Maybe… This is a game with a stupid premise – ridiculous goat physics – that doesn’t get old as fast as you might think. But it does eventually get old…
Not for Me Hollow Knight is a ‘metroidvania’ style side scrolling exploration game. It’s garnered a lot of praise since release, but I found it to be rather difficult and not particularly rewarding.
Just Cause 3
Play It! Of all the Just Cause games, this one is by far my favorite. It’s a game about a soldier of fortune with what is essentially Superman-style powers of destruction causing tons of chaos. More explosions than you can reasonably count, and just a joy to play.
Just Cause 4
Not for Me Ugh. How in the hell did they mess the sequel up?!? It’s boring as hell, and repetitive to boot. The graphics are awful, the cutscenes have sync problems, and the whole game just smacks of “needed more development time.” If you play through JC3 and just need another Just Cause hit, load it up. But expect disappointment.
Kingdom: Two Crowns
Play It! Probably the best 1-D real time strategy game there has ever been. (Not like it’s a large category, but still) Simple to learn but difficult to master. The Two Crowns edition adds co-op support, which is awesome.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Play It! I am not a huge fan of Kojima or the MGS series, but this game won me over somehow. The open world stealth is quite well executed. I wouldn’t pay any attention to the plot if you value your sanity, though.
Metro 2033, Last Light, and Exodus
Play It! The Metro series is very atmospheric, and it leans more heavily towards ‘survival’ than ‘horror’ – although there are scary bits. I haven’t finished Exodus yet, but I’m enjoying it so far…
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War
Play It! Like Batman above, but set in the Middle Earth universe instead. Although it at first felt like a clone of the Batman combat system, the Mordor series really sets itself apart with unique features and abilities.
Play It! This is a truly weird and unique game. Don’t judge it by its cover – there are a ton of surprises in store.
Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Play It! This series has gone a bit downhill (I didn’t much care for Shadow) but it’s still pretty darn good. It’s a bit metroidvania and a bit action/adventure, and a bit stealth, and it does all these things pretty darn well. The puzzle tombs are a blast!
Slay the Spire
Play It! After playing a few “deckbuilders” at PAX South this past year, I had a real itch for a video game version of that concept. This is perhaps my favorite game in that genre so far!
SteamWorld Dig 2
Play It! Basically Terraria (or Starbound) with a plot and a ton more polish. Probably my favorite Image & Form game, and they make very, very good games.
Play It! SUPERHOT will break you of all your shooter misconceptions, and then rebuild you anew. It’s a ‘puzzle shooter’ I guess you could say.
The Flame in the Flood
Play It! A sort of roguelike survival/action game. I remember thoroughly enjoying playing it for my review when it was first released.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
Play It! Oh god, but don’t play it. You will feel like a terrible human being no matter what choices you make. It’s scary and sad and violent and… I guess proof that games can make you feel emotions other than “invincible” and “angry.”
Play It! This is a really really great little shooter. You jump from ship to ship on a tactical map, and then raid the ships in a roguelite FPS. The enemies are interesting and varied, the ships are tricky and require strategy, and the whole package is very well executed. Rehydrated thumbs way up.
Play It! So once upon a time there was a game called Wasteland. Not many people are familiar with it, but it spawned a spiritual sequel called Fallout. Fallout went through a few iterations and eventually became a FPS, but the Wasteland/Fallout heritage is very much a tactical turn-based experience. Wasteland 2 returns the series to the original creators using the original gameplay, and it’s very very good at it.
Wolfenstein: The New Order and The New Colossus
Play It! …just be warned that it’s a bit too emo for its own good.