The Xbox Game Pass Core tier replaced Live last month, exchanging two free games with a Game Pass appetizer. Xbox Live Gold was likely nostalgic for those who grew up with the early rise of online gameplay. But the Core tier does offer a decent variety of titles, with three dozen to choose from.
They include a surprising volume of notable indies, even if many overlap in genre. This list will feature the best range of genres and titles that make the most of your Core subscription. They’re also excellent entry points that should encourage you to check out other games that were narrowly edged out, too.
7. Gears 5 Game of the Year Edition
The latest game in this popular third-person shooter series is still an Xbox exclusive. Exclusive titles always help justify the console a bit, as well as the corresponding subscription service. And although Gears 5 isn’t held in the same regard as the classic original trilogy, it has a thoughtful and tonally unique campaign.
Gears 5 doesn’t exactly shake up the gameplay meta. But at least its campaign doesn’t disrupt the entire franchise just to subvert expectations. As a result, it’s a more rewarding experience than Halo 5, and Infinite’s multiplayer is currently free. It’s also appreciated that Game Pass Core offers the Gears 5 GOTY content, which does add the Hivebusters expansion.
This instant hit pays homage to old school beat ‘em ups while introducing modern sensibilities with refreshing, fast-paced action. It’s a remarkable exercise in casual chaos. The gameplay also captures the fun strangeness of the Turtles’ world and unique personalities.
It was a genuine surprise that Shredder’s Revenge ended up on Game Pass at all, let alone the Core tier. This is an absolute steal, with plenty of content and couch co-op support. It will likely convince you to invest in the Dimension Shellshock DLC from last August.
5. Overcooked! 2
This is one of the best management games of all time, let alone on the Game Pass Core. It is notoriously challenging in the late game, and always requires very careful coordination. But there are so many unique cosmetics and worlds to discover. The level design is very creative and frequently wanders into fantasy.
Overcooked! 2 also offers both online and couch co-op for up to four players. It plays like an intense party action game with some hints of puzzle and platforming for garnish. The gameplay takes practice, but it’s very rewarding, so it’s definitely worth a revisit on Core.
This is an inexpensive game to begin with, and you’ve likely played it before. At the very least, you’ve certainly seen or played one of its many clones, but those can often feel a bit hollow. It’s worth exploring the original game with Game Pass Core, especially following the recent addition of local co-op.
The gameplay is both cozy and layered, with clever twists on bullet hell and countless meaningful choices to make. This can easily convince you to play for hours, but sneaking in a quick run can also feel satisfying. Playing Vampire Survivors with Core is an accessible way to get into multiple genres that otherwise feel tired.
3. Slay the Spire
This is a natural pairing with Vampire Survivors. Slay the Spire similarly resulted in a barrage of deck-builders that oversaturated the genre. Most are relatively uninspired, while some actually elaborate with a bit more flavor than Slay the Spire. But it still has an incredibly robust system.
The replay value is extraordinary, with inventive cards and enemies that are consistently a thrill to discover. Slay the Spire is flexible enough to both fit your playstyle and encourage you to leave your comfort zone. It properly captures the sense of ingenuity and theme that makes deckbuilding fun to begin with.
This iconic puzzle platformer is still a high bar for the genre, several years later. Its world and lethal puzzles are equally unforgiving and beautiful. It’s still impressive just how much mythology and storytelling the devs conjured through visuals alone.
Surprisingly, the Game Pass Core features many different platformers. Celeste in particular deserves a shoutout, here. However, Inside can feel more focused, with tense pacing and a short, cinematic experience. You can quickly explore the entire game for Halloween and move on to other Core titles.
1. Stardew Valley
This may not be the highest rated game on the list, but it’s the perfect title for Game Pass Core subscribers. The breadth of Stardew Valley’s content is terrific, and the tone is perfectly balanced. The brief dungeon crawls can get challenging, and ultimately even out the pacing of Stardew’s life and farming sim mechanics.
Stardew Valley convinces you to commit to long-term gameplay with progression that is both gradual and extensive. The seasonal events and NPCs breathe so much life into the town, and you can also join other players in online co-op. Stardew Valley is also just as rewarding to pick up if you only drop by every now and then. This makes it easy to blend your Core title gameplay with your purchased games.
Xbox’s new Game Pass tiers have been a bit divisive, but there are some undeniable classics worth playing on Core. Tell us what titles you think should join Core, and how Xbox Game Pass ranks among other subscription services!