As the Xbox One’s lifecycle draws to a close, it’s a perfect time to dive in and make sure you’re ticking off your Xbox bucket list: these are the games you’re going to want to play before the big upgrade, when you’ll pack up your Xbox One and all of its games, and stow it away in your loft until it becomes “retro”.
But what games? How can you pick 20 games that sum up some of the best games on offer from through the Xbox One’s lifespan? Don’t you worry about that. We’ve got you covered – and best of all, you can play most of them through Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass subscription.
If you’re not too much of a platform loyalist, we’ve rounded up the best PS4 games and the year’s best PC games too. And if you’re ready to upgrade, here’s everything you need to know about the new Xbox Series X.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption was a phenomenal adventure game and Rockstar is renowned as experts when it comes to creating sprawling open-world titles, so it should come as no surprise that Red Dead Redemption 2 has set a new standard for the genre.
The open-world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is sprawling and varied, but it’s the finer details that make it feel dynamic and lived-in. You can have impromptu conversations with passers-by, intimidate witnesses to crimes to avoid becoming wanted and when you want a little R&R, you have can hunt over 200 species of animal, go fishing or play dominoes or cards with a variety of Wild West friends.
While playing, we’ve been stopped by outlaws trying to rob us, we’ve helped a woman being attacked in her home, we’ve helped convicts escape prison carts and more – all while randomly exploring the scenic countryside between missions.
The missions are action-packed, story-driven and wildly varied – from high-pressure missions like robbing a train to more relaxed missions where you simply go fishing – the game offers something new at every turn. And with so many intricate game systems at play, from weapon degradation to a stunning weather system, Red Dead Redemption 2 may ruin every other open-world game for you.
Metro Exodus is the third and final instalment of the hugely popular Metro series, and it’s safe to say that it’s the best to date. Exodus sees Artyom and the Spartan Rangers ditch the dark, dank Metro system to embark on a cross-country mission with the aim of finding other explorers and settling down somewhere safe. Of course, being a Metro game, it doesn’t quite go to plan.
It’s the first in the series to offer an open-world format, with four unique environments full of post-apocalyptic points of interest and, of course, dangerous mutated animals to avoid. But despite offering up all of that open space to explore, Metro Exodus doesn’t lose that panicked, claustrophobic feel that is so synonymous with the series.
It’s stunningly good-looking too, offering a truly beautiful glimpse at post-apocalyptic Russia. Essentially, if you’re on the market for a tight, story-driven shooter that’ll make you scream like a kid then Metro Exodus is the game for you.
Forza Motorsport 7
Forza 7 is the ultimate driving game for Xbox and PC gamers. It adds realistic elements to the game without making it as punishing as the majority of driving sims, providing the perfect balance for gamers. It’s a stunning game not only in terms of the cars but the weather system, environments and even the tracks themselves, and the built-in photo mode shows it all off perfectly.
Combine that with perfect handling, even when using a controller, and you’ve got a racing game that you’ll sink a lot of time into, even if getting good at it is a little more work than Forza Horizon 4.
View these like two distinct choices: Horizon is chocolate, Motorsport is vanilla. Both are good, but different people will prefer different options.
The follow-up to 2016’s DOOM revival does all the same things that game does, but faster, louder, and harder. More demons, more weapons, and much more movement help to keep the 15-hour campaign lively as you jet set around between Hell, Hell on Earth, Hell on Mars, and… you get the idea.
As before, the name of the game is aggression. The only way to survive is to keep finding bigger demons to rip, tear, and shoot to death, using the likes of your chainsaw, glory kills, and flamethrower to convert enemies into resources like ammo, health, and armour.
There’s more plot here than in the original, but it’s still eminently ignorable if you prefer to just run around slaughtering stuff, and doing so remains one of the best – and surprisingly strategic – action experiences in modern gaming.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Every best games list has a Souls-like on it these days, and in this case, the game is Sekiro. This melee brawler rewards patience and dedication and delivers tense stealth gameplay and some brilliant melee combat.
