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Home / Features / The 22 best Xbox Series X|S games to play today

The 22 best Xbox Series X|S games to play today

Just what will you do with all those teraflops? The best games to play on your latest-gen Xbox


When the latest generation of Xbox consoles launched towards the end of 2020, Microsoft didn’t have a single platform exclusive to announce their arrival with. Breaking from tradition, there was no new Forza to gawp at (now fixed), and Halo Infinite was still over a year away.

But that didn’t mean there was nothing to play then, and it’s certainly not the case now. All new games look and play better on the Xbox Series X|S than ever before, as well as benefiting from the super speedy load times afforded by the upgraded SSD, while Microsoft’s various studios have spent years optimising some of the biggest games in the platform’s more than 20-year history so they make use of the new consoles’ power.

Then you’ve got Game Pass, the almost unreasonably good value subscription service, on which all of its own games sit, ready to be downloaded. Given how many amazing studios Microsoft has been acquiring in the last few years, the Xbox feast is very appetising right now.

Here are our recommendations across the board, from indie to AAA, and third-party to first-party. If you own either of Microsoft’s machines, you need to play these games.

(Additional words by Chris Kerr)

1. Gears 5

We loved last year’s Gears 5, the fifth entry in Xbox Game Studios’ long-running and impossibly muscular cover shooter series. While still very much a Gears of War game (despite for some reason dropping the ‘of War’ bit), the more open-ended structure of the predictably bloody campaign felt like just the right amount of evolution.

It being one of Microsoft’s flagship games, it’s no great surprise that Gears 5 has been optimised for Series X|S. The game was already a visual showcase, but now you’re getting improved graphics, better performance and faster loading, as well as the option of supremely smooth 120Hz multiplayer should your TV be up to the job.

It’s not new, but Gears 5 should be one of your first Game Pass downloads, whether you’ve already played it or not.

2. Baldur’s Gate 3

At this point it’s becoming hard to say anything that hasn’t already been said about Larian Studios’ incredibly successful RPG, which is surely as good as virtual Dungeons & Dragons is ever going to get. The truly mind-boggling amount of freedom this game affords the player as they make their way through the Forgotten Realms has set a new gold standard for role-playing games, making it near infinitely replayable. Whether you choose to be a charmer, a thief, a straight-to-business warrior, or a wizard who can’t stop murdering, Baldur’s Gate 3 will accommodate your build, and all of your choices. 

Xbox gamers had to wait patiently for Baldur’s Gate 3 to arrive, with PS5 and PC players rubbing it in their noses for months, but you can now play it on Microsoft’s machines and you won’t find a more impressive RPG to get lost in. 

3. Death’s Door 

In Death’s Door you’re a crow who reaps the souls of the dead for a living. That probably sounds a bit bleak, and it is, but this is one of the funniest, strangest virtual worlds you can explore on your Xbox, where you can be a very literal Pothead and go about your day without having to field too many questions. 

Death’s Door is also incredibly fun to play, an isometric Zelda-like with stunning fantasy worlds to explore and tricky but never too punishing combat. Taking down bosses that have cheated death is crucial in order for the crow to open the titular Death’s Door and compete his day’s work, and every one of them is memorable. 

4. It Takes Two

Josef Fares has been a innovating with co-op experiences since he becoming a game designer, and It Takes Two is probably the best of the bunch. You and your partner play as a pair of soon-to-be divorced parents who are forced to work together when they’re transformed into their daughter’s toys.

Neither are particularly likeable characters and It Takes Two’s narrative is definitely the weakest aspect of the game, but you should overlook that because everything else is pretty superb. Co-operative multiplayer games are nothing new, but It Takes Two does more with the genre than any game we’ve played before. Whether you’re firing well-aimed nails into the wall for your partner to swing on, taking part in some synchronised rail grinding, or flying a plane while the other player fights a squirrel in a 2D fighting mini-game, this brilliant action-adventure game just never runs out of ideas. 

