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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Xbox Game Pass Is Having its Best Stretch Ever

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The detractors of Xbox Game Pass are running out of goalposts to move. One of the last remaining legitimate gripes against Microsoft’s game-subscription service is that it’s been more like basic cable rather than HBO. In other words, plenty of good stuff, but very little content that’s truly top-shelf. But just two months into 2023, that argument seems toast too. Take a look at the roll that Xbox Game Pass has gotten started, and how long it’s set to keep going:

  • Hi-Fi Rush (January 25) – Many pixels’ worth of well-deserved digital ink have been spilled writing about Tango Gameworks’s viral, shadow-dropped hit. Microsoft didn’t just release a first-party game out of nowhere, it released a much-needed amazing first-party game out of nowhere. IGN gave it a 9 out of 10, and fellow critics agreed, with a Metacritic rating of 88 on Xbox and 89 on PC.

  • Just four weeks later, Atomic Heart (February 21) hit Game Pass as it earned an 8 out of 10 from IGN. This highly anticipated first-person shooter has captivated gamers for a few years now, and its release did not disappoint. It’s a third-party game available on PlayStation, sure, but it’ll cost you $70 over there.
  • Those two have started the year strong for the service, but fast-forward a mere 10 days (March 3) and Game Pass keeps another potential $70 in your pocket when Team Ninja’s promising new Soulslike, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, marks another big third-party game doing the day-one thing for subscribers.
  • Still in March (on the 28th), Sony’s own first-party baseball sim, MLB The Show 23, won’t cost Game Pass subscribers another dime for the third consecutive year. This is extra cool for an annual sports game, where many players don’t purchase it every year. Game Pass subscribers don’t have to worry about that.
  • We move to April (specifically April 18), when Minecraft Legends will see the light of day on all major platforms – but only Xbox gamers can just download it from Game Pass without swiping their credit card for an additional charge. Another dub.
  • Meanwhile, May will be only a day old when Redfall, the next major game from the decorated developers at Arkane Austin (makers of Dishonored 1 and 2 along with Prey) hits Xbox Game Pass on May 2.

These are merely the top-shelf highlights. I’m leaving out Game Preview stuff like Valheim (March 14), leftovers like Ghostwire: Tokyo (which should hit Xbox Game Pass on or shortly after March 25, when its year-long exclusivity deal with PlayStation should expire), and enjoyable single-A fare like Cities Skylines Remastered and Shadow Warrior 3 Definitive Edition (both of which hit Game Pass last week).

Finally, if Starfield does make it out by the end of June – which I know many gamers doubt at this point, given the relative radio silence from Bethesda, but I still believe it’s in play – then Xbox Game Pass will have delivered quality and quantity, big games and small, across a wide variety of genres in the first half of 2023. It’ll do that even without Starfield, really, but obviously The Next Game From the Makers of Fallout and Elder Scrolls would put quite a bow on the first six months of the year. Xbox Game Pass is unquestionably riding the hottest streak yet since its birth in 2017, and the big winner is us.


Ryan McCaffrey is IGN's executive editor of previews and host of both IGN's weekly Xbox show, Podcast Unlocked, as well as our monthly(-ish) interview show, IGN Unfiltered. He's a North Jersey guy, so it's "Taylor ham," not "pork roll." Debate it with him on Twitter at @DMC_Ryan.

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