Home Games Card games for Xbox. 50 Underrated Xbox Games

Card games for Xbox. 50 Underrated Xbox Games

Top Xbox One Games to Buy with an Xbox Gift Card

Did you get an Xbox gift card and are looking for games to buy? We’ve all been there before, and there are a lot of games that you’ll be able to buy. But you can also use your gift card to buy other items, such as:

[list style=’regular’] [list_item]Apps[/list_item] [list_item]Movies[/list_item] [list_item]TV shows[/list_item] [list_item]Devices[/list_item] [/list]

With no fees or expiration dates, you can use your Xbox gift card to make purchases on Xbox, Windows and on the Microsoft Store online. If you get an Xbox gift card online, you’ll just need to enter your digital code to redeem it.

Fast and easy to purchase and use, the most common item purchased with these gift cards are games. You can even purchase Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass with your gift card, so it really does cover all of your gaming needs.

If you have a gift card, an available balance or just want to buy an Xbox gift card for someone else, these are the top games people are buying this year.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar Games is back with their second iteration of Red Dead Redemption. Set in 1899 in America, the end of the Wild West is starting to take place. A robbery goes bad in the town of Blackwater, and Arthur Morgan (who you’ll be playing) is in the middle of the conflict.

Does he go with the gang as they rob, steal and fight their way through America?

He needs to choose between his own ideals and the gang that he has been raised with. It’s an exciting action game with stunning visuals, an immersive environment and crisp audio that makes Red Dead Redemption feel like you’re part of the game’s world.

You’ll be a gunslinger, working your way through the storyline, making decisions that will question your own morals.

If you’re a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series, Red Dead Redemption is one of the games that you’ll regret not playing. It’s fun, exciting and has very high ratings across the board.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

I know, another Assassin’s Creed game that will disappoint gamers, but Odyssey is surprisingly refreshing. You’ll be back in the times of the Greek and Spartan wars in 431 BC. You’ll be in control of a misthios, or a mercenary, and there is a main male or female character to play.

Multiple endings, branching quests, sea battles, Odyssey has it all in one massive environment where you’ll play either Alexios or Kassandra, both from the bloodline of Leonidas I.

You’ll inherit Leonidas’ broken spear and work your way through the game not knowing who to trust, as cultists are everywhere. Mercenaries will hunt you down for your misdeeds, and you’ll have complete control over how your mercenary fights thanks to the skill and talent trees (3 in total).

Develop romantic relationships with other characters, and even discover artifacts from the time of Atlantis.

You’ll meet ancient characters along the way, including Herodotus, Hippocrates, Socrates and countless others. Explore the ancient Greek work in all of its glory.

Devil May Cry 5

Devil May Cry 5 follows the 4th version of the game, and you’ll be set several years after the events that transpired in DMC 4. Super fun and fluid, Dante’s back, along with his friends, to engross you in an action-adventure that will have you glued to the controller.

You’ll move at a legendary pace, fighting demons as the last three demon hunters alive.

Each demon hunter offers its own unique gameplay and style, so players can choose which hunter they want to play based on their preferred gaming style. Rip through the hordes of demons with gun and sword combat, and use a variety of weapons to take down your foes.

Play as Dante, Nero or Nico in Red Grave.

Nero plunges into battle head first, and his Devil Break anti-demon arm is a new power that awaits players as they hack, slash and shoot their way through demon after demon. Fans of the Devil May Cry series will feel justified waiting for Devil May Cry 5 – a true masterpiece, according to many reviewers.

Forza Horizon 4

Action games not your style? Forza Horizon 4 is a racing game that is the best in its class, and it offers full character customization and immersive gameplay from the start. From sound to visuals, Forza Horizon 4 has an array of automobiles, extensive customization options and a steady stream of rewards.

You’ll be able to start a new in-game season every week with season-specific challenges and a whole entirely new look to the world.

Live play against or with 11 other characters is offered, too. But you’re not tied to just one style of racing. You’re really in full control with the option to:

[list style=’regular’] [list_item]Edit your events[/list_item] [list_item]Rally[/list_item] [list_item]Drift[/list_item] [list_item]Drag[/list_item] [list_item]Race[/list_item] [/list]

You can play online or offline, although the online element is really what makes the game one of the best racing titles to date.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally here, and it’s an action-RPG that I personally waited a long time to see. Built upon Disney’s worlds, you’ll be part of your favorite childhood characters. You’ll have beautiful combat and visuals, and the set is like playing on a movie-quality set.

You’ll come across Goofy and Donald Duck. Sora and Mickey are there, too.

Gameplay lasts somewhere around 27 hours, and the hack and slash combat is refreshing. Sora remains the main character with Donald and Goofy on the team and two additional characters able to join for a complete five-player party.

Enter the Toy Story world, Pirates of the Caribbean and even Frozen as you play with different styles and objectives. The Gummi Ship is also back with great customization options available. If you’re a fan of Disney, this is the one game that you’ll want to play this year.

The graphics are stunning, the audio is brilliant and the storyline is in-depth, albeit a tad slow at times.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is a game that all ages can love.

Gears of War 4

Gears of War 4 has been around for a few years, but it’s still one of the best games on the market. You’ll take control of an iconic Hero that has now aged, but is still prepared for war. Many of the same gameplay elements are put into the 4th title, and you’ll be able to knock enemies off balance with shoulder charges, shoot and deal with massive weather changes.

You may be playing in the trees with a heavy breeze and dust before a category 3 storm rolls in, impacting your combat and gameplay.

Online and cooperative modes are available.

A new monstrous enemy is in town, as JD Fenix, Kait and Del have to rescue their loved ones. There are new weapons, combat moves and knife executions to master. There is also Horde 3.0, which you can play with four other players as waves of enemies come your way.

Level up your skills, survive and maybe you’ll be able to save your loved ones from a world thrown into chaos.

Resident Evil 2

Resident Evil 2 is a game that left many old-time gamers with nightmares as children. But the game, while great for its time, is a pixelated mess now. It has since been remastered, bringing the old horror back to life as the world faces sudden doom from a virus that keeps spreading.

A survival horror game, you’ll be thrown into Raccoon City with all new visuals. Reimagined, the game has zombies around every corner, immersive cameras, and in-depth storylines to go through. The entire Raccoon City has been reimagined and built from the ground up to feel nostalgic yet somehow refreshingly new to players.

It’s a terrifying world that Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield are part of, and you’ll have to fend off zombies as you attempt to survive the onslaught from the dead.

Everything players love from the original has been incorporated, from the arsenal of weapons to the Claire Scenario and the 2nd Run which can only be unlocked by completing the game for the first time.

Rocket League

Rocket League is a game that I personally love, and it’s much different than any other game I have played. It’s kind of like mixing soccer and race cars together, and it’s pure genius as you’re able to race around field after field with your teammates.

But you’re a car, and this means that you’ll have to slide to hit the ball, grab speed boosts to gain leverage against your opponents, and even fly through the air. Soccer with rocket-powered cars, the game can be played on single-player mode, or you can bring in multiple players and play online. There have been several updates to the game since it first came out in 2016, and this allows for cross-platform play.

You can play with your friends who are on PC or PlayStation 4. Online play is competitive, and later updates have made it so that you can change the rules of the game. You can play with rules that are similar to basketball and hockey, too. While the concept of the game seems rather easy, it’s difficult to master.

You have to know when to use your speed boosts, master using your rocket power to hit balls in the air and learn how to turn properly.

It’s a lot of fun, and there are some elements of demolition derby involved where you can smash into other vehicles and cause them to explode. It’s all part of the immersive gameplay, and if you think this is a game that will be a breeze to master, you’re wrong.

It’s fun and exciting, but Rocket League is not a game that is easily mastered. With that said, it’s one of the best twists I have seen put on a sports game to date.

Tekken 7

If you have ever been in an arcade, chances are you’ve passed a Tekken game inside. Well, the fun-to-play fighting game is back, and it’s in the 7th iteration. Awesome 3D graphics and fighting with a very loose story behind a son and father’s struggle ensue.

Tekken 7 has included much of the same gameplay that players have loved over the years, but the developers have refined it further. Rage systems have been expanded, and there are flash super moves that allow for high impact battles.

New combos and blocks are also involved with rage, and players coming back to Tekken will find many of the changes refreshing. You’ll be able to play a variety of fun and interesting fighters, some that have been in the game for years and others which bring new fighting moves and styles into the game.

Gameplay is better than it has ever been, and there is a story mode that can be played through for solo play. Solo play remains underwhelming, as the real fun is playing online or with friends. Ranked and unranked gameplay does exist, so if you’re more competitive, this is definitely the Tekken game that you have been waiting to play for years.

If you’re looking for a fighting game that doesn’t need to keep you glued to the screen for days at a time, this is it. It’s the casual fighting game that you can pick up, play with friends and come back to in a few weeks without worrying about a complex storyline.

If none of these games sound good to you or you’re looking for other games to buy if you get an Xbox gift card, you’ll want to check out Xbox’s new releases and upcoming releases. Reviews can also provide you with a good idea of which games you may like.

And if you want to buy a gift card but haven’t yet, make sure you read this before you buy an Xbox gift card. You’ll learn everything you can and can’t do with your card. There are a lot of reasons to buy your card online, so educate yourself and I’m sure you’ll find that the benefits outweigh the risks with these cards.

Underrated Xbox Games

Microsoft’s debut games console, the Xbox, made a big impact on gaming, but not all of its games got the attention they deserved.

The console wars may have turned into a two-horse race in the last few years, with Nintendo playing catch up, but wind back a few years to a time when Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo were all hard at it, competing for your money and loyalty. The Playstation 2 would go on to win the war of its generation, but Microsoft’s Xbox was a tough competitor, giving the company a secure foothold, which it would later take advantage of in the next generation with the Xbox 360’s dominance.

The original Xbox had a host of great games, many of which have gone on to become successful franchises, with no better example than Halo, but not all of its good games gained the attention they deserved, even if sequels managed to appear in later years. Some games were either critical failures, often unfairly so, or simply failed to make it into the public eye in order to become a success.

Here are our top 50 such titles. These are great games that helped to make the Xbox such a good gaming platform but still failed to make it commercially or critically. Hopefully, you’ll find some new gaming gems to seek out and try, and if you do, you won’t be sorry you spent the time digging them out of second-hand stores or eBay. So, if you’re looking for some older classics, read on…


The point-and-click adventure genre has never been all that well received on consoles. This is partly due to the need for a mouse to play them properly. It doesn’t help that most console gamers simply aren’t into slower-paced text or dialogue-heavy adventures. At least, that’s what publishers think.

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Occasionally, though, a gem arrives and gives console-owning adventure fans what they want. One example of this is Syberia. This was a great adventure for the Xbox and was a solid port of the PC version. It was an atmospheric, mature adventure that featured a deep story and some great, steampunk-themed environments.

Spy Hunter

Many classic game remakes suffer, as those rose-tinted glasses often confuse nostalgia with actual, decent gameplay. Spy Hunter, on the other hand, was an exception. It took the old-school racer and turned it into a modern 3D speed fest, complete with transforming cars and weapons galore.

Spread over a series of missions, the game retained the original ’80s game’s theme, even using remixes of the famous Peter Gunn tune, and also featured impressive visuals and extra features, such as the car’s bike mode. It was also very difficult. A sequel was released, but ultimately, the game didn’t do all that well.

