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Xbox One is considered by many to be one of the best places to play, not least because Game Pass – Xbox One’s game streaming subscription service – just makes playing games more accessible. The Xbox 360’s immense success may have been tough to beat, but over time Xbox One has risen to this challenge thanks to a wealth of tentpole exclusives and a focused on graphical fidelity. And despite what critics claim, Microsoft’s third console is now host to a swathe of great Xbox One exclusive games, spanning several different genres – whether you’re into handcrafted 2D platformers or first-person shooter thrill rides.
But what Xbox One exclusive should you play first? There are several to choose from, after all. With any luck, this list of the 10 best Xbox One exclusive games we’ve put together can help put that into perspective. Highlighting the select few games on Xbox One worth your time is a tricky task, but you needn’t look anywhere else for the definitive selection. This list will be regularly updated, so be sure to check back every month. But, without further ado, let’s get into it.
10. Halo Wars 2
The original Halo Wars took Bungie’s prestigious space universe in a bold new direction, swapping out first-person gunplay for a more tactical gameplay setup that sees you command an army of Spartans from above a full two decades before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo Wars 2 took this concept even further, delivering an expert blend of story and real-time strategy to successfully carve out its own niche within the wide Halo universe.
This second game actually fast forwards events to beyond that of Halo 5: Guardians, tasking you to construct a base of operations, mine resources and just generally defend your territory from the enemy forces. It’s a stunning take on strategy that lets you experience the heat of battle from a bird’s eye view. No fan of Halo should miss out on what is one of the best Xbox One exclusive games.
From one Halo game to another, this one seemed like an impossible prospect at first. All the Master Chief led Halo games, complete with multiplayer and updated visuals, all in on package? Halo: Master Chief Collection fulfilled this lofty promise, acting as the best way for any Halo newbie to experience the hallmark Xbox Series for the first time. Alternatively, though, it’s a great excuse for those that are familiar to jump back in again.
Halo: Master Chief Collection collects Halo 1, 2, 3 and 4, including every multiplayer map ever released. The result is a jamboree of Halo content that represents a staggering amount of value, with Halo 2, in particular, being the highlight. This is because Halo 2 is the game given the newest visual treatment in this compilation release, featuring updated textures and all-new cutscenes redone by renowned animation studio Blur. If you want to get started with Halo, look no further.
While pirate games might largely be few and far between these days, that didn’t stop legendary game developer Rare (Goldeneye 64, Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie) from taking a stab at creating their own high seas adventure. That adventure is none other than Sea of Thieves, an Xbox One exclusive that sets you and a bunch of friends off into the ocean, where you can roleplay as pirates plundering lost treasure and fighting off skeletons.
The entire game exudes this charming claymation-like art style, which works wonders in inspiring both kids and big kids alike to hop on a ship and set sail. From here it’s all about fending off invading ships, embarking on quests and unlocking new gear to become the fiercest pirate the world has ever seen. Sea of Thieves is an online multiplayer game unlike anything you’ve experienced before, and it’s one exclusive to Xbox One.
The latest entry of Turn 10 Studios’ celebrated racing series to speed its way onto Xbox One is also one of its best. Especially if you’re someone that likes to spend the time to tweak all manner of real-life vehicles and then feel their effects on the track, Forza Motorsport 7 will wow you with its selection of 700 cars and near endless ways to customize them.
The hallmark feature of Forza Motorsport’s seventh entry is its dynamic weather system, which makes it easy to more realistically make players feel like their racing through the snow, battling against the wind or flying past naked trees in the fall. This is, however, a racing simulation game first and foremost, and as such emphasises the believable aspects of what it is to drive these incredible motorsports vehicles. You can only do it this way exclusively on Xbox One.
Sometimes it’s the smallest games that make the biggest impact. This is very much the case for Ori and the Blind Forest and its new 2020 sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps. A whimsical metroidvania that sees you venture through various luminous biomes in search of your missing friend, this Xbox One exclusive merges heartfelt storytelling with clever level design. Picking up immediately after the events of the first game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a 2D platformer sequel that improves upon the original by introducing improved combat and a much fairer checkpointing system.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps touts an incredibly unique colour palette, leaning into neon shades that makes the 2D adventure is otherworldly – almost like a fairytale. This combines with beautiful hand-drawn animations, which helps brings characters to life and adds more personality. It’s ultimately a story about friendship you wouldn’t necessarily expect from the same platform that features Halo and Gears of War, but remarkably all comes together to be one of the best Xbox One exclusives.
Some franchises come and go, but in 2006 Xbox gave us a modern classic in 2006’s Gears of War. This objectively great third-person cover shooter literally changed the game back then, going onto to inspire all manner of other games in the genre ever since. This first entry to the gritty Xbox-exclusive franchise received a new coat of paint via Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which boasted all-new textures, a higher frame rate and other appreciated visual flourishes. Game remasters don’t get better than this.
The remaster was handled by new Gears of War developer The Coalition, who were careful to leave the basic bones of the game intact while just sprinkling in a tad more extra polish. This is the same great story of Marcus Fenix taking the fight to the Locust alongside Delta Squadron, only now its look better than ever before. Gears of War: Ultimate Edition also adds in a couple extra chapters previously exclusive to the PC version, making this Xbox One rendition the definitive version.
If you’re someone who doesn’t have time for the nitty, gritty video games that take themselves too seriously, then Sunset Overdrive could be the perfect remedy. That’s because it’s an anarchic-fuelled third-person shooting romp that lets you roam a super-stylised open world, using any means necessary to destroy all the mutants enemies roaming the fictional Sunset City. This irreverent approach translates to everything from gameplay, humour and even traversal.
