It's a new year and you know what that means: new games on the Xbox One. However, while the new year is a time for looking forward, it's also a time for reflection and we think it's important to remember the greats that you can already play on Microsoft's console.
[Update: Monster Hunter: World is our first 2018 title to make its way onto our must-play list.]
Sure, 2018 is going to bring some thrilling new titles to the Xbox family of consoles, from big exclusives like Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3, to new games from big third-parties like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Anthem.
But we're trying to reign in our excitement and focus on the fantastic games that we can play in the here and now.
In the five years since its launch, we've seen some true greats come to the Xbox One. There are a diverse range of exclusive experiences available, whether you're looking for exciting indies like Cuphead and Ori and The Blind Forest, or high-octane AAA adventures such as Forza Motorsport 7.
With the release of the Xbox One X in 2017, we've seen the Xbox family grow and change but thanks to backwards compatibility, you don't have to miss out on anything. Yes, whether you're on original Xbox, the Xbox One S or you've just set up your sparkly new Xbox One X, you're more than able to experience the wonderful games we've picked out here.
As delightful as all these great games are, they do pose a problem: which ones are worth your time and money?
We understand the struggle, which is why we've put together this best-of list; whether you're looking for a high-octane adventure, a thrilling racing sim or razor sharp first-person shooter, you'll be able to find it on Xbox.
Check out the video below to see more on the Xbox One X
Make sure you frequently check back here as we frequently update this list to make sure you never fall behind on the latest and greatest releases.
Huge, exotic and amazing to behold: Australia is a petrol-head's dream
While the original Forza titles were about pristine driving skills around perfectly kept 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.
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. Good news for Xbox One X owners – Forza Horizon 3 now has its 4K and HDR patch.
The Gears keep on turning for this excellent third-person shooter franchise
Despite a new platform, a new development team and a new-ish set of muscled heroes on its box art, Gears of War 4 isn't some grand reimagining of the series that helped Xbox 360 go supernova back in 2006. But then again, such a revelation shouldn't come as a shock – this is the cover shooter that made cover shooters a fad-filled genre all unto itself, so messing too drastically with that special sauce was never a viable option.
Instead, the Xbox One and Xbox One S get the Gears of War template we all know and love with a few extra features gently stirred into the pot. For a start, the jump to current-gen tech has made all the difference to The Coalition's first full-fat Gears title. Spend a little time in the previously remastered Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and you'll see how small and confined those original level designs were, even with a graphical upgrade to make it feel relevant again.
It's more than just graphics, though. It's the return to form for the franchise; the focus on what makes a Gears game so great, that really won us over.
Beautiful and frustrating in equal measure
After a long development and lots of anticipation, Xbox indie exclusive Cuphead has finally been released. Was it worth the wait? It certainly was. Cuphead is a run-and-gun platformer with stationary boss fight levels thrown in.
With visuals and a soundtrack inspired by 1930s animation but gameplay inspired by the platformers of the 80s this game has had us torn since we first tried it at Gamescom. It's lovely to look at but its gameplay is challenging and you're going to find yourself frustrated and dying a lot.
We enjoyed Cuphead so much we named it Best Xbox Exclusive in our 2017 Game of the Year Awards.
Still, it's an indie experience that shouldn't be missed and you'll only find it on Xbox and PC.
A refreshing jump back in time
In the latest Battlefield game, DICE takes players back in time to World War One and by doing so completely rejuvenates the once stagnating franchise.
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 –and 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.
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.
Halo multiplayer at its best
A franchise that has defined Xbox as a platform for a long time is Halo and Halo 5: Guardians is a worthy addition to the series. With both a single-player campaign and the usual thrilling multiplayer combat, this is the Halo game for Xbox One you don't want to miss.
Though its single-player campaign isn't the best in the franchise in terms of story, this is Halo multiplayer combat at its most fun and anyone that loves playing online with friends will enjoy what the various modes on offer.
The team-based shooter you need to buy on Xbox One
Overwatch has, without a doubt, been one of our favorite games to come out of the last year – garnering our Game of the Year 2016 award.
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. And while it feels similar to the Call of Duty you've played before, Overwatch turns traditional shooters on their heads by adding unique character abilities and cool-downs to the mix that force you to strategize every once in a while instead of blindly running from room to room.
Great graphics, tight maps, and a good roster of characters to enjoy playing. Overwatch is good old fashioned fun and we thoroughly recommend it.
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.
A chilling return to form
Your gaming collection isn't really complete if it doesn't have a quality horror title and if we had to suggest one it'd be the newest installment in the Resident Evil franchise.
Resident Evil is the franchise that put survival-horror games on the map and though it lost its way slightly in later titles, the newest game is a return to form for Capcom.
