Xbox Game Pass is so far the best “Netflix for video games” option available on the market — and with good reason. Major console and PC games are getting more and more expensive. The retail price for major Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 games is now reaching $70. With Game Pass, you can instantly unlock over 100 games to play on your PC or console for one small monthly fee.
So what is Xbox Game Pass and what does it have to offer? We’ve outlined everything you need to know in this in-depth explainer. Note that we also have a separate guide for its more expensive brother, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
What is Xbox Game Pass?
Xbox Game Pass is a game subscription service launched by Microsoft in 2017. Initially it was only offered for Xbox consoles, and featured over 100 games to download and play offline. The catalog shifts every few weeks, and includes both first-party games from Microsoft’s studios and third-party games from other studios.
Read also: Xbox Series X review: A legend in the making
Starting in 2018, the company also announced that all new first-party games will be added to Game Pass on day one. This means that you can play huge releases like Halo: Infinite right away for a fraction of the full retail price. Subscribers also get special deals and discounts when purchasing games outright.
There’s also a separate Game Pass for PC. It has a slightly different catalog than the console version (with a lot of overlap), but still has over 100 Windows games to download and play at any time. It also features discounts on a huge swath of games.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Game Pass does not include Xbox Live Gold. If you want to play online, you will have to pay for it separately, or upgrade to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
What about Game Pass Ultimate?
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is a more expensive subscription plan that launched in 2019. It includes all of the perks of Xbox Game Pass for console and PC, plus a few extras. One of the biggest additions is Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly known as Project xCloud), which is a cloud gaming platform lets you stream games directly to your phone.
Another benefit is EA Play, which is EA’s standalone subscription service that normally costs $4.99 a month. You also get Xbox Live Gold, which costs $9.99 a month on its own.
Considering Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is just $14.99 a month, it’s an even better value than the cheaper Game Pass. Learn more about it in our Xbox Game Pass Ultimate guide, or check out subscription plans at the link below.
How does it work?
Xbox Game Pass, true to the “Netflix for games” ideal, has a rotating library of games that you can download any play at any time. It isn’t quite as immediate as Netflix though, since you still need to install the games on your local PC or Xbox console. You can also queue game installs on your home Xbox from the Game Pass app.
Once installed, you are free to play the game as much as you want. That is, as long as you remain subscribed to Game Pass. You may also lose access if a game is removed from the service, but generally Microsoft provides plenty of warning beforehand.
Even if a game is removed, all of your save data is kept safely in the cloud. You can resume right where you left off if you decide to purchase. Games generally have a healthy discount before leaving Game Pass, too.
Just like Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass can also be shared with other profiles on the same Xbox. All you have to do is designate it as your “Home” Xbox. More details on that here.
How much does Xbox Game Pass cost?
Xbox Game Pass costs $9.99 a month, and Game Pass for PC also costs $9.99 a month. The Ultimate version of the service costs $14.99 a month. In that respect, the Ultimate tier is by far the better value, since it combines Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass for PC, plus Xbox Live Gold (a $9.99 a month service on its own), EA Play, and the beta cloud gaming service.
It’s easy to sign up directly through Microsoft or your Xbox console. You can also purchase 1, 3, 6, or 12-month digital codes for the service at online retailers, including Amazon.com.
Is it worth it?
If you’re relatively new to console gaming, Xbox Game Pass is an incredible value. Anyone who just picked up an Xbox Series X or Series S can instantly unlock some of the best games of the past generation, plus access to new first-party games on day one. That’s enough content to keep your game queue filled indefinitely.
For PC gamers, the value is even better. As long as you have a capable gaming PC, you can play hundreds of games both locally and online. Game Pass for PC includes tons of great strategy games, too, so gamers of all types will find something to suit them.
That said, console gamers who like to play online will find better value in Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. As mentioned above, it adds tons of killer features for just $5 more per month. There really is no better deal in gaming right now.
Xbox Game Pass Games
The list of Xbox Game Pass Games is constantly shifting, with over 100 games on both the console and PC versions of the service. Microsoft adds at least five games to the service every month. These can come from the Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or original Xbox catalogs.
Here’s a brief list of some of the best games on Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. Unless otherwise noted, all games listed below are available on both PC and console.
Best games on Xbox Game Pass:
- Age of Empires II (PC only)
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
- Cities: Skylines
- Dead Cells
- Destiny 2 (console only)
- Doom Eternal
- Dragon Quest XI S
- Forza Horizon 4
- Gears 5
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Hollow Knight
- Microsoft Flight Simulator (PC only)
- Minecraft Dungeons
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps
- Outer Worlds
- Resident Evil 7
- Slay the Spire
- Streets of Rage 4
- Tetris Effect: Connected
- What Remains of Edith Finch
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (console only)
Where is it available?
