The best Xbox games really aren’t that hard to find. Even though the good old-fashioned powerhouse that is the Xbox One may not be the shiniest new toy in the box anymore, not now that the Xbox Series X|S is the gift everybody wants for Christmas, but despite a troubled launch at the start of its life, Microsoft’s last-gen machine left behind a ton of very special titles in its wake. What makes that remarkable back catalogue even better is, if you are lucky enough to own the latest Microsoft console, you can play all the best Xbox One games in 2021 on the new system, too! And they usually come with some serious visual and performance upgrades, to boot.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. The focus here is on taking a look at the best Xbox One games, and that means whether you own an original Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox One S, or one of the new-gen consoles, each of these titles are easily considered “essential” purchases.
Covering a variety of different genres and tastes, the titles collected in our list suit every mood. So whether you’re looking to shoot aliens, explore mystical lands, or simply drive around Scotland at excessive speeds without any risk, you’re going to want to take a look at the best Xbox One games to play in 2021.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Is it even possible to imagine the Xbox’s success without the tales of Master Chief? Possibly not and that’s for good reason. Halo: The Master Chief Collection tells a fantastic story while also offering a gripping experience. The first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, might be 20 years old now but it’s still a fantastic example of strong level design.
That trend continues throughout the series. While certain entries (we’re looking at you, Halo 2) aren’t quite as strong, they’re still worth playing, and this collection means you get the benefit of them all, including Halo Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST and Halo 4. Being able to follow the story in such depth and see how the game evolves from more basic combat to dual-wielding weaponry and controlling massive vehicles (always a highlight of the series) is hugely enjoyable.
You don’t have to go solo either. Ground-breaking co-op modes and extensive multiplayer options ensure this is a rich experience for every taste. It’s a slice of history that’s genuinely aged well earning its spot amongst the best Xbox One games.
Forza Horizon 4
Fancy letting off some steam and driving through country lanes at ridiculous speeds? Forza Horizon 4 is for you. Capturing many familiar sights around Britain including Edinburgh Castle, the Lake District, and the Cotswolds, it could have all been so serene but it’s not.
Typically arcade racing in nature, Forza Horizon 4 doesn’t stop there either with its open-world environment giving rise to extensive DLC including Lego Speed Champions featuring Lego toy versions of famous cars including the Bugatti Veyron. With over 750 cars to collect, there’s certainly no shortage of content here and simply driving around is immensely relaxing and fun. Even if you’re not usually a racing game fan, you’ll find this experience is one of the best Xbox One games available on Xbox Game Pass. Give it a shot, even if it’s not your usual cup of tea.
The Gears of War series has always been a strong franchise for the Xbox 360 and above, and Gears 5 takes it to new heights thanks to a better storyline. Following on from Gears of War 4, it focuses on Kait Diaz as she uncovers the origins of the Locust and her family history.
Deep down, you don’t really need to know the lore behind the Gears series to enjoy it. The satisfaction that comes from chainsawing drones and shotgunning other enemies is always a highlight of the series anyhow, but it’s good to see the latest installment a little more character-driven than before.
Like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, extensive co-op options and multiplayer ensure you’ll keep coming back for more too, even once you’ve wrapped up the story.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar has always done a fantastic job of creating worlds you can lose yourself in and Red Dead Redemption 2 is the pinnacle of such achievements right now. Being able to live out the life of a cowboy in the Wild West is almost overwhelming at first thanks to such an extensive level of detail. It’s the little things that first captivate you like smoke rising from the barrel of a gun but it’s the powerful story that keeps you coming back for more.
It’s not for the faint-hearted thanks to being incredibly long and a little slow to start, but if you’re keen to fully embrace a different way of life and history for a bit, there’s no better way of doing it than through Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s simply a spectacular place to wander and partake in missions and adventures whenever suits you.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Another open-world game but in a very different way to Red Dead Redemption 2, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is for the fantasy fans out there. It’s vast with a seemingly never-ending supply of side quests but, impressively, many of them still manage to grip you with compelling stories, no matter how brief they may be.
A huge variety of combat options means you can develop your character how you want to develop them rather than feel trapped into a set path like with other RPGs. The world around you feels like it changes with your every decision and we won’t blame you if you focus elsewhere before tackling the main quest. It’s simply that vast. The main story alone would quality The Witcher 3 as one of the best Xbox One games out there, all the extra content is just a bonus.
Battle Royale games are all the rage and we’ll admit this now – choosing Apex Legends is a highly personal choice amongst so many subjective calls. After all, Fortnite is also well worth your time too. However, its fusion of different elements and progression system makes it well worth the extra time spent on it.
Players team up in squads of three combining their abilities to get the most out of their time together. It’s just the right number to be part of something bigger without being too big, encouraging team play well. With a steady stream of new content, you’ll potentially never need to go near another game again. Each new season means there’s always something new to aim for with plenty of limited-time events too.
If Minecraft has somehow passed you by until now, this is your chance. It’s a lot like a giant Lego sandbox. Players can spend time simply building constructions within a forest, mining for ore, and creating their dream home and world, or they can opt for the survival mode. That mode means there are threats to deal with at night meaning you’ll need to keep on your toes.
Of course, whatever you go with, creativity is your greatest weapon here and a brief Google of Minecraft constructions demonstrates what can be accomplished. Its lack of focus and structure may put off those looking for a specific goal to aim for, but for letting your imagination run wild, it’s ideal for all the family. It’s not just one of the best Xbox One games – it’s one of the most important games of all time.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Ninja Theory has always been known for making intriguing action-adventure games with Enslaved: Odyssey To The West previously its standout entry. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice surpasses that using Norse mythology and Celtic culture to tell a story of deep and challenging depression and mental health issues.
It’s not an easy game to play thematically because it does such a valiant job of portraying the main character’s struggles with psychosis but it’s an important one. Blending a mixture of hack and slashing, puzzle-solving, and horror, it’ll stick in your mind for a long time to come, even more so if you empathise with some of its subject matter. You’re going to want to experience this title before Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 launches – whenever that may be.
Sea Of Thieves
Ever wanted to be a pirate? If your childhood fantasies have continued into adulthood, you can live them out in a more carefree manner here than reality can provide. Sea Of Thieves is huge; one of the best Xbox One games out there (and there’s a lot of people saying that). A shared-world adventure game, players encounter each other regularly on the high seas, sometimes safely, and sometimes not so safely.
That can mean the game is a little punishing, especially if you don’t make allies fast, but there’s precious little similar to this elsewhere. Invest enough time and you can establish routes with trading companies, track down treasure, or simply bob around the world doing whatever takes your fancy. Easy? Not in the slightest, but utterly beguiling for those looking for some freedom.
An underrated gem, Titanfall 2 has you control massive robots before leaping out of the cockpit and shooting any leftover enemies. How could that not be fun? Throw in wall running and other cool tricks and it’s a tremendously entertaining first-person shooter.
Impressively, the storyline is pretty good too so it’s not just all about parkour and shooting with style. Don’t count on anyone sticking around with multiplayer (although it is worth your time) given its age, and we’ll sadly never see a sequel, but sometimes, it’s good to be left with what’s already here. Who’d have thought one of the best Xbox One games would be this old?
Have we missed anything out? Let us know what you think.