The number of ID@Xbox games available on the Xbox One and Windows 10 via Xbox Play Anywhere is growing at a rapid rate. At the time of writing, over 1,100 games have released via the ID@Xbox program, giving developers the chance to self-publish titles on both the Xbox One and Windows 10.
ID@Xbox is home to some of the most innovative games, emotional stories, and memorable characters that we've seen this generation, and it has also helped to revive some of the more niche genres that would never make it through the profitability checks of big Publishers and on to store shelves.
With so many ID@Xbox games hitting the digital store every week, it's an almost daunting task to keep up with them all. To help make sure that you're not missing out on any of the hidden gems that the ID@Xbox program has to offer, here's our list of the best ID@Xbox games available on the Xbox One in 2019.
Inside is a game that has to be experienced first-hand to be understood and I’d urge everyone to play it. At three to four hours it is on the short side, but thanks to the thought-provoking and surprising story, tight gameplay and exceptional sound and visual design, Inside will leave a long lasting impression that will more than make it worth its price tag.
Some games do a few memorable things in an otherwise disappointing package, and some games are greater than the sum of their parts. Then some games are like Hellblade, where everything is done so well that it stands up to nearly all criticism. The puzzling and combat are both well designed even if neither is genre-redefining, and the audiovisual experience is a consistent spectacle. The ways it never cuts to loading screens and hides its UI makes it feel unique too, like we are right there with Senua every step of the way, but it's because of the story that Hellblade is forever cemented as something special. Senua is fierce and imperfect in a way that will have you rooting for her like few characters ever garner. Her journey is pretty much unceasingly filthy, violent, tragic and horrific, yet it's not a story of suffering, but rather one of perseverance. Senua is a remarkable character who instils all of her energies into the player in such a way that will never be forgotten.
Celeste is a wonderful little platforming challenge that finds beauty in balance. Its sometimes brutal difficulty is softened by its innovative and inclusive approach to accessibility, thanks to a customisable Assist Mode that allows you to set the parameters. Its serious themes of mental health and coming to terms with oneself are leavened by its joyous audiovisual design and a small cast of well-realised characters. The frustration of dying for the thousandth time finds its counterweight in the gorgeously fluid ballet of a perfect run. With a wonderfully evocative soundtrack and a whole host of creative ideas and plenty of additional challenges beyond the main campaign, Celeste manages to cram in a whole lot of goodness without ever missing a step. Fans of tricky platformers will find much to love in the game's design, but it's also a perfect starting point for anyone new to the genre — perhaps even those actively averse to it. In short, it's a bit of a masterpiece.
The Turing Test's gameplay mechanics will be familiar to anyone who is well-versed in the genre, but they still deserve accolades all of their own. The story that's told in piecemeal, room by room, is where the game really shines. It's written in a way that reveals a passion for the material from those that worked on the game, using real-life historical context mixed with classic sci-fi tropes that are retold in interesting ways. Where other games often sacrifice gameplay for story or vice versa, Bulkhead's puzzler presents outstanding cases for both. The Turing Test delivers not just a worthwhile game but an amazing story that will sit with you long after the credits.
Stardew Valley is a unique game for consoles that you didn't realize that you wanted until you had it. Growing your farm from a small plot of land to a massive industry is a wonderful feeling and the journey is rewarding and worthy of your time. You'll constantly be thinking of new ventures that you can try to make gold; with proper work, those ventures always pay off, which only makes you want to play even more. With plenty of extra activities in which to participate throughout your days, you won't grow bored quickly. While the game isn't perfect — side activities can be dull and there are a few frustrating bugs — Stardew Valley will no doubt remain a staple in my rotation for months to come. It's a game that fully succeeds in its premise and for that, it is worthy of your time.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a game about choice in every aspect. It's an RPG where it truly is your story, with no two playthroughs being alike thanks to the vast number of ways to tackle any given situation. If you want to be the hero, you can, if you want to be the villain, you can do that too. But more often than not, you're going to be playing in the gray, making choices and living the outcomes — or reloading to get a better one, which is just as valid a way to play. The combat is likewise complimented by choice, from how you build your party to what actions you take against enemies that are incredibly challenging but also rewarding to square off against. Every enemy is a threat, but so are you. The world of Divinity is exceedingly vast, but it's full to the brim with meaningful content that you'll enjoy exploring through for dozens or even hundreds of hours. There are few RPGs I'd dare to call essential, but Divinity: Original Sin 2 stands out among all others as deserving of that accolade. It's undoubtedly one of the best tactical and role-playing experiences you'll ever have on any platform.
