The Best Games on Xbox Game Pass (May 2024)

Games Lists Xbox Game Pass
The Best Games on Xbox Game Pass (May 2024)

Xbox Game Pass has long been a bargain. Microsoft’s Netflix-style subscription service lets you download hundreds of games for your Xbox or PC for as little as $10 a month, and as long as you subscribe they’ll always be on your dashboard, waiting to be played. Game Pass consistently adds great games every month, and once you subscribe it becomes hard to stop. Last year Game Pass got one of its biggest exclusives yet, Starfield, the latest RPG from Bethesda. Microsoft is banking hard that a subscription service like this is the future of gaming, with its acquisition of Zenimax and proposed purchase of Activision Blizzard eyed to keeping the Game Pass content pipeline chugging along. Will it work long term? Who knows, but for now it’s a fantastic deal for consumers.

Game Pass already had a deep lineup that features most of Microsoft’s first party games, including the entire Halo and Gear of Wars series, along with a rotating selection of top games from third party publishers and independent developers. Microsoft also has a deal with Electronic Arts to include EA Play inside Game Pass—so every Game Pass subscription now includes EA’s own subscription service, with dozens of EA classics from the last three console generations. And finally, with Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda, you can expect franchises like Fallout, Doom, and Dishonored to hang out on Game Pass in perpetuity. Basically, there’s a ton of games available through Game Pass, so many that it can get a little overwhelming without some guidance. So let Paste help you out and sift for the gold buried within Game Pass. Here are several games that we highly recommend everybody play at least once in their lives, all currently available through a Game Pass subscription.

Among Us


Subterfuge is a constant in Among Us.

Backstabbing, lying, and turning your friends against each other are the most effective ways to win the game. Don’t let those cute crew member avatars fool you. It’s a game about social deduction and every match is full of drama. Among Us manages to set up a fantastic playing field for interpersonal gameplay that swaps genres from goof central to a John Carpenter movie in two seconds. There are very few moments in a round where you’ll be 100% sure you can trust another player, and that’s what causes the stakes to skyrocket during every interaction.—Funké Joseph

Burnout Paradise Remastered

15 Years Later

Burnout Paradise Remastered unlocked the racing game, placing the traditional tracks and races in an open-world structure. You could tool around the city, just enjoying that feeling of speed and the tight handling of your car, and then, when you felt like, jump into a challenge. You probably remember the crashes the most, though: spectacular and dramatic, they were the game’s most visible signature. Burnout Paradise was a driving game that even people who didn’t like driving games could love.—Garrett Martin

Cassette Beasts

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Cassette Beasts, an “’80s vibe Creature Collector turn-based RPG” developed by Bytten Studio, is the latest of a wave of new RPGs in the mold of the Pokémon games; it blurs the line between them in order to seemingly provide the best of all possible worlds. If you can imagine what those DS-era Pokémon games looked like, then you’ve already honed in on what Cassette Beasts looks like, which delights in this now-retro style. In Cassette Beasts, the monsters you fight and capture are, like its inspiration, drawn from elements of the real world and nature. At one point, a moth that throws out gusts of winds and hands in equal measure did battle with a crab-like street cone called a Traffikrab, which conjured a traffic jam to slow me and my allies in battle. Much of the nuts and bolts under the hood of the game function identically enough that picking up Cassette Beasts is a breeze, but its visual language and tone are distinct enough to make you think twice about writing it off.—Moises Taveras

Citizen Sleeper

You can think of Citizen Sleeper as a sort of digital board game set in a sci-fi dystopia beset by end-stage capitalism and all the rampant dehumanization that entails. It’s a game about work and death where the only levity comes from the relationships we make with others—yes, the friends we made along the way, but not nearly as banal or obvious as that sounds. It questions what it means to be a person in a system that inherently subjugates personhood to corporations and wealth, and it probably won’t surprise you that the answers it lands on aren’t always the most optimistic or uplifting. Here at Paste Cameron Kunzelman described its “melancholy realism” as part of a trend alongside other story-driven games that are largely hostile to the dominance of capitalism, and it echoes the impossibility of thinking seriously about this medium, this industry, and, well, every aspect of society today without discussing the impersonal economic system that drives it all. It’s a heady RPG that respects your time and intelligence, and one of this year’s must-play games.—Garrett Martin


