It’s shaping up to be another promising year for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S owners. Microsoft will follow up on its strong 2021 with a number of big games in 2022, most notably Arkane’s Redfall and Bethesda Game Studios’ Starfield. Though the future is bright for Xbox owners, the consoles’ current lineup is already worth celebrating, and so we’ve put together this list of the best Xbox Series X|S games you can play right now.
With the consoles’ first full year behind us, we’ve updated our list to feature only games with dedicated Xbox Series X|S enhancements — no more Xbox One backward-compatible games.
Whether you’re diving into an all-new adventure, getting the most out of your gaming TV with 4K 120Hz gameplay, or revisiting an old favorite through backwards compatibility on Xbox, these are the IGN staff’s picks for the 15 best Xbox Series X|S games.
Most recent updates were made on May 12, 2022.
More on the best of Xbox:
For those of you looking for an adventure that’ll put your exploration skills to the test, Outer Wilds Ventures is waiting with a beautiful mystery about life and death ready to unfold. Outer Wilds will challenge you to discover why an ancient civilization suddenly disappeared and, more importantly, why the universe keeps ending every 22 minutes. That end of the universe does mean your progress resets after the time expires, but the time loop makes space for interesting puzzles and even cooler planet designs.
Better yet, you can explore Outer Wilds’ solar system in whatever order you want. You can drop a thread or pick it back up whenever inspiration strikes you. Or, you can just hang out with other explores on their planet, listen to music, and roast marshmallows. Outer Wilds uniquely manages to be cozy in its exploration while also challenging and sometimes rather spooky with its puzzles. If you’re craving more after you’ve discovered the secrets of Outer Wilds’ universe, one more mystery remains with the Echoes of the Eye DLC.
14. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios’ excellent Ori and the Will of the Wisps builds on the first game’s fun foundation without bogging it down or becoming overcomplicated, which is the best praise you can give a sequel. It stays true to the spirit of the original, doubles down on what made it great, and gives you more stake in the world and options to navigate it.
And now on Xbox Series X, Moon has pushed the already jaw-droppingly gorgeous game to new heights at 120 FPS and 4K UHD, with native HDR support, and even a 6K resolution supersampled rendering mode at 60 FPS. When paired with the dynamic high-range audio, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the absolute best way to play this heartfelt followup of the little spirit that never gives up on its friends.
IGN spoke with Moon Studios in 2020 to discuss the potential of a new Ori game. However, Microsoft is reportedly no longer working with the studio following what was said to be a “difficult relationship.”
13. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Halo: The Master Chief Collection now collects six Halo games all under one digital roof – everything except Halo 5: Guardians. It’s been torn down to the studs and rebuilt in grand fashion, and even better, it’s been upgraded AGAIN for Xbox Series X with support for 120fps gameplay. Crazy to think that these games were 480i/30fps the first time we played them…
343 recently added crossplay to Halo 3 and Halo 3: ODST through the Master Chief Collection.
12. Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Mass Effect Legendary Edition includes Mass Effect 1-3, and almost every single piece of DLC ever made for the games including armor, story missions, characters and more. As a matter of fact, the only content not included was Pinnacle Station for the original Mass Effect, and that’s only because the code was somehow lost at BioWare.
All together, it really is the best edition of some of the best RPGs ever created. Follow Commander Shepard on a space journey spanning three massive games as they builds their team and protect the galaxy from the ultimate destroyer known as the Reapers. Unmissable.
BioWare is now “hard at work” on the next Mass Effect.
11. Hitman 3
Unfortunately, pure stealth games seem to be a dying genre. Metal Gear? MIA. Splinter Cell? Sigh… But Agent 47 lives on, and his latest outing, Hitman 3, is the best the series – and the entire stealth genre – has seen in years. The conclusion to the new-era Hitman trilogy sees Agent 47 tackle six new missions, from the opening Dubai skyscraper to the Knives Out-like family mansion that follows.
All of them, like the best of this series, can be played many different times in many different ways. Disguises, gadgets, poisons, plotting, planning, and sweet-talking are all tools in your arsenal in the most gloriously fun ways.
10. Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves may have launched to lukewarm reviews, but what has happened since is nothing short of extrodinary. The game has built a community of 15 million players and has seen continued support. With free seasonal content like the Pirates of the Caribbean “A Pirates Life” DLC that brought none other than Jack Sparrow to this world of high-sea adventure it’s no wonder so many are diving in every day.
Sea of Thieve’s Season 6 kicked off in March, bringing with it new seasonal rewards, the introduction of sea forts, and more.
9. Gears 5
While it’s a bit of a backhanded compliment to say that 2019’s Gears 5 is arguably the most visually impressive game on the Series X at launch, the fact remains that the already-gorgeous Gears of War sequel has been dialed up to take advantage of Microsoft’s new console. Better lighting, raytracing, 120fps support in Versus multiplayer — the bottom line is that if you skipped Gears 5 last year, the Series X is a great place to play it for the first time.
The original Gears made our list of the best Xbox exclusives of all time.
8. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
While Xbox owners don’t have access to games like Spider-Man or the upcoming Wolverine, if you are looking for a solid Marvel game to play on your shiny new Xbox, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is well worth your time and money. A love letter to the 1980s, this single-player action game with some RPG elements is easy to pick up and play.
The gameplay is fast-paced and rewarding, while the story keeps you invested throughout. Even then, you will certainly get a kick out of the banter between the team. And let’s not forget the soundtrack is full of 80s-mega hits that will have you jamming until the credits roll.
Guardians of the Galaxy, IGN’s pick for best video game story of 2021, is now on Game Pass.
7. Microsoft Flight Simulator
One of the greatest technical achievements in video games continues to get better in massive and meaningful ways. Developer Asobo’s commmittment to improving what’s already a masterpiece goes above and beyond big fixes and simple content additions. New planes, new airports, new sights discover and take in makes this globe-trotting simulation more realistic with each new update.
On top of the eye candy and excitement of new aircraft, Asobo is constantly updating and improving the simulation aspects of what is already the most incredible simulation of all-time. Whether you want to grab an Xbox controller and spend some time taking in the vastness of the globe, or you want to go full dad-energy and build a simulated cockpit in your game room, Microsoft Flight Simulator meets (and exceeds) everyone’s needs, regardless of playstyle.
Flight Simulator’s Top Gun Maverick expansion will be released alongside the movie on May 27.
6. It Takes Two
Admittedly, It Takes Two won’t exactly melt your GPU with its graphical intensity. Is it a nice looking game with a whimsical, fairy-tale tone and graphics to match? Yes, most certainly. But you need to play It Takes Two (with a friend or loved one either on the couch or via online play, of course, since It Takes Two cannot be played alone) because it is simply one of the best and most unique multiplayer experiences you can find these days.
Writer-director Josef Fares – yes, he of “F*** the Oscars!” fame – follows up the equally excellent A Way Out with this, a story about a failing marriage that might just be able to be saved thanks to the couple being turned into children’s dolls and forced to work together to find their way back to their human forms. Play it and we promise you’ll smile.
Tunic’s most surface influence is obvious: It’s an exploration-based open world game with dungeons, tool upgrades, and skill meter expansions that closely resemble top down Zelda games, especially A Link to the Past. But Tunic also has draws from other great, modern games: Its complex rolling and stabbing combat, especially the show stopping boss fights, are Souls-like in their delightful difficulty, and its punishment for death is also lifted right from Dark Souls; While the late game puzzles develop a language you’ll need to learn that closely resembles FEZ or The Witness. This combination of influences is the foundation of a fantastic game, but Tunic’s greatest element is its most unique. HIdden throughout the world are pages of an NES-like paper game manual. Each page contains something crucial: A puzzle clue, an essential map, a secret entrance – and quite often the pages reveal something hidden in plain site, teaching you about how the game’s secrets work, so you can discover more on your own. It’s a brilliant and often adorable companion (the gorgeous, hand-drawn art in the manual is accompanied by an anonymous player’s scrawls and notes). Because of this, Tunic constantly reminds you you are in a videogame, and plays up that theme in numerous clever ways, smashing through fourth walls like so many bomb-able cracks in a Hyrulian mountainside.
