The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

You’re heading to the store to get an Xbox One right now, and need to know which games to get. Or you’re at work or in school, daydreaming about what you want to play next. Or maybe you’re suiting up for a battle in the console war, cinching on your armor and trying to remember which games will best help you make the argument for Microsoft’s new console. We are here to help.

In the first year of its life, the selection of games on Xbox One was a bit limited. The selection of good games? Even more so. But now that we’ve passed the one-year mark, there are more good games than ever, with new contenders arriving all the time. In fact, there are enough good games that we now think the console is worth getting.

Below, find a list of the games we recommend for Microsoft’s machine. We will, of course, be updating this list regularly as more games are released for the Xbox One. We’ve capped the list at 12, and in the months and years to come will remove old games to make way for new, better entries. Here goes...

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Who says Mordor is just a bleak, boring place full of sadness? Who says orcs are just dull, evil cannon-fodder with no personalities or defining characteristics? As Shadow of Mordor shows us, Mordor itself is a pretty interesting place, and the uruks who invade it are pretty interesting villains. What could’ve been a competent, Lord of the Rings-flavored mixture of Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham City is substantially elevated by a complex system for tracking and manipulating the ranks of Sauron’s army. You’ll get to know, loathe, and even kinda like some of the orcs you encounter, as your vendettas against them go beyond the grave and become something weirdly intimate. Shadow of Mordor is easily the best Lord of the Rings game yet made.

A Good Match For: Lord of the Rings die-hards, people who like head-stabbing, anyone who ever wanted to make an orc’s head explode using only their mind.

Not a Good Match For: The squeamish. Shadow of Mordor is an often exceptionally violent game, and as the game progresses and players begin to lobotomize and enslave the ranks of the orcs, a morally challenging one. Sure, you’re the good guy here. Keep telling yourself that.

Watch it in action.

Read our review.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Grand Theft Auto V is an impressive game. Not perfect, but impressive, and it becomes even more impressive on new consoles. The open-world crime game gives players one of the richest, most beautiful worlds we’ve ever been able to play in, and the new-gen versions offer an even better way to experience it all: In first-person. The landscape is a fictionalized version of Los Angeles and the California desert, and you can go anywhere. Grab a car, plane, truck, bicycle, boat or tank. Head off in any direction. You’re bound to see extraordinary sights and stumble into some sort of good (and probably violent) time. The game looked amazing even on old hardware, and it looks even better in high-definition. Have you ever wanted to steal a plane, eject mid-flight, and parachute into downtown, all in time to go play some tennis? This is your game.

A Good Match For: Players who like to go into a game to break the rules. GTA is still at its best when it’s a playground for virtual misbehavior.

Not a Good Match For: Anyone who can’t stomach the game’s mockery of, well, pretty much everyone.

Read our review, and our take on the new version’s first-person mode.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Here comes Scholar of the First Sin, a newer, better-looking, more definitive-er version of Dark Souls 2. It’s harder, too. Dark Souls 2 may constantly be compared with From Software’s other games, but it’s a fine game in its own right. The newest version looks and runs better than the game ever has, and adds remixed enemy locations as well as all of the game’s terrific DLC expansions.

A Good Match For: Anyone who likes challenging games, exploration, and mystery.

Not A Good Match For: People who like their games laid-back and easy, anyone who thought the original version of Dark Souls 2 was already too hard.

Read our review, and thoughts on the new version.

Study our tips for the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Depending on who you ask, the city of Sunset Overdrive is either a horrible post-apocalyptic hellscape or a super gnarly, fun-filled skate park. Probably more the latter than the former. The game stars a bunch of everyday mopes who, thanks to an energy drink that turns people into gibbering mutants, find themselves leading an anti-corporate survival troupe through the wreckage of their once shining city. The story, however, is really just a setup for the meat of the game, which involves taking your highly customized hero and leaping, rail-grinding, and blasting your way through a cartoonish, carefully designed jungle gym of violence.

