We’ve all been there, stuck for choice, wondering what to play next on your beloved rig of a machine. Let us help!
We’ve compiled a list of 17 top games now available to you on Xbox Game Pass for PC, and if you’re an Xbox Ultimate subscriber, you already have Xbox Game Pass for PC, how cool is that!
Currently an absolute steal at just £3.99 a month, Xbox Game Pass for PC is Microsoft’s video game version of Netflix: you get access to dozens of PC titles for a flat subscription fee.
With over 100 games on offer, deciding what to download first can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Do you go with a GPU-straining triple-A blockbuster or opt for an innovative indie title? We’ve picked some must-play favourites out of the available selection to get you started.
1) ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS
The idea of escaping to a fantasy land of endearing forest spirits and amiable furry friends is pretty damn appealing right now, which is why you’ve probably already bought and played the hell out of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
An alternative well worth considering is Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a 2.5D platformer that casts you as the eponymous Ori, a sprite set adrift far from home, seeking a lost friend and a way to restore balance to a woodland beset by vicious beasts and bugs. If it sounds cutesy as hell, it’s actually a demanding Metroidvania-style experience with a beautifully realised interconnected world and much more of an emphasis on tight, tough combat than its predecessor Ori and the Blind Forest (also on Game Pass, and also well worth playing). All in all, it’s a rewarding adventure that’ll give you some merciful respite from real-world goings-on.
2) ALIEN: ISOLATION
This first-person survival horror adventure puts you on a decrepit space station populated by a handful of sane survivors, several more murderous ne’er-do-wells, dozens of dead-eyed androids (also murderous) and one perfect killing machine. It’s a recipe for scares all right.
For our money the best on-screen depiction of the film series’ xenomorph menace since the 1980s, this beast stalks you through the stations corridors and ducts, making any journey a fraught cat-and-mouse game that’ll have you hiding in lockers, ducking under desks and attempting improvised distractions in order to avoid having your insides ripped out. If it’s tension and atmosphere you’re looking for, look no further.
3) GEARS TACTICS
A new Gears game in more ways than one, this latest foray into the world of COG and the Locust menace is a long way from the series’ standard third-person action-fests. Gears Tactics is instead a turn-based strategy game in the mould of XCOM, in which you control a small team of soldiers in increasingly challenging tactical battles.
Levelling up your squad members to unlock new abilities is as important to victory here as flanking, overwatch shooting and proper use of cover – but Gears staples like brutal executions make this feel thematically similar to the action titles. A surprisingly involving addition to one of Microsoft’s longest-running franchises, and a must-play for fans of turn-based strategy.
4) STREETS OF RAGE 4
Sega’s beloved classic scrolling beat ‘em up series gets the tribute it deserves in this 2020 sequel, which marries the original games’ mix of frenetic button-mashing action and pumping techno soundtrack with an all-new hand-drawn art style. Successfully capturing the overall feel of the 1990s games without indulging in too much nostalgic navel-gazing, SoR4 is a simple (and fairly short) arcade game with oodles of style and more than enough depth to keep you engaged for its running time. It’s a perfect Game Pass title, in other words – so download it now.
Part city builder, part morality tester, Frostpunk casts you as the mayor of what might be the last living settlement on the planet.
Following the arrival of a new ice age, the Earth is undergoing the big freeze – and you’re in charge of keeping your citizens alive for as long as possible. In doing so you’ll collect resources, build homes and workplaces, send scouting parties out into the frigid wastes to scavenge technology, research new methods of keeping your people warm, fed and happy, and face a succession of tough choices that’ll test how far you’re willing to go to hold everything together. Do you rip up the child labour laws to get more coal dug today, or instead concentrate on educating the younger generation to ensure a brighter future? The chilly choice, as they say, is yours.
6) A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE
This third-person stealth adventure through pestilence- and war-riven medieval France, in which you play a teenage girl trying to lead her little brother to safety, is the sort of lesser-known title a lot of gamers might skip in favour of the latest blockbuster; on Game Pass they have nothing to lose by giving it a shot – and they’ll find its beautiful presentation, well woven plot and engaging gameplay (which often revolves around finding novel ways to avoid being eaten by rats) makes for a diverting few hours.
7) STEAMWORLD DIG 2
Debuting on the Nintendo Switch back in 2017, this delightful platformer is the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday. An addictive riff on old school Metroidvania exploration thanks to its huge interconnected world, Steamworld Dig 2 has you delving into a mine in search of your lost pal, only to discover a vast subterranean world of adventure. The gameplay loop – explore, find new powerups, gain the ability to explore places you couldn’t previously reach – feels extremely rewarding and satisfying, while the default difficult level isn’t quite as unforgiving as some other titles of this type.
8) HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED ANNIVERSARY
People used to say first-person shooters couldn’t work on consoles. Then Halo arrived on the original Xbox and proved them as wrong as wrong can be. Bungie’s masterful way of blending always-engaging action sequences with impeccable presentation, a great space opera story and (for its time) cutting edge visuals have made this game a true modern classic, and a touchstone by which pretty much every console FPS is judged – even today.
