If you’re already a member of Game Pass, Microsoft’s attempt to create a Netflix for games, you know how crazy a deal it is. If you’re not a member, the holiday break is as good a time as any to check it out.The service has over 100 games, with more being added each month. And it’s not just quantity. There are dozens of excellent titles, both AAA and indie, for you to delve into for $10 a month (or $15 if you get Game Pass Ultimate, which lets you select games to play on PC too). And its list of games has impressively expanded since Nov. 10, when titles from EA Play join the service for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.
Editors’ top picks
Subscribe to CNET Now for the day’s most interesting reviews, news stories and videos.
Along with Project xCloud, Game Pass is a pillar of Microsoft’s next-generation philosophy for gaming, and one that’s likely to expand throughout the Xbox Series X’s life cycle. If you’re new to the service, or on the fence about joining, here are 20 games to play right away. Read more: Best gaming accessories to give as holiday gifts Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive AgeRPG games don’t get much bigger than Dragon Quest. That’s both figurative and literal: The Dragon Quest brand has been an RPG benchmark for decades, and Dragon Quest XI S is a giant game. It’ll take you over 50 hours to beat and well over double that to see everything. Over those dozens (or hundreds) of hours, you’ll meet colorful, memorable characters and enjoy some of the genre’s best turn-based combat. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Just as The Mandalorian season two gets into full swing, and as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers a free month of Disney Plus, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order comes to the service. It’s a rare type of game: A licensed title that doesn’t suck. This action adventure retains the feel and charm of Star Wars, and is worth playing even if you’re not obsessed with the Galaxy Far Far Away. Note: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is one of many new games to join the service courtesy of EA Play, and is only downloadable by Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Doom Eternal
Doom Eternal is one of Xbox Game Pass’ newer games, hitting the service in October. It’s a sequel to 2016’s Doom, a reboot of the classic shooter franchise. It involves killing lots and lots (and lots) of demons. The game was well received upon its March release, getting an 8/10 from our sister site GameSpot.Gears 5 Ultimate
Gears 5 Ultimate is one of Xbox Game Pass’ crown jewels. The 2019 blockbuster is one of the Xbox One’s biggest first-party games, and the very fact that games of its ilk are on Game Pass speaks to how seriously Microsoft is investing in the service. It’s available on both Xbox One and PC.Age of Empires II Definitive Edition
Age of Empires II is the comfort food of gaming. The Definitive Edition of this iconic PC game launched last November on PC, upscaling the game to 4K and adding new campaigns, and you can play on both the PC and Xbox One through Game Pass.Rainbow Six Siege Deluxe Edition
If you’re after a shooter, this is a good place to start. Rainbow Six Siege was released in 2015, but don’t let that turn you off. It was designed to be an esports game, and has been updated and evolved over the years. A squad-based shooter, it has a vibrant online community to this day.
Skyrim is one of the most iconic role-playing games of the last decade and for good reason. It’s big, it’s bold and, most importantly, has dragons. The special edition of Skyrim, which is a remastered version of the original, is now on Game Pass, a great option for those wanting to re-visit Tamriel — and especially great for people wanting to visit for the first time.Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a beautiful game from Moon Studios that’s a sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest. A heartfelt platformer and adventure game, it’s a little like a mix between Metroid, Castlevania and Rayman. It received much praise upon its 2017 release, with CNET’s sister site GameSpot calling it “a remarkable synthesis of artful design and beautiful moments.”Forza Horizon 4
As far as non-first person shooters go, Forza is arguably Microsoft’s biggest and best exclusive franchise. Forza Horizon 4 takes place out in a world based on Great Britain, and received huge acclaim upon its 2018 release. It’s soon to be joined by Forza Motorsport 7, in which you race on a track rather than the open road. That title hits Game Pass on Oct. 8.Dead Cells
If you’re tired of big budget first-person-shooters, give Dead Cells a go. It’s a beautiful, colorful Metroidvania style action platformer that was released in 2018 to critical acclaim. It continues to be a cult favorite and is absolutely worth a download if you haven’t yet played it (and even if you have). It’s playable on both Xbox and PC via Game Pass Ultimate. The Outer Worlds
Speaking of imaginative games, The Outer Worlds is an RPG from Obsidian, the gang behind Fallout New Vegas, and it’s a winner. It’s set in an alternative universe where Theodore Roosevelt didn’t regulate big US firms in the early 20th century, which led to them… colonizing the galaxy, obviously. So in essence, it’s Fallout in space. Game Pass Ultimate users can play it on both PC and Xbox.Untitled Goose Game
One of the best things about Game Pass is that, once you’re a member, it allows you to try out games that intrigue you but which you may have been too on-the-fence about to buy. For a lot of people, Untitled Goose Game will be one of those games. Released in 2019, it’s a game in which you play as a Goose that causes as much havoc as it can. A strange, seemingly unsubstantial premise, but one that led to a highly lauded game — and absolutely one worth trying. Destiny 2
Destiny 2 is a hugely popular loot shooter developed by Bungie, the gang that brought you the original Halo. It’s not new though, having hit the Xbox One in 2017. Now is a perfect time to jump in — or back in — to Destiny 2 though, with a franchise-changing (according to Bungie) expansion, Beyond Light, launching in November.Oxenfree
Night School Studio
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller originally released for PC, Mac and Xbox One in 2016 and since ported to iOS and Android, among other platforms. It’ll take you less than five hours to beat, but it’s a memorable tale worth experiencing. Celeste
Extremely OK Games
Celeste is one of the biggest and most loved indie games of the last few years. It’s superficially a platform game about climbing a mountain, but, as noted in GameSpot’s 9/10 review, the less you know about the themes and true meaning of the game before playing, the better. Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieve’s is developer Rare’s No Man’s Sky: A game set around exploration that was criticized upon released but later, after many updates and tweaks, lauded as being great. Unlike No Man’s Sky, which is all about space exploration, Sea of Thieves is an open-sea adventure revolving around you becoming a legendary pirate — one that you can sink dozens and dozens of hours into. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Master Chief Collection is a remastered package that includes Halo 1, 2 and 3, ODST, Rach and Halo 4. Yep, that’s a lot of Halo. The game was criticized upon release for poor online multiplayer and technical glitches, but patches have since fixed those problems. This is a great way to prepare yourself for Halo: Infinite next year. Wasteland 3
Wasteland 3 is an isometric RPG. That description really doesn’t do it justice in any sense though, as this postapocalyptic game is filled with an admirable mix of both tension, quirk and charm. It’s set in 22nd century Colorado, and includes both psycho clowns and a cult dedicated to Ronald Reagan. What more do you need?What Remains of Edith Finch
This is the perfect game for a service like Game Pass. What Remains of Edith Finch is a two-hour title that you’ll finish in one sit through. It’s hard to describe the gameplay in a way that does it justice, so I’ll just say that it’s a haunting exploration of the history of the Finch family. Play it. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5
This is a good one for people who never owned a PlayStation 2. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 features almost every game in the franchise: Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 2, Birth By Sleep, and watchable versions of DS game 358/2 Days (don’t ask) and mobile game Coded. If you give the series a go and get into it, Kingdom Hearts III is also on Game Pass. Tekken 7
Everybody needs a fighter in their life. Tekken 7 is one of the best fighting games of the Xbox One/PS4 era and has been expanded with new characters and stages since its initial 2017 release. In fact, the most recent DLC came out on Nov. 10, introducing classic character Kunimitsu.