Shadow of Memories

Here we have another adventure title, this time from Konami. Shadow of Memories was a time-traveling adventure that saw protagonist, Eike Kusch, attempt to stop his murder by journeying to the past in order to change future events. The game took place in a fictional German town and utilized a clever dual clock system. Time flowed both in Eike’s current time period and the current day. If the time in the current day reached that of Eike’s murder, the game was over and the chapter reset. So, you had to hurry things on to prevent his eventual demise.

Shadow of Memories was an interesting outing for Konami and featured a plot that impressed critics and players who discovered it. It’s been ported to the PSP since, but still remains largely ignored.

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Arx Fatalis

Although this wasn’t anywhere near as good as the PC original, lacking the proper motion gesture magic casting controls, there were few first-person RPGs like this on the Xbox, other than the excellent Morrowind, which was, of course, far more successful.

card, games, xbox, underrated

Arx Fatalis was well worth a look too, as it featured some classic DD style play, with a cool underworld setting and coupled this with first-person melee combat and a robust magic system. The underground world was large and surprisingly varied at times, with plenty of dangerous creatures to face off against.

Sniper Elite

It’s now more popular thanks to Sniper Elite V2, but back in the time of the Xbox, the original wasn’t so well known to the mainstream. As with the sequel, the game cast players as an elite sniper in enemy territory, emphasizing the use of stealth tactics to achieve objectives.

The game’s trademark bullet cam kills for well-placed sniper shots were first shown here, in all their graphic glory. At a time when WWII titles were so long in the tooth a woolly mammoth would look on in envy, this was a different take on the subject – and a welcome one at that.


This was an interesting survival horror that starred five teenagers who found themselves locked inside their school. This would be bad enough, but this school had more to it than boring classes, bullies, and awkward dates, it was the location of some seriously odd goings-on.

Various infected classmates were found within the school and enemies were damaged by bright lights. It would be discovered that experiments were being performed on students and it was up to our group of young heroes to stop these events.

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It’s ironic that the game would end up being exactly what it was named, but this is a shame, as it’s a great horror adventure, one worth seeking out if you’re a fan of the genre.

Puyo Pop Fever

Puyo Pop Fever is one of the best versions of the color-matching puzzle series, which many western players will recognize more from its Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine guise. It’s a simple, yet fiendishly deep puzzle set up that’s easy to play, and when up against good players, very hard to master.

Developed by Sonic Team, Puyo Puyo has always failed to really make it big in the west (aside from the aforementioned Mean Bean Machine, which used the Sonic universe to boost appeal), and so many may not even know of the game series, let alone this excellent Xbox version. And, now that games like Candy Crush rule the roost, this won’t likely change.

Rogue Trooper

When Rebellion purchased 2000AD, it immediately acquired the rights to some of the best comic book characters ever created, including the likes of Judge Dredd, Slaine, ABC Warriors, and, of course, Rogue Trooper.

This video game outing for the blue GI was actually very good and was developed by a studio with a clear love for the comics. All of the staples of the comic series were included. The story focused on the overarching plot of the wandering soldier – to get revenge for the slaughter of all of his kind by the Souther traitor general.

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The world of Nu Earth was recreated excellently, with nods to various Rogue Trooper stories dotted around. Rogue and his abilities were incorporated brilliantly into this accomplished third-person shooter.

Outrun 2

Without a doubt a poster child for ’80s arcade games, Outrun is one of the all-time classic racing titles, and this reboot did the series justice. Not wanting to compete with the increasingly SIM-heavy crowd, Outrun 2 instead stuck to its arcade time trial roots that introduced drifting. This sequel also had a great online multiplayer mode.

There were various types of Ferrari for the layer to drive down the sun-drenched highways. It also looked great and ran blisteringly fast, rewarding expert drifting skills and advanced driving.

Headhunter: Redemption

Although the original Headhunter on the Sega Dreamcast will always be our favorite (it was also released on PS2), the sequel, Headhunter: Redemption, is also worth a look, and takes place years after the first game.

Players take control of Jack Wade again, as well as newcomer Leeza X (yes, really), in a more action-oriented title than the first. Redemption ditches the open world and bike sections of the first game and focuses more on Metal Gear Solid-style stealth and cover-based combat. The setting is far more futuristic than before. In essence, the game itself is a totally different beast.

Still, the style the game goes for is handled well, and aside from a mid-game sniper mission that’s just torturous for no real reason, it’s a very good stealth shooter.

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Doom 3

Oh, come on! Doom 3 may not have hit the unreasonable goals of many, who were expecting some form of revolution from a series that pioneered the simple art of shotgun-to-face, but it did deliver the trademark Doom gameplay, only with improved visuals and modern tech. It had great lighting, genuine scares (and admittedly, the overuse of monster closets), and was exactly what it needed to be – a modern Doom.

Yes, the flashlight was annoying, and yes the action could get repetitive, but it’s Doom. What did you expect? Skyrim? What we wanted from a new Doom was bigger guns, demons, horror, and lots of violence, and that’s just what ID delivered. It was great, even if it was met with a lot of ire.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge

This is an odd one, as it was critically acclaimed when it arrived and was widely hailed as one of the best action titles around. This praise was deserved, as Crimson Skies was a superb shooter, with fluid, simple controls, impressive visuals, and a smooth engine. It basically played as well as it looked and offered a unique, 1930s world of the future setting.

Sadly, though, the series inexplicably went dark and hasn’t been heard from since. A sequel was started after the first hit release, but Microsoft canned it soon afterward. So far, it shows no signs of returning.

TimeSplitters: Future Perfect

The last TimeSplitters game released, and although not the best (that accolade falls to TimeSplitters 2), Future Perfect gets its place here thanks to the excellent online mode that made the most of Xbox Live, the major bonus feature of the Xbox.

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With one of the most flexible and customizable online components ever seen, along with a simple map editor, Future Perfect‘s online mode was almost that – perfect. It was responsible for some of the best online FPS matches we’ve ever played, and it had a pretty good single-player component, too.

Future Perfect didn’t do all that well commercially, though, and so far, we’ve yet to see another title surface, despite various rumors and free-to-play claims.

Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb

Long before Lara Croft was treading the dangerous depths of crypts and tombs across the world, Indiana Jones was taking on the Nazis and evil cults, while looking for lost artifacts and doing so with a style all his own.

When it comes to games, however, Indy hasn’t always been as successful as his female rival. Aside from the excellent Fate of Atlantis from Lucasarts, his adventures have almost always been middling to bad. That was until Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb.

This was the Indy action game we’d been waiting for, and it easily took on Tomb Raider with its mix of platforming, puzzling, and combat. In fact, thanks to Indy’s brawling style of fisticuffs, the game had a far better combat system than Tomb Raider (and still does), and it perfectly recreates the feel of the movies, right down to the “Raider’s March” theme. For some reason, though, it didn’t perform all that well. Probably as Indy lacked oversized breasts.

Prisoner of War

Hailing from Codemasters, who now deals almost exclusively in racing, Prisoner of War was a great stealth title that challenged you to escape various POW camps during WWII. The game used a variety of stealth techniques, and the need to deal with both guards and other inmates to find your way out of various camps, culminating with an escape from the infamous Colditz.

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The strength here was the unique nature of each escape and the actions the player could take, which varied. Guards wouldn’t simply kill you if they saw you, but would order you to stop instead. Fail to do so and they’d shoot. You’d need to find items and currency to trade with other inmates for useful escape tools, and there was more than one homage to classic escape films.


This was the game many thought Red Dead Revolver should have been (and eventually was with Red Dead Redemption) and was an open world, GTA-style Wild West adventure. It had a large, open map, and plentiful side missions.

As well as fully fleshed out gunplay, the game also emphasized hand-to-hand combat and featured stealth sections and a host of random attacks by bandits. It was nowhere near the size and scope of Red Dead Redemption, or even GTA III, but it was a surprisingly solid game nonetheless. Sadly, it didn’t really make it big and we never saw it again.

Genma Onimusha (Onimusha Warlords)

Basically Resident Evil set in feudal Japan, the Onimusha series was fairly popular for a time, but this popularity was short-lived. Onimusha Warlords was the first entry in the series, released on Xbox as Genma Onimusha, an updated form of the initial PS2 outing. It used the same Resident Evil style of fixed-camera third-person gameplay and pre-rendered backgrounds, but replaced guns with swords. It also added magic and a host of enemies rooted in Japanese mythology. There were even some zombie samurai!

The FOCUS on melee combat made the game feel very different to Resident Evil, but the mixture of fighting, puzzles, and horror was still present, and the foes were more varied and interesting than endless waves of zombies and mutant monsters. Oddly, as good as the series was, it’s since died off, and we’ve not seen the main thread return since 2006’s Dawn of Dreams.

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Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly

One of the scariest games ever made, and also one overlooked by many gamers, Fatal Frame II was a great Xbox title. It was ported from the PS2 as a Director’s Cut, and the best new addition was the inclusion of a first-person mode, which served to immerse you even more in the Japanese horror.

Using nothing more than a magical camera, you have to explore the creepy locations in the game, finding and exorcizing ghosts by taking their pictures. The use of Japanese Ringu and Ju-On aesthetics was perfect and the atmosphere is far more oppressive than most other survival horror titles.

Voodoo Vince

This was a great action platformer that focused on puzzles and Vince’s range of Voodoo powers. The visual style was very reminiscent of Tim Burton’s striking aesthetic, and although the actual platforming aspect of the game wasn’t up to the same quality as the puzzling and presentation, this was a great one-off title and a distinctly different example of the genre.

Sadly, Vince didn’t go down all that well with the public, and the character was never revisited, even if fans of the game consider it to be one of the best platformers on the console.


Roadkill is best described as an open world Twisted Metal. Unlike the more famous vehicle shooter, Roadkill didn’t simply feature a series of missions but instead packed tasks onto a large map.

Various vehicles could be used and outfitted with a variety of weapons. The world was a post-apocalyptic wasteland of combat and carnage, where there was no law, other than the various gangs that roamed the landscape. It was a pretty decent, and well-presented game with fluid combat – a great alternative to the linear Twisted Metal series, which was exclusive to Sony.

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Armed Dangerous

Although not a technical marvel, with visuals that didn’t really make the most of the Xbox’s capabilities, Armed Dangerous had it where it counts. This was a totally crazy third-person shooter littered with oddball enemies and even stranger weapons. The highlight of these unique armaments has to be the Landshark gun, which fired, yes, a shark that “swam” towards your foes and gobbled them up. Nice.

The game didn’t really pretend to be anything more than a crazy, off-the-rails shooter, and so it failed to sell all that well at a time when people clearly wanted more complex and cutting-edge titles. Oh well.

American McGee’s Scrapland

He may be seen by many as overrated, but American McGee does have a knack for creating striking characters and worlds. His debut title, Alice, was excellent, and this title was another of his successes, at least in terms of quality.

Players took on the role of D-Tritus, who lived in the titular robotic world, actually called Chimera by its inhabitants. The plot revolved around the world’s religion, which was a paid for service that resurrects robots who expire. There were also humans and other organic beings, and in his job as a reporter, D-Tritus investigated a murder, seemingly perpetrated by a human.

The game was similar in some ways to GTA, although more basic, and in an eye-meltingly colorful, neon world. The player could take control of other robot types and utilize their skills. Side activities like racing added to the mix and vehicles could be customized. It was a great, if largely unknown, adventure.

