What Came First? Try Our Tricky Video Game Franchise Quiz

May 3, 2024
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Even those only vaguely familiar with video games probably know names like Super Mario, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty. They’re the franchises that have come to dominate gaming over the last 50 years or so. Some of those franchises are currently being updated almost every year, while the new releases in others have become milestone events […]

The post What Came First? Try Our Tricky Video Game Franchise Quiz appeared first on Den of Geek.

Xbox Game Pass is the lifeblood of the Xbox console family, and it’s not hard to see why. For a monthly fee, gain access to an ever-changing library of titles. As an added bonus, you receive complimentary Xbox Live Gold EA Play subscriptions, as well as discounts on titles that aren’t available through Game Pass. Yes, Xbox Game Pass has gone through several price hikes, but even at its current $17 monthly fee, the service is a steal of a deal because of all the quality titles at your fingertips. Even the cheaper tier, Xbox Game Pass Core, offers a tightly curated list of quality games at only $10 a month.

Xbox Game Pass’ sheer variety of offerings is its main selling point. The subscription offers over 500 games from every Xbox console generation, even the OG Xbox. Plus, many titles are released on Game Pass alongside their physical launches. Quite frankly, they all have something to offer. However, some Xbox Game Pass titles are superior because…well, that’s just how some video games are.

Note: Since Xbox updates Xbox Game Pass each month by adding some games and delisting others, this article will be updated each month to account for those additions/removals.

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Arcade Paradise

Arcade Paradise

Available for Consoles and PC

In Arcade Paradise, you must manage your family’s laundromat in order to pursue your true passion: building an arcade in the back of that laundromat. The surprisingly pleasant rhythm of seemingly monotonous tasks like cleaning up gum is amplified by both the stylish gamification of nearly every mechanic and the knowledge that everything brings you one step closer to your dreams.

If nothing else, Arcade Paradise deserves a lot of love for its massive collection of original playable arcade games with built-in achievements. Some of those games would be worth downloading if they were standalone releases. – Matthew Byrd

Assassin's Creed Origins

Assassin’s Creed Origins

Available for Consoles and PC

The debate over the best Assassins’ Creed game will likely never end, but those who prefer the series’ more recent pivot to RPG-like gameplay and character growth should give Origins a shot. It is, after all, the game that put the legendary franchise on that new path of epic adventuring. 

Granted, Origins didn’t quite get everything right out of the gate, but there is a charm to its blend of classic AC gameplay and RPG systems that later entries would sand away for better and worse. Its Egypt setting is also one of the series’ best thematic accomplishments. – MB

Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie

Available for Consoles and PC

In 2002, Microsoft purchased the game studio Rare. This move let Microsoft gain ownership of Rare’s entire catalog, including Banjo-Kazooie. Thankfully, Microsoft and Nintendo are on good terms and have worked out an agreement to offer the Nintendo 64 classic through Nintendo Switch Online and Xbox Game Pass.

Banjo-Kazooie is widely regarded as one of the best platformers ever created, especially in the “collectathon” sub-genre. The game solidified the gameplay loop of exploring numerous expansive and creative levels, unlocking new abilities as players progress, and revisiting old areas with new skills. Moreover, Banjo-Kazooie sports some of the wittiest dialogue and colorful characters to ever grace game consoles. The only title that comes close is its sequel, Banjo-Tooie, which is also available through Xbox Game Pass and is a must-play. – Aaron Greenbaum

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Available for Consoles and PC

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons‘ main “gimmick” is the ability to control both brothers simultaneously using two analog sticks. It’s a unique style of play that enables the kind of puzzles and problem-solving we usually only see in the best co-op games.

