The first 5 games you should play on your new Xbox Series X

Xbox Series X console next to TV
(Image credit: Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

The Xbox Series X is one of the Big Two gaming consoles of this generation. While Microsoft’s system might not be as popular as the PS5, it’s still a great gaming platform with a wide variety of both first and third-party titles to pick from. The best Xbox Series X games prove that you can have a great time with this mini refrigerator-shaped gaming console.

Okay, so you just got an Xbox Series X. What can you play on it? Like I said, there’s a lot to choose from. That could be daunting, especially if you’re new to the platform. Don’t fret, because I’m here to help you select a handful of titles that showcase the best of Microsoft’s system. On top of that, I’ll also discuss Xbox Game Pass… which is arguably the Xbox Series X’s secret weapon.

Here are the first 5 games you should play on your next Xbox Series X.

1. Starfield


(Image credit: Bethesda)

Bethesda’s first new IP in decades is certainly ambitious, though its repetitive gameplay loop can hamper the overall experience. If you can overlook that, the scope of Starfield’s universe can feel boundless and intoxicating. Quibbles aside, this is arguably the Xbox Series X game to get.

Like other Bethesda titles, Starfield’s story involves a rags-to-riches narrative. Going from relative obscurity to galactic notoriety keeps you engaged, even if the missions you partake in might not feel all that original. Starfield doesn’t offer as much room to explore the galaxy as No Man’s Sky, but there’s no denying that it makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a sci-fi epic.

2. Forza Horizon 5

Forza horizon 5 screen shot

(Image credit: Playground Games)

Forza Horizon 5 is arguably the best entry in the long-running series. Set in Mexico, this open-world racing game utilizes the Xbox Series X’s power and delivers some of the best graphics the console can produce. It also plays like a dream thanks to its finely-tuned controls.

You’ll find a great deal of activities to partake in across the Mexican environments and locals. Car handling works better than before — giving you just enough realism while maintaining the fun of arcade racing games. Even if you’re not a car enthusiast, Forza Horizon 5 is a must-play for Xbox Series X owners.

3. Hi-Fi Rush 

Chai with the cat on his back in Hi-Fi Rush

(Image credit: Tango Gameworks/Bethesda Softworks)

Hi-Fi Rush effectively came out of nowhere and became a must-play title for the Xbox Series X. Fans of Jet Set Radio will appreciate Hi-Fi Rush’s cell-shaded graphics and emphasis on music. In some ways, Hi-Fi Rush is the closest thing we have to a modern JSR, which is great for those who miss Sega’s classic.

Don’t be intimidated that Hi-Fi Rush is a rhythm game. Even if you have no rhythm to speak of, you can still have a good time fighting off hordes of corporate drones and completing platforming puzzles. The wacky story is endearing, featuring a cast of colorful and eccentric characters that make the zany world feel more alive. Hi-Fi Rush is not only one of the best Xbox Series X games but one of the finest titles of the current console generation.

4. Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves

(Image credit: Microsoft)

If you’re still waiting for Ubisoft’s Skull & Bones to (finally) release, you can fulfill your pirate fantasies now with Sea of Thieves. Though this open-world title had a rocky start, it’s gotten substantial updates that now make it a must-play for Xbox owners.

What’s so great about Sea of Thieves? It lets you and up to four friends plunder islands and sink ships. It also lets you fight a gigantic kraken for good measure. The game runs at 4K at a smooth 60 frames per second on Xbox Series X, which makes the stylized cartoon-ish graphics look even better. If you need an enjoyable multiplayer experience, Sea of Thieves is the treasure you’re looking for.

5. Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

(Image credit: Xbox)

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the finest 2D platform games ever released on any platform. It’s certainly challenging given its hazardous environments and deadly enemies. However, there’s no greater feeling than overcoming the insurmountable odds. The interconnected maps encourage you to unlock shortcuts, and the gorgeous graphics will spur you to see what visual wonders await you as you progress.

Performance-wise, Ori and the Will of the Wisps runs at a buttery smooth 120fps on the Xbos Series X if your TV or monitor has a 120Hz refresh rate at a minimum. If you’re playing on one of the best OLED TVs, the color graphics will leave your jaw on the floor.

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass screen on Xbox Series S running on 4K TV

(Image credit: Miguel Lagoa | Shutterstock)

You need Xbox Game Pass to truly take advantage of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Even if you’re a Windows 11 user who plays the best PC games on the best gaming PCs, a Game Pass subscription is worth having.

For an affordable monthly subscription fee of $10 ($15 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate), you get access to a slew of old and new Xbox games — including both first and third-party titles. In addition, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives access to PC games and Xbox games you can stream via Xbox Cloud Gaming. Via the Xbox Game Pass app, you can also stream to devices running Android, iOS, macOS and ChromeOS. There’s no reason not to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass if you own an Xbox Series X.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.