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Brute Force

Brute Force was one of the launch titles for the Xbox and it’s a good example of a game that many overlooked. It was a squad-based shooter that starred four protagonists with varied skills and abilities. Tex was the weapons guy able to carry two weapons at once, Brutus was a humanoid lizard able to sprint and use enhanced vision, Flint was the cyborg sniper with enhanced aiming, and Hawk was the stealthy assassin.

The team embarked on various missions on a number of planets, fighting against a collection of enemy factions, and most encounters could be approached in a number of different ways, making use of the different team abilities.

Sure, the game didn’t play as well as the launch trailers claimed, and was a more formulaic shooter, but it was a big, interesting title, and we’d have liked to see where it could have headed if it had returned for more.

Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

We’re willing to bet you’ve never heard of this one, which is a shame, as it’s a unique and interesting take on the usual 3D environment-scaling formula, with stealth and graffiti elements.

Featuring the Mark Ecko License, the game cast you as Trane, an up and coming street artist who lived in New Radius, a city controlled by a strict police regime. Trane’s goal was to become the best street artist around, but to do this he had to contend with rival gangs, as well as the authorities, who didn’t look too favorably on graffiti artists defiling the streets.

The game made extensive use of Prince of Persia-style climbing and platforming, as Trane had to get to ever-more difficult to reach places to spray his tags and artwork. There was also melee combat and stealth mechanic.

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Ultimately, it was flawed, with some iffy controls and an often annoying camera, but the core game was good. Well worth a look.

Tron 2.0: Killer App

Although it wasn’t as good as the original PC version, Tron 2.0: Killer App was still a fine FPS, and far better than the more recent reboot movie’s video game adaptation (and the actual movie for that matter). Developed by Monolith, the game depicted events after the original film (it was considered the film’s sequel until Tron Legacy was released).

Players took control of Alan Bradley’s son, Jet. Alan is kidnapped by fCon, owned by the villainous ENCOM, and Jet has to be digitized to enter the computer world to rescue his dad.

Many of Tron‘s original cast lent their vocal talents to the game, including Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan, and Syd Mead designed a new light cycle for the game. Because of this, the computer world featured was excellent, and recreated the digital environs of the ’80s flick, adding a more modern take. It had a great range of weapons, original resource-focused stats, and skills. You really did feel as though you were exploring a true, computer world, something the new film just lost sight of. Give this a go, it’s great.

card, games, xbox, underrated

Deus Ex: Invisible War

It may often be seen as the black sheep of the Deus Ex family, and as a sequel to the divine PC original, it was certainly lacking, but Invisible War was still a fine game in its own right. PC gamers, in particular, were livid about the game and still are to this day.

It had a graphics engine that undeniably pushed the Xbox a little too far, but the Deus Ex staple of open-ended encounters and a rich, detailed world were kept intact. The story, which took place after both the original game and Human Revolution, was interesting, bringing back most of the original game’s characters and story threads.

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Ion Storm may have made some dubious decisions, such as simplified RPG elements, inventory systems, and the uniform ammo system, but even the worst Deus Ex game is better than most others, so if you’ve missed it, or avoided it due to the myriad of complaints, ignore them and give it a try.

X2: Wolverine’s Revenge

There really aren’t many X-Men games that do the subject matter justice. Most end up as lame movie tie-ins or wasted opportunities, but this often overlooked entry actually got a lot right.

Wolverine’s Revenge focuses on the most popular X-Men mutant and delved into the canuckle head’s origins, seeing him travel to the Weapon X facility to cure the Shiva virus, a condition implanted in him during his incarceration as Weapon X.

The game was a third-person scrapper with heavy stealth elements, and this worked well for the character. As Wolverine wasn’t in top form, he had to make use of his stealthy abilities and heightened senses to get the drop on foes, and this made for some truly challenging stealth play.

The game also delivered a great video game incarnation of Wolverine. Here he was more than just a flurry of adamantium claws, but was a predatory beast, using the most of his skills to best his foes. As it should be.

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Blood Omen 2

This was the actual sequel to the original Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen, and wasn’t part of the Soul Reaver series as such, but instead ties the two stories together. In this one, players controlled the Soul Reaver antagonist, the vampire Kain. Kain awakes after 200 years to find his army gone and the vampire-killing Sarafan in control. He has to brave the dangerous city of Meridian, home of the Sarafan Lord, to defeat his nemesis and retrieve the powerful Soul Reaver sword.

The game was very much a Tomb Raider-style adventure, only it featured slower-paced melee combat that emphasized blocking and dodging. Kain could acquire and use a number of powers, but stealth was often his best option.


Sudeki was a great little RPG that many may have missed, as it didn’t do all that well. Primarily a third-person RPG, Sudeki features multiple main characters with unique skills and real-time combat. Depending on the character, combat could be either third-person (melee) or first-person (ranged). Outside of battle, puzzles had to be solved, also using character abilities.

It was a good looking game, very similar to the likes of Fable, and it boasted an anime aesthetic, with an interesting world and plot. The varied skills of the main party of characters kept changing things up, which stopped things becoming too repetitive.

Steel Battalion

There’s a big reason that this game failed to make it as big as it should have, and that’s the controller. Steel Battalion made use of a massive DIY controller that cost well over 200 – not a good way to attract the masses.

If you were lucky enough to own the game and the expensive controller, you had what was, and arguably still is, the best mech game around. The controller really made the game, with a range of levers, buttons, and lights that made controlling a mech very realistic. You really did feel like you were piloting a powerful, giant robot of death. The game was damn hard too and was designed for the true mech fan.

Sadly, because of this niche target audience and massive price, it didn’t sell very well, and so many will never get the chance to play it, which is a big shame.

Fusion Frenzy

One of the more interesting launch titles for the Xbox, Fusion Frenzy was a pure party game, designed to take advantage of the console’s four-way, local multiplayer capabilities. It featured a selection of characters, admittedly rather bland ones, that could compete in a number of mini-game challenges.

The 20 or so mini-games were varied and included great modes, such as various styles of racing games, sumo-style elimination bouts, rhythm games, and much more. This was all presented with some great sci-fi visuals.

Party games are often overlooked by many, especially those who prefer solo or online titles, but Fusion Frenzy was an excellent value title for a post-pub blast.

Judge Dredd: Dredd vs. Death

As well as the earlier 2000AD Rogue Trooper title, Rebellion also released this Judge Dredd FPS. Like Rogue Trooper, this was actually pretty damn good and was another clear sign that the devs knew what they were doing with the license, possessing a true love for the comic (which is more than can be said for the awful movies so far).

The game brilliantly reproduced the comic book creation, with a colorful, but still dark Mega City One, tons of references to the comic, even some highly obscure ones, and some decent FPS play. Most importantly, it gave fans what they wanted: to go up against Dredd’s arch enemy, Judge Death and his Dark Judges.

Although the boss fights were a little lacking and could have been much more creative, this was a good, challenging FPS, and it’s certainly the best Dredd game out there, not that there’s a great deal of them.

Operation Flashpoint: Elite

This port of the PC military shooter (which became ARMA after licensing disputes) was an impressive release on the Xbox, incorporating everything that made the PC original so good. It featured the vast, wide open islands, multiple storylines, and missions that could often be tackled in any way you saw fit. It also brought with it the game’s punishing difficulty, thanks to the highly realistic setting and damage system.

You played as a number of soldiers, from an up-and-coming grunt to tank and chopper pilots. Some of the best missions featured the game’s covert ops sections, where you often had to traverse enemy territory under the cover of darkness and foliage. These were incredibly tense and realistic, far more so than any of today’s major military shooters. Multiplayer was also fantastic.

Kung Fu Chaos

Like Fusion Frenzy, Kung Fu Chaos was another party game, but this one focused on martial arts combat and saw players utilize the various game characters to make a fictional kung fu movie. When a level was complete, you could even watch the movie back and marvel at your sheer skill (or lack of it).

Visually, it was cartoon thrills all the way. The game was packed with parodies of famous martial arts movies and stars. The various movie set stages all featured specific styles, with various hazards that had to be avoided while fighting your way through, such as aliens and dinosaurs.

The game was fun when played solo, but this was all about the multiplayer. Even so early on in the Xbox’s life, this was and still is one of the best multiplayer games on the platform. It even had exploding pigs!

Conker: Live and Reloaded

This was essentially an HD remake of the N64 adult platformer classic, with improved visuals, better audio, and an interesting multiplayer component thrown in to make use of Xbox Live.

Like the N64 original, the main game was a cutesy solo platformer, but this was no kids game. As Conker the drunken squirrel, you begin the game after a particularly heavy night in the local boozer and have to get home to your shapely love interest. Unfortunately, this journey home isn’t so straightforward. The Panther King needs a new leg for his coffee table so he can drink milk without spilling it. Luckily for him, red squirrels are just the right size, and so he sets his sights on Conker. Yes, that’s the story. Really.

What followed was a slick and challenging platformer that featured all sorts of adult humor, including some very literal toilet humor in the form of the Great Mighty Poo. Puzzles, violent melee combat, and plenty of parodies of famous movies like A Clockwork Orange, Terminator, The Matrix, and Saving Private Ryan were featured.

The multiplayer was a class-based third-person shooter that didn’t get the attention it deserved, as it was actually pretty fun. A really solid game that didn’t do all that well, probably due to the cute image mixed with adult content confusing parents everywhere.

Thief: Deadly Shadows

Ion Storm’s sequel to Deus Ex may have been questionable to many, but its effort in the Thief series was far better, even if it still failed to sell all that well, a curse the whole series has suffered.

Deadly Shadows utilized the unchained power of the modern tech of the time to bring Garrett back to our screens in a city that contained tons of detail, albeit with smaller locations and missions, and a pointless, and thankfully optional, third-person view. These missions, however, were Thief through-and-through, something the recent Thief from Eidos Montreal failed to reproduce. In fact, Deadly Shadows is a superior game to the latest outing in almost every way. It captured not only the proper feel of the city, but protagonist Garrett, and the other factions that contributed to the series’ unique feel. Oh, and it had the Shalebridge Cradle mission, which is one of the single most terrifying gaming experiences ever.

If you’re looking for a true Thief game on consoles (can’t play Thief I or II), dig Deadly Shadows out and ignore the latest release.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

The work of H.P. Lovecraft isn’t the usual subject for a console survival horror as many simply don’t know enough about them for it to be commercially viable. However, long before the likes of Amnesia and Slenderman, Call of Cthulhu was scaring the pants off people and making them run away in terror.

Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was a horror FPS that included stealth elements as well as various unique features for the time, such as no visible HUD, which added to the immersion. The game’s main character was also a mentally unstable detective who had to investigate a strange town. On arrival, this town threw players into a fast-paced effort to escape foes by blocking pursuers with doors and finding escape routes. Eventually, weapons and combat were introduced.

The atmosphere was great, constantly dark and foreboding, and the Lovecraftian horror fit the atmosphere perfectly, offering something a whole lot more interesting than the usual zombies or ghosts. A great FPS survival horror and one that deserved more attention than it got.

Cold Fear

The GameCube, and eventually the PS2, had a major gaming advantage over the Xbox in that they both got a copy of the excellent Resident Evil 4. The Xbox never got this, but it did have a good alternative in the form of Cold Fear.

This mostly ignored survival horror featured the same third-person style of Resident Evil 4, along with some impressive graphics and effects, such as the constant rocking of the boat the game initially took place on. The game featured many of the tropes already laid out by Resident Evil, and although it was admittedly not as good a game as the Capcom series, it was a perfectly fine option for those without a GameCube or PS2.

