Forza Horizon 3 Audi Jungle Road
Microsoft
By Matt Peckham
November 7, 2016

You’ve just bought an Xbox One and maybe a game or two, but now you’re wondering what else to pick up. Or maybe you’re on the fence and leaning in Microsoft’s direction. Or maybe you just want to compare notes.

Either way, these are the finest experiences you can only have on Microsoft’s flagship console (or Windows, since Microsoft’s doubled down on cross-play titles) as we near the end of 2016.


Forza Horizon 3

Microsoft’s friendlier version of its Forza racing series turns three and celebrates with a glorious open-world romp through Australian dream-locales like Byron Bay and Yarra Valley. Cooperate with other players, and compete cross-platform, whether you’re racing on Xbox One or Windows. You’re now also the director of Oz’s global racing festival (instead of just a player), giving you custom control of races and events, including who can or can’t compete in them.

Buy this game if… You want to pilot any of 350 outrageously beautiful cars through gobsmacking scenery in a sprawling sandbox you can explore at leisure. You can buy it here.

Steer clear if… Racing or obsessing over automotive minutia isn’t your thing.

What critics said: “…captures the childish glee of playing with toy cars and combines it with the adrenaline of throwing yourself around in a very expensive hunk of metal.” (Trusted Reviews); “A must have for casual car fans and hardcore gearheads alike.” (EGM); “As an open world racer Forza Horizon 3 is epic and diverse, as a racer it’s satisfying yet deep, and as a place to hang out it’s a whole heap of fun.” (VideoGamer)

ESRB Rating: Everyone


Gears of War 4

Leaping 25 years forward in the series fiction, Gears of War 4 imagines a future in which the cataclysmic measures that eliminated the original trilogy’s enemies also triggered global storms and other post-apocalyptic tropes. Still a tactics-focused third-person shooter, you play as the son of the original trilogy’s protagonist, doing battle with a new enemy dubbed The Swarm.

Buy this game if… Thinking about where to hide or hunker matters as much to you as where you point your weapon. You can buy it here.

Steer clear if… Shooters aren’t your thing.

What critics said: “A gleefully gritty, gruesome, and grand continuation of the franchise.” (NZGamer); “…does everything required to bring the franchise roadie-running into 2016 without losing what made it so good to begin with.” (Trusted Reviews); “Gears of War 4 is exactly what you’ve come to expect a Gears of War game to be over the years—an impressive visual showcase in the campaign, with the accompanying competitive and cooperative modes to keep you busy long after the credits roll.” (Attack of the Fanboy)

ESRB Rating: Mature


Halo: The Master Chief Collection

It’s the first four Halo games remastered and packaged as one. As if that’s not enough, you can play the campaign levels any way you like, since everything’s unlocked from the start. And 343 includes special curated playlists that remix some of the best solo or multiplayer levels along thematic lines. If you want to shoot it out on maps that emphasize sniper-play, for instance, you can, by way of the “Team Snipers” playlist.

Buy this game if… You want to see what all the Halo hullabaloo’s about, or revisit Microsoft’s storied franchise with souped up high-definition visuals. You can buy it here.

Steer clear if… Shooters aren’t your thing.

What critics said: “There’s more love and care lavished on The Master Chief Collection than you see in countless other big-money, brand new blockbuster releases.” (Digital Spy); “…an instantaneous embrace of past and present that combines gaming’s powerful sense of nostalgia with its perpetual arms race of processing and graphical power.” (Eurogamer); “This is the new gold standard for remakes. Well done, 343 Industries.” (Destructoid)

ESRB Rating: Mature


Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest sees a catlike, snow-white biped with wings who darts like a sylph across the screen on a journey to revivify an evanescent forest. It’s technically a Metroidvania, gaming’s hipster portmanteau of the 2D Metroid and Castlevania games wherein players leap between platforms while navigating labyrinthine maps. But it may be more aptly described as a painting in motion: a vivid, lively adventure chock full of both familiar and novel platforming ideas.

Buy this game if… You’re up for an inventive exploration-focused platforming game evocative of the visual stylings of Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. You can buy it here.

Steer clear if… You’re no fan of 2D platforming games.

What critics said: “A staggeringly beautiful puzzle-platformer that remains a masterpiece.” (God is a Geek); “Immaculately detailed environments coupled with engaging gameplay, all driven home by an emotionally driven plot makes this journey one for the ages.” (DarkStation); “…a beautiful, surprisingly poignant, and simply well-designed take on a familiar genre.” (CGMagazine)

ESRB Rating: Everyone


Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is developer Insomniac’s first try at an open world game, tapping the same screwball vein as its Ratchet & Clank series, only with a grownup twist. Imagine a punk-informed quasi-parkour game by way of a zany skateboarding simulation by way of a metropolis-sized circus playground that knowingly winks at you as it periodically deconstructs itself.

Buy this game if… Grinding, back-flipping and zip-lining on wires, cables, pipes, railings and pretty much the edge of anything while blasting lunatic mutants sounds appealing. You can buy it here.

Steer clear if… You hate goofball humor or you’re not into open-world games.

What critics said: “…you’re some kind of grind-fu god, working a style meter that requires continuously deft finger work into an acrobatic lather … Insomniac calls Sunset Overdrive a ‘traversal shooter,’ as if that explains anything. I’d just call it a damned good time.” (TIME)

ESRB Rating: Mature

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