Getting around Sunset City is as easy as grinding on rails, bouncing off cars and skidding around the roads. All these manoeuvres gel expertly to give you a strong sense of freedom, which, when combined with tight shooting controls and a glut of creative weapons, help make you a death-dealing machine. Sunset Overdrive never takes itself too seriously, making it one of the freshest Xbox One exclusives.
Master Chief’s latest adventure is his most ambitious and sprawling yet, being the first entry build from the ground up for the Xbox One and as such squeezing every ounce of power from it. The result is a two-pronged storyline that sees you play as Chief and new character Commander Locke, adding extra texture to the Halo Universe from multiple perspectives.
The classic Halo PVP you remember from the early games has successfully been recreated here, with such popular game modes as Capture the Flag and Team Death Match setting in the nostalgia across a new range of well-designed maps. Halo 5: Guardians is a return to form for Xbox’s trademark series, letting you shoot through stunning environments and memorable set pieces in a way that respects the many Halo stories that have come before.
It may have released only recently but already has Gears 5 easily earned its place on our list. Not only does it double down on the familiar cover-shooting mechanics and gruesome kills fans of the series have come to expect, but it does this while also bundling in one of the most ambitious campaigns ever seen in a Gears of War game. Kait Diaz is firmly the protagonist this time around who’s journey to discover her origins sees her venture into a first for the franchise: open world areas.
Gears 5 equally iterates the successful multiplayer offerings the series is known for, with Horde and PVP being as great as they’ve ever been, but now also featuring a new PVE mode called Escape. It’s here where you and two more of your friends must hold off legions of the Swarm, escaping out of the depths of an enemy nest as quickly and efficiently as possible. Not only is this the best Gears of War game, but also one of the best Xbox One exclusive games.
While some racing games choose to focus on pure simulation, the Horizon subset series of Forza games instead let players to speed through landscapes in true, arcade-like fashion. Forza Horizon 4 is the latest to let you do so, setting you loose within an incredibly realistic rendition of the United Kingdom, complete with dynamic weather cycles that will see you driving through snow, sleet, rain and more.
Featuring over 450 licenced cars just waiting for you to seek out and unlock, Forza Horizon 4’s map is simply stacked with different events to take part in and various locations to see. What’s more, you’ll accrue experience for everything you do, letting you purchase parts that can be attributed to any car in your garage. If you’re looking for a fun racing game that easily offers you the thrills and spills of competition, this is it. Forza Horizon 4 leads the pack of best Xbox One exclusive games.
If you’re STILL at a loss of Xbox One games to play, here are a few honourable mentions that are still worth checking out. All are brilliant in their own right, only further serving to highlight the eclectic library thriving on the Xbox platform Microsoft has slowly cultivated.
Indie 2D side-scrollers are a common occurrence these days, but rarely does one come along that’s so intent on charming and challenging you at the same time. Cuphead was that game for Xbox One, originally released in 2017 as a tribute to rubber hose animation and the run-and-gun games of yesteryear. You play as the titular Cuphead who makes a deal with the devil, forced to take on a gauntlet of inventive bosses in order to repay your debt. Whether alone or with a friend, Cuphead just barely misses the top 10 list here.
Hot off the heels of acclaimed Xbox 360 exclusive Alan Wake, developer Remedy wowed Xbox players once again in 2016 with the reality-bending action of Quantum Break. Seamlessly merging both game and TV by placing live-action episodes in between traditional gameplay segments, this is a third-person shooter with a difference. As protagonist Jack Joyce you manipulate time and use it as a weapon against enemies, shooting and time-blasting your way through an epic modern sci-fi tale.
Despite being a developer primarily known for creating such Nintendo classics as Conker’s Bad Fur day and Banjo Kazooie, Rare was eventually purchased by Microsoft and has been making great games like Sea of Thieves (featured on the list above). However, in 2015, Rare Replay released as an all-in-one collection boasting 30 classic titles developed by Rare. It’s well worth an honourable mention due to hits like Perfect Dark, Viva Pinata and more being collected all under one roof.
The zombie craze may have been done before in countless other games, but State of Decay 2’s unique survival spin on the genre helps to keep it fresh. Dropping players within a widely ravaged open world filled to the brim with the flesh-eaters, it’s up to you to scavenge together useful materials needed to making weapons and structures. The end goal is to see how long you can last, dodging dangerous hazards and working together as a team to outsmart the endless hordes.
Owning a zoo in real life can be a messy business, but thankfully this Xbox One exclusive lets you experience all those joys without having to get your hands dirty. You take on the role of a budding tycoon charged with building and sustaining your own zoo, doing your best throughout a 15-hour story campaign. There is, however, a freeform mode where you can let loose and manage your ideal catalogue of cute animals. In either you need to monitor the hunger, thirst and mood levels of all the creatures, keeping them happy and healthy to keep business booming.
Released almost 20 years after the original, 2013 saw the Xbox One debut alongside a ground-up remake to Killer Instinct. This reboot to the classic fighting game series released season-by-season, introducing characters new and old for competitors to master gradually. There’s now 29 in total, giving players a generous roster with which to test out their combo-based skills. Killer Instinct is exclusive to Xbox One and is a solid fighting game.
Now, we’re not saying that Crackdown 3 is an official Terry Crews simulator, but if you’re looking for a way to don the guise of the muscly Old Spice guy, this is far and away the best way. You take on the role of a future cop laying down the law in a sprawling neon-laden world. All manner of laser-based weaponry is at your disposal, as you work to collect as many orbs as possible, upgrading your outfit enough to take down the many factions threatening innocents.
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A fervent word whisperer and lifetime TimeSplitters fanatic, Aaron’s video game obsession started after playing GTA far too young. Since then, he’s tried to put it to good use writing for places like GamesRadar, Kotaku, and now Console Deals.
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