More importantly, that control style is the mechanical core of one of the most heartfelt and compelling stories in modern gaming. Brothers is ultimately the story of two young trying to work together to overcome a tragedy. The satisfaction you feel for completing another devious challenge often echoes their triumphs. – MB

Celeste

Celeste

Available for Consoles, PC, and Game Pass Core

Platformers aren’t known for their stories. Usually, the meat of the experience lies in, well, the platforming. And the aesthetics can also play a role. Celeste, however, demonstrates platformers can tug at heartstrings while also challenging the upper limits of player reflexes and on-the-fly strategizing.

Celeste is a trek up a mountain. In video game fashion, this involves pixel-perfect maneuvering, double jumps, and collectible strawberries. The game is infuriatingly challenging, but it balances this difficulty with design choices such as frequent checkpoints that get players back into the action quickly after each death. The result is a fair experience that tests the upper limits of player reflexes without feeling unfair. If that’s still too difficult, Celeste provides several assistive options to make the game even easier. 

While Celeste is a master class in level design, its narrative is the main selling point. Celeste tells the story of Madeline, a girl with anxiety and depression. The higher she climbs, the more introspective her journey becomes. The game’s mountain is as much a physical obstacle as it is a representation of Madeline’s mental state and her internal journey to better herself. – AG

Cities: Skylines

Cities: Skylines

Available for Consoles and PC

Yes, Cities: Skylines is pretty much the SimCity successor that many have long dreamed of. Before you dive into the game with those exact expectations, though, you should know that Skylines is a much deeper game than even those classic SimCity titles. It will likely take you quite a bit of time to wrap your head around some of its more advanced mechanics and 3D interface.

Of course, having the game available via Game Pass makes it that much easier to justify putting all the time in. Learn to love Skylines, and you’ll find that there is little it won’t let you do. It’s one of gaming’s greatest rabbit holes for those who are obsessed with logistics. – MB

Control

Control

Available for Consoles and PC

Arguably developer Remedy Entertainment’s greatest accomplishment (which is saying something), Control is a sci-fi horror tour de force that really has to be played to be believed.

Without diving into spoilers, though, I’ll just say that it’s best to think of Control as a Metroidvania-esque version of The X-Files with the quality third-person shooting combat Remedy was once known for that is amplified by imaginative abilities. It’s truly one of the great sci-fi games of the last several years. – MB

Dead Cells

Dead Cells

Available for Consoles and PC

Normally, Metroidvanias and roguelikes couldn’t be more different. One encourages players to explore hand-crafted worlds and revisit previous areas to reveal new locations and rewards. The other forces players to improve by increments while funneling them through procedurally generated lands. Yet, developer Motion Twin found a way to combine the two.

In Dead Cells, players control a blob of…something…that can puppet corpses. Like most roguelikes, gameplay consists of trekking through procedurally-generated levels, dying, and repeating the process all over again. Players can make subsequent runs easier by unlocking new weapons and new traversal abilities that open up new routes. The result is an addictive loop that creates and scratches the “one more try” itch. – AG

Diablo 4 Nightmare Dungeons

Diablo 4

Available for Consoles and PC

Truth be told, Diablo 4 is far from a perfect game. The long-awaited sequel’s promising launch has been compromised by a series of questionable updates that have gradually kept this ARPG from reaching its full potential.

Yet, despite all of its problems, Diablo 4 is a ton of fun. It’s the kind of Game Pass game you’ll download and return to time and time again whenever you feel like tearing through armies of creatures and blasting through dungeons with your custom-built characters. Others will simply start playing this game and never find a reason to put it down. – MB

DOOM (2016)

DOOM (2016)

Available for Consoles and PC

Since Microsoft owns Bethesda Zenimax, Microsoft likewise has the keys to the entire Doom franchise. Every entry in the series is available through Xbox Game Pass (even Doom 64). Quite frankly, if you are an FPS fan, you owe it to yourself to play every Doom game, but if you have to start from somewhere, you should start with the reboot that brought the series back from the brink of forgotten game series hell.

