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9 best Xbox games to play in 2024: From classics to new releases

There’s something great for every kind of the gamer this year

Steve Hogarty
Thursday 07 March 2024 11:36 GMT
We’ve been playing games on the Xbox series X since the console launched in 2020
We’ve been playing games on the Xbox series X since the console launched in 2020 (The Independent)
Our Top Picks

The Xbox series X and S launched in November 2020, and since then its growing library of titles has exploded to include most of this generation’s best games.

Key to the success of the newest Xbox is Game Pass, the Netflix-style games-on-demand service that gives you instant access to a rolling catalogue of new and classic releases for a small monthly subscription fee. Many of the titles featured here are free once you sign up for a Game Pass subscription.

In either case, if you’ve just bought a new Xbox and you’re wondering what to play first, we’ve rounded up the best games on Xbox to help you get the most out of your console. From classics like Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 to placid plane sim Microsoft Flight Simulator and folksy space puzzler The Outer Wilds, the Xbox is home to a breadth of genres that are sure to appeal to every player.

All of the games featured work on Xbox series X as well as the less powerful Xbox series S, so no matter which console you’ve got under your telly, you’ll be able to enjoy every title featured in our list.

How we tested the best Xbox games

Our tester tried out each and every game on this list firsthand (Steve Hogarty )

We’ve been playing games on the Xbox series X since the console launched in 2020. Before that, we’ve been testing Xbox games from as far back as the original Xbox in 2001 – yes, we’re decrepit old nerds at IndyBest.

You can read our full Xbox series X review for more information about the device. We’ve tested hundreds of games on Microsoft’s latest and most powerful console, from obscure indie titles to triple-A blockbuster compilations like Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

The best games Xbox games of 2024 are:

  • Best overall Xbox game – Grand Theft Auto V: £22.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best budget Xbox game – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: £17.99, Argos.co.uk
  • Best puzzle adventure – The Outer Wilds: £20.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best space exploration game – No Man’s Sky: £39.99, Xbox.com
  • Best Simulator Xbox game – Microsoft Flight Simulator: £59.99, Currys.co.uk

Grand Theft Auto V

grand theft auto v-indybest
  • Best: Overall Xbox game
  • Developer : Rockstar Games
  • Publisher : Take-Two Interactive
  • Release date : September 2013
  • Why we love it
    • Cultural phenomenon
    • Detailed characters and storylines
    • Interesting mission
    • Single-player and multi-player options

Widely regarded as one of the greatest games of modern times, Grand Theft Auto V is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon and a must-own game on any console. A giant, detailed and sprawling open world populated by believable characters and dynamic situations, the freeform crime simulator stands head-and-shoulders above others in the genre with brilliant writing and plotting, excellent acting and punchy, interesting missions.

The single-player experience is magnificent alone, but the later addition of Grand Theft Auto Online gives the game near-endless appeal – so long as you’re a Game Pass member – letting you take on complex heists with friends and spend your earnings on exclusive cars and new houses.

  1. £22 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

assassins creed valhalla-indybest
  • Best: Budget Xbox game
  • Developer : Ubisoft Montreal
  • Publisher : Ubisoft
  • Release date : November 2020
  • Why we love it
    • Incredibly fun and sickeningly violent
    • Wins points for historical accuracy
    • Culmination of all the best parts from previous games in the series

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla pops you into the Viking helm of a Norman invader, charged with setting up an encampment in England by sieging monasteries, building mead halls, growing your settlement and cleaving off the heads of all who stand in your way.

Ubisoft’s long-running series, while incredibly fun and sickeningly violent, always keeps one foot rooted in historical accuracy, giving Assassin’s Creed Valhalla the protective halo of an educational game – we learned more about the Viking invasion of Britain from this game than we ever did in school history books. The open-world adventure feels like the culmination of all of the best parts of the Assassin’s Creed series, and remains one of the best games on Xbox today.

  1. £17 from Argos.co.uk
Prices may vary
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The Outer Wilds

the outer wilds-indybest
  • Best: Puzzle adventure
  • Developer: Mobius Digital
  • Publisher : Annapurna Interactive
  • Release date: May 2019
  • Why we love it
    • Unique Groundhog Day style
    • Moving and thoughtful

In The Outer Wilds you’re a pioneering astronaut, tasked with exploring your solar system in a ramshackle spaceship to discover the origin of your alien species. However, like clockwork, every 22 real-world minutes the sun goes supernova, wiping out all known life and resetting you to the moment just before you took off, Groundhog Day style. Using everything you’ve learned in previous time-loops, you must repeatedly take to the stars in search of answers, and in hope of preventing the destruction of existence.

An unexpectedly moving and thoughtful puzzle game, The Outer Wilds makes a lasting impact on everyone lucky enough to play it. Rich with character, full of challenging puzzles and set to an incredible folksy soundtrack, it’s one of the best games on Xbox.

  1. £20 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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No Man’s Sky

no man’s sky-indybest
  • Best: Space exploration game
  • Developer : Hello Games
  • Publisher : Hello Games
  • Release date : August 2016
  • Why we love it
    • Colourful
    • Surprising
    • Up to date

A space adventure set in an effectively infinite galaxy of stars, planets and moons to explore, No Man’s Sky takes the best parts of games like Elite and Minecraft and sets you loose in a colourful and constantly surprising universe.