Control: Ultimate Edition


Remedy has worked hard to unite the mysterious and the mundane since at least Alan Wake, and Control is an almost ideal distillation of that theme. At its heart is the bureaucratic exploration of the unknown and unknowable, with the player stepping into the role of the new director of a government organization devoted to classifying and controlling unexplained phenomena. It’s an enigmatic and unpredictable quest not just into a nondescript office building that grows increasingly contorted and abstract, but into the heart of a conspiracy that spans the paranormal and the prosaic, and one that ultimately seems to have little use or concern for either the player or their character. In its depiction of humanity grasping for relevance and understanding in an indifferent and impossible to understand universe we see a clear reflection of our own existence. It’s a game of uncommon wisdom and depth, and one that needs to be played.—Garrett Martin

Crusader Kings III


Crusader Kings III is the strategy game for people who think Civilization is just a little too impersonal. Yeah, you can conquer the known Medieval world, or try to stick to diplomacy and cooperation, but you don’t play as some distant deity overseeing millennia of development. You’re a very specific individual whose goal is to build a thriving kingdom to leave to your heirs—who you then play as when their predecessor passes away. And so on, and so on, for generations. The fractious relationships between power-hungry members of your dynastic clan will regularly have unforeseen consequences for your empire, making Crusader Kings III as unpredictable and chaotic as life itself.—Garrett Martin

Dead Cells

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Not content with sheer novelty, Dead Cells importantly taps into the most significant aspect of both of the genres it fuses together. Few games are as addictive as those Metroid-style backtrackers, and perhaps the only thing that has come close this decade is the spate of roguelike platformers that flourished in Spelunky’s wake. Dead Cells beautifully captures what makes both of those genres impossible to put down, uniting the “just one more” drive of a roguelike with the “must keep going” compulsion of a Metroid. It’s a smart, confident piece of work, and anybody interested in either of the genres it builds on should consider checking it out.—Garrett Martin

Death’s Door


Death’s Door implicitly argues something the entertainment world at large needs to understand: Nostalgia doesn’t have to be shameless or oppressive. It doesn’t have to be the summation of a game’s (or a movie’s, or a TV show’s) ambition. It doesn’t have to be splashed all over the cover and title screen, or the full extent of the marketing campaign. Death’s Door deeply evokes the spirit of some of the most beloved games of all time, and does it well enough that anybody familiar with those legendary games will no doubt recognize and appreciate it. And it does all this with a context and presentation that makes it feel new and vital and not just like a calculated imitation of the past. It takes so much of what made the original Zelda and A Link to the Past into timeless classics, but makes them into their own. Nostalgia can be part of the package, but it shouldn’t be the whole point, and Death’s Door’s cocktail of mechanical nostalgia and narrative creativity is something we don’t see enough of in today’s IP-crazed business.—Garrett Martin

Dishonored 2

The most striking thing about Dishonored 2 is its confidence. It creates massive, sprawling levels, with lots of details to discern and small-scale stories to discover, and hardly ever forces you to explore even half of them. You can spend dozens of hours uncovering every secret and trying hard not to kill anybody, or just blitz through, crossbows a-blazin’, in a sprint to the finish line. New scenarios regularly introduce new twists on core mechanics or standard game geometry, and they always feel of a piece with the game’s world and characters. Even when you take the longest path and embrace everything the game has to offer, it never feels repetitive or self-indulgent, and that extra attention to detail fills out what is already one of the more fully realized worlds in games. Add in a strong focus on characters, both new and old, and a multitude of play styles, and you have one of the best action games of the year.—Garrett Martin

Doom Eternal


I am not generally a Doom man—younger me felt the original sent games as a concept spinning off into the conjoined shitty paths of thinking violence equals maturity and that heavy metal made with computers is actually listenable—but Doom Eternal is one of the least Doom-like Dooms I’ve ever Doomed. It’s also 100% certified Doom, just like a pure unfiltered toot of the totality of Doom. No, these thoughts don’t contradict each other.

