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10 hidden gems on Xbox Game Pass
For when you've already played the biggest titles the service has to offer.
After the Xbox One's rocky start on the market, Microsoft's powerful console has picked up steam again thanks mostly to its commitment to backward compatibility and its Game Pass program, an on-demand library of Xbox One games available for a low monthly cost. It's excellent timing for Microsoft, too, with the Xbox Series X launch in 2020.
In any other world, a service like this would consist primarily of the bargain bin trash they couldn't wait to get off the shelves. But since its launch, Game Pass has been home to some of Xbox One's biggest releases, day one; Sea of Thieves, Forza Horizon 4, and Crackdown 3 were all available on Xbox Game Pass the day they were released.
Despite a buffet of massive releases to sink your teeth into, the real beauty of Game Pass is that you can try out lesser-known titles you might not have taken the time to check out otherwise. We've been burning through the list of included games over the last few weeks on the hunt for the service's greatest hidden gems. Here's what we dug up.
Rime was one of our favourite indies to come out of 2018. After spending a long stint in development hell, Rime emerged last year with some of the most inspiring scenery, loveable characters, and heart-wrenching narratives in the medium.
Rime is an easy sell for Studio Ghibli fans, but it should also satisfy fans of Team Ico's Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian.
Where to buy Rime in Australia
Riptide GP: Renegade
It's time to face facts; we're not getting a new entry to the Wave Racer series anytime soon. Thankfully, we have the next best thing on Xbox One, Riptide GP: Renegade.
Riptide GP: Renegade is like a grittier version of Wave Racer that punched way too many Red Bulls before starting the race. The tropical beaches, sandy shores, and deep blue seas have been replaced by a futuristic metropolis with a cross-city ravine to race through.
It's the perfect game to wet your feet with if your enthusiasm for Mario Kart 8 has dried up.
This first-person roguelike has shades of OG Doom. From former BioShock team members, Void Bastards presents you with a randomly-generated network of space stations overrun cel-shaded nasties and an infinite stream of "bastards" in your arsenal to take them on.
Every time the player dies, its permadeath for the unlucky prisoner you control. The game's narrating AI then "rehydrates" a new character with new skills and afflictions. Like the classic dungeon-crawling platformer Rogue Legacy, each death introduces a new character with unique abilities and ailments (positive and negative). There's a 'Smoker's Cough' that gives away your position, a 'Shallow Breather' that consumes oxygen slower and just someone that's 'Overly Familiar' and calls everyone by their first names.
It's a wonderfully weird way to get your first-person shooter fix.
There are notoriously difficult games like Cuphead where the time you invest correlates smoothly with your overall proficiency; give it a few nights, and you'll be screaming through earlier levels you struggled to complete. GoNNER is a different story.
I bashed my head against this game for months before making serious progress. Unlike Cuphead, GoNNER is more of a tough-as-nails traditional roguelike that boots you back to the beginning each time you die.
Despite its crushing difficulty, GoNNER is always a pleasure to play, thanks to its tight controls, superb style, and bopping soundtrack.
The Gardens Between
This tranquil indie was a standout at the Australian PAX Rising booth back in 2017. It's a bite-size puzzle adventure about two childhood friends exploring the physical manifestations of their shared memories.
All in all, The Gardens Between will only take you roughly 2.5 hours to complete, and it's an entirely stress-free adventure if you need a break from the usual hard-hitting action fare. If you're planning on mainlining DOOM Eternal, The Gardens Between is the chamomile tea to calm your nerves.
Yoku's Island Express
Yoku is an utterly charming 2D platformer with streaks of Yooka-Laylee and Donkey Kong Country that uses pinball-style mechanics for puzzle-solving and traversal. You play as Yoku, a wee dung beetle and designated postmaster on the island of Mokumana, a sprawling 2D open world.
Yoku's relatively ordinary day job leads the dung-hoarding protagonist on a quest to reawaken Mokumana's sleeping deities to protect the island from a sinister force.
The game's unique traversal and puzzle-solving mechanics are a breath of fresh air and make you wonder why more games don't rely on the classic pinny machine for inspiration.
Creature in the Well
If you liked the pinball mechanics of Yoku's Island Express, put a quarter in Creature in the Well. Where Yoku uses pinny-gameplay in a platforming setting, Creature in the Well uses its bumpers and flippers for a dungeon-crawling puzzler experience.
The first hour or so is almost too easy, as the game acclimatises you to its unique gameplay. Still, like its titular Lovecraftian Creature, there's a much more significant challenge waiting under the surface.
If you don't bounce off too early go full tilt, you'll be rewarded with some seriously tricky pinball puzzles to flick through. The art direction is also offensively stylish, so even in the game's slower sections, you're treated to a gorgeous playfield.
This charming 2D adventure from Lab Zero Games (Skullgirls) is a must-play for fans of side-scrolling RPGs and stupendous sprite art. Its vibrant fantasy world blossoms into life with beautifully illustrated characters, environments, and Cheez TV-grade animated cutscenes.
You play as Anja, a rebellious villager who discovers her dormant, mystical powers when her home comes under attack. Indivisible's addictive traversal and exploration fall into the Metroidvania bucket, but its combat sways more towards classic real-time RPGs.
The difficulty curve is a bit wonky, but that's easy to ignore because the world is just so wonderful to inhabit.
Got a minute? Then you've got time to play this delightfully moreish, monochromatic adventure. At first glance, Minit's classic adventure game influences are apparent, but after a single minute in this world, you'll realise just how unique it is.
True to its name, Minit is played in short 60-second bursts. Each playthrough begins the player's village home. From there, you've got 60 seconds to get out there, solve puzzles, defeat enemies and find essential items. Each playthrough, you push a little further into the game's world to lift the time-bending curse.
Flame in the Flood
This rogue-ish survival game comes from The Molasses Flood, a ragtag developer supergroup with credits on BioShock, Halo 2, and Rock Band. You play Scout, a young traveller accompanied by her dog in a grim American future ravaged by climate change. Your broad goal is to get Scout and her pup to a radio tower. Realistically, it's keeping Scout alive by keeping her fed, sheltered, and protected with whatever resource the decimated land can offer you.
Flame in the Flood is a procedurally-generated world where the floods have split the vast land into islands disconnected by flowing rivers; you'll have to build a few rafts to get around.
As an (almost) roguelike, the game has a permadeath system; once you're dead, it's back to the drawing board. But the campaign isn't quite as brutal as most roguelikes and offers checkpoints along the river the further you venture out, so don't discount it if you're allergic to the usual progress-robbing fare of the genre.