Currently an absolute steal at just £3.99 a month, Xbox Game Pass for PC is Microsoft’s video game version of Netflix: you get access to dozens of PC titles for a flat subscription fee.
With over 100 games on offer, deciding what to download first can be a bit of a head-scratcher. Do you go with a GPU-straining triple-A blockbuster or opt for an innovative indie title? We’ve picked some must-play favourites out of the available selection to get you started.
1) Halo: Reach
Halo: Reach is the first classic Halo game to get the 2019 remaster treatment (a bunch of others will follow in time) as part of the Master Chief Collection. It tells the story of the Covenant’s invasion of the colony planet of Reach, and the squad of elite Spartan soldiers (of which the player is a mysterious new recruit) tasked with defending against the alien horde. While you don’t get to play as the iconic Master Chief himself, Reach is a fantastic Halo game, replete with all the things that make the series so beloved.
The likes of an uncapped framerate, 4K resolutions and enhanced textures are likely enough to tempt back old hands for a stroll down memory lane, while those who’ve never experienced the original Bungie games should definitely take this opportunity to delve into one of the best first-person shooters ever made.
2) Slay the Spire
You might think the only card game that has no place on your PC is that free version of Solitaire that comes with Windows, but Slay the Spire will change your mind – and likely sap hundreds of hours out of your life.
You’re tasked with ascending the titular Spire – a many-levelled fantasy fortress populated with deadly monsters, strange but sometimes helpful citizens and covetous shopkeepers – over a three-act structure, with a boss fought at the end of each act. As you progress through the randomly generated quest, you build a deck of cards and collect magical relics in order to both survive the journey and beat the final boss. This indie gem’s mixture of RNG, roguelike and deck-building gameplay is beautifully elegant, while its brisk pace gives it a just-one-more-go feeling that’ll have you battling beasties until the early hours.
3) Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Sometimes you just want a straight-up action game with a decent story, top-notch visuals and uncomplicated bad guys – and Wolfenstein II ticks all three boxes with a fat permanent marker. Eschewing many modern FPS tropes, it’s a stripped-down shooter that sees hero B.J. Blazkowicz back home in America – after it’s been taken over by Nazis. With a dizzying array of weapons at his disposal, B.J. must topple the totalitarian regime, restore democracy and keep his new family safe.
4) Gears 5
One of Game Pass’s flagship titles, Gears 5 is that same old Gears of War gameplay you know and love, given a little bit of an open world twist. The sci-fi shooter’s brutal third-person cover-based combat is now tempered with more exploration and a smattering of optional missions, all rendered with gorgeously gory visuals and buoyed along by an intriguing story.
If you’ve enjoyed Gears games in the past, you should definitely download this one. Oh, and you can also engage in cross play with your Xbox One-owning friends.
5) Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight asks the question: what if Dark Souls was a cute Metroidvania platform game? The answer is: it would be brilliant, addictive and challenging – and one of the finest indie titles you can download on Xbox Game Pass for PC!
Explore a vast interconnected world as a mysterious silent protagonist, fighting monsters, negotiating devilish challenges and learning new skills as you uncover the story behind a civilisation’s decline and fall. With its pixel-perfect controls, melancholic presentation and superbly designed environments, Hollow Knight is a game that every fan of old-school platformers should try.
Inspired by the point-and-click adventures of yesteryear, even down to its striking pixelated graphics, Unavowed is a superbly written interactive tale of supernatural goings-on in New York.
When the protagonist inadvertently becomes part of a crack squad of paranormal enforcers during a time of heightened activity by ghosts, fairies, demonic entities and all sorts of other mystical forces, the game draws us into a morally complex battle for our world, populated by dozens of well-drawn characters. The puzzles are fairly simple, but the choices you’ll have to make along the way are much, much tougher.
7) The Outer Worlds
Developed by RPG specialists Obsidian (perhaps best known for Fallout: New Vegas), The Outer Worlds is a clearly Fallout-inspired game aimed at Fallout fans disappointed by Bethesda’s recent Fallout efforts. Phew.
A planet-hopping first-person RPG packed with dialogue and replete with Meaningful Player Choices, The Outer World’s doesn’t stray far from Bethesda’s template, but manages to do a much better job of world-building and storytelling than Fallout 4 or Fallout: 76. It’s a fairly short experience compared to many of its open-world RPG contemporaries, but given the scope for forging different paths through the plot, that’s no bad thing: you can just play the whole thing through again making new choices.
Crash-landing on a water-covered alien planet, you’re forced to plunder the local flora, fauna and geology to survive and thrive for as long as possible. That’s the simple premise behind Subnautica, in which food, fresh water and shelter are constant concerns – and don’t get caught ogling the beautiful undersea environments, or you’ll run the risk of being snapped up by a passing finned monster…
9) Blair Witch
If you’re in the market for some late night scares, this first-person adventure scratches the itch. The search for a missing child sends one man and his dog off into the Maryland woods – the same woods that legend has it are home to the Blair Witch. The gameplay might be simple (mostly it involves sending off your furry companion to sniff out interesting clues) but the sense of atmosphere and unfolding horror as you trudge deeper into the mysterious forest, night draws in and your character's past begins to manifest itself in troubling visions makes for some fantastic scares.
10) Into the Breach
An inventive little indie game with a deceptively simple look, Into the Breach pits the player’s squad of giant mechs against a bunch of equally giant alien beasts. The game’s turn-based battles take place on procedurally generated 8x8 grids, with the twist that the player can see the AI’s next move. This adds a compelling reactive element to the gameplay, as the player’s mechs scramble to protect the civilian buildings on the grid at all costs, gaining precious points used for adding new abilities and strengths in the process.
Challenging, elegant and tightly designed, each full game of Into the Breach takes only an hour or so, allowing you to bring one surviving mech pilot along to your next go-around. It’s addictive stuff.