The Xbox One is one of the greatest stories of transformation - and comeback - of any game console. It started life chunky, slightly underpowered and slightly overpriced compared to its main rival PS4 - with a parent company, Microsoft, that seemed to have its eye off the ball.
Over its lifespan, it was refreshed with the neat and tidy Xbox One S and stunningly powerful Xbox One X models, while under Phil Spencer, the Xbox organisation set about putting gaming at the heart of everything they do, and putting gamers first with an admirably open approach to things like cross-platform play.
The X is far and away the most powerful console of that generation, making it the platform of choice for multiplatform games - at least, this side of a next-gen machine - but it's thanks to the amazing Game Pass subscription service as well as original exclusives such as Forza Horizon that Xbox One was able to hand over to the next console generation on a high.
And yet, even when Series X and S was out in the wild for almost a year, it was still not over for Xbox One - with Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 arriving as amongst the best games for the system.
Here's our personal pick of 20 of the best Xbox One games you can pick up - and remember, they are backwards compatible on a Series X or S if you want to revisit them once you have upgraded to the next generation.
What we said in our Tunic review: 'I reckon that the success of a game like Tunic, in particular - one that follows in the footsteps of games like Zelda and Dark Souls - hinges on the correct deployment of what I shall briefly have to call the pleasures of Distant Supermarket Thinking. In the best of these games, filled with action and adventure and wholesome excitement, we are perpetually wide-eyed, perpetually alert for delights that we know we cannot anticipate. Old ideas delivered in unfamiliar ways; things that seem familiar but are not what they initially appear to be.'
What we said in our Halo Infinite review: 'On a few occasions, amid the hoovering up of map icons, I stumbled across unmarked areas of interest: caves and Forerunner rooms that warranted a closer look. 343 has dabbled in environmental storytelling in some of these spaces, and they made me wonder what else the ring might have to offer... Somewhere between those map icons is tantalising mystery, and that's what Silent Cartographer was all about, wasn't it? Being on an alien world, not knowing the whys or the hows or the whos. Working things out while finishing the fight.
'Halo Infinite, underneath it all, is about just that. And, if nothing else, you can always rely on that golden triangle - Master Chief and his gun, grenade and Gravity Hammer - this time on your own terms, the best it's been in a decade.'
Forza Horizon 5
What we said in our Forza Horizon 5 review: 'In five games and nine years, Forza Horizon has undergone rapid expansion and complication but little fundamental change, for the best possible reason: because Playground Games knocked the concept out of the park on its first go. The studio's job is now to keep things on track while enforcing some semblance of order on this sprawling celebration of freedom. It's not always glamorous work, despite the shiny cars and picture-postcard destinations, and it shouldn't surprise or even disappoint you that Forza Horizon 5 can't offer the perfection of 3 or the bold new emphasis of 4. It is familiar in the best sense of the word: comforting, personable, tailored to you, welcoming to all. It's a dependable joy.'
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2
Open world games could learn a lot from Tony Hawk's, the gorgeous and luxurious recreating of a proper bit of PS1 royalty. These games aren't strictly open-world affairs as Ubisoft might make them, but each classic location feels like a universe in and of itself - roll around, jump, grind and link tricks together while ticking off a series of jobs that should be meaningless busywork but turn out to be anything but.
The genius here, alongside the beautifully simple controls and the wonderfully evocative impact animations, is that Tony Hawk is one of those games that doesn't just give you a sport, but an entire world, an entire subculture with its own colours and excesses. This is one of those games that makes movement a sheer delight. Play it and be immersed.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill
What we said in our Lonely Mountains: Downhill review: 'I love this game. I love the way the low-poly art style perfectly captures something about the natural world, about its love of form, its scatterings and outcroppings. I love the way there's no music to distract you from the soundtrack of the lonely biker, the burr of a distant woodpecker, the ticking of the bike chain. I love the way you can learn to get the absolute most out of your bike, learning to conserve your rechargeable dash, and knowing when you've got enough weight behind you to stop peddling for a bit. I love the dance between elegance and those sweeping corners and absolute calamity as you misjudge something and plant yourself in a tree.'
- Buy now from the Microsoft Store or play on Game Pass.