Shenmue II

Initially a Dreamcast exclusive, Sega ported the second Shenmue game to the Xbox and included a mini-movie showing the events of the first entry. Unlike the Dreamcast original, this port featured a full English vocal track.

Shenmue II was already a superb game and the Xbox version allowed it to reach a larger audience. It could have even given the series a platform to continue on following the demise of the Dreamcast. Alas, this wasn’t to be, and despite the quality of the game, it didn’t sell, and Shenmue ended up in limbo until Shenmue III was announced a few years back.

Jet Set Radio Future

Jet Set Radio (also called Jet Grind Radio) was another Dreamcast title that made the jump from Sega’s machine to the Xbox, and this was a very good jump indeed. Jet Set Radio Future featured the same cel-shaded action as the Dreamcast original, along with a great soundtrack, but it was designed to be bigger and better, with a new story, new artwork, and more open levels and multiple mission objectives. It featured user-created graffiti tags too, and multiplayer, a constant theme of Xbox ports, where developers wanted to make the most of the excellent Xbox Live service.

Many insist that this isn’t as good as the Dreamcast original, and we’d agree, but it’s still a great title, and one of the best and most unique Xbox games. Understand, understand, the concept of love.

Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I II

Yes, it’s yet another Dreamcast title ported to the Xbox, and it’s also the first online RPG that worked on a console. Sega’s Phantasy Star Online was a fantastic online RPG. It wasn’t an MMO as we know them now but instead was smaller in scale, allowing up to four people to team up in instanced dungeon crawling. Combat was in real time, instead of queued up attacks, and it featured a host of weapons, magic, and loot to collect and upgrade. It could be played solo, but to get the most out of the game, this was online all the way.

A large and loyal community grew with the game and many Dreamcast owners purchased an Xbox just to carry on playing their beloved title. Still, it failed to do anywhere near as well as it did on Dreamcast, despite the larger user base for the Microsoft console. Sega may have killed it off in recent years with a reluctance to forgo a subscription model, but in its day, this was a brilliant, if simple MMORPG.

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

Surely the best outing of the Oddworld series, Stranger’s Wrath was a peculiar stealth title that featured all sorts of clever, trap-based FPS combat and third-person platforming.

As the titular bounty hunter, the Stranger, players had to utilize all sorts of living creatures as ammo on his special crossbow. Creatures could be used to lure foes, attack them, stun them, and more, with the goal of capturing foes alive for bounties, which the Stranger could claim at the nearest township.

Set in the Oddworld universe, the game was every bit as quirky as any of Abe’s adventures. Sadly, it was missed by most. A HD version has since been re-released digitally, though, so if you missed it on the original Xbox, make sure to check it out.

Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction

This game did make it to a sequel, but its second outing was nowhere near as good as the original. This was an open-world sandbox title in the style of a militarized GTA. Players picked one of three mercenaries to play as and were sent into a fictional DMZ war zone between North and South Korea to tackle a large number of missions and side quests.

All sorts of weapons and vehicles could be found, and using the game’s black market, a wide selection of air strikes and support could be called in, with devastating results (it wasn’t called Playground of Destruction for nothing). There were a number of factions, including the Allied Nations, South Korea, and the Russian Mafia, and missions were varied and well-implemented into the large open warzone.

The main FOCUS of the game was to locate and either capture or kill the deck of 52, the major officers and commanders of the game’s antagonist, the North Korean army, and unlike the sequel, it never devolved into QTE events or cheap tricks. It was pure action all the way, and it was brilliant.

Mace Griffin: Bounty Hunter

Starring Henry Rollins as the voice of Mace Griffin, this was a sci-fi FPS that put players in the shoes of Mace, an intergalactic bounty hunter on a mission to clear his name of a crime he didn’t commit. It sounds cheesy, and it was, but the gameplay more than made up for it.

The game was split into two sections. The on-foot FPS sections were solid and very difficult in places. There was a collection of satisfying weapons and interesting locations, too. Accompanying these were the space combat sections where Mace would pilot his ship, taking down enemy fighters before docking with his intended target and proceeding on foot. All of this flowed seamlessly, with no loading between the ship and on-foot sections.

It was one of the best FPS titles on the platform, and some would even argue it was better than Halo. You may or may not agree with this, but regardless, this is an FPS that should have been more popular.

Jade Empire

It’s hard to imagine a BioWare RPG being less than a system seller, but Jade Empire was an experiment that didn’t quite work out as well as other BioWare projects, despite being a great game all the same.

Set in a fantasy far east world, the game was similar in style to the Knights of the Old Republic games, but ditched the point-and-click-style combat for real-time martial arts and magic attacks. You could pick from a number of different martial artists, each of whom specialized in certain styles. Along the way, other combat styles could be learned, each of which granted whole new attacks and move sets.

It was a visually beautiful RPG, with some amazing environments, and the eastern-style was unique for the genre, replacing the usual magic or mana with Chi and other eastern themes.


Breakdown is a game that’s criminally overlooked. This Namco title was flawed, sure, but it was also an ambitious and brilliant FPS that featured a hand-to-hand combat system that actually worked and a slow-burning but interesting story, with twists and turns keeping things interesting throughout.

Once you got used to the combat system and acquired some of protagonist Derrick Cole’s superpowers, you really did feel like a superhuman capable of taking down whole squads of soldiers. Great stuff.

Beyond Good and Evil

Okay, regulars of the site will be all too familiar with our love for the Ubisoft classic, Beyond Good and Evil, and although we prefer to keep lists unique for platforms where possible, this is one game that deserves to be mentioned whenever relevant. While it was multi-platform, the Xbox version was every bit as good, if not better than the others.

Jade’s adventure against an invading alien force, armed only with her staff and camera, is simply unforgettable. This game ist so good we just can’t understand why it flopped so badly. It’s available in HD form now via Xbox Live and there’s a sequel on the way!

The Punisher

The Batman: Arkham games have become known as the best comic book adaptations in gaming, and that’s perfectly correct, they’re brilliant. But another excellent comic book Hero game that nailed the subject matter was Marvel’s The Punisher from THQ and Volition.

A third-person shooter and torture simulator, the game accurately portrayed Frank Castle’s anti-Hero and didn’t skimp on his trademark violence and disdain of the criminal underworld. It also included plenty of Marvel cameos, including Iron Man and Nick Fury, as well as a selection of supervillains like the Kingpin and Bullseye.

It was a rare example of a nigh-on perfect comic book adaptation. The many missions spanned a decent selection of locations, including the Ryker’s Island prison and Stark Towers. Frank is even voiced by Thomas Jane, the only decent movie Punisher.


Created by Tim Shafer, Psychonauts was a simply brilliant 3D platformer that took place in the minds of various disturbed individuals, as protagonist Ratz explored their psyches in order to train as a Psychonaut, a psychic spy.

It featured the trademark humor Shafer’s studio is known for, along with striking visuals and some fine platforming play. The range of psychic powers acquired opens up a host of possibilities, such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, and pyrokinesis, and these were used in both combat and to solve the game’s many puzzles.

It was a truly unique take on the overpopulated genre, and so it’s so unfortunate that it failed to do well during its initial release. Like a few of the titles on this list, however, it’s now available digitally, so be sure to check it out. A sequel is on the way, as well!

Phantom Dust

We’re willing to bet you’ve probably never heard of this game, which isn’t surprising as it had hardly any hype at all at release and so didn’t sell. It should have, though, as it was fantastic.

Phantom Dust mixed together third-person combat with card collecting, and it did so superbly. You could pick from over 300 different power cards and form of a deck of attacks and skills which you could use against your opponent in frantic battles. There were over 100 single-player missions and many locations featured destructible environments.

As well as the extensive solo content, the game also boasted a great online multiplayer mode, and it supported DLC, adding even more card skills. It was all set in an anime-style postapocalyptic world with impressive visuals and addictive gameplay.

Phantom Dust has developed quite the cult following but has so far failed to muster up a sequel, and despite both fans and the game’s producer, Yukio Futatsugi, wanting another outing, Microsoft has so far demonstrated little interest. The company did release a remastered version of the game back in 2017, though.

That’s our list and you may or may not agree with some of our picks. Which games would you place in your own selection? Let us know in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев as always.

The 38 best games on Game Pass

Many games are huge. Others are endless. Some are so exciting that they swallow our news feeds whole. That’s where Polygon’s What to Play comes in: We curate the best, most innovative, and most intriguing games on every platform, so you can spend less time searching, and more time playing.

Halfway through 2023, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service is looking to have another banner year, with over 450 games available for console players and over 400 for PC players.

Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable made their debut on Xbox consoles earlier this year, and Tango Gameworks’ surprise release Hi-Fi Rush told a cathartic rock ’n’ roll story with clever mechanics. Even Grand Theft Auto 5 — and its extremely popular online mode — has returned to the service once more. That’s a lot of “free” video gaming to be done!

With the sheer size and the bounty of choice it offers, Game Pass can be a bit overwhelming to digest. But we’re here to help. Here are the 38 PC and Xbox Game Pass games that you should be checking out if you subscribe to Microsoft’s flagship service.

[Ed. note: This list was last updated on July 8, 2023. It will be updated as new games come to the service.]

Age of Empires 4

Age of Empires 4 serves as a reminder of what came before. It’s a classic real-time strategy game on PC that pits historic empires against one another. It has several campaigns, narrated like history documentaries, as well as online skirmishes so you can battle against friends.

But there are loads of other historic RTS games out there. What makes Age of Empires 4 special is that it came out in 2021. It’s a game designed to remind players what they loved about RTS games when they were all the rage over a decade ago, but it trades out aged sprites for glorious visuals and smooth performance. —Ryan Gilliam

Age of Empires 4 is available via Game Pass on Windows PC.

Among Us

Among Us was originally released in 2018, but it took the events of 2020 to make it a phenomenon. You can play with up to 10 players, running around each level trying to finish tasks while an imposter (or several) tries to kill everyone else without being found out. It’s basically a goofy take on The Thing, but weaponized as a social game with multiple levels of strategy. How the imposter tries to get away with it, and talk their way out of it when emergency meetings are called, is half the fun.

There’s something amazing about the idea that there are so many games out there, so many titles across so many platforms, that the near-perfect game for every situation seems to already exist. somewhere. In this case, it was found and rescued from relative obscurity, and there’s even a free-to-play iOS and Android version that can connect with PC players if you want to get a crew together.

The thought of all those hidden gems, just waiting to be given a second chance, is comforting in a time when so many people are finding it hard to continue to be creative, or have hope at all.

Among Us helped show us that relief may come from unexpected places, and the game has been keeping players occupied, and laughing, ever since it took off in the summer of 2020. —Ben Kuchera

Among Us is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

A Plague Tale: Requiem

Video games have an endless fascination with protectors. Whether it be a man escorting his proxy daughter through an apocalyptic America, a father guiding his son through the trials of mythical Armageddon, or a government agent sent to retrieve the president’s daughter from a remote Spanish village, this is a medium obsessed with those who have been deemed guardians. And despite the pedigree of the above examples, I have encountered few “escort” stories as stunning as that of A Plague Tale: Requiem.

