Ahhh, the Xbox Game Pass. What a deal.
Over 100 games for the low, low price of 7.99 a month? An offer you can’t refuse! Filled with classics like Bioshock, Braid, Guacamelee!, Sea of Thiev– Okay, nevermind. Despite the quality being all over the place, there’s no denying that the good stuff you get from the Xbox Game Pass is some good stuff, and that’s why this post has been made: To show you some of the finest additions to the subscription service that you may not be aware of.
Before we chow down on this challenge, a few rules and regulations must be made. First up, there will be no repeat coverage of any game that we might have already talked about before. While it’s incredibly tempting to recommend OXENFREE for the 5739th time, I won’t, and we’ll save each other the time and effort. Second? Seriously, nothing that Microsoft would proudly put on the front of the advert — this is all the underground material your mother warned you about.
Without further ado, let’s round this posse up!
DiRT Rally – Feels Like A Wheel – Dev. CodeMasters
Fiiiiiiirst up, DiRT Rally! Coming from the long-going rally series dedicated to the late Colin McRae, this entry is not just the best Colin McRae game, but the greatest rally game ever made. With tens of vehicles to choose from, gorgeous vistas in nearly every country you blaze through, and a looming, yet comforting difficulty curve, this game is all about getting your cars dirty… and possibly totalled… maybe both.
The best part about DiRT Rally is that it’s no longer about the glamour, or over-blown style of rally racing, or that stupid Gymkhana shit that Ken Block is known for. No, it’s all about teaching you just how fun, unintentionally crazy and how unbelievably lethal the world of rally racing is. If that doesn’t make you feel like purchasing it? Never fear! A much more comfortable rally title is also in the Game Pass library, namely Kylotonn’s WRC5.
It may not be the most recent WRC title, or even the best rally game in the world, but it’s friendlier to the player, with the challenge creeping up over time with some really gritty racing action in store. The views are also on par with DiRT Rally, and at the end of the day, you’ve got 2 great rally games, for the price of none! Everybody’s a winner.
LUMO – System Blower – Dev. Triple Eh?
Next on the list is one of the more abstract titles on the list; LUMO, an old-school isometric puzzler with a 3D aesthetic. While visiting the local games convention, your male or female character is inexplicably sucked into the computer they’re staring at, and find themselves stuck in the dungeon of a Commodore 64 game, with a next-gen filter. Without the loud buzzing noises and 3-minute load times, of course.
LUMO is definitely a love letter to the bedroom developers of the late 80s and early 90s, where the UK was rife with kids getting their new games from a twin tape-deck, or budget titles for 50p. Unfortunately, I was but a glint in my father’s eye at that point, and I’m not an Ashens-level of gaming historian, but the point is that LUMO is arguably the most inaccessible title on this entire list. That doesn’t stop it from being fun, however.
The soothing atmosphere and impressive immersion you get from a simple hour in this game is almost unmatched from other puzzlers, and despite the fact that rooms have less life to them than Ozzy Osbourne, it’s still incredibly cozy. If you can’t get into the game due to the obtuse feel of gameplay, then that’s fine! Just know you’re missing out on a really comfortable game.
Monaco – Up My Sleeves – Dev. Pocketwatch Games
Next is Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, which is what you’d get if you combined the top-down rush of Door Kickers with The French Connection. You, along with 3 other people if you so wish, have to go into various heists and operations, and pull off careful takedowns and robberies. It’s not as slow as Door Kickers, and it may not even be as cathartic, but the fun you can have with a couple of pals is brilliant.
Every method of progression is rewarded, because Pocketwatch knows how vast the spectrum of players is. Yeah sure, you’ll get more praise for being a stealthy bugger, but sometimes the situation may not call for it, and the now-patented “Cockup Cascade” is something that no player enjoys. Which is why the lethal route isn’t met with a firm spanking from the game itself.
Pair up the fun gameplay with some small nuggets of chuckle-worthy writing, and after a while, you’ll find yourself embroiled in this “Heist-em-up”. It’s definitely one for a game night with pals, as the quote “quite possibly the best co-op ever” is not hyperbole. Go ahead, don your stereotypical berets and moustaches, the game is doing the same thing.