Over many years developer Hello Games has added more and more free content, such that the game is barely recognisable from the one that launched in 2016. You can now build your own bases, manage settlements, command armadas, take on quests with friends and pilot Death Star-like battleships.

  1. £39 from Xbox.com
Prices may vary
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Metal Gear Solid V

metal gear solid v-indybest
  • Best: Open-world stealth game
  • Developer : Kojima Productions
  • Publisher : Konami
  • Release date : September 2015
  • Why we love it
    • Dynamic gameplay
    • High-budget production
    • Bizarre and brilliant characters

The pinnacle of Hideo Kojima’s series, Metal Gear Solid V takes the clever systems and dynamic gameplay built up over decades of previous Metal Gear Solid titles and transplants them into a Breath of the Wild-style open world.

Each enemy-controlled village and town you come across is its own puzzle box, in which you can go in all guns blazing or wait until the sun goes down to attempt a stealthy approach. Kojima is regarded as one of gaming’s strangest and most alluring auteurs, and MGSV blends high-budget production with the kind of truly bizarre and brilliant characters, writing and gameplay that only his studio could get away with at this scale.

  1. £23 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Forza Horizon 5

forza horizon 5-indybest
  • Best: Racing game
  • Developer: Playground Games
  • Publisher : Xbox Game Studios
  • Release date : November 2021
  • Why we love it
    • Highly realistic
    • Petrolhead’s dream
    • Incredible graphics
    • Silky smooth frame rates

Forza Horizon 5 is an open-world driving simulator that ricochets between tight and highly realistic track racing and ridiculous, off-road mayhem. The game is a petrolhead’s dream, featuring hundreds of licenced cars from classic Alfa Romeos and trackday toys like the Koenigsegg CCGT, to hot hatch Ford Fiestas and VW Beetles.

Incredible graphics and silky smooth frame rates showcase everything the Xbox Series X is capable of, resulting in a fast-paced and reaction-based racer piled high with hundreds of hours of entertainment.

  1. £48 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Halo: The Master Chief Collection

halo the master chief collection-indybest
  • Best: FPS
  • Developer : 343 / Bungie / Saber / Certain Affinity / Splash Damage / United Front / Rockstar
  • Publisher : Xbox Game Studios
  • Release date : November 2014
  • Why we love it
    • Power of all six iconic games combined
    • Fresh and modern takes on nostalgic versions

A compilation of the most iconic FPS series on Xbox, Halo: The Master Chief Collection brings together all six Halo games into a single package. The definitive album includes lovingly remastered versions of the original, two-decade-old Halo games alongside the more recent multiplayer and co-op focused Halo Reach and Halo 3: ODST, which still feel fresh and modern thanks to support for contemporary online features like skill-based matchmaking.

A must-have compendium rounding up one of the best game series ever made, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is the definitive way to play these classic shooters on Xbox Series X.

  1. £29 from Xbox.com
Prices may vary
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Red Dead Redemption 2

red dead redemption-indybest
  • Best: Open-world game
  • Developer : Rockstar Games
  • Publisher: Rockstar Games
  • Release date : October 2018
  • Why we love it
    • Amazing storytelling and world building
    • Stunning visuals
    • Captivating narrative
    • Immersive

A sprawling, open-world epic following Arthur Morgan, an outlaw in the fading days of the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a masterclass in storytelling and world-building. Rockstar Games, the team behind Grand Theft Auto V, have crafted a meticulously detailed world brimming with life, from bustling towns and hidden bandit camps to vast, untamed wilderness.

Rockstar’s constantly surprising masterpiece excels in every aspect, from its stunning visuals and captivating narrative to a life simulation so detailed that your character has to routinely shave (or grow an untamed beard). Whether hunting for bounties, blasting through thrilling shootouts or simply exploring the quietly stunning landscapes, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a truly immersive and unforgettable experience.

  1. £54 from Xbox.com
Prices may vary
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Microsoft Flight Simulator

microsoft flight simulator-indybest
  • Best: Simulator Xbox game
  • Developer: Asobo Studios
  • Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
  • Release date: August 2020
  • Why we love it
    • Great alternative to blood and gore games
    • Super realistic
    • Pixel-sharp detail

Here’s something a little different from all the bloodshed and gore. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a realistic depiction of the often mundane, but always beautiful spectacle of flying aeroplanes. Whether you’re piloting a Boeing 737 on a trans-Atlantic flight, or attempting a white-knuckle landing in a ramshackle two-seater, the simulation accurately represents the finer aerodynamic details of controlling a plane.

Microsoft uses a mixture of Bing maps and procedural generation to recreate the entire planet in pixel-sharp detail, so you can traverse the Himalayas, head to the polar ice caps, buzz dunes in the Sahara or just fly over your own house in Didsbury. Missions and challenges give you lots to do, but the simple joy of Microsoft Flight Simulator is in charting your own course in its meticulously recreated and stunning world.

  1. £59 from Currys.co.uk
Prices may vary
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The verdict: Best Xbox games

Your personal favourite Xbox game will always depend on your own genre preferences, but our list of the best Xbox games should help you narrow your search. Whether you’re looking for bonafide classics like Grand Theft Auto V or Red Dead Redemption 2 or something a little more relaxing like Microsoft Flight Simulator, Microsoft’s next-generation console will have something to please all tastes.

Want to dive into PC gaming next? Check out our round-up of the best laptops in 2024

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