The top video streaming services that are worth your money

The number of video streaming services available has increased dramatically over the past few years as everyone decides they want a piece of the pie. The days when Netflix was your only option are long gone now, and while that’s great for all of us itching to discover our next favorite TV show, it can also be confusing and expensive. You’re now tasked with figuring out which video streaming services have the content you want to watch, which fit into your budget, which have the most compelling original series and movies, and more.

We at Engadget wanted to make that process easier for you so we’ve compiled a list of the best video streaming services you can subscribe to right now, with our favorite picks spanning across all content types and budgets. Now, should you go out and subscribe to all of the services listed here? Probably not, unless you’re a true cord cutter aching for content. But these are the services that offer the best bang for your buck, regardless of whether you’re a sports buff, a classic movie lover or a general streaming enthusiast.

Netflix

Netflix logo
Netflix

Compared to other streaming services, no one offers more high-quality content at a single price than Netflix. Pick any category you can think of and Netflix probably has something that will fit the bill. Plus, new content is released every week and as a worldwide service, Netflix is consistently adding movies and TV shows from around the globe that can change the viewing experience in ways you may not have considered (Are you sure you’re not into K-Dramas, Finnish detective thrillers or British home improvement shows?).

Netflix is available in almost every country on the planet, and its app or website runs on most of the devices that connect to the internet. Those apps are also some of the most easy-to-use of any service. That doesn’t mean it’s always simple to choose something to watch, but when it comes to swapping profiles or simply picking up where you left off, it doesn’t get better than this. If you’re heading off the grid — or onto a plane — then you can easily download most (but not all) of its content to watch on your iOS or Android device.

If you somehow don’t have Netflix already (or someone to share a login with) then getting a taste of it is a little more complicated than it used to be. Netflix dropped its free trial period in the US a while ago so it’s important to have all your information in order before going in to create an account.

The other thing to keep in mind is that maybe if you’ve let your account lapse, the service that exists now is very different from what you would’ve seen two years ago, or five, or ten. Remaining the dominant player in subscription streaming has required adjustments to stay on top with a changing mix of content and plans to choose from.

In the US, there are three levels of Netflix you can subscribe to. All of them include unlimited access to the same content, work on the same devices, none of them include advertisements and you can cancel or pause them at any time. The difference between Basic ($10 per month), Standard ($15.50 per month) and Premium ($20 per month) comes down to picture quality and the amount of simultaneous streams allowed.

At the Basic level you can expect 480p, aka DVD quality, and only a single stream available. If you’d like to watch streams in HD and allow for the possibility of up to two streams at once, then you’ll need to step up to the Standard package. If you share your account with multiple people or have a newer 4K display, then you may want the Premium package. You can watch content in the highest quality available going all the way up to 4K/HDR (F1 Drive to Survive, Stranger Things and Altered Carbon are some of my favorites at the level) and have four streams at once on one account.— Richard Lawler, Senior News Editor

Amazon Prime Video 

Toshiba Fire TV
Amazon

If you think of Amazon’s Prime Video package as a Netflix-lite, or even if you’ve only used it once or twice then you may be underestimating the options available. The ad-free (other than trailers) subscription service is available as part of Amazon Prime, which you can purchase for either $15 per month, or $139 annually. While the subscription started out as a way to get free shipping on more purchases, Amazon has tacked on benefits that extend across books, music, games and even groceries. If you’d prefer to get Prime Video only, it’s available as a standalone for $9 per month.

We’ll focus on the video service, which includes a selection of original and catalog content that is a lot like what Netflix and the others offer. In recent years Amazon Prime has increased its original output with award-winning series like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well as highly-regarded genre content like The Boys and The Expanse.

When it comes to where you can watch Amazon Prime Video, the list of options rivals Netflix. Streaming boxes and smart TVs, whether they’re part of Amazon’s Fire TV platform or not, are almost a given. Game consoles? Check. The only major gap in compatibility was Google’s Chromecast, and it closed that hole in the summer of 2019.

Amazon also has a significant amount of content that’s available to watch in 4K and HDR and unlike Netflix it won’t charge you extra for the privilege. The same goes for simultaneous streams — Amazon’s rules say you can have up to two running concurrently. When it comes to downloads, Amazon allows offline viewing on its Fire devices, Android and iOS.

The only downside is that Amazon’s apps aren’t quite on par with Netflix in terms of usability. While all the features are there, simple things like reading an episode summary, enabling closed-captions or jumping out of one show and into another are frequently more frustrating on Amazon than on other platforms. The company also frequently insists on bringing its Fire TV-style interface to other platforms instead of using their native controls. That can make it harder to use, although on platforms where it hews to the built-in controls, like Roku, can be easier to use.

One other thing to think about is that Amazon’s video apps link to its on-demand store, and include access to Channels. For cord-cutters who just want a consistent experience across different devices, that means you can easily buy or rent content that isn’t part of the subscription. Amazon Channels lets you manage subscriptions to Britbox, Showtime, Paramount+ and others.

Last but not least, there’s one thing Amazon has that you won’t get from Netflix, and can’t get from Hulu or YouTube: Thursday Night NFL action. Prime Video is now the exclusive home of Thursday Night Football, starting with the 2022 season. — R.L.

HBO Max

HBO Max
HBO Max

In 2020, HBO decided to take the fight to its streaming competitors with HBO Max. It supplanted the existing HBO channels, as well as streaming via HBO Go or HBO Now by refocusing on original content and rebuilding the service for the modern era. HBO Max has the advantage of linking to one of the deepest (and best) content libraries available, drawing from the premium cable channel’s archives, the Warner Bros. vault, Studio Ghibli, Looney Tunes, Sesame Street and Turner Classic Movies.

If you pay for HBO from one of the major TV providers, then congratulations — you probably already have access to the full HBO Max experience. Just activate your account and start streaming. Otherwise, you can subscribe directly over the internet. HBO Max has a free 7-day trial, and costs $15 per month (or $150 a year) for the no-ads tier.

The company just came out with an ad-supported tier, which costs $10 per month or $100 per year. Along with ads, you won't be able to download content for offline viewing. Currently, HBO Max only offers 4K HDR streaming for certain content, and only those with the ad-free plan can access it. It can support up to three streams simultaneously, and offers individual profiles.

Since launch, HBO Max has come to more TV platforms and it's now available on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung and others. You can also stream it via a browser, Sony and Microsoft’s game consoles or with mobile apps on Android and iOS. It also includes support for AirPlay and Google’s Cast feature, which help it work with more smart TVs than just the ones listed here.

HBO Max content includes premium stuff that Warner yanked back from Netflix and others, like full series runs of Friends and The Fresh Prince, or DC Universe-related TV series and movies. The HBO library speaks for itself, with Game of Thrones, The Wire and older stuff like Band of Brothers, Flight of the Conchords or Entourage. It’s also investing in all-new content for HBO Max, like its Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon and a series based on the Last of Us video game.

We should mention, however, that HBO Max has recently canceled several shows ahead of the Discovery+ merger as a cost-cutting move. It is deprioritizing kid and family content, leading to the removal of Sesame Street spin-offs and a handful of Cartoon Network titles. Movies like Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt has also been axed. Despite these changes, HBO Max still has one of the best content libraries of any streaming service and is worthy of consideration. — R.L. and Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer

Hulu

Hulu
Hulu

Hulu started out as a bit of a curiosity — a joint venture by NBC, News Corp and a private equity firm to compete with Netflix by offering new episodes of TV shows. Then, after Disney joined up in 2009, bringing along its content from ABC and the Disney Channel, Hulu became a streaming network worth paying attention to. Today, Hulu's focus is still on recent TV episodes, but it also has a strong library of original series and films (like The Handmaid's Tale and Only Murders in the Building), as well as an archive of older TV and movies that often puts Netflix to shame.

Now that Disney owns a majority controlling stake in Hulu, following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the service is less of a collaboration between media giants. (Comcast still offers NBCUniversal content, but it can choose to have Disney buy out its shares as early as 2024.) Instead, it's yet another feather in Disney's increasingly important digital empire, alongside Disney+ and ESPN+. That may not be a great thing for the competitiveness of streaming services in general, but for subscribers it means they can look forward to even more quality content, like all of the FX shows that hit Hulu earlier this year.

Hulu subscriptions start at $7 a month (or $70 a year) with ads. You can also bump up to the ad-free plan for $13 a month (worth it for true TV addicts). The company's Live TV offering is considerably more expensive, starting at $70 a month with ads and $76 a month ad-free, but you do get Disney+ and ESPN+ services bundled in. Hulu allows two of your devices to stream at the same time, and you can also download some content for offline viewing. Live TV subscribers can also pay $10 a month for unlimited streaming at home (and for up to three remote mobile devices).

Given that it's one of the longest-running streaming services out there, you can find Hulu apps everywhere, from TVs to set-top boxes. The company has been slow to adopt newer home theater technology, though — we're still waiting for surround sound on Apple TV and many other devices, and there's no HDR at all. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Disney+

Disney+
Disney

Disney+came out swinging, leveraging all of the company's popular brands, like Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel. It's your one-stop-shop for everything Disney, making it catnip for kids, parents, animation fans and anyone looking for some classic films from the likes of 20th Century Pictures. And unlike Hulu, which Disney also owns, there aren't any R-rated movies or shows that curious kiddos can come across.

Given the company's new focus on streaming, Disney+ has quickly become a must-have for families. And at $8 a month (or $80 a year), it's a lot cheaper than wrangling the kids for a night out at the movies (or even buying one of the Disney's over-priced Blu-rays). You can also get it bundled with ESPN+ and Hulu for $14 a month. Some Verizon FiOS and mobile customers can also get Disney+, Hulu and ESPN for free.

Disney+ supports four simultaneous streams at once, and also lets you download films and shows for offline viewing. (That's particularly helpful when you're stuck in the car with no cell service and a crying toddler. Trust me.) You can access Disney+ on every major streaming device and most TV brands. While the service launched without support for Amazon's Fire TV devices, it's now available there as well. — D.H.

Apple TV+

TV remote control is seen with Apple TV+ logo displayed on a screen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on February 6, 2022. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Apple spared no expense with its streaming platform, launching with high profile series like The Morning Show. While they weren’t all hits initially (See you later, get it?), Apple TV+ has since amassed a slew of must-watch programming like Ted Lasso, Severance, and For All Mankind. Clearly, the iPhone maker is taking a different approach than Netflix or Disney, with a focus on quality and big celebrity names, rather than bombarding us with a ton of content. But that strategy seems to have paid off.

For $5 a month, there’s a ton of great shows and movies to dive into. But if you’re a dedicated Apple user, it may be worth moving up to an Apple One plan, which also bundles Apple Arcade, Music, and 50GB of iCloud storage for $15 a month. Step up to $20 monthly, and you can bring in your whole family with up to 200GB of iCloud storage. And for $30 a month, Apple throws in News+ and Fitness+. – D.H.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV
YouTube

YouTube TV is a great option for cord cutters who still want to watch live TV without having to sign up for a contract. It carries over 85 different channels, so it’s highly likely that you won’t miss your cable or satellite subscription at all if you switch over. YouTube TV even carries your regional PBS channels, which is a rarity on most streaming services.

Where YouTube TV really shines is in the sports department. Not only does it offer sports-carrying channels like CBS, FOX, ESPN, NBC, TBS and TNT, it also offers specific sports coverage networks like the MLB Network, NBA TV and the NFL Network. You can even opt for a Sports Plus package for an additional $11 a month if you want specific sports channels like NFL RedZone, FOX College Sports, GOLTV, FOX Soccer Plus, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG and Stadium. Unfortunately, however, YouTube TV recently lost the rights to carry Bally Sports regional networks, which means that you won’t get region-specific channels such as Bally Sports Detroit or Bally Sports Southwest.