Set shortly after A Plague Tale: Innocence, Requiem finds protagonist Amicia and her younger brother Hugo during a brief reprieve from the Macula, the sinister plague that gives Hugo vicious powers, but is also eating him from the inside. The respite comes to an end, of course, propelling the duo on a journey across the French countryside, through rat-infested tunnels, and across the rooftops of plague-ridden slums. Pacing is crucial in third-person adventures, and Requiem’s expert flow of puzzles, stealth sequences, horrifying set-pieces, and brutal combat scenarios is pacing at its best. —Mike Mahardy

A Plague Tale: Requiem is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X via Game Pass.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed Origins has always been good — but it was only in hindsight, three years after its release, that I began to consider it great.

It’s a phenomenal concoction of historical tourism, sci-fi storytelling, and open-ended combat. It also displays a confidence that the more recent Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla can only partially match. Whereas the two most recent entries embrace the insecure ethos of “content” that has so defined the last decade of open-world games, Origins is content to leave vast swaths of its world empty and to let things burn slowly, in ways both narrative and explorative. Its map unfurls over deserts, mountains, oases, and sun-swept cities slowly being buried in sand, all while its two central figures (Bayek and Aya) navigate one of video games’ most compelling romances.

It’s not completely averse to daily challenges and cosmetic DLC packs. But it’s the rare open-world game that trusts my attention span. It understands that pastoral beauty and tragic storytelling, successfully interwoven, are worth more than any number of distractions its successors can throw at me. —Mike Mahardy

Assassin’s Creed Origins is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Chicory: A Colorful Tale

Chicory: A Colorful Tale tells the story of a small dog who accidentally inherits a magical paintbrush. As you travel around the black-and-white open world, you use your new paint powers to bring color back to the environments. Everything is your canvas, and you can color it all to both solve puzzles and customize the setting to your liking.

The gameplay of Chicory is cute and relatively simple, even as you unlock new powers. But the reason it made it to the No. 2 slot on Polygon’s 2021 Game of the Year list is the story it tells about the destructive powers of self-doubt — the way it cruelly infects even the greatest artists out there.

Chicory is a game that’s not about coloring in the lines or even making something beautiful. It’s about making something — painting something, in this case — that you are proud of, that makes you happy. And if that creation also brings joy to those around you? Hey, that’s great too. —Ryan Gilliam

Chicory: A Colorful Tale is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Cities: Skylines

There’s a reason Cities: Skylines is often held up by literal city planners as the pinnacle of the genre: It doesn’t fall into the trap most city-builders do of treating all its resources and systems as mere data points on a list, gaming by way of a spreadsheet. Cities: Skylines is the real deal, letting you get into the weeds of urban micromanagement and understanding how and why metropolises morph in response to the needs of their citizens. (It’s also proof that planned cities are a crime against humanity.)

Cities: Skylines forces you to grapple with the beautiful, messy truth of what your citizens are: people. In other words, Eric Adams, please play Cities: Skylines! —Ari Notis

Cities Skylines is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Citizen Sleeper

Citizen Sleeper is a Hyper-stylized tabletop-like RPG set in space. In a capitalist society, you find yourself stuck on a space station. You’ll need to manage your time, energy, and relationships to survive the collapse of the corporatocracy and the anarchy that follows. You’ll roll dice and make decisions to get paid and help those around you.

Aside from its interesting setting, Citizen Sleeper features a vibrant cast of impactful characters, making each interaction memorable. It follows an excellent trend of table-top inspired games to encourage you to find your own objectives, and to revel in the story when things fall apart. It’s packed with tense decisions, great writing, and striking visuals. —Ryan Gilliam

Citizen Sleeper is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Crusader Kings 3

Imagine if Succession unfolded between the years 867 and 1453, in the throne rooms, banquet halls, and torchlit back corridors of European castles. Monarchs rise and fall, small-time fiefdoms become bona fide kingdoms, and nonmarital children exact revenge after decades of being shunned. Crusader Kings 3 is the story of the Roy family if we could pick any character, see them through to their death, and assume control of their orphaned heir — at which point, we can completely alter the course of the dynasty through petty gossip and underhanded murder attempts.

In Paradox Interactive’s vast suite of grand strategy games with complex systems that give way to thrilling emergent storytelling, none have made me cackle with glee quite as much as Crusader Kings 3. In one playthrough, I wed my firstborn son to the daughter of a powerful neighboring king, only for said daughter to declare a holy war on me one decade later. In another, I strong-armed one of my vassals into remaining loyal, shortly before knighting his cousin and sworn rival; I didn’t want to be a jerk, but my characters were jerks. I was just following the script down the path of least resistance.

Much like Succession, Crusader Kings 3 is at its best when tensions finally boil over between the emotionally stunted members of a dysfunctional family. Unlike Succession, though, Crusader Kings 3 never has to end. —Mike Mahardy

Crusader Kings 3 is available via Game Pass on Windows PC and Xbox Series X.

Dead Cells

Dead Cells is the platonic ideal of a roguelite — a fact that, if anything, has only grown stronger with age. The Castlevania trappings serve as a vehicle for rock-solid gameplay that stands on its own merits: breathlessly tense combat and a seemingly bottomless array of weapons.

The unpredictable nature of Dead Cells is emblematic of that “just one more run” mentality, a sensation that has been expanded upon with a wave of DLC, including one deliciously meta Castlevania tie-in.

It was true in 2017, when the game first came out. It’s true now. Dead Cells is one of the best roguelites of all time. —Ari Notis

Dead Cells is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Death’s Door

Death’s Door is a cute little Soulslike game. You play as a raven who works as a kind of grim reaper for the bureaucratic arm of the afterlife. It’s your job to adventure in the world and claim the lives of a handful of bosses. The world of Death’s Door is charming, as are its characters, with excellent dungeons to explore and puzzles to solve. There are also giant enemies who will test both your skills and patience.

Still, Death’s Door has a friendly air around it. It wants you to succeed, and does a nice job easing you along with easy-to-read enemy and boss patterns. It’s a great, challenging Game Pass game to cut your teeth on before venturing into even more difficult titles. —Ryan Gilliam

Death’s Door is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Doom (2016)

2016’s Doom builds off of one of the oldest franchises in gaming history with speed, acrobatics, and an absolutely killer soundtrack. Doomguy moves extremely quickly, swapping between a variety of guns, grenades, melee attacks, and a giant chainsaw to blow up demons off of Mars.

The game is bloody, metal as hell, and surprisingly funny. Doom makes you feel like a god, capable of clearing any hurdle the game could throw at you, and it doesn’t offer a single dull level in its lengthy campaign. —Ryan Gilliam

Doom (2016) is available via Game Pass on Xbox One and Xbox Series X.

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 is the latest racing game to land on Xbox and Game Pass. It’s a visual feast filled with some of the most realistic-looking cars you’ve ever seen. But anyone who loves any of these Forza games will tell you that the Horizon series is so much more than its graphics.

Horizon 5 takes place in a fictionalized Mexico, and gives you the freedom to drive around a massive map in whatever car you want. You can drive a nice sports car while off-roading, or drive a hummer off a massive ramp.

Forza Horizon 5 gives you the freedom and choice to drive how and where you want inside a legion of incredible cars. —Ryan Gilliam

Forza Horizon 5 is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Grand Theft Auto 5

Grand Theft Auto 5 is one of the most celebrated games of the last decade. In that time, it has appeared on three different generations of consoles, seen numerous graphical improvements, and gotten new modes, like its sweeping first-person alteration.

The main story focuses on three criminals from three very different backgrounds bumbling their way through numerous heists in the city of Los Santos — a fictional version of Southern California. And in order to tell the stories of Michael, Franklin, and Trevor, the game implements a feature that allows you to swap between the protagonists at will, offering a new perspective on the city and letting you play multiple roles per heist.

Grand Theft Auto games usually live long past their time, but GTA 5 has remained especially relevant due to GTA Online, the sprawling MMO-like experience that Rockstar Games created inside the world of San Andreas. It’s the massive GTA 5 sandbox — plus a little extra — without any of the constraints found in the story mode.

The parts of GTA 5 that annoy — such as the more misguided aspects of its American commentary, or the occasional tailing mission — are distant memories compared to the chaos you can cause every five minutes. If futzing around a semi-realistic metropolitan area is something you really enjoy, it’s hard to imagine anything on this list entertaining you for as long as Grand Theft Auto 5 will. —Ryan Gilliam

Grand Theft Auto 5 is available via Game Pass on Xbox One and Xbox Series X.


Grounded is a horrifying glimpse into our own backyards. It’s a game that answers a question posed only by the highest of our friends: Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be a bug crawling around in the grass? Obsidian Entertainment answers that question with an even better one: What if you were so small that even bugs were giants?

On its face, Grounded is another great survival game. You run around the backyard — a veritable wonderland to your tiny, shrunken child body — collecting resources, drinking water to stay hydrated, eating food to stay full, upgrading your equipment, and building your bases. But it’s the flavor that sells Grounded and keeps it both charming and scary.

Your homes aren’t built from wooden planks; they’re built from blades of grass you’ve carefully cut down. Your water supply is the dew drops resting on plants each morning. And you haven’t truly feared an enemy in a video game until you’ve seen a wolf spider eight times your size sprinting toward you in the middle of the night.

Everything in Grounded comes together extremely well, whether you’re playing solo or with some friends in a shared world. It’s one of the most charming survival games I’ve ever played, and promises hours of fun to anyone willing to face down the massive, terrifying creatures standing in their way. —Ryan Gilliam

Grounded is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

The Xbox brand might never have taken off without the Halo series, the first-person shooters that helped to popularize local competitive multiplayer on consoles before taking the party online after the launch of Xbox Live. The Master Chief Collection package includes multiple Halo games, all of which have been updated to keep them enjoyable for modern audiences.

But what’s so striking about the collection is how many ways there are to play. You can go through the campaigns by yourself. If you want to play with a friend but don’t want to compete, there is co-op, allowing you to share the games’ stories with a partner, either online or through split-screen play. If you do want to compete, you can do it locally against up to three other players on the same TV, or take things online to challenge the wider community.

These are some of the best first-person shooters ever released, and they’re worth revisiting and enjoying, no matter how you decide to play them. Sharing these games with my children through local co-op has been an amazing journey, and this package includes so many games, each of which is filled with different modes and options. It’s hard to imagine ever getting bored or uninstalling the collection once it’s on your hard drive.

This is a part of gaming history that continues to feel relevant, and very much alive. —Ben Kuchera

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is another game poking fun at corporate greed and its general indifference toward the working class — seen in other excellent building games like Satisfactory. But Hardspace takes it further than just tongue-in-cheek poking by asking: What happens when the workers have had enough? Hardspace: Shipbreaker’s pro-union message is a delightful backdrop for an incredibly deep and stress-filled puzzle game.

As a Shipbreaker, your job is to break apart and recycle small spaceships. With your handy welding tools and futuristic gravity tethers, you’re able to carefully carve up these once-great hulks and repurpose them for the future. Sometimes that means throwing all the metal plates into the furnace to be melted down, and other times you’ll need to comb through the skeletons, grab salvageable items, and extract them still intact.

As you improve your skills, the game will test you with harder and larger ships. Suddenly, you’ll have to start worrying about the active nuclear reactors that are still in these vehicles, or pressurized cabins that explode if you open them in the wrong order.

And all of this danger circles Hardspace: Shipbreaker back to the conversation it starts at the very beginning. Hardspace is a game about FOCUS, and how taking your eye off the ball for even a second can end in explosive death, or worse: a career spent toiling under forces that couldn’t care less about you. —Ryan Gilliam

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is available via Game Pass on Windows PC and Xbox Series X.