A Good Match For: People who hear “A combination of Tony Hawk, Crackdown, and Jet Set Radio” and get very excited.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone with a low tolerance for “edgy” humor and loud, self-aware video-game jokes. As fun as the game itself is, Sunset Overdrive’s aesthetic often feels like it was generated by a late 90s ad agency.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

After years of changes both minor and major, the Assassin’s Creed series had begun to feel in a rut. Finally this year, with the pirate-themed Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the series has taken a major and unequivocal step forward. It doesn’t lose all of the series’ bad habits—hello, follow missions—but it improves many longstanding problems with better stealth, easier-to-navigate cities, and sidequests that actually feel like they help make your character more powerful. Best of all, it adds naval combat and a vast Caribbean overworld that make the game feel like, in the words of Luke Plunkett, “Wind Waker for grown-ups.”

The next-gen version of the game looks incredibly good, and while the Xbox One version lacks the PS4’s 1080p resolution, it still looks plenty nice. Add on the excellent single-player expansion Freedom Cry and Assassin’s Creed IV becomes a cinch to recommend.

A Good Match For: Pirate fans; history buffs; anyone who’s ever wanted to pull up alongside a British frigate, grab a rope and swing from one deck to the other before fighting their way up the deck to take on the captain. Basically, anyone who’s ever wanted to be a pirate.

Not a Good Match For: Those who demand precision controls. The on-foot controls in Black Flag are probably the best of the series, but they’re still a far cry from where a third-person stealth/platformer should be. It’s time for a crouch button, Ubisoft.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

If you asked me to sum up Wolfenstein: The New Order in two words, I would say, “Max Hass.” Who is Max Hass? Well. You might expect a game bearing the Wolfenstein brand to be another anonymous Nazi-shooting game, but Wolfenstein manages to surprise at almost every turn. Its story is a fun bit of dark alternate history that takes itself just seriously enough, its levels are open-ended and fun to explore, and its cast—Herr Hass among them—steals the show. Wish you could get a bit of dramatic musing on the nature of time and consciousness mixed in with your gunfights and explosions? This is your game.

A Good Match For: Fans of late-90s first-person shooters, those who want something a bit smarter than your average linear modern action game…but not too smart.

Not a Good Match For: Those who need multiplayer, Nazi-sympathizers.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Have you ever wanted to go on a road-trip vacation to the south of France? Just hop in a super, super expensive car, grab some buddies, and drive as fast as you can? (Next stop, Italy!) Forza Horizon 2 allows you to pretty much do just that. With its douchey-yet-happy-about-it Euro aesthetic, kicky soundtrack, superb controls and gorgeous visuals, Horizon 2 is a joyous racing game that manages to effectively combine the clean-aesthetic car porn of the Forza series with the goofier open-world racing of a Burnout or a Need for Speed.

A Good Match For: Car nuts, speed nuts, south-of-France nuts, north-of-Italy nuts, lug nuts.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a more straightlaced racing sim.

Watch it in action.

Read our car-loving sister site Jalopnik’s take on the game.

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Don’t let the lovely music and gorgeous Ghibli aesthetic fool you—Ori and the Blind Forest is a challenging, demanding game. It’s also a very good one, a precise platformer that mixes elements of Super Meat Boy (no, really) with classic 2D Metroid. And, okay, while you shouldn’t let the lovely music and gorgeous art fool you into thinking the game will be easy, you can still enjoy how lovely and gorgeous it all is.

A Good Match For: Fans of tough, old-school platforming.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who wants something relaxed and easy.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally from the Xbox One store.

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Dying Light would probably be best described as “Zombie Parkour.” It’s a first-person action/survival game that puts you in a sprawling city overrun with the undead, then has you play The Floor is Lava while hustling around helping people, scavenging supplies, and occasionally slicing biters in two with a lightning machete. It borrows from any number of other games—Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Mirror’s Edge, Dead Island—and manages to pull it all together in fine fashion.

A Good Match For: Anyone who liked Techland’s Dead Island, anyone who’s ever wanted to drop-kick a zombie off of a building.

Not a Good Match For: Anyone worn out on open-world, “do the sidequest/collect the thing”-type games.

Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Watch it in action.

