As the Netflix-ification of the gaming world continues apace, it's getting harder and harder to justify not having Xbox Game Pass — or the newly-renamed PC Game Pass, if that's where your platform sympathies lie. Even if you're a veteran Game Pass subscriber, however, it can be hard to tell what games are worth your hard-earned gaming time and which ones are certified duds.
While none of us have enough time to play the 400-ish games on both platforms, we do have some recommendations for the best Game Pass games to play in early 2022.
You'd be forgiven for dismissing Unsighted as yet another beautiful Metroidvania with Soulslike elements, but this one is truly something special. It combines slick top-down combat with a unique Dead Rising-style time limit, where the game's charming cast of robot characters slowly become hollowed as you play. If that sounds a bit dark, don't worry — you can turn off that part of the game if you so desire.
If you're in the market for a clever game in the vein of Hyper Light Drifter that'll challenge more than just your hand-eye coordination, Unsighted is a good choice. It's also gone overlooked by many fans of the genre, so it deserves your time more than most.
Perhaps the latest Halo game is a bit too obvious of a choice for a list like this, but Infinite is so damn good that we couldn't resist. The gaming world is a lot more crowded than now than it was back in the franchise's original heyday, but this may be the best-playing Halo game ever, especially when it comes to the multiplayer. There's not a lot here in terms of new features — besides the industry-mandated grappling hook and battle pass — but that's perhaps for the best, especially when you consider some of the poorly-received change that Halo 5 tried to bring to the series blueprint.
There's very little in Halo Infinite that will surprise you, but its campaign and multiplayer are more than sufficient to keep any shooter fan happy for hours, and that's worth a recommendation.
Have you heard of this forgotten gem? Jokes aside, when we think of games that almost everyone can enjoy, indie titan Stardew Valley still ranks near the top of the list. The farming simulation game has received so many massive free updates over the years that it's practically three games in one, and there are so many ways to build your empire that you'll want to replay it over and over just to try out ranching and the like.
There are many Stardew imitators out there, but for our money, no game even comes close to taking the Harvest Moon-like crown from it. If you haven't played it yet, you really have no excuses at this point.
The Forgotten City
Time loops are nothing new in video games, but 2021's The Forgotten City manages to take the well-trod concept to a new level. Like Outer Wilds before it, this is a different kind of mystery game, one that relies heavily on social deduction and deep dialogue trees to challenge the player. Its Roman city is one of the most intriguing settings we've seen in a game in quite a while, too.
While its open-ended mystery isn't for everyone, if you like this sort of thing, you definitely shouldn't miss The Forgotten City. If you're looking for a time loop game that isn't about the destruction of the universe, we highly suggest it.
Twenty years ago, it was safe to assume that everyone who owned a gaming-quality PC had at least played a few levels of Quake, but there have been a lot of amazing FPS games in the interim. Still, if you haven't felt the white-knuckle momentum of the original rocket jump for yourself, or experienced its bizarre aesthetic mish-mash of sword-wielding knights and Lovecraftian horrors, the original Quake is still worth your time.
While it doesn't hold up as much as its predecessor Doom — it's pretty clear that the multiplayer was the main focus for id Software here — it's a fun romp through a few dozen short levels that doesn't demand too much of you. But watch out: nightmare difficulty still lives up to the billing.
AI: The Somnium Files
If the name Kotaro Uchikoshi doesn't mean anything to you, you aren't alone, but the Japanese auteur behind the Zero Escape series is one of the most intriguing creative minds in the gaming industry. Similar to the Zero Escape games, AI: The Somnium Files is a mystery visual novel with point-and-click elements, a cast of bizarre characters, and a plot so twisty that it would put both Agatha Christie and Philip K. Dick's heads to spin all the way around.
If you have a low tolerance for all things anime — pop idols, otakus, and scantily-dressed AI companions, oh my — this might not be the game for you. However, if you have a healthy appetite for philosophical jank and absurdity, you might find that Uchikoshi's work strikes a chord you never knew you wanted to hear.
Let's just drop the pleasantries: if you like first-person shooters, you've probably played Doom (2016). If you haven't, then you need to. Doom Eternal may have turned the series into a first-person plate-spinner that not everyone enjoyed, but the original Doom reboot is a top notch arena shooter in the style of Serious Sam that strikes the perfect balance between old and new.
It's not a perfect game — the weapon balance is a little off, and it's a bit too easy to cheese the second half of the game with the right load out even on Nightmare — but it's probably the closest we're ever going to get to a truly great triple-A boomer shooter, and that's enough for a recommendation.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon
Once upon a time, the always-excellent Yakuza series was Sega's best kept secret, but the unexpected success of recent entries like Yakuza 0 has raised its profile significantly. While Like A Dragon's JRPG-style combat isn't quite up to the standards of genre stalwarts like Persona and Final Fantasy, the game's goofy-yet-sincere storytelling and charming cast of characters more than make up the difference.
As with all Yakuza games, Like A Dragon's sense of place is the real star of the show here, which is more than welcome in a year where many of us have had to refrain from real-world travel. Anyone trying to get into Yakuza at this late date has a lot of catching up to do, but Like A Dragon is a great place to start.
Forza Horizon 5
The number of big-budget racers has dwindled to a trickle in recent years, but as far as we're concerned, Forza Horizon 5 is all we need. It's rare that a game is considered one of the best in its genre ever just a few days after release, but Horizon 5 earned those plaudits and then some. Its idealized Mexico is the perfect setting for both short races and long hauls, and it's one of the most visually impressive games we've seen in a long time.
There's only one game on this list that was good enough to justify reactivating our Game Pass subscription, and that's Forza Horizon 5. Even if you aren't a racing fan, you should try it out. You just might be converted.