Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a solid third-person action game, but that’s not the main draw. The player character, Senua, a fictional Pict warrior who lived in the 900s, suffers from psychosis. Developer Ninja Theory tapped a cadre of mental health experts to properly portray the realities of the condition. You’ll definitely want to play this one with headphones, as Senua experiences auditory hallucinations (“Furies,” per her). The sound design there is unrivaled. That alone is worth giving this one a spin.
A Good Match For: Fans of hack-and-slash, psychological horror, and standard action fare.
Not A Good Match For: Anyone who hoped the ballyhooed permadeath feature was actually a permadeath. People who don’t want puzzles in their action games.
Rough Average Playtime: 8 hours
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Update 2/2/2023: Nobody Saves the World, Outer Wilds, The Pedestrian, and Scarlet Nexus have all left Game Pass, so they’ve also left our list. Added on are Hi-Fi Rush, Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, the Persona games, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge.
Update 12/20/2022: Hades, Boyfriend Dungeon, Unsighted, A Plague Tale: Innocence, and Narita Boy have all left Game Pass, so they’ve also left our list. Added on are High On Life, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, Citizen Sleeper, PowerWash Simulator, Signalis, and Beacon Pines.
Update 4/13/2022: Nier: Automata and Control are no longer available, so we’ve removed them. The Wild at Heart and UnderMine, both fantastic and still currently available, clear way for Shredders, Tunic, Death’s Door, Lost in Random, Far: Changing Tides, and Norco (the first PC-only game to merit inclusion).
Update 1/7/2022: We’ve removed Celeste, Desperados III, and Yakuza 0, all of which were leaving or imminently leaving Xbox Game Pass as of this update. The Outer Worlds and Haven were also given the boot. New to list are Hades, The Pedestrian, Unpacking, Unsighted, Boyfriend Dungeon, The Riftbreaker, Scarlet Nexus, and Octopath Traveler, plus the return of Outer Wilds.
Update 7/15/2021: Kotaku regulars will notice a total overhaul. We’ve decided to retool this list to largely focus on smaller games you might gloss over that are nonetheless worth your time. Gone, too, is the longstanding limitation of calling out just 12 games. We’ve also pushed off most of the first-party games you’ve probably already played if you have an Xbox (Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Doom Eternal, Gears 5, Ori and the Will of the Wisps) and given the boot to Batman: Arkham Knight. Also, Outer Wilds and CrossCode are no longer part of Xbox Game Pass, so they’re no longer part of this piece.
Update 3/10/2021: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Red Dead Redemption 2 clear out for Doom Eternal and Celeste, two games that will kill you more times than you can count.
Update 9/16/2020: Spiritfarer sails onto the list, taking Dishonored 2’s spot—still a great game, just leaving Game Pass at the end of the month.
Update 8/6/2020: Though Life Is Strange 2 is sadly no longer on Game Pass, its departure from our list cleared room for the excellent CrossCode.
Update 5/14/2020: We’ve given Monster Hunter: World and Forza Horizon 4 (both still excellent, both still on Game Pass) the boot to make room for Red Dead Redemption 2 and Nier: Automata.
Update 3/24/2020: We’ve added Yakuza 0 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. They knocked out Quantum Break and Sea of Thieves, both of which are still on Xbox Game Pass (and still fantastic).