2016’s DOOM is a soft reboot of the franchise. Players still get to kill as many demons as possible with an eclectic roster of weapons, only this time the game is accompanied by a decent story. More impressively, the main character, the Doom Slayer, has more personality than ever before while still remaining the prototypical silent protagonist. In terms of gunplay, DOOM is the complete package. – AG

Fallout New Vegas

Fallout: New Vegas

Available for Consoles and PC

As previously stated, Microsoft owns Bethesda Zenimax, which means Microsoft essentially owns the entire Fallout library, much of which is available via Xbox Game Pass. However, if you have to play one Fallout game before your Xbox Game Pass subscription expires, play Fallout New Vegas,  

Fallout New Vegas is one of, if not the, best Fallout games. It offers more options to roleplay than any other entry in the series. If someone can think of a solution to a quest, they can probably do it. More importantly, if a player has a ridiculous character build in mind, it is as viable as any other min-max build out there.

While the Fallout franchise is generally praised for its narratives and characters, Fallout New Vegas is easily home to the best of the bunch. Every character and plot twist is well-written, and the game is full of side quests that add to the world and make it feel alive and lived in. At least as lived in as you can get with a desert crawling with radioactive lizards and poisonous insect hybrids. – AG

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5

Available for Consoles and PC

If you’re like me, you tend to find yourself hopelessly addicted to a great racing game once every few years. Well, if it’s been a while since you’ve fallen for a racing title, give Forza Horizon 5 a spin. 

Arguably the best Forza game ever made (which is quite the statement), Forza Horizon 5 combines the depth of modes, a massive roster of cars, and incredible details we expect from the greatest racing games. Yet, it features a wonderfully accessible style of gameplay that just makes it an absolute joy to experience. It’s also stunningly beautiful. – MB

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Available for Consoles and PC

There was a time when the idea of easily accessing updated versions of the bulk of the Halo franchise (online multiplayer included) via a single release felt like an impossible dream. Unfortunately, this collection’s rough launch and some general issues with the Halo franchise in recent years have taken some of the shine off what once seemed like a can’t miss hit. 

However, various updates made to the Master Chief Collection have made it easier to see it for what it was always meant to be: a tremendous tribute to some of the best first-person shooter games ever made. For those who grew up with Halo, there is magic in this collection. Even those just coming to these games for the first time may just discover what makes them so special. – MB

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Available for Consoles and PC

Ninja Theory is a well-established third-party studio that has worked for several AAA publishers. So far, the company has self-published only one title, but it is arguably Ninja Theory’s best: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

Like Ninja Theory’s other prominent titles, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a hack-and-slash game. Instead of focusing on fast action, though, Senua’s Sacrifice takes it slow. Every swing of the protagonist’s sword feels weighty and deliberate, and when she isn’t fighting, she is exploring beautiful, if linear, levels.

While Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is fun to play, it’s even better to experience thanks to its presentation and story. In a unique twist, the game’s hero, Senua, suffers from psychosis, so players never know if strange in-game events are actual examples of supernatural occurrences or all in her mind. Moreover, Senua’s dialogue is brutally dark and believable, thanks in no small part to consulted neuroscientists, and all of Senua’s animations are the product of top-notch motion capture – not surprising given Ninja Theory’s previous projects. While the sequel, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, isn’t available yet, rest assured it will launch on Xbox Game Pass day one. – AG

Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi Rush

Available for Consoles and PC

Many video games, especially console exclusives (or limited-time exclusives) receive multi-million dollar marketing campaigns prior to their release, but Hi-Fi Rush dared to be different. The game shadow dropped the day it was announced and sold millions of copies thanks to word of mouth, which speaks volumes of the game’s quality.

Hi-Fi Rush is the glamorous lovechild of Devil May Cry and Guitar Hero. Combat combines the button-mashing combo of the former with the rhythm-based challenge of the latter. Players can smash robots with a music album worth of over-the-top, flashy attacks, which is difficult enough on its own. But to excel in Hi-Fi Rush, players should time their attacks to the game’s different tunes. Nobody needs to, but to get the most out of the combat and skill-earning mechanics, players are encouraged to hit enemies to the beat of every song.

