There's more to the Xbox One than Halo, Gears of War and Forza. Microsoft's console is home to a slew of lesser-known gems, from underappreciated indie games to big AAA releases that never quite found the audiences they deserved. Whether you're looking for off-kilter sports fun, genre-bending action experiences or exotic open worlds, here are the best Xbox One games you probably haven't played yet.
Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Quantum Break is quite revolutionary in the ideas it experimented with, and part of me hopes that more games can be as innovative as it was. The game features three main characters: the hero with time powers who fights baddies via a third-person cover shooter, the conflicted agent who stars in the game's interspersed TV episodes and the villian whose gameplay requires you to make choices that affect the entire narrative. The entirety of the game is like playing Chess with yourself. As the villian, you can decide to make the heroes' lives difficult. But you have to play and watch those same heroes after you play the villain, so this presents a very mind-boggling dilemma. It makes you question every choice and whom to root for, creating a thrilling experience. Not to mention, the game has a great cast, including Shawn Ashmore (X-Men), Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings). — Rami Tabari
Anyone seeking an inventive platformer that pays tribute to franchises like Donkey Kong, Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS need look no further than Mekazoo. It's a crazy journey through a biomechanical, neon-drenched world that lets you assume the roles of five robotic animals: a frog, an armadillo, a wallaby, a panda and a pelican. Each animal has unique gameplay mechanics, and Mekazoo often encourages you to change characters on the fly, resulting in fast, furious and supremely varied gameplay. While kid-friendly and upbeat in its presentation, Mekazoo is also built for older gamers: All levels feature a nice degree of old-school difficulty, meaning fans of classic platformers are in for a treat with Mekazoo. — Robert Carnevale
Credit: Good Mood Creators
Darwin Project is a Hunger Games-styled battle royale game in which 10 contestants battle for survival in an arctic wasteland while the Director spectates and influences outcomes with their powers. The art style is gorgeous, and the gameplay is simple but complex enough to create varying play styles. The game is creative in the way it enforces the community to play nice with one another via Inmate and Director roles.
Inmates can rate Directors, and if their rating drops below a certain score, they are deprived of certain abilities. On the flip side, if an inmate is being unsportsmanlike, the Director can use their powers to put the player at a severe disadvantage. Hosting a game show as the Director is much more fun than I expected, as it brought out a different personality in me and led to ridiculously fun predicaments among contestants. — Rami Tabari
Credit: Scavengers Studio
If you love arcade sports games such as Rocket League, you owe it to yourself to check out #IDARB. It's essentially NBA Jam meets Super Smash Bros., as teams of up to four pixelated characters bounce and smash their way around a 2D arena in an attempt to toss a ball in the enemy team's goal. If that's not chaotic enough, folks viewing on Twitch can throw a wrench into the action with special "hashbombs" that activate all kinds of crazy modifiers. Throw in a robust character creator and character packs inspired by everything from The Walking Dead to Masters of the Universe, and you've got the ultimate off-kilter party game for your next get-together. — Mike Andronico
Credit: Other Ocean
With over-the-top c-c-c-combo breakers, insanely fancy combos and a relentless onslaught of adrenaline-pumping action, Killer Instinct is the perfect fusion of Street Fighter's technical magnificence and Marvel vs. Capcom's bonkers presentation style. Matches in Killer Instinct are tactical, thoughtful affairs, adorned with some of the craziest visuals and aesthetic elements in fighting-game history. As a plus, on top of the game's core roster of incredibly creative, personality-filled original characters, KI features some guests from other Xbox One franchises, such as the Arbiter from Halo and General RAAM from Gears of War. It's Microsoft's gritty, highly competitive version of Super Smash Bros., and it's worth every penny — especially since the most basic version of the game is completely free to play. — Robert Carnevale
There was no real reason to expect Mad Max to be a good game. It was yet another open-world game in a market already glutted with them; it was a movie tie-in, which almost never ends well; it was trying to balance ground and vehicle combat, when it's hard enough to get just one of those systems right. And yet, Mad Max is a well-crafted adventure through the Australian wastes, buoyed by an imaginative story, satisfying gameplay and a high degree of faithfulness to the films. When a warlord called Scabrous Scrotus (really) steals Max's precious V8 Interceptor, Max must forge new alliances, raid hostile camps and turn an old jalopy into a gas-guzzling death machine, one hard-won upgrade at a time. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Styx: Shards of Darkness
For modern gamers who feel like the stealth genre has gotten too easy and muddled with action-adventure tropes, Styx: Shards of Darkness offers a welcome throwback to the good old days of pure sneak-based gameplay. You play as Styx, a fourth-wall-breaking (think Deadpool) goblin who must venture through a variety of mythical landscapes to assassinate key targets and acquire vast quantities of a magical substance called amber. In this game, combat is greatly restricted, meaning if you get spotted, you're likely a split second away from instant death. Sneaking, cloning yourself, setting traps and creating distractions are the name of the game in Styx: SoD. And though it's a difficult adventure that strips you of the genre's modern-day safety nets, it's a superb experience for hard-core stealth fans who want a challenge. — Robert Carnevale
Credit: Focus Home Interactive
It's a shame Sunset Overdrive never set the world on fire, because it's still far and away one of the Xbox One's best exclusives. Part Ratchet & Clank, part Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, this game lets you jump, grind and shoot your way through a colorful, zombie-infested open world, racking up delightfully satisfying combos as you blow up hordes of glowy undead. The irreverent, fourth-wall-breaking story is refreshing, trading the grimness of most action games for a world in which energy drinks spawned a mutant apocalypse. There's a reason developer Insomniac Games was tapped to work on the upcoming Spider-Man game: This studio knows how to make getting from place to place feel great. — Mike Andronico
Super Mega Baseball 2
If the complexity of modern baseball games turns you off (or you just need your baseball fix on Xbox One), Super Mega Baseball 2 is the game for you. This is pure arcade baseball, with bright, colorfully big-headed characters and simple controls that are easy to pick up while packing enough nuance for those who want to get competitive. Super Mega Baseball 2 is impressively feature-rich for a $30 game, packing robust team customization and a host of season and online modes.— Mike Andronico
Credit: Metalhead Software Inc.
Fe's protagonist is a fluffy fox-like creature, but don't you dare write it off as another kiddie game. This action-adventure title pits Fe against the forces of the Silent Ones that are threatening the forest and everyone in it. Using the power of Fe's voice, you fight to protect your home. There aren't a lot of tutorials, so you're going to have to put on your thinking cap to figure out some of the finer mechanics of the game. And while you're there, take some time to enjoy the absolutely gorgeous artwork. — Sherri L. Smith
Credit: Electronic Arts
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die
D4 is an absolutely bizarre and absurd adventure game by famed developer Swerty. In the game, you play a detective who can "dive" into past memories by touching objects in his apartment to solve his wife's murder. D4 is one of the only games that uses the Xbox One's notorious Kinect sensor in ways you wouldn't expect. There's something truly surreal about using a mannequin's leg as a baseball bat in a crowded airplane, and that pretty much sums up the tone of D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die. It's a weird, fun time that you need to experience with Kinect, if you can find one. — Jorge Jimenez