It’s a sad fact that the Xbox One has the fewest notable exclusives among the major game consoles. There are still a few, though, and these are some of the best.
When it comes to Xbox exclusives, it can be a bit of slim pickings. While Sony and Nintendo are cleaning up shop with their studios, Microsoft hasn’t had the best of luck. Still, there are a few games out there worth getting an Xbox One for.
Note: We’ll include a few games that are available on the Xbox One and PC if they’re not available on other consoles. Since Microsoft owns both Windows 10 and Xbox One, many of these games cross over to both. As long as they’re not available on a PS4 or a Switch, we’ll count “Microsoft exclusive” as close enough.
Many modern AAA games are so cinematic, they may as well be a movie. Quantum Break decided to take it a step further and become part TV show. The game takes a novel approach to storytelling, using nearly-lifelike character models of actors like Shawn Ashmore (X-Men Trilogy) and Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) during gameplay. Then, every once in a while, the game takes a break to show a live action, episodic portion of the story starring the very same actors you control during the game. This approach… Well, it kind of works! It’s not the smoothest storytelling experience, but it’s interesting enough to at least be worth checking out.
Even if the half-television-show aspect of the game doesn’t interest you, the gameplay might. The story centers around a time machine that causes a break in the way time works. This gives your character the ability to manipulate time, through actions like blocking bullets, zipping around a battlefield, and stopping time entirely. The in-universe explanation for these powers may be tenuous (one power gives you “time vision” to see enemies because sure why not), but the combat is satisfying enough that you might almost resent the game for interrupting your fun with a TV show.
Halo 5: Guardians
To say that the Halo series has had its ups and downs is a bit like saying that totaling your car is a mild inconvenience. Some Halo games have been genre-defining achievements that single-handedly breathe life into the Xbox console, while others are Spartan Assault. On this grand spectrum of boring to fantastic, Halo 5: Guardians clocks in solidly at “pretty okay!”
It’s hard for anything in the Halo franchise to truly approach what die-hard fans of the series expected. Guardians’ multiplayer elements are lauded as improvements over past entries in the game, but the story of the single-player campaign was divisive, to put it politely. If you want to see what Halo can be on a modern console, this might be your best bet to try it out.
Forza Motorsport 7 and Horizon 3
Every platform needs its flagship racing game. Playstation has Gran Turismo, Nintendo has Mario Kart, but the Xbox’s Forza series manages to stand out (for something other than ruining friendships). The first, Forza Motorsport 7 is a tried-and-true racing simulator. With a wide selection of cars to unlock, you can race your way through a driver career, complete with everything from interviews to brand wars. If you’re into racing as a sport and want to play at it yourself, this is the game for you.
Forza Horizon 3 is the latest in the sister series to the Motorsport line. In this game, instead of pretending to be a racecar driver, Horizon puts you in the open world of the Australian outback. Here you can explore a variety of vivid and beautiful settings in the land down under, and then race in them. It’s a different take on a similar game, so whichever one is more your speed, pick it up and hit the track.
Gears of War 4
Compared to Microsoft’s other Xbox-exclusive shooter franchise, Gears of War is comparatively more conservative with its release schedule. Gears of War 4 is the latest in that series, with a story that is largely (but not totally) divorced from the trilogy that came before it. Whether you’re a fan of the series or just getting into it, the experience of killing big bugs with bigger guns is still pretty central to the experience.
As always, you play as a disproportionately huge protagonist saving the world from an infestation of bug creatures that, despite being adequately dealt with in the previous game, now threaten the planet once again. This is a thinly veiled but sufficient excuse for some cover-based shooting. While it’s not the most stand out game of the series, it’s remarkably consistent with the quality you’ve come to expect from the franchise.
Ori and the Blind Forest
When we talk exclusives, you might tend to think of big budget, hyper-realistic games with amazing graphics. While Ori and the Blind Forest has one of those things—the visuals in this game are absolutely stunning—it’s a relatively small side-scrolling platformer that manages to be as charming as it is unique.
You play as Ori, a white glowing forest spirit, as you attempt to save the forest after a cataclysm nearly destroys it. Like the Metroid series, progression through the world is largely puzzle based, with some simple combat thrown in. You can (and often have to) backtrack throughout the huge world to unlock new powers and discover new corners of areas you’ve been to before. Much like the first 20 minutes or so of Wall-E, the story to this game uses very little in the way of dialogue, and yet manages to pull at your heart strings.
It’s hard to describe the world of Sunset Overdrive without using phrases like “fever dream” or “cornucopia of absurdity.” In this game, you play as an employee of an energy drink company that is accidentally turning its customers into mutated monsters and that definitely isn’t a metaphor for anything. The universe takes a lot of influence from modern punk, and might be one of the most colorful things created since the Speed Racer movie.
The gameplay centers heavily around skating around on pipes and using an arsenal of ridiculous weapons to mow down waves of zombified soda fans. It’s a bit like a hack and slash game if you replaced the hacking with firing guns, and the slashing with pulling a kickflip with a backside 180-degree ollie. Whatever that means. This game is an exercise in outrageous extravagance, but it’s hard to deny that it’s one of the most unique games you can play on the Xbox.