Despite carrying around a few extra layers of business, Doom Eternal feels good. It is physically, mentally and emotionally a much-needed jolt out of all the ruts I’ve been stuck in—a shot of manufactured, harmless stress to take my mind off all the real stresses of today. Visiting a fictional hell world will always be preferable to dealing with the hell world we’re actually living in. Doom’s ripping and tearing is more vital today than ever—and not just that which I visit upon my enemies, but, importantly, the torturous ways in which they rip and tear through me. Doom Eternal is a two-way street—the doom I perpetrate and the doom I have to welcome with open arms. It’s a kind of penance, and I am ready to accept my punishment.—Garrett Martin

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot these days. Screw up badly enough and it’s an epic fail. Scarf down a couple of cheeseburgers and it’s suddenly an epic feast. The word no longer has the punch it once had. Yet, there’s really no other adjective that so aptly describes The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game that’s epic in every sense of the word, from its immersive gameplay and jaw dropping visuals, to its sprawling storyline rooted in the real-world epics of Norse mythology. At the risk of fanboy-induced hyperbole, there really is nothing that comes close to approaching Skyrim as a game whose scope, design and presentation sets a new bar for the action-RPG genre.—Adam Volk

Fable II


Early in Fable II you encounter a traveling salesman hawking a magical music box he claims will grant a single wish when played. Though you initially sneer at the notion, a mysterious hooded figure named Theresa encourages you to buy it, reminding you that you want to believe it’s real. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels carried the same implicit message: keep your sense of wonder intact, guard against heart-petrifying cynicism. Fable II is itself a magical music box, but the damn thing can’t stop granting wishes.—Jason Killingsworth

Fallout: New Vegas

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New Vegas was the closest we got to full resolution between the two distinct eras in Fallout history. It couldn’t restore how Fallout once looked, but it did a grand job at incorporating the lore—almost too good, really. Hidden in the many NPCs and histories of New Vegas were tidbits and details that melded the game to its true legacy, from The Chosen One’s companion’s granddaughter, Whiskey Rose, to the scraggly remains of old factions like The Followers of the Apocalypse, families like the Van Graffs, and familiar bands of Raiders, like the Vipers and the Khans. In location, it was even set extremely close to the series’ original settings of Mount Whitney and Bakersfield, so much so that I’m surprised that modders haven’t written more adventures revisiting the old stomping grounds out in southern California.

The writing of Fallout: New Vegas, for as vast and beautifully woven as it was, also gave me the sense that the writers weren’t saving their best for later. Every mission and NPC encounter seemed to be crafted with intent and purpose. For the hundreds upon thousands of interactions and dialogues and pivotal, interlocking decisions, the quality never faltered, and since the game’s debut in 2010, I’ve yet to see such a masterful set-up and execution for post-release content.—Holly Green

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 is the most gorgeous and dynamic game I’ve played on the Xbox Series X by a mile. That said, the beauty of the game isn’t just in the mechanics alone. It’s in how the game loves, respects, and brings Mexico to life. When it comes to representing Mexico on-screen, Americans like one thing, and pretty much one thing only: Sepia tones. Baked in browns and oranges, representations of Mexico on screen in film and television strip the country of its beauty and distill it down into its most stereotypical parts, often using it to highlight narcos. But in Forza Horizon 5 the diversity of the races is met with the diversity of Mexico itself. Mexico isn’t just a desert landscape, and the 11 distinct biomes in the game highlight that. It’s clear that a lot of love went into Forza Horizon 5. You can see it in the car selection. You can see it in the environmental design. You can hear it in the playlists. This game thrives on a culture of love that is baked into every gameplay element. In every way, Forza Horizon 5 is a love letter to Mexicans, and it’s one I’m thrilled that I opened.—Kate Sánchez

Gears 5


The crowning achievement of Gears of War is its over-the-top combat. Everything is so utterly ridiculous, enjoyably so. Repurposed mining tools will drop explosive drills into enemies’ bodies to make them explode in a twister of gore, and there are few things more sickly satisfying in shooters than pulling off a symphony of five splashy headshots with the hefty Boltok, Gears’ answer to Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum. All of these things are still fun and even improved upon thanks your robotic squadmate JACK, who you can direct to lend you aid in useful ways. He can pop down barriers in front of you, blind enemies to stun them, and even freeze them so you do double damage – an essential tactic for taking down some of the bigger monsters. None of JACK’s abilities revolutionize Gears’ messy but timeless take on ducking in and out of cover and reducing foes to red goo with bullets, but it does add an extra tactical layer that makes gunfights more interesting and is a feature that isn’t mired in frustration.—Javy Gwaltney