To get good at Sekiro you’re going to have to get used to dying. A lot. But if you can push through that, it’s a game that offers a fairly unique experience: the counter and parry based combat is challenging, and only truly opens up when you’ve put in the time to master it.
This won’t work for everyone: the game can be bloody tricky and we yelled several times in the office trying to suss it out, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t worth playing.
Let’s start this with a bold proclamation: when it comes to single-player FPS games, Titanfall 2 is the best there is on the Xbox One. For five hours, Respawn Entertainment manages, effortlessly, to get you to buy whole-heartedly into the tale of rifleman Jack Cooper, who goes through hell with nothing but an armload of guns and a giant robot by his side.
Along the way, Respawn — made up of ex-Infinity Ward developers that worked on the blockbuster Call of Duty Modern Warfare series — show why they’re the best in the business when it comes to cinematic shooters, and it’s hard not to fall in love with every single level of the campaign. Into the Abyss and Effects and Cause are particular highlights, and it’s well worth pushing on as far as those, to see some phenomenal level design.
This is a game bursting with fascinating concepts, and backed up with silken gunplay. Once you’ve played it to death, there’s a multiplayer mode, too. It mixes the fluid firefights of a AAA multiplayer shooter with the ability to call giant robots in from the sky and then ride around in them, dishing out justice from your new best friend.
Reviving the long-dormant XCOM strategy series with 2012’s Enemy Unknown was no easy feat, so there were always high hopes for 2017’s sequel, the more simply named XCOM 2, but it’s hard to imagine anyone was disappointed by it.
Set years after the first game, in a world in which humanity lost its initial war against the alien invaders, the XCOM team is no longer a massive interplanetary defence force, but instead a small band of renegades and outlaws.
That changes the scope of many missions, which are now built around a new stealth mechanic that allows you to move your team into an optimum position and launch an ambush on unsuspecting enemies.
Missions are also likely to boast secondary objectives, and some set strict time limits, forcing you to abandon the safety of cover and dash forward across the map in order to succeed in time.
Maps are generated procedurally, meaning there’s more variation than before, and they’re packed with new enemy types – including a few re-purposed from the original ‘90s series like the Viper.
XCOM 2 is the rare sequel that feels better than the original in just about every way – and the original was already fantastic, so that’s really saying something. Put simply: XCOM 2, especially with its War of The Chosen expansion, is the best strategy game out there.
Remedy’s latest is a work of art: an action-adventure game by Remedy Entertainment that focuses on the obviously-fictional Federal Bureau of Control, a secret U.S government outfit that contains and studies anything that doesn’t fit within the realms of reality.
This could involve you exploring astral planes, picking up reality-bending artefacts and taking out enemies with a mix of telekinesis and the Eldritch service weapon, which warps between different fire modes and shapes depending on what you want or need in any given situation.
Every aspect of Control is brilliant, but the brightest light is cast by the game’s aesthetic. The Oldest House, the setting of the game. The brutalist look of the place in combination with the mundane bureaucratic detritus you find exploring the place makes this a truly unique action game, one of the best on the Xbox One.
Cuphead is a classic run and gun sidescrolling shooter that’s hard as nails and beautifully animated. Chances are, you’ll suck at Cuphead, but that’s part of the fun.
Breaking the back of a tough encounter is Cuphead’s most satisfying quality because there’s nothing more infuriating than being destroyed by a cutesy sailor and his boat and their big, dumb, smiling faces. On the flip side, there’s nothing more enjoyable than learning their attack patterns and taking them apart.
Need more reasons to pick it up? It’s got local co-op, and it is absolutely gorgeous, with the animation style being completely unlike any game we’ve ever seen.
Forza Horizon 4
Set in an idealistic version of the UK, this all-encompassing racer is an absolute blast. It’s gorgeous visuals, wonderful soundtrack and wealth of stuff to do mean that Horizon 4 sets the new benchmark for open-world multiplayer car games.
