Update: Overwatch is taking its place in our list of must-have titles
It certainly doesn't feel like it, but it's been three years since the Xbox One was first launched. Since its release, the console has been at the forefront of great gaming and has proven itself as a great home entertainment system into the bargain.
Fortunately, the Xbox One's future looks as good as its past. With the launch of the Xbox One S, not only do we now have the option of a smaller and slimmer console, we also have access to wonderful 4K and HDR content. When it launched later this year, the high-powered Project Scorpio is promising us even greater things.
One of the biggest improvements we've seen from the new generation of Xbox consoles is in the area of graphics and performance. From the very beginning the Xbox One brought new and more advanced titles to our favorite exclusive franchises like Gears of War and Halo.
As well as bringing new games to old favorites, the Xbox One even enabled us to continue to enjoy some true classics thanks to backwards compatibility which gives access to over 250 Xbox 360 titles. This is a number which only appears to be growing.
As happy as we've been to get the chance to return to these classics, though, it's also been great to see new and diverse titles like Sunset Overdrive and Ori and the Blind Forest come to the console.
With such a large and diverse library of games at our thumb tips, it's not easy to narrow them down into a 'best of' list but we've done it.
Whether you're still running a launch console, have just picked up an Xbox One S, or you're scouting out what you'll be able to get if you decide to pick up Project Scorpio, our guide to the best Xbox One games will help you make the most of your console. We're always updating it, too, so you'll never fall behind on the latest and greatest releases.
So without further ado, check out our top picks for the best games released on the system, and look out for the HDR-enabled delights of Gears of War 4, and Forza Horizon 3 in the near future.
You’d have to be blind to miss this indie fantasy stunner
A top-class graduate of the “Metroidvania” school of action-adventure design, in which an enormous world gradually opens up as you unlock new abilities, Ori is the kind of experience you show a reactionary relative who thinks “videogame art” is a contradiction in terms.
There’s the world, to start with – a dreamlike maze of canted-over trunks, thorny caverns and sunlit glades – but it’s not just a question of blissful visuals. Ori is a crisp, empowering platformer, with a main character who learns to scurry up surfaces and ricochet away from projectiles, like a spacecraft “sling-shotting” around a planet.
The Definitive Edition improves upon the original by adding new areas to explore and additional background on one of the game’s most beloved characters.
The name of the game is freedom in Lara’s latest sprawling outing
Despite being the sequel to a prequel about the young life of the Lara Croft, this still feels like a Tomb Raider game that has grown up. The reboot which saw a brave new direction for the franchise seemed a lot of the time to be little more than a bit of light Uncharted cosplay, but Rise is a far more accomplished game.
There’s now a genuine open world which feels like there is always something to do, and something more than just harvesting up collectibles in exchange for a light dusting of XP. There are also tombs. Yes, that might seem a fatuous thing to say given the name, but the previous game gave them short shrift. In Rise though they are deeper and more plentiful. Rise also has one of the best narratives of any Tomb Raider game, penned again by Rhianna Pratchett, it’s sometimes rather poignant.
So come on, ditch Fallout 4’s wasteland for a while and give Lara some love.
Huge, exotic, anarchic and amazing to behold: Australia is a petrol-head’s dream
While the original Forza titles were about pristine driving skills around perfectly upkept tracks, the Horizon series has a penchant for trading paint and isn’t afraid to have you get down and dirty with off-road races from time to time. As with its predecessors, Forza Horizon 3 uses the pretext of a fictional festival called Horizon, in which car enthusiasts get together to race and party, as an excuse for its gameplay.
Unlike previous years where you’re cast as an unknown underdog, however, Forza Horizon 3 throws you into the deep end as the festival’s director allowing you to build out the event exactly to your liking. (Thankfully, that’s as easy as accepting quests, unlocking new cars and forcing other drivers to eat your dust.)
While the first two entries in Turn 10’s spin-off franchise surprised and delighted, Forza Horizon 3 is the unabashed pinnacle of the series, and stands amid some of the greatest racing games ever made.
The homecoming we’ve waited seven years for
All things considered, this is one of the best games Bethesda has made. It ticks all the boxes: a massive, detail-oriented open-world; still-fantastic tenets of looting and shooting; a story filled with intriguing side quests and subplots that feel like they matter; and of course a classic soundtrack that brings it all to life. In many ways it’s the game we’ve been waiting for since Fallout 3 steered the series away from its top-down role-playing roots. Not only is the world itself wider, but the plot is better, and more digestible, than any of the games before it. There’s still a sense of mystery about what’s happening but you no longer have to dig forever and a day through terminals to piece it together.
Welcome home, stranger.
“Our weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and gigantic sidequests.”
Inquisition is the proverbial RPG banquet – a 200-hour array of quests, magic-infused scraps, postcard landscapes and well-written character interactions that’s perhaps a bit too familiar, at times, but makes up for it with sheer generosity.
It puts you in charge not just of a four-man party of adventurers but also a private army with its own castle and attendant strategic meta-game, tasked with defeating a mysterious demon menace.