Hi-Fi Rush

Rhythm games, for players who prefer to shoot, dodge, punch, and jump on their own time, can be a tough sell. But such is not the case with Hi-Fi Rush, the action game from Ghostwire: Tokyo developer Tango Gameworks. It provides an array of visual cues to help rhythmically challenged players, but crucially, it doesn’t require that protagonist Chai attacks according to the game’s metronome. Instead, its rhythm elements are an optional layer to interact with, offering score chasers something to aspire to. For everyone else, the game’s vibrant world, rock n’ roll storytelling, and entrancing traversal stand well enough on their own. It’s a cathartic triumph of a game. —Mike Mahardy

Hi-Fi Rush is available via Game Pass on Windows PC and Xbox Series X.

Hitman World of Assassination

Hitman, Hitman 2, and Hitman 3 are some of the best sandbox puzzle games ever made. As Agent 47, you’ll climb buildings, sneak around parties, and murder spies and debutantes with all manner of tools. Hitman World of Assassination includes the campaigns from all three of the games in IO Interactive’s recent World of Assassination trilogy, giving you more than a dozen maps to play on. Just last week, it also added Freelancer mode, which functions like a roguelike as Agent 47 kills his way through four major crime syndicates, fleshing out his safehouse as he goes.

The Hitman series may be about violence and murder, but it manages to stay lighthearted and fun with its wild physics and silly scenarios. It’s the perfect series to goof around in if you feel like being stealthy, or just want to see what happens when you drop a giant chandelier on a crowd of snobby jerks. —Ryan Gilliam

Hitman Trilogy is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Loop Hero

For a roguelite that doesn’t ask you to do much on an input level, Loop Hero is surprisingly compelling. You start out each run in a cyclical dungeon, viewed from a bird’s-eye perspective. Your character circles the map repeatedly, killing skeletons, vampires, and other fantasy-fare enemies on the way. You have some control over the contours of your loop, dictating what types of foes spawn, and where they do so. You can customize gear, earned from defeating enemies, for better stats. But the rest of the stuff — your movement, your attacks, your enemies’ attacks — is largely automated.

The result is a game that casts you as part mathematician, part autocratic overseer. You adjust the rules of the equation, then watch the math play out. —Ari Notis

Loop Hero is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

The Mass Effect franchise was gigantic for the Xbox 360 era, but it didn’t transfer to future platforms well — purchasing and downloading the entire story became confusing and expensive when moving to the Xbox One and Xbox Series X. But 2021’s Legendary Edition finally made the entire Mass Effect trilogy accessible in one package.

The story follows Commander Shepard, a futuristic military Hero, who’s tasked with gathering a collection of alien misfits for a variety of missions. Each game is wonderfully crafted, with stand-alone stories and breakout characters that don’t rely on the series’ wider narrative. As a trilogy, the games build on each other with meaningful choices that carry over to the next entry, giving weight to your choices.

The Legendary Edition is the way to experience Mass Effect, and it’s a must-play whether you’re on your first run to save the Galaxy or your fifth. —Ryan Gilliam

Mass Effect Legendary Edition is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X, but only for those that have Game Pass Ultimate.


Minecraft is a game in which everything looks like it’s made out of large, square blocks, and you can harvest materials and use them to build whatever you’d like out of those blocks.

There isn’t much left to say about Minecraft that hasn’t already been said, but the game remains popular online, and it has the ability to keep my children occupied in a way no other game can match, in my experience. They ignore the survival mode and go straight for creative, treating it like a split-screen world in which they can build anything they’d like, without worrying about whether they’re going to run out of Lego bricks.

It’s a game that can be meditative when played alone and social when shared with others, and there are mountains of user-created content to sift through and explore. Like the rest of the games on this list, Minecraft is very easy to get into, but you may find it tricky to leave. —Ben Kuchera

Minecraft is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Monster Train

Since Slay the Spire (which is also on this list) debuted in 2017, the card-based roguelite has exploded as a genre. And this many years and mediocre clones later, who could blame you if you dismissed a game like Monster Train after only glimpsing a single screenshot?

But Monster Train is worth your time and attention.

In Monster Train, your goal is to protect your train’s core as it travels to the heart of hell itself. To do that, you’ll need to control one of several different armies, each with their own play styles, and set your units up on multiple floors of the locomotive.

Each battle plays out in turns, and you’ll use your cards to place units, deal direct damage to foes, or buff up your existing army to ensure that your enemies are dead by the time the turn is over. Any enemies that survive climb farther into your train, and closer to your core.

The various artifacts and army combinations in Monster Train ensure that every run feels different. And the difficulty is tuned tightly enough that your first few wins will come well before you spend dozens of hours struggling against the game. But like any good roguelite, Monster Train lures you into one more run with better rewards hidden behind its scaling difficulty.

Everything in Monster Train comes together to ensure you constantly feel like a mix between a tactical genius and a flailing schoolkid. —Ryan Gilliam

Monster Train is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest is a Metroidvania that masters two of the most important aspects of a side-scrolling platformer: the background and the movement.

Ori is filled with color, and as you explore each corner of the game’s massive map, you’ll discover unique locations that all feel like they’re part of the same ecosystem, flowing from one to the next as naturally as possible. And as you move through these areas, you’ll unlock abilities that allow you to slingshot and bound through the environment, until you’re eventually reaching new heights faster than ever.

Beneath its fast pace and beauty, Ori also has a fascinating and unique checkpoint system that allows you to create your own wherever you’re at. Adding to that system as the game grows is just as rewarding as unlocking a new power for Ori or defeating a massive boss.

Despite how much it’s doing, Ori manages to mesh everything together beautifully into a thrilling adventure. It’s one of the best — and most beautiful — platformers on Game Pass, and you shouldn’t miss it. —Ryan Gilliam

Ori and the Blind Forest via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.


Pentiment is the most immediately striking and recognizable game on this list. Inspired by the art of classic manuscripts, Pentiment sucks you into its beautifully designed version of 16th-century Europe, when books were still being written by hand in monasteries.

You play as Andreas, a young artist looking to make his fortune in an ever-changing world. And as you explore a small village and the grounds surrounding it, and go to work drawing magnificent pictures in custom manuscripts, you’ll meet new people and further flesh out Andreas’ personality and background.

The story will take you through murder, scandal, and a variety of other dramatic events in Andreas’ life. But the plot is secondary to the game’s incredible style and dialogue. —Ryan Gilliam

Pentiment is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Persona 4 Golden

Persona 4 Golden follows a boy who goes to stay with his uncle and cousin in a small Japanese town. But almost immediately after his arrival, a serial killer starts murdering civilians, all of which have an unknown thread connecting them.

As with all Persona games, Persona 4 Golden allows you to play out your time in school, improving your character’s social stats and friendships before diving into dungeons to help further the plot. But the cast of characters in Persona 4 Golden is unlike any other in the series, offering some of the most memorable party members in any RPG.

Now on Xbox, Persona 4 Golden looks wonderful and plays beautifully. It’s a Smart turn-based RPG that’s loaded with conversations to be had and mysteries to solve. —Ryan Gilliam

Persona 4 Golden is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Persona 5 Royal

Persona 5 Royal takes one of the best and longest JRPGs of the past decade and tacks another major story chapter on the end. Normally, the idea of spending another 20 hours in a game that already takes 100 hours would sound like a nightmare, but with Persona it’s more like that one time your parents were two hours late to pick you up at a friend’s house.

Royal adds a new Phantom Thief for you to battle alongside. But in typically Persona fashion, that new party member doesn’t matter nearly as much as the relationship they come with. An extra 20 hours in Royal is another 20 hours spent getting to know your best friends, a great cast of beloved characters that act as both confidant and turn-based chess pieces. And, of course, there are new non-combat friends to make as well, all of which feel just as fleshed out as the original cast.

Persona 5 is already an excellent RPG filled with awesome dungeons and a delightful story. But it’s also that rare breed of game that never feels like too much, even as it balloons to multiple days worth of in-game time. So it’s no surprise that Royal makes a great game even better by simply adding more. —Ryan Gilliam

Persona 5 Royal is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X via Game Pass.

Planet of Lana

Planet of Lana is unmistakably a “Limbolike” (those puzzle-platformers unambiguously inspired by Playdead’s watershed Limbo). You, as the titular Lana, live an idyllic life in a fishing village, before the planet is invaded by extraterrestrial robots. You escape the initial attack and rescue a catlike creature named Mui. As a pair, you solve environmental puzzles and stealthily avoid capture by machines. You can dictate Mui’s movements; nearly every segment in the game requires deft use of Mui’s signature set of skills (y’know, chewing on wires, like any good/bad cat).

Planet of Lana could easily have been just another entry in a long line of imitators, but instead is set apart and defined by the one thing missing from Limbo and its ilk: companionship. —Ari Notis

Planet of Lana is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

PowerWash Simulator

PowerWash Simulator is the perfect game to sit on your couch and space off to. As the name suggests, you’re a professional power washer, and your job is to use your washing tools to obliterate grease, grime, and goop off of vehicles, buildings, and even entire playgrounds.

There are some minor upgrade and currency systems, but PowerWash Simulator mostly takes a minimalistic approach — you power wash stuff, no more, no less. Sure, you can take special jobs where you wash something wild like a Mars rover, but it’s really just about making things clean. And while it might sound like boring yard work, it’s actually quite meditative.

Blasting the black film off of a colorful slide provided me with one of the biggest serotonin bursts I’ve gotten from any piece of media in years. It’s a delightful, peaceful game that never fails to relax me after a long week. —Ryan Gilliam

PowerWash Simulator is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 is a sequel to one of the strangest games of the 3D-platformer age. And despite an odd gestation period, it’s a delightful romp through the minds of some incredible characters.

Psychonauts 2 sees Raz adventure through The Motherlobe — the headquarters of the titular Psychonauts — in an attempt to unravel a mystery that’s plagued the organization’s founders for years. This motivation leads to the game’s best feature: the chaotic brain-worlds of its cast.

Each world is a unique environment that moves from the abnormal to the absurd. What starts as a dentist’s office eventually warps into a disturbing explosion of fake teeth — which Raz can then grab and chuck using his telekinesis powers. Over the course of the game, you’ll adventure through a cooking show, a Disney park ride gone wrong, a psychedelic fever dream, and more.

The story and gameplay are both fun enough, but the game is such an explosion of charm and creativity that it’s hard to FOCUS on anything else. —Ryan Gilliam

Psychonauts 2 is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.


For as good as the original Resident Evil games are, they’ve been hard to recommend for a couple decades now. Their fixed camera angles, intimate locales, and FOCUS on survival made for a palpable sense of dread, but their cumbersome control schemes and opaque, often infuriating puzzle structure can make all but the most patient modern players quit. They hold a special place in my heart, and I’ve devoured their numerous remakes and remasters whenever they see the light of day. But let’s face it: They’re outdated.

Signalis, on the other hand, is brand-new, and it shows. Its controls are (mostly) smooth; its puzzles are intuitive; it’s downright eerie. It puts you in the robotic shoes of a reawakened Android as she searches for her counterpart in a wintry, forsaken base. Ammo is limited and deranged enemies won’t hesitate to rush you with butcher knives. Its unforgiving atmosphere and Playstation 1-era graphics belie a modern, clever approach to one of our most revered — and intense – genres. —Mike Mahardy

Signalis is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X via Game Pass.

