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The best Xbox Series X/S games: Time for next-gen gaming
After a long wait, the Xbox Series X and Series S are finally out! Now you just have to figure out how to get your hands on one. Both are backwards compatible with an enormous catalog of games. But if you really want to get the next-gen experience you’ll need to pick up some of the best Xbox Series X games on the market.
Right now, there aren’t too many pure next-gen releases, but there are a lot of cross-gen games that automatically upgrade whenever you pick up the new consoles. We’ve combed through both to put together this list of the best Xbox Series X games. At the end, we’ve also listed a few upcoming Xbox Series X games to look forward to in the coming months.
Best Xbox Series X games
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Ubisoft’s latest entry in the long-running Assassin’s Creed series takes the action North. The game centers on a Norwegian Viking named Eivor, who can be male or female depending on your choice. Like Origins and Odyssey, it takes place in an enormous open world that’s yours to explore.
Although it’s available on the Xbox One and PS4, hardware optimizations make this one of the best Xbox Series X games you can buy right now. Load times are significantly faster and it supports (dynamic) 4K 60fps. Previous-gen consoles can only handle 30fps, so by comparison the Xbox Series X gameplay is buttery smooth.
Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War
Call of Duty is a series that needs no introduction, and the 2020 release builds on its strength. This is a direct sequel to the first Black Ops released back in 2010. The game puts you in the shoes of CIA Officer Russell Adler during the Cold War, hunting down a Soviet spy.
The campaign is worth the price of entry, but as always, the game is all about multiplayer. It sees the return of 6v6 and 12v12 game modes from previous entries, plus a new 40 player mode and exceptional customization. You can also play this one on the Xbox One and PS4, but if you want 120fps and ray tracing, you’ll need an Xbox Series X.
Devil May Cry 5
Devil May Cry 5 made a big splash when it was first released in 2018, winning several awards for its unique design and gameplay. Now Capcom is re-releasing it for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 with upgraded visuals, 3D sound, and an added playable character in Vergil.
The real reason that DMC 5 is one of the best Xbox Series X games is that it’s one of the few to support ray tracing. You have the freedom to choose between high framerates (up to 120fps), smooth 60fps with ray tracing at 1080p, or full-resolution 4K 30fps with ray tracing. No matter which one you choose, you’ll have to improve your skills to best the new incredibly difficult Legendary Dark Knight Mode.
For racing fans, Dirt 5 is a must-play Xbox Series X game. Like Codemasters’ other rally games, it focuses on off-road racing, with modes for rallycross, buggies, ice racing, and more. There’s both an extensive single-player career mode and online play available.
Dirt 5 is part of Microsoft’s Smart Delivery program, so no matter which version you buy you’ll get the best possible experience. On the Series X, that includes different graphical settings for 4K/60fps, 4K/30fps, or 1440p/120fps.
The exciting conclusion to the Hitman trilogy was finally released in January of 2021. It’s easily one of the best Xbox Series X games to buy for your new console. Picking up where Hitman 2 left off, it once again puts you in the shoes of Agent 47, tasked with hunting down members of a nefarious secret society.
Hitman 3 features incredible world-building and fantastic level design with lots of nooks to explore. Most of those nooks also reveal creative ways to murder your targets, so exploration is a key element. Just make sure you play the first two games, or you’ll miss out on a significant amount of the story.
Fans of psychological thrillers will love The Medium. Reeling after the death of her father, Marianne travels to a mysterious abandoned hotel, where she uses her skills as a medium to uncover its dark, hidden history.
To make things interesting, you swap between the “real” world and the spirit realm or even exist in both at the same time. Puzzles increase in difficulty as you progress in the story. The game is fairly short at about 10 hours, but it’s also the only Xbox Series X exclusive you can get (although it’s also on PC). If you don’t want to pay full price, it’s also included in Xbox Game Pass.
Halo: Master Chief Collection
The collection includes Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4. Each game, even those released nearly two decades ago on the original Xbox, feature graphical upgrades and new multiplayer modes to keep you occupied until the next Halo release.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
The two Ori games are some of the best platformers you can buy, and the upgraded Xbox Series X game is the best way to experience it. It doesn’t support ray-tracing, but seeing the gorgeous environments at 4K and 120fps will truly take your breath away.
