With the arrival of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, the previous generation is starting to draw to a close. The Xbox One had a bit of an up and down trajectory, but the addition of Game Pass has made it a fantastic console.
Microsoft may not be known first and foremost for their exclusives, but that doesn’t mean the Xbox One didn’t have its fair share of memorable exclusive games. Microsoft kept Halo and Gears of War surging forward, but a handful of new IPs also came to the console over its lifetime.
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Keep in mind, games like Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest don’t qualify, since the titles moved to the Nintendo Switch. With that in mind, here are the best first-party Xbox One exclusives.
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15. Crackdown 3
Crackdown 3 was a game in limbo for years, mostly due to the game’s ambitious ideas with cloud processing. It may not have hit the heights fans were hoping for, but Crackdown 3 still delivered plenty of fun with its destructive chaos. Players once again take control of a super-powered agent, combating the various criminal agencies and gangs that control the city of New Providence. There’s certainly something cathartic about bounding over buildings and blowing things up, even if Crackdown 3 didn’t live up to the hype it built before launch.
14. Quantum Break
Quantum Break comes from the minds at Remedy, the studio responsible for Max Payne, Alan Wake, and more. It’s a fascinating experiment that creates a hybrid between a game and a TV show. Quantum Break has a little too much ambition in the end, but it’s still a unique experience unlike anything else. Players take control of Jack Joyce, a perfectly normal guy who gets wrapped up in a massive conflict involving the end of time itself. Joyce gains the power to control time, which plays directly into both puzzle-solving and combat. Each act of the game is broken up by a 20-minute live-action TV episode, that can change based on choices the player makes during gameplay segments. Stellar performances by actors like Shawn Ashmore and Lance Reddick only help to add a certain gravitas and weight to Quantum Break’s story.
13. Killer Instinct
Killer Instinct is a cult classic fighting series that finds its roots all the way back to the arcades of 1994. The series went quiet for nearly 15 years until Microsoft and Double Helix Games brought it back with a bang on Xbox One. Killer Instinct in 2013 is a reboot of the franchise, although it does have similar elements to previous games. The Xbox One game still has all the over-the-top absurdity fans expect, but it also makes it mechanics welcoming for newcomers to both the series and the fighting genre. Although not perfect by any means, Killer Instinct managed to strike a good balance between being accessible and having depth. The fighter received two more seasons of content up through 2016, which added on an even more diverse cast of characters and features.
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12. State of Decay 2
While Xbox might be best known for big triple-A experiences, it was also home to a host of smaller experiences as well. State of Decay 2, like its predecessor, is a survival-focused experience that tasks players with building a community and enduring hordes of zombies. The game uses roguelike design with its characters, as players will need to take survivors out to scavenger for supplies. If a character dies they’re gone forever, and if the entire community is wiped out it’s game over. State of Decay 2 can be a bit buggy and derivative at times, but for anyone looking for a post-apocalyptic survival experience, it’s still a good time.
11. Halo Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 carries on where the first game ended, with the crew of the Spirit of Fire waking up years later as the ship drifts toward The Ark. Landing on the installation puts the humans in direct conflict with an extremist faction of the Covenant, known as the Banished. Halo Wars 2 uses the same RTS style gameplay as the first one, but it tightens up the controls and adds on a host of new units and leader powers. The campaign in Halo Wars 2 does a great job of keeping missions varied, and its story has some big developments for fans of the series, especially seeing as Halo: Infinite will feature the Banished. On the multiplayer side, things are pretty standard, except for a new mode called Blitz. The mode merges collectible card games with traditional RTS, forcing players to collect resources to summon units with cards. Halo Wars 2 is superior in nearly every way to the first game, and an accessible RTS for those not familiar.
Grounded comes from the developers at Obsidian Entertainment, known for complex RPGs like The Outer Worlds and Pillars of Eternity. Shrinking down to the size of an ant, players need to survive the deadly wilderness of a backyard either solo or in a team. The idea is novel, and Grounded’s survival gameplay creates a great loop for players to engage with. It’s a bit light on content due to still being in Early Access, but Grounded is easily one of the most unique exclusives on Xbox One.
9. Deep Rock Galactic
Deep Rock Galactic is a co-op shooter in the same vein as Left 4 Dead, where players need to complete missions while battling a host of alien enemies. There are four different classes to choose from, but each map in Deep Rock Galactic is procedurally generated and layers in random missions, like having to steal a set of alien eggs. The classes play into each other nicely, and Deep Rock Galactic does a fantastic job of mixing up gameplay mechanics.
Related: Xbox One: Best RPG Games Of The Generation
8. Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves had a rocky start, but after years of updates and improvements, it’s become something special. Exploration is at the heart of Sea of Thieves, with players dropped right into a colorful pirate world that they can explore at their leisure, alone or with crewmates. There’s an intrinsic fun to gathering friends together and piloting a ship, whether players are successful at that or catastrophically fail. The amount of care that Rare has put into Sea of Thieves has made it a much more structured experience, but still, one that benefits from the unpredictability of other players.