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Twenty or so hours into Dragon Age: Inquisition it dawns on you: This game is really, really big. You’re in the midst of a philosophical discussion with one of your party members when you remember there’s a hidden dungeon way out in the forest that you want to explore, before heading to the desert to take on a dragon. You venture to your war room and dispatch troops to clear a path for you, then stop off to do a little flirting before you head into the field. All in a day’s work for the Inquisitor, and all in an hour’s play for one of the richest, grandest role-playing games in recent memory.

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for an RPG they can really (really) sink their teeth into. BioWare fans. Dragon Age fans. Fans of flirting with cute dwarfs.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a tight experience, or a game that can be completed in a few hours. Those who want something tactically difficult, or a battle system that rewards play on higher levels.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game, and our lore-primer for newcomers to the series.

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

We can’t stop complaining about Destiny. We also can’t stop playing it—Bungie’s MMO/RPG/FPS is has demonstrated remarkable staying power among a good number of Kotaku’s staff. What to do with a game that we all really like despite the many, many things we wish it did differently? It can only be included on this list, despite our gripes and caveats. Destiny has already seen a few significant changes since its launch, and we hope that it will continue to be improved upon in the months and years to come. But even now, we keep playing, and for the most part we have a pretty damned good time doing so.

A Good Match For: People who like shooting aliens, people who like shooting aliens with a couple friends, people who like gradually (very gradually) getting new stuff to use to shoot the aliens.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking or a game with a coherent story, people who don’t like repeating missions, people who want to progress quickly through a game.

Watch it in action.

Read our review.

Study our tips for playing the game, and our guide to life after the level cap.

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The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Few modern games have more baggage than Diablo III. If Diablo III were a houseguest, it would be the sort of houseguest that arrives with half a dozen suitcases and their own washer and dryer. But put the last two years aside, look past the troubled PC launch, initially lackluster endgame and failed real-money auction house, and you’ll find Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition, a console port that is in many ways the game’s best version.

The PS4/Xbox One versions look as sharp and play as snappily as the PC version running on high settings. The controls are a natural fit for a controller.Local co-op is great fun. The games work fine offline, because the game never needed to be always-online in the first place. The single-player campaign is meaty, each of the six playable classes offers a distinct experience, and once the four acts and bonus expansion are complete, there’s an enjoyable adventure mode to look forward to. When it was released on PC in 2012, we never would have guessed thatDiablo III would end up making a list of the best games on a console. Sometimes it’s nice to be surprised.

A Good Match For: Those who like watching tiny people destroy tiny monsters, co-op fans, people who hate goatmen.

Not A Good Match For: Goatmen advocates, those looking for an RPG with tactical combat, a strong story or deep, interactive conversations.

Watch it in action.

Read our review of the original game, and thoughts on the console version.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | Gamestop

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 5/5/2014: We’ve taken off Super Time Force, The LEGO Movie Videogame, and Rayman Legends to make room for Dying Light, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. Nearly half of the games on this list now begin with “D.” Mission accomplished.

Update 11/25/2014: Three new games make their way onto the list: Dragon Age: Inquisition, Grand Theft Auto V and Sunset Overdrive edge out Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3 and Titanfall.

Update 10/17/2014: We’ve cleared out Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, and Need For Speed: Rivals to make room for Destiny, Forza Horizon 2, and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

Update 8/29/14: Strider hops out of the way to clear space for Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition.

Update 6/17/2014: The list continues to mature, as Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Peggle 2 leave to make room for Wolfenstein: The New Order and Super Time Force.

Update 4/17/2014: Three games enter, two games leave. Our list hits its limit of 12 games, with Titanfall, The LEGO Movie Videogame and Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes walking on while Powerstar Golf and LEGO Marvel Superheroes exit.

Update 3/10/2014: Four games walk on to the list: Rayman Legends, Strider, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare and the newly multiplayer’d Peggle 2 bring our grand total of games up to eleven. One more and we’ll be at twelve, and will have to start cutting games to make additions.

Update 2/14/2014: Our first addition to the Xbox One Bests list is the lovely-looking Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Go, Lara, Go.

The 12 Best Games For The Xbox One

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

Note: While some games on this list are download-only, all of them can be purchased on the Xbox One’s online store. If you buy any of these games through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.