Xbox Game Pass has firmly established itself as one of the best deals in gaming. For a monthly subscription fee, you gain access to a library filled with outstanding titles spanning various genres. From exhilarating racers to sweeping adventures, indie darlings to blockbuster hits, the service offers something for all types of players.
As we move through 2023, Xbox Game Pass continues to bolster its lineup with fantastic new additions. With so many great games to choose from, it can prove daunting to identify which ones you should prioritize. Fortunately, I’ve played through numerous offerings available via Game Pass and want to highlight the cream of the crop—the absolute best games you should dive into right away this year.
Forza Horizon 5: Open-World Racing Bliss
The Forza Horizon series has always served as a more free-form take on racing compared to the traditional Forza Motorsport line. Horizon 5 takes that open-world approach to new heights with its absolutely mammoth depiction of Mexico. Everything about this map begs to be explored, from dense jungles to arid deserts to quaint coastal towns. Driving around this environment remains an endless joy thanks to the diversity of terrain and sights on display.
Complementing the sprawling overworld is the trademark diversity of racing content. You can engage in traditional circuit races if you desire or spend hours jumping off ramps and barreling through scenic countryside. Thanks to dynamic weather effects, each event takes on radically different characteristics depending on current conditions. Numerous quality-of-life improvements round out an exceptional arcade racer that stands tall in Xbox Game Pass’ lineup.
Microsoft Flight Simulator: Definitive Aeronautical Excursion
Gamers and aviation enthusiasts converge with Microsoft Flight Simulator, a technically awe-inspiring simulator that offers unparalleled authenticity. Cities, natural wonders, and entire countries have been recreated here with staggering levels of detail. You can view photorealistic models of famous global monuments before taking control of planes that handle true to life.
The sheer scope of accessible flight paths means you’ll never run out of fresh aerial adventures. Visit faraway tropical paradises, famous metropolises, soaring mountain peaks—the possibilities span the entire planet thanks to integrated Bing Maps data. Even virtual pilots hungry for a challenge have plenty to tackle thanks to advanced weather effects and aircraft options catering to various skill levels. If you harbor any interest in aeronautics or simply want a relaxing, picturesque diversion, this stands out as a prime Game Pass highlight.
Halo Infinite: Master Chief Is Back
Any Xbox platform owes immense gratitude to Halo for putting the brand on the map. After some missteps in recent franchise history, Infinite successfully reorients Halo’s first-person shooting greatness while moving the lore forward. Series protagonist Master Chief has seldom felt better controlling thanks to refined gameplay mechanics accentuating fluidity and flexibility during firefights.
Speaking of shootouts, Infinite doubles down on series staples like wrapping your head around diverse alien weaponry or strategically dispatching waves of Covenant baddies. You’ll need to utilize every advanced technique in your arsenal to overcome climactic showdowns with imposing Brute Chieftains. Satisfying sound design and visual feedback make stringing kills all the more impactful. The story also strikes an effective balance between Chief’s somberness and the wonder of exploring Halo ring INSTALLATION 07 for the first time.
Minecraft: Unparalleled Creative Freedom
Trying to encapsulate everything quintessentially “Minecraft” remains nigh impossible simply due to the ridiculous amount of flexibility it provides players. At its core, Minecraft hands over a gigantic sandbox world and just lets you do whatever catches your fancy. Want to focus strictly on exploration or builders? Go for it. Rather stick to structured challenges and boss battles? The options are present for that too.
Accessible gameplay centering on resource gathering/crafting loops leads organically into grander endeavors. Few games let you sculpt handcrafted fortresses, intricate electrical circuits, mini-games—if you can imagine it, Minecraft empowers bringing those mental visions to blocky realities. And it all happens at your own pace, no pressure. Such limitless creative potential rightfully cements Minecraft’s venerable status. Hop in to construct your magnum opus today.
Hades: White-Knuckle Underworld Action
Roguelikes have surged in popularity over the past decade thanks to tense gameplay centering on skill-based progression. Hades epitomizes the genre in practically every way. Its gripping Greek mythological setting immediately sets the stage (or underworld arena?) for larger-than-life showdowns with iconic bosses like Medusa or the multi-headed Hydra.
Moment-to-moment combat also shines courtesy of uniquely differentiated weapon types covering various melee and ranged encounters. Chaining combos feels fantastic once you attune yourself to attack timing and enemy patterns. Speaking of foes, clashing with spectral warriors or terrifying demons always fits right at home. And each failed escape attempt from the underworld persists your character growth, lending a constant sense of progression. Hades’ phenomenal merits explain its sweeping accolades—and why it’s so easy to keep fighting your way out run after run.
Psychonauts 2: Trippy Psychological Journey
The original Psychonauts snuck under the mainstream radar in 2005 but garnered a passionate cult following for its weird characters tinged with heartfelt moments. Psychonauts 2 retains all that idiosyncratic spirit while elevating presentation values far beyond expectations. Our espionage-esque heroes employ psychic powers to leap, float, and generally manipulate minds however they see fit.
