The Xbox One capped off a fine 2016 by welcoming Stardew Valley, one of the year’s most beloved PC games, to its lineup in December. It was a fitting final major release for a year that emphasized how the importance of exclusives has waned. There aren’t a lot of Xbox One exclusives on this list—a few games had brief windows of exclusivity before appearing for PC or the PlayStation, and a couple still aren’t available on Sony’s system—and even Microsoft seems to have even acknowledged how exclusives have lost significance by usually releasing its own major games for both the Xbox One and the PC. It’s hard to imagine Xbox One owners complaining about this, though, as they still had more good new games to play through then they could probably manage.
The best Xbox One games of the year represents perhaps the most well-rounded collection of games in recent memory. It includes big-budget shooters and action endeavors, higher-minded narrative fare, retro-tinged abstractions, a sprawling Japanese role-playing game, and even a sports game. It’s a diverse line-up of experiences that reveals how strong 2016 was, not just for the Xbox One, but for games in general.
15. Forza Horizon 3
Forza Horizon 3 has one of the most organic senses of progression I’ve ever seen in a racing game. You, as the player, constantly keep moving to explore and find the next cool thing to do. Much like discovering cars in old barns was an element in the original, this game is designed to provoke a sense of wonder and curiosity through exploration.—Jason D’Aprile
14. Final Fantasy XV
Male intimacy in games usually revolves around slapping each other on the back for how well you shot other dudes, or how you will learn to shoot them better as time goes on. The brotherhood of XV is a little different, as they tease each other, talk about girls, push to better themselves internally and discuss the photos taken at the end of each day. It’s a side of friendship you don’t get to see often in games, and that levity helps keep the thin story afloat through the first half of the game.—Eric Van Allen
Superhot’s shootouts make its case better than its narrative layers ever could. Its methodical take on shooter combat forces you to linger on the consequences of your actions without saying a word. And that’s all it needed to be.—Suriel Vazquez
12. XCOM 2
XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a boring game in the sense that to solve it means to operate it like the most undependable machine. XCOM 2 is the most extreme opposite from base management to isometric choice, requiring that you take risks, move quickly and generally understand that you’re always going to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to making decisions that get the job done and minimize risk to your soldiers. That final factor is the core strength of XCOM 2, and it is what elevates it beyond yet another tactical game in an ever-growing genre. If the alien invasion genre is really all about humanity and how it gets tested, then this game mobilizes that genre in order to frame the individual player being put to the test at all times.—Cameron Kunzelman
11. Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III would be a fitting end to a videogame series, and we don’t get many of those. I enjoyed almost all of my time with it, but I’m not sure if I’d want another game like this to come by for a long time. As a comprehensive second draft of the best moments from the series, it left me with fond memories of everything I love about these games. And by sprucing up those moments, it gives new players a chance to finally understand why these games matter. It doesn’t make sweeping changes to the series’ structure or rhythms, but just this one time, it can get away with tugging at familiar heart strings. I came into this game hoping it wouldn’t be “just another Dark Souls game.” But I’m glad that’s what I got.—Suriel Vazquez