While Hi-Fi Rush’s combat is a masterpiece, the world and writing are in a league of their own. Hi-Fi Rush boats a colorful, anime-inspired setting that bounces to the beat, and every character is as memorable as they are hilarious. Every animation and piece of dialogue exudes charm. While Hi-Fi Rush isn’t long, it packs in more charm and excitement into each hour than most titles have in their entire runtime. – AG

Hollow Knight Silksong

Hollow Knight

Available for Consoles and PC

Team Cherry hit the ground running with its indie Metroidvania title Hollow Knight. Since the game began life as a Kickstarter project, Team Cherry promised many stretch goals, including a mode where players could control one of the bosses. That promise evolved into Hollow Knight Silksong, which is still in development. At least you can still play Hollow Knight while you wait.

Hollow Knight is an atmospheric dive into a world populated by anthropomorphic bugs. Every character, enemy, and level is rendered in a hand-drawn style that exudes personality and even sympathy. Like most Metroidvanias, Hollow Knight encourages players to revisit old levels with new abilities, and these areas change and become far more hostile as time goes on. This design makes the game world feel alive (as alive as an empty husk controlled by a pulsating parasite can be, anyway). – AG

Inside

Inside

Available for Consoles, PC, and Game Pass Core

Playdead is an indie studio with only two games to its name: Limbo and Inside. Both games are available through Xbox Game Pass, but if you only have time for one, play Inside.

Inside is a game that thrives on simplicity. Throughout the experience, players control a boy and have to guide him to safety. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why do the people chasing him create an army of mindless homunculi? The game expertly provides environmental storytelling clues that provide hints. The game doesn’t spell out the answer, but the narrative is compelling nonetheless.

Gameplaywise, Inside is just as simple as its plot. Players can only run, jump, and pull objects, which doesn’t sound like much, but the game uses this design to craft memorable levels and fairly novel puzzles. Moreover, since gamers don’t have to memorize a ton of controls, they can spend more of their attention on the gloriously grim world and all of its devious details. And even though Inside is a 2.5D game, its setpiece moments surpass most other titles. – AG

It Takes Two

It Takes Two

Available for Consoles and PC

There are quite a few great co-op games on Game Pass, but those looking for the best of the best will have a hard time doing better than It Takes Two

Much like developer Hazelight Studios’ previous co-op masterpiece, No Way Out, It Takes Two tasks two players with navigating a variety of challenges that can only be overcome by truly learning to work together. It’s a stylish, creative, and unbelievably charming experience that is arguably best played with your partner (even if its surprisingly emotional narrative and trickier sections may test that relationship). – MB

Lies of P Stats

Lies of P

Available for Consoles and PC

Lies of P may have been easy to dismiss as just another Soulslike title, but this is one of the best entries in that constantly evolving genre. 

Lies of P’s Bloodborne-like atmosphere lends the experience a necessary burst of style, but it’s the gameplay that will keep you sticking around. Lies of P’s uses its Pinnochio-esque premise to explore some fascinating ideas about character growth and custom weapon creations that really change how you approach its airtight genre-style combat. – MB

Mass Effect

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Available for Consoles and PC

BioWare is not the company it used to be. The studio’s two latest games, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, were financial and critical failures. Many players would rather revisit the games that made BioWare a household name. What’s better than a remaster of one of these titles? How about a compilation that bundles remakes of a whole franchise?

Mass Effect Legendary Edition collects the first three Mass Effect games under one roof and gives them a shiny coat of 4K Ultra HD paint. Every asset has been improved with new models, shaders, and lighting to pop like never before. Even the audio received some remaster love.

