There’s no better time to dive into the best PC Game Pass games than when you’re stuck at home.
For those who are unaware, Xbox launched PC Game Pass (previously known as Xbox Game Pass for PC) as a service you can either pay for separately from Xbox Game Pass or bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. It works just like the original Xbox Game Pass, letting you download all available games for free as long as you’re in the service. PC Game Pass costs $4.99 for the first month then $9.99 per month after that. You’ll frequently find PC Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on sale.
There are more than 100 PC games on Game Pass for PC and you’ll find games regularly coming and going. Also, check out our piece about why I’m not worried about Xbox’s lack of exclusives. We also recently published our Saints Row (2022) preview.
Recently, we fully reviewed the Xbox Series X, so if you want to know whether or not it’s better to play on your current PC or a next-gen console, check out the Xbox Series X review. See our recent Xbox Wireless Headset review. Also, check out our System of the Stars piece, where we meet the therapist using videos games to teach mental health.
See our recent Call of Duty: Vanguard review and Battlefield 2042 review. If you’re into pen and paper games, check out our best virtual tabletop software page. (And our DND tips if you need help).
In no particular order, here are the best PC Game Pass games you can play right now:
343 Industries captured the very essence of Master Chief within the fast-paced, high-octane gameplay of Halo Infinite. It is the most fun I’ve ever had in a Halo game. But once you realize that 343 Industries brutally murdered a promising narrative and replaced it with a lazy attempt to provide an entry point for new fans, the credits have already rolled and you have a sour taste in your mouth.
Despite that, Halo Infinite delivers the most fun Halo multiplayer in the entire franchise, and the fact that it’s free means that everyone can hop in on the experience. Nothing beats grappling-hooking across an enemy base to land on a group of enemies, drop a shield and tear into them with the ridiculously overpowered Sentinel Beam. 343 Industries are still working out some kinks concerning the Battle Pass and how armor works, but with time, it’ll get better.
— Rami Tabari
See our full Halo Infinite review.
One of the MVPs of zombie shooters returns with Back 4 Blood, and as you may have read from my first impressions, Turtle Rock studio hasn’t lost a beat since Left 4 Dead 2 was released back in 2009.
The chaotic co-op spirit is fully intact: online survival horror action with more brain spilling than Arn Anderson could shake a Glock at, along with new elements that promise to bring longevity to the experience.
Sure, Turtle Rock hasn’t changed much from the Left 4 Dead formula (including the repetition problems), which means Back 4 Blood isn’t the revolutionary return to the genre gamers hyped it up to be. But the intense action, online multiplayer mayhem and satisfying shooting mechanics make this easy to forgive.
This is the spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead we’ve all wanted, and trust me, it’s been worth the wait.
— Jason England
See our full Back 4 Blood review.
Created by Luis Antonio, Twelve Minutes is a point-and-click thriller with a simple premise — a man trapped in a time loop and does everything possible to prevent his wife from being arrested (or worse). As the story unravels, you’ll find that the unexpectedly shocking plot would leave even legends like Kubrick and Hitchcock applauding.
Better yet, the Hollywood cast of Daisy Ridley, James Mcavoy and Willem Dafoe help bring an impressive level of polish to this passion project, which has been seven years in the making.
— Jason England
See our full Twelve Minutes review.
I’ve played quite a few messed up games in my time, but none have come as close as The Medium. If you had warned me what kind of themes it would be exploring, I’m not so sure I’d want to play it. But I did, and now I’m here, to talk to you all about one of the first console exclusives for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
Haunting themes aside, The Medium impressed me in terms of graphical fidelity. Additionally, its engaging mystery and satisfying problem-solving mechanics kept me going the whole way through. This game is very much about dealing with trauma, not running away from it. Marianne isn’t defenseless, she has badass psychic abilities to not only defend herself but also send spirits to the beyond. Although, the spirits in the game aren’t just wayward souls. They’re pieces of people’s souls that represent either dark desires or traumatic events, and combating these demons is more symbolic than it is artificial in a game like Devil May Cry where you fight demons for style points.
— Rami Tabari
See our full The Medium review.
5. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
You can’t beat the classics. 343 Industries is slowly but surely rolling out all of the games included in the Halo: Master Chief Collection on PC Game Pass. So far, Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 have officially launched on PC, and there are many more titles to go for a total of six games in just one package.
If you have no idea what Halo is all about, let me educate you. Halo is a first-person shooter about a badass dude in a suit of armor that walks really slow, but in the later games he walks really fast. No, but seriously, Halo in its most simplest form is a sci-fi action shooter that pits you against all kinds of aliens looking to destroy human life. Your goal is to kick ass and save the day. Don’t mistake your simple goal for shallow story telling. There’s a lot of in-depth story points that you’ll fancy, enough to write hundreds of words about, but trust me, it’s good.
