Happy second birthday, Xbox One! Bolstered by constant improvements and new system features via monthly updates, as well as a steady flow of well-received exclusives throughout the year, the Xbox One is positioning itself as a strong gaming console heading into 2016. Phil Spencer and company have done an admirable job of turning the Xbox One's image around during the system's first two years, and it's exciting thinking about what this gaming-first future holds for Microsoft's home console. In honor of the Xbox One's second birthday, we have put together our list of our 10 favorite games available as of right now. We haven't played everything, but we've played a lot, and these are the ten games we've had the best time with. Let's get on with the list!
**Note: This list is in no particular order, nor is it restricted to Xbox One exclusives**
Developer: Respawn Entertainment
One of the many "over-hyped" games of 2014, Titanfall promised an unparallelled experience in the the first-person genre. Even though it lacks a true single player experience — disappointing considering its potential — Titanfall's actual gameplay, featuring massive, uber-powerful mechs, more than makes up for the half-baked narrative that exists to give you a reason to kill the opposing team. It never gets old wall-running as a Pilot, breaking another Pilot's neck (not the stupid bots!), or calling down your Titan from the skies above to help turn the tides of war. Never before has controlling a fully armed mech ever been so exhilarating. Since releasing the game back in March, developer Respawn Entertainment has released numerous patches to help improve the game's performance. Additional game types are being constantly patched into the game as well, including the recently released co-op horde mode, Frontier Defense. If you pick up an Xbox One this holiday, be sure to grab yourself a copy of this fresh take on mech warfare!
2) Halo 5: Guardians (New)
Developer: 343 Industries
I have no doubt that Halo fans the world over were completely enamored by the story featured in Halo 5: Guardians. I can only imagine how impactful the narrative was for those who have followed the franchise closely since Halo: Combat Evolved launched over 10 years ago. Sadly, I didn’t get to experience the game like series veterans did (as with Gears of War earlier this year, I’m new to the franchise), but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the game immensely. From start to finish, Halo 5 is a white-knuckle juggernaut that kept me locked in thanks to its excellent controls and exceptional sci-fi presentation. Playing through the campaign cooperatively made everything better, and I look forward to tackling it with a squad of four on “Legendary” difficulty at some point. Halo 5: Guardians’ story may not be the most accessible for series newcomers, but that doesn’t prevent it from being an enjoyable experience as a standalone product. Oh, and let’s not forget the feature rich multiplayer suite that offers a wealth of well-designed maps and modes for both the hardcore fans (Arena) and noobs (Warzone) alike. If you are new to the Xbox One ecosystem, you simply must add Halo 5: Guardians to your catalogue of games. And if you’re the type that likes to play through a series in chronological order, pick up The Master Chief Collection as well.
3) Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Developer: Monolith Productions
One part Batman: Arkham City, one part Assassin's Creed, one part Lord of the Rings, and all parts awesome, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is one of the standout titles early in this new generation. Deftly mixing fluid combat, open world exploration, and high production values, Shadow of Mordor is a game third-person action/adventure fans should eat up in droves. Where the narrative fails, the unique Nemesis system — which adds a more strategic element to the game's moment-to-moment action — more than makes up for its shortcomings. Plotting how you plan to take over and control the orc army is a ton of fun, and a rewarding set of upgrades make the terrific combat even more satisfying. Oh, and Troy Baker kills it as lead character, Talion.
4) Ori and the Blind Forest (New)
Developer: Moon Studios
When developer Moon Studios first revealed Ori and the Blind Forest, I immediately took away two things: one, this game was going for “the feels,” and two, it looks super cute! After having played Ori and the Blind Forest, I can confirm that it successfully tugs at your heart early on and throughout the campaign. The beginning alone rivals the emotional impact that The Last of Us had on me, and it is the driving force behind wanting to guide Ori through the forest of Nibel safely; you want to see this little guy succeed. Now, Ori is a pretty cute character and the world created here is absolutely gorgeous —thanks to impressive locales and smooth animations — but don’t let the beauty of Ori and the Blind Forest fool you because it’s as punishing as Metroidvania-style games get. As you make your way through each area, you’ll earn XP by completing tasks and defeating enemies. When you rank up, you’re able to apply points to skill trees which unlock perks for combat and abilities that you’ll need to reach otherwise inaccessible areas early on. The controls are complex at first, but once you’ve got them down, you’ll appreciate just how exceptional they are. There are a ton of platformers available on the Xbox One, but few can match the mix of great controls, powerful story, and gorgeous graphics that make up Ori and the Blind Forest.
5) Rise of the Tomb Raider (New)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Making its controversial debut exclusively on Xbox One this year, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a shining example of how great action-adventure games of today can be. Packed to the brim with gripping content, this game wraps up Microsoft’s “Best Games Line-Up in Xbox History” with a bang! From the striking visuals to the incredible attention to detail and addicting gameplay, Rise continues the evolutionary path began in 2013’s gritty reboot, reminding players just how badass Lara Croft is!
