Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription service is having another banner year in 2023, with over 450 games now available for console players and over 400 for PC players.
The service has recently been bolstered with the addition of two huge Xbox Game Studios exclusives, Starfield and Forza Motorsport, while Cities: Skylines 2 is a big-deal day one addition for the PC crowd. Atlus’ JRPG classics Persona 4 Golden and Persona 3 Portable made their debut on Xbox consoles earlier in the year, and Tango Gameworks’ surprise release Hi-Fi Rush told a cathartic rock ’n’ roll story with clever mechanics. Blockbuster titles are well represented with the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Hitman, cult favorites like Lies of P popped up, and Game Pass has continued its strong tradition of curating the best of the indie world with the likes of Cocoon. 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 25 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 Nov. 22, 2023, adding Jusant. It will be updated as new games come to the service.]
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.
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 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. —RG
Citizen Sleeper is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
A mysteriously beautiful, exquisitely paced puzzle adventure from some of the minds behind Limbo and Inside, Cocoon shares those games’ wordless delivery and stark aesthetic. But it’s more abstract and contemplative, and perhaps even more involving. It’s a game of pocket universes, one inside another, inhabited by buglike techno-organic life-forms — including the player character, a scurrying little beetle-thing. The conceit is that you can step up out of one reality and move it around another on your back, in a gently glowing sphere that also interacts with the world around it, before diving back in — or swapping it for another entirely.
Like so many puzzle adventures, it’s essentially a game of locks and keys, plus the occasional ingenious boss fight. But like the very best of them — Fez, for example, or Portal — Cocoon plays games with perception and reality that rewire your brain in pleasantly tortuous ways. —Oli Welsh
Cocoon 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. —MM
Crusader Kings 3 is available via Game Pass on Windows PC and Xbox Series X.
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. —RG
Death’s Door is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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. —RG
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. —RG
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. —RG
Grand Theft Auto 5 is available via Game Pass on 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 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. —RG
Hardspace: Shipbreaker is available via Game Pass on Windows PC and Xbox Series X.
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. —MM
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. —RG
Hitman Trilogy is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Jusant is a wonderfully chill rock-climbing adventure from Don’t Nod, the French studio that created Life is Strange. Unlike that dramatic, dialogue-heavy series, Jusant is a near-wordless game of exploration, but that doesn’t mean it has no story. A nameless young protagonist scales a huge tower of rock in the middle of a parched desert. People used to live there when a sea raged below, but they’ve now dispersed. Accompanied by a cute little water blob creature, our climber uncovers the secrets of this civilization and gradually brings life back to the tower as they ascend.
To go with its gorgeously desolate art and relaxing vibes, Jusant is absorbing as a pure traversal game, with a simple but satisfyingly tactile climbing system. The pad triggers represent hand grips, so you squeeze out a soothing, see-saw rhythm as you plot your course up, up, always up. A game to clear the head. —OW
Jusant is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Lies of P
One of 2023’s most delightful surprises, Lies of P is a Soulslike starring a noticeably hot Pinocchio, of all things, from relatively unheralded Korean developer Neowiz. It turns out to be one of the most original and interesting takes on the genre from outside FromSoftware — although more so in its strong storytelling and themes than its gameplay, which is heavily influenced by Sekiro and Bloodborne in its aggressive, rhythmic focus on parry-and-thrust.
As Pinocchio lies and battles his way around a crumbling Belle Epoque town that’s been overrun by its servant class of automatons, Lies of P’s grim tale bends to the player’s choices in ways that convince and intrigue. This works particularly well with Pinocchio’s dual nature as a half-human half-puppet who can be modified with gameplay-altering tools; Lies of P presents an illusory society that you can tinker with and change, just as it tries to manipulate you. —OW
Lies of P 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. —RG
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.
Look, it’s not rocket science. Sometimes you just want some truly dumb, violent nonsense to play with your friends, and fulfilling that need is just as important for a well-rounded subscription service like Game Pass as serving up expansive RPGs and intriguing indies. Party Animals is a multiplayer party brawler about cute critters knocking the stuffing out of each other. That’s it. It’s not Smash Bros., and nor does it pretend to be; it’s more like an aggressively cute Gang Beasts, or a Fall Guys that’s just about fighting. It’s a little slow, but that just makes it easier to revel in its soft-bellied slapstick. Turn your brain off and enjoy. —OW
Party Animals is available via Game Pass on 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. —RG
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. —RG
Persona 4 Golden is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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. —RG
PowerWash Simulator is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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 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. —RG
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. —RG
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
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. —RG
Vampire Survivors is available via Game Pass on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.