We’ve all been there – you’ve just dropped a wad of cash on a brand new Xbox or Gaming PC and have little left over for games. Thankfully, Xbox Game Pass is here to save the day.
With a library of games that’s expanding month after month, there’s plenty here to keep you entertained for a shockingly low entry price. Whether you’ve just built a monster of a gaming rig, or maybe you’ve just pre-ordered one of Valve’s dinky Steam Decks, there’s something to tickle your fancy on Game Pass.
Here’s a roundup of some of our favourites, ranked in order of how easy they are to run.
I’ve chosen this one with the Steam Deck directly in mind, but in reality Celeste is a gem to play on any platform. In fact, I played it on Nintendo Switch when it first launched in 2018.
Celeste is a 2D platformer from the team at Extremely OK Games. It follows the character of Madeline as she makes her way up an icy mountain. It’s got a gorgeous pixelated art style that’s sure to catch the eye while running seamlessly on any hardware you throw at it.
The narrative tackles some surprisingly heavy topics, exploring the realms of mental health and what it can feel like for those trying to overcome depression. It’s a touching account that’ll certainly provoke your thoughts while playing.
Paired with an incredible narrative is some mighty fine platforming gameplay to boot. It’s all based upon a PICO-8 demo that two of the programmers made in a game jam session prior to Celeste’s development. As such, it’s been refined so that jumping and dodging across the mountain’s numerous hazards is as tense as it is riveting.
In addition, Celeste is suitable for players of any ability. A patch released shortly after launch brought a host of accessibility features that can make the notoriously tricky platforming sessions possible for a much wider audience. You can slow down the game speed to your liking, toggle invincibility, give yourself extra air dashes or enable infinite stamina.
Celeste would be perfect for any low spec PC, but don’t rule it out if you’re looking for something new to dig into this summer. The icy vibes of the mountaintop setting might help to cool you down in this gruelling UK heat.
Next up is Mirror’s Edge, EA’s first-person parkour simulator from all the way back in 2008. It has arrived on Xbox Game Pass as part of the partnership with EA Play, meaning you can play both this version and its newer sibling, Catalyst.
If you’re going to start somewhere, though, definitely start with the original. While 13 years seems like a long old time, the minimalist art style still holds up by today’s standards. Leaping across the clinical rooftops of Cascadia Prime is a feeling that inspired an entire generation of speedrunners back in the day.
Gameplay revolves around you navigating your way through linear levels, looking for different routes while maintaining a mostly pacifist approach to combat. In Mirror’s Edge, evasive maneuvers are usually your weapon of choice.
With it releasing so long ago, the original Mirror’s Edge will likely run on any hardware you throw at it. Catalyst runs on the same Frostbite Engine as the Battlefield titles, so that one will take a little more power to perform properly. The first game is still the best in my eyes, though. Catalyst might have the edge with its open world, but it feels far more soulless compared to the curated experience of the original.
The only downside with playing an older title is that you’re much more limited when it comes to accessibility features. The PC port does include a field of view slider, which is useful given how ill the parkour movement can make you feel at times. Aside from the usual subtitle toggles, though, you’ll be disappointed with the accessibility features of Mirror’s Edge.
Now here’s a game that you can’t go wrong with. Arguably the game that put Arkane Studios on the map, Dishonored is an endless sandbox of opportunity for you to express through creative gameplay.
Just like Mirror’s Edge, the sequels to Dishonored (2 and Death of the Outsider) are available on Xbox Game Pass too. However, the first game still feels special to me, especially since it turns 10 years old next year. Its age also means it’ll run on pretty much any hardware you throw at it.
Using a robust set of magical abilities and steampunk gadgets, you sneakily slither your way through the city of Dunwall in search of justice for those who killed your empress. As Dishonored is an immersive-sim, it pulls you into the world. You’re expected to live and breathe within the environment and use what you discover to help you on your journey.
I’ve played through Dishonored countless times and I can still find new narrative threads and secret areas with every new playthrough. Depending on if you prefer stealth or action, the story outcome will differ. The future games elaborated on this further, but the first Dishonored set the foundation.
Despite being quite an old game by modern standards, Dishonored hosts a fairly robust set of accessibility features. You can fully customise the UI to suit your liking, and there are several camera options that can help to reduce motion sickness. Subtitle functionality is all here, and there are several difficulty options to choose from which can be changed on the fly during gameplay.
Now we’re getting into the games that you’ll either want one of the new Series consoles for, or a seriously powerful PC. I’m a big fan of Remedy’s Control because it doesn’t really matter whether you’re giving the story your full attention or letting it fly by in the background. No matter how much attention you’re paying, it’ll still make very little sense.
That’s not to besmirch its name – the sense of mystery and confusion in Control is palpable, and it’s part of what makes it so intriguing. You take control (pun intended) of Jesse as she investigates a mysterious government building. Once you get five minutes into the game, you’ll see that’s about where the normality ends.
With the release of the Series X|S consoles, Control received a neat update that brought ray tracking and other neat features to the game. You can either experience it at 60fps or at 30fps with the ray tracing enabled. Either way, it’s a striking looking project, visually.
In addition, Control now has a robust set of accessibility features for players to take advantage of. The assist mode lets players customise exactly how difficult they’d like their experience to be. Health and reload times are adjustable, and you can enable soft checkpoints within boss fights which were notoriously tricky when the game launched.
Sea of Thieves
X marks the spot on this treasure of a Game Pass title that just gets better and better over time. Sea of Thieves has been with Xbox Game Pass through thick and thin, and there’s never been a better time to jump into the action.
Gather a bunch of friends and sail across the seas in search of treasure, ancient skulls and mythical tales. Or, just live out your humble pirate fantasies and live a life as a fisherman or trader.
The recent Pirates of the Caribbean update adds a bunch of fully fledged quests with some more than familiar faces. They act as an optimal vessel to ease you in to the gameplay mechanics of Sea of Thieves – if you’ve never played before, now’s a good time to start?
A loving community exists within this gorgeous world, no matter who might claim it’s Sea of Thieves, not Sea of Friends. Some of the most hilarious memories have come from random encounters with other players, and many of them have been wholesome tales of collaboration. Sure, there’s the odd bad apple, but it wouldn’t be a game about pirates without a little villainy.
Sea of Thieves has a handy website that explains all of the accessibility features it has, and the team at Rare are constantly adding new ones with each update. Some highlights include customisable control toggles for those with motor disabilities, as well as voice chat translation for those who are hard of sight.
But of course, if any of these titles still don’t tickle your fancy don’t forget there are hundreds more waiting for you across PC, console and cloud with an active Game Pass subscription.
Will you be jumping into any of these titles on Xbox Game Pass? Let us know across our social channels.
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Featured Image Credit: Remedy Entertainment