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Xbox Games With Gold lived in Game Pass’ shadow in 2022

43 games given out, but not much to analyze, really

Xbox’s Games with Gold logo on a green background Image: James Bareham/Polygon
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

You may have noticed that Polygon didn’t do an analysis of what Xbox Live’s Games With Gold program offered in 2022, like it did for PlayStation Plus Essential. Honestly, it’s because expectations of that catalog are now so low — and Microsoft doesn’t seem interested in beating them — that it’s just not worthwhile.

Bagging on these games, the majority of which were small-scale titles, largely anonymous when they launched, or launched a decade ago, seems cumulative and even mean-spirited — if not also unfair to their developers. Besides, it’s not as if subscribers are really being tricked into paying for something they don’t use. Xbox Live Gold pioneered the idea of paid online multiplayer access 17 years ago, after all, with the launch of the Xbox 360. If you’re not interested in paying for online multiplayer, it’s unlikely that Games With Gold by itself will change your mind.

We’ve devoted reams of copy to explaining that the real value is in an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which at $14.99 a month is $3 less than PlayStation Plus’ new, highest tier. Game Pass’ curated library and commitment to day-and-date launches, particularly for Xbox’s first-party games, makes it the far stronger option for a big-name library of freely accessed games.

Part of the reason we do these end-of-year subscription analyses is to pay our compliments to a well-chosen library, or chide a platform-holder into doing better. Xbox Live Games With Gold, over the past three years, has shown there is no longer much opportunity for either. The end of Xbox 360 games’ availability in Games With Gold, cutting the monthly offers down to two titles, doesn’t have us optimistic that will change, either.

All that said, let the record reflect that Xbox Live Games With Gold subscribers got access to 42 titles in 2022, with a combined suggested retail price of $712.58.