Xbox Game Pass is available in most countries around the world. Here’s the full list of supported countries and regions:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
How is the mobile app?
The Xbox Game Pass mobile app for Android and iOS allows subscribers to keep track of their games. You will also get notifications when new games go live on the service. You can even use the app to queue games for download on your Xbox console while you are not at home. This will allow you to start playing the game when you get back to your house and avoid lengthy downtime.
The Android version of the app is also how Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers stream and play games via the cloud gaming service. That feature is not available on the iOS version of the app, but may be added in the near future.
Xbox Game Pass alternatives
Xbox Game Pass is an incredible value, but it’s far from the only “Netflix for games” contender. There are several similar subscription services from other respected publishers. In some cases these offer an even larger catalog than Game Pass.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the best Game Pass alternatives:
Electronic Arts recently combined its two-game subscription services, EA Access and Origin Access Basic, into the new brand EA Play. EA as a publisher is most famous for sports titles, but it also produces a host of titles under the Star Wars franchise. This subscription service unlocks a selection of EA games for $4.99 a month, or $29.99 for a year. You can also get access to new EA games before they’re released for 10 hours of free demo time, plus discounts when purchasing full games.
EA Play is available on PC, Xbox, and Playstation platforms. There’s an additional EA Play Pro service just for PC games, which offers unlimited access to the publisher’s newest games, plus all of extra DLC content. It costs $14.99 a month or $99.99 a year.
EA and Microsoft have now added EA Play in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate bundle for no additional cost. However, for now the integration is limited to console games, with no PC support. Some EA Play games are also available on Microsoft’s Cloud game streaming service for Android devices. EA Play will also be available at no additional cost for people who just sign up for Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass for PC service in 2021.
Unlike Xbox Game Pass or EA Play, this service is strictly for PC owners. Ubisoft+ offers PC gamers access to over 100 games for the price of $14.99 a month. That price does include new games from Ubisoft the day they are released, plus you get the full versions of those games, including any additional DLC content. It also offers early access and betas for upcoming games.
Ubisoft is best known for long running franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, Far Cry, Rainbow Six, and more. There’s a good mix of action and strategy titles on the service. There are games dating back more than two decades, so you can also get a nostalgia fix for classic PC games.
Not to be completely outdone by its rival Microsoft, Sony has put together a solid subscription service in PlayStation Now (or PS Now). It includes an enormous library of over 800 PS2, PS3, and PS4 games to play on your console or stream on PC. It even includes some big hitters like Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us.
Like Game Pass Ultimate, PS Now also lets you choose between downloading a game to play it locally on your console or streaming from the cloud. Sony’s cloud streaming service also supports cloud gaming on PCs, which still isn’t available from Microsoft. That said, you can’t stream to your mobile device, which is a major feature of Xbox cloud gaming.
PS Now also doesn’t include new first-party games on day one. In fact, it can take a year or more for new games to hit the service. This makes it slightly less attractive for gamers who want to stay on the cutting edge. Still, if you’ve been away from the PlayStation ecosystem for a while, PS Now is worth the price of entry. It costs $9.99 a month or $59.99 a year.
Q: Do I get to keep all of the games if I stop using the service?
A: No. Once you cancel your subscription to Xbox Game Pass, all non-purchased games are no longer available to you. That includes games you have downloaded to your Xbox console or Windows 10 PC. Save data and purchased DLC items for any game you accessed via the service are saved. However, you can not use them unless you actually purchase the games.
Q: Do games leave Xbox Game Pass?
A: Yes. While Microsoft constantly adds new games to the service, it also removes others on a regular basis. You can keep up with Microsoft’s current list of Xbox and PC games on the official Xbox Game Pass web site.
Q: Does Xbox Game Pass include Xbox Live Gold?
A: No, it doesn’t. You have to pay for Xbox Live Gold separately to play games online, or upgrade to Game Pass Ultimate, which is $5 a month cheaper than a separate subscription.
Q: Does Xbox Game Pass work on PC?
A: There are two separate services for Game Pass: one for consoles and one for PC. They have slightly different game libraries. However, both are included with Game Pass Ultimate.
Q: Which Xbox Game Pass should I buy?
A: For pure PC gamers, Game Pass for PC is an unbeatable value. For console gamers, it depends on whether or not you want to play online or on your phone. If the answer to either of those is yes, Game Pass Ultimate is a better value.
Q: Does Xbox Game Pass include full games?
A: Yes! Included titles often include expansions and DLC, too.
Q: Can Game Pass be shared?
A: Yes, but only with other users on your home console. It works just like Xbox Live Gold sharing.
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