Graphics aside, every game in Mass Effect Legendary Edition is more or less unchanged. Each title has all the main missions, weapons, characters, and side quests audiences originally fell in love with. But that’s not all. This collaboration bundles in all of the DLC ever made for the original trilogy, including promo weapons and characters who were locked out of used copies. The only exception to this rule is the original Mass Effect, which isn’t quite as polished as its sequels. To make the experience more cohesive throughout, the developers balanced weapons and improved ally behavior. Even the contentious Mako segments received a spit and polish. – AG

Monster Hunter Rise

Monster Hunter Rise

Available for Consoles and PC

While the Monster Hunter franchise has been around for 20 years, Monster Hunter World catapulted the series to new heights, thanks in no small part to its release on Xbox. While that game isn’t available through Xbox Game Pass, its worthy successor, Monster Hunter Rise, is

As with all prior Monster Hunter games, Monster Hunter Rise is all about hunting monsters (duh). Its gameplay consists of a simple yet addictive loop where players track down giant destructive creatures, harvest their bodies for parts, use these trophies to construct stronger equipment, and repeat ad nauseum. Rise also adds in quite a few new mechanics, such as wirebugs that let players zip around like Spider-Man and tower defense missions that pit participants against rampaging hordes of monsters.

While Monster Hunter Rise was originally released on the Nintendo Switch, the Xbox version looks and sounds better thanks to the console’s more powerful hardware. Since every Xbox Game Pass subscription comes with multiplayer, gamers can team up with other players to take down Monster Hunter Rise’s most powerful monsters. However, the game’s DLC, Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak, isn’t included with Game Pass; permission to hunt that expansion’s quarries will cost extra. – AG

Pentiment

Pentiment

Available for Consoles and PC

Developer Obsidian Entertainment is rightfully known for its exceptional RPGs that often emphasize pure role-playing concepts. Yet, those games are also often defined by their incredible stories that rank among the best ever told in video games. While Pentiment may lack some of those more conventional RPG systems from the studio’s previous works, it is most certainly a showcase of Obsidian’s choice-based narrative talents. 

The creativity of Pentiment’s medieval art style is bested only by its imaginative premise. You can think of Pentiment as a detective game that sees an unlikely investigator uncover the truth behind separate incidents in a small village, but even that fascinating set-up sells the true nature of the game short. This is one of those rare choice-based titles where right and wrong are truly in the mind of the player. – MB

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2

Available for Consoles and Game Pass Core

Despite its glowing review and numerous award wins, I often find myself referring to Psychonauts 2 as an underrated game. Maybe it was the 16-year gap between entries in this franchise, but I just found that not nearly enough people seemed to give this game the shot it deserved in 2021. Perhaps its shorter runtime and initial Xbox exclusivity kept it from finding that wider audience it deserved. 

Regardless, Psychonauts 2 is pretty much the perfect Xbox Game Pass game. Download it, set aside a little time to knock it out one weekend, and allow yourself to enjoy one of the most creative, funny, and thoroughly intelligent games of the last 20+ years. It’s a modern masterpiece. – MB

Remnant 2

Available for Consoles and PC

Do you love the idea of modern action games buoyed by deeper role-playing mechanics but find yourself continuously let down by modern games that never seem to get that combination of concepts right? Remnant 2 may be the game for you. 

Remnant 2 wraps its almost Soulsborne-like action mechanics around genuinely deep RPG concepts. Character building is complex, inventory management is engaging, and the sidequests in this game rival some of the best sidequests in many “proper” RPGs. Even better, Remnant 2 is a top-tier multilayer Game Pass title. – MB

Resident Evil 2 Remake

Available for Consoles and PC

Resident Evil 7 revitalized Capcom’s signature survival horror franchise after the underwhelming Resident Evil 6. While RE7 isn’t available through Xbox Game Pass, the first modern remake of retro RE games, Resident Evil 2, is.

