With instant, unlimited access to over 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 backwards compatible games for the stupid cheap price of R159 per month, Microsoft’s like-Netflix-but-for-games Xbox Game Pass service is the turbo deal-o-rama of this generation. But besides marquee megahits like Forza Horizon 4, PUBG, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, its catalogue also includes some less obvious must-plays that should totally be on your list. Like these…
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
First up because it’s that important, Ninja Theory’s unconventional, intimate exposition of mental illness and psychosis is an extraordinary game that should be a mandatory must-play for everybody, ever, and I can’t recommend it enough. BUT PLAY IT WITH HEADPHONES.
From the developer of Sniper Elite studio Rebellion, Strange Brigade is an eccentric co-op, third-person shooter that launched at the wrong time in 2018’s crammed schedule. With its campy 1930s B-movie conceits and droll narration, it’s a mashup of Left 4 Dead and British imperial hubris that has up to four of Her Majesty’s Secret Service agents on a mission to eliminate some ancient evil inadvertently released from her prison-tomb by an archaeological expedition. So, you know it’s more or less historically accurate. Besides the reanimated mummies, anyway.
Zombie Army Trilogy
Also from Rebellion, and featuring a similarly absurd premise, Zombie Army Trilogy introduces an alternate history in which Hitler – in a desperate attempt to rescue his failing war in Europe – deploys a zombie army. But you probably guessed that already. Much like Strange Brigade, the game includes online co-op for up to four players, plus tactical dismemberment and some of the most grotesque headshot animations ever.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
More of the same co-op funs for up to four players, but this time dressed up in Warhammer’s grimdark medieval fantasy chainmail. The game swaps genre conventions with a focus on melee combat, and on harder difficulties, Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is no joke.
Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
The world has (mostly) ended in nuclear war, and it’s up to a duck and a pig to save what’s left of it. INTRIGUING. Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a turn-based strategy game that’s kind of like XCOM, but much less traumatic because if characters get killed in combat, they wake up when it’s over, and it was just a bad dream. So, for people who want to play a turn-based strategy game without consequences for their egregious incompetence. Like me.
Ghost Town Games’ kitchen chaos management sim is the co-op culinary catastrophe game you didn’t know you’d always wanted. “But Tarryn,” you’re thinking. “A cooking game?” Yes, a cooking game. NOW SHUT UP AND WHAT IS THIS EVEN SOME KIND OF ONION SOUP BUT WHY IS IT FULL OF LETTUCE AND ON FIRE AND HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO FINISH THIS LEVEL WITH ZERO TICKETS COMPLETE AND A SINK FULL OF UNWASHED DISHES AND A HAMBURGER ON THE FLOOR AND IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU. AND IT’S OVER. And it’s Valentine’s Day next week, so.
Bamboozle your brain with this uniquely bizarre and creepy indie sci-fi platform-puzzler in which you must use clones of yourself to accomplish tasks and navigate through a decrepit space station, and contemplate profound existential questions like which one of these clones is even the real you and is science a mistake.
Colonise an exotic alien planet, and suck everything out of it before moving on to the next one. It’s what humanity does. Aven Colony is a futuristic SimCity with more robot drones, toxic gas, and people complaining about the shitty food – but it doesn’t have a subway system, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
With its permadeath, uncompromising difficulty, and randomly-generated levels that preclude any sort of meaningful planning and inevitably end in reckless tragedy anyway, Capybara’s gloomcore roguelike isn’t for everybody – but if emotional masochism and relentless despair is your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Or you will be disappointed, but only because that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it? Weirdo.
It is 2150, and sports have death-lasers now. It’s the rules. With support for up to eight (!) players on one screen, Laser League is the high-speed, topsy-turvy, what-the-fuck-is-even-going-on party game that’s almost guaranteed to end the evening in resentment.
It’s been over 20 years, and we don’t have a sequel to Origin’s cult-classic Crusader: No Regret. But we do have this retro-nostalgic neon cyberpunk blast-’em-up to (almost) make up for it.