You’re heading to the store to get an Xbox One right now, and need to know which games to get. Or you’re at work or in school, daydreaming about what you want to play next. Or maybe you’re suiting up for a battle in the console war, cinching on your armor and trying to remember which games will best help you make the argument for Microsoft’s new console. We’re here to help.
These days there are more good Xbox One games than ever, with new contenders arriving all the time. In the list below, we’ve listed the games we recommend for Microsoft’s machine. We will, of course, continue to update the list regularly as more games are released for the Xbox One.
We’ve capped the list at 12, and will continue to remove old games to make way for new, better entries. Here goes...
Rise of the Tomb Raider does much of what its predecessor did: It gives us a relatable, less superhuman Lara Croft and sets her loose in a hostile environment with only her wits and a pickaxe to stay alive. While the story may not be ultimately as gripping or cathartic as the first game, the full experience is knit together very effectively, with a good mix of puzzle solving, exploration, sneaking and fighting. Things get more interesting with the game’s downloadable add-ons, too, which have Lara taking on zombies and swamp witches along with a repeatable survival mode that’s so good it could be the foundation of a standalone game. All that and the game is so beautiful it’ll often have you pausing just to take in the view.
A Good Match For: Fans of Crystal Dynamics’ 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, bow and arrow enthusiasts, anyone who really hates bears.
Not A Good Match For: Folks looking for a deep or nuanced story, people who hate collectibles.
Cuphead doesn’t look or sound like any other video game—take one look at the gorgeous backdrops, 1930s-inspired art style, or take one listen to the Ellington-infused big band soundtrack. It plays more familiarly, a side-scrolling shoot-em-up that turns players into perfectionists. Each boss requires precision, planning, and perfect timing to defeat, and the rush of victory is like nothing else. Come for the beautiful art and music, stay because you can’t stop playing until you finally beat this next boss.
A Good Match For: People who like mastering brutally difficult games, anyone who wants a video game that looks unlike any other.
Not A Good Match For: The easily frustrated, those who don’t love old-school side-scrolling shoot-em-up games.
In Hitman, a simple setup paves the way for an unusually complex game. You enter a level with a target. You can eliminate that target in any way you see fit. Maybe you’re in a Paris fashion show, maybe you’re in the market outside a Moroccan embassy. Maybe you’re in a sprawling Italian villa, maybe a posh Bangkok hotel. Wherever you are, you’ll likely be impressed by Hitman’s painstakingly detailed clockwork communities as they tick along, inviting you to explore and exploit them. The main story assassinations are the tip of the iceberg here, as repeatable escalations, player-made challenges, and miss-and-you-fail elusive targets round out a supremely satisfying collection of sneaking, costumery, and espionage challenges. Yes, Blood Money was great, but this new Hitman represents a pinnacle for the series.
A Good Match For: Fans of classic spy movies, people who like playing dress-up, meticulous folks who love hatching a plan.
Not A Good Match For: People hoping for a good straight-up action or straight-up stealth game—Hitman has elements of both but is kind of its own thing.
Epic Games’ goofy, chaotic take on the Battle Royale formula has become a global sensation for a reason: it’s a really fun, good game. It starts with the familiar Battle Royale formula: 100 people land in a massive arena, and only one can win. Then it polishes things up with colorful characters, funny items, and a level of technical polish you’d expect from the people who make and maintain the Unreal Engine. It works great on consoles, just like it works on PC and even phones. And unlike its competitors, it has a ridiculous crafting component carried over from the base version of Fortnite. Getting shot at? Time to build a panic-wall. Want to get the drop on an opponent? Time to build a huge tower and get the angle. A constantly changing, constantly entertaining game, Fortnite Battle Royale is easily one of the best zero-dollar gaming investments you can currently make.
A Good Match For: Anyone looking for some silly competition, fans of competitive online games, world-famous rappers.
Not A Good Match For: Those who like to win. There’s only one winner per Fortnite match, and it probably won’t be you, at least not for a while after you start.
You’re alone on an island, surrounded by puzzles. That’s The Witness, an extremely complicated game that is really very simple. Some of the puzzles are obvious: They’re on screens right in front of you, stacked in orderly rows. Other puzzles are much less easy to find. All of them will stymie and confound you, but over time you’ll gradually dismantle them until the game’s grand design is laid out in front of you like the workings of a finely crafted watch. Some games make you level up your character to access new areas; this one makes you level up yourself. There are few more satisfying feelings in gaming than when you finally realize the solution to a puzzle in The Witness. With a click, a new door opens.
A Good Match For: Puzzle fiends, people who like a challenge, anyone who liked Myst and wants to see what a modern evolution would be like.
Not A Good Match For: Anyone wanting action, the easily frustrated, people who don’t like puzzles in games and generally just go look up the answers.