Dead Cells is an excellent game that will challenge and delight seasoned roguelike addicts, yet Motion Twin has also made it accessible to newcomers. The combination of roguelite and Metroidvania genres wraps the bitter pill of permadeath in a sweet coating of exploration, with a solid progression system and plenty of reward loops to help inexperienced players get into the game. Meanwhile, expert players can speed run, ramp up the difficulty level and equip the gear and mutations designed for skilled users. Dying repeatedly has never felt this good.
Overcooked! 2 is a Michelin Star game. As a co-op experience, there are few games better at bringing together players of different skill levels for some fun. Each level is thoughtfully designed with co-op in mind, offering a depth of challenge and strategy that makes beating a level very rewarding while also still being accessible to those who don’t often play games. The sheer variety keeps things fresh and online play allows you to experience the game as it was meant even when you don’t have someone playing right next to you. If you want a fun game you can pick up and play with a friend, kid, sibling or significant other any time, there are few alternatives that could offer a better experience. Overcooked! 2 was prepared perfectly, and you’ll love every bite.
To say Darkest Dungeon is a challenging and satisfying RPG doesn't seem like nearly enough praise. The sheer amount of customization — 15+ different classes, seven abilities per character to choose from, equippable trinkets, and much more besides — makes for a highly involved, appetizingly deep adventure that can be approached with many different play styles. The psychological and stress aspects add something unique that is not seen every day. All the while, the roar of the excellent narrator commentates the success and failures of the player as they progress through intricately hand-drawn environments and battles with sound design tailored to perfection. The handling of the game on console feels a little off since the title originated from PC, but don't miss out on Darkest Dungeon's incredible experience just for that reason.
It can be challenging, frustrating and cause unwanted headaches, but despite all that you'll keep wanting to come back for more. Not everyone will be drawn in by an 8-bit, side-scrolling death fest in this day and age of gaming that seems overwhelmed by retro aesthetic titles, however, Shovel Knight rightly deserves a place among modern games. The amazing soundtrack and rewarding gameplay will spur you on right to the end, and even then you'll probably want to go back for another round of smacking things in the face with a shovel. The inspiration from 8-bit games of the past has caused a great feeling of nostalgia for many, and Shovel Knight is well worth the money and trip down memory lane if you prefer to be challenged on a regular basis. The game is proof that, although 8-bit side-scrollers look old, they certainly aren't outdated.
It might have taken a while for Rocket League to appear on the Xbox One, but the wait was worth it. The simplistic design of the game makes it extremely easy to pick up and play for newcomers, while at the same time allowing players to develop their skill and understanding of the game through practice. There is an issue with the game occasionally locking up, but that shouldn’t detract from the enjoyment and excitement that the game provides on a far more often basis. If you've already played the game extensively on other platforms prior to its launch on the Xbox One then there's nothing new on offer. For anyone that hasn’t tried Rocket League yet, it’s an absolute masterpiece of a multiplayer game that really has to be experienced to be truly understood.
It's true that from an innovation standpoint, The Banner Saga 3 doesn't do a lot different than its predecessors, but that also means the same great tactical RPG system that has been in place since the beginning makes one final push for the endgame. That endgame is what really makes the game so worthwhile. With heavy decisions to be made and fantastic character closure, The Banner Saga 3 is the most riveting and remarkable the series has ever been, and it establishes the trilogy as one of the greats in gaming.
