The 10 Best Games on GamePass in 2021

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Overcooked! 2

Anton Galang / Lifewire

The best games on GamePass are gripping, exciting, and distinctly varied in nature. Thanks to the hundreds of games available via the service, there's no shortage of options here, which can feel overwhelming at first. However, it also demonstrates the breadth of different titles and experiences that the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S offers GamePass subscribers.

It's one of the best value services out there for avid gamers or those who simply want to experiment with various genres. With so many titles to choose from, we played a huge number of games on the service to find the best titles for those who want to get straight into playing. 

Through GamePass, there are explosive first person shooters such as Gears 5 that are ideal for adult gamers keen to let off steam and explore new worlds, alongside the creative journey of Minecraft for the whole family to learn from. Others, such as Forza Horizon 4, offer open-world racing experiences like no other, and sporting titles like MLB The Show 21 help you live out your dreams. The best part is that all these games are available as part of your monthly subscription rather than needing to pay anything extra. 

We've focused on providing the widest variety of choices here, encompassing many of the most popular genres so there's something for every taste, age group, and ability level. Read on as we walk you through the best games on GamePass.

The Rundown
It's all gloriously good-natured and the kind of game that even non-racing fans will love because it feels so freeing.
It's a tremendous package that means you can spend dozens of hours taking in the complex story of Master Chief's fight.
Best Massively Multiplayer Game:
Microsoft Studios Sea of Thieves at Amazon
It's best when played with others as teamwork can make a huge difference to your chances of success.
The single-player campaign makes it gripping enough that Gears 5 will stick in your memory for awhile to come.
Players team up to prepare meals, which sounds simple enough until you bear in mind you need to do so very quickly.
It's an experience that's both familiar and fresh thanks to the re-envisioning that's going on.
Even more violent than Gears 5, it's ideal for anyone who loves crime movies and wants to play one out on their games console.
It's immensely satisfying any time you manage to pitch or bat well, with extensive tutorials ensuring it's an enjoyable time for all.
Best Multiplayer Shooter:
Bungie Destiny 2 at Amazon
It's a vast world you can lose yourself in thanks to extensive new content added on a regular basis.
It's a vast sandbox world that feels like you can build anything.

Best Overall: Turn 10 Studios Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4
What We Like
  • Vast world to explore

  • Extensive multiplayer options

  • Lego DLC is perfect for kids

What We Don't Like
  • Racing might not be for everyone

On the surface, Forza Horizon 4 might seem like a regular racing game, but there's a lot more to it. It has an open-world design allowing you to explore its gorgeous landscapes which capture the essence of various areas in Britain including Edinburgh and quaint English villages. Players can choose to partake in races that encompass different challenges or they can simply roam the hills and complete numerous types of missions to unlock new cars and gain influence in the game world.

Alongside the extensive single player mode are co-operative multiplayer modes as well as competitive multiplayer races. There's even a take on a Battle Royale mode here with the last car standing winning. The introduction of Lego Speed Champions DLC has made the experience even more entertaining for kids with the chance to race with Lego constructions of famous supercars. 

It's all gloriously good-natured and the kind of game that even non-racing fans will love because it feels so freeing.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 62.92GB

"Forza Horizon 4 is both relaxing and exciting, giving you the chance to compete in some high stake races in supercars, or simply check out the roaming hills around you at a leisurely pace. It's liberating stuff." — Jennifer Allen, Tech Writer

Best First-Person Shooter: 343 Industries Halo: Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)

343 Industries Halo: Master Chief Collection
What We Like
  • Six great games in one

  • Countless multiplayer options

What We Don't Like
  • No longer as advanced as other shooters

  • Can feel dated

The original Halo game revolutionized the first-person shooter world while also making the original Microsoft Xbox far more popular than ever anticipated. Now, you can play fully remastered anniversary versions of the original Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 4, along with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach.

It's a tremendous package that means you can spend dozens of hours taking in the complex story of Master Chief's fight against the evil Covenant. While its controls may feel a little dated at times and its visuals lack a little sheen, it's an epic journey that's sure to beguile.

You don't have to go it alone, either. It's possible to play in split-screen mode or online with friends, before joining in on one of the many multiplayer modes out there. The latter has a slightly smaller community than before, but an extensive array of customizations keep it busy enough. It's a gripping taste of gaming history.

ESRB: M (Mature, Ages 17+) | Install Size: 62.74GB

"A true gaming epic, being able to play modernized versions of the Halo games is terrific fun even if it has aged in places." — Jennifer Allen, Tech Writer

Best Massively Multiplayer Game: Microsoft Studios Sea of Thieves (Xbox One)

What We Like
  • Near endless world to explore

  • Memorable experiences throughout

What We Don't Like
  • Can be quite hard

  • You'll need to team up with others

If you're a sociable player, then Sea of Thieves offers a huge amount of freedom. It has players command their own ship as they explore the high seas, choosing to plunder others or discover new islands and areas.