One particularly strong selling point for sports fans is that instead of always remembering to record a particular game, you can just choose to “follow” a specific team and the DVR will automatically record all of its games. Plus, if you happen to have jumped into the match late, there’s a “catch up with key plays” feature that lets you watch all the highlights up until that point so that you’re up to speed.

YouTube TV is on the expensive side at $65 a month, which might not be much more than your basic cable package. If you want to add 4K viewing (which is currently only available through certain sporting events) plus unlimited streaming, you’d have to cough up an additional $20 a month.

It currently offers one of the best cloud DVRs available. YouTube TV’s DVR has unlimited storage plus you have up to nine months to watch your recorded content before they expire. There are also no DVR up-charges here; you can rewind or fast forward through the recorded content as you please by default. We should note, however, that the on-demand content on YouTube TV does have ads which you can’t fast-forward through.

There’s also a plethora of premium channels that you can add for as low as $3 per month, such as Showtime ($11 a month), HBO Max ($15 a month), Starz ($9 a month), Cinemax ($10 a month) and EPIX ($6 a month). You can also subscribe to an Entertainment Plus bundle that includes HBO Max, Showtime and Starz for $30 a month. Other niche add-ons include CuriosityStream ($3 a month), AMC Premiere ($5 a month), Shudder ($6 a month), Sundance Now ($7 a month), Urban Movie Channel ($5 a month), and Acorn TV ($6 a month). — N.L.

Hulu with Live TV

Hulu with Live TV
Hulu

Aside from on-demand and original content, Hulu also offers a Live TV add-on that lets you stream over 80 channels without a cable or satellite subscription. It’ll cost $70 a month, but that includes access to both Disney+ and ESPN+. Pay about $6 more and you’ll also be able to watch on-demand shows without any ads, which can’t be said with YouTube TV. As of April 2022, Hulu’s Live TV option also has unlimited DVR for up to nine months. That includes on-demand playback and fast-forwarding capabilities.

Hulu allows two simultaneous streams per account, but you can pay $15 more if you want unlimited screens (and up to three remote mobile devices). If you want, you can also add premium add-ons to your Hulu plan, such as HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, or Starz.

Hulu’s Live TV service is a great option for sports fans, as it has access to channels like CBS, FOX, ESPN, NBC, TBS, TNT and more, all of which should deliver content for fans of most major sports like football, basketball and baseball. Hulu also added NFL Network and NFL RedZone in 2021. However, Hulu plus Live TV does not carry the NBA TV or the MLB Network, so you could miss out on additional sports coverage. — N.L.

ESPN+

ESPN+
ESPN / Disney

Without a doubt, ESPN’s standalone service is the best deal in sports streaming. No one can compete with the network when it comes to the sheer volume of content. The platform hosts thousands of live college sporting events, plus MLB, MLS, NHL, NBA G League games and more. There’s plenty of pro tennis as well, and ESPN+ is an insane value for soccer fans.

On top of select MLS matches, ESPN+ is the US home of the Bundesliga (Germany) and the EFL cup (Carabao Cup). It’s also the spot for the UEFA Nations League international competition in Europe.

ESPN offers a slate of original shows and the full catalog of its 30 For 30 series on the service. And lastly, ESPN+ is the home of UFC. Fight Nights, Dana White’s Contender Series and other shows stream weekly or monthly, plus the app is how you access PPV events.

That’s a truckload of sports for $10 a month. If you splurge for Disney’s bundle with Disney+ and Hulu (ad-supported), you can get all three for $14 per month. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor

Paramount+

Pictured: Paramount+ interface design. Photo Cr: CBS2021 Paramount+, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
ViacomCBS

Formerly CBS All Access, Paramount+ may get the most attention for originals like Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard and The Twilight Zone, but it’s becoming a sports destination as well. The app began streaming NWSL soccer matches last summer when the league returned to the pitch. CBS also announced that All Access would be the streaming home of the US women’s league. Unfortunately, you can’t watch every match there, but it’s a start.

Soon after, CBS added UEFA Champions League and Europa League soccer to its sports slate. The Champions League is the biggest competition in club soccer, pitting teams from various countries around the continent against each other to see who’s the best. Europa League does the same, but with less glory. Paramount+ is now the home of Series A soccer (Italy) and will broadcast CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, which the US Men’s National Team will participate in.

At $6 a month with limited commercials, or $10 a month ad-free, Paramount+ isn’t a must have sports destination just yet. You can stream NFL and other games that air on your local CBS station inside the app, but the network is still filling out a well-rounded slate. For now, it’s more of a necessity for soccer fans than anything else. — B.S.

NBC Peacock

NBC Peacock
Comcast

NBC made it clear before Peacock’s debut that Premier League soccer would be available on the standalone service. What we didn’t expect was that the network would put so many games there, basically forcing anyone who’s more than a casual fan to subscribe. This is partially due to PL scheduling. In the US, that means you need the $5/month service and access to NBC Sports network (through cable or live TV streaming) to follow comprehensively.

NBCUniversal had a similar structure in the past where one game per time slot was broadcast on NBC Sports and NBC Sports Gold was used as the overflow. Gold was also the home to cycling, Olympic sports and more. Now the Premier League is being used to push the new service Peacock, and with the current scheduling format, even more games are relegated to streaming only. Thankfully, Peacock does offer match replays, so there’s some added value there if you can’t be parked in front of your TV all day on Saturday and Sunday. Games currently run from about 7:30AM ET to around 5PM ET (matches usually at 7:30AM, 10AM, 12:30PM and one around 2:30 or 3:00PM).

Peacock also shows coverage of US Open tennis, NFL Wild Card games and will host “select events” from upcoming Olympics in Tokyo and Beijing. There’s also a smattering of sports talk shows available for free with paid users getting on-demand replays of Triple Crown horse racing and more. — B.S.

The Criterion Channel

Criterion Channel
Criterion

While it's easy to find modern films on Netflix and other streaming services these days, classic cinema is often tougher to find. FilmStruck tried to solve that problem, but it couldn't find a large enough audience to survive. Now there's the Criterion Channel, which delivers a rotating array of its cinephile-approved library for $11 a month or $100 a year. (Where else can you stream something like the incredible ramen noodle Western Tampopo?)

It's a service that's built for movie lovers: It's chock full of commentary tracks, conversations with writers and directors, and some of the company's renowned special features. The Criterion Channel also does a far better job at curating viewing options than other services. Its double features, for instance, pair together thematically similar films, like the classic noir entries Phantom Lady and Variety. What’s more, its editors make it easy to find all of the available films from a single director, for all of you auteur theory connoisseurs.

Sure, it costs a bit more than Hulu and Disney+, but The Criterion Channel gives you access to a library that's far more rewarding than the latest streaming TV show. You can watch on up to three devices at once, and there's also offline viewing available for iOS and Android devices. It also supports major streaming devices from Apple, Amazon and Roku, but as far as TV's go, it's only on Samsung's Tizen-powered sets. Unfortunately, The Criterion Channel is only available in the US and Canada, due to licensing restrictions. — D.H.

Shudder

Shudder
Shudder

Sometimes, a good horror movie is the only way to deal with the constant anxiety of a global pandemic, a potential climate apocalypse and the seeming downfall of modern society. If that describes your personality, it's worth taking a look at Shudder, AMC Network's streaming service dedicated to everything spooky. You'll find plenty of horror classics, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but Shudder has also gotten into the original content game with unique films like Host, which takes place entirely over a Zoom call.

If you're a bit squeamish, Shudder probably won't sell you much on horror. But for fans of the genre, it's a smorgasbord of content to dive into. You can try it out free for seven days, and afterwards it's $6 per month (or $57 annually). Shudder only supports viewing one stream at a time, and there's no support for offline viewing yet. You can find Shudder on major streaming device platforms, but since it's so niche, don't expect to find it on smart TVs anytime soon. — D.H.

Engadget is looking for contributing writers in the US

If you love technology as much as we do and have writing chops to boot, we want to hear from you. Engadget is looking for freelance news writers in the US! Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume and links to three writing samples to jobs at engadget dot com. Here’s the deal:

Contributing writer

Engadget is looking for ambitious and enthusiastic freelance writers capable of telling compelling stories about technology, science and the future of everything. The ideal candidate will put important news in proper context with minimal fluff, find an interesting and original angle from which to tackle a story, explain complicated subjects simply and clearly, and do this all reasonably quickly.

As a writer at Engadget you'll be an essential part of our dedicated and passionate news team. Our ideal candidates will have some solid professional media experience under their belt, but we're also open to early-career writers who are ready to hustle. You'll gain valuable experience and exposure in a fast-paced, online newsroom. Plus, you'll have access to some of the finest writers and reporters in the business who can offer invaluable lessons on how to thrive in the modern media landscape.

Freelance contributing writers will take on between three and five assignments per day (sometime between 8AM and 9PM ET, but your exact schedule is negotiable). We are currently looking for writers located in the US, or anyone willing to work during US business hours. Shifts will be a minimum of four hours.

We're looking for:

  • Preferably someone who already has some professional tech/science/auto bylines under their belt.

  • A familiarity with and sincere interest in consumer technology.

  • A writer with a strong, lively voice who can turn in clean copy quickly.

  • Works well with others, and is receptive to feedback.

  • Experience with Photoshop or other photo editing software is a plus.

Engadget is looking for contributing writers in the US

If you love technology as much as we do and have writing chops to boot, we want to hear from you. Engadget is looking for freelance news writers in the US! Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume and links to three writing samples to jobs at engadget dot com. Here’s the deal:

Contributing writer

Engadget is looking for ambitious and enthusiastic freelance writers capable of telling compelling stories about technology, science and the future of everything. The ideal candidate will put important news in proper context with minimal fluff, find an interesting and original angle from which to tackle a story, explain complicated subjects simply and clearly, and do this all reasonably quickly.

As a writer at Engadget you'll be an essential part of our dedicated and passionate news team. Our ideal candidates will have some solid professional media experience under their belt, but we're also open to early-career writers who are ready to hustle. You'll gain valuable experience and exposure in a fast-paced, online newsroom. Plus, you'll have access to some of the finest writers and reporters in the business who can offer invaluable lessons on how to thrive in the modern media landscape.

Freelance contributing writers will take on between three and five assignments per day (sometime between 8AM and 9PM ET, but your exact schedule is negotiable). We are currently looking for writers located in the US, or anyone willing to work during US business hours. Shifts will be a minimum of four hours.

We're looking for:

  • Preferably someone who already has some professional tech/science/auto bylines under their belt.

  • A familiarity with and sincere interest in consumer technology.

  • A writer with a strong, lively voice who can turn in clean copy quickly.

  • Works well with others, and is receptive to feedback.

  • Experience with Photoshop or other photo editing software is a plus.

The best Nintendo Switch games for 2022

Just five years ago, Nintendo was at a crossroads. The Wii U was languishing well in third place in the console wars and, after considerable pressure, the company was making its first tentative steps into mobile gaming with Miitomo and Super Mario Run. Fast-forward to today: The Switch is likely on the way to becoming the company’s best-selling “home console” ever, and seven Switch games have outsold the Wii U console. Everything’s coming up Nintendo, then, thanks to the Switch’s unique hybrid format and an ever-growing game library with uncharacteristically strong third-party support.

