There’s no denying Microsoft’s Xbox One console has had a turbulent time since its faltering 2013 launch. But the platform has recovered brilliantly in recent times, as can be seen from our best Xbox One games list.
UPDATE:Xbox has revealed that there will only be one new console arriving in 2020, and not two as previously thought. It looks like Microsoft is going all in with Project Scarlett and won't launch another console at the same time. The good news is that it is likely that Project Scarlett will be backwards compatible with prior Xbox consoles. Quite how this will work, though, we are yet to know.
Microsoft made a resurgence in 2016 with the Xbox One S. It helped create a pure gaming focus for the brand, then the Xbox One X restored Microsoft’s technical bragging rights as the most powerful gaming system on the market.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has managed to retain its key advantages in controller design, not to mention the peerless Xbox Live online service. No platform holder has put as much time and effort into backward compatibility support, either.
That would all mean nothing if there wasn’t a vast library of brilliant games to draw from. Thankfully there are, as these 15 prime examples demonstrate.
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The 15 best Xbox One games
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar’s epic open world adventure was undoubtedly the most hotly anticipated game of 2018. That it managed to live up to the hype, both critically and commercially, is remarkable.
You play the part of Arthur Morgan, a grizzled gunslinger from the Clint Eastwood school of bad-assery. But it’s Red Dead Redemption 2’s sprawling Western US setting that really comes to define it. This game is massive, in more than one sense of the word.
Nothing else quite looks like Cuphead. At least, nothing in the world of video games. StudioMDHR has gone back to the cartoons of the 1930s for inspiration, resulting in one of the most distinctive video game settings of recent years.
Given the artfully joyous nature of Cuphead’s world, it comes as a bit of a shock to find such a hardcore action platformer sat underneath. This is punishing stuff, but the rewards are all up there on the screen.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t just the best RPG on the Xbox One, it’s a leading contender for the best game full stop. Few video game worlds feel as lived in or so rich with potential for adventure.
As monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, you must use magic, swordplay and persuasion to tame a morally ambiguous fantasy world. The Witcher 3’s multi-layered narrative and believably flawed characters add further grain and texture to a true generational great.
4. Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the most eye-bathingly gorgeous games on Xbox One, with a Ghibli-esque aesthetic positively bursting with magic and wonder. It’s also a Metroidvania-style platformer with deceptive substance and scope.
Setting out as the titular sprite, you’ll find yourself leaping and bounding through a vast forest world. There’s nothing particularly cutting edge about the gameplay here, but there are oodles of secrets to uncover and abilities to gain.
5. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Yes, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is essentially a greatest hits collection. And, no, it didn’t launch in the best state. But across Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3 and Halo 4 you’ll find some of the finest FPS gameplay ever committed to console.
These are no straight ports, either. Each sci-fi epic has been spruced up to full 1080p and 60fps, while new textures and lighting have also been added. Four brilliant games at their absolute best.
6. Forza Horizon 4
Forza’s not-so-little brother has grown to be a bit of a racing game monster. Where Forza Motorsport 7 replicates the tight thrill of real track racing, Forza Horizon 4 is all about taking to the open road. The result is a colourful and chaotic festival of racing.
This time Playground Games has set the action in an approximation of its home country, England. But there’s nothing polite or genteel about these country lanes.
7. Monster Hunter World
The Monster Hunter series has an army of devoted disciples, but has perhaps been a little too ornery for wider acceptance. Monster Hunter World is something of a mainstream breakthrough, then. Its vast fantasy world has never been so inviting, nor have its esoteric weapon systems and battle mechanics been so accessible.
Don’t mistake Monster Hunter World’s more inviting front end for dumbing down, though. This remains a deeply involving action-RPG that can suck up hundreds of hours of your life.
8. NieR: Automata – Become As Gods Edition
Japanese developer PlatinumGames has considerable pedigree in the third person action genre, but NieR: Automata is something else entirely. It fuses a recognisably slick brand of button-mashing combat with intense shoot-’em-up elements and many of the trappings of a high class JRPG.
Underpinning this atypical mash-up of ingredients is a mind-bending yet poignant sci-fi plot, of a decaying far future world filled with androids behaving in tragically human ways.
9. Gears of War 4
It’s easy to roll your eyes at the sheer meat-headedness of Gears of War and its grimdark world. But it’s equally easy to forget how influential this series has been on modern gaming.
Gears of War 4 might not remind you of any of that, but it will remind you what a rollicking-good third person shooter looks like. No other game matches the intensity of its cover-to-cover firefights, regardless of platform.
10. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Many would admit to feeling a little jaded about the Assassin’s Creed series prior to Odyssey’s release. To such ones, though, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey came as a pleasant surprise. In fact, it’s the kind of triumphant return that Odysseus himself would have been proud of.
From its vibrant ancient Greece setting to its memorable cast of characters and rich action-RPG mechanics, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey shows that there’s life in the Ubisoft open world template yet.
11. Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5’s place in the prestigious Halo pantheon is a little uncertain. Its single player campaign is somewhat lacklustre, particularly in light of its majestic forbears - all of which have been conveniently collected in The Master Chief Collection.
But if you’re looking for the most technically accomplished game in the series, and one that brings the core mechanics up to a more modern FPS spec, this is your game. The real clincher here, though, is that Halo 5 provides the definitive multiplayer Halo experience.
12. Sea of Thieves
Rare has given Xbox One owners something truly unique here: a massively multiplayer pirate sim. Sea of Thieves shines thanks to a series of simple overlapping mechanics that place the onus on cooperative play.
Sailing your ship through the game’s gloriously choppy seas is an intoxicatingly choreographed process. And plundering fortified islands and rival ships meets our deep-seated desire for naval carnage.
13. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
The Resident Evil 2 remake is rightly getting all the plaudits right now, but it was the preceding Resident Evil 7: Biohazard that really shocked the series back into life. It does so by taking a step back from the action B-movie vibe that had infected the franchise, instead cranking up the suspense and the horror.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard also adopts a new creepily claustrophobic setting, while a fresh first person vantage adds to the scare-factor.
14. Dishonored 2
Following ever-so-quietly in the sneaky footsteps of games like Thief and Deus Ex, Arkane’s brilliant sequel is a first person stealth-adventure game of rare poise and elegance. Here you must forge your own path through a richly realised steampunk world.
Playing as either the original game’s hero Corvo or his distinctively empowered daughter, Dishonored 2 gives you a wide range of devastating tools with which to slice, sneak, or charm your way to justice.
Fortnite is a major contender for gaming sensation of the decade, right alongside Minecraft. Just like that latter smash hit, it’s a YouTube and Twitch phenomenon with an awful lot of people who are probably much younger than you.
But it’s a riotously entertaining take on the Battle Royale genre whatever your age. Added to the usual last-man-standing action is a building mechanic that requires a daunting level of skill, commitment and imagination to master.