7. Forza Motorsport 7
The Xbox One has a ton of different Forza experiences, but Forza Motorsport 7 represents the most refined the main series has been yet. Graphically Forza 7 is simply stunning and features a wealth of truly jaw-dropping weather and lighting effects, all of which up the realism. On the gameplay front, there’s an absurd amount of things to do, with hundreds of cars to collect and a nice variety of different tracks. Forza 7 doesn’t alter a lot in terms of core gameplay mechanics, but it’s one of the most robust packages out there for racing fans.
6. Gears Tactics
Gears Tactics brings XCOM-style combat to the franchise, while still keeping that traditional Gears of War feel. Taking place one year after Emergence Day, players follow Alpha Squad in the height of the conflict with the Locust. Gears Tactics’ combat is quite a bit faster than XCOM, and cover players just as much of a role as in the mainline Gears games. Battles require players to be strategic, but enemy AI also requires that players are aggressive and stay on the attack. Unfortunately, the game’s story doesn’t do anything incredible, but it still bears all the pomp and bombast the series is known for.
5. Halo 5: Guardians
Halo 5: Guardians was divisive among fans, but it still represents one of the best multiplayer experiences available on the Xbox One. The campaign’s story is a bit of a misstep, but it still provides fantastic co-op action with some serious set-piece moments. Halo 5’s gunplay feels the best the series ever has, and a robust suite of multiplayer options are available to players. While the campaign plays things safe, 343 Industries took more of a risk with the multiplayer, especially the new Warzone mode. Halo’s biggest multiplayer mode yet, Warzone has two teams of twelve going against each other and even throws AI enemies into the mix.
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4. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
The Master Chief Collection is one of the most compelling packages in all of gaming, bundling together six fantastic games in one. With Halo 1-4, ODST, and Reach, there’s plenty of content for shooter fans to get through with just campaigns alone. Just for the Master Chief Collection, Halo 2 was updated to Halo 2: Anniversary, giving the game a gorgeous facelift with some stunning cutscenes. The collection also gives players access to all of the multiplayer maps and modes from each Halo game, meaning there’s an absolutely absurd amount of content. Even better is the fact that the Master Chief Collection is available to anyone that has an Xbox Games Pass subscription.
3. Forza Horizon 4
Forza Motorsport 7 may be the most visually impressive racing game on Xbox One, but in terms of quality, nothing beats Forza Horizon 4. This time players get to cruise around a gorgeous fictionalized version of Great Britain, in an open world absolutely brimming with things to do. It’s truly just a pleasure to drive around the world, but there are also a wealth of activities and over 700 cars to collect. One of the more interesting aspects of the game lies in how different seasons affect races. For example, winter will freeze over parts of the world and make steering more difficult, but also open up paths to new parts of the world. Forza Horizon 4 represents the absolute pinnacle of the series so far, and it’s received some fantastic updates since launch, like the imaginative LEGO Speed Champions.
2. Gears 5
Gears of War 4 was a soft reboot of the series, but Gears 5 feels much more like the fresh start it needed. Gears 5 easily has the best campaign in the entire franchise as it makes a serious effort to flesh out its characters and tell an impactful and relative narrative. The series’ trademark gameplay has been refined to a sheen in Gears 5, and that especially shows in the game’s multiplayer offerings. Versus and Horde mode provide all the visceral combat fans could want, while the new Escape mode provides a new thrill. The cracks of the series are still showing in Gears 5, but it’s the most confident and ambitious Gears of War has felt in a long time.
1. Sunset Overdrive
Sunset Overdrive is the kind of experience that can only come from Insomniac Games, a wild and irreverent game that lets players wreak havoc. The title takes place in Sunset City after a new energy drink has turned the population into hordes of mutants called OD. An incredibly self-aware game, Sunset Overdrive’s biggest strength lies in its fantastic traversal and combat. Players can bounce off of objects in the world, slide on rails, air dash, and more. Staying on the move is essential to the game’s combat and players can increase their damage by stringing together stylish combos. Sunset Overdrive is equal parts a celebration of video games and a parody of games. Insomniac’s writing is top-notch, and there’s a kind of exuberant stupidity that permeates every aspect of the game. It’s a blast from start to finish, and one of the best experiences Xbox One owners can find.
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About The Author
Hayes Madsen (302 Articles Published)
Hayes is a Staff Writer for Screen Rant. He’s been writing and podcasting about games for over a decade, and he’s a graduate of the Metropolitan State University of Denver in the Journalism program. He’s been diving into RPGs ever since discovering the Final Fantasy series at a young age. You can find him on Twitter @Solfleet.