Shantae and The Pirate’s Curse – Lock Your Doors – Dev. WayForward
A good platformer is always fine and dandy, which is why we’ve got Shantae for you right here. Sure, the sexual deviance of these girls in a kids platformer is more than uncomfortable, to the point where you feel like the FBI is going to knock down your door as you play it, but hey, it’s got some top-notch gameplay to go along with it. I always keep one eye closed while playing it anyway.
From the vibrant atmosphere, to the kick-ass soundtrack, the cast of wonderful characters that aren’t cheesecake, and the kick-ass soundtrack, Shantae does one thing flawlessly, and that’s flair. The pixel-art landscapes are superb, with some beautiful animation to go along with it. The level design is top-notch, fair to the player, and never turns into a sudden wall of confusion. Did I also mention the kick-ass soundtrack?
A serious note to add, the cheesecake nature of Shantae and her other female cohorts is kind of a detriment, as WayForward could have easily given her and everyone else a few more pieces of cloth to cover their shame. Yet the game’s charm is something that can’t be avoided, and that’s why it’s being showcased here.
Steredenn – Get Got – Dev. Pixelnest Studio
Hell yeah, baby, let’s get the obligatory sh’mup in with Steredenn, a straightforward space shooter with a small pinch of rogue-like elements. Pixelnest certainly came to please, and with simplicity in the right places, you have a sh’mup that’s deceptively simple. “Easy to learn, hard to master” has never been truer when playing a game, that’s for sure.
With a huge array of weapons, all of them perfectly acceptable for any situation, the crawl to the boss is always frenetic and a pixelated blast. Add some moody rock music, and MASSIVE boss fights, and every brief playthrough will leave you on the edge of your seat, with the inevitable death hounding you to restart as soon as you died.
It’s easily up there with some of the best shoot ’em ups ever made, and even though it’s considerably harder than more quintessential titles from the same genre, there’s no denying that Steredenn has the looks and muscle to match its contemporaries.
The Flame in The Flood – World of Dogs – Dev. The Molasses Flood
With so many upbeat titles being showcased, it’s only fair that we turn down the heat slightly, with something of a slower boil in play; The Flame in The Flood, a rogue-like survival game from a team that just wanted to let you sit back, and relish in the ravaged world they provided. Playing as a young girl with her canine companion, you float down the procedurally generated river for the simple objective of living another day.
Scavenging resources, using wildlife know-how to remedy illnesses and problems, upgrading your makeshift raft so it doesn’t fall apart during more dangerous sailing, “Survival” is the name of the game here, more often than not. It’s an unforgiving experience, but one of bittersweet nature. It’s calming in its nihilistic nature, with Chuck Ragan’s soundtrack only elevating that feel further.
There’s not much more to say, although don’t play the game if you’re looking for a good time. The Flame might make you miserable, and want to never step foot in any sort of forest ever again.
World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap – Warping – Dev. Neocore Games
Finally, we end on a small whimper of a title, with a massive bang of ambition. Deathtrap has been around for 3 years now, and over time, developer Neocore have been crafting this game into the near-perfect Tower Defense title it is today. “Brilliant” doesn’t even begin to describe this game, and that was the case before most of the additions.
You start off a simple warrior, yet over time, your skills and proficiency at handling the hordes of monsters attempting to attack your celestial gate becomes known, and the equipment needed to combat the nasties gets larger. The Diablo stench that the original Van Helsing titles had is still present here, with the mantra, “The more things change, the more things stay the same”, being stuck to this title with Gorilla Glue.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop it from being a Rube Goldberg machine of success and enjoyment, with fan-created maps only adding to the enjoyment. The robust map editor is something that needs to be commended as well, as that has been a feature not shown enough in gaming as of late. Props to Neocore and their future.
Here we are at the end. The list of hidden gems is only going to get bigger with time, but that also comes with the massive asterisk, said asterisk being that these games may not stay on the Xbox Game Pass library forever. All the more reason to play them, but hopefully, this convinces you that the Xbox Game Pass is a brilliant deal, and if you don’t have an Xbox? Well, you just got 7 title recommendations, so get some cash together and play these already.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.