Titanfall 2 gave us what we were expecting—more of its trademark fleet-footed, giant robot-enhanced competitive multiplayer. It also gave us an unexpectedly fantastic singleplayer story campaign, and that’s really what sets it apart. What could’ve been a series of botmatches or boring corridor shootouts instead was an uncommonly well-designed hybrid of platforming and action movie gymnastics. The spirits of Valve and Nintendo are alive and well at Respawn Entertainment, evidently.
XCOM 2 refines or overhauls almost every little thing about 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown, a game that was already good enough to win Kotaku’s 2012 Game of the Year award. The game is meaner and faster than its predecessor; most missions have timers that push you forward and force you to take risks, and the new alien types will break even your most time-tested strategies. You’ll get more attached to your team of customizable soldiers than ever, which makes it all the harder to watch them die horribly in the field. As if the original version of XCOM 2 wasn’t good enough, the brilliant 2017 expansion War of the Chosen makes the game bigger and better in almost every way.
A Good Match For: Strategy fans, people who liked the first game, anyone who’s ever wanted to understand just how difficult it is to fight off an occupying force from the inside out.
Not A Good Match For: The easily frustrated, those looking for a simple game, anyone who rages at missing point-blank shots due to dice rolls.
Forza Horizon 3 just wants you to have fun, man. It sets you loose on a huge chunk of Australian land, gives you a bunch of really fast cars, and wishes you luck. If you like racin’ and rampin’, collecting cars and taking on your friends’ best times, this is your game. Forza Horizon 3 is all about the thrill of the drive, and it’s a larger, longer drive than ever before.
There’s no shortage of ambition in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt of Rivia’s latest adventure is massive, a world you can get lost in for hours and still have plenty to do. And while many games these days have sprawling landscapes, The Witcher 3 is utterly dense. Every nook and cranny is filled with memorable characters, clever writing, and rewards for curious players. The main story is as thrilling as it is emotionally draining, and the side quests are actually worth doing! Best of all? You don’t need to have played a Witcher game to enjoy the heck out of the third.
A Good Match For: Open-world fans, especially those who enjoyed Skyrim but were disappointed by the combat. In The Witcher 3, fighting is nearly as enjoyable as exploration.
Not a Good Match For: People who value their time and social life, or those who prefer their games hyper-polished without any framerate drops or other nagging technical flaws.
Gears of War 4 might just be more Gears of War, but hey, Gears of War kicks ass. The latest game in the series shifts focus to a new generation of Locust-stompers, 25 years after the events of Gears of War 3. Decades may have passed, but much remains the same: Humans are once again under attack by a subterranean threat. Levels are still a mix of chokepoints and cover-filled open arenas, enemies are still squishy and relentlessly flank you, and guns still have chainsaws attached to them. That fundamental gameplay remains as fun as ever, particularly in online co-op. The series’ much vaunted Horde mode is elaborate and arguably overly punishing, but still a lot of fun with the right group. Microsoft keeps releasing major free updates, too, meaning Gears 4should continue improving for months to come.
A Good Match For: Anyone looking to play games with a friend, anyone looking for a co-op challenge. Horde mode gets extremely difficult and will require a lot of careful planning to come out on top.
Not A Good Match For: Anyone who played earlier Gears games and didn’t like them. There isn’t much here that’ll attract anyone who wasn’t a fan of the early games.
It’s a fan-art generator. It’s pure cosplay fodder. It’s a meme machine, a water-cooler mainstay, and a cultural obsession. Overwatch is all of those things, but above all else it’s a finely tuned competitive video game that manages to encourage pitted competition and enthusiastic teamwork while ensuring everyone is having a good time.
A Good Match For: Team Fortress 2 fans, people who liked banging action figures together as a kid, people who’ve wanted to try a competitive first-person shooter but haven’t yet found the right fit.
Not A Good Match For: Anyone who wants to play offline, or who is hoping for a substantial single-player story campaign. Overwatch is strictly multiplayer-only.
games was to play one on a mobile device. With Monster Hunter: World, everything that makes Capcom’s long-running series so great is finally playable on a modern, big-screen gaming system. World takes advantage of that screen real estate, and the massive beasts you’ll fight look just as fearsome as you’d expect. World may be the most approachable Monster Huntergame yet, but it’s still a complex, rewarding game that you can play for hundreds of hours without running out of things to do. It’s fun to play solo, fun to play with friends, and basically just really fun.
A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a thick, complicated game; those who like Dark Souls-style combat against huge enemies; people who’ve been intrigued by Monster Hunter and looking for a way to get into the series.
Not A Good Match For: Those who want a game that’s straightforward and easy to get into; vegetarians.