The exceptional story and inventive gameplay design makes Giant Sparrow's title a memorable trailblazer for walking sims. It sets a new bar for what the genre is capable of in its interactivity, and all narrative adventure games that arrive after Edith Finch may now have to consider challenging players with more than diary reading and tape playing. It's said that, in their infancy, each new medium copies the one it's following. In some ways, games are the successor to movies and we've seen plenty of cinematic games that crib the format of feature films. To take nothing away from such games, What Remains of Edith Finch is a shining example of what video games do uniquely well.
SOMA is so deserving of high praise even as it's difficult to do so with specifics and not spoil the excellent story. Simon's journey through PATHOS-II asks a lot of questions that it demands players answer in their own terms, both in-game and long after. Even as it's often dystopian, the central themes and questions surrounding SOMA are worth mapping onto today's world. They are questions that may always be relevant. Who are you? What is the self if not an illusion? SOMA is a good horror game that does most things well, but more than that, it is an exceptional science fiction tale that no genre fan should miss.
Cuphead is likely to reveal its deliberate frustrations too late for some people. It's hard not to become infatuated with the game's visuals, leaving uninformed buyers lured in by those blatant strengths to discover only then that it revels in its own relentlessness. This, in turn, could leave some wanting a refund and needing a new controller or two. However, for those that go into it with a co-op partner and with the knowledge that its design is as unforgiving as it is beautiful, it will be a unique and rewarding game. Always unabating but never unfair, Cuphead is tough to overcome but even tougher to put down.
The SUPERHOT Team managed to take what seems like a fairly simple mechanic and turn it into a game that is full of possibilities. Having all movement synced to that of the player provided a fresh twist on the shooter genre, and real-time replays give the player another chance to feel awesome about what they just pulled off. Despite the relatively short length of the main levels, the Challenge and Endless modes should provide most players with plenty to sink their time into. For several reasons, the game is one of the most innovative shooters in years and should provide players with many hours of entertainment.
Forgotton Anne has the potential to be an eye-opening experience for some players. Those who already enjoy anime in both its art and its typical sensibilities will likely adore the game. Others who may have avoided anime to date but enjoy a story-driven adventure game should not overlook it either. Its premise is strange, but always charming and engrossing too. Issues with controls and platforming hinder the experience, but not enough to sour all the good that is present, like subtly branching storylines and a host of memorable characters. Anime fan or not, you won't easily forget it.
Night in the Woods is a refreshing take on the adventure genre. With unique visuals and an all too realistic setting, the game will appeal to anyone who enjoys storytelling on a level more human than the usual fare seen in the medium. The town of Possum Springs will be a depressingly familiar one for any who grew up in small American towns where complacency with hardship is in the water, and it's a credit to the game's writers that every single resident of the troubled town feels real. Even if you didn't live in such a setting, the game's subversion of coming of age tropes make for a special story. It does sell itself out a bit at the end to drive home its central theme, but the rest of it is visually, audibly, and narratively memorable.
If you're into resource gathering, crafting and exploring, then Subnautica is simply a title that you have to play. The wonderfully colorful and diverse environments invite exploration. Using all of the technology available and being able to create your own habitats and vehicles just encourage you to voyage further. The various biomes in the title are all brought stunningly to life with their colors, materials, landscapes, and perils. The audio enhances the whole experience, giving the alien creatures and the planet a distinct soundscape. For anyone venturing underneath the waves, this is a truly memorable experience unlike any other. For those with the right mindset and patience, there are many hours of exploration and discovery hidden away in this game. It's well worth taking the dive.
Thimbleweed Park is a strange ride. It's compelling throughout, with a strange story full of eccentric characters coupled with some very competent and rewarding puzzle construction; arguably the best of its kind, even including the LucasArts classics. It takes a while to get going and stumbles on a few points along the way, particularly with its incessant fourth-wall breaking and a lack of meaningful engagement between the playable characters. As a lovingly-crafted piece of fan service, there are few games out there that can match the level of passion and community spirit on display here, and it proves that there is still a place in the market for some traditional point-and-click puzzling. It's not going to win over staunch critics of the format, but for anyone looking for a fresh twist on a classic genre, Thimbleweed Park is highly recommended.