Skip to main content

The best Xbox One games in 2021

A Red Dead Redemption 2 screenshot, one of the best Xbox One games
(Image credit: Rockstar)

Now is a great time to get stuck into the best Xbox One games, all thanks to robust backwards compatibility in the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. If you managed to get your hands on one of Microsoft's new games console then you have a wide library of older games to chose from, which can benefit from faster load times and better performance. 

These games range from long, intense, big-budget epics to small, quirky, unique indie fare, meaning there's plenty for everyone to enjoy. And thanks to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can download hundreds of different Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox games for a $10-per-month subscription fee.

Plus with Black Friday deals season upon us, you might be able to pick up a few of these titles at a hefty discount. So be sure to check out the best Black Friday Xbox Series X deals to see if there are money saving deals on the best Xbox One Games, or any other titles that might take your fancy.

No matter what you're in the mood to play, here are the best Xbox One games to play now.

What are the best Xbox One games?

Trying to pick the best Xbox One game is a tricky process. However, there are some stellar games that are well worth a look regardless, like Doom Eternal and Gears 5 on the shooter front, while The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt presents an exceptional third-person RPG and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice blends Samurai combat with a Dark Souls-esque difficulty. 

Then there’s Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, a game that is as excellent to play as it is to gawk at, particularly on the Xbox One X. We’d argue it’s an essential purchase for any Xbox gamer. 

And there's Forza Horizon 4 for driving and racing games fans, which runs very well on the Xbox One X.  But if you can’t decide what to play Xbox Game Pass offers a large range of games to play for a very affordable monthly subscription. 

The best Xbox One games you can buy right now

1. Red Dead Redemption 2

A cinematic screenshot of Red Dead Redemption 2

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Red Dead Redemption 2 raises the bar for open-world action games, setting you loose in a stunning, dynamic version of the Wild West in which everything is interactive and all of your actions matter. A prequel to the original game, Red Dead 2 puts you in control of the compelling, complex Arthur Morgan, who often must choose between doing the right thing and staying loyal to his gang. As the game progresses, you’ll see more and more connections to Red Dead Redemption, most of which make the original game’s narrative even more resonant.

From its incredibly cinematic storytelling and jaw-dropping graphics (particularly on  Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One X) to a vast, varied game world that lets you fish, ride horses and engage in epic Western shootouts, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a once-in-a-generation experience, and easily one of the best Xbox One games available.

2. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

A promotional screenshot of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

Is fighting mythological beasts like dragons and wraiths your thing? Do you like going on epic quests with the promise of untold riches? Do you like spending countless hours playing cards? How would you like to navigate a love triangle, star in a play, decide the fate of a nation at war, and square off against an intractable villain who’s been plaguing you for two games and counting? Then The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt may be the game for you.

The third entry in the Witcher series takes protagonist Geralt of Rivera throughout the world of The Continent as he searches for his lost love and his adopted daughter. Touted as one of the largest open-world third-person action role-playing games on the market, this bombastic title is one with which players should expect to spend at least 100 hours, and is easily one of the best Xbox One games for RPG fans.

3. Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2 cover art image

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Dishonored 2 is, unsurprisingly, the follow up to the original Dishonored. But while the stealth meets magical powers and frenetic first person action formula is intact, the game can now be played from two perspectives: that of the first game’s Corvo Attano or Empress Emily Kaldwin. Both have different powers that allow you to navigate the game's creative mission and areas in different ways, as well as dispose of targets in all manner in interesting fashions. Or you could simply opt to not use any power or kill anyone, such is the immersive sim nature of Dishonored 2 that it lets you complete objectives pretty much in the way you see fit. 

The environmental and level design was very good in the original game, but Dishonored 2 simply takes it to a new level with the likes of The Clockwork Mansion and Crack in the Slab being particular highlights. Even if you don’t like stealthy games, Dishonored 2 is worth giving a go for it’s sheer variety, style and creative, if bloody, fun you can have within the game’s systems. It’s also on Xbox Game Pass, along with its DLC. 

4. Doom Eternal

A screenshot of Doom Eternal

(Image credit: Bethesda)

Doom Eternal takes everything great about the 2016 Doom reboot and cranks it to 11. The game's adrenaline-pumping first-person-shooting action is more dynamic and fluid than ever, thanks to a sandbox of weapons and skills that let you create a ballet of beautiful violence during every encounter. Thanks to new abilities, such as the flamethrower and all-powerful blood punch, and new platforming moves, such as the double jump and air-dash, slaying demons across a demon-infested Earth is a blood-soaked blast. 