And a car game it is. Although you’ll spend most of your time racing, there’s just as much pleasure to be had taking photos of your most treasured cars, modifying them, upgrading them and even just taking a drive around Edinburgh or the winding country roads of the Lake District.
With ever-changing seasons comes not only a completely different look and feel to the map, but also different driving conditions. And that means you have four different ways to play each and every race, in addition to frozen lakes to skid around on, with Horizon’s seasons ensuring Winter comes but once a month.
Add in the fact that Horizon is always online, with real people driving around the countryside with you, and it’s about as close as you’ll get to drifting a Bugatti Chiron with your mates around the local Halfords car-park.
Resident Evil 2
We loved Resident Evil 7, but we’re afraid that the remake of 1998 classic Resident Evil 2 has supplanted it in our hearts (and braaaaaains) as the connoisseur’s modern Resi game.
This smart, loving remake knows exactly what to keep and what to ditch from the source material, modernising the controls, graphics, and storytelling without ever sacrificing the tone – or heart – of the franchise.
Returning players will find everything they love from classic Resi intact: labyrinthine, interlocking maps; scarce ammo; plentiful (but not too plentiful) undead forces; and the cheesiest dialogue known to man.
On the other hand the controls and camera have been updated to make the game smoother and more dynamic – without losing the element of fear those sluggish controls added – while mechanics like the hulking, relentless Tyrant have been updated to take into account the excellent work of more recent games like Alien: Isolation.
This is exactly how remakes are meant to be done, surpassing the original in more ways than just updated graphics, and comfortably rivals the best that Resident Evil has ever been.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 doesn’t need much of an introduction: it’s the game your gaming friends have been going on about since it launched back in 2015.
The Witcher 3 can be hard work: combat is difficult, dialogue can be tricky to manage and actually working out exactly how you’re going to murder the assortment of evil mythological beasties you’ll encounter while working as a Witcher.
In terms of storytelling and deep characters, there’s nothing quite like Witcher 3, and if you’re buying just one game as a solo player, this is likely to keep you amused for the longest time.
If you love this, keep an eye on CD Projekt RED’s next title, Cyberpunk 2077, which looks set to have much of the same trappings.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
If you’re looking for action and adventure, Call of Duty is often a solid shout, even if it’s uninspiring. That is, until now. Modern Warfare is the best the franchise has been in years.
Modern Warfare, a reimagining of the hit game that launched Call of Duty’s popularity into the stratosphere, came in and tore up the series’ established rules and the result is a sublime shooter, with both a cracking single-player campaign and a multiplayer with a slower pace and some innovative new features.
Both single-player and the competitive multiplayer are strong, but steer clear of the game’s co-op mode: it’s a bit pants, and why waste your time with that when you can instead dig into some of the best shooting action available for the Xbox One?
The Outer Wilds
In 22 minutes, all of this will be gone.
The Outer Wilds is an open-world exploration game where you play as an explorer on a planet with just 22 minutes before the nearest sun goes into a supernova, killing everything nearby.
After the supernova, you start again, dropping back into the still-intact planet in the hope of getting answers.
In 22 minutes, all of this will be gone. Again.
The game is impeccably well made, interesting, and another stunning indie release from Annapurna, a company which is quickly getting a reputation for releasing thought-provoking indie hits.
The first thing you notice about Superhot is its striking visual style, in which the world is reduced to shades of white, broken only by black guns and bright red baddies – and bullets. The visuals are brilliant, unforgettable, and somehow the least interesting part of the game.
Superhot is a first-person shooter, but not like any you’ve played before. Time in the game only moves when you do, slowing to a crawl whenever you stand still, making each level a series of tiny strategic encounters.
You pause, evaluate the room, and plan a move to avoid incoming attackers and hopefully take a couple out. Then you pause again, re-evaluate, and form a new plan, clearing the encounter by increments, surviving so long as you master the split-second timing.
