Best Xbox Series X games in 2023: What to play

Best Xbox Series X games
(Image credit: Xbox)

The best Xbox Series X games may be few and far between in terms of exclusives, but there are a ton of great games you can play on Xbox. Microsoft has definitely had an uphill climb since its biggest launch title, Halo Infinite, was delayed, but it’s better than getting a subpar Halo game. Besides, most console launches have a rocky start before they really get good, and there is already a decent list of the best Xbox Series X games you can play now before the flood gates open.

Of course, what’s best for the Xbox Series X is also best for the Xbox Series S — check out our Xbox Series X review and Xbox Series S review to find out which console is right for you. Microsoft’s latest console has several impressive features that even top the PS5 in some scenarios.

Of course, it’s going to take awhile before the best Xbox Series X games you can play are actually developed by a team within Xbox Game Studios. As of right now, most titles are from third-party developers, so they’re not unique to Xbox, but they’re still great games that you can play on this platform. Besides, there are quite a few exciting titles on the way, like Fable, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Perfect Dark. We also recently published our Saints Row (2022) preview.

Also, check out our System of the Stars piece, where we meet the therapist using videos games to teach mental health. If you're into pen and paper games, check out our best virtual tabletop software page. (And our DND tips if you need help).

While we wait for these potentially ground-breaking games to give us a taste of what next-gen is supposed to feel like, here are the best Xbox Series X games that you can play today.

What are the best Xbox Series X games?

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You’re not going to find a lot of exclusives on this list, but you are going to find good games nonetheless. The one game that PS5 didn’t get its hands on is The Medium, which weaves an engaging mystery with satisfying problem solving elements by putting you in the shoes of someone battling the world's traumas. However, it really isn’t for everybody due to its serious themes. As far as AAA titles go, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla offers impressive exploration and gorgeous world-design that are too immersive to pass up.

There are smaller titles like Little Nightmares 2, which is a 3D-puzzle platformer with a side-scrolling camera. Little Nightmares 2 is an adrenaline-pumping adventure with an unpredictable, thought-provoking ending that will leave you aggravated and afraid. Then there are those annual games like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. However, this time around CoD delivers one of the most compelling campaign modes in the series’ history.

If you’re looking for the essential co-op experience, you can’t go wrong with It Takes Two. It Takes Two introduces a head-butting, married couple, Cody and May, and throws them into an unwilling journey full of shenanigans that challenge them to repair their relationship. It boasts tons of superb puzzles, gorgeous worlds and exciting mechanics. If you’re looking to be a world-class assassin, check out Hitman 3. It continues the series with striking, exotic locales that are perfect for stealthy murders. Of course, there are also a number of Xbox One games that are getting updated for next-gen, so those also count as some of the best Xbox Series X games.

The best Xbox Series X games you can play today

1. Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite review best xbox series x games

(Image credit: Xbox)

343 Industries captured the very essence of Master Chief within the fast-paced, high-octane gameplay of Halo Infinite. It is the most fun I’ve ever had in a Halo game. But once you realize that 343 Industries brutally murdered a promising narrative and replaced it with a lazy attempt to provide an entry point for new fans, the credits have already rolled and you have a sour taste in your mouth.

Despite that, Halo Infinite delivers the most fun Halo multiplayer in the entire franchise, and the fact that it's free means that everyone can hop in on the experience. Nothing beats grappling-hooking across an enemy base to land on a group of enemies, drop a shield and tear into them with the ridiculously overpowered Sentinel Beam. 343 Industries are still working out some kinks concerning the Battle Pass and how armor works, but with time, it'll get better.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Halo Infinite review.

2. Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands review best xbox series x games

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands takes everything we love from D&D and throws it into the infamous Gearbox gun generator — it’s a magical blast. (Image credit: Gearbox)

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands feels like the work of a think tank specifically tasked with getting Rami Tabari to fall in love with this Borderlands spin-off. I’ve played Borderlands before and I’ve never been a fan — it just didn’t click with me, but Wonderlands absolutely works for this D&D addict.

From the detailed character customization and creative classes to the mish-mash of Dungeons & Dragons inside jokes and the addition of spellcasting, Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is practically everything I wanted from Gearbox. It’s not perfect; there are some glaring issues with the inventory and item systems. I also would have preferred a true open world, but when I’m not playing Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands, I’m thinking about Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands review.

3. Elden Ring

Elden Ring best xbox series x games

Elden Ring’s engrossing scope and excellent progression systems make it the most intricate FromSoftware RPG yet. (Image credit: FromSoftware)

In my preview piece for Elden Ring, I called the game “aimless.” I felt underwhelmed and boldly stated that it “occasionally echoes the vacantness seen in other open-world titles.” This claim, which was made after seven hours of play time, is no longer representative of how I feel after 70 hours with the game, but that feeling isn't gone entirely.

