Of all the platforms that offer free games with their weekly subscriptions, perhaps none deliver more consistent value than the Xbox 360. There are several AAA-quality titles that sold millions of copies at $60 a pop and earned high marks at their release, and Microsoft has deemed it worthy to just give them away to Gold subscribers at some point.
And now that a growing number of Xbox 360 games are backwards-compatible with the Xbox One, you can play a bunch of these games even if you’ve upgraded from your 360. But then, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A bunch of these Games with Gold aren’t worth your time.
But these 10 probably are.
Gears of War 2
Really, you may as well include the entire Gears of War franchise here. After giving the first one away in 2013, Microsoft offered Gears of War 2, Gears of War 3, and Gears of War Judgment in 2015.
There’s little doubt that the Gears of War series is one of the premier titles in the 3rd-person cover-based shooter genre, and its persistent plotline and cast of characters ensure that if you like one of the games, you’ll probably want to go through and play them all.
Plants vs. Zombies
Games from PopCap Studios don’t tend to be especially complex or involved. Most of the time, they feel like games that could just as easily be played in your web browser.
Plants vs. Zombies is no different, but its charm and surprising level of complexity spawned a sequel and a pair of first-person shooter spinoff titles.
The core of Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game. But you’re not protecting a tower – you’re protecting your house. From zombies. By planting things in your yard. It’s more absurd than it sounds, and a lot more fun.
Borderlands is one of the most popular co-op first person shooters of the past decade, thanks to a generous loot-drop system, unique cel-shaded graphics, and a great sense of humor.
Oh, and the game plays great, too. A lot of games have since copied the formula of “co-op shooter with RPG elements that Borderlands uses,” but there’s little doubt that the game popularized the formula in its modern iteration.
Most modern games struggle to strike a balance in survival horror these days, with many of the most classic franchises sliding into action-focused gameplay (hi, Resident Evil).
Dead Space offers one of the best recent examples of a game that gives you power and an action focus, while still creating a creepy atmosphere that gives you plenty of reason to be scared. If you like horror, shooters, and sci-fi, this might be your favorite game.
Just Cause 2
For the longest time, I passed off Just Cause 2 as just a simple bland, third-person shooter with nothing unique to offer. The game’s advertising and cover art did little to dissuade me from that perspective.
Actually, this is a game that takes conventions of open world gameplay and cover-based shooters, turns them on their heads, and cranks them all up to 13 on a scale of 1-to-5.
If you’ve ever wanted to star in your own absurd action movie, with action that’s so over-the-top it’s kind of hilarious, this is basically that.
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
If Skyrim was made in Poland, it would basically be The Witcher 2. An open-world game with dialogue trees, moral choices, and a fantasy setting, The Witcher 2 is a game that deserves its place alongside modern fantasy classics like Skyrim and Dragon Age.
More importantly, this is required playing before you get to The Witcher 3, the game that arguably surpassed all those previous games.
XCOM: Enemy Unknown
At the time of writing, this game hasn’t yet been listed as one of the Games with Gold offerings. But as of June 16th, it will be.
And it’s absolutely a good enough game for you to sit up and pay attention. Part base-management, part tactical strategy, XCOM: Enemy Unknown is unique in its progression style and major difficulty spikes. The enemies are interesting and well-designed, and the foreboding sense of invasion sets an almost survival horror-like tone. That means beating them is that much more satisfying and fun.
I’ve given you fair warning. Look for this game to come to Games with Gold, get it, and play it.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Step into the shoes of Adam Jensen, a man whose life was saved with mechanical augmentations. So he’s pretty much a cyborg now.
If you have any love for Ghost in the Shell, this is a game you’ll probably appreciate, as it deals with similar themes of where we draw the line of “humanity” when faced with partially mechanical bodies.
And he now faces the moral choice of whether or not to continue augmenting his body to fight an impending threat. The most notable aspect of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is that there is a free-form approach to gameplay, where solving a problem with violence, stealth, hacking or conversation are all viable options, and each option has a lasting effect on the plot.
I’m not too proud to admit I’ve sunk dozens of hours into Peggle. It’s not a game to get excited about, but you know what? It’s a fun game you can waste some time with.
There isn’t much to the game. You shoot a ball from the top of the screen, and watch it Plinko its way to the bottom of the screen. The object is to hit as many pegs as possible on the way down, eventually clearing out all the orange ones. It’s simple, addictive fun.
Time has not been kind to Bioshock Infinite, as the more people think about the time-travel plot, the less sense it makes.
But it’s still a game worth experiencing. It presents an interesting world, a fantastic pair of lead characters, and solid gameplay. It also ties in with the original Bioshock’s plotline in a way that is interesting, if a bit shoehorned. Flaws aside, this is still a 8/10 game that deserves your time.