However, the Switch's online store isn't the easiest to navigate, so this guide aims to help the uninitiated start their journey on the right foot. These are the games you should own — for now. We regularly revise and add to the list as appropriate. Oh, and if you've got a Switch Lite, don't worry: Every game on the list is fully supported by the portable-only console.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing
Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the best game in the series yet. It streamlines many of the clunky aspects from earlier games and gives players plenty of motivation to keep shaping their island community. As you'd expect, it also looks better than any previous entry, giving you even more motivation to fill up your virtual home and closet. The sound design reaches ASMR levels of brain-tingling comfort. And yes, it certainly helps that New Horizons is an incredibly soothing escape from reality when we're all stuck at home in the midst of a global pandemic.

Buy Animal Crossing: New Horizons at Amazon - $60

Astral Chain

Astral Chain
Nintendo

I was on the fence about Astral Chain from the day the first trailer came out until a good few hours into my playthrough. It all felt a little too generic, almost a paint-by-numbers rendition of an action game. I needn't have been so worried, as it's one of the more original titles to come from PlatinumGames, the developer behind the Bayonetta series, in recent years.

In a future where the world is under constant attack from creatures that exist on another plane of existence, you play as an officer in a special force that deals with this threat. The game's gimmick is that you can tame these creatures to become Legions that you use in combat. Encounters play out with you controlling both your character and the Legion simultaneously to deal with waves of mobs and larger, more challenging enemies. As well as for combat, you'll use your Legion(s) to solve crimes and traverse environments.

Astral Chain sticks closely to a loop of detective work, platforming puzzles and combat — a little too closely, if I'm being critical — with the game split into cases that serve as chapters. The story starts off well enough but quickly devolves into a mashup of various anime tropes, including twists and arcs ripped straight from some very famous shows and films. However, the minute-to-minute gameplay is enough to keep you engaged through the 20-hour or so main campaign and into the fairly significant end-game content.

Does Astral Chain reach the heights of Nier: Automata? No, not at all, but its combat and environments can often surpass that game, which all-told is probably my favorite of this generation. Often available for under $50 these days, it's well worth your time.

Buy Astral Chain at Amazon - $60

Celeste

Celeste
MattMakesGames Inc.

Celeste is a lot of things. It's a great platformer, but it's also a puzzle game. It's extremely punishing, but it's also very accessible. It puts gameplay above everything, but it has a great story. It's a beautiful, moving and memorable contradiction of a game, created by MattMakesGames, the indie studio behind the excellent Towerfall. So, Celeste is worth picking up no matter what platform you own, but its room-based levels and clear 2D artwork make it a fantastic game to play on the Switch when on the go.

Buy Celeste at Amazon - $20

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Dragon Quest XI S
Square Enix

Dragon Quest XI is an unashamedly traditional Japanese role-playing game. Most of the characters are established RPG tropes: mute protagonist-who’s-actually-a-legendary-hero, sister mages, mysterious rogue and the rest. Then there’s the battle system, which has rarely changed in the decades of the series. (There’s a reason that this special edition features a 16-bit styled version of the game: The mechanics and story work just as well in more... graphically constrained surroundings.) While the story hits a lot of familiar RPG beats, everything takes an interesting turn later on. And through it, the game demands completion. RPGs require compelling stories, and this has one. It just doesn’t quite kick in until later.

This eleventh iteration of the series also serves as a celebration of all things Dragon Quest. Without getting too deep into the story, the game heavily references the first game, taking place in the same narrative universe, just hundreds of years later.

The Switch edition doesn’t offer the most polished take on the game — it’s available on rival consoles — but the characters, designed by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, move around fluidly, in plenty of detail despite the limits of the hybrid console. And while it’s hard to explain, There’s also something just plain right about playing a traditional JRPG on a Nintendo console.

Buy Dragon Quest XI S at Amazon - $55

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Nintendo

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one hell of a game. Developer Intelligent Systems made a lot of tweaks to its formula for the series' first outing on the Nintendo Switch, and the result of those changes is a game that marries Fire Emblem's dual personalities in a meaningful and satisfying way. You'll spend half your time as a master tactician, commanding troops around varied and enjoyable battlefields. The other half? You'll be teaching students and building relationships as a professor at the finest school in the land.

Buy Fire Emblem: Three Houses at Amazon - $60

Hades

Hades
Supergiant Games

Hades was the first early access title to ever make our best PC game list, and the final game is a perfect fit for Nintendo’s Switch. It's an action-RPG developed by the team behind Bastion, Transistor and Pyre. You play Zagreus, son of Hades, who's having a little spat with his dad, and wants to escape from the underworld. To do so, Zagreus has to fight his way through the various levels of the underworld and up to the surface. Along the way, you’ll pick up “boons” from a wide range of ancient deities like Zeus, Ares and Aphrodite, which stack additional effects on your various attacks. Each level is divided into rooms full of demons, items and the occasional miniboss.

As Hades is a “roguelike” game, you start at the same place every time, with the levels rearranged. With that said, the items you collect can be used to access and upgrade new weapons and abilities that stick between sessions. Hades initially caught our attention just for its gameplay: You can jump in for 30 minutes and have a blast, or find yourself playing for hours. As the game neared its final release, the storytelling, world-building and its general character really started to take shape — there’s so much to do, so many people to meet and even some romance stuffed in there. You could play for hundreds of hours and still have fun.

Buy Hades at Amazon - $30

Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight
Team Cherry

This was a real sleeper hit, and one of very few Kickstarter games to not only live up to but exceed expectations. Hollow Knight is a 2D action-adventure game in the Metroidvania style, but it's also just a mood. Set in a vast, decrepit land, which you'll explore gradually as you unlock new movement and attack skills for your character, a Burtonesque bug-like creature. Short on both dialogue and narrative, the developers instead convey a story through environment and atmosphere, and it absolutely nails it.

You'll start out feeling fairly powerless, but Hollow Knight has a perfect difficulty curve, always allowing you to progress but never making it easy. For example, it borrows the Dark Souls mechanic where you'll need to travel back to your corpse upon death to retrieve your "Geo" (the game's stand-in for Souls), which is always a tense time. Throughout it all, though, the enemies and NPCs will never fail to delight. For a moody game, it has a nice sense of humor and levity imbued mostly through the beautifully animated and voiced folks you meet. Given its low cost and extremely high quality, there's really no reason not to get this game. Trust us, it'll win you over.

Buy Hollow Knight at Amazon - $15

Into The Breach

Into The Breach
Subset Games

When is a turn-based strategy game not a turn-based strategy game? Into the Breach, an indie roguelike game where you control mechs to stem an alien attack, defies conventions, and is all the better for it. While its core mechanics are very much in the XCOM (or Fire Emblem, for that matter) mold, it's what it does with those mechanics that's so interesting. A traditional turn-based strategy game plays out like a game of chess — you plan a move, while predicting what your opponent will do in return, and thinking ahead to what you'll do next, and so on, with the eventual goal of forcing them into a corner and winning. At the start of every Into the Breach turn, the game politely tells you exactly what each enemy character is going to do, down the exact square they'll end on and how much damage they'll inflict. There are no hit percentages, no random events, no luck; each turn is a puzzle, with definitive answers to how exactly you're going to come out on top.

Into the Breach battles are short, and being a roguelike, designed to be very replayable. Once you've mastered the basics and reached the end, there are numerous different mechs with new attack and defense mechanics to learn and master as you mix-and-match to build your favorite team. If you're a fan of either puzzle or turn-based strategy games, this is a must-have.

Buy Into The Breach at Amazon - $15

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild screenshot
Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild signals the biggest shift in the series since the Nintendo 64's Ocarina of Time, and it might well be one of the best games of the past decade. It pulls the long-running series into modern gaming, with a perfectly pitched difficulty curve and an incredible open world to play with. There's crafting, weapons that degrade, almost too much to collect and do and a gentle story hidden away for players to discover for themselves. Even without the entertaining DLC add-ons, there's simply so much to do here and challenges for every level of gamer.

Buy Breath of the Wild at Amazon - $40

Disco Elysium Final Cut

GOG offers steep discounts on Disco Elysium, Cyberpunk 2077 and more
ZA/UM

Disco Elysium is a special game. The first release from Estonian studio ZA/UM, it's a sprawling science-fiction RPG that takes more inspiration from D&D and Baldur's Gate than modern combat-focused games. In fact, there is no combat to speak of, instead, you'll be creating your character, choosing what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then passing D&D-style skill checks to make your way through the story. You'll, of course, be leveling up your abilities and boosting stats with items, but really the game's systems fall away in place of a truly engaging story, featuring some of the finest writing to ever grace a video game.

With the Final Cut, released 18 months after the original, this extremely dialogue-heavy game now has full voice acting, which brings the unique world more to life than ever before. After debuting on PC, PS5 and Stadia, Final Cut is now available for all extant home consoles – including Nintendo’s Switch. Loading times are a little slower than on other systems, so it might not be the absolute best platform to play it on, but Disco Elysium is an experience unlike the rest of the Switch library, which is why it makes it on this list.

Buy Disco Elysium Final Cut at Amazon - $40

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 screenshot
Nintendo

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe's vibrancy and attention to detail prove it's a valid upgrade to the Wii U original. Characters are animated and endearing as they race around, and Nintendo's made bigger, wider tracks to accommodate up to 12 racers. This edition of Mario Kart included gravity-defying hover tires and automatic gliders for when you soar off ramps, making races even more visually thrilling, but at its core, it's Mario Kart — simple, pure gaming fun. It's also a great showcase for the multitude of playing modes that the Switch is capable of: Two-player split-screen anywhere is possible, as are online races or Switch-on-Switch chaos. For now, this is the definitive edition.

Buy Mario Kart 8 Deluxe at Amazon - $50

OlliOlli World

OlliOlli World screenshot
Roll7

OlliOlli and its sequel, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood, were notoriously difficult to master. They were infuriating, but also extremely satisfying when you pulled off just the right combo of tricks and grinds needed for a big score.

I was worried that OlliOlli World’s colorful and welcoming new direction for the series was going to dispense with that level of challenge, but I shouldn’t have been concerned. Developer Roll7 made a game that’s significantly more approachable than the original titles — but one that keeps the twitch-response gameplay and score-chasing highs intact for those who crave them.

It’s hard to sum up exactly what makes OlliOlli World so compelling, but the game mixes serious challenges with moments that let you really get into that elusive flow state, where you’re just pulling off tricks, riding rails and generally tearing through a course without thinking too much about what you’re doing. The music, sound effects, art style, level design and variety of moves you can pull off all contribute to this vibe — and even though the game looks entirely different from its predecessors, the end result is the same: skateboarding bliss.

Buy OlliOlli World at Amazon - $30

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury

Super Mario 3D World screenshot
Nintendo

Super Mario 3D World was unfairly slept on when it originally launched in 2013, mostly due to the fact very few people had a Wii U. It's a superb translation of old-school Mario mechanics into 3D (Mario 64 is a masterpiece, yes, but unless you're a speed-runner it doesn't quite have the pace of the NES and SNES games). It's also a great multiplayer game, as you can play simultaneously with three other players and race through levels — the winner of each level gets to wear a crown in the next.

With the move to the Switch, and Nintendo finally starting to figure out online gaming, you can now do that remotely, which is a huge plus. The bigger addition is Bowser's Fury, an all-new game of sorts that plays more like a blend of Super Mario Odyssey and 3D World. There are some really creative challenges that feel right out of Odyssey, blended with the lightness and speed of the Wii U game. (It should be noted that Bowser's Fury is also only good for one or two players, unlike the main game.) We'd recommend 3D World just on its own, but as a package with Bowser's Fury, it becomes a much better deal.