It's best when played with others as teamwork can make a huge difference to your chances of success. Playing solo can get quite tricky if you come across more aggressive players intent on causing you trouble but you can still have some fun simply sailing around to see what's out there.

Team up with friends, however, and it feels like a brand new game. You'll create some fantastic gaming memories together with the world offering what feels like a personalized experience at every turn. You'll truly feel part of something huge and with that comes a surprising amount of responsibility. It looks gorgeous, too, with some quirky jokes thrown in for good measure.

ESRB: T (Teen) | Install Size: 10GB

Best Third-Person Shooter: Microsoft Studios Gears 5 (Xbox One)

What We Like
  • Gripping storyline

  • More open than other Gears games

What We Don't Like
  • Multiplayer isn't as active as before

Gears 5 is the latest in the long-running series of Gears of War games. They're all available through GamePass, but Gears 5 stands out thanks to being less linear than its predecessors. Players are able to truly explore the game world rather than find themselves following corridor after corridor. That gives you a chance to see a bit more of what's going on as well as feel more in control of what happens next. Vast icy tundras are some of the highlights here and there are opportunities to control vehicles as well as simply roam the lands before you. 

Extensive co-operative modes, as well as competitive multiplayer, give you a fair amount of variety and there are generally online events each week, even if the community isn't as active as it once was. Ultimately, the single-player campaign makes it gripping enough that Gears 5 will stick in your memory for a while to come. Just be ready for a lot of gore and violence.

ESRB: M (Mature, 17+) | Install Size: 42GB

"With a female lead shaking things up, Gears 5 revitalizes the series in more ways than one and proves to be immensely enjoyable every step of the way." — Jennifer Allen, Tech Writer

Best Family Game: Team 17 Overcooked! 2 (Xbox One)

What We Like
  • A blast with friends

  • Addictive gameplay

What We Don't Like
  • Occasionally frustrating

  • Load times are excessive

Overcooked 2! will cause a lot of arguments, but in the best way possible. Players team up to prepare meals, which sounds simple enough until you bear in mind you need to do so very quickly and while juggling multiple tasks. It's frantic but intuitive controls mean that you're only ever let down by your inability to react quickly enough, which is how the lighthearted arguments with your family might occur. 

Thanks to its focus on co-operative play and the logical controls, it's perfect for the whole family as well as couples, with cartoony graphics keeping things light. It's a great party game too thanks to it being so easy to learn but tricky to master. For those times when you're going solo, it's still almost just as satisfying with a series of different levels to negotiate.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 8.04GB

 "With its delightful presentation and simple but intense gameplay, Overcooked! 2 is a cooperative multiplayer treat for all ages." — Anton Galang, Product Tester

Overcooked! 2

Anton Galang / Lifewire

Best Old-School Hit: Enhance Games Tetris Effect: Connected

Tetris Effect: Connected
What We Like
  • Familiar gameplay

  • Immersive

What We Don't Like
  • Can get repetitive

Tetris Effect: Connected is a souped-up version of the classic game you've almost certainly played before. It looks beautiful thanks to some gorgeous background designs that can turn quite surreal when the action heats up. Alongside that is the conventional magic of Tetris as you match up lines in a bid to clear them from the screen. It's an experience that's both familiar and fresh thanks to the re-envisioning that's going on. 

The game comes with added multiplayer features and four new modes so there's a lot to do here, but the magic really comes from simply creating those lines and watching them vanish. Being able to fight against AI bosses is a neat touch so you're not confined to playing against real people, and it's all simple yet wonderfully addictive.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: Unknown

Best Adult Game: Rockstar Games Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox One)

What We Like
  • Gripping yet open-ended story

  • Plenty to do

What We Don't Like
  • Very violent

If you're looking for a game that feels truly adult in nature, then Grand Theft Auto V is the one for you. Even more violent than Gears 5, it's ideal for anyone who loves crime movies and wants to play one out on their games console. Grand Theft Auto V follows the story of a few different criminals so you see how things play out from different perspectives, always giving you something to do.

You don't have to stick to the storyline either. It's possible to explore the sandbox-esque city and choose to partake in small-time crimes, steal cars, or simply buy out some buildings for profit. There's always the option of GTA Online if you want to complete some multiplayer heists, too. Grand Theft Auto V is a distinctly adult game and sometimes quite nasty, but for living out The Godfather, you'll be delighted.

ESRB: M (Mature, 17+) | Install Size: 54.85GB

"A classic, Grand Theft Auto V is the game that makes players buy consoles and being able to play it for free sweetens the deal even more." — Jennifer Allen, Tech Writer

Best Sports Game: Sony MLB The Show 21

MLB The Show 21
What We Like
  • The best baseball sim

  • Visually great

What We Don't Like
  • Card buying is pricey

If you've always wanted to hit a home run but lack the skills, then MLB The Show 21 gives you another shot. The game is the best baseball simulation out there, and is new to the Xbox family. It's immensely satisfying any time you manage to pitch or bat well, with extensive tutorials ensuring it's an enjoyable time for all.

