Seven years after the release of the Xbox One, Xbox’s eagerly awaited successor is finally hitting shelves across the globe.
Though the new machine arrives with a strong emphasis on backward compatibility – Xbox has revealed that thousands of games previously released on Xbox One or Xbox 360 consoles will be made available on the Series X – it’s nonetheless the new games that have got people most excited.
With Cyberpunk 2077, Immortals Fenyx Rising and Halo Infinite still weeks and months away, and many games still waiting to be optimised fully for the Series X, there’s plenty to look forward to in the future.
However, for the many people who purchase their consoles promptly at launch, the question remains: which are the best games to play now?
Some are available on Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service; others are available to purchase form the Xbox store. Here’s a list of the 10 best Xbox Series X games available now…
10. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
The eighth entry in Sega’s hit Yakuza series, Like a Dragon is a zany crime JRPG pitting you against the ranks of a Japanese crime syndicate. Graphically, it’s nothing too special, and your enjoyment of the game may depend on your taste for its turn-based battle mechanics – a departure from the series’ norm. But for those who can embrace its eccentricity, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a treat.
As noted in The Independent’s review, Watch Dogs: Legion is a game with admirable political impetus that’s let down by a clumsily written storyline. Nonetheless, its brightest feature – a vivid open-world environment modelled on dystopian near-future London – is given extra shine on the Xbox Series X. With a whole city filled with unique playable characters, Legion is a messy game that is still capable of dazzling.
Released on Xbox One earlier this year, Gears Tactics adapts the setting and lore of the Gears of War franchise into a turn-based tactical spin-off. Fans of the genre will likely find a lot to enjoy here – while the graphics and performance aren’t hugely different to the already-impressive Xbox One iteration, this is still the smoothest, sharpest version. Gears 5 has also been optimised for the new generation, and both games are available on Xbox Game Pass.
7. Tetris Effect Connected
It’s easy to overlook games like Tetris Effect Connected at the launch of a new console; when the focus is on ray tracing and other flashy graphical improvements, a game as fundamentally backwards-looking as this seems rather beside the point. However, Tetris Effect Connected – a revamped version of 2018’s Tetris Effect, with added co-op multiplayer modes and features – is a timeless delight. Augmenting the classic arcade game with visual, structural and musical panache, this is as pure and addictive as gaming gets.
Several games already released on Xbox One have been optimised for the new generation in time for launch, among them hit Xbox’s surprise multiplayer pirate hit Sea of Thieves, and Epic Games’ sensational battle royale game Fortnite. It’s hard to imagine anyone buying a new console just to get the most out of a three-year-old free-to-play game, there’s no denying this is a serious upgrade. Rendered in 4K resolution at 60 FPS on the Series X, the optimised Fortnite features significantly reduced loading times and a more dynamic world, with improved effects on everything from weather to explosions.
There’s no shortage of sports games to play on the Xbox Series X, with American football simulator Madden NFL 21 and NBA 2K21 arriving on launch day with next-gen optimisations. Fifa 21, meanwhile, will be optimised for the next generation in early December (though the Xbox One version can still be played on the new console, with slightly enhanced performance). Madden, Fifa and NBA have all faced criticism (to varying degrees) for a lack of originality in recent entries, and the new generation of consoles does nothing to change that, but the noticeably better graphics and rapid loading times are substantial perks for those willing to buy in.
No Man’s Sky has certainly come a long way since being widely deemed one of gaming’s all-time biggest flops back in 2016. After promising more than they could deliver, developers Hello Games are starting to deliver more than they promise – and that includes a snazzy new update optimising the game for next-gen. As you travel through a universe filled with procedurally generated planets and solar systems, it’s hard not to revel in the game’s astronomical ambition. Few games have ever quite matched this sense of discovery, and with updates perpetually bringing new, more impressive aspects to the game, there’s sure to be more to discover for years to come.
3. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Released earlier this year on Xbox One, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an excellent platform game, with an endearing and soulful aesthetic that almost verges on Disney Pixar territory. Ori already looked fantastic – thanks largely to the wonderful art style and colour schemes, but the 4K Series X upgrade makes everything razor-sharp, from the evocative natural environments to Ori himself, a small, benevolent spirit with an array of formidable powers. Available on Game Pass.
Two of the most visually impressive games on the Series X at launch are racing games: CodeMasters’ off-road racer DiRT 5, and Forza Horizon 4. DiRT 5 offers an enjoyably breezy, muddy experience – which makes great use of the improved vibration function in next-gen Xbox controllers – but it’s Forza, optimised for Series X having been released originally two years ago, that is perhaps the most impressive. Featuring a big range of beautifully rendered vehicles, an expansive open world map modelled on the British countryside, and a multitude of courses, races and challenges, Forza is a superb off-road racer, and one of the very best things on Game Pass.
1. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
The most feverishly anticipated game available on launch day, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a high-budget open world action game set mostly in Viking-era England. It might not push the console to its full technical potential – Valhalla don’t look much different to some of the more polished late-era Xbox One fare – but it’s still an engaging ride that plays better on Series X than any other console. A far shout from the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s humble origins, Valhalla is an exercise in video-game maximalism, with a huge map, countless side quests and an epic pseudo-historical narrative. With Cyberpunk 2077 still weeks away, Valhalla is likely to be the game many Xbox players will first really sink their teeth into. In many ways, it’s a feast.