4. Psychonauts 2
Psychonauts 2, the sequel to the 2005 cult-hit Xbox exclusive, had already been crowdfunded when Microsoft purchased developer Double Fine Productions in 2019. But with the additional resources and time that Xbox HQ offered, Psychonauts 2 was able to fulfill its maximum potential that fans waited 15 years go finally see – and that potential was to be one of the absolute best games on the platform.
Raz’s story is emotional, layered, and funny too. Psychonauts 2’s platforming is clever and nuanced. In short, legendary game designer Tim Schafer and the team at Double Fine didn’t just deliver for the pocket of patient Psychonauts fans, they delivered for all gamers.
3. Halo Infinite
They did it. Those crazy sons-of-guns actually did it. Halo Infinite survived its publicly tumultuous development cycle and emerged as exactly the reinvigorating breath of fresh air that the franchise desperately needed after a six-year layoff as well as a supremely disappointing campaign the last time out in Halo 5. Infinite delivers on the promise of an go-anywhere Zeta Halo ring, offering enough activities to make sure you’ve always got something to do without bogging you down in fetch quests.
The grappleshot grappling hook is the biggest new addition to the gameplay mechanics, bringing new mobility options as well as combat choices. Meanwhile, the rest of the equipment hearkens back to Halo 3 in the best of ways, and the free-to-play multiplayer boasts stellar maps, scores of cosmetic customization, and the promise of never-ending future content support. Halo needed a home run, and Infinite bashes the (odd)ball far over the fence.
Halo Infinite Season 2, titled Lone Wolves, brings new maps, modes, and events to the shooter on May 3.
2. Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 isn’t just the best game of 2021 (as IGN’s 2021 Game of the Year winner), it’s also the best car game, period, of at least the last decade. The difference between Horizon 5 and other racing games (not named Forza Horizon) is that it is in fact a driving game. And yes, there’s a difference between a driving game and a racing game. Driving can include racing – and FH5 most certainly does – but perhaps the greatest of its many triumphs is successfully tapping into someone’s love for cars. You don’t need to be a gearhead with a nose for adjusting tire temperatures and maximizing downforce, as you do in simulation racers.
Here, there’s quite literally fun around every corner, whether it’s trying to best your buddy’s photo radar speed, busting through one of the countless billboards scattered around Horizon’s gorgeous fictionalized Mexico, entering proper Horizon Festival events, or just doing goofy multiplayer events. Forza Horizon 5 is as chill and casual or as serious and hardcore as you want it to be, and that’s a near-impossible feat for any car game.
Forza Horizon 5 recently won the BAFTA Game Award for Best British Game.
Whether you’re a longtime fan of FromSoftware’s notoriously challenging games or intrigued by the constant buzz, Elden Ring is a fantastic starting point for seeing what the SoulsBorne genre is all about thanks to its streamlined onboarding of new players, versatility in accommodating playstyle, and open-world design that alleviates the brick wall dilemma of getting stuck on a difficult boss. Stuck? Make a note on the jaw-droppingly large in-game map using a handful of variety of pins and simply go somewhere else.
Its that elasticity that make this FromSoftware adventure a (slightly) friendlier one full of godlike bosses looking to snuff out your life, threatingly large map(s), and intriguing NPCs rife with charm, mystery, and tragedy.
Elden Ring offers the same journey and main quest for all who pick up the controller. But it’s open-design in how it allows the player to approach that journey is what makes everyone’s quest through The Lands Between personal and memorable
Upcoming Xbox Series X Games
There’s still a handful of noteworthy games coming to Xbox Series X|S this month, including the official 1.0 launch of eFootball 2022, Konami’s free-to-play FIFA competitor, on April 14.
That will be followed by The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe, which the developer calls a “significant expansion” to the 2013 original, on April 27. PS5 launch game Bugsnax comes to Xbox (and Game Pass) the following day, April 28, the same day as roguelite sequel Rogue Legacy 2.
May 12, 2022, updates:
Added: Elden Ring and Tunic.
Removed: MLB The Show 21 and Death’s Door.
Position changes: Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite, Psychonauts 2, It Takes Two, Flight Simulator, Gears 5, Sea of Thieves, Hitman 3, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and The Outer Wilds.