Xbox Game Pass is a reasonably priced way to enjoy a bunch of quality PC games without having to fork out for them all individually. But once you’ve subscribed, where do you even start? The current library on PC isn’t that massive, but big enough to make wading through it overwhelming if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. So, to make your life easier, here are some games I think are worth fast-tracking to the top of your list.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
It seems unbelievable at first. The entire planet in… in a videogame? Then you spin the globe, drop your plane in the air above your house, and realise that it’s no exaggeration. Using satellite data pulled from Bing Maps, Microsoft Flight Simulator lets you fly anywhere in the world, literally. Just stick a pin on its 3D Earth and you can go there. And thanks to some neat visual wizardry, and probably the best virtual clouds ever rendered, it all looks stunningly photorealistic. You can also customise just about everything, so whether you want the full, authentic simulation, or you’d rather just recline with a gamepad and enjoy a leisurely flight somewhere pretty, the game has you covered.
If you’ve never experienced a Yakuza game before, you absolutely should—and this is the best place to start. Set in Japan in the 1980s, Yakuza 0 is a thrilling tale of conspiracy, murder, corruption, and elaborately tattooed gangsters dramatically ripping their shirts off. Taking place on the dense, detailed streets of Tokyo and Osaka, the game blends extreme violence and slapstick humour with a genuinely touching story. It’s part crime epic, part melodrama, and part life simulator. Between moments of tense drama and massive, exciting martial arts fistfights, you can shop in convenience stores, play classic Sega games in the arcades, and indulge in some very strange side quests.
In this weird, wonderful detective game’s alternate vision of the year 1999, people climb into bed at night, snap on a high-tech headband, and drift into the world of Hypnospace. This simulated internet—inspired by the ramshackle, gif-strewn GeoCities sites of the early-ish web—features hundreds of wild, colourful pages to click around and explore. As an enforcer hired by the mysterious creator of Hypnospace, you’re being paid to root out and delete illegal content, whether that’s piracy, harassment, or malicious software. And finding this stuff involves some actual brain-teasing detective work, including digging into private servers, sniffing out hidden websites, and infiltrating hacker collectives.
Designed in the spirit of immersive sims like Deus Ex and Thief, Dishonored 2 is a deep, reactive assassination game heaving with interconnected systems to prod at and outlandish powers to experiment with. Its levels are vast, ornate, and beautifully designed, offering multiple ways to kill your targets. Its setting, Karnaca, is also a masterclass in world-building, with seemingly every corner of every level telling a multitude of interesting stories. I can’t think of many games quite as stuffed with great ideas as Dishonored 2, whether it’s hopping through time in a memorable mission called A Crack in the Slab, or the Clockwork Mansion, a grand old house whose layout changes around you in real-time.
Forza Horizon 4
Horizon takes the Forza Motorsport series’ pristine simulation handling and smooths the edges off. It maintains that distinctive feeling of weight and momentum, but also lets you skid around like you’re in an arcade game. It’s a perfect balance, and the result is one of the most effortlessly fun driving games on PC. This one is set in a condensed United Kingdom, and it’s a ridiculously fun and varied automotive playground. There are hundreds of gorgeously recreated, fully licensed cars to drive, countless challenges to blaze through—and, admittedly, some quite annoying cutscenes. But get past the obnoxious tone of the game’s fake festival and you’ll discover a really thrilling racer.
This stylish horror game takes its cues from the original Alien movie and not, like so many other videogames, its action-packed sequel. It’s slow and atmospheric, brilliantly blending elements of stealth, exploration, and scrappy survival horror. Encounters with the game’s slinky, sinister xenomorph are almost never scripted; the creature has dynamic, reactive AI that makes its behaviour terrifyingly unpredictable. The story follows Amanda Ripley, daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s character from the films, as she searches a ruined space station called Sevastopol for clues to her mother’s disappearance. Even after multiple playthroughs, the alien is still finding new ways to scare me.
Pillars of Eternity
Obsidian has been making quality RPGs for years, but this homage to classics like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment is arguably its masterpiece. Set in the fantasy world of Eora, which was created from scratch by Obsidian, you play as a Watcher: a person who can see past lives and interact with souls. This is a familiar Dungeons & Dragons inspired adventure in many ways, but it also takes those well-trodden fantasy tropes and puts a darkly unique spin on them. The quests are sprawling, morally challenging, and unpredictable, brought to life by some truly exceptional writing. Everything is described in vivid, lyrical detail, making Pillars of Eternity one of the richest and most absorbing RPGs on PC.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Finally, every Halo game (except Halo 5, which is still missing in action) is now playable on PC. This bumper collection contains four numbered Halos, as well as dramatic prequel Reach and moody spin-off ODST. It’s an exceptional selection of first-person shooters, and if you want to relive your days of sniping people in Blood Gulch, the multiplayer is fully functional too. Some of the graphical ‘improvements’ in the remastered original kinda make it look worse, but you can switch back to the classic visuals at the push of a button. If you missed the boat with Halo, this is the perfect opportunity to play the saga from the start. Now Microsoft just needs to give us Halo 5 to complete the set.
Tetris Effect: Connected
Fundamentally, this is just Tetris. You slot the blocks together to make lines and watch as they vanish satisfyingly. But the genius of Tetris Effect is how it harnesses the hypnotic effect of Alexey Pajitnov’s puzzle game and enhances it with dazzling, trippy visuals and seriously brilliant music. The game features multiple stages, each with their own vivid aesthetic and bespoke music encompassing every genre imaginable, from deep house to jazz. You can interact with the music too; it reacts as you move and drop blocks, creating a dynamic soundtrack. Look, words will never do Tetris Effect justice. Just play it and you’ll see—and in this Connected version you can play with friends too.
In New York City, a monolithic skyscraper called the Oldest House serves as the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Control. This shadowy organisation secretly studies paranormal phenomena; dangerous research that has turned the building into a shifting labyrinth where the laws of physics, space, and time don’t apply. This is the setting for Control, a mind-bending third-person shooter by Max Payne creator Remedy The game combines the developer’s usual gun combat with paranormal superpowers, including tearing chunks out of the environment and throwing them at enemies. But it’s that supremely weird setting, and all the strangeness within, that’s the real star here.