We all know Xbox for the obvious exclusives: Halo, Gears and Forza. These have been their most consistent franchises in terms of success and releases. Everyone knows this and everyone knows these franchises like the back of their hands for good reason.
Recently however, Microsoft has been releasing exclusives that aren’t from any of the franchises that were mentioned. Some of them are actually quite experimental in terms of game play and overall art direction for the company. With recent company acquisitions like Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), Obsidian Entertainment (The Outer Worlds), it looks like this library of exclusives will only continue to get bigger and larger throughout the coming years.
Here, we are going to name at least 5 exclusives that Microsoft has under their belt that aren’t Halo, Gears or Forza that are worth playing. These are quite underrated games that deserve more attention one way or another instead of none at all.
Let’s get started:
Quite possibly one of the more underrated fighting games of the 8th generation. For being one of the earliest fighters of the generation, Killer Instinct remains a game that gives you plenty of value while also remaining one of the more interesting and unique fighters you can play
While you can tell it is an early Xbox One title, the game still holds up really well visually with stunning stage backgrounds and particle effects. Some characters are almost completely made with particle effects in mind like Cinder which makes them pop more. There are plenty of characters to choose from, including 3 guest characters, including Rash from Rare’s Battletoads.
There are two factors that make this game worth playing. One is the music. This game is one of the few fighting games that I can think of that play with dynamic music and use it quite frequently. This would fall flat if the music wasn’t up to par, but it quite clearly is. So many of the character themes are awesome to listen to (Jago, Maya and Omen’s in particular) and it makes their Ultra finishers more satisfying to land. The other factor is the gameplay itself. Killer Instinct is very unique in the sense that even when you are getting hit, you are still playing as you need to correctly guess a button to be able to combo break. However, the opponent can do a counter breaker to break said combo breaker. It’s always a guessing game that keeps you engaged and the reward you get is either breaking through a combo or continue to land an extremely stylish one.
Killer Instinct is one of the best and more underrated fighters of the generation. Thankfully, it recently started getting some traction with it being announced at EVO 2020 as an online tournament title and even with a Killer Instinct Cup likely being planned. Hopefully it gets to make a resurgence. It’s available on Game Pass if you want to give it a shot.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
To me, Ori and the Blind Forest was the first title Microsoft worked in a long time that surprised me in a way that made me think “Microsoft is working on this title!?” because of how big of a departure it was in terms of their visual style: realistic. Blind Forest and especially it’s sequel, Will of the Wisps shows that Microsoft can make an artistically different game and have it work.
Will of the Wisps is a Metroidvania title and I’m quite the fan of the genre so already we are starting off good. And the game never really lets up from the moment you boot it up until you finish it due to a variety of factors, some more obvious then others.
Let’s start with the obvious, the game looks visually stunning. The art direction is sublime and it makes everything so vibrant and captivating while also having the ability to tell a story with mostly just visuals. The other obvious thing is the music. It’s very well composed and a very peaceful listen. There are times where it does get quite intense but for the most part, it’s a peaceful yet atmospheric soundtrack with plenty of memorable tunes and it compliments the visuals with subtle story telling.
From an artistic standpoint, this is one Microsoft’s more interesting and captivating games that they have put out and Moon Studios really knocked it out of the park in almost every front when making this. It’s one of the higher reviewed games of 2020 as well so the quality of this title has not gone unnoticed. It’s available on GamePass and it’s a relatively short title as well so if you are a fan of Metroidvania’s like myself, give this game a try.
Style. That’s the word that immediately pops into mind when Sunset Overdrive is mentioned. Personality also pops up, but what defines this game is style. Similar to Ori, Sunset Overdrive was a departure from Microsoft’s usual style of game. Only this time, it’s exclusively in artistic design as it was still a shooter. That however, does not make it bad.
Due to the style and overall very fun atmosphere, a franchise I think off when I see Sunset Overdrive is Devil May Cry in the sense that it’s all about style. Defeat your enemies, but also defeat them while looking as flashy as possible. It’s kind of a mix between Devil May Cry and Jet Set Radio, the latter in particular being a source of inspiration for the game. The game also uses this as a way to poke fun of the overly gritty shooters that were over-saturating the market at the time and the trailers for the game made that perfectly clear.
Quite a shame that the game wasn’t a big financial success. It’s not to say that it wasn’t a success at all as it does have a cult following, but it didn’t turn in as big a profit as the companies were hoping for which is sad as there aren’t that many games like Sunset Overdrive in the market.
This one is kind of cheating considering it’s a compilation of games, but considering this game is only on consoles through Xbox and it gives you some of the greatest games throughout industry…I don’t see the downside to list this as a game any Xbox owner should check out.
Rare Replay is where you go if you are either already a fan of Rare or you want to check out what else they have done if you only played games like Sea of Thieves. The sheer list of games this gives you is staggering and since this was Rare back in it’s hey-day, the quality of those games is also very high with games like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Battletoads and Killer Instinct.
There’s very little reason not to own this game if you have an Xbox One with amount of games it gives you and the quality of almost all of them. This is a love letter to any and all fans of Rare and shows you why the were highly regarded as one of the best video game developers of all time, especially in the 90’s. It’s also on GamePass so again, very little reason to not get it if you are a fan of Rare or an Xbox fan. It’s a lot you are missing out on.
Now this one is kind of a weird choice considering the sequel, Titanfall 2, is also on Playstation 4, but Titanfall started out on the Xbox 360 and the Xbox One so it’s history as a current franchise is through Xbox. While this game isn’t as good as Titanfall 2, it is a game that should be played to better appreciate what Titanfall 2 is and to also experience the good it brings to the table on it’s own merits.
This game I consider important due to it’s concept and what it did to the first-person shooter genre. By the time of it’s release, gritty realistic multiplayer military shooters were a dime-a-dozen and was an incredibly stagnant genre. Titanfall aimed to change that with it’s mech and parkour mechanics. I think this distinction is important because it made the military FPS genre look more interesting then it ever had in years at the time and made it one of the more unique entries in the genre.
The game itself is really fun and I feel has more layers of strategy then most other FPS games when it came out because of the new things it brought to the table with it’s concept. The game certainly could have been longer in terms of it’s campaign and it also could have used a better overall campaign in terms of story as it does have a lot of interesting material for the universe to expand on.
Like stated, Titanfall is not as good as Titanfall 2. However, it is a game worth playing to see how the franchise started. The game is not dated as it is fun to play today and then jumping into Titanfall 2 with all the improvements it did to the foundation the original game laid out will make the experience so much better. I do think in terms of console, Titanfall is better on Xbox as it does house all the titles of the franchise in it.