The Xbox One is entering its twilight years, as games begin prioritizing next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S systems instead. I switched to an Xbox Series X like many other Xbox One owners in the latter part of this year, and thanks to backward compatibility, all of those Xbox One experiences are coming forward for the ride.
Given that it’s the end of the year (and what a year it has been), I thought I’d cast a glance into the past and review all of my favorite experiences on the Xbox One line of consoles. The Xbox One generation isn’t really officially over until games stop launching for it. Many of the best and biggest most anticipated Xbox games for 2021 and beyond are launching on the Xbox One, as well as the Series S and X. The gen, however, is very much over for me personally.
The Xbox One generation was marked by a rocky start, and a bit of a limp to the finish line, with Halo Infinite getting delayed to next year. Alas, Microsoft has set itself up with a big recipe for success in the near future, with cloud gaming, next-gen power, and one of the largest lineups of blockbuster studios in the West. However you feel about the Xbox One gen personally, I had a blast with it, quite easily spending more time playing than I ever did on any previous generation. Here are some of my favorite experiences from the years of 2013 all the way to 2020, not including games that I’ve only played on next-gen systems (sorry Cyberpunk 2077.
What are your favorite games of the Xbox One generation? Hit the comments below, and chime in!
15. The Evil Within
Source: Tango Gameworks
The Evil Within was a flawed game in some respect, but as a fan of classic survival horror, getting a game with Shinji Mikami back at the helm was a bit of a dream come true.
The Evil Within is a truly grotesque experience with some of the most jaw-dropping monster designs ever committed to pixels. I was surprised to discover completing the game on Normal was a “Rare Achievement,” at least back when I did it, which could be a testament to the game’s grating difficulty spikes. The Evil Within is well-worth playing even now in 2020, if you can stomach the relentlessly haunting atmosphere and painstakingly slow-paced gameplay. Every layer of The Evil Within’s design is oppressive by intention, and few games have the guts to be this punishing in 2020.
The Evil Within is an underrated horror masterpiece. The Evil Within tasks players to navigate a nightmare full of grotesque psychological amalgamations made real, along with deadly puzzles in a truly harrowing atmosphere..
14. Super Time Force
Source: Capy Games
Super Time Force has a special place in my heart for being one of the first games I wrote about, but also because it’s just so damn good.
Super Time Force is a bullet hell side-scroller with inspiration from Gunstar Heroes and Contra, albeit with unique time-bending mechanics and truly laugh-out-loud dialogue. Super Time Force is a rare gem of an indie game that deserves far more recognition. You navigate Super Time Force’s huge array of enemies by sending time clones of yourself back to the past repeatedly to correct your mistakes. The game has an epic soundtrack that is memorable despite the fact I haven’t listened to it for years, with a beefy amount of content with a low price point—great, pure gaming.
Save the future
Travel across time
Super Time Force is as funny as it is addictive, with essential side-scrolling action and impressive time-warping mechanics. Super Time Force blends high-octane shooting with thoughtful planning and throws in piles of great humor and music for good measure. A total hidden gem, well worth playing.
13. State of Decay 2
Source: Windows Central
State of Decay 2 launched in a bit of a state (lol, get it), but subsequent updates not only polished the experience but elevated it with new content and features.
State of Decay 2 remains the closest thing to my ideal zombie survival simulation game. You play as an entire community of survivors, with perma-death mechanics and resource management at the heart of surviving the zombie apocalypse. State of Decay 2 has its issues, from multiplayer tethering to engine quirks, but few games nail that cinematic emergent feel. The scares in State of Decay 2 are derived purely from the simulation rather than scripted events, making them all the more nail-biting.
Since launch, Undead Labs came in-house to join Microsoft itself, and in the summer of 2020 revealed State of Decay 3.
Gear up and survive
State of Decay 2 launched in a bit of a rough state, but a few years later, Undead Labs has kept this particular zombie flick fresh, with all sorts of new content, features, and polish.