Buy Super Mario 3D World at Amazon - $60

Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey screenshot
Nintendo

Super Mario Odyssey might not represent the major change that Breath of the Wild was for the Zelda series, but it’s a great Mario game that's been refined across the last two decades. Yes, we got some important modern improvements, like maps and fast travel, and the power-stealing Cappy is a truly fun addition to Mario's usual tricks. But that core joy of Mario, figuring out the puzzles, racing to collect items and exploring landmarks, is here in abundance.

Buy Super Mario Odyssey at Amazon - $60

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Nintendo

This is the ultimate distillation of Nintendo's multiplayer fighting game. The series' debut on Switch brings even more characters from beyond Nintendo's stable. If you're sick of Mario, Pikachu and Metroid's Samus, perhaps Final Fantasy VII's Cloud, Solid Snake or Bayonetta will be your new go-to character. There are about 80 characters to test out here (although 10 of them are locked behind DLC).

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate features a divisive new single-player mode where you augment characters with stickers, battling through special conditions to unlock more characters and, yes, more stickers. At its core, Smash Bros. games combine fast-paced, chaotic fights with an incredibly beginner-friendly learning curve. Yes, some items are confusing or overpowered, but your special moves are only a two-button combination away. Turning the tables is built into the DNA of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, ensuring thrilling battles (once you've sorted handicaps) for everyone involved.

Buy Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Amazon - $60

The best PlayStation 5 games for 2022

Welcome to our first update to Engadget’s best games list for PlayStation 5. As always, we have looked for games that generally offer meaningful improvements over their last-gen counterparts when played on PS5, or are exclusive to the system. Our 2022 update sees two third-party titles – Deathloop and Final Fantasy VII Remake – join the overwhelmingly Sony fray. We'll be updating this periodically, so, if a game's just been released and you don't see it, chances are that the reason for its absence is that we haven't played through it yet. Either that or we hate it.

Astro’s Playroom

Astro's Playroom
Sony

It’s odd to start a best games list with a title that comes free with the console, but if you’re anything like my son, who swiftly deleted Astro’s Playroom to make space for various Call of Duty titles, I’m here to tell you to give the pack-in title another shot. Astro’s Playroom is a love letter to both 3D platformers and the PlayStation itself. It’s also, to date, the title that makes the best use of Sony’s DualSense controller, with incredible haptic feedback and clever usage of the pad’s adaptive triggers. (Although, eight years on, I’m still not convinced anyone has found a compelling reason for that touch pad.) It’s a game that even completionists can finish within six hours or so, but those six hours were among the most fun I’ve had with the PS5 so far.

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade
Square Enix

We thought it would never happen. Final Fantasy VII was an iconic JRPG that’s credited with opening up the genre to the west. It peppered the Top 10 lists of the best games of all-time and introduced the long-running Japanese RPG series to polygons, 3D maps, and countless other innovations of 32-bit consoles. 23 years later, and three PlayStation iterations later, Square Enix dared to remake, not remaster, the game. It would be, contentiously, episodic, expanding out the story of Midgar and the opening part of the game into a single game.

It’s all very different. It’s also gorgeous, with a modern battle system that no longer focuses on static characters and menu choices. Somehow, and we were ready to be underwhelmed, the battle system works. FF7R’s fights are slicker and more enjoyable than those in Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in the series. Each character, from iconic mercenary Cloud through to eco-terrorist Barret and flower girl Aerith, play in entirely different ways, using the space between themselves and enemies in very different ways. Some sub-missions and distractions feel like they’re there solely to eke some more hours out of your playthrough, but the world of the original has been thoughtfully reimagined, so it’s a minor complaint.

For anyone that bought the PS4 iteration, the upgrade to PS5 is free. However, it costs money to gain access to the PS5-exclusive DLC chapter featuring ninja Yuffie. Offering another battle style to experiment with and master, two new extra chapters run alongside the events of the first installment of this remake. Moments of the game feel like they were built to tease how capable the newest PlayStation is, with Yuffie zipping down poles through vertiginous levels, wall-running and mixing up long-range and short-range attacks in a completely different way to Cloud, Aerith and the rest. It suffers a little from trying to tie in FF7 lore from old spin-off titles, but it’s a satisfying distraction as we wait for the second part – Final Fantasy VII Rebirth – to arrive in 2023.

Buy Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade at Amazon - $70

Demon's Souls

Demon's Souls
Sony

Bluepoint’s Demon’s Souls remake won’t be for everyone — no Souls game is. The original Demon’s Souls was a sleeper hit in 2009 on the PS3, establishing the basic formula that would later be cemented with Dark Souls, and then aped by an entire industry to the point where we now essentially have a “Soulslike'' genre. Today, that means challenging difficulty, grinding enemies for souls to level up, the retrieval of your corpse to collect said souls, a labyrinthine map to explore and, if you’re doing Soulslike right, some show-stopping boss fights to contend with. As a progenitor to the genre, Demon’s Souls has most of those in abundance. But rather than a huge sprawling map, it uses a portal system, with mini labyrinths to work through. Its bosses are also not quite on the level of impressiveness or difficulty of a more modern Dark Souls game.

Bluepoint has been faithful to the original, then, but graphically Demon’s Souls is a true showcase of what the PS5 can do, with gorgeous high-resolution visuals, smooth frame rates and swift loading. While the graphics certainly catch your eye, it’s the smoothness and loading times that are the most impactful. The original ran at 720p, and… depending on what you were doing 25 to 30 fps, while the remake lets you pick between a locked 30 or 60 fps at 4K or 1440p. And in a game that will likely kill you hundreds of times, waiting two seconds to respawn instead of thirty is transformative.

Buy Demon's Souls at Amazon - $70

God of War

God of War
Sony

Sony's God of War series had laid dormant for half a decade when its latest incarnation hit stores in early 2018, and for good reason. Antiquated gameplay and troubling themes had made it an ill-fit for the modern gaming landscape. No more. SIE Santa Monica Studio's God of War manages to successfully reboot the series while turning the previous games' narrative weaknesses into its strengths. Kratos is now a dad, the camera is now essentially strapped to his shoulder and Sony has what is sure to become a new series on its hands.

The first outright PS4 game on this collection, God of War has at least been patched for better performance on PS5, allowing it to output at 4K/60. For those subscribed to PS Plus, this one’s available for free as part of the PlayStation Plus Collection on PS5.

Buy God of War at Amazon - $20

Ghost of Tsushima: The Director's Cut

Ghost of Tsushima
Sony

This tale of samurai vengeance is like Japanese cinema come to life. There are multiple betrayals, the sad deaths of several close allies, tense sword fights, villages and castles under siege, and even a ‘Kurosawa mode’ black-and-white filter you employ for the entire game. The world of feudal Japan, with some creative liberties, is gorgeous, with fields of grass and bullrushes to race through on your faithful steed, temple ‘puzzles’ to navigate around and fortresses to assess and attack.

As you make your way through the main story quest, and more than enough side quests and challenges, you unlock more powerful sword techniques and stances, as well as new weapons and forbidden techniques that are neatly woven in the story of a samurai pushed to the edge. It still suffers from one too many fetch quests, artifacts scattered across Japan’s prefectures, but the sheer beauty of Ghost of Tsushima tricks you into believing this is the greatest open-world game on PlayStation. Don’t get me wrong — it’s up there.

With the new Director’s Cut edition on the PS5, you also get dynamic frame-rates up to 60 FPS, ensuring the game looks and feels even more like a tribute to Japanese cinematic auteurs of the past. There are also DualSense tricks, like a bow that tangibly tightens as you pull on trigger buttons, and subtle rumble as you ride across the lands of Tsushima, Director’s Cut adds a new, surprisingly compelling DLC chapter. As you explore the Iki isle, the game adds a few more tricks to Jin’s arsenal, and deepens the relationship and history between the game’s hero and his father.

Without spoiling what happens, the game smartly threads the original story into the DLC, ensuring it feels solidly connected to the main game, despite DLC status.

Buy Ghost of Tsushima: The Director's Cut at Amazon - $79

Deathloop

Photo Mode in Deathloop
Arkane Studios/Bethesda

Deathloop, from the studio that brought you the Dishonored series, is easy enough to explain: You’re trapped in a day that repeats itself. If you die, then you go back to the morning, to repeat the day again. If you last until the end of the day, you still repeat it again. Colt must “break the loop” by efficiently murdering seven main characters, who are inconveniently are never in the same place at the same time. It’s also stylish, accessible and fun.

While you try to figure out your escape from this time anomaly, you’ll also be hunted down by Julianna, another island resident who, like you, is able to remember everything that happens in each loop. She’ll also lock you out of escaping an area, and generally interfere with your plans to escape the time loop. (The online multiplayer is also addictive, flipping the roles around. You play as Julianna, hunting down Colt and foiling his plans for murder. )

As you play through the areas again (and again) you’ll equip yourself with slabs that add supernatural powers, as well as more potent weapons and trinkets to embed into both guns and yourself. It’s through this that you’re able to customize your playstyle or equip yourself in the best way to survive Julianna and nail that assassination. Each time period and area rewards repeat exploration, with secret guns, hidden conversations with NPCs and lots of world-building lore to discover for yourself.

Buy Deathloop at Amazon - $25

Marvel’s Spider-Man Ultimate Edition

Marvel's Spider-Man
Sony

Finally, you don't have to pick up Spider-Man 2 on the GameCube to get your web-slinging fix anymore. For almost 15 years, that game was held as the gold standard for a Spider-Man game, and I'll let you into a secret: It wasn't actually that good. Marvel's Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a tour de force. Featuring the best representation of what it's like to swing through New York City, well, ever, Insomniac's PlayStation exclusive also borrows liberally from the Batman: Arkham series' combat and throws in a story that, although it takes a while to get going, ends up in a jaw-dropping place.

With the launch of the PS5, Insomniac released a Miles Morales spin-off game, which follows the eponymous character as he attempts to protect NYC in Peter Parker’s absence. Both parts are available packaged together as Spider-Man Ultimate Edition— it has a longer name than that but let's not — and benefit from improved framerates, resolution and ray tracing (although not necessarily all at the same time!) With the full graphical package enabled, you’ll be playing at 30 frames per second in 4K, or you can pick between a pair of performance options: 4K/60 with no ray tracing, or 1080p/60 with ray-tracing. Whatever mode you pick, you’ll benefit from loading times that finally make the game’s fast travel system… fast.

Buy Marvel’s Spider-Man Ultimate Edition at Amazon - $60

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village
Capcom

Resident Evil Village is delightful. It’s a gothic fairy tale masquerading as a survival-horror game, and while this represents a fresh vibe for the franchise, it’s not an unwelcome evolution. The characters and enemies in Village are full of life — even when they’re decidedly undead — and Capcom has put a delicious twist on the idea of vampires, werewolves, sea creatures, giants and creepy dolls. The game retains its horror, puzzle and action roots, and it has Umbrella Corporation’s fingerprints all over it. On PS5, the game is gorgeous and it plays nicely with the DualSense controller, adding haptic feedback to weapons and terrifying situations alike. It simply feels like developers had fun with this one, and so will you.