Freshly arrived on PC in its remastered Anniversary edition (think 4K visuals and uncapped frame rates) as part of the steadily expanding Master Chief Collection, Halo remains a fantastic game almost 20 years after its release.
9) HALO: REACH
Halo: Reach is the first classic Halo game to get the 2019 remaster treatment (a bunch of others will follow in time) as part of the Master Chief Collection. It tells the story of the Covenant’s invasion of the colony planet of Reach, and the squad of elite Spartan soldiers (of which the player is a mysterious new recruit) tasked with defending against the alien horde. While you don’t get to play as the iconic Master Chief himself, Reach is a fantastic Halo game, replete with all the things that make the series so beloved.
The likes of an uncapped framerate, 4K resolutions and enhanced textures are likely enough to tempt back old hands for a stroll down memory lane, while those who’ve never experienced the original Bungie games should definitely take this opportunity to delve into one of the best first-person shooters ever made.
10) SLAY THE SPIRE
You might think the only card game that has no place on your PC is that free version of Solitaire that comes with Windows, but Slay the Spire will change your mind – and likely sap hundreds of hours out of your life.
You’re tasked with ascending the titular Spire – a many-levelled fantasy fortress populated with deadly monsters, strange but sometimes helpful citizens and covetous shopkeepers – over a three-act structure, with a boss fought at the end of each act. As you progress through the randomly generated quest, you build a deck of cards and collect magical relics in order to both survive the journey and beat the final boss. This indie gem’s mixture of RNG, roguelike and deck-building gameplay is beautifully elegant, while its brisk pace gives it a just-one-more-go feeling that’ll have you battling beasties until the early hours.
11) WOLFENSTEIN II: THE NEW COLOSSUS
Sometimes you just want a straight-up action game with a decent story, top-notch visuals and uncomplicated bad guys – and Wolfenstein II ticks all three boxes with a fat permanent marker. Eschewing many modern FPS tropes, it’s a stripped-down shooter that sees hero B.J. Blazkowicz back home in America – after it’s been taken over by Nazis. With a dizzying array of weapons at his disposal, B.J. must topple the totalitarian regime, restore democracy and keep his new family safe.
12) GEARS 5
One of Game Pass’s flagship titles, Gears 5 is that same old Gears of War gameplay you know and love, given a little bit of an open world twist. The sci-fi shooter’s brutal third-person cover-based combat is now tempered with more exploration and a smattering of optional missions, all rendered with gorgeously gory visuals and buoyed along by an intriguing story.
If you’ve enjoyed Gears games in the past, you should definitely download this one. Oh, and you can also engage in cross play with your Xbox One-owning friends.
13) HOLLOW KNIGHT
Hollow Knight asks the question: what if Dark Souls was a cute Metroidvania platform game? The answer is: it would be brilliant, addictive and challenging – and one of the finest indie titles you can download on Xbox Game Pass for PC!
Explore a vast interconnected world as a mysterious silent protagonist, fighting monsters, negotiating devilish challenges and learning new skills as you uncover the story behind a civilisation’s decline and fall. With its pixel-perfect controls, melancholic presentation and superbly designed environments, Hollow Knight is a game that every fan of old-school platformers should try.
Inspired by the point-and-click adventures of yesteryear, even down to its striking pixelated graphics, Unavowed is a superbly written interactive tale of supernatural goings-on in New York.
When the protagonist inadvertently becomes part of a crack squad of paranormal enforcers during a time of heightened activity by ghosts, fairies, demonic entities and all sorts of other mystical forces, the game draws us into a morally complex battle for our world, populated by dozens of well-drawn characters. The puzzles are fairly simple, but the choices you’ll have to make along the way are much, much tougher.
15) THE OUTER WORLDS
Developed by RPG specialists Obsidian (perhaps best known for Fallout: New Vegas), The Outer Worlds is a clearly Fallout-inspired game aimed at Fallout fans disappointed by Bethesda’s recent Fallout efforts. Phew.
A planet-hopping first-person RPG packed with dialogue and replete with Meaningful Player Choices, The Outer World’s doesn’t stray far from Bethesda’s template, but manages to do a much better job of world-building and storytelling than Fallout 4 or Fallout: 76. It’s a fairly short experience compared to many of its open-world RPG contemporaries, but given the scope for forging different paths through the plot, that’s no bad thing: you can just play the whole thing through again making new choices.
Crash-landing on a water-covered alien planet, you’re forced to plunder the local flora, fauna and geology to survive and thrive for as long as possible. That’s the simple premise behind Subnautica, in which food, fresh water and shelter are constant concerns – and don’t get caught ogling the beautiful undersea environments, or you’ll run the risk of being snapped up by a passing finned monster…
17) BLAIR WITCH
If you’re in the market for some late night scares, this first-person adventure scratches the itch. The search for a missing child sends one man and his dog off into the Maryland woods – the same woods that legend has it are home to the Blair Witch. The gameplay might be simple (mostly it involves sending off your furry companion to sniff out interesting clues) but the sense of atmosphere and unfolding horror as you trudge deeper into the mysterious forest, night draws in and your character’s past begins to manifest itself in troubling visions makes for some fantastic scares.