Best Xbox Series X games 2023: you need to play these titles right now
Our pick of the best Xbox Series X games cover almost every genre, and you'll find most of these titles on Game Pass
The best Xbox Series X games cover everything from blockbuster single-player epics to chaotic multiplayer brawlers, with gorgeous platformers and even a few strategy games in between. You’ll also find more than a handful of iconic Xbox franchises, like Halo, Forza, Gears and Sea of Thieves in Microsoft’s library of games that it hopes will tempt you over to the green side.
While Sony and Nintendo continue to bank on their first-party games to ‘wow’ fans – with most of the best PS5 games and best Nintendo Switch games made in-house – Microsoft’s strategy has pivoted in recent years.
Despite the company acquiring Bethesda Softworks (and possibly Activision Blizzard in the future), Microsoft has shifted its focus towards increasing the appeal and value of its subscription service, Xbox Game Pass. You’ll find the vast majority of the best Xbox Series X games on the subscription service, which offers day-one releases of all first-party games and plenty of third-party and indie titles.
You can even access Xbox Cloud Gaming, EA Play and PC Game Pass if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which you can bag for a $20 discount with our Xbox Game Pass Ultimate code. Get the lowdown on which tier is right for you with our breakdown of Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
So how did we end up with the picks below? Well, we’ve personally taken every game on this list for a spin. Every single-player game has been finished and we’ve sunk enough hours into the multiplayer titles to get a firm grip on what makes them so brilliant. Just like our pick of the best Xbox Series X accessories, we’re confident in our recommendations and know they’ll suit new players and Xbox veterans alike.
Don’t expect our choices to remain static, though. With more heavyweight releases on the horizon – including Starfield, Redfall, and Hogwarts Legacy – we expect this list will change pretty frequently. Expect new entries to be added, older games to drop off, and a few hidden delights to appear along the way. Check out our Xbox Series X games 2023 list for every upcoming release.
And don’t worry about compatibility. If you’re currently choosing between an Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S, rest assured that every game on this list will work with both consoles.
Why you can trust my best Xbox Series X|S games list
Every game on this list has been put through the wringer. I haven’t just played them in passing – I’ve dedicated a solid chunk of time to each. I’ve made sure to see every single-player game through to completion, and fully immerse myself in the multiplayer picks. Rest assured, these games haven’t just been chosen because they’re loved, but because we love them.
Disappointed that your favorite Xbox Series X|S game hasn’t made the list? Scroll down to the honorable mentions section to see which titles made the cut for our runner-up category.
How I test the best Xbox Series X|S games 🧪
Callum here. I don’t have a fancy setup, admittedly. I play on a Hisense A7200G – a standard, 50-inch budget 4K TV with HDR support. That means I can’t use every feature the Xbox Series X has to offer, like playing Xbox Series X 120fps games, but it gives me a solid understanding of what the average gamer is going to be dealing with.
For audio, I throw a SteelSeries Arctis 9 headset on my noggin. Again, nothing flashy, but it matches the quality of most people’s hardware setup. Check out the best Xbox Series X headsets if you want to upgrade your audio experience.
I don’t use an external storage drive. I’ve found myself rotating through new Xbox Game Pass entries so quickly I haven’t found the need to bag an expansion card just yet. Although that might well change as the file size of triple-A games only gets bigger.
15. Ori and the Will of the Wisps 🍃
Release date: March 11, 2020
➕ Evocative story
➕ Impeccable platforming mechanics
➖ Backtracking isn’t for everyone
Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the sublime sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest, takes everything players enjoyed about the first game and expands upon it. Combat is more fluid and impactful; navigating the game’s labyrinthine world is more intuitive than before, and the spectacular visuals are cranked up another notch.
If Ori and the Blind Forest brought a tear to your eye, grab some tissues for Will of the Wisps. The game’s adorable characters and the perils they endure are just as captivating as before, and you’ll encounter some new friends along the way that you can’t help but connect with.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps may be a side-scrolling Metroidvania at heart, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best-looking games on Xbox Series X. If you have an HDMI 2.1 display, you can choose between 4K resolution at 120fps or a 6K downsampled resolution at 60fps. Whichever mode you choose, Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks stunning and plays equally as well.
14. Cuphead ☕️
Release date: September 29, 2017
➕ Classic cartoon art style brought to life
➕ Perfect for couch co-op
➖ Might be too difficult for some
Cuphead is arguably one of the most striking games of the last decade. The game’s art style is based on a faithful recreation of the hand-drawn cartoons of the 1930s, and it’s a captivating sight to behold.
