Lockdowns and social restrictions look likely to last well into 2021. We’ve picked the most immersive and best Game Pass titles currently available to keep you going in these isolating times.
Despite mainstream media’s tendency to vilify video games, recent studies suggest that they can actually improve overall wellbeing and better your mood.
Playing through a lengthy RPG or tense survival game can help distract, escape, and stimulate senses in the brain that would otherwise be underused, particularly in this seemingly never-ending cycle of lockdowns and social isolation. They offer a unique ability to truly get lost somewhere else, where pandemics aren’t the norm and you don’t have to adhere to Slack messages all day from your bedroom.
It’s no coincidence that the gaming industry has boomed in the past year thanks to COVID-19, with revenue surpassing $159 billion USD in 2020. Xbox’s Game Pass, the subscription model that gives you access to hundreds of games for a small monthly fee, almost doubled its paying customer base in 2020.
Many of us are clearly itching for something to do. With a huge number of titles to pick from, Game Pass has been an obvious choice for those looking to dive into new stories and characters.
But where to start, and what’s truly worth playing? If you’re a new subscriber or gamer looking to be pointed in the right direction, we’ve picked out seven Game Pass titles that’ll help alleviate the mental taxation our currently reality brings. Each one has a ton of lore, sprawling universes, and tense moments to get truly absorbed in, and they’re all available right now.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
CD Projekt Red is in the pits right now with its botched and messy Cyberpunk 2077 launch, but it wasn’t always this way. In 2015 the studio released its third instalment of the critically acclaimed Witcher series, introducing an open world to the franchise that was full of quests, hunting contracts, and even treasure hunts.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is the perfect option if you’re in desperate need of something to lose yourself in. You take on the role of Geralt, a monster hunter in search of his surrogate daughter Ciri. Expect bizarre side quests, dragons, relationship drama – it’s basically Game of Thrones without that dodgy ending.
There are hundreds of hours of content here, and you’ll no doubt find yourself fully addicted to the ins and outs of the world of Witcher. It’s available indefinitely too, at least for now, so you’ve got some time to sink your evenings into this RPG masterpiece.
This one’s a bit different to many others on this list. Outer Wilds is a time-loop, puzzle solving, space travelling adventure full of intrigue, mystery, and perhaps even a little confusion during your first time through it.
The game begins with an astronaut making their way into space for the first time. Due to some unfortunate mishaps, you wind up exploring your home planet before the sun explodes. Everything resets, except your character remembers all that happened before your untimely demise.
Players use this loop mechanic to slowly piece together the meaning of the universe on offer in Outer Wilds. It’s bursting with ambiguity and atmosphere as you traverse between one planet to the next in search of answers. We’d recommend diving in without looking this one up online – the more blind you are to its design, the better.