Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Best Xbox One Games

While Microsoft is continuing to support its last-gen console, we have officially transitioned into the Xbox Series X|S generation, meaning we’ve reached the end of the Xbox One era. The console was home to countless excellent games over the past seven years, making it difficult to nail down our list of the 25 best Xbox One games.

These games were chosen by the entire IGN content team and – after plenty of internal debate – and represent what we believe to be the very best that Xbox One has to offer.

Most recent updates were made in May 2021.

More on the best of Xbox:

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25. The Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds may be a Sci-Fi game, but it has a strange sort of magic to it. Its open-ended nature could leave you drifting through space (and often into planets at literal breakneck speed) without much idea of what to do, but this handcrafted solar system is filled to the brim with enticing breadcrumbs, tantalizing story teases, and some downright incredible sights that constantly draw you into one breathtaking moment after another.

It’s a world begging to be explored, and the time loop mechanic at its core both consistently leaves you wanting more and adds a terrifyingly tense pressure to its otherwise serene exploration. It may take you a moment to get your space legs, but Outer Wilds is a trek absolutely worth taking for yourself.

24. Destiny 2

Destiny 2's new seasonal model was met with a bit of hesitance at first, but what Bungie has delivered is instead a compelling narrative that intertwines story beats from season to season. The fact that it has been added to Game Pass only sweetens the deal bringing more players into the fold. Whether you're looking to push back the darkness with Stasis or just shoot things with cool guns Destiny has proven the test of time and keeps players coming back.

23. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a masterclass of atmosphere, storytelling, and the marriage of mechanical and conceptual design. The care and attention Ninja Theory has clearly poured into Senua and her story has created something amazing. Hellblade’s beautiful presentation and dense story reinforce its serious subject matter in this vivid tale of harrowing darkness.

22. Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is a revolutionary take on the Yakuza game formula. Not only does it feature a new protagonist, Ichiban Kasuga, but the series' classic beat ‘em up action transforms into a turn-based RPG. Add in a whole cast of laughably fun misfits behind Ichiban and hilarious side missions of delivering formula to diaper-wearing gangsters, and Like a Dragon takes Yakuza's absurdity to the next level.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon is also just as much a drama as it is a comedy with its main storyline revolving around betrayal. The game also touches on themes of those who are marginalized from immigrants to sex workers.

The makers behind Yakuza promise we will see more turn-based RPG games from the series going forward.

21. Gears Tactics

Just as Halo ended up making an excellent real-time strategy game in the form of Halo Wars, so too does Gears of War brilliantly make the leap to becoming an XCOM-like turn-based strategy game in Gears Tactics. All of the classic Gears of War gameplay is here – cover-based combat, up-close executions, e-holes, and much more – just in a more strategic form. The formula works fantastically, and the story is pretty good too, thanks to the usual high-quality character development and plenty of gorgeous in-engine cutscenes. Franchises rooted in one genre don't often make the leap to a completely different one so seamlessly, but Gears Tactics pulls it off.

20. No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky Next is the story that the entire industry points to when looking for a comback tale and it's well deserved. Hello Games managed to continue supporting No Man's Sky with several updates that added quality of life features, like Expeditions that add a new set of challenges you can play with your friends, or the overhauled space stations, new enemies, cross-platform bases, and a ton of other community asks. Hello Games really does deserve credit because what they've created is beloved by players everywhere.

19. Elder Scrolls Online

There are plenty of excellent reasons to play Elder Scrolls Online on Xbox. One, it's an excellent online RPG that continues to get better with each new content update (side note: Morrowind is in here!). Two, it now officially takes advantage of the Xbox Series X. Three, with Todd Howard and Bethesda Game Studios hard at work on Starfield, we won't be seeing The Elder Scrolls VI for quite some time. And finally and perhaps most awesomely, ESO is on Xbox Game Pass! It's an MMO that can be dipped in and out of at will; no need to treat it like a second job. Just soak yourself in the world of Tamriel and enjoy!

18. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order does an amazing job making you master the art of combat with perfectly timed parry’s that you can follow up with a flourish of your lightsaber or the force power of your choosing. This is especially rewarding on the harder difficulties as you’ll need to master all of your abilities to conquer the many foes after Cal Kestus. In addition to superb gameplay Fallen Order adds a cherry on top in the form of a memorable story that will have you travelling across the galaxy far far away with a band of misfits by your side. A great story, stellar gameplay, and plenty of Empire baddies to slice away at await you on this adventure.

17. Titanfall 2

The original Titanfall was great, but the sequel delivered everything the first game failed to: an outstanding single-player campaign and some meat on Titanfall's strong but otherwise skinny multiplayer bones. The multiplayer part was obvious: more Titans, more game modes, more maps, etc. And Titanfall 2 delivered there. But that campaign almost came out of nowhere. It may not have had much of a story, but it's one of the best shooter campaigns of this generation on the back of its smart, variety-is-king design. You'll see when we mean when you get to *that* gameplay twist.