12. Quantum Break
Source: Windows Central
Another game I would quite happily describe as underrated is the excellent Quantum Break. Built by Remedy of Max Payne and Alan Wake fame, Quantum Break is a cinematic sci-fi adventure where time itself has broken.
A time travel experiment gone wrong gives Jack Joyce the power to navigate the shattered timelines and combat Monarch Solutions, who are exploiting the chaos for corporate gain. Quantum Break also featured high-quality live-action TV segments that interweaved between the game itself, featuring some of the best visuals on the console at the time, with great performances from Shawn Ashmore, Aidan Gillen, and others.
Quantum Break didn’t live up to the hype somehow, but the story delivery was compelling and bold enough to try something new. I long for a sequel to reconcile the game’s cliffhanger ending, but Quantum Break is a wild ride even without it.
An underrated gem
After a time experiment goes wrong, Jack Joyce is one of the few humans that can freely navigate the chaos. Locked in a battle with a time-traveling megacorp, Joyce stands on the precipice of a world shattered in time.
11. Darkest Dungeon
Source: Red Hook
Darkest Dungeon is a personal favorite of mine, marrying my nostalgic love for turn-based combat with gothic horror and rogue-lite systems.
Darkest Dungeon is a Lovecraftian strategy RPG, which tasks you to return a decrepit manor estate to its former glory. To do it, you have to invest in mercenaries and clear out nearby crypts, infested swamps, and ghoul-ridden dungeons, to eliminate all the cursed abominations that have taken hold across the land.
Darkest Dungeon famously introduces stress as a mechanic, where your adventurers suffer psychological ailments of all types as the burden of their experiences begins to weigh. Darkest Dungeon is a neat little game that I find myself coming back to time and time again.
Into the crypts
Darkest Dungeon is a big favorite of mine for its strategic turn-based combat, atmospheric environments, haunting narration, and satisfying progression mechanics. Darkest Dungeon is maddeningly difficult, but so it should be. The eldritch horrors await.
10. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Source: Windows Central
I suspect Ori will appear on many lists like this in various positions in the coming months. In some ways, Ori was among the few Xbox console exclusives that managed to achieve widespread critical acclaim, with Ori and the Will of the Wisps taking our pick for game of the year in 2020.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a truly delightful experience from every angle, with stunning art, music, and precise platforming gameplay seamlessly blending into a magical whole. Ori takes players into an enchanted forest to save it from spreading corruption, with a beefy and evocative audiovisual adventure that players won’t soon forget.
An unforgettable adventure
Ori and the Will of the Wisps is an enchanting and evocative journey through a magical forest. The cat-like Ori battles to save his lands from a seething corruption, deep in the dark heart of the wood. Ori is beautiful, emotional, and satisfying, with the best action platformer gameplay we’ve seen on the console.
9. The Long Dark
Source: Hinterland Games
The Long Dark is a truly wonderful game that has bucked industry trends, grabbing large free updates without the inclusion of any form of micropayment system.
The Long Dark is a solitary survival simulation game, complete with a powerful story mode and emergent gameplay mechanics. Set in the Canadian north in the midst of a meteorological disaster, you find yourself stranded in the biting cold with nothing but the clothes on your back. The animals have been driven mad by magnetic phenomena, and mastering the game’s various survival mechanics forms the basis of play.
The Long Dark gave me some of my most memorable experiences in a game this gen, owing to intersecting dynamic systems that can frequently put you on the brink of death.
Survive the winter
The Long Dark is a brutal survival sandbox sim set in the bitter climbs of northern Canada. A geomagnetic catastrophe has sent the wildlife mad and created an endless winter with little abate. Your humble task, simply, is to survive.
8. Battlefield 1
There are Call of Duty guys, and then there are Battlefield guys. I find myself firmly in the latter camp, preferring DICE’s large-scale, slower-paced, more tactical FPS over Call of Duty’s twitchy close-quarters action. To that end, I’ve enjoyed every single Battlefield DICE has put out for Xbox One, but perhaps my favorite of all was Battlefield 1, which quite boldly took the franchise to a theatre of war rarely explored by modern games.