Buy Resident Evil Village at Amazon - $60

Returnal

Returnal
Sony

Returnal is a third-person action game, a roguelite, a bullet-hell shooter and very hard, perhaps not in that order. The setup is basically that you’re stuck in a death loop, but you’re aware of it, and must learn the patterns and weaknesses of enemies — and master your own — in order to progress. As Devindra Hardwar explains, it leans heavily on the dark sci-fi of Alien, Edge of Tomorrow and Event Horizon but makes something new and unique in the process.

It’s made by the team behind Resogun, Nex Machina and Super Stardust HD, and you can tell, for better or worse. As you’d expect from a team that’s spent the past decades making shooters, the movement, gunplay and enemy attack patterns are incredibly well tuned. But on the flipside, from a studio used to smaller productions, the complexity and ambition of Returnal leads to a lack of polish that some may find unacceptable in a $70 game. If you can look past that, there’s a hell of a game waiting for you here.

Buy Returnal at Amazon - $70

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice
Activision

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn't just another Dark Souls game. FromSoftware's samurai adventure is a departure from that well-established formula, replacing slow, weighty combat and gothic despair for stealth, grappling hooks and swift swordplay. Oh, and while it's still a difficult game, it's a lot more accessible than Souls games — you can even pause it! The result of all these changes is something that's still instantly recognizable as a FromSoftware title, but it's its own thing, and it's very good. While the game has yet to receive a proper PS5 upgrade, the extra grunt of Sony’s next-gen console does allow the game to finally run at a locked 60fps — something the PS4 Pro couldn’t handle.

Buy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at Amazon - $60

The best PlayStation 5 games for 2022

Welcome to our first update to Engadget’s best games list for PlayStation 5. As always, we have looked for games that generally offer meaningful improvements over their last-gen counterparts when played on PS5, or are exclusive to the system. Our 2022 update sees two third-party titles – Deathloop and Final Fantasy VII Remake – join the overwhelmingly Sony fray. We'll be updating this periodically, so, if a game's just been released and you don't see it, chances are that the reason for its absence is that we haven't played through it yet. Either that or we hate it.

Astro’s Playroom

Astro's Playroom
Sony

It’s odd to start a best games list with a title that comes free with the console, but if you’re anything like my son, who swiftly deleted Astro’s Playroom to make space for various Call of Duty titles, I’m here to tell you to give the pack-in title another shot. Astro’s Playroom is a love letter to both 3D platformers and the PlayStation itself. It’s also, to date, the title that makes the best use of Sony’s DualSense controller, with incredible haptic feedback and clever usage of the pad’s adaptive triggers. (Although, eight years on, I’m still not convinced anyone has found a compelling reason for that touch pad.) It’s a game that even completionists can finish within six hours or so, but those six hours were among the most fun I’ve had with the PS5 so far.

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade
Square Enix

We thought it would never happen. Final Fantasy VII was an iconic JRPG that’s credited with opening up the genre to the west. It peppered the Top 10 lists of the best games of all-time and introduced the long-running Japanese RPG series to polygons, 3D maps, and countless other innovations of 32-bit consoles. 23 years later, and three PlayStation iterations later, Square Enix dared to remake, not remaster, the game. It would be, contentiously, episodic, expanding out the story of Midgar and the opening part of the game into a single game.

It’s all very different. It’s also gorgeous, with a modern battle system that no longer focuses on static characters and menu choices. Somehow, and we were ready to be underwhelmed, the battle system works. FF7R’s fights are slicker and more enjoyable than those in Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in the series. Each character, from iconic mercenary Cloud through to eco-terrorist Barret and flower girl Aerith, play in entirely different ways, using the space between themselves and enemies in very different ways. Some sub-missions and distractions feel like they’re there solely to eke some more hours out of your playthrough, but the world of the original has been thoughtfully reimagined, so it’s a minor complaint.

For anyone that bought the PS4 iteration, the upgrade to PS5 is free. However, it costs money to gain access to the PS5-exclusive DLC chapter featuring ninja Yuffie. Offering another battle style to experiment with and master, two new extra chapters run alongside the events of the first installment of this remake. Moments of the game feel like they were built to tease how capable the newest PlayStation is, with Yuffie zipping down poles through vertiginous levels, wall-running and mixing up long-range and short-range attacks in a completely different way to Cloud, Aerith and the rest. It suffers a little from trying to tie in FF7 lore from old spin-off titles, but it’s a satisfying distraction as we wait for the second part – Final Fantasy VII Rebirth – to arrive in 2023.

Buy Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade at Amazon - $70

Demon's Souls

Demon's Souls
Sony

Bluepoint’s Demon’s Souls remake won’t be for everyone — no Souls game is. The original Demon’s Souls was a sleeper hit in 2009 on the PS3, establishing the basic formula that would later be cemented with Dark Souls, and then aped by an entire industry to the point where we now essentially have a “Soulslike'' genre. Today, that means challenging difficulty, grinding enemies for souls to level up, the retrieval of your corpse to collect said souls, a labyrinthine map to explore and, if you’re doing Soulslike right, some show-stopping boss fights to contend with. As a progenitor to the genre, Demon’s Souls has most of those in abundance. But rather than a huge sprawling map, it uses a portal system, with mini labyrinths to work through. Its bosses are also not quite on the level of impressiveness or difficulty of a more modern Dark Souls game.

Bluepoint has been faithful to the original, then, but graphically Demon’s Souls is a true showcase of what the PS5 can do, with gorgeous high-resolution visuals, smooth frame rates and swift loading. While the graphics certainly catch your eye, it’s the smoothness and loading times that are the most impactful. The original ran at 720p, and… depending on what you were doing 25 to 30 fps, while the remake lets you pick between a locked 30 or 60 fps at 4K or 1440p. And in a game that will likely kill you hundreds of times, waiting two seconds to respawn instead of thirty is transformative.

Buy Demon's Souls at Amazon - $70

God of War

God of War
Sony

Sony's God of War series had laid dormant for half a decade when its latest incarnation hit stores in early 2018, and for good reason. Antiquated gameplay and troubling themes had made it an ill-fit for the modern gaming landscape. No more. SIE Santa Monica Studio's God of War manages to successfully reboot the series while turning the previous games' narrative weaknesses into its strengths. Kratos is now a dad, the camera is now essentially strapped to his shoulder and Sony has what is sure to become a new series on its hands.

The first outright PS4 game on this collection, God of War has at least been patched for better performance on PS5, allowing it to output at 4K/60. For those subscribed to PS Plus, this one’s available for free as part of the PlayStation Plus Collection on PS5.

Buy God of War at Amazon - $20

Ghost of Tsushima: The Director's Cut

Ghost of Tsushima
Sony

This tale of samurai vengeance is like Japanese cinema come to life. There are multiple betrayals, the sad deaths of several close allies, tense sword fights, villages and castles under siege, and even a ‘Kurosawa mode’ black-and-white filter you employ for the entire game. The world of feudal Japan, with some creative liberties, is gorgeous, with fields of grass and bullrushes to race through on your faithful steed, temple ‘puzzles’ to navigate around and fortresses to assess and attack.

As you make your way through the main story quest, and more than enough side quests and challenges, you unlock more powerful sword techniques and stances, as well as new weapons and forbidden techniques that are neatly woven in the story of a samurai pushed to the edge. It still suffers from one too many fetch quests, artifacts scattered across Japan’s prefectures, but the sheer beauty of Ghost of Tsushima tricks you into believing this is the greatest open-world game on PlayStation. Don’t get me wrong — it’s up there.

With the new Director’s Cut edition on the PS5, you also get dynamic frame-rates up to 60 FPS, ensuring the game looks and feels even more like a tribute to Japanese cinematic auteurs of the past. There are also DualSense tricks, like a bow that tangibly tightens as you pull on trigger buttons, and subtle rumble as you ride across the lands of Tsushima, Director’s Cut adds a new, surprisingly compelling DLC chapter. As you explore the Iki isle, the game adds a few more tricks to Jin’s arsenal, and deepens the relationship and history between the game’s hero and his father.

Without spoiling what happens, the game smartly threads the original story into the DLC, ensuring it feels solidly connected to the main game, despite DLC status.

Buy Ghost of Tsushima: The Director's Cut at Amazon - $79

Deathloop

Photo Mode in Deathloop
Arkane Studios/Bethesda

Deathloop, from the studio that brought you the Dishonored series, is easy enough to explain: You’re trapped in a day that repeats itself. If you die, then you go back to the morning, to repeat the day again. If you last until the end of the day, you still repeat it again. Colt must “break the loop” by efficiently murdering seven main characters, who are inconveniently are never in the same place at the same time. It’s also stylish, accessible and fun.

While you try to figure out your escape from this time anomaly, you’ll also be hunted down by Julianna, another island resident who, like you, is able to remember everything that happens in each loop. She’ll also lock you out of escaping an area, and generally interfere with your plans to escape the time loop. (The online multiplayer is also addictive, flipping the roles around. You play as Julianna, hunting down Colt and foiling his plans for murder. )

As you play through the areas again (and again) you’ll equip yourself with slabs that add supernatural powers, as well as more potent weapons and trinkets to embed into both guns and yourself. It’s through this that you’re able to customize your playstyle or equip yourself in the best way to survive Julianna and nail that assassination. Each time period and area rewards repeat exploration, with secret guns, hidden conversations with NPCs and lots of world-building lore to discover for yourself.

Buy Deathloop at Amazon - $25

Marvel’s Spider-Man Ultimate Edition

Marvel's Spider-Man
Sony

Finally, you don't have to pick up Spider-Man 2 on the GameCube to get your web-slinging fix anymore. For almost 15 years, that game was held as the gold standard for a Spider-Man game, and I'll let you into a secret: It wasn't actually that good. Marvel's Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a tour de force. Featuring the best representation of what it's like to swing through New York City, well, ever, Insomniac's PlayStation exclusive also borrows liberally from the Batman: Arkham series' combat and throws in a story that, although it takes a while to get going, ends up in a jaw-dropping place.

With the launch of the PS5, Insomniac released a Miles Morales spin-off game, which follows the eponymous character as he attempts to protect NYC in Peter Parker’s absence. Both parts are available packaged together as Spider-Man Ultimate Edition— it has a longer name than that but let's not — and benefit from improved framerates, resolution and ray tracing (although not necessarily all at the same time!) With the full graphical package enabled, you’ll be playing at 30 frames per second in 4K, or you can pick between a pair of performance options: 4K/60 with no ray tracing, or 1080p/60 with ray-tracing. Whatever mode you pick, you’ll benefit from loading times that finally make the game’s fast travel system… fast.

Buy Marvel’s Spider-Man Ultimate Edition at Amazon - $60

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village
Capcom

Resident Evil Village is delightful. It’s a gothic fairy tale masquerading as a survival-horror game, and while this represents a fresh vibe for the franchise, it’s not an unwelcome evolution. The characters and enemies in Village are full of life — even when they’re decidedly undead — and Capcom has put a delicious twist on the idea of vampires, werewolves, sea creatures, giants and creepy dolls. The game retains its horror, puzzle and action roots, and it has Umbrella Corporation’s fingerprints all over it. On PS5, the game is gorgeous and it plays nicely with the DualSense controller, adding haptic feedback to weapons and terrifying situations alike. It simply feels like developers had fun with this one, and so will you.

Buy Resident Evil Village at Amazon - $60

Returnal

Returnal
Sony

Returnal is a third-person action game, a roguelite, a bullet-hell shooter and very hard, perhaps not in that order. The setup is basically that you’re stuck in a death loop, but you’re aware of it, and must learn the patterns and weaknesses of enemies — and master your own — in order to progress. As Devindra Hardwar explains, it leans heavily on the dark sci-fi of Alien, Edge of Tomorrow and Event Horizon but makes something new and unique in the process.