— Rami Tabari
6. Final Fantasy XV
I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last to say that Final Fantasy XV has a lot of issues. But it’s hands down one of my favorite games thanks to the excellent chemistry between the four main characters as well as the emotional storytelling.
The prince of Insomnia, Noctis Lucis Caelum, loses his home and his father, the king, to an invading enemy. With his three Crownsguard and best friends, Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto, Noctis is set on a path to reclaim his kingdom, his throne and save his bride-to-be, Lunafreya, from his enemies.
As goofy and cliché as Final Fantasy XV can get, the story hits you right in the feels like a damn truck. By the end of the game, you’ll be wishing that you spent more time journeying with the boys before you called it quits. As someone who burned through the story, I regret not doing everything possible before the end.
— Rami Tabari
7. Gears 5
Gears 5 is an excellent third-person, cover-based shooter, in addition to being the best Gears of War games ever made thanks to its in-depth storytelling, beautiful open-world environments and believable characters. It’s one of the best PC Game Pass games I’ve ever played.
When I saw the first trailer for this game at E3, I thought Gears 5 was going to flop. But when I played the campaign, I was blown away by how the story seamlessly connected itself to the rest of the series. If campaign isn’t your thing, don’t worry, Gears 5 also has a game mode called Escape, which traps you in a Swarm nest and forces you to fight your way out in a limited amount of time. It’s super intense and a great way to experience Gears with friends. There’s also Horde mode and countless PvP modes to keep you busy.
— Rami Tabari
8. Dishonored 2
Just when you thought things had ended happily ever after for former Royal Protector Corvo Attano, Dishonored 2 pops up to show anything but. The sequel to the critically acclaimed first-person action-adventure stealth brings us back to Corvo 15 years after the events of the first game. A celebration for the late queen Jessamine, put on by Emily Kaldwin, the daughter of Attano and the queen, is disrupted by the witch Delilah Copperspoon, who claims to be the rightful heir to the Dunwall throne. Chaos erupts as a successful coup is carried out and it’s up to whomever you choose to play as (Emily or Corvo) to right the wrongs and save the kingdom.
Use the powers of the mysterious Outsider to travel to a new kingdom and find the truth about Delilah, the Outsider and the Void. I’ve always been a big fan of the Dishonored series. Not only is the story compelling, but the supernatural powers and stealth mechanics allow you to tackle the game however you see fit. Do you go in for a frontal assault, killing everyone in sight, or go for the non-violence route? Whatever you choose has drastic effects on the game. And when you’re done, check out the excellent DLC, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.
— Sherri L. Smith
9. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
After many delays, Ori and the Will of the Wisps released this year and I can truly say it was well worth the wait. Picking up after the events of the first title, Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps follows Ori the Spirit Guardian on its journey to find Ku, the baby owl from the first title. After being blown off course into a new land. Ori must use its powers to restore the light that’s been slowly receding into darkness.
Will of the Wisps is one of the best and prettiest Metroidvanias currently available. Developer Moon Studios successfully surpassed the world of the first game, allowing Ori to interact with the denizens of this new land. The backdrops are colorful and diverse and the music ties it all together. I found myself humming some of the tracks for days after I finished the game. The story is bittersweet, but it’s one that I highly recommend.
— Sherri L. Smith
10. Streets of Rage 4
Man, Street of Rage was one of my jams back in the day. A classic ’90s-era side-scrolling beat ‘em up, Streets of Rage put you in the shoes of one of several skilled fighters, using their fists to bring justice to a corrupt city. As the series went on, it got a little ridiculous (an old-man cyborg fighting alongside a kangaroo?), but it was undeniably fun. It was a game that was a blast either solo or with a friend.
Fast forward to today and Streets of Rage 4 is a thing thanks to developer Dotemu — and I’m hooked. Set 10 years after the last entry, SoR4 sports a slick art style that stays true to the pixelated originals. It’s a fun romp on your own but even better with friends. You can either play with two people online or take it back to the ’90s and do a four-person local run. Can you and a couple of your closest friends rid the city of its crime epidemic?
— Sherri L. Smith
11. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Ugh, I love Metroidvanias. I especially love them when they’re themed after Castlevania. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the long-awaited game from Koji Igarashi, former Castlevania series director. Originally started as a Kickstarter project, the game was quickly funded and fans waited in excited anticipation.
And I’ve got to say, Bloodstained lived up to all the hype. Although you’re not playing as a member of the famed Belmont clan or even Dracula’s dhampir son, the story is no less compelling. Playing as Miriam, one of the last living Shardbinders, you enter a massive demonic castle to save the world from impending doom. As you traverse the castle, you’ll fight all manner of abominations, but don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of weapons and supernatural abilities to beat back the denizens of darkness. And similar to other Castlevania games, there’s more going on than meets the eye.
