Two years have flown by since the Xbox Series X launched, punctuated by events such as the rise and decline of the coronavirus pandemic, a war in Ukraine, and the ever-onward march of technology. Back in 2020 when I reviewed the Xbox Series X, I declared it to be the one Xbox to rule them all.
I stand by that verdict, but I have more thoughts to add.
On the whole, the Xbox Series X had a fairly unremarkable launch. It lacked much in the way of killer exclusive games, though the same could be broadly said for the PS5, yet it wasn’t blighted by any major bugs or problems to take the shine off. Rather, the worst bit about Microsoft's new flagship console was trying to find an Xbox Series X restock that stuck around for more than a hot minute.
Luckily the big black box of a games console is much easier to find these days, albeit not at a discount price. The Xbox Series X has a smaller, less powerful and notably cheaper sibling in the Xbox Series S, which is seeing success as an affordable way to get into Xbox gaming with some visual compromises.
A very capable console
The Xbox Series X has evolved as time has matched forward, with new features and optimizations turning it into a more capable and energy-efficient machine. Yet at the same time, there are no standout exclusives for our pick of the best Xbox Series X games that make it a must-buy if you already have a powerful desktop PC, say one of our picks for the best gaming PC.
This is due to Microsoft’s continuation of making first-party games available on Windows PCs, Xbox consoles old and new, as well as via Xbox Cloud Gaming — at least in some cases. If you have an Xbox One or Xbox One X and a fast internet connection, you arguably don’t need a next-generation console given you can stream games from the cloud to your console, albeit with slightly less graphical fidelity and more latency.
But for people like me, who lack robust internet speeds and have a slowly aging gaming PC, the Xbox Series X has grown into a serious gaming machine. As much as I love my PS5, mostly for its exclusive games and some of the proprietary tech it offers, Xbox Series X is my console of choice.
The Xbox Wireless Controller is a familiar gaming friend; the interface is easy to navigate; and there are all manner of neat features like Quick Resume to make getting from booting up the console and into a game very fast. I find the Xbox Series X to be one of the most reliable game consoles in delivering a consistent gaming experience.
It might not delight as often with some clever haptic feedback like the PS5 does with its DualSense controller. But it facilitates seamless gaming that transports me from flicking away at a controller on my sofa into a virtual world in mere moments.
A lot of that is thanks to the speedy PCI 4.0 SSD, which delivers superfast loading times, to the extent that it’s quietly revolutionary to my gaming experience. Going back to a gaming laptop where most of my games are on a traditional hard disk and I really notice the irritation of long load times. And the Series X’s 1TB of storage is great compared to the smaller 825GB for the PS5 (of which 667GB is actually usable).
Storage drain and triple-A pain
But the ever-growing size of modern games still means you’ll fill up the onboard SSD pretty quickly, especially if you’ve got an Xbox Game Pass subscription that encourages you to try a myriad of titles.
Expanding that storage comes in the form of a proprietary plug ‘n’ play SSD made by Seagate, which is neat. But as it’s a custom job it’s also very expensive, sailing past $200/£200/AU$300, which is difficult to swallow; Black Friday deals often see the SSD get sliced in price, but it’s still far from an impulse buy.
Not that there’s always a huge amount of new compelling games to download onto my Series X. Thanks to Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, the console has two flagship semi-exclusive titles, both of which are best played on a Series X. And the likes of Psychonauts 2 and some other double-A standard games add to the mix. But overall, the Series X still lacks a mighty exclusive game such as God of War Ragnarok or Horizon Forbidden West (yes both can be played on the PS4, but are really PS5 games).
Having said that, as I mentioned, the Series X is just a good place to play games, old and new. And as I’m currently hacking, slashing and magicking my way through Elden Ring, I'm very grateful for those fast loading times, Quick Resume and a very familiar near-perfect controller.
So in a way, the Xbox Series X is at a similar point to where it was last year. But 2023 could change all that.
Xbox Series X in 2023: Out-of-this-world promise
The potential behemoth that is Starfield is on the way, which looks to take Bethesda’s RPG DNA and evolve it with a huge mix of hard sci-fi. It’s one of my most anticipated games of next year.
Bethesda also has Arkane, which is working on Redfall, a co-op game that’s looks like a cross of Dishonored, Deathloop and Left 4 Dead with vampires thrown in for good measure. Both games will come to the PC, as well as the Series X and Series S, but they still look great and tease some intriguing experiences.
Then there's a barrage of other games, which will also be coming to Xbox Game Pass from day-one of their release: Hollow Knight: Silksong, High on Life, The Last Case Of Benedict Fox and more. So there’s a lot to look forward to in the next eight months or so.
And beyond that there’s Fable 4, The Elder Scrolls 6 and Avowed, all of which could be Xbox and PC exclusives, potentially making the Series X an essential gaming machine if you don’t have a high-end PC.
Xbox Series X bottom line
In the here and now, 24 months after it was finally released, the Xbox Series X really stands as the true partner to Xbox Game Pass.
The PC experience of using Game Pass still needs some work in my opinion. And cloud streaming via Xbox apps or dedicated TVs isn't quite there yet to replace console gaming. Game Pass on the Series X guarantees a stable performance and experience, delivered through an easy interface and setup for a wonderful controller, as well as other peripherals such as the Xbox Wireless Headset. It’s a joy.
So if you want the best place to play a lot of Xbox games across multiple generations, as well as a machine that’ll run every title on Game Pass without any problems, then the Series X is a must-have.