If you already have the game, you can get the upgraded version for free. And if you don’t, it’s included in Xbox Game Pass. Or if you want to buy it, it’s relatively inexpensive at less than $30.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs: Legion was one of the most talked-about Xbox Series X launch titles (although released on previous-gen consoles, too). And it’s mostly lived up to the hype. It’s set in a futuristic London where an oppressive surveillance state has taken over after a series of terrorist bombings. Your hacker group DedSec has been framed, and it’s up to you to recruit members and clear your name.
One of the most interesting things about the game is that you can recruit and play as just about anyone in the game. Your favorite characters can also die if you enable permadeath. So you’ll have to be careful and creative if you want them to survive until the very end.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Yes, the beloved Yakuza series is hitting next-gen consoles! Well, technically it’s cross-gen, but the Xbox Series X version features improved graphics and dramatically faster load times.
The unusual RPG has a variety of colorful characters and an interesting storyline that’s unlike anything you’ve played before. That includes previous Yakuza games, as this one shakes up the tried-and-true formula quite a bit. It’s a great entry point into the series for new fans, and you can get the best version available thanks to Microsoft’s Smart Delivery program.
Outriders is a sci-fi co-op shooter from People Can Fly that’s set in a dark, dystopian future. It’s set on the planet Enoch, where a mysterious energy storm gave inhabitants and colonists superpowers.
You can create your own Outrider and play with 1-3 other players via co-op. There’s so much to explore in this game and the gunplay is awesome and mixed in with other unique powers and weaponry.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village (which is essentially RE8) picks up a few years after where Resident Evil 7 left off. The first-person perspective is back, but this time Ethan and Mia are headed to a eerie European village after a chance encounter with Chris Redfield.
The graphics are fantastically spooky and the story will hook you right from the beginning. And surely you’ve seen the legendary vampire woman all over the internet, Lady Dimitrescu. Although she’s certainly not the only reason you should play this game, her story is fascinating.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator has been the gold standard for flight sims for a while now, and the latest release offers the most compelling experience yet. You get to experience real-time weather, like wind speed, temperature, rain, and even lightning. This is a purely next-gen affair (sorry Xbox One owners).
There are 20 detailed planes with different flight models and 30 handcrafted airports to experience. And you’ll certainly have your choice of where to fly with over 2 million cities. You’ll even see realistic mountains, roads, trees, rivers, animals, and more. It’s easy to feel like you’re actually a pilot when you’re playing this game.
Upcoming Xbox Series X games
There are many more great Xbox Series X games slated for release in the coming months, but here are just a few of the titles we’re looking forward to.
- Halo Infinite — Fall 2021: Easily the most anticipated Xbox Series X game, the latest entry in the Halo series was initially slated as a release title but was pushed to 2021. It’s likely to be the flagship Xbox Series X game, although it’s also coming to PC and Xbox cloud gaming.
- The Ascent — 2021: Yet another co-op shooter, this time from a top-down perspective. It takes place in a cyberpunk future where humans and aliens live side-by-side. Not too many details are available on this one yet.
- Far Cry 6 — 2021: The latest entry in Ubisoft’s first-person shooter will put you in the shoes of a guerilla fighter trying to take down a fictional Caribbean dictator (played by Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame). It was initially scheduled for release in February 2021, but it’s since been delayed to “mid-2021.”
- Rainbow Six Quarantine — 2021: Rainbow Six Siege proved to be a smash hit, but Quarantine is set to take the series in a new direction. It takes place a few years in the future, where a dangerous alien parasite threatens to exterminate the entire human race.
- Perfect Dark — TBD: More than twenty years after the acclaimed stealth-shooter hit the N64 (and 10 years since its Xbox 360 remaster), Perfect Dark is finally coming back. The first title developed by first-party studio The Initiative, it will be included in Game Pass on release day, although we still have no idea when that might be.
- Starfield — TBD, possibly Winter 2022: While Elder Scrolls 6 is also in the works, Starfield is the Xbox Series X game we’re most looking forward to from Bethesda. Not much has been revealed about the new IP, but it’s a Bethesda RPG set in space. What more could you ask for?