There's a certain amount of monetization here through some of the game modes which feels a little unnecessary, but you can dodge that and focus on the satisfying action at hand. If you want to get creative, you can also dive into the ballpark creator feature which lets you design your own ballpark then share it with other players online. A small but neat perk.

ESRB: E (Everyone) | Install Size: 72.42GB

Best Multiplayer Shooter: Bungie Destiny 2 (Xbox One)

What We Like
  • Satisfying combat

  • New content regularly added

What We Don't Like
  • Solo play is tough

Destiny 2 is a first-person shooter that also combines role-playing and massively multiplayer elements to provide a unique experience. It's a vast world you can lose yourself in thanks to extensive new content added on a regular basis.

Pick out a class and pursue a certain path in your abilities and you'll soon find your strengths and weaknesses. Players can earn experience points to rank up with rewards steadily coming in and encouraging you to play for a bit longer each time. 

Where Destiny 2 stands out most is when you team up with others, raiding against environmental threats or choosing to fight against other players. Despite seeming solely focused on player interaction, there's a deep storyline in there too, as you'd expect from any game that has continued to feel fresh for years.

ESRB: T (Teen) | Install Size: 50GB

Best Creative Game: Microsoft Minecraft Starter Collection (Xbox One)

What We Like
  • Lots of depth to crafting

  • Core mechanics are easy to grasp

What We Don't Like
  • Can feel aimless to some

Minecraft is a game that seems like it will never end. It's a vast sandbox world that feels like you can build anything. You can build simple wooden huts and sticks but you can also construct vast palaces and whole games within games.

Impressive draw distances on the Xbox means it feels endless in the best way, and players can opt to play in local split-screen or online multiplayer to do more together. Besides the creative side of things, there's also a Survival Mode where you can explore the map, harvest resources, and build structures all in a bid to survive the monsters that lurk at night. Traditionally seen as best for children, it's still an experience that can grip any adult who loves using Lego or other crafting tools.

ESRB: E 10+ (Everyone, 10+) | Install Size: 1.12GB

"Minecraft remains one of the best all-around games for kids and families—a simple experience with surprising depth that rewards initiative and creativity." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Microsoft Minecraft

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Final Verdict

Forza Horizon 4 (view at Amazon) is a fantastic open-world experience that demonstrates driving doesn't just have to be about racing. It looks gorgeous and its Lego Speed Champions DLC is an extra delight for both those young and old to check out.

For more explosive gaming, there's Halo: The Master Chief Collection (view at Amazon) and Grand Theft Auto V (view at Amazon), which demonstrate how mature gaming can be. Players can always swap over to Overcooked! 2 (view at Amazon) when they want something lighter but no less challenging.

About Our Trusted Experts:

Jennifer Allen has been writing about technology and gaming since 2010. She specializes in iOS and Apple technology, as well as wearable technology and smart home devices. She's been a regular tech columnist for Paste Magazine, written for Wareable, TechRadar, Mashable, and PC World, as well as more diverse outlets including Playboy and ​Eurogamer.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who's been covering video games and tech since 2006. He's previously been published by TechRadar, Stuff, Polygon, and Macworld.

Anton Galang has been working as a writer and editor in technology since 2007. He has reviewed several Xbox One kids' games for Lifewire, and has spent countless hours on many other games just for fun.

FAQs

Can you play Game Pass games without a subscription?

No, you need an Xbox Game Pass subscription to play games through the service for free. It's possible to play them without but you'll need to purchase the game either from the Xbox Store digitally or physically from a retailer. If you have a subscription and it lapses, the games can't be played until you renew your subscription.

Will the games always be available? 

First-party Microsoft games are guaranteed to always be available while the service exists but other games typically come and go from the package. Usually, Microsoft warns a few weeks in advance when a game will be removed from the service and there are often discounts for anyone wishing to purchase the game outright from the digital store. 

Are there any additional fees involved in Game Pass games?

Yes and no. You can download the game for free but you may need to pay your ISP if you exceed any data cap restrictions in place. Some games also include in-game transactions, so if you want to use these, you'll need to pay extra. The core game is always free, though, and DLC is often included with the title.

What to Look For in a Game on GamePass

Genre

If you've been playing games for awhile, you probably know what genres you most enjoy. Even a free game isn't fun if you don't enjoy the genre. Pick out titles that have descriptions that sound appealing to you and try them out.

Xbox Exclusives

The Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S have a lot of great exclusive games including first-person shooters, driving games, and platformers. It makes sense to try out these games first given you can play them only on the Xbox platform. 

Xbox Series X/S enhanced

If you have an Xbox Series X or S, look out for games that have the Xbox Series X/S enhanced logo. That means the game has been upgraded to take advantage of the newest console's graphics and power so it'll look far better than anything else.

Was this page helpful?