Slay the Spire

In Slay the Spire, I play as one of three unique characters, in order to fight my way through a randomly generated map filled with battles, treasure chests, and RPG-like encounters. Combat is similar to that of a turn-based RPG, but instead of selecting attacks and spells from a menu, I draw cards from each character’s specific pool of cards. These cards allow me to attack, defend, cast spells, or use special abilities. Each character has their own set of cards, making their play styles radically different.

I also learned to buck my expectations for the kinds of decks I should build. The key to deck-building games is constructing a thematic deck where each card complements the others. In card games like Magic: The Gathering, this is easy enough to do, since you do all your planning before a match — not in the moment, like in Slay the Spire. Since I’m given a random set of cards to build a deck from at the end of each encounter, I can’t go into any run with a certain deck-building goal in mind. I have to quickly decide on long-term deck designs based on what cards are available to me after a battle. The trick with Slay the Spire is to think more creatively and proactively than the typical card game requires. —Jeff Ramos

Slay the Spire is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is quaint, but in the best way possible.

You start the game by inheriting a farm from your grandfather, and you then move to a sleepy town to take over the diminishing acres. For the next 10, 20, 50, 100-plus hours, you work to turn that farm into a modern utopia.

This is easily the most relaxing game on Game Pass. All you do is plant seeds, care for animals, mine some rocks, and befriend the villagers. There’s plenty of drama to be had — with the Wal-Mart-like JojaMart and an army of slimes trying to stop you from mining — but at the end of the day, you’re still going to pass out in your farmhouse and get ready to plant more strawberries the next morning. —Ryan Gilliam

Stardew Valley is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is already a classic Turtles brawler. If you could’ve overheard a bunch of kids talking about their dream TMNT game while playing the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade cabinet at a local pizza bar in 1989, or Turtles in Time in 1991, this is the Turtles game they’d be imagining.

But over 30 years later, Shredder’s Revenge implements some features that distinguish it from the days of the coin operated arcade. There’s a world map, side-quests, new heroes, experience points, and online matchmaking that help modernize the throwback trappings. Shredder’s Revenge manages to balance itself nicely between the world of retro and revamp.

With only 16 “episodes,” it’s the perfect Game Pass game to jump into with some pals at a sleepover — as long as there’s pizza, of course. —Ryan Gilliam

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Special Edition

The Elder Scrolls 5, better known as just Skyrim, is a classic. And while you can play it on almost any console or device known to humankind at this point, it’s still worth playing on Game Pass if you’ve never given it a chance, or are just craving another journey in its sprawling world.

Like most Bethesda RPGs, Skyrim is a first-person game with a giant, living world. There are dungeons to crawl, stories to uncover, and a variety of guilds to join. But you can also go off the beaten path and discover your own fun in Skyrim — it rewards you for being curious. It’s the kind of Game Pass game that you can play for hundreds of hours and never get bored. —Ryan Gilliam

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Special Edition is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.


Tinykin is one of the best collect-a-thon platformers since the golden age of the Nintendo 64.

You play as a young astronaut, of sorts, who is trapped inside a normal human house. The catch here is that you’re only about the size of an ant, and you use even smaller creatures called Tinykin to help you get around.

As you adventure through the house you’ll command your Tinykin to help complete various tasks, like creating a disco bathtub rave for some resident bugs, rescuing a small critter from inside a piano, or baking a delicious treat with a host of hard-to-find ingredients. Each type of Tinykin has a unique function, and it’s your job to solve puzzles with their variety of skills.

If this sounds reminiscent of Nintendo’s Pikmin series, that’s because it is. But unlike Pikmin, there is no combat in Tinykin, which allows you to FOCUS entirely on exploration and collectibles.

It’s one of the most peaceful games you can pick up on Game Pass, and one of the best games of 2022. —Ryan Gilliam

Tinykin is available on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X via Game Pass.

Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors wants you to “become the bullet hell.”

The only control you have over the game is what character you select, what items you choose during your run, and where your character moves. Depending on your weapons of choice, knives, whips, flames, magic bolts, bibles, or holy water fly out of your character in every direction, decimating hordes or pixelated movie monsters, earning you cash for your next adventure.

Though extremely simple on its face, Vampire Survivors is one of the best games of 2022. It perfectly walks the line between peaceful and stressful, requiring the perfect amount of attention for success. It also facilitates growth through skill and through roguelite progression, ensuring that each run is a bit different from your last. —Ryan Gilliam

Vampire Survivors is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 isn’t just the best installment in Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs trilogy, it’s one of the best open-world games the studio has put out in years.

Watch Dogs 2 takes you to San Francisco and puts you in the shoes of Marcus Holloway, a hacker who works with a hacktivist group called DedSec. You’ll use your drone and RC car to hack things from a distance, or sneak around and remote hack objects with your phone. And when things get too dangerous, you can pull out your stun gun or eight-ball-on-a-rope to deal some serious damage.

Watch Dogs 2’s writing doesn’t always do it any favors when it tries to get serious or make a point about the dystopian police-state future its characters were dreading living in, but its heroes add enough character to the game that even the idiot in the emoji-eyes helmet is lovable. —Ryan Gilliam

Watch Dogs 2 is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order asks what would happen if the Nazis used their occult leanings and experimental technology to win World War II. Then the game puts you in the shoes of a recently awakened B.J. Blazkowicz and tells you to kill as many of those Nazis as you can.

It’s a more expansive take on a World War II shooter — something video games ran into the dirt over a decade ago — taking place in an alternate future we’ve never seen. You’ll meet Jimi Hendrix as a resistance fighter, and see records for the German version of The Beatles that never was. You’ll see fascism in full swing, and be given the tools to fight it.

As major players continue to flirt with fascism, it’s a shockingly relevant game that manages to hit just as hard, if not even harder now, as it did in 2014. It’s a must-play for first-person shooter fans, and especially cathartic for anyone concerned about the state of the world in 2023. —Ryan Gilliam

Wolfenstein: The New Order is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

The Best Card Games

In terms of versatility and value for money, gaming doesn’t have many better deals than a traditional 52-card deck. For a couple bucks, you gain access to thousands of games, each with a depth and complexity that has made them staples of parlors and kitchen tables for generations of players.

But where the traditional deck is a jack of all trades (get it?), modern designer card games are specialists. These games break the familiar forms, allowing players to step beyond the storied suits to bring new game mechanics, choices, and play styles to the card table.

We’ve researched and played 36 such games across a range of genres—including trick-taking, deck-building, bluffing, and others—to find the most engaging, surprising, and replayable experiences for a variety of tastes.

How we picked and tested

To narrow our testing criteria, we focused on designer games instead of traditional 52-card deck games (though we’ve included a few examples in each section to highlight the type of game we’re talking about).

For this guide we also decided not to include games like Pokémon or Magic: The Gathering that incentivize extra purchases as a part of the experience.

To find the likeliest candidates, I looked through lists at popular review sites like Shut Up Sit Down. Wargamer, and Dicebreaker. I also researched the lists of popular and best-selling games that fit our criteria on Amazon and BoardGameGeek.

I spoke with John McLeod, editor of Pagat.com, and Candice Harris, a media creator for BoardGameGeek, to get their perspective on what makes a great card game. Finally, I chatted with Rich Kameda of Tannen’s Magic Shop in Manhattan to better understand the physical attributes of cards themselves.

The best bluffing card game: Skull

Poker, without all the boring bits

This game delivers all the bluffing of poker, but with much simpler rules. It’s quick and easy to teach, and it’s a game that you’ll want to play again and again.

How it’s played

Skull is incredibly simple. Each player has just four cards: three roses and one skull.

At the start of each round, you choose one card to place face down. In subsequent rounds, you get to choose between putting another card on top of your last to form a stack or bidding on how many played cards you can flip over before you find a skull (beginning with your own stack, but from any other player’s stack after that).

If you win the bid and then succeed without finding a skull, you get a point and you’re halfway to winning the game. If you fail and flip over a skull, you lose one of your four cards (either chosen randomly by an opponent or one you choose yourself, depending on where you found the skull). If a player succeeds twice, or if only one player remains with a card, the game is over and that player wins.

Why it’s great

Poker has never given me the thrill it seems to give others, but Skull really delivers on its promise. The first time you play, you’re all about trying to win bids so you can earn one of the two points needed to win. But soon, you’ll find how much fun it is to lay traps for your friends, bidding early to convince them that you didn’t plant a skull at the top of your stack, then sitting back and waiting for them to flip it over.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

You can play this game without bluffing, but it would wring most of the fun out of your playthroughs. If your gaming friend group isn’t into deceit as a mechanic, this probably isn’t the game for you.

The best deck-building game: Dominion

The game that built deck-building

A slow burn of a game that delivers plenty of decisions with a low barrier of entry.

Buying Options

At the time of publishing, the price was 37.

How it’s played

Dominion is the progenitor of a game mechanic called deck-building. Players each start with an identical deck of cards. On every turn, you draw cards from your personal deck, which you can use to buy cards from a central market. These new cards make their way into your deck and can be used to take extra actions, buy more cards, or just get you points at the end of the game.

Why it’s great

Like the best traditional card games, Dominion is easy to learn and fun to play, but reveals levels of complexity and difficult choices as you move past your first few plays.

Most important, you have to balance buying victory point cards that take up space in your hand against selecting cards with more immediately useful powers. The catch is points cards are limited, and if other players grab them first, they might not be available to you later. This makes for an engaging and tricky puzzle.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The ability to mix and match the card types that come in the basic version of the game is great if you’re an experienced player, but the array of cards you have to sort through may make setup intimidating for beginners. The inset organizer helps mitigate the issue, but also makes the box gigantic for a card game.

The best trick-taking game: Cat in the Box

A surprising spin on a classic genre

This game has a ton of opportunities to make players feel Smart, and the mix of creative cardplay and risky bidding that it encourages makes for surprisingly fun rounds.

How it’s played

Cat in the Box mostly plays like any other trick-taking game—think Hearts, Oh Hell, Spades, and Bridge.

Play progresses over a number of rounds (called tricks), and in each round a player starts by playing a card of a particular value and suit. Whoever plays the highest card in that suit wins the trick. If you don’t have a card in that suit, you may play other cards including a trump card—a special card that wins even if it isn’t the right suit.

The deliciously thematic twist in Cat in the Box—a play on Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment—is that the cards don’t have suits. Instead, players declare the suit the moment they play it. They also leave a token of their color on a game board that tracks which cards have been played, eliminating that suit/card combo from the round.

You get points for winning tricks, and if you bid correctly on how many tricks you’ll win, you get additional points for the longest continuous set of tokens you’ve placed on the board.

Why it’s great

Cat in the Box adds two extra layers of choice to the classic trick-taking format: suitless cards and the tracking board you place tokens on. The latter ensures you don’t accidentally play a card that has already been played, but it’s also a huge factor in how you earn points in the game since you need to think about setting up a big line of tokens in addition to winning tricks. But there’s a sting in the tail: If you don’t make your bid, the effort you put into the token line is worthless.

Balancing all of these choices is what makes this game work so well and helps it improve on the format by giving more opportunities for players to feel clever, which is where trick-taking really shines.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The box packs a surprising amount of stuff into a moderately svelte package, but people with larger hands may find the token organization finicky to impossible.

In addition, Cat in the Box isn’t great as a two-player game. If you’re looking for a better trick-taking duel, consider The Fox in the Forest, which is featured in our guide to two-player games.