Battlefield 1, of course, showcases WW1 in all of its grisly majesty. The first industrial-scale war, with clunky tanks, strange makeshift weaponry, and chemical warfare so horrible it was scarcely used by any side in WW2. Battlefield 1 wasn’t the most historically accurate game by any stretch, featuring vehicles in abundance that were in some cases barely out of the prototype phase. However, it was perhaps the most visceral of the series, with a bigger emphasis on up-close melee combat. Battlefield 1 was soberingly brutal and hauntingly beautiful.
Lest we forget
A history lesson
World War 1 is rarely featured in video game form, but DICE did a grand job with Battlefield 1. The WW1 theatre of war is as sobering as it is violence in Battlefield 1, with true-to-era weaponry and an emphasis on the brutality of the world’s first industrial war.
7. Wasteland 3
Source: inXile Entertainment
Wasteland 3 is the third installment in the legendary CRPG apocalypse franchise, credited with inspiring Fallout. Set in a dark vision of a post-nuclear war future, Wasteland 3 puts you in control of a troupe of Desert Rangers, descended from the remnants of the U.S. army. Trying in vain to restore some semblance of law and order to the anarchistic wastes, you travel to the wintry climbs of Colorado to seek trade partnerships with one of the few semi-civilized settlements out there. What you find is a whole heap of trouble, violence, and psychotic cultists, hellbent on killing you and scrubbing the last remains of civilization off the map.
Wasteland 3 is a turn-based isometric RPG that gives you a great deal of control over building up your playstyle and tackling quests. Another great title in a bit of a renaissance for CRPGs, Wasteland 3 is a great experience that represents a big step up for inXile.
Venture to Colorado
Wasteland 3 joins a growing renaissance for classic isometric RPG gameplay, set in post-nuclear apocalyptic United States. Take on a team of Arizona Rangers as they navigate a hostile Colorodan wasteland full of crazed robots, dangerous cultists, and aspiring dictators.
6. Resident Evil 2
I’m a sucker for nostalgia like most people, but few games really really the mark when it comes to classic ports. In fact, I’d argue that Capcom isn’t the best at it either, after Resident Evil 3 shipped missing huge chunks of the original. In any case, they did a good job with Resident Evil 2, which is a personal all-time favorite of mine.
Resident Evil 2 launches originally on the PlayStation 1, and Capcom took what they learned remaking Resident Evil 1 for the Game Cube and poured it into Resident Evil 2, reimagining some parts while sprinkling in new ones. It was truly awesome to experience the Raccoon City Police Department all over again with modern visuals.
Back from the dead
One of the best remasters ever made
Resident Evil 2 rises to the top of the horror pile once again in one of the boldest remasters of the entire gen. Delve back into Raccoon City and uncover the pharmacological conspiracy all over again, with modern visuals and gunplay.
Source: Blizzard Entertainment
There are a handful of games I come back to repeatedly in those situations where I just don’t know what else to play, and at the top probably sits Overwatch.
Blizzard’s character-based shooter spawned a range of copycats until the battle royale craze took the spotlight. Overwatch retained a dedicated and passionate player base, though, like most Blizzard games, and received persistent updates, new content, and free heroes since its launch.
Every time I play Overwatch, I feel like each game plays out a little differently. Every hero is diverse and decently balanced for team play at a casual level, with intersecting abilities and exciting ultimate powers that can, if used correctly, wipe an entire enemy team. Overwatch is one of those rare games where sometimes it can actually be fun to see how enemy players have cleverly outplayed you, using the game’s diverse maps and mechanics to their advantage. Endlessly addictive, Overwatch is my favorite multiplayer shooter of the gen.
The top shooter of the gen
Overwatch kickstarted the hero shooter craze with its eclectic cast of colorful characters that range from giant robots to intelligent hamsters. I can’t seem to get enough of it.