We hate to make the lazy comparison, but it really looks like a playable Pixar film at times, and while we didn’t feel compelled to find out how the story resolved itself, we made sure we saw every one of its vibrant levels. If you’re looking for something to play with a friend or partner, you won’t find anything better than It Takes Two.

5. Forza Horizon 5

The outrageous consistency of the Forza Horizon series makes it easy to take its games for granted. Playground Game’s immaculate open-world racing series has been close to perfect since the third entry, so when we first booted up Forza Horizon 5 there wasn’t much going on that we didn’t expect. 

But why mess with something already so brilliant? In Horizon 5 we leave the rolling, sheep-lined fields of Great Britain and head to Mexico for another brash and suspiciously moneyed racing tournament that has you competing in all manner of motoring events, from jungle dirt races to street racing through moonlit countryside towns. It’s all ridiculously fun, and the single-player offering is bolstered further by story-driven “adventure” events that ensure you get to drive the best cars very fast while actually learning a bit about Mexico in the process. 

We haven’t even talked about the myriad multiplayer modes, or user-created events, or the fact you can change your driver’s name to Potato. It’s best you just discover it all for yourself in what might be the Xbox Series X|S’ crown jewel. 

6. Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris Effect is one of our favourite games of the last generation, but unfortunately for Xbox owners it’s been a PlayStation 4 console exclusive for the past two years. Now, however, the ethereal puzzler is making its way to the Xbox Series S and X with a whole bunch of enhancements and new modes in the form of Tetris Effect Connected.

The expanded version offers the same zen-inducing Tetris Effect experience, but adds all new co-op, competitive online, and local multiplayer modes. Visuals have also been enhanced on the Xbox Series S and X, with developer Monstars touting smoother gameplay, improved particle effects, and faster load times.

Basically, then, one of the best game experiences of the past few years just got even better. Go play it.

7. Hi-Fi Rush

It’s impossible to say whether people would have been quite so taken by Hi-Fi Rush had it not arrived as a total surprise, available to play mere minutes after being announced, and sporting a Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic that was the last thing people would have predicted from a studio best known for its horror games. All of those things definitely helped grab the attention of the gaming public, but Hi-Fi Rush is also one of the most original rhythm-action games we’ve ever played, and it’s something of a crown jewel in the Xbox library. 

You play as wannabe rockstar Chai, who after an unfortunate incident ends up with an iPod-like music player for a heart that allows him to fight enemies and traverse the world to a beat. It’s a brilliant premise, and while you could argue that our hero outstays his welcome a bit, and by the end of the game the repetition does start to set in, the fantastic art style, toe-tapping soundtrack and incredibly satisfying timing-based combat make this a must-play for any Xbox owner. 

8. The Artful Escape

The Artful Escape treads fairly familiar ground when it comes to its themes. Legacy, ambition, not wasting your talent, the fear of disappointing people: it’s stuff that various forms of media have explored since storytelling began. Except in this game, they’re explored through a playable psychedelic rock opera. 

In this bizarre and brilliant indie gem, you play as Francis Vendettii, the nephew of a folk music legend in the sleepy town of Calypso. Everyone expects Francis to follow the path his uncle paved for him, but naturally the young musician instead accepts an invitation from an alien to fill in for an absent guitarist in an outer space rock band, and so begins an epic journey of self-discovery. 

The Artful Escape is a very simple 2D platformer that offers almost no challenge and little in the way of actual gameplay. But the stunning visuals, excellent music and perfectly told little story make it a must-play. 

9. Psychonauts 2 

For a game that very few people played, the original Psychonauts has some following, and a sequel is something fans have dreamed about since the mid-noughties. It finally arrived with Psychonauts 2, and industry legend Tim Schafer’s studio, Double Fine, did not let them down. 

