The 5 Best Xbox One Exclusives Games in 2021

Xbox is quickly ramping things up with Gamepass and the Series X for next-gen gaming. After acquiring Bethesda, we are looking forward to a better console generation filled with great exclusives. The new consoles are great and all, but let’s talk about the Xbox One for a minute. While the Xbox One didn’t exactly take it to Sony and Nintendo with full force, it still had some enjoyable games.

Xbox has always been more popular in the West, especially in America. Because of this, not many people are aware of all the great hidden gems the platform has. Microsoft also ports over their exclusives to PC, via the Xbox Store, and with Gamepass. It’s clear that they are focused on earning from Gamepass rather than the console itself.

We could talk about marketing strategies and exclusives all day. However, let’s stick to the games for now. Here are five of our favorite Xbox One exclusives to date.

1. Gears 5

Gears of War has always been a major franchise for Xbox. The name itself should tell you what type of game it is. A cover-based shooter game that involves battling alien monsters using some of the most impressive weapons you will come across when playing shooter games. Gears 5 is the newest installment in the series, and it’s a really great package overall.

The campaign is what people will be into the most. I will not go into the nitty-gritty details, as the fanbase is quite sensitive to spoilers. Now, if you’re a newcomer to the series, you might be thinking that you’ll have to play all the previous games to fully understand this story. However, fortunately, that’s not the case at all.

Gears 5

Gears 5 provides a nice recap for the previous game, so it is quite beginner-friendly. So you can skip Gears of War 4 in theory, but you’ll still need to know about the plot for the previous 3 games. Apart from that, the world-building and lore in this game are excellent. Gears 5 is sort of aftermath to the first three games and it’s much more interesting than the previous installment.

While Gears 5 mostly focuses on linear story missions, the developers decided to integrate a semi-open-world feel as well. I say “Semi” because sometimes the game drops you into traversable open environments to help the game with its pacing. There are a couple of vehicles you can screw around with, and exploring (while not the most engaging at times) is fun.

But more than anything, Gears 5 is absolutely beautiful. The world, the character models, the atmosphere, the tension building, it’s all there, and it’s done very well. It takes a few more risks than the previous game, especially in the narrative, and it pays off in the end.

Developer: The Coalition

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Release Date: September 2019

2. Forza Horizon 4

Recently, Xbox has been getting a lot of newcomers thanks to the Forza series. There are the mainline Forza Motorsport games and the Horizon games. Thanks to the open-world and visuals, it’s the Horizon series that seems to be more popular. This is especially true with Forza Horizon 4, which is arguably the best racing game of the console generation.

Don’t get us wrong, Forza Motorsport 7 is an excellent game. However, it focuses more on simulation than arcade-style fun. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just that the Forza Horizon 4 is much easier to get into. Hardcore racing game fans will enjoy both, but casual folks like me will naturally enjoy the latter. Once again, this game is centered around a racing festival.

Forza Horizon 4

The presentation here is slick and extremely customizable. The best part about this game is that you can do as you please. It’s more of a sandbox type of game, something akin to GTA V, but with supercars. There’s a garage/store that is filled with hundreds of cards to unlock. It’s not just filled with luxurious sports cars, as there is a lot of quirky stuff here with cars that have different purposes. Some of them are truly unconventional.

Progression is through maxing out different types of races. The game gives you a lot of freedom, and you need to rack up enough points through different races to stay in the festival. The non-standard races are also a lot of fun. Especially races or levels like the stunt missions, which are a major highlight of the game. There is also a lot of fan service here, as they keep adding cars from other franchises, movies, and games.

The season system is a really impressive feature here. When winter comes around, lakes will freeze and you can drive over them. Wet leaves in Autumn/Fall will cause your tires to slip more often. Stuff like this really adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the game. The game feels new and different each time with every season. It’s a must-play.

Developer: Playground Games

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Release Date: October 2017

3. Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is a very special open-world game. It’s chaotic, over the top, and a lot of fun thanks to the abundance of gameplay options. It is one of those games that is very hard to put down once you start playing. Insomniac’s depiction of the apocalypse is rather different from what we’ve seen in other games. Unlike other dark and grim apocalyptic games, this one is bright, colorful, and in a complete frenzy.