But don’t be fooled by Cuphead’s childish appearance. What lies underneath the vibrant visuals is a rock-hard, bullet-hell shooter game that will test your reactions and patience to the limit. Cuphead isn’t easy – far from it – but the thrill you get whenever you knock out a bothersome boss can’t be beaten.
There’s never been a more perfect time to jump into Cuphead’s Inkwell Isle, as the game’s long-awaited DLC, The Delicious Last Course, is now available. Prepare for more cartoon hijinks, some devilishly difficult boss fights, and a toe-tapping jazz soundtrack.
13. Halo: The Master Chief Collection 🔫
Release date: November 17, 2020
➕ Halo like it’s never looked before
➕ Amazing value for money
➖ Some multiplayer elements feel dated
A package of classic FPS games upgraded for the latest console hardware – what’s not to love? The Master Chief Collection contains Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4, and Halo Reach, complete with their single-player campaigns and lauded multiplayer modes. It’s the biggest single collection of Halo games ever released, and perfect for dedicated fans as well as those who missed out on the classics the first time around.
It’s also best enjoyed on the Xbox Series X|S. Sporting improved resolutions, HDR support, steady 60fps four-player multiplayer, and up to 120fps gameplay on the Series X, Halo really has never looked so good. With six games in the box for the price of one (well, technically five as Halo 3: ODST is a paid-for add-on), there’s no arguing against the MCC’s value for money.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection is included with Xbox Game Pass.
12. Hi-Fi Rush 🎵
Release date: January 25, 2023
➕ Slick rhythmic combat
➕ Gorgeous art style
➖ Flat story
Hi-Fi Rush came as a surprise to everyone when it was shadow dropped at the beginning of 2023. A rhythm shooter with a dazzling cel-shaded art style, it drops you into a comically vibrant world to fight through arenas of evil androids and jump through platforming obstacle courses to the beat of the music.
It really shines for its combat, which looks and feels audacious without actually being very complex at all. The beat-based combos are great to pull off and it’s a fantastic introduction to rhythm games, with no overly complex rhythms or fast tempos to worry about. Plus, with a sick soundtrack, Hi-Fi Rush makes great listening as well as playing.
Hi-Fi Rush is included with Xbox Game Pass.
11. Hades 👿
Release date: December 6, 2018
➕ Enthralling roguelite combat
➕ Embellished character dialogue
➖ Completing it can be tough
Hades has become the gold standard of roguelites. Sleek, swift and effortlessly stylish, the Ancient Greek-inspired hack-n-slash sends you to Tartarus, to repeatedly fight through the legions of Hell across a series of procedurally generated levels. Combat is effortlessly tactile, while a light RPG upgrade system adds a level of persistence across your runs through the underworld.
But Hades often shines brightest when you’re out of the melee. Taking control of Zagreus as he attempts to escape the underworld, you’ll meet much of the Greek Pantheon, and explore a central hub replete with memorable characters. You won’t tire of its fast-paced combat, but might find yourself slowing down to soak in the story.
10. Psychonauts 2 🧠
Release date: August 25, 2021
➕ Hilarious writing throughout
➕ An unrivaled colorful world
➖ Rudimentary platforming
Double Fine’s much-anticipated sequel to zany telekinetic puzzle-platformer Psychonauts did not disappoint when it was released back in 2021. Psychonauts 2 returns Raz and his fellow psychics on a new adventure, stuffed full of madcap worlds and hilarious quips.
There aren’t many games that let you jump around a level made of human teeth or an assault course inspired by ‘60s psychedelia. Psychonauts 2’s wackiness is a delight that’s just as enjoyable for dedicated fans of the first game as well as new players. It’s lighter on platforming than its predecessor, though, so expect more adventuring and dialogue.
Psychonauts 2 is included with Xbox Game Pass.
9. Gears Tactics 🎓
Release date: April 28, 2020
➕ Bombastic strategy action
➕ A triumphant pivot for Gears of War
➖ Tactically shallow at times
Proving that strategy games still have a place on consoles, Gears Tactics meshes the squad-based thinking of XCOM with the gung-ho shooting of Gears of War. The result isn’t just a marriage of convenience, but a heady combo that works shockingly better than it has any right to.
The game’s turn-based battles feel intense, and the scope of squad customization keeps things fresh. By downplaying resource management in favor of constant action, Gears Tactics is carried by a constant momentum. Encounters feel cataclysmic under the weight of towering monsters, and even bigger biceps.
Although also available on Xbox One, this is a game best experienced on the Xbox Series X|S. Alongside improved textures and visual fidelity, load times are noticeably quicker, frame rates more consistent, and overall performance is simply better.