It’s made by the team behind Resogun, Nex Machina and Super Stardust HD, and you can tell, for better or worse. As you’d expect from a team that’s spent the past decades making shooters, the movement, gunplay and enemy attack patterns are incredibly well tuned. But on the flipside, from a studio used to smaller productions, the complexity and ambition of Returnal leads to a lack of polish that some may find unacceptable in a $70 game. If you can look past that, there’s a hell of a game waiting for you here.

Buy Returnal at Amazon - $70

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro Shadows Die Twice
Activision

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn't just another Dark Souls game. FromSoftware's samurai adventure is a departure from that well-established formula, replacing slow, weighty combat and gothic despair for stealth, grappling hooks and swift swordplay. Oh, and while it's still a difficult game, it's a lot more accessible than Souls games — you can even pause it! The result of all these changes is something that's still instantly recognizable as a FromSoftware title, but it's its own thing, and it's very good. While the game has yet to receive a proper PS5 upgrade, the extra grunt of Sony’s next-gen console does allow the game to finally run at a locked 60fps — something the PS4 Pro couldn’t handle.

Buy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at Amazon - $60

The best PC games for 2022

So how do you categorize a beast like gaming on the PC? With decades of titles to pluck from (and the first port of call for most indie titles, too), there's so much to choose from. Gaming on your PC adds the benefits of (nearly always flawless) backward compatibility and console-beating graphical performance — if you've got the coin for it. The whole idea of what a PC is and where you can play it is shifting, too, with the rise of handheld “consolized” PCs like the Steam Deck. We've tried to be broad with our recommendations here on purpose – there are so many great games out there for your PC, consider these some starting points.

Beat Saber

Beat Saber
Beat Games

Beat Saber is a euphoric gaming sensation that makes the most of virtual reality. You'll swing your unofficial lightsabers at incoming boxes, slicing and slamming them to the beat of the soundtrack. Similar to iconic rhythm-rail-shooter, Rez, which has its own VR iteration, Beat Saber often makes you feel like you're creating the music as you hit your cues. We might have had initial reservations on the soundtrack at launch but new tracks and customizations continue to add to the challenge. There's even a level creator for PC players, making this the definitive version.

Buy Beat Saber at Steam - $30

Control

Control
505 Games

Take the weird Twin Peaks narrative of Alan Wake, smash it together with Quantum Break's frenetic powers and gunplay, and you've got Control. Playing as a woman searching for her missing brother, you quickly learn there's a thin line between reality and the fantastical. It's catnip for anyone who grew up loving The X-Files and the supernatural. It's also a prime example of a studio working at their creative heights, both refining and evolving the open-world formula that's dominated games for the past decade.

Buy Control at GOG.com - $40

Disco Elysium Final Cut

Disco Elysium
ZA/UM

Disco Elysium is a special game. The first release from Estonian studio ZA/UM, it's a sprawling science-fiction RPG that takes more inspiration from D&D and Baldur's Gate than modern combat-focused games. In fact, there is no combat to speak of, instead, you'll be creating your character, choosing what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then passing D&D-style skill checks to make your way through the story. You'll, of course, be leveling up your abilities and boosting stats with items, but really the game's systems fall away in place of a truly engaging story, featuring some of the finest writing to ever grace a video game.

With the Final Cut, released 18 months after the original, this extremely dialogue-heavy game now has full voice acting, which brings the unique world more to life than ever before. After debuting on PC, PS5 and Stadia, Final Cut is now available for all extant home consoles – including Nintendo’s Switch.

Buy Disco Elysium Final Cut at GOG.com - $40

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite
343 Industries

Master Chief's latest adventure may not make much sense narratively, but it sure is fun to play. After the middle efforts from 343 Industries over the last decade, Halo Infinite manages to breathe new life into Microsoft's flagship franchise, while also staying true to elements fans love. The main campaign is more open than ever, while also giving you a new freedom of movement with the trusty grappling hook. And the multiplayer mode is wonderfully addictive (though 343 still needs to speed up experience progression), with a bevy of maps and game modes to keep things from getting too stale. The only thing keeping it from greatness is its baffling and disjointed story.

Buy Halo Infinite at Steam - $60

FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light
Subset Games

Who hasn't wanted to captain their own spaceship? Well, after a few hours of FTL: Faster Than Light, you might be rethinking your life goals. FTL is a roguelike, which means every game starts from the same spot. All you have to do is travel through a number of star systems, recruiting crew members and collecting scrap as you make your way towards a final showdown against a stupidly overpowered ship. Gameplay is roughly divided between a map view, where you can take as much time as you like to chart the most efficient route to your goal, and combat events which play out in real-time (although you can and will be using a pause button to slow things down).

Where the real fun comes in is in the narrative, which plays out in two ways. There's the structured side, where every so often you'll be asked to make decisions that may improve or hinder your chances of survival. And then there's the natural story you create for yourselves, as you're forced to decide, for example, whether it's worth sacrificing a crew member for the greater good.

Buy FTL: Faster Than Light at GOG.com - $10

Hades

Hades
Supergiant Games

Hades is the first early access title to ever make our best PC game list. It's an action-RPG developed by the team behind Bastion, Transistor and Pyre. You play Zagreus, son of Hades, who's having a little spat with his dad, and wants to escape from the underworld. To do so, Zagreus has to fight his way through the various levels of the underworld and up to the surface. Along the way, you’ll pick up “boons” from a wide range of ancient deities like Zeus, Ares and Aphrodite, which stack additional effects on your various attacks. Each level is divided into rooms full of demons, items and the occasional miniboss.

As Hades is a “roguelike” game, you start at the same place every time. With that said the items you collect can be used to access and upgrade new weapons and abilities that stick between sessions. Hades is on this list not for any reason other than it’s super accessible and very, very fun. You can jump in for 30 minutes and have a blast, or find yourself playing for hours. It's been in early access for well over a year at this point, and is tremendously polished, with a full release expected in the latter half of 2020.

Buy Hades at Steam - $25

Half-Life: Alyx

Half Life: Alyx
Valve

Half-Life: Alyx feels like a miracle. After 13 years away from the franchise, Valve delivered a genuinely thrilling prequel to Half-Life 2 while also charting new territory for VR gameplay. The gravity gloves, its key new feature, is the closest I’ve ever felt to having telekinetic powers. It gives you multiple movement options so you don’t get sick trotting around the expansive environments. Oh yeah, and it’s also absolutely terrifying, banking on the claustrophobic nature of VR. There’s no looking away when a facehugger leaps at you from the dark, or when a horrifically deformed zombie gets in your face. It might sound a bit hyperbolic, but Alyx might end up being one of the most important titles of this generation. Building a big-budget game for a niche VR market doesn’t make much sense for most companies, but for Valve, it’s Tuesday.

Buy Half-Life: Alyx at Steam - $60

Nier Automata

Nier: Automata
Square Enix

Nier Automata takes the razor-sharp combat of a Platinum Games title and puts it in a world crafted by everyone's favorite weirdo, Yoko Taro. Don't worry, you can mostly just run, gun and slash your way through the game, but as you finish, and finish and finish this one, you'll find yourself pulled into a truly special narrative, that's never been done before and will probably never be done again. It's fair to say that the PC release, as is unfortunately often the case, wasn't exactly the best and is still remarkably lacking in options, but it's at least stable now, and trust us when we say this one is unmissable.

Buy Nier Automata at Steam - $40

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Asobo Studio

Microsoft Flight Simulator came out at the perfect time, when the world was on lockdown and airline travel was an impossibility for most people. Not only does Flight Sim let players pilot a vast array of aircrafts, but it presents the world on a platter in stunning, ridiculous detail. It’s an escape, it’s educational and it’s entertaining – is that what they mean by E3? – and there’s really nothing else on its level when it comes to realistic physics simulations. Pandemic or no, Microsoft Flight Simulator is an incredible achievement with a long tail both inside and outside of the video game industry.

Buy Microsoft Flight Simulator at Steam - $60

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Capcom

Many were ready to write off the Resident Evil series after the disaster that was Resident Evil 6. What started as the horror game on the original PlayStation had become a bloated mess of an action game. Instead of throwing the whole franchise in the trash and forgetting about it, Capcom took a hard look at what wasn't working, which — surprise! — was basically everything, and thoroughly rebooted the formula. Borrowing from Kojima's PT and, in some ways, Creative Assembly's Alien: Isolation, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is horror through powerlessness. For the majority of the game, you're basically unable to do anything but run from or delay your foes. And that's what makes it so good.

Buy Resident Evil 7: Biohazard at Steam - $20

Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn
3909

This is an unforgettable ghost-story-slash-murder-mystery with a distinctive old-school graphical style. It's unlike any game we've played in a while, with a low-key musical score and a style of puzzle solving that's like one satisfying, grisly riddle. In Return of the Obra Dinn, you're put aboard a ship, alone. There is, however, a corpse near the captain's cabin. As you track the deceased's final footsteps, leading to yet more grisly ends, you need to figure out what happened. Who killed who? And who is still alive? Special mention to the sound effect that kicks in every time you solve the fates of three of the crew. Goosebumps.

Buy Return of the Obra Dinn at GOG.com - $20

The Witcher 3

The Witcher 3
CD Projekt S.A.

It might be the best open-world RPG out there. Despite now being several years old, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a dense action game that acknowledges the maturity of the player with multiple — occasionally harrowing — storylines, choices that have consequences and almost too much game to wrestle with. It's not perfect; the combat system is rough, frustrating death comes in the form of falling from just a few feet and there's a lot of quest filler alongside many incredibly well thought out distractions. The scope and ambition on display will have you hooked, and once you're done, there are some excellent expansions to check out.

Buy The Witcher 3 at GOG.com - $50

Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5
Playground Games/Microsoft

Forza Horizon 5 deftly walks a fine line by being an extremely deep and complex racing game that almost anyone can just pick up and play. The game has hundreds of cars that you can tweak endlessly to fit your driving style, and dozens of courses spread all over a gorgeous fictional corner of Mexico. If you crank up the difficulty, one mistake will sink your entire race, and the competition online can be just as fierce.

But if you’re new to racing games, Forza Horizon 5 does an excellent job at getting you up and running. The introduction to the game quickly gives you a taste at the four main race types you’ll come across (street racing, cross-country, etc.), and features like the rewind button mean that you can quickly erase mistakes if you try and take a turn too fast without having to restart your run. Quite simply, Forza Horizon 5 is a beautiful and fun game that works for just about any skill level. It’s easy to pick up and play a few races and move on with your day, or you can sink hours into it trying to become the best driver you can possibly be.

Buy Forza Horizon 5 at Steam - $60

The best Xbox games for 2022

A series of missteps put Microsoft in second place before the Xbox One even came out. With the launch of the Xbox Series X and S, though, Microsoft is in a great position to compete. Both are well-priced, well-specced consoles with a huge library of games spanning two decades.

Microsoft’s console strategy is unique. Someone with a 7-year old Xbox One has access to an almost-identical library of games as the owner of a brand-new Xbox Series X. That makes it difficult to maintain meaningfully different lists for its various consoles — at least for now. But while “next-gen” exclusives may be few and far between, with PS4 outselling Xbox One by a reported two-to-one, there are a lot of gamers who simply haven’t experienced much of what Microsoft has had to offer since the mid ‘10s.

It’s with that frame of mind that we approach this list: What games would we recommend to someone picking up an Xbox today — whether it’s a Series X, a Series S, One X or One S — after an extended break from Microsoft’s consoles?