Despite the short length of the main campaign, there is an abundance of things to do in the game. First off, it is extremely enjoyable just moving around the map. This is because you get a lot of choices when it comes to traversal. You can run at high speeds, skate, glide through the sky, and even run on walls. It’s not about getting from point A to B to finish the mission, it’s about enjoying the ride.

Sunset Overdrive

The game encourages you to play it in an unorthodox fashion. If you want to have fun, you’ll spend very little time running along the ground itself. You can dash in the sky, bounce off of objects, grind flat surfaces, and more. The game encourages this sort of traversal, and that’s where it is at its peak. The combat system is also out of the ordinary. There is an abundance of monsters, soldiers, robots, and other types of enemies you need to fight.

To keep it short, Sunset Overdrive is not a simple game. It feels cumbersome and complex at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a different beast entirely. The story is also captivating, as the aesthetic value of the game and punk-rock vibe blends beautifully. There’s a sense of anarchy and rebellion in the writing and it never gets boring. Try this game if you’re starting to get burnt out on open-world stuff, as it reinvents a lot of things to make them enjoyable.

Developer: Insomniac Games, Blind Squirrel Games

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Release Date: October 2014

4. Halo 5: Guardians

When Xbox was first launched and was struggling to compete with Sony’s PlayStation, it was the Halo game that gave it bragging rights. And ever since, it continues to be the best exclusive FPS game you can play on Xbox. It is now in its 5th version and includes a ton of excellent upgrades which makes it the best Halo game so far.

Although the developers, 343 makers, have removed the local coop mode, they have more than compensated with their massive campaign and extensive online multiplayer mode. The campaign mode follows the Osiris team led by Spartan Jameson Locke as they try to find the Blue team comprising of Master Chief and 3 other of his Spartan comrades.

Halo 5 Guardians

However, I feel that 343 makers could have done a better job developing the game characters in this installment of the game. This is because you will have to rely on the knowledge you have of them from the previous halo series to some extent which could be limiting to those playing it for the first time. But I will have to give it to them. Transforming Master Chief to a villain, he who has been the hero in all the other halo series was a major feat.

The online multiplayer mode is not lacking in terms of thrill too. You will especially love the large-scale warzone that allows players to fight against each other in teams of up to 12 people each. The temperatures are also bound to rise higher as the game combines the player vs player mode with the player vs environment to intensify the challenge while providing some heavy artillery such as rocket launchers to choose from.

Developer: 343 Industries

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Release Date: October 2015

5. Ori and the Will Of The Wisps

We could throw either of the two Ori games into this list and call it a day. It’s tough picking between the two. However, after a lot of contemplation, I have to say that The Will Of The Wisps is the better game. It’s a sequel to the original Ori And The Blind Forest. Both are great games and are absolutely worth playing. For now, let’s talk about the second one.

Ori And The Will Of The Wisps takes everything great about the original game and turns it up to eleven. This is one of those games that every artist, creative type, or designer should play. There is so much to talk about here, but the best thing here is the game design itself. It plays beautifully and takes basic platform mechanics to the next level. But it’s not for folks who love platformers, as anyone who loves video games will enjoy it.

Ori And The Will Of The Wisps

The traversal here is deceptively simple. What starts out as Ori climbing trees and jumping between platforms, quickly turns into dashing and dodging your way through obstacles and enemies. This game gets chaotic and complex at times, but it knows when to slow down. The map design is brilliant, and every new area feels like a breath of fresh air.

Indie platformers have been quite popular over the past few years. However, this game has a certain polish to it. It’s clearly inspired by the earlier Metroid games, and it wouldn’t be wrong to call it a Metroidvania game. You’ll often need to backtrack and visit previous areas. Every time you do so, something or the other will change. Maybe you’ll find a new NPC, or you have a new powerup to get through that obstacle blocking your way.

The combat is also excellent. Attacking enemies is more complex than the previous game, and when you are in the flow, it is very enjoyable. Surprisingly, this game also has a lot of boss fights that are grueling yet satisfying. The narrative and story-telling are excellent. It’s a simple story, told through a few words, but you’ll start to feel for these characters quickly. Overall, this game is a masterpiece and an excellent example of a great platformer.

Developer: Moon Studios

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Release Date: March 2020

Kamil Anwar
Kamil is a certified MCITP, CCNA (W), CCNA (S) and a former British Computer Society Member with over 9 years of experience Configuring, Deploying and Managing Switches, Firewalls and Domain Controllers also an old-school still active on FreeNode.

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