Elden Ring's best moments offer up the most potent sensations of grandeur I've experienced while exploring an open world. Its immense scale and sense of freedom contrasts wonderfully with the terrors that linger throughout its derelict plains. But alternatively, the game is plagued by some tedious objectives, frequent boss and enemy reuse, and exhausting mini-dungeons. The Lands Between continues to surprise me even after riding through them for dozens of hours, but those repetitive moments are a slog.

Otherwise, FromSoftware offers up a robust mechanical evolution to its Soulsborne formula, providing an unmatched level of character diversity, allowing the player to tackle the many horrors of this world in whatever fashion they please.

— Momo Tabari

See our full Elden Ring review.

4. Back 4 Blood

Back 4 Blood best xbox series x games

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

One of the MVPs of zombie shooters returns with Back 4 Blood, and as you may have read from my first impressions, Turtle Rock studio hasn’t lost a beat since Left 4 Dead 2 was released back in 2009.

The chaotic co-op spirit is fully intact: online survival horror action with more brain spilling than Arn Anderson could shake a Glock at, along with new elements that promise to bring longevity to the experience.

Sure, Turtle Rock hasn’t changed much from the Left 4 Dead formula (including the repetition problems), which means Back 4 Blood isn’t the revolutionary return to the genre  gamers hyped it up to be. But the intense action, online multiplayer mayhem and satisfying shooting mechanics make this easy to forgive.

This is the spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead we’ve all wanted, and trust me, it’s been worth the wait.

— Jason England

See our full Back 4 Blood review.

5. Twelve Minutes

Twelve Minutes best xbox series x games

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

You can feel the passion in this project — kicking around in Luis’ head and becoming a reality over the course of several years since the prototype in 2015. 

The result is an interactive thriller unlike anything you’ve played, for better and for worse. Twelve Minutes is an enthralling story with indie intrigue told through lofty AAA production values and brilliant performances from Ridley, McAvoy and Dafoe.

But this new and exciting experience is hampered by clunky controls and its own real-time looping construct. In these moments, the gameplay gets in the way and can feel a bit frustrating. Plus, in a bit of praise disguised as a complaint, it’s over all too soon. I’d love to see what the team cooks up by applying this formula to a variety of scenarios because this brief glimpse is short-lived.

Twelve Minutes isn’t for everyone, but fans of the genre are in for an unforgettable treat.

— Jason England

See our full Twelve Minutes review.

6. The Medium

The Medium review best xbox series x games

(Image credit: Bloober Team)

As you might have guessed, The Medium is a psychological horror game heavily baked in trauma, and the entire game is about dealing with the manifestation of that trauma.  Even just in the few minutes of the game, we know that this is going to be a messed up story. Listen, if you’re into psychological horrors, The Medium will be right up your alley. 

I won't speak to how well it handles its themes, but the overall mystery about how this resort turned into a playground for evil spirits is interesting. And for a game that’s only $50, I wasn’t expecting The Medium to look spectacular, but my expectations were crushed by a gorgeous, detailed world that fooled me into thinking that my poor old graphics card was capable of ray tracing. This is one of the few games not available on PS5 right now, so there’s some exclusivity in it being one of the best Xbox Series X games.

— Rami Tabari

See our full The Medium review.

7. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla best xbox series x games

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is my first AC game since Unity, so I didn't get to experience the RPG transformation that took place in Origins. I've only dabbled in Odyssey, so I really didn't know what to expect with Valhalla. The pessimist in me thought I would find a bloated, aimless open-world action RPG, but what I actually found was something more carefully crafted.

Don’t get me wrong, Valhalla has its fair share of issues, and it doesn’t really keep up with other big action-adventure RPGs currently out there now or launching soon. However, the moment that Assassin's Creed Valhalla clicked with me was when I roamed the lively snowy peaks of Norway and randomly encountered the Elk of Bloody Peaks only to go axe-to-antler with it at the edge of a glowing pool of water on a mountaintop. It was immersive and magical.

Between its fun combat and stealth mechanics, immersive exploration and gorgeous world design, Assassin's Creed Valhalla is a great game. It’s easily one of the best Xbox Series X games available now.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Assassin’s Creed Valhalla review.

8. Little Nightmares 2

Little Nightmares 2 best xbox series x games

(Image credit: Future)

Not only does Little Nightmares 2 elicit explosive emotions with its challenging levels (nothing is more frustrating than failing to escape a monster by a razor-thin margin), but it will knock you off your seat with scream-inducing jump scares and exhilarating chases that require parkour expertise.

