Xbox Game Pass continues to go from strength to strength, but perhaps no month has been as strong for the service as the one which has just gone by. In fact, July 2021 has been an absolute cracker for Game Pass enthusiasts, with a ton of new games added to the scheme. But what were the best and which should you be playing right now? Well, how do the feeling sit…
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator is Xbox’s first, true, next-gen exclusive and what a way to start. Flight Simulator seems like it shouldn’t be able to run in such spectacular fashion on consoles but it more than holds its own against the highest end PCs. This is particularly surprising for the Xbox Series S, the small, cheap, silent beast.
Microsoft Flight Simulator lovingly recreates the entire Earth, from the largest cities, tallest mountains and quietest valleys. You can land in any airport in the world with a variety of aircraft. While Flight Simulator does also place a lot of attention on simulating flight controls and physics accurately, most Game Pass users will gravitate to the game because of its virtual tourism.
Never has our world been digitised in in a way that’s so awe inspiring, so beautiful and so sublime. If you’re missing home, jump onboard.
The Ascent is the much-hyped new release from Neon Giant, a Swedish development house. Announced in 2020 at Microsoft’s next-gen gameplay showcase, The Ascent immediately caught fan’s attention for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, the game is staggering to look at. Its neon drenched art style is enough to make anyone stop, with a multitude of colours and lights bouncing all over the place. But for an indie game, The Ascent is also graphically superb. Particle and smoke effects, texture detail and facial capture, lighting and resolution; The Ascent can easily stack up to any big-budget production.
The other reason why the game is so eye-catching is its blend of genre. The Ascent looks like an action, twin-stick shooter, but it’s also secretly an RPG. Stats, loot, dialogue trees and more are all a heavy part of the core experience. The Ascent should appeal to fans of classic shoot-em-ups, RPGs and looter shooters.
We’ve been hands-on with The Ascent already and will be dropping our full review thoughts very soon. It’s safe to say it’ll be scoring highly.
Variable State released their second game earlier this month – after their phenomenal debut, Virginia. This Last Stop takes place in London rather than America, and it ditches the first-person perspective in favour of more cinematic camera angles.
The game follows three protagonist’ stories through multiple intersecting episodes. They all deal with the mundanity of everyday city life, dealing with children and parents, taking out the bin and making food, cheating on your husband and breaking into abandoned buildings… you know, mundane London life.
It mixes this mundanity of modern life with a supernatural mystery that doesn’t fully become clear until the final, dramatic ending. If you’re into cinematic, episodic adventures with minimal interactivity, Last Stop should be your next stop.
Limo is developer Playdead’s debut game from 2010. It was one of the first console indie games to break through and prove small games can be big successes. And boy, it shattered any and all expectations.
As a 2D monochrome game, Limbo isn’t drenched in detail but its muted colour palette mixes with heavy sound effects to create something truly intense. Limbo presents one of the toughest challenges you can have with a puzzle game as it features some mind-bending physics puzzles that require you to use logic, rather than just trial and error. And it arrived playable in Xbox Game Pass right at the start of the month.
Its vague, unspoken narrative has been at the heart of many internet theories, eventually even adding to the wildfire of online discussion around the studio’s next game, the amazing Inside.
If you’re looking for something arcade-y, fast paced and dripping with style (and blood) look no further than Bloodroots.
The gimmick is that you can use anything to get revenge and murder your enemies. See that sword? You can swing it. That gun? You can fire it. That raw fish? That carrot? Those fireworks? Almost everything can be used as a lethal weapon as you engage in frantic combat.
One hit can kill you so you can never stay still and you’re always going to be switching out weapons as old ones break quickly. Racking up bodies and pulling off insane combos never gets old in this top-down action game.
Standby for a full review of Bloodroots from us soon.
OG Xbox Duology
Two original Xbox classics were added to the service on the same day in July, so I thought they could enter this list together too. After all, we’ve waited a couple of decades for these to be playable in Game Pass so bundling them up totally makes sense.
Blinx: The Time Sweeper was Xbox’s first attempt at creating a mascot to compete with the likes of Mario, Sonic and Crash Bandicoot. While the time travelling cat was positioned to compete with the iconic plumber, he sadly never got too far. The game wasn’t much of a commercial success due to the critical response being lukewarm. Despite this, a sequel was greenlit and Blinx still holds a place in Xbox history as both a historical relic and as a meme of sorts to the community.
Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge is the next classic game to be added to Game Pass. While this flight combat game also wasn’t a big seller, it can at least be remembered as a cult classic due to great reception from critics and fans who did get their hands on it. The game’s technical prowess, open ended missions and intuitive flight controls were all praised at the time.
Xbox Game Pass continues to be a great place to replay gaming history, from Blinx and Crimson Skies to Psychonauts and Rare Replay.
As mentioned, July 2021 has proven to be a bit of a stunner in terms of Xbox Game Pass additions. It’s obvious that Microsoft Flight Simulator has grabbed the most headlines, but there are a ton of other games fully playable, pretty much for free, sitting alongside it.
As always, let us know what you are playing through Xbox Game Pass. The comments are below.