Genesis Noir


Because so much of Genesis Noir’s story is told indirectly, it’s wide open for interpretation. But whatever that interpretation, the story is beautiful. Its art direction, citing everything from early blackboard animations like 1908’s Fantasmagorie by Émile Cohl to the optical poems of abstract animator Oskar Fischinger, is a crucial part of the formula, evoking an effortless cool of 1930s noir that offers a mystique belying its existential earnestness. The improvisational style of its jazzy soundtrack meanwhile echoes No Man’s disjointed panic as he navigates space and time to stop the inevitable.—Holly Green

Halo Infinite

If you’re like me and have been starved for the sensation of bonking someone on the head with a hammer, you’ve probably been playing Halo Infinite’s multiplayer since it shadow-dropped a month ahead of the official launch. Otherwise, maybe you waited on the full release, and kudos to you for having such strong will. You’re just built different. Whether it’s your first time in Halo or if you’re a returning vet, we’re all clear on one thing: Infinite’s provided one of the most fun and open-ended multiplayer sandboxes in years.—Moises Taveras

Halo: The Master Chief Collection


Yes, the main reason most people got an Xbox to begin with is on Game Pass in full force, with this collection of the first six Halo games. Relive the series that proved that first-person shooters could work on a console, or work your way through it for the first time, in this compilation that’s just stuffed full of content. It has, like, five full games, and a DLC-length add-on that somehow stars the voices of like three Firefly cast members. Even if you aren’t a fan of Halo’s repetitive combat or sci-fi sterility, you’ll probably be a fan of how much time you can spend in this one—especially if you get bogged down in the online business.—Garrett Martin

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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When I think about the gameplay of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, how Senua comes to work with, and not against, her intrusive thoughts and distorted perceptions, the word “self-acceptance” comes to mind. While some may see it as a horror game, I like to think of it as a love story, one that explores the power of finding someone who does not have to fully understand you in order to know who you are. Notable for its sharply intimate knowledge of Celtic and Norse traditions, its simple but satisfying combat and its innovative depiction of psychosis, it is impressive how the game manages to marry these three aspects and still deliver a well-scripted action game that achieves a balance between its puzzle elements, cut scenes and action sequences. Despite the despair in Senua’s story, her father’s abuse, the alienation of her village and her doomed fight to bring her lover back from the dead, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is hopeful. It suggests there is still a meaningful life to be lived even if your perception of the world is so dramatically different from other people. And I find that encouraging and beautiful.—Holly Green

Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi Rush is my dream game come true. I’ve always been a sicko for action and rhythm games, but have admittedly only excelled at the latter since music was a significant part of my upbringing. And though I’ve always heard the analogies about combos in action games being rhythmic, few games have ever taken the actual step towards visualizing that in the way Hi-Fi Rush does, or made it as simple to understand. That is just the first in a long string of things that the game gets right. Setting players up against a metronome that’s brought to life in the world around you makes the game feel magical, and by extension you are magic for harmonizing with it. I loved, for example, during one particular combo that needed me to hit the light attack four times with a rest breaking it up into two segments, that the rest was realized in the character model, clearly delineating when it was time to continue. Because of the constant visual and audio aids, slapping enemies with your magnetically assembled impression of an electric guitar to the beat has never made it simpler to execute short but satisfying combos, only made better by many of their flashy finishes, which also demand accuracy to land most efficiently. I swear the game will have you counting beats, and I often caught myself head banging ever so slightly to Hi-Fi Rush’s impeccable score while wailing away at enemy encounters.—Moises Taveras

Hollow Knight

Any game can be hard. That’s not what makes Hollow Knight so great, at least not alone. Team Cherry’s first game is a charming Metroid-style game full of warmth, humor, precise platforming, and, yes, brutal, forbidding difficulty that’ll make you think of a Souls game. (Look, I know that’s a cliche, but writers wouldn’t make that reference so often if it wasn’t so often true.) Hollow Knight is a great example of how to reference the past without dwelling on it—of how to churn ideas and mechanics and aesthetics from previous generations of videogames into something new and original.—Garrett Martin