The choice of Unreal Engine makes for vast open environments and sexily SFX-laden combat – fortunately, you can pause the latter to issue orders if the onslaught becomes overwhelming. It’s a genre giant.
They had the technology to rebuild him, better than before
The original Titanfall was a great game – so great that it long held a place on this very list. However, its sequel, Titanfall 2, improves on it every conceivable way: the motion is more fluid, there are more distinct titans to choose from and, hold onto your hats here, there’s actually a single-player campaign that might take the cake for the best first-person shooter story of the year.
This game’s pedigree is inherited from one of this generation’s smartest and most unusual shooters. The original Titanfall married ninja-fast on-foot combat to the gloriously thuggish thrill of piloting giant mechs, which are summoned from orbit a few minutes into each match.
The skill with which Respawn has balanced this mix of styles in the sequel is remarkable – Titans have firepower in excess but they’re easy to hit, and maps offer plenty of places for infantry to hide. These ideas coalesce into one of this year’s most remarkable entries in the genre and is well-deserving its own shot in the spotlight as well as a Game of the Year nomination.
This absurdly faithful horror experience definitely isn’t another day in the Corps
Isolation is the game that made the Alien scary again.
We’ve run into H.R. Giger’s eyeless, monstrosity in so many dodgy spin-offs over the years that the basic design has lost much of its capacity for terror. Creative Assembly’s interpretation stands apart in a couple of ways. One: it can’t be killed by conventional means, obliging you to spend much of the game hiding in lockers with one eye glued to your motion tracker. Two: it’s horribly smart, responding to your avoidance tactics as a predator would rather than plodding along a pre-programmed path.
Add in the space station environments, which are modelled with obsessive exactness on the film’s sets, and you have a franchise-defining title.
Which came first, video or the game?
Had it been rushed, Quantum Break could’ve been an absolute train wreck of disjointed narratives and confusing motives. But, as it stands, the gameplay and video work in tandem to deliver something most games never achieve: cohesion.
What I mean by cohesion is that the characters helping you, the often forgettable side characters in game who are used to get you from point A to point B, become real people. Both in a literal sense (Quantum Break’s live-action video cast includes Aiden Gillen from Game of Thrones, Shawn Ashmore from X-Men, Dominic Monaghan from The Lord of the Rings and a half-dozen other famous actors and actresses) and in a figurative one.
Quantum Break takes on two new and different genres (sci-fi, video) and does so in an impressive way. It’s a neat combination that works in tandem to deliver a better experience than either could on its own.
It takes two to shine in this crazily inventive platformer
Press Play’s “single-player co-op” endeavour Kalimba strikes a homely figure alongside Xbox One’s surfeit of dust-brown shooters, but in terms of originality of concept and inventiveness of execution it has few equals.
The gist: you control two hopping, differently coloured totem heads simultaneously, guiding them past hazards and pitfalls.
The twist: your characters are often split up from one another by the terrain, and must face different combinations of hazards, including energy fields which fry anything that isn’t the same colour.
The result is an incredibly testing puzzler that has the immediacy and zest of a Mario title.
A Flood of online problems can’t tarnish this bumper Halo package
The Master Chief Collection’s aggravating networking problems have dominated headlines since release, but let’s not forget just what a value-for-money package it represents. For the price of one game you get four of the greatest sci-fi shooters ever made, exhaustively reworked to take advantage of Xbox One’s HD graphics capabilities and (when everything works smoothly) online functions.
Among other perks, there’s a neat dual-engine feature for Halo 1 and 2 that allows you to switch between old and new graphics in real-time, and a hub menu that lets you splice missions from all four games into a bespoke themed campaign.
If you’ve yet to play Halo, this is the place to start in preparation for Halo 5: Guardians.
There’s no fear and loathing in Los Santos – just explosive entertainment
Yes, including one of last generation’s greatest games among this generation’s finest is rather boring, but GTA V on Xbox One is too good to ignore, with HD visuals, a longer draw distance and a faster frame-rate.
Among other, more practical perks it includes a first-person mode, which genuinely makes this feel like a different game, though the missions, tools and characters are the same. The new perspective pushes Rockstar’s attention to detail to the fore, allowing you to better appreciate the landscape’s abundance of in-jokes and ambient details.
GTA V’s open world multiplayer remains a laidback thrill, whether you’re stuntdiving with friends or teaming up to complete a Heist (a long overdue addition to MP, but worth the wait) – it’s probably the best place to hang out on Xbox Live.
Hitman is a series that’s been around since the original Xbox, but it never really found its footing on the 360.
That’s changed completely with the Xbox One’s Hitman reboot, which has huge open-worlds levels that make its predecessor’s look tiny in comparison.
But despite their size, Hitman’s levels are absolutely brimming with detail, from endless items that you can fashion into weapons, to small incidental conversations that point to hidden areas and tasks to complete.
We were nervous when we heard that the game would be split into seven episodes, but with four episodes released (and a fifth on the way soon), it looks like IO Interactive is well on its way to crafting the definitive Hitman experience.