By going back to the survival-horror basics and getting them dead on, Capcom has made Resident Evil 7 a genuinely frightening and exhilarating gaming experience. If you have the stomach for the gore, it's absolutely worth playing.
Don't miss our full review of the game.
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.
A retro-slash-modern romp through the underworld
DOOM is very, very good. Not in a “wow, that’s good for a remake” kind of way, either. It’s genuinely a great shooter – so much so that we gave it a Game of the Year award in 2016. While Overwatch reinventing the wheel for first-person shooting games, DOOM impresses us by bringing us back to the time where dial-up internet was the only way to access AOL email: DOOM is, in so many ways, an excellent evolution of what the series was 20 years ago. It’s brutal. It’s bloody. It has devilish, frightening creatures that bleed when you slice them in half with a chainsaw. It’s the experience we wanted two decades ago but couldn’t articulate it because of the limitations of technology.
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.
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.
Friends who slay together, stay together
You've probably heard of the Monster Hunter franchise before now – it's a classic that's been going a long time. But we haven't seen it on console for a while. Until now. Monster Hunter: World is the franchise's debut on the latest generation of consoles and it's a true breath of fresh air.
Giving players the option to play solo or team up with up to three other friends, this game invites you into a living, breathing game world to hunt down some monsters. For research. And fun.
You'll face a learning curve with Monster Hunter: World and the dark-souls style of combat has the potential to frustrate, but this is the most accessible Monster Hunter game we've seen in years. If you've been looking for a chance to break into the series, this is it.
In our review we called the game "a bold and confident new chapter" and gave it a "play it now" recommendation. Thinking of becoming a Monster Hunter yourself? Make sure you check out our full survival guide.
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.
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.
Still the best football sim money can buy
FIFA is, for many console owners, a highly anticipated annual event. The latest and arguably greatest installment in the football sim series has arrived in the form of FIFA 18.
Whether you're looking to play against others online, build up a management career on your own or play a cinematic story mode that'll give you an insight into the dramatic life of a premier league footballer, FIFA has a game mode just for you.
The best thing is, there's always more than enough to throw yourself into and agonize over until the next game rolls around with further incremental improvements that'll convince you to upgrade.
Out of this world online multiplayer
Taking the place of the original Destiny on this list is, of course, its sequel Destiny 2. With its original game, Bungie managed to create a huge triple-A success as well as a cult hit.
Now, however, it's opening up to the masses and anyone that felt like they couldn't jump on the Destiny band wagon the first time shouldn't miss the opportunity to do so now.
This huge online multiplayer shooter will reel you in with its universe, single-player story, satisfying gameplay and addictive online modes. In our full Destiny 2 review, we call Destiny 2 "the Destiny you know, and the Halo you used to love, all in one loot-filled package."
If you're just getting started, it's also worth taking a peek at our handy tips and tricks guide which will allow you to hit the ground running.
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.
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?
Making the old feel new again
After a year away, Assassin's Creed is back and it's bigger and better than ever. In Assassin's Creed Origins you go back to ancient Egypt, before the brotherhood and before the Templars, where you play as the original assassin Bayek.
Assassin's Creed is a series that was growing increasingly stale but with Origins the formula has been refreshed with new RPG mechanics, story-driven side quests and a far more free-flowing combat system.
Whether you're new to the series or a fatiguing fan, Assassin's Creed Origins is absolutely worth playing as it's the strongest installment we've seen in years.
Bold, brilliant and brutal
Middle-earth: Shadow of War is the sequel to the accomplished Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and builds upon all of its strengths.
Taking up the role of Talion once more, this game takes you back to a beautifully realized world that's bursting with originality. If you were a fan of the original game, we highly recommend that you pick of Shadow of War as it's an improvement in almost every way.
Looking for a game that you can dip into between those long-winded RPGs? Take a gander at the online extravaganza that is Rocket League.
Cars essentially playing football shouldn't really work but thanks to Rocket League's outstanding mechanics and physics system it really does. You play with and against others online in matches of varying numbers and though each match only last 5 minutes so it should be easy to break away.
Invariably, though, you'll find yourself hours later murmuring about winning "just one more". Rocket League has been available for a while now and as a result it's built up a dedicated and skilled community. Prepare yourself for a challenge.
Superb in every sense
Looking for an incredible single-player shooter? Look no further than the 2017 wonder that was Wolfenstein II. Picking up from where the original game left off, this game is a timely social commentary and a superbly silly adventure all rolled into one well-written package.
With tight mechanics and a story worth caring about this is one of the most satisfying first-person shooters we've played in a long time. In our full review we called it "expertly crafted" and recommended that you play it now.