16. Apex Legends

Respawn's slick gunplay came to life in an exciting new way when its battle royal Apex Legends first launched in 2019, and since then, it's only gotten better. Apex Legends' regular seasonal content drops are impressive. Not only can we expect a new Legend complete with story content and a neat kit, there's often also map changes (and sometimes a whole new map), a weapon or mechanic, and quality of life updates alongside the battlepass. Those regular updates plus the occasional holiday event and addition of quests keep Apex Legends in our rotation.

15. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Metal Gear Solid V – both The Phantom Pain and its precursor Ground Zeroes – is, without question, the most ambitious entry in the Metal Gear series, both in terms of its gameplay mechanics and scattered (some might say incomplete) story. Featuring what is undoubtedly one of the most complex sandboxes in gaming history, The Phantom Pain gives players a huge arsenal of weapons, vehicles, gadgets, and AI companions to approach missions creatively. As always, stealthy tactical gameplay is rewarded heavily, but if a mission goes sideways (or if you’re feeling squirrelly) the game doesn’t punish you for getting loud and messy. While the full scope of Hideo Kojima’s ultimate vision may have been stymied by creative differences with Konami, Metal Gear Solid 5 is still an absolutely worthwhile adventure for open-world stealth fans.

14. Ori and the Will of the Wisp

Ori and the Will of the Wisps picks up the torch that Blind Forest lit in 2015 and carries it to new heights. The foundation was already there, but Moon Studios spent the five years between games building out a livelier world, a fully-loaded moveset with a new emphasis on combat, and another helping of bittersweet story. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the best platformers you will find on any platform thanks to its creative puzzles and periods of racing platforming punctuated with soulful moments that give its characters a chance to breathe and shine.

13. Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 isn't just the best Forza game ever made, it's the single greatest car game of the last decade, and maybe of all-time. With its four-season fictionalization of beautiful Great Britain and focus on socially fueled fun rather than hardcore simulation racing, it’s the equivalent of a perfect, breezy, 72-degree summer day distilled into video game form. It has a gigantic, diverse selection of cars , its seasons change the look and feel of the experience, and its soundtrack is bright, cheery, and bound to put you in a good mood. Somehow, Forza Horizon keeps getting better, which seemed all but impossible after the sublime Forza Horizon 3.

12. Gears 5

Gears 5 loses the “of War” part of its title but absolutely none of its third-person cover-based shooter gameplay excellence. The chainsaw gun-wielding soldiers return and it’s finally time to uncover the mystery of Kait Diaz’s past and resolve the cliffhanger from the end of Gears of War 4. The story of Gears 5 is heartfelt, personal, and engaging, while multiplayer is once again a blast, too. The staple Versus and Horde modes are joined by the interesting new Escape mode that challenges a team of three to get the heck out of a map before a lethal poison cloud envelops them. Bring on Gears 6!

11. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

This collection of six Halo games stands tall for the campaigns alone – particularly the completely remastered Halo 2 Anniversary – but now that developer 343 has updated the once-maligned multiplayer suite along with new features, enhancements, and an overall level of polish, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is an absolute must-own that just keeps getting better year after year. This is the quintessential Halo experience that has finally fulfilled all of its massive potential. If you're a longtime fan of the Halo universe or a newcomer who has no idea where to start in the long saga of the Master Chief, you can't do better than this.

10. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice offers an exhilarating dose of what FromSoftware does best with new, skill-heavy combat systems that require precision and perfection to master. The supernatural take on Japanese history makes Sekiro’s obligatory moody atmosphere and cryptic story stand apart from its Souls-Borne siblings, and the new additions to traversal and combat offer unique and welcome updates to the already-excellent playbook of fighting tooth and nail for every inch of progress. Its specific brand of action may not be for everyone, but those who stick it out will find Sekiro to be an immensely rewarding journey.

9. Inside

We define a 10 out of 10 as a "masterpiece," and Inside is every bit of one. The non-sequel follow-up to the sublime Limbo took six years to make, and it looks like five of those were spent on polish. Every pixel, animation, ray of light, and audio cue feels considered – not to mention the puzzles themselves. Inside won't strain your brain too hard, but its impactful non-verbal story will leave you contemplating what it all means for days after you finish it. Inside is simply unforgettable and should not be missed.

8. It Takes Two

Admittedly, It Takes Two won't exactly melt your GPU with its graphical intensity. Is it a nice looking game with a whimsical, fairy-tale tone and graphics to match? Yes, most certainly. But you need to play It Takes Two (with a friend or loved one either on the couch or via online play, of course, since It Takes Two cannot be played alone) because it is simply one of the best and most unique multiplayer experiences you can find these days. Writer-director Josef Fares – yes, he of "F*** the Oscars!" fame – follows up the equally excellent A Way Out with this, a story about a failing marriage that might just be able to be saved thanks to the couple being turned into children's dolls and forced to work together to find their way back to their human forms. Play it and we promise you'll smile.