From heart-tugging “oh, no!” moments to repeating levels a zillion times, the Bandai Namco-published IP had me on the verge of tears more than I’d like to admit. Little Nightmares 2 is an infuriating game, but once you finally escape that relentless enemy without dying for the umpteenth time, a euphoric rush of fulfillment takes over and neutralizes the frustration-filled fury that made you want to flip a table. Little Nightmares 2 is like a toxic relationship; it drags you through a turbulent rollercoaster of emotions, but you’re not ready to hop off because it’s far too thrilling.

Little Nightmares 2 — propelled forward by a cute, paper bag-headed protagonist named Mono and his yellow raincoat-wearing sidekick Six — is far more sinister than the original game, subjecting you to a spine-tingling, dialogue-free tale, a host of unnerving, humanoid brutes, and brain-stimulating puzzles that’ll drive you mad.

— Kimberly Gedeon

See our full Little Nightmares 2 review.

9. It Takes Two

It Takes Two best xbox series x games

(Image credit: EA)

It Takes Two is the essential co-op experience, presenting an amalgamation of mechanics and designs originating from the most revered multiplayer genres. It refuses to let the player rest, barraging them with plenty of excellent ideas. Although not every one of these ideas stick, they always feel different enough to justify their existence.

Both narratively and mechanically, the game expects the player to travel a mile a minute as they explore new worlds, gain new abilities and decipher clever puzzles. As a cherry on top, all of this is set to an adorable backdrop featuring a bickering couple pushed along on their journey by an irksome book of love.

— Mohammad Tabari

See our full It Takes Two review.

10. Hitman 3

Hitman 3 best xbox series x games

(Image credit: IO Interactive)

Hitman 3 gives you the opportunity to stealthily pulverize your target into a pile of flesh by shoving her into a massive grape grinder. Hell yeah! Between the blood and the red wine, nearby NPCs (tattlers who’ll rat you out if they spot your malicious deed) are none the wiser. Muhahaha! Hitman 3 whisks you away to picturesque cities such as Berlin, Dubai and Mendoza. The folks at IO Interactive rarely disappoint when it comes to Agent 47’s killing-spree locations.

It continues to offer what many gamers love about this badass assassin video-game series: the ability to use your own creativity to covertly kill your targets. Although Agent 47 carries a gun, you’re encouraged to find strategic ways to make your murders look like “freak accidents.” There are truly some memorable, buzzworthy mission stories that won my heart in the Hitman series.

— Kimberly Gedeon

See our full Hitman 3 review.

11. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 best xbox series x games

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a new high for the franchise that was sorely needed. (Image credit: Infinity Ward)

Getting hyped for the next Call of Duty is always a risk. We’ve heard it all before: “this is the new era of Call of Duty,” “the biggest one yet,” or “the best in the franchise. At the end of the day, however, everyone knows exactly what they’re getting into — but it’s the way each entry is crafted that makes a Call of Duty shine. 

Case and point: Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 shows how well developers can finely tune a near double-decade-long series to breathe new life into it. It’s a modernized, erm, Modern Warfare that’s brimming with impactful combat scenarios, tense covert action sequences, and the slickest gameplay mechanics for an FPS that still feels grounded. 

From the engaging campaign to the additively tactical multiplayer, along with a revamped Warzone 2.0, I’m surprised Modern Warfare 2 is the most excited I’ve been about a Call of Duty in a long time. For those that have been following CoD, this is a new high for the series. For those that only dabble in it, MW2 is still the same FPS game you’ve (probably) played every other year. But this time, the tried-and-true formula is refined for the best.

— Darragh Murphy

See our full Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 review.

12. Two Point Campus

Two Point Campus review Best PC Game Pass games

(Image credit: Two Point Studios)

Two Point Campus is a management sim that tasks you with creating idyllic and well-functioning university buildings, thriving under the pressures of educational achievement and, hopefully, making a beautiful home for students and staff alike. What it also teaches you is a very hard lesson in managing your finances while forcing you to constantly question your own morals.

You’re the decision maker of your campuses’ desires and sometimes you might decide to skimp a bit for your own monetary gain. Say, deciding your students can make do with a few haphazardly placed vending machines as opposed to a luxurious, assistant-run food kiosk full of culinary delights. Or, maybe even just bung a fridge in their student lounge. Two Point Campus will consistently put you at a crossroads of your own moral compass and how you choose to follow it is up to you.

There’s a lot of decisions to be made as you construct your campus and there’s an incredibly fine line between making money fast or spending with a longer term goal in mind. Two Point Campus, while teaching your students in a variety of fun courses like robotics, dark arts, and knight school, will also teach you a fantastic lesson in how to get the best out of management sims.

— Grace Dean

See our full Two Point Campus review.

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.

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