Gears Tactics is included with Xbox Game Pass.
8. Halo Infinite 😇
Release date: November 15, 2021
MSRP: $59.99 (multiplayer free)
➕ One of the best Halo campaigns
➕ Expansive gameplay
➖ Disappointingly bare multiplayer
Halo is a staple of every Xbox generation, and Halo Infinite might just be the most ambitious entry in the classic FPS series to date. Once again, you’ll put on the green power armor of Master Chief to fight across a ringed alien world, but will have a new toy to play with this time around. Handing you a grappling hook with which to whizz across an open-world map, Halo Infinite plays to all of the series’ strengths but feels just fresh enough.
Once you're done with the campaign, of course, there’s the free-to-play multiplayer to enjoy. Although a little lackluster at a launch, its live-service elements have since been gradually built up with new modes, maps and features. It somehow manages to feel like a trip down nostalgia avenue while smoothly slotting in among today’s FPS heavyweights.
Halo Infinite is included with Xbox Game Pass.
7. The Forgotten City 🦅
Release date: July 28, 2021
➕ Enthralling narrative
➕ Excellent, evocative writing
➖ Stilted animations
One of the most memorable narrative adventures of the last few years, The Forgotten City started life as an acclaimed Skyrim mod. But after a full redevelopment and re-release by a small indie team, it easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the biggest story-driven adventures of the moment.
At the heart of The Forgotten City is a time loop. Waking up 2,000 years in the past, you’ll explore a Roman city, reliving the same day to gradually discover what was responsible for the city’s destruction. That mainly involves talking to its residents, questioning them and solving the many, many secrets they’re hiding.
It’s best to play The Forgotten City completely blind. Even the smallest spoiler will ruin its twists and turns. Its narrative puzzles aren’t too difficult, so even if adventure games aren’t usually your thing, this one’s bound to immerse you.
Release date: November 15, 2022
➕ Genuinely gripping story with multiple outcomes
➕ Captivating art style
➖ Starts off slow
Pentiment sees you take control of Andreas Maler, a journeyman artist in 16th-century Bavaria who becomes embroiled in solving a high-profile murder case. The game features countless branching paths that are determined by your choices as you try to determine who the most likely suspect is.
Pentiment’s art style mimics that of medieval illuminated manuscripts and the narrative-driven game even displays the characters’ dialogue in various hand-written scripts. It doesn’t take long before you’re entranced in Andreas’ mission to find the murderer, and the game does a wonderful job of bringing Bavaria to life.
In an industry that’s littered with first-person shooters, third-person action games and annualized sports series, the pages of Pentiment are well worth sifting through.
Pentiment is included with Xbox Game Pass.
5. Tunic 🦊
Release date: March 16, 2022
➕ An evocative adventure
➕ Unique blend of genres
➖ Head-scratching puzzles might stump you
Tunic is more than just its cute voxel art. Pulling from the dungeon-crawling exploration of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series, the showstopping bosses of the Soulslike genre, and the complex puzzle-solving of your favorite 2D classics, it’s a melting pot of influences that are, somehow, combined into something unique.
As a stout fox wielding a big sword, you’ll slash, parry and roll your way across a secretive fantasy landscape. But it’s those secrets that are so essential to selling Tunic’s atmosphere of wide-eyed discovery. Strewn throughout the open world are pages of a manual, each one revealing a hidden path or a cryptic clue, guiding you onwards.
Everything is delicately balanced, and no surface feels unpolished. You’ll rarely find a game that transports you back to your childhood days of wonder as well as Tunic does.
Tunic is included with Xbox Game Pass.
4. Resident Evil Village 👻
Release date: May 7, 2021
➕ Tight gunplay
➕ Terrifying in parts
➖ Story stumbles in moments
If Resident Evil 7 returned Capcom’s survival horror series to its original heights, Resident Evil Village only bestows more laurels on its mutated head. The game reunites us with Ethan Winters, and his first-person camera viewpoint, to skulk through yet another terrifying mansion and the twisted family who call it home.
There are plenty of jump scares baked into an already terrifying atmosphere, although Resident Evil Village will also scratch an action-heavy itch. Plus, don’t overlook the singular pleasure of having Lady Dimitrescu skewer you through the face with her talons. Play it on Xbox Series X|S rather than Xbox One if you want to experience a more consistent 60fps and enjoy features like ray-traced lighting.