It Takes Two


Two-player co-op game It Takes Two’s mundane settings are an opportunity to get wacky with mechanics and gameplay features, which the game will just fling at you. Every level explores a gimmick or series of gimmicks before casting it aside for the next, so it manages to stay remarkably fresh almost the entire way through. One second you’re playing a shooter and the next you may be playing a hack and slash. I don’t want to spoil my absolute favorite, but the amount of ludicrous things that come together to make it happen is nothing short of magic. Little of it makes any sense with or without context, but also It Takes Two comes across as a videogame for the sake of being a videogame, and while I respect that, it does mean the game shoots its own story in the foot often. The game’s simultaneously asking you to care about this impending divorce and the effect it’ll have on their daughter and the ludicrous task to gun down wasps or murdering plushies often! It forces the player to either try and reconcile these nonsensical aspects, or focus on a thing at a time. By the time I reached anything I’ve mentioned, I’d long since shut off my brain and decided to bask in the vibes rather than the story. “Head empty, no thoughts” is the perfect way to enjoy It Takes Two.—Moises Taveras

Loop Hero


Loop Hero is a roguelike, a deck builder and an RPG with the cadence and look of a tower defense game, wrapped in a grim but simplistic ‘90s PC game aesthetic. It’s a mashup that feels like it shouldn’t work, because that sentence I just wrote sounds preposterous. Instead, Loop Hero is absolutely magnificent. While it may seem unengaging because it effectively plays itself, it really is just prompting the player to look at gameplay from another angle, namely a more systems-driven one. For a person like me, who doesn’t really craft “builds” in RPGs, it’s made me realize why that is actually a rewarding aspect of those games. Now I spend half my time in Loop Hero making numbers go up and making optimizations I never would have, before embarking on another loop.—Moises Taveras

The Mass Effect Series

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Microsoft and EA’s deal to connect EA Play with Game Pass brought dozens of Electronic Arts titles into the library, including whole series such as Dead Space and Battlefield. The original Mass Effect trilogy is the crown jewel among them, a sprawling space epic that features some of the best writing and characters in Bioware’s long history. Mass Effect 2 is especially great—over a decade later, it remains one of the best unions of games and cinema—but the whole trilogy is worth playing if you never have before. And the recent Legendary Edition remaster of the whole series is now on Game Pass, if you haven’t played that yet.—Garrett Martin

Microsoft Flight Simulator


Microsoft Flight Simulator is a technological marvel, with a variety of innovations that make its virtual world as faithful to our real one as possible, and I have no idea how any of it works. Forget the technology, though. The most important thing about Microsoft Flight Simulator is that it’s become an unlikely emotional support system. It connects us to something we can’t currently touch or feel, something we’ve been sorely missing, which is a sense of normalcy. Yeah, it’s an illusion. Yeah, it’s disappointing to take those headphones off and look up from the monitor and realize I’m back in the same house I haven’t left in half a year. But when I’m in that digital cockpit all that stuff fades away, and it takes my stress and depression along with it, at least for a little while. And that’s worth something.—Garrett Martin



Progression in Minecraft takes investment, patience, research and a reliance on the knowledge and efforts of others. These are values that modern convenience and modern media have encouraged us to abandon, videogames included. With every quest-line, every arrow pointing the way and every pre-established reward, we grow just a little bit farther outside of ourselves and buy in just a little bit more to the cultural zeitgeist. We’re content with this because we’ve lost the ability to create structure and meaning for ourselves outside of a pre-established system. In Minecraft, we’re finally left alone—a shockingly simple and subversive approach that makes the game both unapproachable and essential.—Richard Clark

Mirror’s Edge


Mirror’s Edge is a modern classic, one of the best games of its (or any other) era, and as much of an anomaly today as it was when it was released in 2008. With its emphasis on movement over combat and its sleek, futuristic cityscape, it doesn’t look, feel or play like any other big budget first-person game. It’s focused almost exclusively on forward motion, as you sprint through the city and pinball off walls and ledges while avoiding contact with violent security forces as much as possible. You can fight back, poorly, but the game never forces you to, always leaving open an escape route, even if you may not always be able to see it at first or enter the complicated button pattern required to exploit it. It rarely slows down, shuttling the player from level to level, each one offering a different perspective on the dystopian city where citizens are constantly under surveillance. The intentionally slim story is similarly rushed through, relayed through brief animated cut-scenes before and after every level. There are almost no wasted moments, and few distractions from the core tenants of running fast and climbing hard. The game is as elegantly designed as the city it’s set in, and it’s as fresh and exhilarating today as it was in 2008.—Garrett Martin