If you have one, I highly recommend playing this game on a 4K HDR TV or display. It’s just that pretty.
— Sherri L. Smith
12. Darksiders III
For better or worse, I’m a fan of the Darksiders series. I loved the way the games took elements of other popular titles (Diablo, Legend of Zelda, Devil May Cry) and made something entirely different. Sure, it isn’t the most polished series I’ve ever played, but every time I queue up a Darksiders title, I’m quickly swept up in the action. Which is why I was so excited Darksiders III made its way out of development hell. After THQ Studios went under in 2012, I didn’t think I’d get another game.
But 2018 saw the debut of Darksiders III and I finally got to take Fury, the lone female nephilim, out on her own adventure. As far as her personality goes, Fury’s a bit of an ass. She’s rash, arrogant and quick to anger. But she also wields a cool chain whip and deals out devastating damage via stylishly linked together combos. As you progress through the game, you unlock more powers and battle with the denizens of both Heaven and Hell in order to restore balance in the world. But something’s not right and it’s up to Fury to get to the bottom of it.
— Sherri L. Smith
13. Forza Horizon 4
Racing fans who find the realistic tracks in Forza’s acclaimed simulators to be too confined shouldn’t hesitate to download Forza Horizon 4. This open-world racer is among the best racing games ever, right up there with Burnout 3. Don’t take my world for it; Forza Horizon holds an average Metacritic rating of 92 from unanimously positive reviews.
What makes this arcade racer a must-own for Xbox owners? It starts with dazzling graphics that depict near-photorealistic landscapes ranging from sun-drenched vistas to snowy hillside, each changing dynamically based on the seasons. Dozens of different racing types, including rallies, road races, straight-road drag races and cross-country marathons keep the gameplay fresh, while endless tuning options make a robust selection of car types and models feel different.
Once you’ve completed the exhaustive list of challenges, route creator lets you build your own race track. Want to play with others? Forza Horizon 4’s Team Adventures pits two groups against each other in a series of races. Oh, and keeping up with the trends, Forza developer PlayGround Games introduced a 72-car battle royale mode late last year. So start tuning your engines — Forza Horizon 4 is a game that racing fans, or even casual gamers, simply can’t miss.
— Phillip Tracy
14. Middle-earth: Shadow of War
I can’t think of a more fun way to spend my quarantine days than by slashing my way through hordes of hideous orcs. Set between the events of the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Shadow of War is an open-world action RPG with an epic story and all of the abilities, powers and weapons you expect from a LOTR game.
In Shadow of War, you play as Talion who forged a new ring of power only to lose it. The story isn’t perfect but Tolkein fans will appreciate familiar characters and locales from the books and movies. In Shadow of War, Middle-earth is vast and varied, each region of the map played out on an entirely different terrain.
Talion’s fast movements make traversing the landscape less tiresome and frequent encounters with ork and uruks are always a fun challenge in finding new ways to slay. Abilities and ancient weapons are put on full display when you encounter one of the Uruk-hai captains, each of which has its own name and personality. If you played the first game, then you’ll be happy to know that the Nemesis system returns in Shadow of War. The unique mechanic is better than ever, and, along with the new Fortresses mechanic, make Shadow of War one of the best LOTR games ever.
— Phillip Tracy
15. Dirt Rally 2.0
There is a reason the Dirt franchise is still thriving. Drifting around a hairpin turn in a custom-tuned Ford Focus RS delivers an adrenaline boost you won’t get from other sedate simulators. It’s a combination of heart-pumping audio, realistic graphics and white-knuckle driving that makes Dirt so fun.
Dirt Rally 2.0 improved upon the previous games by adding a new weather system where road conditions have an effect on how your car handles. Drive in the rain and you’re better off taking that sharp right turn at a slower speed. If there’s a foot of snow on the ground, go ahead and drift to the end of the track.
Released alongside the main Dirt games, Rally 2.0 emphasizes realistic driving mechanics of rally and rallycross compared with the larger variety of racing types in Dirt 4 (and the upcoming Dirt 5). And compared with the original Dirt Rally, Dirt Rally 2 gives you more control over the AI, so you’re not eating the computer’s dust at the end of every race.
— Phillip Tracy
16. The Outer Worlds
A space western from the people that brought us Fallout: New Vegas and Knights of the Old Republic 2? Yes to all of that, thank you. The Outer Worlds is another character-driven RPG by Obsidian Entertainment that brings some of the feel of both of those games in a universe that is somewhat reminiscent of the short-lived Firefly TV show.
