Xbox Game Pass is the biggest subscription-based service in gaming. It’s no surprise, as the platform offers hundreds of brilliant games for the price of a burger.. Especially between 2020 and 2021, Microsoft’s on-demand library has started getting new, higher-quality titles coming from Xbox Game Studios – which was silent at Xbox Series X’s launch – and third-party developers and publishers.
Why would you buy a game à la carte, when it’s day one on Xbox Game Pass? There’s a lot to dig into, and that’s why we’ve picked out the best Xbox Game Pass games added in 2021.
Back 4 Blood
Back 4 Blood is not the best video game of the year, and probably it wouldn’t even be a candidate in a best video games of the year list. However, its addition to Xbox Game Pass is a match made in heaven. How many players would buy it full price? And, most importantly, how many players would be able to convince three other friends to do the same? Xbox Game Pass removes those barriers and lets you focus on what’s important: shooting zombies with pals.
Football Manager 2022
Football Manager 2022 is likely the best update from the last few years in the long-standing series. The newest release isn’t radically different compared to previous years, but it adds new features such as the Data Hub and a new animation engine that makes it a pretty good upgrade. Just add that you’ll play it all year long and it’s a part of your subscription, which is only $9.99 per month.
Forza Horizon 5
Whatever The Game Awards’ jury thinks, Forza Horizon 5 is one of the strongest candidates for game of the year. It’s not a revolution, but the newest entry in the arcade racing franchise introduces a hugely varied Mexican setting and improves progression even further, compared to 2018’s Great Britain-based Forza Horizon 4. The game managed to finally showcase next-gen graphics, and clearly gives an idea of what Xbox Game Pass will look like when Xbox Game Studios start producing at full speed.
Hades has been available on PC and Nintendo Switch for quite some time, but it’s just arrived on Xbox One and Series X|S, reaching Game Pass right on day one. It’s a roguelite that will keep you playing for hours and hours, thanks to fast-paced action and highly customizable gameplay, a deep story, and a charming take on Greek mythology. It’s such a good game that it beat The Last of Us Part II as the 2020 game of the year multiple times.
It Takes Two
It Takes Two is a rare example of rom-com in gaming. Created by A Way Out’s Josef Fares, it’s so different from his previous game, but still with co-op gameplay at its heart. It’s been available on Xbox Game Pass only for a few weeks so far, but it’s the best co-op game on the service. Play together with a loved one or a special friend to share sweet, fun, and moving moments – all in the space of one night.
Psychonauts 2 is pretty similar to the original chapter in terms of gameplay, but this is likely what fans of Tim Schafer’s franchise wanted the first time around. Released with the help of Microsoft as publisher, the game features gelatinous, Pixar-like graphics, fun characters, and a bizarre story – it’s Psychonauts exactly how you remembered it. This is more than enough to be one of the best games on Xbox Game Pass, and one of the few 3D platformers around – a testament to how variety is key for the platform’s success.
Same as Hades, Octopath Traveler isn’t a new release but was just added to Xbox Game Pass in 2021. Its addition to the library has a high symbolic value, because it shows Microsoft finally embracing the Japanese game industry and fans all over the world, after leaving JRPGs in PlayStation and Nintendo’s hands for entire generations. The Square Enix turn-based role-playing game has a lot in common with Final Fantasy VI’s narrative and gameplay, and a compelling Bravely Default-like combat system.
Moving into a new apartment can be traumatic but, in Unpacking, you’re in for a zen experience. It’s a colorful, yet moving puzzle where you need to pull items out of boxes and fit them in a new home, while uncovering the stories behind them and their owners. And, since it’s just a video game, you won’t even feel as anxious, which is always good.
The Forgotten City
It all started as a Skyrim mod, and now it’s a full-fledged game rated 85 on Metacritic. This is how The Forgotten City came to be, turning one of the most immersive RPGs from the last decade into a story-driven experience set 2,000 years ago. Players will have to unravel the mystery behind a cursed Roman city, where everyone dies as soon as they commit a sin. It’s just a few hours long, but still an experience worth living.
Halo Infinite’s multiplayer blew away millions of players when it shadow dropped to celebrate Xbox’s 20th anniversary, and the single-player campaign is also included in Xbox Game Pass. The new game sees Master Chief step into a mysterious alien open world called Zeta Halo where you’re free to roam before embarking on a story mission. Eager to find out what Cortana is plotting after Halo 5: Guardians’ ending? Well, we clearly get that, but you could save some marines and upgrade your equipment, first.
Xbox Game Pass has so many games that are not in this list or don’t belong in your usual triple-A radar. The Artful Escape, The Medium, Twelve Minutes, Sable, The Ascent, and Boyfriend Dungeon are just a few of the names that make it clear how Xbox Game Pass’ biggest assets are discoverability and accessibility – you get to learn about so many games you’d never play otherwise. So don’t forget to take full advantage of this powerful tool, and get out of your gaming comfort zone.
Written by Paolo Sirio on behalf of GLHF.