This list then, is a mixture of games exclusive to Microsoft’s consoles and cross-platform showstoppers that play best on Xbox. We’ve done our best to explain the benefits Microsoft’s systems bring to the table where appropriate. Oh, and while we understand some may have an aversion to subscription services, it’s definitely worth considering Game Pass Ultimate, which will allow you to play many of the games on this list for a monthly fee.

Control

Control
505 Games

Take the weird Twin Peaks narrative of Alan Wake, smash it together with Quantum Break's frenetic powers and gunplay, and you've got Control. Playing as a woman searching for her missing brother, you quickly learn there's a thin line between reality and the fantastical. It's catnip for anyone who grew up loving The X-Files and the supernatural. It's also a prime example of a studio working at their creative heights, both refining and evolving the open-world formula that's dominated games for the past decade.

Control on the last-gen Xbox is a mixed affair, with the One S struggling a little, but the One X being head-and-shoulders above the PS4 Pro when it comes to fidelity and smoothness. With the launch of the next-gen consoles, an ‘Ultimate Edition’ emerged which brought the ray-tracing and higher frame rates that PC gamers enjoyed to console players. Although you’ll only get those benefits as a next-gen owner, it also includes all the released DLC and is the edition we recommend buying, even if you’re not planning to immediately upgrade.

Buy Control at Amazon - $30

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite
343 Industries / Microsoft

Master Chief's latest adventure may not make much sense narratively, but it sure is fun to play. After the middle efforts from 343 Industries over the last decade, Halo Infinite manages to breathe new life into Microsoft's flagship franchise, while also staying true to elements fans love. The main campaign is more open than ever, while also giving you a new freedom of movement with the trusty grappling hook. And the multiplayer mode is wonderfully addictive (though 343 still needs to speed up experience progression), with a bevy of maps and game modes to keep things from getting too stale. The only thing keeping it from greatness is its baffling and disjointed story, but it's not like Xbox fans have many options when it comes to huge exclusives right now.

Buy Halo Infinite at Amazon - $60

Forza Horizon 5

Corvette in 'Forza Horizon 5'
Playground Games/Xbox Game Studios

Forza Horizon 5 deftly walks a fine line by being an extremely deep and complex racing game that almost anyone can just pick up and play. The game has hundreds of cars that you can tweak endlessly to fit your driving style, and dozens of courses spread all over a gorgeous fictional corner of Mexico. If you crank up the difficulty, one mistake will sink your entire race, and the competition online can be just as fierce.

But if you’re new to racing games, Forza Horizon 5 does an excellent job at getting you up and running. The introduction to the game quickly gives you a taste at the four main race types you’ll come across (street racing, cross-country, etc.), and features like the rewind button mean that you can quickly erase mistakes if you try and take a turn too fast without having to restart your run. Quite simply, Forza Horizon 5 is a beautiful and fun game that works for just about any skill level. It’s easy to pick up and play a few races and move on with your day, or you can sink hours into it trying to become the best driver you can possibly be.

Buy Forza Horizon 5 at Amazon - $60

Gears 5

Gears 5
Microsoft

Gears 5 tries to be a lot of things, and doesn't succeed at them all. If you're a Gears of War fan, though, there's a lot to love here. The cover-shooter gameplay the series helped pioneer feels great, and the campaign, while not narratively ambitious, is well-paced and full of bombastic set pieces to keep you interested. As they stand, the various multiplayer modes are not great, but Gears 5 is worth it for the campaign alone.

It’s also a true graphical showcase, among the best-looking console games around. Microsoft did a great job optimizing for all platforms and use-cases, with high-resolution and ultra-high (up to 120fps on series consoles) frame rates.

Buy Gears 5 at Amazon - $30

Nier: Automata

Nier: Automata
Square Enix

It took more than a while to get here, but Nier: Automata finally arrived on Xbox One in the summer of 2018. And boy, was it worth the almost-18-month wait. Nier takes the razor-sharp combat of a Platinum Games title and puts it in a world crafted by everyone's favorite weirdo, Yoko Taro. Don't worry, you can mostly just run, gun and slash your way through the game, but as you finish, and finish and finish this one, you'll find yourself pulled into a truly special narrative, one that's never been done before and will probably never be done again. It’s an unmissable experience, and one that feels all the more unique on Xbox, which has never had the best levels of support from Japanese developers.

On Xbox One X and Series X, you effectively have the best version of Nier: Automata available, short of a fan-patched PC game. On Series S and One S... not so much, but you do at least get consistent framerates on the Series S and a passable experience on the One S. 

Buy Nier: Automata at Amazon - $40

Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest
Microsoft

Arriving at a time when "Gears Halo Forza" seemed to be the beginning, middle and end of Microsoft's publishing plans, Ori and the Blind Forest was a triumph. It's a confident mash of the pixel-perfect platforming popularized by Super Meat Boy, and the rich, unfolding worlds of Metroidvania games. You'll die hundreds of times exploring the titular forest, unlocking skills that allow you to reach new areas. It looks and sounds great — like, Disney great — and its story, while fairly secondary to the experience, is interesting. Ori might not do much to push the boundaries of its genres, but everything it does, it does so right. Its sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is very much “more of everything,” so if you like Blind Forest, it’s well worth checking out too.

Buy Ori and the Blind Forest at Amazon - $40

Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar Games

Red Dead Redemption 2 is the kind of game no one but Rockstar, the team behind the GTA series, could make. Only when a studio is this successful can it pour millions of dollars and development hours into a game. Rockstar's simulation of a crumbling frontier world is enthralling and serves as a perfect backdrop to an uncharacteristically measured story. While the studio's gameplay may not have moved massively forward, the writing and characters of RDR2 will stay with you.

While Rockstar hasn’t deemed fit to properly upgrade Red Dead Redemption 2 for the next-gen yet, Series X owners will at least benefit from the best last-gen (Xbox One X) experience with the addition of improved loading times. The Series S, on the other hand, gets the One S version, but with an improved 30 fps lock and swifter loading.

Buy Red Dead Redemption 2 at Amazon - $27

Resident Evil Village

Resident Evil Village
Capcom

Resident Evil Village is delightful. It’s a gothic fairy tale masquerading as a survival-horror game, and while this represents a fresh vibe for the franchise, it’s not an unwelcome evolution. The characters and enemies in Village are full of life — even when they’re decidedly undead — and Capcom has put a delicious twist on the idea of vampires, werewolves, sea creatures, giants and creepy dolls. The game retains its horror, puzzle and action roots, and it has Umbrella Corporation’s fingerprints all over it. It simply feels like developers had fun with this one, and so will you.

A word of caution before you run to buy it, though: This game doesn’t play great on every Xbox. On Series X, things are great: There's the option to turn on ray-tracing with the occasional frame rate issue, or to keep it off and have perfect 4K/60 presentation. With the Series S, while there is a ray-tracing mode, it’s almost unplayable. With ray-tracing off, the Series S does a decent job, though. The One X’s 1080p/60 mode is also fantastic, although its quality mode feels very juddery. If you own a base Xbox One or One S, though, there’s really no mode that actually feels enjoyable to play.

Buy Resident Evil Village at Amazon - $31

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Activision

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn't just another Dark Souls game. FromSoftware's samurai adventure is a departure from that well-established formula, replacing slow, weighty combat and gothic despair for stealth, grappling hooks and swift swordplay. Oh, and while it's still a difficult game, it's a lot more accessible than Souls games — you can even pause it! The result of all these changes is something that's still instantly recognizable as a FromSoftware title, but it's its own thing, and it's very good.

This is one game that’s really not had a lot of love from its developer or publisher, as, despite the fact next-gen consoles should be easily able to run this game at 60 fps, the Series S is locked to an inconsistently paced 30 fps, while the Series X doesn’t quite hold to 60 either. With that said, it’s more than playable.

Buy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at Amazon - $43

Lost Judgement

Lost Judgement
Microsoft

This is private eye Takayuki Yagami’s second adventure; a spin-off of Sega’s popular, pulpy and convoluted Yakuza saga. He lives in the same Kamurocho area, the same yakuza gangs roam the streets, and there’s the very occasional crossover of side-story characters and, well, weirdos. But instead of punching punks in the face in the name of justice or honor, which was the style of Yakuza protagonist Kazuya Kiryu, Yagami fights with the power of his lawyer badge, drone evidence and… sometimes (read: often) he kicks the bad guys in the face.

The sequel skates even closer to some sort of serialized TV drama, punctuated by fights, chases and melodrama. For anyone that’s played the series before, it treads familiar ground, but with a more serious (realistic) story that centers on bullying and suicide problems in Japanese high schools, which is tied into myriad plots encompassing the legal system, politics and organized crime.

Yagami has multiple fighting styles to master, while there are love interests, batting cages, mahjong, skate parks and more activities to sink even more hours into. On the PS5, Lost Judgment looks great. Fights are fluid and the recreated areas in Tokyo and Yokohama are usually full of pedestrians, stores and points of interest. While Yakuza Like a Dragon takes the franchise in a new (turn-based, more ridiculous) direction, Lost Judgment retains the brawling playstyle of the Yakuza series, with a new hero who has, eventually, charmed us.

Buy Lost Judgement at Amazon - $60

Game Pass Ultimate

Microsoft's new Series X console and its accessories.
Engadget

We already mentioned this one but it's difficult to overemphasize how good a deal Game Pass is for Xbox owners. For $15 a month you get access to a shifting and growing library of games. The company does a good job explaining what games are coming and going in advance, so you won't get caught out by a game disappearing from the subscription service just as you're reaching a final boss. There are 11 games mentioned in this guide, and seven of them are currently available with Game Pass. The full library is broad, and, while still Microsoft's cloud service is still just in beta, you'll have access to many of the games on your tablet, phone or browser through xCloud at no extra fee.

Subscribe to Game Pass Ultimate at MicrosoftBuy Game Pass Ultimate gift card at Amazon starting at $15

What we bought: Engadget’s favorite backpacks

Most of us at Engadget haven’t been in school for some time, but we still appreciate a good backpack when we find one. We may have ditched textbooks a while back, but we still have a lot of gear to carry around. At minimum, most of us have to lug our laptops to and from meetings, while some of us have additional camera and video gear to schlep around town. So while our current backpacks don’t carry the same school gear that you might have, we’re confident that they can handle everything you need to bring with you to ace your classes.

Timbuk2 Lane Commuter bag

Timbuk2 Lane Commuter bag
Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

What’s green and portable and, oh hey wow, has a secret pouch in the bottom that holds a waterproof sleeve which I just right now discovered while writing this? Yeah, it’s this here Timbuk2 Lane Commuter bag that I’ve owned, but apparently never truly known, for the past 4 years. I bought it because it’s lightweight, comfortable to wear, could be expanded to accommodate oversized items, had a pair of exterior water bottle holders — one for soup, the other for more soup — and offered a generous number of pockets.