  • Number of players: two to five (though we’d recommend at least three)
  • Rules:PDF
  • Digital version: n/a

The best ladder-climbing game: Scout

Big fun in a tiny package

Even by card game standards, this game is remarkably small and portable. But the gameplay—which involves assembling the longest runs or largest set of cards you can—is surprisingly expansive.

How it’s played

In Scout, you’re dealt a hand that you can’t rearrange. On your turn, you’re challenged with playing a group of cards from that static hand—either a run or a set—that’s larger or of a higher value than what a previous player played.

If you do, you get to take the previous players’ cards as points, and the turn advances to the next player. If you can’t (or don’t want to), you can “scout” by taking a card from the currently active run or set and placing it anywhere in their hand either side up.

The round ends when any player runs out of cards, or if every player scouts on their turn instead of playing a card. Every card left in your hand counts against you. The scores are tallied, and the game continues until you’ve played as many rounds as there are players in the game.

Why it’s great

The greatest joy in Scout is watching longtime card players squirm when they realize they can’t rearrange their hand. But beyond that, this game is easily portable, the play is quick, and it’s colorful and delightful to look at.

But that main organizational rule is really what makes Scout so interesting, because you’re forced to choose between small, immediate plays that might have inconsequential payoffs and long-term strategies that depend on the right card coming along at the right time. It’s a delicious tension.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Scout includes a ton of little fiddly tokens, which work fine for keeping score but scatter easily around a table and become difficult to keep track of. I’d much prefer a small scoring notepad and a pencil. Like Cat in the Box, this game also doesn’t work as well with just two players.

  • Number of players: two to five (but better with three or more)
  • Rules: n/a
  • Digital version:Android,iOS, Switch, Steam

The best set collection game: Hanabi

A communication card game about combustion

Trying to signal what cards everyone else has in their hands is the main FOCUS of this game where cards are all held backwards.

How it’s played

Hanabi is a cooperative card game in which you play cards from your hand in sequences of five. But of course, there’s a catch: You’re never allowed to look at your hand. Instead, you hold the cards facing out, with their information visible to everyone else.

On your turn, you can either play a card from your hand (without looking at it), spend one of only a few timer tokens to communicate a specific thing about another player’s hand (such as “this is a yellow card” or “these two cards are fours”), or discard a card to refresh those timer tokens.

If you play a card out of order, you must flip over one of three fuse tokens (also called lightning tokens in some editions). If you flip over all three, everyone loses.

Once you’ve run out of cards to draw, everyone takes one more turn, and then you add the highest value card of each run to find your team’s total score.

Why it’s great

Like all of the best communication games, Hanabi is at least 85% frustration.

You always want to communicate more information than you’re allowed, and you have little room for mistakes. Worse, the other players never do quite what you want—even though you’ve given them perfect clues.

But the pleasure of a game like Hanabi (or The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, another game we like) comes in the collective struggle against that frustration. It’s the horror of watching your friend pick the worst possible card and biting your tongue so you don’t blurt out their mistake.

That despair is balanced by the sheer joy you feel when you give them a perfectly phrased hint. Their eyes widen with recognition. They confidently play the one card that you all need them to play. Everyone wins.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

This game is about identifying colors and numbers, and while each suit does have indicators other than color (a unique firework shape and kanji symbol), those differentiators aren’t super helpful. The fireworks look similar, and unless most of your table is conversant in kanji, the symbols probably won’t help either.

Because of this, colorblind folks (and people with other visual impairments) are going to have a hard time engaging with this game.

The best layout game: Sprawlopolis

Urban sprawl in your

A brain-burning cooperative game that can be played in just 15 minutes, with a deck that’s slimmer than most wallets.

How it’s played

Every game of Sprawlopolis tasks you and your friends with using the deck of 18 cards to build out a small city. (Each card has four quadrants representing different zones of a city, like parks or manufacturing sectors.) The game begins by randomly flipping over three cards from the deck, which show the scoring criteria and the target score for the round. Then, the first player draws a hand of three cards, and the other players each get one card for their hand.

On your turn, you play one card horizontally in the shared playing space, then pass your two remaining cards to the left before drawing another card from the deck.

Play continues until all the cards have been played, at which point you assess how you did based on the goals uncovered at the beginning of the game. If the team beats the sum of the numbers on the objective cards, everyone wins.

Why it’s great

With its scant 18 cards, small size, and breezy setup, Sprawlopolis disguises a tightly designed—almost cruelly sharp—game that feels damn near impossible to win but remains a joy to bash your head against.

It’s a game that’s fun to challenge your friends with, not in spite of but because of those designed annoyances. The friction is the point; it makes the process of overcoming the straight-jacket-like restrictions so satisfying when you—shockingly, miraculously—pull it off.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Because of the random goals and target points, the game can sometimes feel overly random. But each game only takes 15 minutes or so to play through, and it’s so easy to breeze into another game that you tend to forget the frustration right away.

  • Number of players: one to four
  • Rules:PDF
  • Digital version: n/a (but cheap print and play PDFs are available)

Other good card games

If you want a beautiful deck of cards that happens to come with a brutal co-op game: Pick up Regicide. It’s a tough, cooperative game that tasks players with defeating the face cards in a traditional 52-card deck.

Though this is played with what’s essentially a normal 52-card deck, it also comes with helpful info cards and a svelte rulebook that make playing the game easier than if you used that old Bicycle deck you have laying around.

Plus, our testers found the retro-arcade isometric fantasy art style really charming. We’d happily make this our go-to deck for any traditional card game.

If you’re looking for a fun puzzle to play solo: Food Chain Island is a lovely little logic puzzle. In this game, you lay out all of the cards—each with a number and power associated with a different animal—in a randomly ordered grid. Throughout the game, you try to condense that grid into three or fewer stacks by having higher-number animals eat adjacent animals of a lower number.

It’s a tricky puzzle that’s more zen than brain-burning, and I love it as a casual time-killer. And like other games by this studio (Button Shy, which also makes Sprawlopolis), it easily fits into a so you can take it anywhere.

If you like your friends but would prefer they talk less: Try The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, a cooperative trick-taking card game that drastically limits conversation at the table.

In The Crew, you’re dealt a hand of cards and then randomly assigned tasks based on an included campaign mission log. These tasks can include things like winning a particular trick, winning different tricks in a certain order, or even making sure another player never wins a trick.

Players are not allowed to talk about their cards with other players. Instead, once per round, they can use a communication token to indicate how many of a type of card they have in their hand. It’s a fun exercise in trying to intuit what your friends are planning, and how you can integrate into that plan so you all succeed.

If you want a more complex game and are okay with a steep learning curve: Race for the Galaxy packs a Galaxy’s worth of functions and powers into a single deck of cards.

In Race for the Galaxy, players compete to build a Galaxy-spanning civilization. To do this, they can choose each turn to draw more cards, build developments, settle new worlds, produce materials, or spend already-mined materials. In taking these actions, they collect points until an endgame is reached and a winner is declared.

Race for the Galaxy is especially notable for its diverse strategic approaches to conquering the Galaxy, and the flexibility of the cards—each one can be used in about five different ways—contributes to that openness. On the flip side, though, the game uses more pictographs than some ancient Egyptian temples. It can take several playthroughs to learn what they all mean and how you can use them. In turn, that makes this game rewarding but quite tedious to learn.

The competition

Take 5 is a game about pushing your luck and trying to goad other players into over-leveraging themselves. It’s easy to learn (and teach) and has a way of creating funny moments of schadenfreude. But it wasn’t as lively as our picks.

Arboretum is a pretty and relaxing game that tasks players with building the most appealing path of trees in their own arboretum. The game has a multiplayer solitaire kind of feel to it—it’s exceedingly chill to play—but it’s somewhat spoiled by a fiddly scoring system.

Boss Monster is a retro, Nintendo-inspired game in which players take on the roles of classic video game bosses and build dungeons that lure in adventurers and kill them with various traps and monsters. It’s an easy game to teach—and fun to play—but it doesn’t have a ton of replayability.

Cockroach Poker is for folks who enjoy bluffing but want more randomness than Skull provides. It requires you to slowly gather information about played cards before they’re flipped over. This lends the game to more bluffs and double bluffs than you get in Skull, but we liked that game’s comparatively straightforward play a little more.

Fantasy Realms is a hand-building game (a bit like five-card stud poker, but without betting or bluffing) where players try to assemble the best seven-card hand (called a realm) of fantasy tropes at the table. The variety of cards and the way their powers work together lend this game a fun energy and generates occasionally fantastical discussion during scoring, as players try to suss out what their realm would be like. But we found that the scoring part just feels like homework, which made it a letdown.

Fort takes a basic deck-building mechanic and augments it with an asymmetric collection of player powers and wonderful art from Kyle Ferrin (who also illustrated Root, one of our favorite strategy games). We enjoyed it but found it to be more complex than the sort of games we were prioritizing in this guide.

Hero Realms is a fantasy deck-building game that shares the same basic design as Star Realms, another of our favorite two-player games. It works for two to four players, but we found that when we wanted to play a deck-builder with more than two players, we consistently reached for Dominion instead.

Monopoly Deal takes the parts of Monopoly that actually work and compresses them into a 15-minute card game. The pace is sprightly, and the gameplay overall is much less frustrating than its traditional board game cousin’s. But it was still too simple and random compared with our picks.

No Thanks feels like a perfect family game: It’s easy enough for younger players to pick up quickly, but it has enough interesting choices to keep older or more experienced players engaged. But we felt it was still a little too simple compared with our other picks.

Point Salad is both a game and a gaming term—one used to describe a game in which players fulfill a bunch of unconnected goals in a race to earn the most points. In Point Salad (the game), players still race to get the most points, but they can also play points cards that change the value of any particular card they’ve already played, or are planning to play, on the fly. The ever-shifting value of each card brings an exciting and frenetic energy to the game, but it doesn’t allow for the depth of play or novelty that our other picks provide.

Silver is a card-based take on the popular Werewolf games (and plays a lot like the traditional card game Golf). It’s an interesting spin on familiar gameplay, but we found that Skull was a better iteration of the “trying to figure out what’s in other player’s hands” dynamic that these games evoke.

Smash Up is a game with a comic sensibility pulled right from internet’s adolescence in the early aughts. Players pick two factions of cards that they’ll shuffle together into their deck—including things like aliens, robots, dinosaurs, and ninjas—and use them to win any of five bases. The way the factions interact makes for a dynamic and replayable game but didn’t do enough to really separate itself from the pack in our testing.

Startups is a game that simulates the shifting value and ownership of startup companies. Players are tasked with collecting enough cards to take a majority stake in a company, but they only get points at the end of the game if other players have also purchased cards in that company. It’s a quick and enjoyable game, but we found our picks were either easier to teach and play or more fun.

Tussie Mussie has a similar premise to Cockroach Poker, where players slide cards to each other and try to predict their behavior. The difference is that, in this case, you’re passing around lovely flower bouquets instead of bugs and vermin. It’s a subtle game that leads to a lot of raised eyebrows and shifty looks as players assess what cards are where, but we prefer Skull’s simplicity and tension.

Uno has one advantage over most of the other games we tested: Pretty much everyone in the US is familiar with it. As Pagat.com’s John McLeod told me, “A good game is the one that your friends already know, because then you can just get into it and play it.” But we found that, even taking that ease of play into account, the other games we tested all offered a more complete and interesting experience than this rec-room mainstay.

This article was edited by Ben Keough and Erica Ogg.



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