Add in a satisfying progression system, tons of secrets and collectibles, and absolutely breathtaking visuals and level design, and Doom Eternal is one of the best shooters in years. It's a cathartic, satisfying experience, with a story that's better than it has to be, and an incredible sense of atmosphere. It's easily one of the best Xbox One games in a while.

Doom Eternal won a "highly recommended" honor for "best music/sound" at the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for gaming.

5. Gears 5

A dramatic image of Gears 5

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Gears 5 is the biggest and most beautiful entry yet in Microsoft's enduring third-person shooter franchise, and one of the best Xbox One games yet. Focusing this time on Kait Diaz and her quest to understand her Locust heritage, Gears 5's ambitious campaign mixes in vehicular open-world exploration to complement the most satisfying and dynamic cover shooting the series has seen yet. 

There's also comprehensive multiplayer content, including the pick-up-and-play Arcade mode, a full competitive suite, a revamped Horde experience with character-specific abilities and a tense co-op Escape mode. It's also the best-looking Gears game yet, with striking, colorful environments that pop on the Xbox One S and Xbox One X alike.

6. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

A dramatic screenshot of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

(Image credit: Activision)

Ready for a real challenge? Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is the latest brutal action-RPG from Dark Souls developer From Software, forcing you to carefully hack your way through a mythological version of 16th-century Japan full of monstrous enemies looking to kill you. Sekiro stands out from the Dark Souls formula with its sense of mobility, as you can grapple-hook from ledge to ledge and switch between stances to catch your enemy off-guard.

Sekiro is already being hailed as one of the best (and hardest) From Software games yet, as there's no real way to grind for better stats -- only your skill will get you through. Still, there are ways to mitigate the game’s challenge, through careful observation of your environment and smart management of your limited skill set. Sekiro isn’t impossible; it only seems that way at first glance.

7. Mortal Kombat 11

A screenshot of Mortal Kombat 11

(Image credit: WB Games)

Mortal Kombat 11 is the biggest, bloodiest and best Mortal Kombat game yet, packing tons of spine-ripping content for casual and competitive combatants alike. The game's epic story mode celebrates the series' past and present through a delightfully off-the-wall time travel adventure, the rotating Towers of Time offer a constantly fresh set of challenges, and The Krypt is a fan service frenzy filled with neat unlockables.

Mortal Kombat 11's new custom variation system lets you craft a truly unique version of characters like Liu Kang, Cassie Cage and Scorpion, from their outfits and gear pieces to their individual moves. But most importantly, Mortal Kombat 11 is simply a great fighting game, with the most balanced, rewarding combat mechanics the series has seen yet and excellent online netcode for taking on the world. Test your might, indeed.

8. Forza Horizon 4

A screenshot of Forza Horizon 4

(Image credit: Playground Games)

Forza Horizon 4 is the pinnacle of Playground Games’ beloved arcade racing series, setting players loose in a massive, stunningly true-to-life rendition of Great Britain that’s brimming with fun things to do. Horizon 4 delivers shared-world multiplayer that populates your game world with real players, and introduces dynamic seasons – meaning you’ll have to adjust your racing tactics for summer, fall, winter and spring as the seasons shift every week.

But as with any Horizon game, the real draw of Horizon 4 is just how great it feels to drive, whether you’re performing insane stunt jumps or engaging in competitive races with your online pals. From its stunning variety of vehicles and its madcap battle royale mode to its intricate world map, everything about Forza Horizon 4 is a love letter to car culture and the drivers who love it.

9. Cuphead

A screenshot of Cuphead

(Image credit: StudioMDHR)

Cuphead marries brutal 2D platforming with a gorgeous hand-drawn art style inspired by 1930s cartoons, resulting in a package that’s equal parts charming and challenging. This captivating bullet hell sidescroller is defined by inventive, punishing boss fights that are complemented by a handful of platforming levels, all of which you can enjoy either solo or with a friend. (Bring a friend, if you can; the game is difficult, no matter what, but it can be absolutely brutal by yourself.)

Cuphead might make you want to throw your controller at times, but overcoming each unforgiving encounter provides some of the most satisfaction you’ll find from any action game. It's easily one of the best Xbox One games for folks who can handle a challenge, not to mention one of the most eye-catching titles from recent years, period.