MLB The Show 23


It was shocking enough when it was announced that Sony’s MLB The Show 21 would be coming out for Xbox consoles. After all, this is a first-party Sony series that has been exclusive to the PlayStation for its entire long history. Xbox loyalists who were baseball fans could only read about how deeply and realistically MLB The Show recreated the look and feel of baseball until just a couple of years ago. Then the equally surprising news came out that not only would the game be available for the Xbox for the first time, but it would be on Game Pass at launch—meaning subscribers don’t even have to pay for it. Xbox fans not only finally get their first taste of The Show, but actually have an advantage over PlayStation owners. 21 gave way to 22, which was then replaced on Game Pass with this year’s MLB The Show 23, letting subscribers stay up to date with the game. The Show 23 is a great introduction to both what the series does well and to its few drawbacks; it’s so committed to recreating the baseball experience, but while also providing players with a wide variety of options in play style and control scheme, that it can simply be overwhelming. It can be hard to get a handle on. Also, unlike most baseball videogames, its core mechanics—y’know, hitting, pitching, the stuff you do in a baseball game—pretty much always remain challenging. This isn’t the kind of baseball game where half your lineup will have 60 home runs by the All Star Break. Every at bat requires patience, a good eye, pinpoint accuracy, and lightning-fast reflexes—like baseball itself.—Garrett Martin

Monster Hunter Rise


Somehow what turned me off of Monster Hunter games a decade ago has turned into a virtue for me today. Monster Hunter Rise is basically the perfect game for me right now, at the end of the pandemic. The quest structure can still be repetitive, but I now greatly appreciate how segmented it is. Most missions have a 50 minute time limit, but take far less time than that to complete; unlike pretty much every other role-playing game ever made, I can pick up Rise, start a quest, and know that I’ll hit a natural stopping point in under an hour (and often in under 20 minutes). Despite being a really long game, Rise doesn’t feel as much like a commitment as games that are more open-ended. That ease of popping in and out makes Rise a perfect fit for my schedule, where I have to juggle my gaming time with my other responsibilities for work and other interests that I try to get to every day. And Rise’s clear-cut, straight-forward approach to progress makes every minute I spend in the game feel important—which can’t always be said about other time-sucking RPGs.—Garrett Martin

No Man’s Sky

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Has there ever been a better game to get lost in? No Man’s Sky is aesthetically impeccable, from its psychedelic landscapes pulled straight from Yes album covers, to its krautrock-by-way-of-Friday Night Lights score. It’s easily the best screenshot machine in recent memory. It doesn’t reward the player’s patience and diligence as much as depend on them, which makes it as brave as it is respectful. A game that’s fundamentally hopeless, that’s fixated on the vast emptiness of the universe around us, somehow instills hope in us solely through its undeniable beauty. And 2018’s Next update gave us even more to do in this massive universe, and people to do it with.—Garrett Martin


As a Southerner I don’t really trust anybody to write about the South unless they, too, are from here—or at least have lived here long enough to truly understand what makes it great and awful in equal measure, and how the ways in which the South is actually fucked up often diverge from the ways in which outsiders think it’s fucked up. Norco, a smart narrative-driven game about the unique ways in which institutions like religion and big business have exploited the South, its people and its land throughout history, is clearly the work of people who understand this region and its fundamental defects. It’s an unflinching, occasionally surreal glimpse into an only slightly exaggerated version of Louisiana, with its mythical and allegorical flourishes only highlighting the aimless mundanity and real-life degradations of the modern South. If you only play one game from this list, make it Norco.—Garrett Martin

Ori and the Blind Forest

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Ori and the Blind Forest is a gorgeous adventure with an aesthetic that seems vaguely indebted to a variety of world cultures and mythologies. With its focus on forest spirits and a sylvan setting it resembles a Miyazaki film, but there’s no explicit connection to Japanese mythology. It borrows the fundamental feeling of mythic storytelling to depict a basic hero’s journey, with all the loss and personal growth that entails.—Garrett Martin