The game is in first-person and combat is similar to the Fallout series but relies on a slow-motion mechanic to assist your aim rather than handling it entirely for you. You start on your own, but eventually build a party of companions over time to tackle challenging quests. The characters in your party and within the world are some of the best parts of this game because each has its own interesting personality.
The skill trees for both your characters and the weapons in the game are deep and offer lots of opportunities to specialize your character down whatever path you like. While The Outer Worlds lacks the full open-world experience of the Fallout series, it should still scratch that itch pretty effectively with the amount of exploration allowed on each quest. If you are a fan of RPGs or the space western genre this is not a game to be missed.
— Sean Riley
17. Cities: Skylines – Windows 10 Edition
While city planning was never a job I aspired to, you wouldn’t know it from the number of hours I’ve poured into SimCity in my life. Cities: Skylines is the spiritual successor and it’s keeping the genre alive almost single-handedly. If you haven’t played a city builder game like Cities: Skylines before, it is virtually impossible to make it sound compelling. And yet, somehow, the combination of building out and then managing your city is incredibly satisfying.
You start your city from scratch on a small plot of land, simply laying out the roads and designating areas for specific types of construction, and then hopefully your population begins to build. As you hit specific population milestones, you gain new abilities and access to more land to keep building your little city into a metropolis. While building is your primary focus, running your city involves creating tax incentives to promote certain businesses and the like, all of which contributes to the success of your city.
Cities: Skylines is a beautiful game, particularly as your city grows. It becomes entertaining to simply fly over it and view all of the various buildings and the sim people going about their day. And just when you feel like you’ve got everything you can from Cities: Skylines, you can dip into the mods community for the game, which can completely transform the look and functionality of the game to make everything new again.
— Sean Riley
18. Alien: Isolation
In space, no one can hear you scream. I wish that were the case on Earth because plenty of people have heard me shriek, curse and plead in Alien: Isolation. Developer Creative Assembly did what the world previously thought was impossible — make an Alien game that was as scary and atmospheric as the movies. Isolation is terrifying and an absolutely must-play game if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise.
You play as Amanda Ripley, daughter of Ellen Ripley, who is on the search for answers about the disappearance of the crew of her mother and the crew of the Nostromo. However, things quickly go awry as soon as Amanda sets foot on the space station that holds the answers. It seems that one of terrifying xenomorphs has found its way aboard and is wreaking havoc. Not only must you avoid and outwit this incredibly intelligent foe, you also have to avoid threats from hostile humans and Androids. There’s never a moment when you aren’t being hunted and the Xenomorph learns from its mistakes.
Trust me, you’ll never forget the first time you’re yanked from out of a locker by the Xenomorph and eviscerated by its smaller, secondary mouth.
— Sherri L. Smith
19. Donut County
Sounding like the kind of idea someone would come up with when substances are involved, Donut County asks a simple question: What if you were a raccoon that could control a hole to steal trash, but it expands with every piece of trash you collect, ending in you destroying entire cities?
Think Katamari Damacy, but instead of rolling a ball around, you move an ever-growing hole around. If you can imagine this, you’ll get the gist of what an incredibly unusual experience playing Donut County is.
This laid-back physics puzzler has a bright visual style that stands out from anything else on Game Pass, and the gameplay is highly addictive, as it gradually adds more bizarre mechanics.
Plus, you won’t want to skip the simple plot — delivered in only text boxes rather than voiceover — as it’s some of the most hilarious and wholesome (or “holesome”) writing in recent years.
With a short length, you will conquer this easily in an afternoon, but you will enjoy every second of this charming indie experience.
— Jason England
Bleeding Edge arrives at a time after hero-based games like Overwatch and DotA transformed their respective genres so radically that, for better or worse, countless others have attempted to replicate what they’ve accomplished. However, none have attempted to take that hero-based concept and integrate it into a different type of game. But that’s where Ninja Theory’s latest hack-and-slash brawler comes in.
Bleeding Edge is immediately captivating thanks to its colorful cast of characters. Representing New York is my personal favorite: Daemon — a ninja-punk who formed the gang of digital misfits known as the Bleeding Edge. Each member of the Bleeding Edge has three special abilities and the option to choose from two super-moves. As far as basic abilities go, you have your regular attack, evade, parry and jump.
While Bleeding Edge offers only two game modes right now (Objective Control and Power Collection), both of them are incredibly intense. On top of that, Bleeding Edge’s maps offer colorful environments and immerse you into the world with the map hazards in place.
Bleeding Edge has so much potential, and it’s one of the few competitive games I’ve played that I’m going all in for.
— Rami Tabari
See our full Bleeding Edge review.
Previously published on .laptopmag.com