With Xbox One S bundles hovering around the $250 mark, it’s not a bad option if you’re in the market for a new gaming system (or if you bought one on Black Friday). Still, without games to play, you’re just dropping that cash on a minimalist-chic ultra Blu-ray player. There’s a bunch of games you’ll probably want to pick up to get the most out fun out of your new console, all already available for cheap.
After a rough few years, Microsoft is starting to turn their fortunes around with the Xbox One. The less expensive and undeniably sexier Xbox One S adds 4K video support, color-popping High Dynamic Range output, and a slightly improved processor which can give games a small performance boost. Since the console’s launch over the summer, Microsoft has been starting to gain ground against Sony in monthly sales battles, at least for the time being. And though several of the following are available on multiple platforms, they look pretty dang good on Microsoft’s console.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft may not be Nathan Drake, and Tomb Raider’s writing is decidedly less interesting than Uncharted’s. That doesn’t stop Rise of the Tomb Raider from being a taut adventure in its own right. This time around Lara ventures into Siberia looking for a MacGuffin opposite a mercenary organization, but what’s important is that Rise shakes off the horror tone and style of the reboot, replacing it with the feel of a proper genre outing, not to mention more actual tombs to explore. The platforming is also superb.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
While there’s any number of remasters you could theoretically put on a list like this, Master Chief is a no-brainer because it’s damn near the entire mainline Halo saga, from Combat Evolved: Anniversary to Halo 4, with only Reach missing from Bungie’s offerings. Master Chief is also remixed into one cohesive package, so you can just switch between single and multiplayer, or create a playlist of your favorite moments of the series in any order you see fit. If you’re a longtime fan, seeing Halo 2 more or less remade with the fourth game’s engine, not to mention some classic Halo 2 maps, is worth the price of admission alone.
Another compilation, Rare Replay is a fantastic value for anyone who grew up playing Rare’s wonderful games. This collection spans a 30-year history of the famed British developer, encompassing almost everything they’ve made over the years, minus games based around Nintendo properties like Donkey Kong, obviously. Even with some necessary exclusions, this set offers a staggering amount of content, from Perfect Dark and Conker’s Bad Fur Day to Battletoads, Viva Pinata, and Blast Corps. Seriously, if you’ve enjoyed a platformer or action game in the past 20 years, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. You won’t regret it.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
While Wolfenstein may feel a little more socially relevant than it necessarily did during its 2014 launch, MachineGames’ reboot is not just good, it’s better than it probably has any right to be. Its narrative wont blow anyone away, but its got chops for a game about a group of Nazi resistance fighters in the alternate history ‘60s that pays off with some actual empathy.
The shooting, of course, is top-notch, mixing an old-school, less heavily-scripted feel with badass ordnance that feels appropriately modern. It makes a great complement to this year’s DOOM, too.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
The Witcher III is such a critically acclaimed RPG that it’s now won Geoff Keighley’s annual accolade show the Game Awards two years in a row, first for the base game and this year for the huge expansion Blood and Wine, beating out Dark Souls III for the award. (Note that the base game is a bit cheaper than the complete edition that includes both expansions.) Between the base and the expansions you’re looking at about 150 hours in Geralt of Rivias Game of Thrones-esque world, but it’s probably more. Also, the inimitable Charles Dance plays a major role. What more do you want?
Metal Gear Solid V
If you’ve never played Metal Gear, you really owe it to yourself to go back and play the original games. If you can’t be dissuaded from immediately diving headfirst into the manic freeform of MGSV’s open-world sneaking, though, V is easily the most accessible place to jump in (as with The Witcher, the base game will be cheaper than the Definitive Edition collection) — that’s not an easy feat for a series that dates back 30 years and is known for insane, labyrinthine timelines and overwrought yet emotionally genuine stories.
No one does stealth — or design in general — quite like Hideo Kojima, and MGSV is no exception; but the real joy of playing Metal Gear, aside from the staggering systemic depth you’re given in avoidance and combat, is how Kojima’s idiosyncratic personality and humor are a defining characteristic of gameplay that rewards and reacts to players’ most ridiculous experimentations. Rest assured, once MGSV gets its claws in you, you’ll want to binge the rest of the MGS saga immediately.
Until 2014, when it came to video games starring H.R. Giger’s timelessly terrifying xenomorph, it was always Aliens’s space marine bug hunts that were deemed best suited for the medium. Then Creative Assembly bucked that trend, crafting a game that captures the essence of Alien with such incredible slow-burn focus — and methodical pacing it’s almost inconceivable the project was actually greenlit.
The result isn’t a shooter or an action game at all, but a straight-up brooding space nightmare starring Ripley’s daughter, Amanda, who is relentlessly stalked by an Alien that uses its clever A.I. to psyche you out, sniff out hiding places, and generally make your life a living hell. This is the perfect sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic, 35 years later, and one of the best horror games ever made. Just do yourself a favor and play it on hard difficulty for the most authentic Alien experience.
Remember Ratchet and Clank? Sunset Overdrive is developer Insomniac’s poppy, self-aware satire on consumer culture, made with the same fluid, Pixar-esque aesthetic and attention to detail as they put into Sony’s sci-fi platformer series. (There’s a pinch of Tony Hawk in there as well, because why not.) Bonus: You can pick this one up for around $10 these days. If you’re looking for a bit of silly, unadulterated fun, this is definitely worth a look.Photos via Square Enix, 343 Studios, Microsoft, Bethesda Softworks, Konami Digital Entertainment, Sega, Insomniac Games