These psionic abilities seamlessly merge with platforming challenges set within fractured mental planes. Maybe you’re piecing together emotional baggage inside the psyche of a sleazy casino owner. Or perhaps you dive into a former rock star’s drug-induced stupors. The sheer creativity behind cerebral backdrops keeps gameplay fresh and surprising all throughout Raz and co.’s latest adventure. If you feel known Game Pass offerings lean generic, Psychonauts 2’s explosive imagination should light your mental synapses firing with joy.
Stardew Valley: pastoral Pixelated Delight
Living life in the slow lane gains legitimate appeal in Stardew Valley, a pastoral fantasy existence many overworked folks would envy. Inheriting your grandfather’s long-neglected homestead kicks off an addictive gameplay loop encompassing farming, fishing, crafting, and exploring sleepy Pelican Town. The sheer wealth of activities means you always have something that progresses game systems while aligning with current interests.
Cutesy pixel art graphics complement the relaxed small-town atmosphere where acquainting yourself with villagers takes center stage. Wooing a special someone or stumbling into humorous community events brings Stardew Valley’s world alive just as much as harvesting prize-winning tomatoes. Few games execute escapist vibes this expertly. When real-world madness overwhelms, this sun-kissed farming diversion represents zen-like therapy.
Outer Wilds: Galactic Puzzles Across Time
Mystery drives compelling fiction, and Outer Wilds take such truisms quite literally. You awake as an astronaut preparing for their first interstellar launch yet retain no knowledge about a quickly deteriorating solar system trapped in a time loop. Learning why stars explosively vanish and other space oddities occur demands scouring planets for any clues you can chart on ship logs.
Since the time cycle resets every 22 minutes, you retain gathered information while getting plopped back into the cockpit. Such investigations ultimately reveal a startling cosmic mystery benefiting from philosophical and spiritual rumination. Eccentric characters and a playful physics system granting you spacefaring freedom bolster an already thought-provoking campaign. If you adore scouring handcrafted worlds, decoding environmental storytelling, and challenging mental puzzles, Outer Wilds landing on Game Pass should absolutely steal your attention.
Tunic: Captivating Throwback Action-Adventure
Tunic makes no qualms about its debt to classic Zelda inspiration. From an adorable sword-wielding fox protagonist to dungeon-diving escapades, it embraces such heritage from its charming visual aesthetic to empowering combat. Yet modern game design principles also ensure you never feel aimless, always making gradual progress in unlocking new areas or helpful gear upgrades.
Speaking of newly uncovered locales, Tunic overflows with nooks and crannies harboring secret treasures. Maybe bombing cracks in a wall expands previous zones. Discovering peculiar key items then backtracking to see what forgotten doors they might now open turns into almost obsessive habits thanks to silky-smooth gameplay. Tunic will continually surprise you with unveiled twists, memorable boss fights, and impactful story beats centered on decoding arcane instructions. Its masterful balance of mystery and progression makes falling into this minimalist adventure all too easy.
Sable: Coming-of-Age Wonder Across the Desert
Sable wastes zero time establishing a gorgeous open-world backdrop, placing you within striking desert vistas straight out of Arabian Nights. Soft ambient guitar melodies accompany your gliding hoverbike rides through ruined temples, artifact excavation sites, and neon-tinged urban sprawls. A pervasive sense of history gives such environments an intriguing mystique.
Our young heroine Sable soon departs on her tribe’s ceremonial journey into adulthood. Such personal evolution ends up mirroring gameplay progression as you unlock more abilities to traverse previously impassable stretches of desert. Equally important, you’ll meet memorable wandering tribes who further expand Sable’s perspective on personal identity. It’s an unforgettable adventure sure to keep you mesmerized by crisp visual panoramas and thematically resonantreflection. If you want to disappear into foreign landscapes far removed from typical sci-fi/fantasy fare, Sable hits all the right notes.
The Best Companions for Exploring Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass grants unlimited access to outstanding digital experiences as we’ve covered. Compatible accessories can further heighten enjoyment once you dive into these titles. For racing fans, the Xbox Wireless Racing Wheel makes zipping through Forza Horizon 5’s picturesque byways intensely realistic. A headset like the Razer Barracuda Pro rounds out immersive audio to feel earth-shattering Halo explosions or Psychonauts 2’s psychedelic soundscapes.
External SSD storage through a drive like the Seagate Storage Expansion Card allows you to house a sizable Game Pass backlog at your fingertips. Even an Xbox Media Remote lets you easily pause Microsoft Flight Sim adventures on your TV. Evaluate accessories augmenting Game Pass’ offerings to determine the perfect hardware match.
Set a Course for Great Gaming in the Clouds
Xbox Game Pass continues growing into an essential gaming service as evident by these stellar highlighted picks. Constantly evolving libraries on console, PC, and cloud platforms give you no shortage of outstanding titles to experience across genres. Take your pick from heart-pounding shooters, enrapturing RPG epics, quirky indie darlings, terrifying survivals and beyond.
Have you played any games on our list during previous Xbox Game Pass memberships? Did we omit one of your personal standouts worth shouting out? Sound off with your thoughts in comments below!