Google Stadia is finally here, and the gaming platform is OK, provided that you have a strong internet connection and can deal with the service's myriad launch limitations.
One thing Stadia has going for it, though, is that most of the games in relatively small library range from decent to fantastic. If you've got a lot of trust in your online connectivity and are ready to give Stadia a try, here are the best Google Stadia games you should check out first.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
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When it comes to sprawling, open-world fare, games don't get much bigger than Assassin's Creed Odyssey. This enormous historical action game takes place in ancient Greece, where you step into the sandals of Alexios or Kassandra. These young heroes fight in the Peloponnesian War, where they uncover a nefarious conspiracy that threatens to bring the Greek world to its knees. Learning about the origins of the Assassins and the Templars is interesting, but the game's big draw is sailing around the Greek archipelago, uncovering the game's myriad side quests and hidden secrets along the way. If nothing else, it'll be a good test of whether Stadia's servers can keep up with such a huge title.
Final Fantasy XV
After the disappointing Final Fantasy XIII and the massively multiplayer online Final Fantasy XIV, fans were beginning to wonder whether we'd see another traditional Final Fantasy anytime soon. Final Fantasy XV responded with a definitive "no" — but what we got instead is, arguably, even better. Inspired by Western titles like The Witcher 3, Final Fantasy XV is half open-world road trip, and half linear Final Fantasy title. You take control of the young Prince Noctis and his three best friends as they pile into a fancy car and drive off to a royal wedding. But the car breaking down is only the beginning of their troubles. With deep real-time combat and a heartfelt story, FFXV is one of the best entries in the series.
Stadia launched with precisely one exclusive title, and Gylt is it. This kid-friendly horror game defies easy description, but it combines puzzles, stealth, exploration and a little light combat. You play as Sally Kauffman, a preteen who stumbles into a shadowy mirror world while searching for her missing cousin. The story deals with childhood bullying through a magical realist lens. To be perfectly frank, the experience never comes together as well as it could. The gameplay is a little thin, and the story feels vague at times. But considering it's Stadia's only exclusive title, it's worth checking out just to see the content you can't get anywhere else. It's also a good game for kids.
Just Dance 2020
If you really want to put Stadia's connection to the test, Just Dance 2020 is one of the best ways to do it. That's because Just Dance doesn't rely on a traditional controller. Instead, you have to connect your smartphone through a proprietary Just Dance app, which tracks your movements as you mimic an avatar's dance moves on-screen. Aside from acting as a tech demo, though, Just Dance is simply a fun game, particularly if you have friends over. You can dance to some of the most popular hits of the decade, like Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road (Remix)," or go old-school with "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys. Just be prepared to work up a sweat.
Mortal Kombat 11
Stadia claims that you can stream games with no lag whatsoever, and what better way to demonstrate that than with a fighting game? Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the best games in the series lately, with tight, balanced fighting; bone-crunching animations; and an enjoyably off-the-wall story mode. What's even cooler, though, is when Stadia is firing on all cylinders, and you can pull off combos and take on challengers online, with no lag or fuzziness. Just be aware that, while the Stadia version of Mortal Kombat 11 is good enough for everyday play, it may not provide quite enough fidelity for hard-core tournament fighters — at least not yet.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Was Red Dead Redemption 2 worth the eight-year wait? That depends on whom you ask, but either way, Rockstar's enormous horse opera is one of the most ambitious and detailed open-world games ever devised. You play as Arthur Morgan, a member of the Van der Linde gang of Old West outlaws in 1899. After a heist goes wrong, they're forced to confront a harsh truth: The frontier has closed, and their lifestyle won't be sustainable for much longer. As Arthur grapples with his own place in the world, he undertakes a series of missions and heists, exploring new parts of the huge game world as he does so. It's a long, pensive game with plenty of action along the way.
If you're looking for a fighting game stripped of all pretense, then you're looking for Samurai Shodown. This game, from the team behind King of Fighters XIV, features 16 playable characters from 18th-century Japan, all struggling against (or sometimes for) a demon who wants to wreak havoc. It's pretty simplistic stuff, but then again, you're not here for the story; you're here for the tight, fluid fighting and diverse characters. From the heroic Haohmaru, who fights like a traditional samurai, to the lithe Charlotte, who relies on agility and speed, there's someone to suit everyone's style. You can also dive into multiplayer arenas, if you want to test your skills against other players.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider got mixed reviews when it came out. Critics loved the deep, varied gameplay and gorgeous environments but criticized the tell-don't-show story and its failure to build on either of its predecessors. Both are fair points, but neither takes away from the fact that Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a solid, well-constructed game. There are lots of interesting areas to explore, and the rewards you earn for doing so feel worthwhile. Lara is still an interesting protagonist, even if her supporting cast is as bland as ever. And the Stadia version of Shadow of the Tomb Raider includes all of the subsequently released DLC, meaning you'll have plenty of additional tombs to raid for fun and profit.
Thumper sells itself as a "rhythm violence" game, which seems like the only sensible way to describe it. You play as an avatar gliding along a colorful, scrolling racetrack, pressing a button to match "notes" from the background music as you go. You'll have to fight enemies, avoid obstacles and navigate the terrain as the world speeds up around you and the music becomes more intricate. Think rhythm-game-meets-bullet-hell-shooter, and you're at least on the right track. While Thumper isn't easy to describe, it's one of those games you've simply got to try for yourself, and with Stadia, you can play it on just about any screen. I can't promise you'll love it, but I can assure you that you've never played anything like it.
Doom Eternal was one of the first games to launch on Stadia at the same time as its PC, PS4 and Xbox One counterparts. And, as on other systems, Doom Eternal on Stadia is a wild, chaotic, strategic ride from start to finish. In this ultraviolent first-person shooter, you'll take control of the Doom Slayer, who must rip and tear every single demon that emerges from Hell in order to save the Earth from an apocalyptic crisis. Doom Eternal's shooting feels great, thanks to a fun variety of weapons, each with a few inventive attachments. But it's also a game of resource management, as you'll have to constantly replenish ammo, health, shields an fuel for your grisly chainsaw. It's a wild, cathartic, over-the-top experience, and yet it can be strangely calming as well, as you focus on getting through each difficult encounter.