Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: which subscription is right for you?
Xbox Game Pass offers two subscription tiers to choose between. Both are great value for money, but only one will be the best option for you.
Trying to choose between Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate? Microsoft’s gaming subscription service offers loads of fantastic features, but there are a few key differences between the two membership tiers.
Xbox Game Pass is the standard subscription tier for consoles. It hands you a massive library of downloadable games ranging from brand-new blockbusters to fresh indies, as well as a bunch of Xbox discounts and deals. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, meanwhile, gives you all of that alongside heaps of PC games, Xbox Cloud Gaming, EA Play membership, and Xbox Live Gold.
The choice between the two membership tiers is a lot more clear-cut than deciding between the Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S, and whichever you choose, rest assured you’ll still be able to play some of the best Xbox Series X games as part of your subscription.
The bottom line is this: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs a chunk more than Xbox Game Pass, but is worth the extra dollars for most people. If you’re not interested in playing any online multiplayer games, though, pick up a standard Xbox Game Pass membership.
If you’re not already subscribed to the platform, remember to use our Xbox Game Pass Ultimate discount code for a little money off.
Or if you’re all set for software, read our guide to the best Xbox Series X controllers, best Xbox Series X accessories and best Xbox Series X headsets to find out if your hardware supply is up to scratch.
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Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: price 💲
A standard Xbox Game Pass subscription will set you back $9.99 per month while Xbox Game Pass Ultimate costs a monthly $14.99. It’s a significant price difference that adds up significantly over time; a full annual subscription to Ultimate is equivalent to a year and a half of standard Game Pass membership.
Despite Xbox Game Pass Ultimate looking like an expensive, premium option, it’s the default choice for many players. It packs in a bunch of useful features that justify its inflated price tag. The trick is to calculate whether they’re worth the extra price to you.
Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: games 🕹
The gaming libraries included in Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate are similar but not exactly the same. As a console-only subscription, Xbox Game Pass includes hundreds of games to play on Xbox Series X|S or Xbox One, including new triple-A releases like Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, as well as indie gems such as Hollow Knight, Vampire Survivors, Pentiment and many more.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, takes all of that and combines it with PC Game Pass (the platform’s PC equivalent subscription service). You get access to all the games on Xbox Game Pass alongside a bumper library of PC games, including heavy hitters like Total War: Warhammer 3 and Age of Empires 4. You’ll still need a PC rig capable of playing most of them, mind, but if you’ve already got the hardware, a venerable bounty of PC delights awaits.
Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: Xbox Cloud Gaming ☁
Included in every Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription is access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft’s in-development game streaming service. It lets you play games on your Xbox console, PC, or even phone and tablet directly through the cloud, no download required.
A big chunk of the current Xbox Game Pass library is available on Xbox Cloud Gaming, including several major releases like Gears 5, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, No Man’s Sky and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Not every game can be streamed, so don’t bank on your favorite series appearing in the cloud. Check out the full library on the Xbox Cloud Gaming webpage.
Remember, you’ll need a strong, reliable internet connection to use the streaming service. Microsoft recommends “rates of 10 Mbps on mobile devices, 20 Mbps on consoles, PCs and tablets, and 5Ghz WiFi or mobile data connection”. You also won’t be able to stream any game that requires a keyboard and mouse control scheme, as Xbox Cloud Gaming is currently only compatible with controllers. Unfortunately, that kicks many strategy and other PC games off the service.
Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: Xbox Live Gold 🥇
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate comes bundled with Xbox Live Gold, Microsoft’s older subscription service that’s needed to access the online portions of Xbox games. If you regularly play multiplayer, or reckon you will after you pick up an Xbox Series X|S, Xbox Live Gold is a necessity.
Microsoft looks to be setting up Xbox Game Pass Ultimate as a replacement for Xbox Live Gold. Not only does Ultimate include the slightly dated Gold membership service, but it’s priced very competitively against it. For only $5 extra a month (Xbox Live Gold costs $9.99 monthly) you get access to the entire Game Pass library and all the other Ultimate benefits.
If you’re absolutely certain that you’ll never, ever use the Game Pass library or Xbox Cloud Gaming, and just want access to online multiplayer, then you may as well forget Xbox Game Pass entirely and subscribe to Xbox Live Gold instead. But, really, you’d probably be best off shelling out a bit of extra cash each month to reap the many, many benefits of Game Pass.
Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: EA Play 🎮
If you’re a devout EA fan, you’ll be pleased to know EA Play is included in every Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. The membership service gives you access to a bunch of EA games, including several Battlefield titles, Titanfall 2, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, FIFA 22 and plenty more.
Not every EA release is included, though. FIFA 23, for example, isn’t available through the platform and if it follows the schedule of FIFA 22, won’t be put on for several months. Battlefield 2042 was similarly absent on release, coming to EA Play only a year after launch following several months of poor commercial performance.
Most EA releases tend to arrive on Game Pass up to 12 months after launch. Some arrive after only six months, while some can take a little longer. Don’t expect to play the latest EA games immediately on Game Pass when they launch, but EA Play does hand you a convenient way of dipping into the developer’s past library.
Xbox Game Pass vs Xbox Game Pass Ultimate: monthly perks 🎁
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate rewards subscribers with several perks each month. They range in type and quality, but often take the form of free downloadable item packs for hit multiplayer games. Cosmetics and free in-game currency for Halo Infinite, Fall Guys, Fallout 76, and FIFA 2022 have all featured in the past, letting you bag a bunch of exclusive in-game goodies.
More tantalizing offers have also appeared. Microsoft partnered with Apple in late 2022 to let Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers claim three months of Apple Music and Apple TV+ for free. Other times, members have been able to bag three free months of Calm Premium.
The freebies aren’t so great that they should influence your decision over what tier of Xbox Game Pass to buy, but they’re worth keeping an eye on. You never know what sweet treats you might be able to bag.
Should you get Xbox Game Pass or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate? 🆚
Both Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate are fantastic platforms that give you an easy, affordable way of playing many of the latest and greatest Xbox games. Most people, however, will feel the benefit of spending a little extra on an Ultimate subscription.
The extra $5 a month looks off-putting and certainly ramps up the price of the service over the long term, but if you like playing multiplayer games, or think you might want to play online multiplayer games on Xbox in the future, it’s worth paying. Xbox Live Gold is only included in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, seriously curtailing the advantages of a standard Xbox Game Pass subscription.
That’s to say nothing of the other features you’ll get access to with Ultimate. Xbox Cloud Gaming might still be in beta, but already offers a wonderfully handy way of playing triple-A and indie games on the go by streaming them directly to your phone. Additionally, access to PC Game Pass is a real boon for anyone who enjoys strategy games, RPGs and other gaming genres that are more comfortable to play on a keyboard-and-mouse system.
If you have no interest in playing multiplayer or PC games, ditch Ultimate and opt for a standard Xbox Game Pass subscription. You’ll miss out on Xbox Cloud Gaming and a few monthly goodies, but they’re not worth an extra $5 a month by themselves. Save the money to spend on something else.
Updated: March 15, 2023