The PS4 is currently king of the consoles, boasting enviable exclusives like Spider-Man, God of War, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. But if you have an Xbox One, there are a few exclusives you should check out.
Earlier this year we gave a strong shoutout to some great Xbox One exclusives, but we’re back with an expanded list to include even more awesome content. Some of the games below are available on PCs as well, especially the downloadable indie titles. (After all, Microsoft has a vested interest in keeping PC gamers happy.) But you can’t play any of them on a PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch, so consider all of them reasons to keep your ‘ol Xbox underneath your television.
Sea of Thieves
After a somewhat anemic launch, Rare’s multiplayer pirate game has matured into a surprisingly immersive experience. The minimalist interface, colorful graphics, and great sound design in Sea of Thieves almost make sailing your ship with your buddies into a zen game…until you come across an enemy crew or a kraken and all hell breaks loose. Best played with a crew of people you know (and can communicate with via voice comms) or on your lonesome hunting for treasure and desperately avoiding bigger, badder crews, Sea of Thieves might not be for everyone. But those who dig its simple gameplay and bottle-of-rum aesthetic will be hooked.
Halo 5: Guardians and Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Obviously, the Halo shooter series is going to be a highlight for a Microsoft console. But between the release of Halo 5 and graphically-upgraded Master Chief Collection, you can play through a decade and a half of Halo single-player campaigns across five games and get the latest multiplayer modes once you’re finished with them. And don’t forget, there’s Halo Infinite (the sixth main entry in the series) to look forward to in 2019. Anyone looking for solid single player shooting and ruthless multiplayer will be well served by these titles.
Dead Rising 3
Zombies are a bit played out in pop culture, and video games are no exception. If you’re tired of the grim, emotionally draining, character-focused examinations of consumerism and modern isolation, then you can always duct tape a samurai sword to a garden rake and treat a city full of zombies like a moaning, shambling patch of weeds. Dead Rising is well over the insanity horizon for its hack-and-slash gameplay, kooky combo weapons, and insane boss fights—and the third entry in the franchise is a fan favorite and an Xbox exclusive.
Developer Rare has some of the most iconic and unique games ever released on consoles in its back library, and no less than thirty of them are packed into the Rare Replay omnibus game. There are titles ranging from pre-NES consoles all the way up to the Xbox 360, though, of course, Nintendo properties aren’t along for the ride. Not all of the games included are classics, but titles like Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie, Viva Piñata, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day are worth the price of admission alone. Perhaps best of all, some cheat codes are available for the older titles, so you might finally be able to get past that $%^&ing impossible jet bike level in Battletoads. This massive collection is now available for under $20 from many retailers.
Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon series
PlayStation players have Gran Turismo, and Xbox players have Forza. Racing enthusiasts can argue over which series captures the spirit of technical simulation best, but there’s no denying that the Forza Motorsport games are fantastic for gearheads, especially if you’ve got a decent steering wheel accessory. Forza Motorsport 7 includes over 700 meticulously-detailed cars and 32 tracks based on real-world racing circuits. Looking for something a little less structured? The Forza Horizon series expands the formula with an open world road system but the same demanding physics and handling engine. Forza Horizon 4 releases in early October.
An early exclusive for the Xbox One, Sunset Overdrive is a love letter to the medium of video games. The open world action system combines elements of games like Ratchet & Clank, Infamous, and Jet Grind Radio, with a collection of insane weapons and super-fun movement tools for getting around the map. Blasting mutant monsters in a neon-soaked punk world doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s a lot of fun, and the writing and voice acting are surprisingly engaging if you can get past the self-aware presentation.
Video games have been dabbling with more conventional storytelling for a long time. But Quantum Break does something truly new, by mixing its gameplay with a season of live action sci-fi TV. Okay, this might not seem revolutionary if you’re old enough to remember wave of Full Motion Video games in the 90s, but it’s awfully cool to see live action video transition into full 3D gameplay in a way that’s believable. The time travel storyline impacts the protagonist’s physics-defying superpowers and vice versa, and performances from Shawn Ashmore, Aiden Gillen, and Lance Reddick help spice things up in both the game sessions and the TV episodes. Quantum Break isn’t a typical game experience, but it’s well worth a playthrough if you’re looking for something different.
Killer Instinct: Definitive Edition
Killer Instinct has always been something of a second fiddle to its fellow ultra-violent fighting game franchise, Mortal Kombat. But the 2013 reboot was a welcome combination of 2D one-on-one gameplay and gorgeous (and definitely not-for-kids) 3D graphics. The new version’s fighting system combines the combo-heavy gameplay of the classic entries with a more fluid, easy-to-learn engine, making it fun to pick up even if you’re unfamiliar with the original games. The Definitive Edition improves upon the original Xbox One release by cramming all 26 characters and bonus skins into a single package, plus some nice bonuses like the original two games, a soundtrack, and developer commentary.
Masochistic gamers looking for a return to 2D platforming and unholy difficulty couldn’t hope for a better choice than Cuphead. The game’s Mega Man-style shooting is offset by stunning 2D animation that’s heavily inspired by cartoon shorts from the 1930s. This gives each and every level and enemy a bouncy, goofy feel that juxtaposes the insane difficulty curve. It really does look like you’re playing through an old Fleischer cartoon—one that’s constantly trying to murder your cutesy earthenware protagonist with waves of enemies and ridiculous bosses. It’s almost a shame that a game so artistically brilliant is off-limits to all but the most dedicated fans of twitchy platforming.