3. Sea of Thieves ⚓
Release date: March 20, 2018
➕ Exciting swashbuckling co-op
➕ Lavish stylized visuals
➖ Lots of paid-for live-service content
Despite a rocky launch in 2018, Sea of Thieves has become the freewheeling pirate adventure many had always hoped for. In this swashbuckling multiplayer sandbox, you’ll create your own seadog to sail around the open ocean, collecting booty, battling skeletons, and fending off rival pirates.
If you already gave it a go on Xbox One, it’s well worth checking out again on the Xbox Series X|S. Connect the console to a 4K TV that supports HDR and you’ll be gawking at just how vibrant its landscape looks. There’s also 120fps support for pirate captains who’ve managed to plunder a compatible TV. Don’t be fooled by its stylistic visuals, Sea of Thieves is one of the prettiest games on Microsoft’s flagship console.
Substantial updates are only expanding the game further. Developer Rare says it will continue adding new seasonal adventures and content for the next few years, so there’ll be plenty more opportunities for landlubbers to earn their sea legs.
Sea of Thieves is included with Xbox Game Pass.
2. Forza Horizon 5 🇲🇽
Release date: November 5, 2021
➕ Gorgeous graphics
➕ Jam-packed with fun
➖ Follows the series template
Forza Horizon 5 isn’t a racing game in the traditional sense. It’s more like an open-world sandbox, in which you just happen to be controlling your character’s wheels instead of their legs. It’s a buffet of lush driving set-pieces for motorheads to revel in, alongside accessible arcadey nonsense that even the most casual gamer can enjoy.
It’s also a brilliant showcase of the Xbox Series X|S’s hardware. Every element feels meticulously refined, from the precise handling of each car and beautiful landscapes around you to the purr of your engine. Play it in co-op to experience the game’s full effect.
Forza Horizon 5 is included with Xbox Game Pass.
1. Elden Ring 💍
Release date: February 25, 2022
➕ A spellbinding fantasy world
➕ Gloriously precise combat
➖ Eats up a lot of your time
The Souslike game that took the world by storm, Elden Ring deserves every ounce of praise it’s received. Sprawling, ambitious, and not the least bit easier than its predecessors, FromSoftware’s latest punishing RPG really has no rival.
Veterans of the Soulslike genre will find its core boss-battling gameplay familiar enough, but Elden Ring is probably the best introduction to the genre for totally new players. Pinching a few ideas from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, its massive open world rewards exploration, with its light-touch storytelling baked into the very environment around you.
It’s also best played on the Xbox Series X rather than the Xbox One. Microsoft’s older console struggles to handle Elden Ring’s expansive world, with massive frame rate drops and performance glitches common at launch. Things have improved since, but if you want the smoothest experience, get it on the newest hardware.
Honorable mentions 👏
Not every game is worthy of making it into our prestigious top 15 list, but they’re still worth celebrating. We’ve tested and thoroughly enjoyed these titles, so check them out if you’ve already played through our top picks.
🤖 Cyberpunk 2077. Cyberpunk 2077 may have started off as a bit of a mess, but it now resembles something that’s closer to the original promise we were first sold. It’ll probably never achieve the unrealistic expectations that developer CD Projekt Red originally laid out, but Cyberpunk 2077 is well worth your time (and money) today.
⌛ Deathloop (available on Xbox Game Pass). Your task in Deathloop is simple on the face of it: find and assassinate 12 visionaries. However, the twist is you’ll have to kill them all in one day, which will take planning, experimentation, and some out-of-the-box thinking.
⚙️ Gears 5 (available on Xbox Game Pass). Ditching the humongous muscles of Marcus Phoenix for the slighter (but still impressively large) muscles of Kait Diaz, Gears 5 took the third-person shooter series in a new direction. Gloriously bombastic firefights are still at the game’s heart, but they’re measured up against more heartfelt characters.
🧑🚀 Outer Wilds (available on Xbox Game Pass). Another game that features a time loop, you have 22 minutes to explore a solar system before the sun goes supernova. Figure out the time loop, learn about an extinct race, and lose yourself in the Outer Wilds.
🏛️ Assassin’s Creed Origins (available on Xbox Game Pass). Assassin’s Creed Origins may seem like a strange choice considering AC Odyssey and AC Valhalla have since been released, but there’s something so captivating about Ubisoft’s big shake-up of the Assassin’s Creed formula. The game recently got a 60fps patch that breathes new life into the game meaning it plays better than ever before.
Can’t decide between Microsoft’s flagship console and Sony’s PlayStation 5? Check out our PS5 vs Xbox Series X comparison for everything you need to know. You can also visit our Xbox Series X games 2023 list to see all the new releases on the way.
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Updated: March 16, 2023