10. Devil May Cry 5

A screenshot of Devil May Cry 5

(Image credit: Capcom)

Devil May Cry 5 is a superb return for Capcom's beloved over-the-top action series. You'll play as franchise icons Nero and Dante as well as mysterious newcomer V, all of whom can put together ridiculously stylish and satisfying combos using all manners of swords, guns and spells. The game's bombastic, unapologetically ridiculous story will please longtime fans of the series, while its strikingly photorealistic graphics make it the best-looking Devil May Cry game to date.

If you're looking to spend a few afternoons slicing up demons as stylishly as possible, Devil May Cry 5 will scratch your itch like no other. If you have an Xbox One X, the game can look even better, as it’s possible to reach 4K resolutions and 60 frames-per-second frame rates. For a game where split-second combos are in high demand, the latter, especially, can be pretty useful.

11. Madden NFL 20

A screenshot of Madden NFL 20

(Image credit: EA)

Madden NFL 20 is one of the most significant upgrades to EA's long-running football series in years, introducing Superstar X-Factor abilities that allow playmakers like Patrick Mahomes and Antonio Brown to perform tide-turning feats once they get hot. This mechanic is also deeply ingrained into Face of the Franchise: QB1, a cinematic career mode in which you take your custom quarterback from college to the NFL Draft to a full-on NFL career that changes based on your actions.

Factor in improved animations, more detailed playbooks and less dead time between plays, and you've got one of the best modern installments of Madden yet. The graphics portray everything clearly, the sound effects are true to life, and you’ll find all of your favorite players on the teams where they belong. You can play against the AI to bring your favorite team to victory, or compete against friends online.

12. Apex Legends

A screenshot of Apex Legends

(Image credit: EA)

Say hello to the new king of battle royale. Apex Legends stands out from the likes of Fortnite and PUBG by offering tactical team-based gameplay in which 20 squads of three battle it out using a variety of distinct characters that each pack their own unique abilties. Apex's brilliant Ping system makes it easy to communicate with your teammates even without saying a word, and the game delivers the distinct blend of tight shooting and smooth movement you'd expect from the makers of Titanfall (seriously, just spend a minute sliding around in this game).

Best of all, Apex Legends is completely free to play, so you have no reason not to hop into the battlefield and see what it's all about for yourself. The developers are constantly adding new features and characters, so even if you’ve tried Apex Legends previously, it may be time for another go.

13. Resident Evil 2

A screenshot of Resident Evil 2

(Image credit: Capcom)

Resident Evil 2 is a brilliant re-imagining of Capcom's 1998 horror classic, delivering tight third-person gameplay, a labyrinth of fun puzzles and a stunningly horrific new graphics engine that makes exploring the Raccoon City Police Department more nerve-wracking than ever. It’s also a much better experience than ever, since it’s hard to describe just how much better the controls are this time around. You’ll probably never want to go back.

You'll once again play as both Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, both of whom have a unique storyline that remixes elements from the original games complete with the most immersive, cinematic cutscenes the series has seen yet. Resident Evil 2 isn't just a great remake, it's practically a brand new game, and one of the most delightfully dreadful horror experiences you can have on Xbox One.

14. Overwatch

A screenshot of Overwatch

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Overwatch is the rare multiplayer shooter that just about anybody can enjoy. Featuring over 20 colorful characters that battle in equally colorful arenas, this game is all about working as a team and tapping into your hero's unique abilities rather than simply racking up kills. Gunning down enemies is important, sure, but so is healing your teammates, misleading your opponents and putting yourself in harm’s way to rack up as much damage as possible. No matter what your play style is, there’s an Overwatch hero to match it.

With tons of skins to unlock and a steady flow of free content updates, Overwatch is the kind of game that could keep you hooked for months -- or years. Plus, what other game lets you put a cowboy, a talking gorilla, a pop star in a mech suit and a roller-skating medic all on the same team?

15. Celeste

A screenshot of Celeste

(Image credit: Matt Makes Games)

Celeste isn't just a great indie game -- it's one of the best 2D platformers of this generation, period. Easy to learn but hard to master, Celeste has you navigate a series of brutal but satisfyingly challenging platform levels using nothing but a jump, a dash and a wall-grab to avoid all manners of hazards and pits.