7. Control

Control won IGN’s 2019 Game of the Year award for good reason: it’s an exceptional third-person action-adventure that does nearly everything right. Developer Remedy has long been known for its storytelling prowess, and that’s on full display here. Great characters solving an engaging mystery in a beautiful brutalist-inspired setting, plus one of the best takes on telekinesis in gaming all combine to make Control a can’t-miss experience. It’s a game that keeps you guessing from the opening to the end credits, and even then you’ll be wanting to know more about its bizarre world.

6. Hitman 3

Agent 47's latest (and for now, last) outing is not only a much better game than its two predecessors, it's a much prettier one too. Hitman 3 has some truly breathtaking scenes from an eye-candy perspective. The first mission in Dubai will get you hooked, but the remaining five – including the second one, which is essentially like a playable version of the fantastic film Knives Out – will keep your Xbox powered on for hours as you try out the myriad ways to take out your targets. This is the best Hitman since Blood Money.

5. Doom Eternal

Doom Eternal is arguably the best single-player FPS campaign we’ve seen in the entire Xbox One generation. Its entire gameplay loop is built around you being a badass – complete with other characters you encounter in the game being very, very aware of your badassery – but Eternal meets you in the middle by throwing literally dozens of demons at you at a time to even the odds. As the enemies get bigger and nastier during the campaign, you get faster, smarter, and more powerful too. It’s an incredible combat dance that’s quite simply unlike anything else on Xbox One.

4. Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed has essentially evolved from a stealth action-adventure to a full-blown open-world RPG, and Assassin's Creed Valhalla is perhaps the best example of its modern form yet. You'll never be lacking in things to do within its Norse-Viking world, and when you do get into combat, it's as weighty and brutal as it's ever been. What's more, if you've never played an Assassin's Creed game before, you can jump right into this one, as even though there's a larger universe at play here, there's no pre-required knowledge that will stop you from thoroughly enjoying your time here.

3. Red Dead Redemption 2

Both a stunning technical achievement and a new gold standard for video game storytelling in an open-world setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the best games Rockstar has ever made, and one of the greatest games ever, period. While its story is a complex tale of honor, loyalty, and loss woven around rich characters brought to life by nuanced performances, the real star of Red Dead 2 is its world. A sprawling and stunning recreation of the American south and west, it’s packed so full of detail that getting from A to B is virtually impossible without going off the beaten path to some other distraction. Whether it’s hunting, fishing, taking on any number of side quests for a parade of memorable NPCs, or just stopping to admire the verdant scenery, every single aspect of its world is deeply considered in its own right; providing a bespoke level of detail that makes Red Dead 2 nothing short of a masterpiece.

2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Few RPGs manage to put forth a larger chunk of sophisticated content than The Witcher 3. Its massive open-world areas impress, in terms of both scope and density. Each massive area is generously dotted with great monsters to slay, tantalizing mysteries to solve, and personal stories to unfurl. It’s also one of the most impressive overall productions in gaming history, with reams of great dialogue performed by a stellar voice cast, an incredible original soundtrack, visuals that qualify as both a technical and artistic achievement, and a story with more branches than you could shake David Cage at. Package all that with two of the best and biggest expansions in recent memory, and you’ve got not only one of the best Western RPGs of all time, but a game that sets the bar for open-world adventures for years to come.

1. Grand Theft Auto V / GTA Online

Grand Theft Auto V’s sprawling, meticulously detailed map is still the high-water mark to which all other modern open-world adventures aspire. Not only is it huge, it’s impossibly dense with excellent content – and that’s not just the driving and shooting that make up its campaign, nor is it limited to the numerous side activities that could amount to a full game on their own – but one rich with all the sights, sounds, and bustling activity you'd expect to find in a city teeming with humans, seedy underbelly included.

Its single-player story is an engaging crime epic, one that smartly conveys Rockstar’s satirical take on the 21-st century American dream through three different playable characters, and when you’ve finally rolled credits on that - after some 30-plus hours - there’s literally years worth of content to dig into in its multiplayer component, GTA Online.

Featuring everything from elaborate multi-phase heists to custom high-stakes racing to flying DeLoreans and Mad Max-style vehicular deathmatches, Grand Theft Auto Online offers unparalleled variety, and with so much to do, explore, and play with, both with friends and on your own, there’s no question that GTA 5 remains the best Xbox One game ever.

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Spring 2021 Updates:

Added: Destiny 2, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Gears Tactics, No Man's Sky, Elder Scrolls Online, It Takes Two, Hitman 3, Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Removed: The Witness, Devil May Cry 5, The Outer Worlds, Monster Hunter World, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil 2 Remake, Sunset Overdrive

Shifted: Titanfall 2 (No. 15 to No. 17), Apex Legends (No. 14 to No. 16), MGS 5 (No. 22 to No. 15), Ori and the Will of the Wisps (No. 7 to No. 14), Forza Horizon 4 (No. 8 to No. 13), Gears 5 (No. 11 to No. 12), Halo MCC (No. 9 to No. 11), Sekiro (No. 6 to No. 10), Inside (No. 12 to No. 9), Control (No. 4 to No. 7).

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Also make sure to check out our lists of the Best PS4 Games, the Best PC Games, and the Best Nintendo Switch Games.


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