What we said in our Gears 5 review: 'Will Gears 5 rekindle Gears of War's glory days on Xbox 360? I doubt it. But The Coalition has finally stamped its personality on the series, even if it's taken a few missteps along the way. Gears 5's campaign reminded me just how much I love a good Gears of War campaign. I'm not trying too hard. Gears isn't trying too hard. We're holding hands, safe in the collective knowledge we're in this together, and it's going to be one hell of a ride.'
What we said in our Outer Wilds review: 'There's a twofold joy to Outer Wilds - the thrill of discovery itself, as you slowly decipher the variables that swirl around each not-so-distant world, and of seeing that thrill reflected in a phrase scribbled centuries ago by some castaway alien boffin... Moreover, the game's pint-sized solar system is full of models of itself, from the star lifecycle models you'll find in your home planet's observatory, to the holographic sandtray projections and swivelling, Stone Henge-scale orreries left behind by the Nomai. It's a setting mesmerised by its own intricacies, and it wants you to share in that delight.'
- Buy now from the Microsoft Store or play on Game Pass.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software's previous titles haven't exactly shied away from presenting players with seemingly insurmountable challenges, but Sekiro is something else. Getting beyond the opening area is a feat almost equal to surviving Dark Souls' Blighttown, and it only gets harder from there on out.
Good thing that the challenge is always fair, then, and that the combat system is brilliant - poised, balletic and with little flickers of brutality, all served by the strength of vision and clarity of art that has made FromSoft one of modern gaming's greatest studios. Sekiro's a tough game, but if you stick it out you're in for something truly special.
Read more in our Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review.
- Buy now from the Microsoft Store.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
What we said in our Resident Evil 2 review: 'Part of Resident Evil's challenge is weighing up the risk versus reward of travelling back through an infested area knowing full well that you may well end up having to use a healing item or spend more bullets than you can technically afford. That is, of course, part of the game's long-lasting appeal and though this Resident Evil 2 is a beautiful and at times incredibly modern-feeling game, beneath its new and impeccably polished trappings you can still feel the beating heart of the classic and increasingly aged framework it's built on.'
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
What we said in our Assassin's Creed Odyssey review: 'It's vast, there's no getting around that, but optional goat-hunting bounties aside the majority of your time with Odyssey is well respected. You're always a few hundred XP off a new level and new skill, or a mission away from completing an island's questline, or one Cultist kill behind upgrading your spear.
'Tonight I may finally track down a First Civilisation monster, or unlock another map region just to see what lies over the horizon. Odyssey is an enormous game - certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest game Ubisoft has ever made. It's an astonishing creation, extraordinarily generous and solidly crafted, and like its namesake is something that will live long in the telling.'
Sea of Thieves
What we said in our Sea of Thieves review: 'And what keeps me going once I'm drunk on gold and battered by the undead is that splinter of defiance in the heart - that part of Sea of Thieves that is unwilling to devolve into helpful shorthand and UI tricks. The map you hold in your hands as you wade ashore is an actual map, and it works as a map works in the real world. It is a tool for finding your way, but it is not a complete solution. As a result I've been walking around all week thinking about east and west and how to tell the difference between the two when I haven't got a compass to hand. I have been thinking about reckoning. This allows the game's fiction to create compelling moments - I have been genuinely lost in Sea of Thieves at times. But it also allows it to do what every game like this truly hopes to do - to cross over, to seep into your everyday life.'
- Buy now from the Microsoft Store or play on Game Pass.
Monster Hunter: World
What we said in our Monster Hunter World review: 'The truth of Monster Hunter - and arguably its greatest strength - is that you're never truly its master, and that every player, be they novice or veteran, is always learning something new. Monster Hunter World sees 13 years of evolution come crashing together with some new influences to create a very exciting breed of beast. This has always been a superlative series; with the release of World, it's only become easier to see that's an undoubtable truth.'
Fortnite's greatness isn't that it's the best battle royale out there but that it's a game that offers unparalleled ways to engage with it. You can play it as a walking simulator or an exploration game as easily as a shooter.
Character and animation combine to create a wonderful playground, while the incremental level design - level design by midnight elves - should change the ways that games tell their stories through their landscapes.
- Want to read more? See our all our Fortnite stories and guides. You can also download Fortnite now from the Microsoft Store.