Celeste’s perfectly precise gameplay is complemented by some arresting pixel art and a hauntingly memorable synth soundtrack. The fact that Celeste manages to seamlessly weave in a moving story about mental health and overcoming one's demons makes it all the more special. This game is definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s not nearly as punishing as it could be, either. A lot of the optional objectives are hard to reach, but just getting through the story requires only a little determination and a lot of patience.

16. Assassin's Creed Odyssey

A screenshot of Assassin's Creed Odyssey

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Bigger, prettier and more ambitious than any game in the series to date, Assassin's Creed Odyssey is a massive open-world epic that pushes the series forward in some big ways. You get a choice of main character this time around - Kassandra or Alexios, and the choices you make throughout the game's story sequences affect the overall narrative.

But the real draw of Odyssey is its stunning take on Ancient Greece, which is packed with fun activities that set the stage for some of the best combat and exploration the franchise has seen yet. Whether you’re sailing across the Aegean Sea or going toe-to-toe with a Medusa (there are some light fantasy elements this time around), Assassin’s Creed Odyssey always has something fun to do, and something unexpected to show you. If it’s not the best game in the series, it’s at least the biggest, and possibly the most ambitious.

17. Monster Hunter: World

a screenshot of Monster Hunter: World

(Image credit: Capcom)

Monster Hunter: World finally brings Capcom's beloved action-RPG series to modern consoles, and the results are breathtaking. This massive co-op adventure has a sense of scale and scope unlike any Monster Hunter game before it, with huge, living worlds that feature dynamic day/night cycles, destructible environments, and tons of wildlife both friendly and deadly. You can hunt solo, or with friends, but either way, expect stiff challenges and a big learning curve. Mastering Monster Hunter: World’s complex systems is its own reward.

You’ll still be mastering one of 14 unique weapons and hunting huge monsters to craft cool gear either alone or with up to three friends, but the action is tighter and better-looking than ever before. Monster Hunter: World demands your time and skill, but rewards you with dozens of hours of great gameplay moments in return.

18. Rocket League

image of Rocket League in action

(Image credit: Psyonix)

It's soccer with cars. What else could you want? Rocket League is one of the biggest breakout hits of this generation, with addictive pick-up-and-play action that's incredibly hard to master if you want to get competitive. The pitch (heh) goes like this: You and an opposing team play a game of soccer, but each one of you controls a car instead of a human player. The result is a chaotic, but surprisingly strategic, mashup of two genres that shouldn’t really work together, but do.

This wacky sports game has a ton of ways to play for hardcore and casual fans alike, and still receives a steady stream of new modes, arenas and items via free updates. The Xbox One version of the game also supports cross-play, so you can compete against your friends (and rivals) who own other systems.

19. Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive in action image

(Image credit: Microsoft )

Insomniac Games' Sunset Overdrive has the makings of a cult classic — it's a critically acclaimed commercial flop. With its colorful backdrop, over-the-top antics and deep customization options, this overlooked game deserves another chance to win over gamers, particularly now that you can get it on the Xbox Game Pass. It’s an open-world action game where you zoom around a brightly colored city, using bizarre powers to take down even stranger foes. When you consider that Insomniac Games made this shortly before it made Spider-Man, a lot of pieces start to fall into place.

Sunset Overdrive isn’t really a game that anyone was asking for, but it’s a shame that people didn’t give it a try the first time around. If nothing elsewhere else are you going to punish energy-drink-swilling zombies by blowing them up with exploding teddy bears?

20. Outer Wilds

Outer Wilds screenshot

(Image credit: Mobius)

Outer Wilds is a low-fi space exploration game with an intriguing mystery at its heart, mixed in with a healthy dose of humor and schadenfreude. It sees you fill the shoes of a fledgling, or should that be hatchling, aquatic bipedal creature that’s a member of the Outer Wilds Ventures, an equally fledgling space program searching for answers in the solar system. 

Starting out, you take off in a spaceship that’s partially made of wood from your home planet of Timber Hearth to track down other members of Outer Wilds Ventures. Read no further if you want to experience the game with no prior knowledge. 

Still reading? Ok, some 20 minutes or so into your extra-terrestrial exploration and the sun explodes. It’s game over. 

But you then awake with the knowledge of everything you’ve gathered in the first bout of exploration. This loop continues until you’ve unraveled the mystery at the heart of the game. It’s simultaneously relaxing, stressful, intriguing, bewildering, and darkly amusing when you realize you’ve flown too close to the sun’s gravitational pull or exited your ship without remembering to pop on your spacesuit. Outer Wilds isn't a game for people who want instant rewards and lack patience. But for those who are willing to persevere, it’s an intriguing game that's available on Xbox Game Pass. 

21. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

image of Halo: The Master Chief Collection

(Image credit: Microsoft)

While Halo: The Master Chief Collection doesn't actually have an Xbox One-era Halo game, it’s still a must-have for any Xbox One first-person shooter fans. If you’re new to Halo then this is the way to experience the four main Halo games as well as the seminal Halo: Reach and the decent Halo: ODST. There are modern enhancements, notably with Halo 2 sporting a rather fine makeover, as well as the original Halo: Combat Evolved looking much better after a lick of modern graphical paint. And the combat, level design and story tends to hold up rather well by modern standards, though some of the later missions in the original Halo can feel a little repetitive. 

You also get all the multiplayer modes of the six games in one interface. That means there’s a huge amount of online combat to be had, with a myriad of game modes to choose from. Just be aware that there are some very seasoned Halo players out there and are well-equipped to trounce you if you’re lacking in FPS skill. There’s also support for classic split-screen multiplayer, which may feel novel in 2021, but is nevertheless a fun way to spice up an evening with some friends. 

22. Hollow Knight

Screenshot of Hollow Knight

(Image credit: Team Cherry)

Hollow Knight is arguably the Metroidvania formula refined to near perfection. What starts off as a fairly claustrophobic 2D game opens up into a vast labyrinth of interconnected areas festooned with colorful bugs and sentient critters willing to part with the odd pearl of wisdom, boast, or general nonsense. Drawing inspiration from the Dark Souls games, like a lot of games do these days, Hollow Knight sees you delve deeper into the enigmatic land of Hallownest resting at benches to recover your health and energy, which also happens to respawn dispatched enemies. 

This makes it a rather challenging game, but rarely one that feels unfair with a combat and perk system that has a surprising amount of depth and all manner of ways to work around tricky obstacles and environmental problems. And like Dark Souls, it offers some challenging boss fights that you may end up bouncing off multiple times until you find a perfect flow moment. It’s not going to push the Xbox One to its graphical limits, but the gorgeous art style more than makes up for a lack of flashy effects. It's truly one of the best games around and well worth a look. 

23. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

screenshot of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

(Image credit: Steam)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is a rather astonishing blend of classic Metal Gear stealth with a brace of open-world settings and many open-ended missions. As Snake you can take on missions in practically any way you want, from going in guns blazing to sneaking around unseen or simply improvising on the fly. Some five years after its release, the game still looks great and plays well. From the main missions to building up your HQ on an offshore oil rig. 

But it's the systems and flexibility of the game that makes it a joy. Headshot a lot of guards and they'll start wearing stronger helmets, sneak into a base when it's raining and your footsteps will be muffled or use a sandstorm to run past guards without them noticing. Or knock out a lethal sniper by air-dropping a supply crate on their head. There's a lot of scope for experimentation as well as simple gaming larks. The Phantom Pain is truly a great stealth game. 

Upcoming Xbox One games

photo of an Xbox Wireless Controller in front of Xbox Game Pass games

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best Xbox One games list is only likely to expand, as future Xbox Series X games are also set to come to the Xbox One for the next year or so. As such, you can expect to have access to Halo Infinite, Psychonauts 2, The Ascent, Hades and more. 

These games will come to Xbox Game Pass from the day they launch. Just bear in mind that some upcoming Xbox Series X games like Starfield might be a little too demanding for Xbox One hardware, meaning you may need to take the plunge and seek out an Xbox Series X restock

How to choose the best Xbox One games for you

There’s no special trick to choosing the best Xbox One games. It’s a matter of personal preference. This list has hopefully given you some guidance, but there is no “best Xbox One game” in the same way that there is no “best food” or “best coffee table.” It depends on your needs, and your preferences.

Generally speaking, you’ll want to consider your favorite genres to begin with. If you’re in the mood for a short, fast-paced FPS, buying a long, contemplative RPG is not going to do you any good. Likewise, consider whether you want a big-budget title, which will probably be meaty and intricate, or an indie title, which will probably be quicker and rely on a few simple hooks.

Price is also a consideration, although there’s no easy way to gauge how much a game will cost on any given day. Titles go on sale frequently, and vary depending on the retailer. Broadly speaking, though, old games cost less than new ones, making it easier to build your library with titles from a few years ago.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer is U.K. Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.