2022 is set to be a great year for gaming, although it would be unfair to say 2021 has been bad. Despite delays, both PlayStation and Xbox have brought out a slew of new releases for players. For Xbox specifically, the latter half of the year has seen the launches of multiple highly anticipated games, including the recently released Halo Infinite.
Because of this, we decided to put together a list of the biggest titles published for Microsoft consoles this year. We’re taking both exclusive and multi-platform games into account here, regardless of whether or not they’re on Xbox Game Pass. Here are the ten best Xbox games of 2021.
Halo Infinite has been the video game behemoth of 2021, having launched its multiplayer component in November before putting out a full-fledged campaign a month later. Interestingly, multiplayer alone was enough to reconcile veteran players with the series after a couple lackluster releases over the last decade.
Its frantic 4v4 matches and charming golden triangle (guns, grenades, and gut-punches) have reminded many players of the beloved Bungie trilogy. Infinite’s single-player campaign has also been critically acclaimed thanks to its open-world setting, Zeta Halo. Despite being filled with fun combat-based activities, it’s not nearly as bloated as your typical Far Cry game.
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 further improves the open-world arcade racer formula that reached its peak with the previous game in the series. While that was set in Great Britain, the newest Mexican-based entry offers us a whole new country to explore
What makes this so good is how deep the game is. Boasting a huge amount of cars and scenarios, Forza Horizon 5 is a fantastic driving sim you’ll never get tired of – and that’s without mentioning its impressive post-launch support. This will likely be remembered as the first game to properly showcase the full potential of day one releases via Game Pass.
It Takes Two
It might not have A Way Out’s mature atmosphere and unpredictable ending, but It Takes Two has so much heart, and fun minigames for you to enjoy with a close friend or your partner even once you’ve completed the main storyline.
Game of the year according to The Game Awards 2021, It Takes Two clearly displays what Josef Fares and his team at Hazelight are capable of doing. In this impressive showcase of creativity, colorful art style, unusual premise, and absurd game scenarios help build a rare example of romantic comedy in gaming, one that tasks you with convincing a married couple on the brink of divorce to stay together, and resisting nonsense monologues by a speaking book.
Resident Evil Village
What a great time for the Resident Evil franchise. The series has just received a CGI Netflix series and a movie, and will soon be getting the Stranger Things treatment with a show exploring the origins of its deep mythology. Resident Evil Village plays a key role in building this momentum, leaving behind Resident Evil 7’s confined environments to explore a more open setting inspired by Resident Evil 4.
Retaining the previous mainline game’s first-person view, Resident Evil Village features a charming cast of side characters – including Lady Dimitrescu, who has dominated the internet ever since the game was announced. Village also efficiently connects Ethan Winters’ story to the original games.
Serving as Double Fine Productions’ highly anticipated return to the beloved series, Psychonauts 2 is one of the most familiar games you’ll get to play in 2021 – and that’s OK. Tim Schafer’s latest game is one of precious few recent 3D platformers that have been released on non-Nintendo platforms, and improves on its predecessor in a variety of different ways.
Psychonauts 2 is easily one of the best titles available on Game Pass. Whats’s more, Xbox owners also have access to an exclusive next-gen upgrade with 120hz graphics mode and higher resolutions.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition brings three of the best action RPGs ever and remasters them without messing around, which is quite the achievement in and of itself when you consider everything that’s happened in 2020 and 2021.
While we wait for a new chapter of the beloved space opera – which was officially announced by what remains of the original team at BioWare just a few months ago – anyone who has never played through Commander Shepard’s saga can now rectify that. On top of improved resolution and frame rates, the original Mass Effect includes a number of quality-of-life improvements that make it much more comfortable by today’s standards.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
More so than a regular game or service, this offers you a world. Or better yet, the world, which is entirely explorable using any plane you like, in any place you like. Microsoft Flight Simulator was one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2020, but it’s ready for an encore on Xbox Series X|S (and soon on Xbox One, thanks to cloud gaming).
There’s no doubt it’s better with the proper PC peripherals and a good ultrawide monitor, but Microsoft has managed to build a high-spec console port with as few technical compromises as possible. For a game like Flight Sim, that alone is a commendable feat.
Tales of Arise
Gameplay outside of combat could admittedly use some more polish and depth, but Tales of Arise is proof that a long-standing series can still be relevant after all these years. Bandai Namco’s latest game eschews the more rigid turn-based structure from past entries for a more action RPG-oriented approach.
On top of offering a fascinating cast of heroes and villains, Arise cleverly avoids typical JRPG cliches by openly touching on social and cultural themes. If you were looking for a way to get to know the Tales series better, this is a good entry point.
Hades is a roguelite filled with action-packed scenarios and fast, multi-faceted combat that radically changes based on your weapons and perks of choice. It technically came out last year, but the highly anticipated Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S only launched recently. On top of building a tight core gameplay loop, Supergiant Games focused on storytelling and characters, offering an original take on Greek mythology and a bold art style you’ll fall in love with. Just this week Hades became the first game ever to win a Hugo Award. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or you’ve never heard of it before, you should really give this a chance – it’s even free on Game Pass.
The Ascent is the cyberpunk shooter RPG you should play in 2021. Combat is intense whether you’re playing with a controller or mouse and keyboard, while the streets you traverse are drenched in various shades of neon illuminating colossal crowds of people. The game also features deep lore – so deep it ends up superseding the main story.
The fact it’s been available via Game Pass since day one is a great way to show audiences outside of your typical Wasteland and Fallout fanbases see just how fun isometric RPGs can be.
Written by Paolo Sirio on behalf of GLHF.