Psychonauts 2 picks up almost directly after the events of the first game, but a handy recap means it doesn’t matter too much if you missed the original. You once again play as Razputin “Raz” Aquato, a newly qualified member of the Psychonauts, a group of psychic secret agents who can infiltrate people’s minds. 

Psychonauts 2 is the follow-up to a platformer from several generations ago, and at times it does feel a bit old-fashioned to play. But it’s the game’s stunningly imaginative levels and careful handling of some pretty heavy themes that mark it out as an absolute must-play. 

10. Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator is less a game than it is a truly mind-boggling tech demo. There’s no story and very little in the way of objectives, but that really doesn’t matter. It knows that all it needs to do to blow you away is put you in the cockpit of a Boeing 747 and let you choose where you want to fly it to. 

Most of the world is rendered in near-photorealistic detail, and the game simulates real-time weather and conditions so at times you really feel like a pilot. That is, until you accidentally send your aircraft careering towards Mount Fuji and are quickly reminded that it takes several years of training for a reason. 

Those who spend time in the tutorials will get the most out of the experience, but Microsoft Flight Simulator is something everyone should experience, and as it’ll almost certainly be permanently available on Game Pass, you have no excuse not to. 

11. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

One of our favourite games of recent times, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a sensational follow-up to Ori and the Blind Forest, retaining all of the first game’s stunning fairy tale aesthetic, tear-jerking story beats and deceptively difficult platforming, but tightening everything up and putting a greater emphasis on combat.

And if you haven’t played it yet, now is the time. One of the game’s directors has said that Will of the Wisps renders at 6K resolution on the Series X and then supersamples it down to 4K, which should make for one of the best-looking platformers of all time.

And like a lot of the games on this list, it’s also on Game Pass.

12. Hades

What else is there left to say about Hades? The rogue-like inside sensation was Stuff’s game of the year in 2020 and we still hop in for the odd run even now. 

In this stupidly enjoyable dungeon-crawler you play as Zagreus, the angsty and rebellious son of Hades who really doesn’t like living in the Underworld. In fact, he hates it so much that his sole mission in the game is to escape, and that’s where you come in. As you’d expect, the god of dead doesn’t take kindly to people trying to leave his wretched world, and he certainly doesn’t offer his own kid any mercy. You will die a lot in Hades, but dying is all part of the fun. 

Other than cold hard cash, everything you accumulate in each randomly generated room you hold onto to spend on upgrades before you try again, meaning you always feel like you’re progressing. And thanks to the game’s brilliant writing, talking to characters to progress the story before you embark on your latest escape attempt is as fun as the fighting itself. We haven’t even mentioned the visuals and the music, but rest assured that Hades is the total package. 

13. Halo Infinite 

Microsoft’s flagship series has waned a bit in recent years, and there were concerns about Infinite after the game suffered several delays and underwhelming showings. 

But we needn’t have worried. Halo Infinite’s single-player campaign is the best it’s been since the franchise’s glory days, and you only need to spend a few minutes with the multiplayer to be reminded that, even in the age of Warzone and Fornite, nothing really comes close to Halo. The leaning into open-world gameplay definitely shakes up the series, but it’s not as revolutionary as you might think. Far more impactful is the new Grappleshot, a grapple hook that makes both traversing the map and facing off with enemies incredibly fun. 

On the free-to-play multiplayer side, the progression system and controversial battle pass could have derailed the game and its longevity, but if you’re happy to play without a lot of the cosmetic unlocks and keep things old-school then you’ll probably feel no temptation to part with more cash. 

14. Sea of Thieves

Rare’s pirate ‘em up multiplayer extravaganza was a bit barebones when it first launched, but a wealth of new content has made it one of the best games to play with friends on any given night of the week. Last year Captain Jack Sparrow himself even showed in up an expansion. 

Whether you want to search every island high and wide for hidden treasure, clash swords with strangers or simply bob along singing sea shanties, Sea of Thieves will happily oblige. And it doesn’t half look fantastic running at 4K 60FPS on the Series X. 

