The Xbox brand is more vibrant and varied than ever. Millions of people from all walks of life are discovering great games ranging from shooters to racers to indie gems and beyond. As Xbox continues to grow in appeal, the likelihood increases that you've got folks on your holiday shopping list who would treasure the chance to get their hands on the best of the best.
Our guide will take you on a brief tour of seven of the most riveting Xbox games this holiday season. Most of these are available not just for Microsoft's stylish new Series X console, but the older Xbox One as well. The only thing you'll need to look out for is whether or not your lucky loved ones own a Series S — that particular model lacks a disc drive as a cost-cutting measure, so in that case, you'll want to stock up on Xbox gift cards rather than physical discs.
With so many shooters on the market, it can be easy to get lost in the mix and purchase something that's either outdated or even a bit mediocre. But some shooters rise above the din and take their place among the most recognizable video games ever made. Halo is a prime example. The first game launched alongside the very first Xbox some 20 years ago and counting, and every new installment has been viewed as an event not to be missed.
Halo Infinite is this year's holiday hit. The developers at 343 Studios appear to have taken elements from each of Infinite's predecessors, blending the best bits into one gorgeous-looking game. Part of the promise that Microsoft made when the Xbox Series X and S arrived on the scene last year was that the next Halo would be exceptional. If they've hit their mark, Halo Infinite will have quickly become an absolute must-have.
If the space-based science fiction of Halo Infinite is all about firing assault rifles and slashing alien foes with laser swords, Genesis Noir's take on the genre is... well, just about as far away from that as you can imagine. The game's protagonist, No Man, is scouring the universe hoping to save his true love. Eye-widening philosophical revelations abound as players explore a mostly monochromatic cosmos to unravel the game's film-noir-style story.
Genesis Noir is a point-and-click adventure, meaning raw reflexes and targeting expertise are traded in for on-screen prompts and head-scratching, thought-provoking puzzles. It's the type of game that mandates people linger for a while and sort through characters' delicious double-speak to discover the truth behind an intergalactic detective case. This one's geared more toward fans of narrative-driven interactive experiences who revel in finding solutions with brains instead of brawn. Genesis Noir is digital only, so stock up on some Xbox credit to give at Christmas.
Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves had a rough maiden voyage. When the game originally launched in early 2018, some players were less than smitten, but over the past three years, this game's relentless barrage of content updates has turned it into one of the finest pirate-starring productions around.
There's a whole lot of trouble to get into in Sea of Thieves, but in broad terms, it can be described as a beautiful representation of what it means to play a pirate's role in a world steeped in larger-than-life situations. Put another way, it's the closest thing we can get to stepping into the boots of Jack Sparrow and singing sea shanties all the way to some sunken treasure.
A "shared world game," Sea of Thieves is constantly populated with thousands of other players trying to find their path to fame across the Caribbean. It's a game unlike any other, and it's a perfect fit for all those swashbuckling adventurers in your life this holiday season.
Forza Horizon 5
Some racing games put you and your rivals on a track together, blow the whistle, and call it a day. There's nothing wrong with keeping it simple, but the Forza series strives for something more. In Forza Horizon 5, not only are there traditional races to be won, but there's a wide-open world of roads just off the beaten path that will take you through verdant fields, past deadly volcanos, and on through temple ruins.
Forza Horizon 5 is set in magnificent Mexico and every moment spent in this game is a meaningful reminder of it. The attention to detail in bringing Mexico to life is simply staggering. It's enough to make players wish they could live there forever, and it just so happens that purchasing villas — and castles — is just one of many activities that make this game shine.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
Forza Horizon 5 has an incredible number of cars to customize and collect, but for those who prefer to see the sights from several miles high in the sky, Microsoft Flight Simulator is unparalleled. This year, the hard-working teams at Xbox did what some believed impossible — they not only ported an in-depth flight sim to home consoles but did so splendidly.
Microsoft Flight Simulator features a remarkably detailed map of Earth that's consistently updated to reflect reality. The game touts over 37,000 airports, so you can imagine how vast this experience truly is. And while mastering every plane's expansive flight controls requires hundreds of hours of effort, there are a plethora of ways to ensure smooth rides, including an option that lets people select a destination, sit back, and enjoy the ride.
This is the kind of game that tends to tilt heads even among those who have never touched a controller in their lives, so don't be surprised if you purchase it ostensibly for a household's sole Xbox owner only to learn that great-grandmother just charted her trip to Paris. This game is Xbox Series X only.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy may have flown a tad under the radar when it launched this October, but its witty writing and fast-paced gunplay have left some players breathless. The plot is multifaceted, with plenty of opportunities to make key dialogue decisions in-between all those bouts of high-octane action.
Guardians of the Galaxy has a straightforward solo campaign that never tosses in pesky little microtransactions or bites off more than it can chew. It's built like a classic, with a definitive ending that can comfortably be reached in 15-20 hours. Some nice RPG-like character progression completes the package, and the soundtrack is as outstanding as it ought to be.
Consider this the holiday Xbox gift not just for Marvel diehards, but for fans of no-frills adventures with plenty of heart.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village is a funny title for a video game. The "Vill" part of "Village" stands for "VIII," as in the Roman numeral for "8," because Resident Evil Village is the eighth mainline chapter in gaming's most popular horror series. It's clever and absurd in equal measure.
In a way, Resident Evil Village itself is clever and absurd, but the cleverness is dangerous and the absurdity is nightmare fuel. The violence is extreme, the blood is obscene, and the graphical capabilities do it all justice to a stomach-turning degree. Even as Resident Evil games go, this isn't for the faint of heart.
But Resident Evil Village's setting is so well-realized, its enemies so eager to put you down, and its bizarre story so engrossing that it's hard to deny it's one of this year's definitive horror games. It's December's best gift for any Xbox fan whose opinion of Halloween is that it ought to encompass the entire month of October.
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The student who acquired the drive has been given a life sentence and others who watched it will do five years hard labor.