6) Wolfenstein: The New Order
Developer: Machine Games
What happens when you take one of the 90’s most badass (and most iconic) video game protagonists and flesh him out to be more than just a brutal killing machine? Well, you get one of the most unexpected pleasures of 2014! BJ Blazkowicz returns in The New Order, and this time he’s almost as three-dimensional as the game itself. But don’t worry, you will still kill many, many Nazi’s in brutal Blazkowicz fashion. Developer Machine Games decided to forego adding multiplayer in favor of creating a more polished story, and that risk resulted in one of the best single-player experiences this year. The New Order’s lengthy campaign features an excellent story, emotional moments, and fleshed out and memorable characters. It proves that not every game needs multiplayer tacked on for the sake of it, and that BJ Blazkowicz can be more than just a brutal killing machine…he’s now a likeable brutal killing machine!
7) D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die (New)
Developer: Access Games
Swery65 makes some…interesting games to say the least. Initially hailed as a Kinect heavy experience, D4 is definitely one of the better Kinect experiences out there. It’s also incredibly unique. The infamous dinner scenes alone make this game worth checking out, and the quirky characters, hilariously awesome soundtrack, and silly, yet slightly relatable, story make this debut (and hopefully not only!) season a must play experience for Xbox One owners.
8) Assassin's Creed: Syndicate (New)
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
While I enjoy the Assassin’s Creed series, I’m not a hardcore fan or advocate of the games. To date, I’ve actually only completed Assassin’s Creed II and Unity, and while I’ve dabbled with and liked Brotherhood and Black Flag, I never really thought much about them after the little bit I’d played. Syndicate hearkens back to the roots of what made Assassin’s Creed II one of the best games in the series. The focus on a fun combat system and missions that can be approached a variety of ways — including stealthily — has paid off for the game in a big way, and the new grappling hook makes climbing buildings fun again. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is the polar opposite of what Unity turned out to be. It’s a worthy entry in the storied Assassin’s franchise, and it’s easily one of the most fun games available on these hot, semi-new consoles.
9) Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare (New)
Developer: PopCap Games
Once I had my fill of Titanfall, I sought something else to play with my friends on Xbox Live. After getting several recommendations for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare — which I had initially written off because I didn’t feel like it needed to exist — I caved into peer pressure and picked up what would go on to become my Game of the Year for 2014. Garden Warfare is one of the most balanced multiplayer experiences out there and, because it doesn’t take itself seriously, is actually extremely fun to play. Even here in November of 2015, I still find myself booting this game up. I look forward to what Garden Warfare 2 will bring to the table, but this first installment remains a treasured experience for me to this day.
10) Fallout 4 (New)
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
There have been some brilliant RPGs released on the Xbox One since its launch in 2013. Games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition are just a few of the games that will demand days, if not months, of your time to see them through to their completion. With that said, if you were to ask me which RPG I’d recommend above all others on the Xbox One? My answer is Fallout 4. While my choice may have a degree of bias behind it (I absolutely love the Fallout series), there’s no denying the incredible gaming experience Bethesda has built with Fallout 4. Fallout 3 was one of my top five games last gen, and Fallout 4 is well on its way to securing a top five spot for this gen. I’ve spent close to 25 hours making my way across the Wasteland, and it doesn’t appear Bethesda has lost their touch when it comes to crafting immersive worlds filled to the brim with unique — and at times disturbing — stories just waiting to be experienced. Instead of resting on their laurels, Bethesda has added a deep weapon and armor crafting system, in addition to a build-your-own-settlement mechanic, to a formula that wasn’t lacking any depth to begin with. If you have an Xbox One, you can’t go wrong with any of the other RPGs I mentioned above, but Fallout 4 is the one I’d recommend first and foremost to anyone.
There you have it gamers! The second edition of our Top 10 games to arrive on the Xbox One is in the books! As great as all of the games above are, we here at Short Pause are excited for the many Xbox One games on the horizon, such as Scalebound, Quantum Break, Crackdown, ReCore, and Gears of War 4. Don't agree with our list? Please let us know in the comments below which games you would recommend to friends who are picking up an Xbox One this holiday season. We want to know what you're playing!
Here's to another great year in 2016!
2015 Update: In the second iteration of our list, newcomers Fallout 4, Halo 5: Guardians, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, Ori and the Blind Forest, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die join the party, as Diablo III: Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Destiny, Forza Horizon 2, Halo: Master Chief Collection, Sunset Overdrive, and Ryse: Sone of Rome are out.
The Short Pause staff eats, breathes, and sleeps gaming. You should totally listen to their podcast, because it's kind of the best.