In Resident Evil 2, players can revisit the iconic halls of the Raccoon City Police Department and once again fend off zombies and bio-organic weapons of every shape and size. Graphics and audio are, understandably, leagues beyond what the original was capable of on the PlayStation One. Moreover, the remake does away with the tank controls and fixed camera angles for a more organic, more claustrophobic experience.

While Resident Evil 2 improves significantly on the survival horror formula, no aspect is upgraded quite like the scare factor. Not only are the monsters more terrifying than ever before thanks to the upgraded graphics and lighting, but the game adds a new layer of fear with Mr. X. While this nigh-immortal enemy was in the original, in the remake, he has been upgraded to always stalk players. This addition increases the game’s tension well beyond the original Resident Evil 2, if not most other horror games. – AG

Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire

Available for Consoles, PC, and Game Pass Core

In Slay the Spire, you are tasked with working your way through a series of fights and events that eventually result in you facing off against an indescribable horror. Death restarts your run, and the only way to thrive and survive is to slowly build the best deck possible from action cards you receive along the way. 

Arguably one of the best deckbuilding and best roguelite titles out there today, Slay the Spire brilliantly combines two genres known for their low barrier of entries, surprising depth, and dangerous addictiveness. The only thing more difficult than finding consistent success in this game is imagining the force of will it takes to pick up this title and simply be able to walk away from it shortly thereafter. – MB

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

Available for Consoles, PC, and Game Pass Core

There wasn’t much hype surrounding Stardew Valley when it officially launched in 2016. Over time, though, millions of people discovered the sometimes seemingly infinite pleasures of this elaborate love letter to the Harvest Moon franchise. The absolute coziness of this game’s soundtrack, visuals, and general vibes is certainly a draw, but it’s the shocking depth of running your own farm and small-town life that makes Stardew Valley so special.

Best of all, Stardew Valley has been updated since its release and continues to receive love to this day. Between its split-screen co-op play, expansion-like content additions, and ability to lull you into hundreds of hours of gameplay one in-game day at a time…well, do you really need any other Game Pass title? – MB

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge

Available for Consoles, PC, and Xbox Game Pass

Nostalgia can be quick to betray you, but there are just some experiences that are truly timeless. If nothing else, Shredder’s Revenge shows that those hours spent with those classic Konami TMNT beat-em-up titles were spent experiencing some of the finest games that genre ever gave us. 

While Shredder’s Revenge sticks pretty close to the formula those games established so long ago, it wisely updates those titles in ways both great and small. The result is a nearly perfect example of what happens when the greatness of times gone by is brought into focus with the help of modern niceties and innovations. Cowabunga indeed. – MB

Titanfall 2

Titanfall 2

Available for Consoles and PC

Respawn Entertainment is responsible for more than a few beloved titles, including Apex Legends and the Star Wars Jedi series. While the company’s first title, Titanfall, isn’t anything special, Respawn turned its luck and reputation around with the sequel, Titanfall 2.

Titanfall 2 is a well-realized FPS that takes place in a futuristic setting where wars are decided by highly mobile Pilots and their giant robots, the titular Titans. The game combines an eclectic armory of hi-tech weapons with a robust movement system that lets players double-jump and wall-run all over the map. On-foot gameplay is a blast since a steady hand is just as important as one’s parkour skills, but the Titan gameplay dials it up several notches. While they aren’t as fast as Pilots, they are still light on their feet (for their size) and come across as awesome lumbering tanks of overwhelming firepower. And yet the game manages to balance the abilities of Pilots and Titans and make neither feel too overpowered.

While Titanfall 2’s multiplayer is still going strong despite the game’s age, the campaign is in a league of its own. Players control the Pilot Jack Cooper and team up with Titan BT-7274 on a quest to…ok the story isn’t that important, but the campaign shines thanks to its characters and dialogue. Titanfall 2 manages to humanize Jack and BT-7274 and make them bond organically. – AG

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Available for Consoles and PC

Following a series of shockingly bad releases, the Tomb Raider video game franchise appeared to be truly dead. At the very least, fans braced themselves for years of mediocre Lara Croft adventures fuelled by name recognition rather than new ideas. That is until we got this 2018 masterpiece.