Ori and the Will of the Wisps


The brand-new sequel to 2015’s beloved hit has the same beautiful woodland setting and Metroid-style approach to play, but adds enough new mechanics and ideas to make it stand out on its own. It also doubles down on the sense of loss and loneliness and general atmosphere of collapse that gave the first one such an emotional resonance, and has a bittersweet ending that will push even the most hardened cynic to the verge of tears. Play Blind Forest first, then fire this one up.—Garrett Martin

Overcooked 2

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The Overcooked games can be a little tough in terms of team work and coordination so you may get better results out of playing them with older family members than you would with children. However, it’s also an opportunity to teach kids (of all ages) how to take directions, pay attention to surroundings and contribute to a group task, all of which can help with social and cooperative skills in real life. Overcooked 2 also has the benefit of being fairly simple to teach; each dish only comes down to a few ingredients that are easy to identify, and once an assertive adult or older child steps in to assign roles in the kitchen, the completion of each recipe can go pretty smoothly. There are also some adorable and funky avatars to choose from that make the game just that much more fun; my 10 year old niece, for example, loves to play as the raccoon or the crocodile.—Holly Green


On every level, Pentiment’s illustrations, storytelling choices, and most clearly people are a mirror for the manuscripts that shape its characters’ lives. Whether they read or not, everyone is a repository of history, with their own verbal handwriting, quirks, and opinions on what the town of Tassing’s legacy should be. These human texts open up genuinely insightful questions about authenticity in art and what it will come to mean centuries later, as well as what to do when your history has been lost to you. It is a beautiful portrait of history that doesn’t limit itself from commenting on labor inequity, parental loss, or artistic hopelessness, all things the medieval and early modern art it draws from portrays so vividly. In bringing some of those stories to us today, Pentiment accomplishes the remarkable goal of being both clear-eyed about the medieval period’s faults, and sincere about its masterpieces.—Emily Price

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2 feels like a game made by real people who care about real people. Many games have come down the pike the last several years with a focus on the psychological state of its characters, and thus its players, but too often they lack any tact or any legitimate insight into how people think and feel. They use sorrow and violence as shortcuts, relying on cheap scares and easy provocation. It’s like they’re made by machines, or the board room, or some algorithm that slightly rearranges previous AAA hits into something that’s supposedly new. Too many of these games fall into that witless trap of thinking something “serious” and “important” must also be humorless and dark, unrelentingly grim and fatalistic. Psychonauts 2 reveals that for the nonsense that it is, showing that you can more powerfully and realistically depict emotion when you use warmth, humor, humanity—the whole scope of emotions that make us who we are. Psychonauts 2 asks “how does it feel to feel?”, and then shows the answer to us—and the games industry at large—in brilliant colors.—Garrett Martin

Sea of Solitude


Sea of Solitude is about trauma. The sticky, mud-like kind that cakes and cracks and stings because of the thousands of cuts and abrasions we’ve accumulated. The kind that builds up while we push it down and ignore the blood seeping from our knees and elbows as we try to carry on—distracting ourselves from how it crusts on us like barnacles, loading us down until we no longer recognize ourselves or our loved ones.

Kay—ashen, red-eyed, and monstrous—is our protagonist. She has about as many answers as we do. What we learn, she learns. Answers are given and taken away, and then recapitulate and recontextualize themselves. In this way, it mimics my own experience with trauma and recovery. This is a game about mental illness, even if it eludes that distinction. As grounded as it is, Kay’s journey is far more interested in a grounded metaphorization than clinical realities.—Dia Lacina

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

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Fallen Order stacks some of the best parts of Metroid, Dark Souls and Uncharted inside a Star Wars trenchcoat, but that isn’t the smartest thing it does. That would be how it squarely centers on the stress and trauma of its characters. PTSD should be rampant in this universe, considering war is all anybody seems to know, and yet within the Star Wars canon it’s rarely been focused on as keenly or depicted as clearly as it is here. Its lead characters aren’t all that likable, for reasons that are both intentional and unintentional, and that is a flaw; still, they feel a bit more human than what you normally see in games and Star Wars stories, and that, combined with the guaranteed to please gameplay formula, makes Fallen Order a Star Wars highlight.—Garrett Martin