There’s a surprisingly sinister campaign, which delves into some very meta storytelling, backed up by a number of challenge modes to further test your skills.
There’s a diverse array of guns, explosive, and melee weapons, including a fair few improvised weapons you can grab to throw at enemies. One of the game’s most fun manoeuvres sees you stun enemies to disarm them, stealing their weapon in the process.
Superhot is one of those rare games that feels genuinely new, and unlike anything that’s come before it.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But maybe add some new modes. This has been the mantra of FIFA for a long while, but FIFA 20 has added a whole new mode, Volta, which reinvents FIFA Street for a new generation.
Everything’s here as you might expect: FUT, the friendship ruining house-rules Quick Play mode, even the Champions League rights grabbed in FIFA 19 to let you feel like you’re clutching the trophy yourself after you leather Man City.
Add to this new and improved handling, and the fact that Volta really is quite good, and this is your favourite football game, but y’know, the best possible version of it.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
If Assassin’s Creed Origins served as a soft reboot for a series in desperate need of some change, Odyssey is a much more subtle update, something I didn’t expect to say about a game that pits you against the mythological minotaur. There’s no major reinvention here, but bold choices put a new twist on Origins formula, and good performances elevate it far above the franchise it comes from.
You play as an ancient Greek mercenary, or misthios, navigating the Peloponnesian War as you fight to stop a sinister and secretive cult, merrily assassinating enemies along the way.
The core combat and stealth mechanics set in Origins are back, but this time you get more flexibility in how your skills develop thanks to three branching upgrade trees and upgradeable, customisable weaponry and armour.
Those RPG elements carry across to character too. Not only do you get to choose between a male or female character — although you should definitely play as the female Kassandra — but there’s branching dialogue, romance options, and the chance to make decisions with major impact on the ongoing story.
The Outer Worlds
Obsidian is back in business, and the Outer Worlds is a wonderful chance to play an RPG made by one of the masters.
Obsidian is perhaps best known for their work on Fallout: New Vegas and The Outer Worlds combines that bold storytelling with a Firefly-esque world that has some real anti-capitalist leanings.
The Outer Worlds feels like its a game about something, which is all too rare in AAA storytelling these days. Still, if you don’t want to interface with it, there’s nothing stopping you levelling up your sneak and ignoring all of these nerds as you tick off your objectives and scurry back to your ship with your bounty.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider wraps up the Origins trilogy that kicked off back in 2013, and is the darkest yet. While other games saw Lara climb to victory, Shadow of the Tomb Raider documents her plunge into the darkness, both physically and mentally.
You can properly explore caves thanks to new spelunking mechanics, allowing you to rappel into caverns, climb on rocky surfaces and swing across vast drops for great rewards. You can also swim for the first time, allowing you to explore the depths and the mysteries (and dangers) it contains.
Psychological warfare plays a huge part in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, allowing you to scare your enemies into becoming distracted and vulnerable. Using updated stealth mechanics, Lara can sneak up unnoticed and take out a whole squad of Trinity soldiers without being noticed. The takedowns are pretty gruesome too.
The Challenge Tombs are not only the most challenging to date; they’re larger, more complex and deadlier than ever, with timing playing a crucial part. Miss one step and you’ll fall to your untimely death. Yep, it’s a pretty dark game this time around!
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Wolfenstein II is a brash shooter full of brutal weaponry and lashings of gore. Shotguns, machine pistols, handguns and even the trusty wrench, everything here feels great to use and will turn your enemies to a meaty paste.
Wolfenstein II will let you chat in hub worlds and even engage in some stealth and RPG elements. However, the game is at its best when it’s pure video game thrash metal, as you plough through nazis in an alternate history United States, leaving the tattered remnants of the Reich in your wake.
That’s the thing about fascists: it doesn’t matter what you do to them, they probably deserve it.