While Tomb Raider borrows a few ideas from more modern games (most notably, the Uncharted series) it either refines those concepts or tweaks them in interesting ways. What we end up with is a bloody, intense, and intelligent approach to the franchise that feels true to the series’ roots while kicking off an incredible new chapter in Lara’s life. – MB

Tunic

Tunic

Available for Consoles and PC

Most games include tutorials. Some teach players everything about each mechanic, while others only skim over the basics before shoving audiences out the door. Tunic, meanwhile, combines these strategies.

Tunic combines elements of classic Legend of Zelda games with Dark Souls mechanics. Players are given minimal directions and have to use items they pick up to fight through enemies, all while the action unfolds from an isometric perspective. While combat isn’t hair-pullingly difficult, it is challenging and forces players to maintain a stamina bar as well as constantly upgrade stats and weapons.

Tunic’s claim to fame is its in-game manual. Players collect pages as they progress, and each one adds new information, ranging from hints of where to go and how certain controls and mechanics work. However, the manual doesn’t spell things out; it retains an air of mystery because most of the passages are written in untranslatable languages. Players are both told what to do and have to figure things out as they go, which is fairly refreshing. Also, I can’t help but appreciate Tunic for making the manual look like those that came in older video game cases. – AG

The Quarry Game

The Quarry

Available for Consoles and PC

The Quarry is essentially the spiritual sequel to Supermassive Games’ brilliant Until Dawn. While it’s not quite on the level of those horror masterpieces, The Quarry features all the well-rendered characters, complicated choices, and incredibly effective jump scares that made Until Dawn one of the best PlayStation 4 games

The Quarry is also one of those games that just feels perfect for Game Pass. It’s fairly short and its replay value is limited to your desire to make different choices, but horror fans will struggle to find a more effortlessly compelling cinematic experience. To borrow an observation I believe I heard someone else mention at some other time, The Quarry offers a unique and irresistible combination of Triple-A production and B-movie charm. – MB

Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors

Available for Consoles, PC, and Game Pass Core

If complicated modern games have you feeling down, consider Vampire Survivors. After all, it’s an overhead action title that limits your interactions to eight degrees of moment and the occasional item to pick up or upgrade to pick. If it was a browser game in 2006, it would have been the best browser game of 2006. 

Much like those browser titles, you may find yourself spending more time playing Vampire Survivors than any other Triple-A game out there. It’s just so easy to lose yourself in what is essentially a bullet hell game where you are the bullet hell. Despite its relative simplicity, there is just enough skill and chaotic randomness in this game to ensure that none of its 30-minute (or less) runs will ever feel like quite enough. You must do better and press further. – MB

Yakuza 0

Available for Consoles and PC

When Sega announced the latest Yakuza game, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, the company surprised audiences across the globe by revealing the game would launch on Xbox One and Series X/S before PlayStation 5. This game would mark the Yakuza franchise’s second glorious revitalization; Yakuza 0 was the first.

As its name suggests, Yakuza 0 is the prequel to the original Yakuza (and its remake, Yakuza Kiwami). From a narrative perspective alone, audiences should play Yakuza 0 before every other entry in the main series (all of which are available through Xbox Game Pass) because it serves as an excellent introduction to series mainstays Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima. That and the narrative is arguably one of the franchise’s best, which is saying something since every Yakuza title has a dramatic story with plenty of twists and turns, as well as humorous side missions.

Gameplay-wise, Yakuza 0 lets players explore a small. yet bustling, city, beat up random thugs and rival gang members, and kill time with a glut of side activities. All these features have their own dedicated mechanics that, when taken together, create a solid experience greater than the sum of its parts. Yakuza 0 served as the blueprint for all subsequent Yakuza games. – AG

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