4. Life is Strange
I hate feeling feelings, and no game made me feel feelings like Life is Strange. Life is Strange made me feel so many feelings that I’ve been too traumatized to play DONTNOD’s other games like Before the Storm, Life is Strange 2, or Tell Me Why because of how thoroughly devastating Life is Strange is. Why am I putting it on this list if it’s so upsetting? Simply because few games have been able to have such a big impact on me. The great characters, amazing writing, and nostalgic setting make this one of the most moving games I’ve ever played, regardless of generation. To this day, I can’t listen to music from the game’s soundtrack because it takes me back to Max Caulfield’s doomed journey to save her loved ones from a supernatural premonition.
Life is Strange is a tale about friendship, loss, love, and youth told through the lens of a dark narrative adventure that may just scar you for life. In a good way. Sorta. Life is Strange is incredible.
All the feelings
Life is Strange is an emotional narrative adventure game that revolves around Max Caulfield’s supernatural ability to reverse time. A thriller without equal, Life is Strange is a devasting tale that will leave a mark.
Source: Windows Central
I’d actually say my top three games are tied for number one because I love them all in equal measure. The first is Prey, an immersive sim sci-fi action game with some of the best world-building we’ve seen all gen, in one of the most intriguing environments this side of Dead Space.
Set on a mysteriously vacant space station, you play as a scientist lost in a facility full of oil-like aliens called Typhons. You can customize your playstyle a great deal as you work your way through the failing living quarters, battling alien forms and avoiding mimics that can disguise themselves as any object.
Prey had some of the coolest gameplay, best music, and most wonderful environmental storytelling of the whole generation. An underrated gem that deserves far more recognition, Prey is well worth your time.
Not a mimic
Atmospheric sci-fi sim.
Prey takes inspiration from the likes of Deus Ex and System Shock to create an immersive sim with tight shooting, world-class world-building, in an increasingly rare horror space setting. Atmospheric, masterful, and wholly underrated, Prey is one of my top games of the gen.
2. Monster Hunter World
Source: Windows Central
Monster Hunter World takes the crown as my most-played Xbox One game of the gen, taking several hundred hours of my time. Capcom gave this game some serious love and attention post-launch, adding new monsters, new areas, new story elements, new equipment, and various other unlockables to hunt down since it launched a few years ago. The paid Iceborne expansion was utterly massive, too, with its own avalanche of free content updates to keep players hooked.
Monster Hunter World has some of the most satisfying combat mechanics I’ve ever experienced in a game, tasking players to master their weaponry as much as the monsters themselves. Each beastie has a unique set of behaviors to learn and overcome as you build up an arsenal of powerful weaponry and gear to take on ever more difficult challenges.
Playing Monster Hunter World with friends and family during the lockdown periods has helped me (and likely many others) stay sane.
The game that kept on giving
Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is the game that kept on giving this gen, with piles upon piles of free content to keep the game fresh almost in perpetuity. The paid expansion Iceborne is one of the biggest and best DLCs of all time, adding even more content and story elements for hunting parties of up to four players. A landmark achievement, Capcom’s biggest success of all time, and an experience I’ll hold dear forever.
1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Source: CD Projekt RED
The Witcher 3 remains my top game of the gen and perhaps my top single-player game of all time. The Witcher 3 is simply sublime and propelled CD Projekt RED into the limelight as one of the industry’s most talented studios.
The Witcher 3 is based on a series of novels by the same name, set in a dark fantasy world where magic and mythical beings inspired by European folklore are commonplace. Geralt of Rivia of the Order of the Wolf is trained and alchemically enhanced to battle monsters that lurk in the dark, at worst terrorizing farmers and eating livestock, and, at worst, attacking people and devouring them. Geralt’s skill sees him tangled up in all sorts of political intrigue as nations clash and evil cultists wait in the wings spreading corruption amidst the chaos.
The Witcher 3 has some of the best writing, character delivery, and gameplay the industry has ever seen or may ever see. And remains a benchmark experience all future action-adventure games should look to.
The GOAT itself
The Witcher 3 is a must-play game that, despite various imitations, simply hasn’t been bested yet. Geralt of Rivia, along with an excellent supporting cast filled with magical creatures and wizards and kings and queens, makes for an adventure that has to be experienced to be believed. Witcher 3 might be my top game of all time, and not just of the gen past.
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