Stardew Valley

For all the nostalgia-driven indie gaming experiences we’ve had over the past decade, the long-running and much-loved world of Harvest Moon had gone curiously neglected until more recently. Stardew Valley is easily the best of these virtual farming love-letters, making vast improvements on core mechanics while adding its own unique flavor. It’s faithful enough that devoted Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons fans fell in love with it, but approachable enough that it introduced an entirely new group of gamers to the joys of a pixellated country life.—Janine Hawkins

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge


This loving tribute to the multiplayer beat ‘em ups of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s focuses like a laser on the nostalgia of a certain generation. It’s not just that it’s based on the version of the Turtles from the first cartoon and toy series (complete with the original voice actors), the same era that inspired the beloved arcade brawler from 1989; the entire genre is so inherently old-fashioned that it can’t help but feel like some long-lost game from 30 years ago. If you miss teaming up with your friends to bash generic punks and thugs in a cartoonish version of New York City, Shredder’s Revenge will wind back the clock for you. It wouldn’t make this list if it was just nostalgia, though; Shredder’s Revenge adds enough modern tweaks to drag that formula into the 21st century. It’s an example of a game that does what it sets out to do about as well as it possibly could.—Garrett Martin

Titanfall 2

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I have a healthy respect for aimless, open-ended games that let us play and explore at our own pace. They often don’t feel wasteful, no matter how many hours one can pour into them. What does feel wasteful are tightly scripted and guided games that drag on for hours and hours, pumping out new battlefields and bad guys to plow through between cutscenes well past the ten hour mark. Titanfall 2 cuts out all the extraneous business that can plague modern day action games, resulting in one of the tightest, tautest, tensest first-person shooters in recent memory, with a solid helping of mind-bending mechanical tomfoolery on the side. Like The Last Guardian, a game that otherwise could not be any more different than this one, at the core is a touching, heartfelt relationship between man and (techno)beast that trounces most of the human relationships found in games. Titanfall 2 is a laser beam with a heart.—Garrett Martin



There’s something incredibly special about Tunic. Developed almost solely by Andrew Shouldice, the game presents itself as a cute action-adventure title in the vein of the original Legend of Zelda. The exacting combat, ethereal music, and sublime art direction are all in service of something far more complex. It’s a masterfully crafted puzzle-box that provides all the answers, if you know where to look.—Mik Deitz

Vampire Survivors


I blame it on the garlic, which obliterated enemies that dared step to me, and made me feel invincible. Of course I wasn’t, and fell mere minutes later, but that taste of what it might mean to utterly dominate the indomitable was more than enough to hook me on Vampire Survivors. Even as I write this blurb, my eyes are darting over to the game’s icon on my desktop, and I can almost hear it calling me. Vampire Survivors is a game that pretty explicitly digs its claws into everyone who plays it, but you have to be willing to embrace the cacophony that follows to be really happy with it. Inside that madness is a wonderful roguelike—an alchemical wonder, if you will—that obscures its depth and secrets with simple graphics and overwhelming odds. It is the easiest game to pick up and the hardest to let go of and, whoops, I’ve begun another run.—Moises Taveras

Wasteland 3


Wasteland 3 puts you in the shoes of an external force with the unique capability to see through internal affairs, and gives players a glimpse at what a stranglehold on power can result in. Every choice you make, from dialogue options to money management, gives the feeling that you really are in a wasteland, just trying to get by. It’s a harrowing vision of a world that could come to pass, and a poignant commentary on the one we’re just trying to make it through today.— Nicolas Perez

Yakuza 6

What makes Yakuza 6 so compelling is that it succeeds in making the insignificant seem significant. It focuses on the minutiae of the world, from the detailed shop interiors that serve no purpose other than to ground you in the setting, to the nearby citizens who go about their daily business as anarchy unfolds around them in your wake. But perhaps the greatest feat of all is that the game trusts you, the player, to find it all yourself. By refusing to hold your hand and lead you from A to B, it gives you room to explore, to procrastinate and breathe between story steps, and it’s in those moments of respite that you’ll find the best of what the Yakuza series has to offer.— Andy Moore

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