15. Elden Ring

If you play a lot of video games you might think you already know where you stand on the Souls games. Some relish the merciless challenge and refusal to hold the player’s hand, others frankly can’t be bothered with it all. 

But we’d go as far as to say that everyone should play Elden Ring. Unlike Dark Souls, Sekiro and Bloodborne before that, FromSoftware’s latest takes its signature action RPG template and goes open-world, and much like Nintendo did with its first open-world Zelda game back in 2017, somewhat embarrasses the competition. 

Elden Ring is still a very difficult game in which you will die a lot, but this time if you hit a brick wall with a particularly enemy or boss, you can simply walk away from them and do something else. The Lands Between is the richest and most interesting open-world map since Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule, and with lore conjured up by none other than the legendary fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin, there’s so much to discover that you’ll always have another distraction. There’s a reason this one is already being hailed as one of the greatest games of all time.

16. Starfield

Starfield received mixed results upon its release. It’s the largest scale game that Bethesda has ever created, and presented a literal galaxy for gamers to explore. All you had to do to reach new planets though, was sit through what seemed like an eternity of fragmented loading screens. In true Bethesda style, there’s a million and one ways to customise your character and develop your skill tree within the game, but a somewhat lacklustre main quest is a little disappointing.

But whether you love it, hate it, or simply think it’s a little ‘meh’, Starfield makes for an impressive gaming experience. Navigating the unknown can be deeply rewarding – a single overheard conversation or clue can unveil countless possibilities. Gunplay rivals many dedicated first-person shooters, space battles are a riot, and can play out in pretty hilarious ways if you get creative with your ship building. Whether Starfield will stand the test of time we’re now sure, but for now the Starfield universe is worth exploring.

17. Dead Space

Remakes tend to make up a pretty big chunk of the release calendar these days, but it speaks volumes that Dead Space, a remake of a 2008 sci-fi horror cult classic, still managed to stand out in a year as strong for new games as 2023 was. For the remake, EA’s Motive Studio leant in to what was always Dead Space’s biggest strength: the Alien-inspired USG Ishimura spacecraft on which the game is set. Various tweaks and improvements make it an even more enjoyable place to hunt (or be hunted by) Necromorphs, while the elimination of loading screens makes exploring its haunted halls feel a seamless experience.

This is a faithful remake, with the iconic Plasma Cutter still the go-to weapon for protagonist Isaac Clarke and its limb-lopping abilities as satisfyingly gruesome as ever, but by smoothing out the already excellent source material and harnessing the power of modern hardware, EA has ensured that Dead Space remains a standout in its genre. And it’s on Game Pass. 

18. Cocoon

The incredible thing about video games is that the form is endlessly varied, and there’s truly something for every taste. You can be playing a fighting game that requires the player to memorise incredibly complex combo inputs one minute, and the next you might fire up Cocoon, a puzzle adventure game that can be played in its entirety using a single button. There’s no dialogue and no discernible story, but one ingenious central mechanic that propels you through the game’s short runtime. 

In Cocoon you play as a small buglike creature with the ability to carry orbs containing worlds on its back. You jump in and out of these different worlds, taking others with you to solve puzzles and reach new areas. It sounds confusing, but the game is so elegantly designed that it never totally overwhelms your brain or lets you get too lost. If you enjoy puzzle games you owe it to yourself to give this one a shot while it’s still on Game Pass. 

19. Alan Wake 2

From Max Payne to Control, Remedy Entertainment has always pushed the boundaries of what video games can be as an interactive storytelling medium, but in the long-awaited sequel to its 2010 cult classic, Alan Wake, we see all of the studio’s big ideas come together in stunning fashion. Clearly influenced by the likes of Twin Peaks, True Detective and Silence of the Lambs, Alan Wake 2 introduces a new playable character, FBI agent Saga Anderson, who’s tasked with investigating the strange goings-on in the town from which the titular writer vanished over a decade ago. Your time is split between playing as Saga and Alan, with the latter trying to escape from the alternate reality he trapped himself in at the end of the first game. 

