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You need to play 2020's best game on Game Pass ASAP

Go to hell and back in this divine roguelike on Game Pass.

Death is never really the end in a video game, but that doesn't make it sting any less.
Bandai Namco

That’s especially true in roguelikes, where you’ll likely die hundreds of times by the end, and each death resets your progress.

SuperGiant Games

It can make the genre extremely off-putting for newcomers — at least until 2020’s best game turned that potential stumbling block into its biggest strength.

From the outside, Hades looks like just another roguelike, albeit an incredibly pretty one.

As jacked anime boy Zagreus, you fight your way out of Hades (the underworld), against interference from Hades (the god, and your father). Of course, there’s a lot of dying and restarting along the way.

The addictive roguelike loop works fantastically well in Hades. Combat is fast and fun, there’s tons of variety in enemies and abilities, and permanent upgrades make each run rewarding.

What makes Hades so special is that its killer action is the least compelling thing about it.

Things really get interesting when you die.

Like in other roguelikes, you start from the beginning of the dungeon each time you die in Hades. But while your escape attempt starts fresh, the world itself continues.

Zagreus is a denizen of the underworld, born there under circumstances that he grows to understand throughout the game. The other souls there are friends, coworkers, and lovers — even the ones who want him dead.

As Zagreus gains power through combat upgrades, he also gets to know and like his netherworld neighbors better.

Everyone has a story in Hades, from the lord of the underworld himself to the disembodied gorgon head who cleans up the place.

Even your weapons have personalities. As you use them, you’ll unlock Aspects (alternate forms tied to mythological figures), and other characters may even comment on the change.

Some of Hades’ most satisfying beats don’t center on Zagreus’ journey, but on how he helps those around him.

By talking and listening to other characters, you might reunite Achilles with his lost love, teach Orpheus not to be so self-centered, or instigate a much-needed family therapy session for the Olympians.

These aren’t typical RPG quests that award you a bouquet of experience points and a shiny new sword. Your reward is seeing the story play out, and the joy of having helped someone in a hopeless place.

In Orpheus’ case, you’re also treated to a song that I won’t share here, but trust me — it’s worth working up to it yourself.


A lot has already been said about how the cyclical nature of Hades matched the time-destroying anxiety of 2020. Sadly, that resonance remains in 2021.

If that sounds like too much to deal with right now, know that Hades also has the accessibility-focused God Mode, which makes Zagreus a bit more resilient each time he falls.

That one menu checkbox may inadvertently be the best way to sum up Hades’ philosophy, and what makes it so great: Failure is never final, as long as you keep trying.

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