I'm not a complete stranger to Xbox. I remember the hype when the original system launched in 2001, and in my high school years I was fairly balanced in my console preferences. At the start of the next generation I was all Xbox 360 for a time, until the PS3 stole my attention, and I haven't really looked back since. The last Xbox exclusive I played was the underwhelming Halo 4.
But now, I'm playing catch-up and seeing what I've missed in the last decade via an Xbox One S and Game Pass. I've long been skeptical of this subscription service, but I'm giving it a fair shot. I guess you could say I'm old-school, in that I like the process of researching and carefully choosing games to purchase, and I'm a strong holdout on physical media, so paying an ongoing fee to hold onto a library of software is a hard sell. But honestly, once I was in, it was nice to open up a vast repository of games that could be sampled without obligation or consumed without tracking down physical copies.
As a late-bloomer to the Xbox One and Game Pass, here are the first five things I queued up on Game Pass:
Destiny has had a place in my heart since I picked up the original game with my PS4, and every couple months I check in to see what's up. I've been known to sing the series' praises if given half the chance, but it was a hard pitch to my Xbox friends when I couldn't party up with them. However, with Bungie's recent addition of cross-save, I don't have to choose between my years of service on Sony platforms and playing with friends. Best of all, with Game Pass I don't need to re-invest in all the expansions I already play elsewhere.
Xbox hasn't been able to claim many games as permanent exclusives over the last ten years, with the likes of the Ori games from Moon Studios eventually jumping onto other platforms. However, despite being charmed by its trailers when it initially came out, I still haven't taken the opportunity to try either Ori & the Blind Forest or its follow-up, Ori & the Will of the Wisps, elsewhere. With them still on their original platform and free in the Game Pass, now's as good a time as any to catch up. Plus, it's a nice change of pace from some higher-octane shooters on this list.
Pirates, as a theme, don't usually do much for me, but it's been interesting to watch Sea of Thieves make a comeback from the sidelines. After watching it launch to little fanfare back in 2018, it fell off my personal radar until the last few months, when it began gaining traction on Twitch. After it became popular with aspiring streamers, alongside fellow Game Pass title Dead by Daylight, I've been curious to give it a try for myself and see how the live-service model works on the open seas.
In the interest of keeping the list interesting, I'll group these two franchises together. Both held my attention in the 360 era, replaying Halo 3 and Gears of War 2 on multiple difficulties, and such. I still have a weakness for Halo: Reach, and the Master Chief Collection has been tempting me severely with the promise of revisiting that experience. Likewise, it seems I've missed out by not completing the original Gears of War trilogy, or seeing where the franchise has gone since. Game Pass supplies the entire franchise, so I can catch up on the three "main" games I missed, as well as the Gears Tactics spin-offs.
Okay, okay, this isn't a Game Pass title. However it is, perhaps, my favourite Xbox exclusive game of all time. It may be available on Steam and mobile today, but KOTOR just feels better to me as a console experience. It's hard to name a Star Wars experience in any medium that is as universally praised by fans, a notoriously and extremely fickle bunch, but BioWare's 2003 classic is right up there on a pedestal with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It's probably the best Star Wars video game ever, and it's a disc I've proudly kept tucked away for a day like today, when I can play it properly again.
By the same token, this backward compatibility is a massive selling point of the Xbox in my books. I'm 100% pro-physical media, and having the ability to pop in most of my oldest games into a modern system and play them is the perfect icing on the cake. I'm curious to see how some old niche titles I liked back in the early 2000s hold up, like Fable and Sudeki.
With all of these experiences, to name a few, I'll definitely have no shortage of games to experience over the next year, as we await the arrival of Halo: Infinite and the next Bethesda exclusives. But there you have it—the first things that drew me in as I returned to Xbox's shores after a decade away. Have any exclusives or unique experiences to add?
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