Alan Wake 2 leans more into horror than its predecessor, with no shortage of genuinely terrifying surprises in store for our ill-fated hero, but this is no simple Resi wannabe. What makes the game so memorable is the way in which it blends live-action sequences – a Remedy trademark – with gameplay in some truly mind-bending ways, with one already iconic musical sequence showing the studio as its wildly creative best. Alan Wake 2 won’t be for everyone (especially those sensitive to jump scares), but if you want to see blockbuster gaming at its most daring, you need to play it. 

20. Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

While beloved by fans, the Yakuza series is intimidating for newcomers. Encompassing nine mainline entries and numerous spinoffs, the hundreds of hours of investment required to get up to date with every sub-plot in this sprawling interconnected crime drama understandably scares a lot of people off. Luckily, developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio made things slightly easier by introducing a brand new character in 2020’s excellent Yakuza: Like a Dragon, giving new players a more manageable jumping on point, while ditching the series’ tried and tested brawler combat (along with the “Yakuza” in the title) for a turn-based system. 

With the pivot to RPG looking like a permanent one, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth picks up where its predecessor left off and takes the series out of Japan for the first time. Unsurprisingly, Hawaii is a brilliant setting for a Like a Dragon game, with more hilariously strange distractions from the main plot than ever. Ichiba Kasuga remains one of the best characters in video games, while the turn-based system has been tweaked to feel more dynamic and strategic. Kiryu Kazuma, the long-time main protagonist from the Yakuza series, is also a big part of Infinite Wealth, meaning those whose journey with the series began with the first Like a Dragon entry are going to be lost for parts of the story, but if you can get past that, an incredible island adventure awaits you.  

21. Resident Evil 4

Guess what? One of the best games of all time got a remake, and that game is one of the best games you can play on Xbox Series X|S. The original Resident Evil 4 is a perfect marriage of B-move camp, incredibly well-paced action and edge-of-your-seat horror, and the remake doesn’t sacrifice any of this. What you get is stunningly updated visuals, more modern controls and various quality-of-life tweaks that make it an absolute delight to play through.

Leon’s ridiculous one-liners are still here, as is his ability to suplex zombies, and you can now parry almost any attack with your knife. Resi 4 purisits might decry such tactics, but for our money it just makes the game even more fun. Rather than consigning the source material to history, this remake compliments it, so now there are two versions of a bonafide survival horror classic that are widely available and both equally worth playing time and time again. 

22. Pentiment

Thought Xbox only did shooters? Think again. Acclaimed RPG-maker Obsidian (now owned by Microsoft) gave us Pentiment, a narrative adventure set in 16th century Germany. You play Andreas Maler, a journeyman artist working in an abbey and living in the nearby village – where he potters about chatting to an eclectic bunch of remarkably well-written characters. After a murder takes place at the abbey, Maler turns detective and it’s up to you to identify the real killer before your falsely accused friend is convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.

With its beautiful manuscript-inspired art style, close adherence to historical accuracy and complex themes surrounding myth, religion and the importance of stories, this isn’t a typical game. But it’s one that gamers who like their games to be as thinky as they are fun need to add to their library immediately.

Profile image of Matt Tate Matt Tate Contributor


I'm fascinated by all things tech, but if you were going to leave me on a desert island, I'd probably ask for my Nintendo Switch, a drone, and a pair of noise-cancelling cans to block out the relentless seagull racket. When I'm not on Stuff duty you'll probably find me subscribing to too many podcasts, playing too many video games, or telling anyone who will listen that Spurs are going to win a trophy this season.

Areas of expertise

Video games, VR, smartwatches, headphones, smart speakers, bizarre Kickstarter campaigns