The Timbuk company has a well-earned reputation for quality construction. I still regularly carry their messenger bag a decade-plus after I bought it and this laptop bag is of parallel durability. Even after the rigors of a few CESes, the Timbuk has shown remarkably little evidence of wear and tear. The color hasn’t noticeably faded and the straps are still unfrayed. Nor is my laptop any worse for wear despite the bag’s rough-and-tumble travel. And while my bag was pretty well water resistant before, the discovery of this sheath is a handy additional layer of protection — not to mention a teaching moment about the importance of paying attention when unboxing new gear. – Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

Baggallini Soho Backpack

Baggallini Soho Backpack
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

I had gone through a number of backpacks before receiving this Baggallini bag as a gift, and I can say that most of my previous daily carries can’t hold a candle to this one. It’s hard to find backpacks that are both durable and have some style that’s not strictly utilitarian. The Soho Backpacks fits the bill nicely with its water-resistant nylon fabric and taller doctor-bag profile. I can hold up to a 13-inch laptop in the interior padded sleeve and I like the healthy number of pockets the bag has. I most often use the front two pockets for quick-access things like my phone and keys, and pretty much every time I go out, both side pockets are filled with a water bottle and an umbrella. I also appreciate its luggage handle sleeve, which lets me rest my back a little bit while traveling.

While I’m glad I have this bag now to support me through all kinds of trips, I often think back on my college years and how useful it would have been to have then. I carried a lot of inadequate bags back then, and I’m pretty sure some of my back problems are a direct result of that. At least now I can prevent further injury by carrying this practical yet somewhat stylish backpack whenever necessary. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack

Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack
Sam Rutherford, Engadget

I’m kind of a sucker when it comes to bags. I’ve enjoyed using Peak Design’s original Everyday Messenger for the past six years, but its size often felt a bit restrictive during longer trips. So last year I bought Peak Design’s 45L Travel Backpack, and it’s probably the best backpack I’ve ever owned. Just like the company’s other gear, you can tell a lot of thought went into making it. There’s a seemingly endless number of zippers, pockets, handles and loops smartly strewn across the bag, which makes it really easy to organize your gear or tie down bulkier equipment like a tripod. You can even transform it into a duffel by hiding its shoulder straps and hip belts behind cleverly placed flaps, while built-in compression snaps help slim it down for carry-on duty. And of course there are separate padded sleeves for tablets and up to a 16-inch laptop.

The only real downside is that it’s a bit large and sometimes wearing it makes me feel like a turtle. It’s a great backpack for hauling a bunch of gear and clothes around during a long weekend. Unfortunately, not long after I bought this thing, Peak came out with a less bulky 30L version, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably go for the smaller one. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota backpack
Nicole Lee, Engadget

There are many reasons I love my Dagne Dover Dakota backpack, but the main one is that it has pockets. A lot of pockets. One big pocket on the front, three more on the other side of the front flap, two internal side pockets, two external side pockets, and two more pockets on the back. Oh, and there’s also a large padded laptop compartment that’s big enough to fit my 13-inch MacBook Pro (According to the company, it should fit most 13-inch laptops).

All of these pockets give me enough room to store a multitude of cables, external batteries, accessories, a water bottle and so much more. I especially love the two back ones as I can reach them easily while I’m wearing the backpack, making them ideal for essentials like my wallet, phone and travel documents.

The internal cavity is roomy as well. I’ve managed to fit in a large DSLR camera along with a giant telephoto lens. It’s great as a gym bag, too, as I can fit in an extra change of clothes and a pair of shoes. I love it for travel too. It holds so much stuff but it’s still compact enough to fit underneath the seat in front of me. In fact, the latest version of the Dakota even has a sleeve that fits perfectly over your luggage handle.

Plus, this thing is durable. It’s made of neoprene, a soft lightweight material that dries quickly if it gets wet. It’s also insulating and shock absorbent. I bought it back in 2017 and five years later, it’s still holding up. It doesn’t look quite as pristine as it did back then, but it’s just as functional. Sure, it’s rather pricey at $185, but for a bag that has lasted this long, it’s worth it. – Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer

Waterfield Staad Attaché bag

Waterfield Staad Attaché
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

I’ve been buying gear from Waterfield in San Francisco for almost 20 years, a rather startling amount of time. But their bags, laptop sleeves, gaming cases and everything else I’ve tried has been exceptionally well-made and smartly designed. I’ve picked up a number of their bags over the years, but the one that I keep coming back to is the Staad Attaché, a waxed canvas (or ballistic nylon) messenger bag with a full-grain leather flap.

The thing that I like the most about it is that it can carry a lot of gear but it’s still fairly compact. It has two built-in sleeves for carrying a laptop and tablet, two deep hand pockets, a key fob, and a main compartment that’s big enough to carry headphones, books, a camera, or whatever else you deem most essential. There are also two external zippered pockets for anything you might need to get your hands on quickly. This bag is big enough for me to carry everything I need for a day or two, but small enough that I don’t overpack.

The Staad Attaché looks classy and understated on the outside, but the interior is a bright yellow. That might seem an unusual choice, but it makes it easier to see what’s inside than a dark liner. It’s a good example of the smart design decisions Waterfield makes. And, perhaps most importantly, this bag can take a beating. Waterfield products are expensive; the Staad Attaché starts at $289. But they’re the kind of product you buy once and can use for a lifetime. I’ve taken this bag on tons of work and personal trips and is still in perfect shape. The waxed canvas and leather have aged well over the years, and I expect I’ll be lugging this bag around for another decade, easy — unless I get tempted by another Waterfield option before then. – Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor

What we bought: Engadget’s favorite backpacks

Most of us at Engadget haven’t been in school for some time, but we still appreciate a good backpack when we find one. We may have ditched textbooks a while back, but we still have a lot of gear to carry around. At minimum, most of us have to lug our laptops to and from meetings, while some of us have additional camera and video gear to schlep around town. So while our current backpacks don’t carry the same school gear that you might have, we’re confident that they can handle everything you need to bring with you to ace your classes.

Timbuk2 Lane Commuter bag

Timbuk2 Lane Commuter bag
Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

What’s green and portable and, oh hey wow, has a secret pouch in the bottom that holds a waterproof sleeve which I just right now discovered while writing this? Yeah, it’s this here Timbuk2 Lane Commuter bag that I’ve owned, but apparently never truly known, for the past 4 years. I bought it because it’s lightweight, comfortable to wear, could be expanded to accommodate oversized items, had a pair of exterior water bottle holders — one for soup, the other for more soup — and offered a generous number of pockets.

The Timbuk company has a well-earned reputation for quality construction. I still regularly carry their messenger bag a decade-plus after I bought it and this laptop bag is of parallel durability. Even after the rigors of a few CESes, the Timbuk has shown remarkably little evidence of wear and tear. The color hasn’t noticeably faded and the straps are still unfrayed. Nor is my laptop any worse for wear despite the bag’s rough-and-tumble travel. And while my bag was pretty well water resistant before, the discovery of this sheath is a handy additional layer of protection — not to mention a teaching moment about the importance of paying attention when unboxing new gear. – Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

Baggallini Soho Backpack

Baggallini Soho Backpack
Valentina Palladino / Engadget

I had gone through a number of backpacks before receiving this Baggallini bag as a gift, and I can say that most of my previous daily carries can’t hold a candle to this one. It’s hard to find backpacks that are both durable and have some style that’s not strictly utilitarian. The Soho Backpacks fits the bill nicely with its water-resistant nylon fabric and taller doctor-bag profile. I can hold up to a 13-inch laptop in the interior padded sleeve and I like the healthy number of pockets the bag has. I most often use the front two pockets for quick-access things like my phone and keys, and pretty much every time I go out, both side pockets are filled with a water bottle and an umbrella. I also appreciate its luggage handle sleeve, which lets me rest my back a little bit while traveling.

While I’m glad I have this bag now to support me through all kinds of trips, I often think back on my college years and how useful it would have been to have then. I carried a lot of inadequate bags back then, and I’m pretty sure some of my back problems are a direct result of that. At least now I can prevent further injury by carrying this practical yet somewhat stylish backpack whenever necessary. – Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack

Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack
Sam Rutherford, Engadget

I’m kind of a sucker when it comes to bags. I’ve enjoyed using Peak Design’s original Everyday Messenger for the past six years, but its size often felt a bit restrictive during longer trips. So last year I bought Peak Design’s 45L Travel Backpack, and it’s probably the best backpack I’ve ever owned. Just like the company’s other gear, you can tell a lot of thought went into making it. There’s a seemingly endless number of zippers, pockets, handles and loops smartly strewn across the bag, which makes it really easy to organize your gear or tie down bulkier equipment like a tripod. You can even transform it into a duffel by hiding its shoulder straps and hip belts behind cleverly placed flaps, while built-in compression snaps help slim it down for carry-on duty. And of course there are separate padded sleeves for tablets and up to a 16-inch laptop.

The only real downside is that it’s a bit large and sometimes wearing it makes me feel like a turtle. It’s a great backpack for hauling a bunch of gear and clothes around during a long weekend. Unfortunately, not long after I bought this thing, Peak came out with a less bulky 30L version, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably go for the smaller one. – Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter

Dagne Dover Dakota Backpack

Dagne Dover Dakota backpack
Nicole Lee, Engadget

There are many reasons I love my Dagne Dover Dakota backpack, but the main one is that it has pockets. A lot of pockets. One big pocket on the front, three more on the other side of the front flap, two internal side pockets, two external side pockets, and two more pockets on the back. Oh, and there’s also a large padded laptop compartment that’s big enough to fit my 13-inch MacBook Pro (According to the company, it should fit most 13-inch laptops).

All of these pockets give me enough room to store a multitude of cables, external batteries, accessories, a water bottle and so much more. I especially love the two back ones as I can reach them easily while I’m wearing the backpack, making them ideal for essentials like my wallet, phone and travel documents.

The internal cavity is roomy as well. I’ve managed to fit in a large DSLR camera along with a giant telephoto lens. It’s great as a gym bag, too, as I can fit in an extra change of clothes and a pair of shoes. I love it for travel too. It holds so much stuff but it’s still compact enough to fit underneath the seat in front of me. In fact, the latest version of the Dakota even has a sleeve that fits perfectly over your luggage handle.

Plus, this thing is durable. It’s made of neoprene, a soft lightweight material that dries quickly if it gets wet. It’s also insulating and shock absorbent. I bought it back in 2017 and five years later, it’s still holding up. It doesn’t look quite as pristine as it did back then, but it’s just as functional. Sure, it’s rather pricey at $185, but for a bag that has lasted this long, it’s worth it. – Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer

Waterfield Staad Attaché bag

Waterfield Staad Attaché
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

I’ve been buying gear from Waterfield in San Francisco for almost 20 years, a rather startling amount of time. But their bags, laptop sleeves, gaming cases and everything else I’ve tried has been exceptionally well-made and smartly designed. I’ve picked up a number of their bags over the years, but the one that I keep coming back to is the Staad Attaché, a waxed canvas (or ballistic nylon) messenger bag with a full-grain leather flap.

The thing that I like the most about it is that it can carry a lot of gear but it’s still fairly compact. It has two built-in sleeves for carrying a laptop and tablet, two deep hand pockets, a key fob, and a main compartment that’s big enough to carry headphones, books, a camera, or whatever else you deem most essential. There are also two external zippered pockets for anything you might need to get your hands on quickly. This bag is big enough for me to carry everything I need for a day or two, but small enough that I don’t overpack.

The Staad Attaché looks classy and understated on the outside, but the interior is a bright yellow. That might seem an unusual choice, but it makes it easier to see what’s inside than a dark liner. It’s a good example of the smart design decisions Waterfield makes. And, perhaps most importantly, this bag can take a beating. Waterfield products are expensive; the Staad Attaché starts at $289. But they’re the kind of product you buy once and can use for a lifetime. I’ve taken this bag on tons of work and personal trips and is still in perfect shape. The waxed canvas and leather have aged well over the years, and I expect I’ll be lugging this bag around for another decade, easy — unless I get tempted by another Waterfield option before then. – Nathan Ingraham, Deputy Editor