What Remains of Edith Finch
What we said in our What Remains of Edith Finch review: 'What Remains of Edith Finch fits into the tradition that is often and disparagingly known as the 'walking simulator': you move through a series of environments triggering the next dose of narrative. But the genre descriptor flattens what is a rich and inventive piece of interactive work... This is studied, careful world-building and storytelling, and the spell it succeeds in casting is quite unlike that of any game that has come before.'Buy now from the Microsoft Store or play on Game Pass.
What we said in our Titanfall 2 review: 'It's the action on the battlefield that really cements Titanfall 2's status as a best-in-class online FPS. That rush of clearing out a few grunts, capping a couple of enemy pilots, earning your Titan, calling it in while waiting for your health to regen then wall-running and leaping into the space where your giant metallic pal slams into the ground, seamlessly being yanked aboard, then terrorising the ant-like soldiers below... that's Titanfall. It's truly unlike anything else you can feel in a competitive shooter, and Respawn has only amped up that rush. No other shooter feels this compelling. No other shooter fires me up like Titanfall 2.'
- Buy now from the Microsoft Store. Also available on EA Play and Game Pass Ultimate.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
What we said in our The Witcher 3 review: 'This is why I love The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It is crass in some places and overreaching in others, but despite its grandeur and its fantastical setting, it is a game made by, for and about human beings. It's lewd and perverse and poetic and hot-blooded. It's huge yet crafted; its systems are purposeful and it doesn't have a whiff of design by committee. It will last you months, yet not waste your time. Above all, it has a vivid, enduring personality, something that is exceedingly rare among its breed of mega-budget open-world epics. For my money, it's the greatest role-playing game in years.'
- Buy now from the Microsoft Store.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
What we said in our Halo: The Master Chief Collection review: 'The Collection is an instantaneous embrace of past and present that combines gaming's powerful sense of nostalgia with its perpetual arms race of processing and graphical power. It is part of a growing appreciation of the past in a medium which until recently was resolutely forward-looking. Proust would bloody love it.'
What we said in our Sunset Overdrive review: 'If you wanted to be uncharitable, you could voice the suspicion that a great many baseball caps were turned backwards in the echoing board room where this project was greenlit, but with the campaign done and the city freshly filled with challenges, I don't really feel like being uncharitable. Beneath the glorious tech, and once the writing relaxes a little, Sunset Overdrive's wonderfully lurid and heartfelt - a bit like playing an old 4AD album sleeve. If you get that reference, you'll probably get this, too.'
What we said in our GTA 5 review: '...It's the first game in the series where you feel as though you can strike out in any direction and find something entertaining to do. You can wander onto a golf course and find yourself in a reasonable facsimile of a Tiger Woods game, enhanced after every shot by Michael swearing and banging his club on the fairway. There are innumerable well-hidden items to recover, some of which are well protected. At one point I drove into the desert and found some sort of camper van, got out of my car, heard a weird zapping noise, then woke up naked on a railway line. Mystery! Serendipity! There's a huge prison complex I haven't even been to yet. It goes on and on. GTA 5 may not be the Hollywood-beating crime story it wants to be, then, but it's the best video game it's ever been, and I'll take that.'
What we said in our Minecraft review: 'Minecraft is a towering achievement in the very possibilities of gaming, and it does this without losing itself to either esoterica or cynicism. It is a game anyone can play and anyone can get something out of, no matter how skilled or imaginative they are. They will make something and they will have an experience that feels like theirs and theirs alone.'
Final note: If you came to the end of this list and was wondering, 'where is Elden Ring?', though it is one of the best adventures in recent years (our Elden Ring review explains more) know the base Xbox One version is an "exceptionally compromised release", according to Digital Foundry - bumping it off this list. As such, it's best to wait until you have a Series X or S before you decide to dive in. In the meantime, there's always Sekiro...
For more curated best-of lists like this, meanwhile, feel free to argue in the comments section of the following, too:
- The best Xbox Series X games
- The best PS5 games
- The best PS4 games
- The best Nintendo Switch games
- The best VR games
- The best racing games
If you're looking to upgrade, meanwhile, here's our guide to Xbox Series X stock and where to buy it.
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