Consult your doctor first to see if Dark Souls 3 is right for you
Playing a Dark Souls game is a masochistic thing. The pain of losing to the same boss ten times in a row is crushing, but chasing the buzz of a victory makes it all worth it.
Dark Souls 3, the latest in the soul-crushing series, is back and more terrifying than ever. The graphics have been updated for the modern era, with stunning lighting effects, which illuminate all that is good, as well as what’s better left unseen.
The gameplay is faster than previous Souls games, riffing off of BloodBorne’s rapid pacing. Finally, the story and the online multiplayer come together to make this a game that you won’t put down once you pick it up.
Relive some of your favorite gaming memories
It’s easy to label Rare Replay as another two-bit collection looking to exploit that sense of nostalgia you get by looking at the cover art for games like Perfect Dark or Banjo-Kazooie.
But dismissing the incredible collection of 30 games from Rare’s heyday means missing out on an expertly crafted walk down memory lane.
While some games hold up better than others (cough, Gunfright) with a collection that spans 30 years and a half-dozen systems, you’re bound to find a few titles to fall in love with one more time.
A refreshing jump back in time
In the latest Battlfield game, DICE takes players back in time to World War One and by doing so completely rejuvinates the once stagnating franchise.
Battlefield 1‘s historical setting helps it to stand apart from the rest of the modern military shooters on the market with all new weapons, vehicles, and level designs that feel fresh and capture the chaos and brutality of war.
The game offers a poignant and entertaining single-player campaign that sets a new standard for first-person shooter. Broken into six sections, each following a different character and front line location, the campaign never feels dull or repetitive.
The single player campaign even feeds neatly into Battlefield 1’s multiplayer mode which, while familiar, also benefits from the much-needed breath of life that the change in setting gives.
Graphically impressive, entertaining, and sometimes touching, Battlefield 1 is a return to form for the series.
Stories don’t come bigger than this
Geralt didn’t have the smoothest of entries to consoles, but after some heavy patching and a lot of angry words about visual downgrades, we’re left with an RPG boasting tremendous scope and storytelling.
Oh, and combat. And don’t forget Gwent, the in-game card game. And there’s the crafting to get stuck into. And the alchemy.
You’re rarely short of things to entertain yourself with in The Witcher 3’s quasi-open world, then, and all the better that you’re in a universe that involves the supernatural without leaning on the same old Tolkien fantasy tropes. Invigorating stuff.
Waynes, pains and Batmobiles
It’s a Batman simulator. You get to be Batman.
If you want to pretend you need more reasons than that alone to play it, Rocksteady has a track record for peerless fisticuff-based combat, empowering gadgetry and dark storytelling. Oh, plus you can drive the Batmobile. In short, it’s the complete superhero sim package, presented impeccably and unrelenting in its delivery of show-stopping cinematic set-pieces. Even standing on top of a building watching your cape dance gently in the breeze makes you feel cool.
Out of this world online multiplayer
Calling Destiny ambitious is a disservice to the game. It’s an ambient world (er, galaxy) that operates in real time. It combines single- and multiplayer into a single campaign, seamlessly transitioning between the two. It’s from the team that made Halo, so while Destiny may not have the iconic face of Master Chief plastered on the box, it will have the same creative minds doing what they do best: sci-fi.
So what do you do? Imagine a first-person shooter-inspired World of Warcraft. You’ll create a character and build him/her from a rookie enforcer to earth’s savior by unlocking abilities and improving your expertise with one of the four main types of weapons. Before long you’ll be haunting the same locales for a rare weapon drop and partying up with friends to take down some of the toughest space brutes this side of a Sith Temple.
How many Snakes does it take to change a lightbulb?
Okay, so Hideo Kojima’s last game for Konami – and his last ever Metal Gear game – might be a little tough for the MGS n00b to get to grips with, but it’s still one of the best stealth-action games ever crafted. The open-world shenanigans will satisfy all your behind-enemy-lines / Rambo fantasies and probably confuse you with crazy plot twists and a million characters all with the same gravel-toned voices.
But hey, that’s all part of its charm, right?
A smart, stealthy, steampunk adventure
Following the surprise 2012 hit Dishonored wasn’t going to be an easy task, but Dishonored 2 has more than lived up to its expectations.
Picking up 15 years after the events of the original, Dishonored 2 takes players back to the Victorian Steampunk city of Dunwall. This time, though, you have the choice of whether or not you want to play as the original title’s protagonist Corvo, or his equally-skilled protegee Emily.
Dishonored 2 doesn’t differ wildly from the first game, but there was nothing wrong with Dishonored in the first place. What we get is a vastly improved and close to perfected take on it.
Anyone who likes their games filled with atmosphere, character, and a bit of wit and intelligence will find Dishonored 2 worth picking up.
Overwatch has without a doubt been one of our favorite games to come out of the last year.
It's a classic team arena shooter from Blizzard that sets two six-person teams of wildly different characters against each other in a bright and cartoonish science fiction universe.
Great graphics, tight maps, and a good roster of characters to enjoy playing. Overwatch is good old fashioned fun and we thoroughly recommend it.