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10 great games from 2020 for your new Xbox

Game Pass lets you play most of the Xbox’s best titles without breaking the bank

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Whether you recently bought or soon plan to buy an Xbox Series X or an Xbox Series S, or are sticking with your Xbox One console, it’s sure nice to have a stack of good games to play. And what better way to do that than to barely spend any money at all? Individual games, while sometimes worth the cost, can be pricey. Instead, you can get a ton of value out of a Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

For $14.99 per month ($1 for each of your first three months if you’re a new subscriber), the all-in-one Game Pass Ultimate subscription gets you access to a growing number of games to download and exclusive discounts on popular games. You also get the ability to download games on consoles and Android devices.

If you only want to run games on a PC, you can subscribe to the base Game Pass for $9.99 a month ($1 for the first month if you’re a new subscriber). With that, you also get to download a growing number of games.

With either subscription, you can access games from EA that were previously only available with a separate subscription. They also grant you the ability to play multiplayer games online with friends (where supported). Signing up will get you instant access to six of the 10 games below (and we’ve included the individual prices, just in case). The others listed here that are not included in a Game Pass are, however, worth purchasing by themselves.

We’ve rounded up our favorite and most-used games, apps, and entertainment. Check out our app picks for iPhones, Android phones, Windows PCs, and M1-equipped Macs; our favorite mobile games from Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass; and our top choices for gaming PCs, the PS5, Xbox One and Series X / S, Nintendo Switch, and VR. We’ve also listed our favorite streaming shows on Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Netflix; some great sci-fi books; and exciting new podcasts. (Note: pricing was accurate at the time of publishing but may change.)

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Image: Sega

The seventh Yakuza game in the series is a big departure from the rest. It’s a turn-based roleplaying game (RPG) instead of being a straight beat-em-up that’s laced with some RPG elements, like the rest of the games in the franchise have been. But Like a Dragon is definitely not your average RPG. You can freely roam around a fictionalized version of Japan’s Yokohama district, meeting quirky people along the way and going on memorable quests.

While it’s not on Game Pass, the game does support Smart Delivery, so you’ll get improved performance by using the Xbox One version of the game on one of the newer Xbox consoles.

Cyberpunk 2077

A Night City overhead view in Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077
Image: CD Projekt Red

The long-awaited open-world RPG from CD Projekt Red was worth the wait, according to Adi Robertson’s review. If you want to dip into the world of Night City for an RPG that’s vaster and deeper than most other games out there, check this one out.

This game is compatible with the Xbox One, as well as the Xbox Series X / S consoles, though a proper next-gen version of the game is still in the works and will come as a free update for people who bought the game.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 Remaster

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 Remaster
Image: Activision

My colleague Andrew Webster calls the remake of THPS 1 & 2 the “perfect remaster.” If you have any affinity for these classic skateboarding titles from the heyday of the original PlayStation, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. It features most of the same music, and the skate parks and player models have all been remastered to today’s graphical standards.

It’s not available on Game Pass, but the Xbox One version of the game is compatible on the new Xbox consoles.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Image: Moon Studios

The latest adventure featuring Ori is even better than the original. It offers similarly excellent platforming, but new to the series is some surprisingly good melee combat. The team responsible for the game crafted amazing vistas that will look especially good on a 4K television, and it all looks fantastic in motion.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is available for Xbox One via Game Pass, and there’s now a version that’s optimized to run on the Xbox Series X / S consoles that unlocks the frame rate for smoother gameplay.

Gears Tactics

Gear Tactics
Image: Splash Damage \ Xbox Game Studios

There’s nothing wrong with the traditional Gears games that have a third-person perspective, like the excellent Gears 5. But if you want to try something new, Gears Tactics takes the combat and turns it into a turn-based game where each move is a roll of the dice. You’ll have to play a little smarter, making sure to support each of your characters so they don’t get overwhelmed on the battlefield. Like the title implies, you need to be tactical.

This game is available on Game Pass, and owners of the Xbox Series X / S consoles can enjoy an updated version with enhanced performance.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Image: Xbox Game Studios

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

This list obviously wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from Halo: The Master Chief Collection. In an alternate universe, Halo Infinite would probably be on this list, but alas, that game has been delayed until later in 2021. With or without it, the Master Chief Collection is essential for any first-person shooter fan. It contains the original Halo through the fourth iteration, along with Halo: ODST to complete the package.

It’s available on Game Pass, and like Gears Tactics and Ori, it’s been updated to look even better on the latest Xbox consoles.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2
Image: Bungie

Destiny 2 is another semipermanent fixture on our “best of” lists because Bungie keeps updating it. The latest downloadable expansion, “Beyond Light,” was recently released, adding to an already bustling list of things to do in the game. If you enjoy first-person shooters and want to dip a toe into what it feels like to play an MMO game without the monthly cost, check out Destiny 2.

The base game and the new Beyond Light expansion are available via Game Pass. Bungie recently patched Destiny 2 to look and perform better on the Xbox Series X / S consoles.

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4
Image: Xbox Game Studios / Turn 10

This game isn’t particularly new, but it’s a unique one for this list. Forza Horizon 4 is a racing sim that lets you go off-road in the UK, without the overly serious tone of games like Gran Turismo or even Forza Motorsport games. Whether or not you’ve had a history of enjoying racing games in the past, Horizon 4 is a well-designed game that’s fun to jump into for a race or two, or just some mindless driving.

Forza Horizon 4 is available on Game Pass for all modern Xbox consoles, and it has received a patch for the Series X / S consoles to boost the performance.

Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris Effect: Connected
Tetris Effect: Connected
Image: Enhance Games

Tetris Effect is a zen-like experience, marrying the stacking of Tetris with a rhythm-based game. Having the two together might not sound like much, but it’s something you should try. The new, Xbox-exclusive (until summer 2021) Connected version of the game allows for local and online multiplayer that wasn’t available in the original Tetris Effect.

Tetris Effect: Connected is available on Game Pass, so your subscription will let you jump right in. It’s compatible with all modern Xbox consoles, including the One and the Series X / S.

Apex Legends

Apex Legends
Apex Legends
Image: EA / Respawn Entertainment

Respawn Entertainment is most famous for Titanfall and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, but its free-to-play FPS Apex Legends is a must-have for your new Xbox. Similar in design to other battle royale games, like Fortnite and PUBG, this game is a competitive shooter where you only get one chance to climb to the top. But what sets Apex Legends apart is its fluid gameplay, satisfying gun play, and character classes that you’re guaranteed to have fun experimenting with.

This game recently received a next-gen patch that makes it perform better on the Series X / S consoles.