8 best Xbox Series X|S exclusives in 2023, from Forza to Halo & Starfield

8 best Xbox Series X|S exclusives in 2023, from Forza to Halo & Starfield
Images via Microsoft

Written by 

Lloyd Coombes


10th Nov 2023 15:55

Even the most optimistic Xbox fan would have to acknowledge that Microsoft's library has been lacking in exclusives in recent years, but the company is making strides toward stocking its lineup with games you can only play on Series X|S - and we've compiled our picks for the best on offer in 2023.

Whichever console you own, there are a growing number of Xbox Series X|S exclusives ranging from RPGs that let you travel across entire galaxies, classic multiplayer shooters, and surprising, rhythm-based curios.

Microsoft's secret weapon is Xbox Game Pass, with its big first-party titles launching day one on the service - something Sony's PS5 exclusives don't do.

Best Xbox Series X|S exclusive games in 2023

Image showing Sea of Thieves Pirates and Gears of War's Marcus Fenix
Click to enlarge

In this list, we've identified the best Xbox Series X|S exclusives you won't be able to play on other consoles - although many are available on PC.

We've tried to keep the list to exclusives for the current console generation, too, although you'll find some updated Xbox One titles in our honourable mentions section.

Honourable mention - Sunset Overdrive

Sunset Overdrive screenshot showing traversal
Click to enlarge

Sunset Overdrive details & key features:

  • Release date: 2014
  • Key features:
    • Fun sense of humour
    • Incredible traversal
    • Wild weaponry, including an exploding teddy bear launcher

You may know Insomniac Games (quite rightly) as the developer of Spider-Man and Ratchet and Clank, but before Sony bought the studio, it developed this fun open-world shooter for the Xbox One.

Sunset Overdrive is jam-full of pop culture references, with fourth-wall-breaking comedy fit for a Deadpool movie, and traversal that definitely feels like it laid the groundwork for Peter Parker's eventual PS4 adventure.

Honourable mention - Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves screenshot showing pirates reading a poster
Click to enlarge

Sea of Thieves details & key features:

  • Release date: 2018
  • Key Features:
    • Multiplayer-focused pirate adventure
    • Pirates of the Caribbean add-on
    • Constant updates

This Xbox One game looks even better on Series X|S, with a stylised art style that's instantly recognisable. Since launching with a barebones content offering in 2018, Sea of Thieves has become a huge multiplayer world to explore - the perfect place to find buried treasure with friends.

If you've got a crew to play with, there are few better places to spend your time - and there's single-player content, too.

Honourable mention - Grounded

Grounded key art showing a character watching a sunset
Click to enlarge

Grounded details & key features:

  • Release date: 2018
  • Key Features:
    • Survival game with miniature protagonists
    • Great in co-op
    • Mildly terrifying

Originally arriving last-gen in Early Access, Grounded is here to stay, with RPG studio Obsidian's surprising detour into shrunk-down survival gaming feeling more polished than ever. Players craft bases, fight garden creatures, and try to get themselves back to regular size.

It's also more than a little bit scary when you come up against a spider - but the arachnophobia mode certainly makes it more accessible for people like me to enjoy.

Honourable mention - Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Halo Master Chief Collection screenshot showing Spartans in a Warthog
Click to enlarge

Halo: The Master Chief Collection details & key features:

  • Release date: 2014
  • Key Features:
    • Features six Halo games in one
    • Multiplayer modes included
    • Full campaigns for each title

It may have launched in a sorry state back in 2014, but Microsoft's flagship franchise saw vast improvements in the years that followed - and the addition of Halo Reach and Halo 3: ODST.

That takes the count up to six Halo games included, meaning there are dozens of weapons, maps, campaign missions, and more. It's a love letter to the franchise that got Xbox off the ground, and you may be surprised at how the older games have held up.

8 - Gears 5

Gears 5 screenshot showing Kait Diaz and Marcus Fenix
Click to enlarge

Gears 5 details & key features

  • Release date: 2019
  • Key features:
    • Lengthy single-player campaign
    • Technical showcase for Series X
    • Loads of multiplayer options

Ok, I'll admit, it's technically an Xbox One game, but Gears 5 got a huge boost with the Xbox Series X|S consoles when they arrived a year after it originally launched. It's a showpiece for the latest consoles, across an explosive campaign, and a huge multiplayer suite that includes PvE and PvP action.

The campaign picks up with Kait Diaz looking to answer questions about her ties to the Locust Horde, and as you'd expect, there's plenty of gore.

7 - Starfield

Ship combat in Starfield
Click to enlarge

Starfield details & key features

  • Release date: 2023
  • Key features:
    • The latest Bethesda IP
    • Open-ended exploration
    • Combat improved from prior games

Starfield felt like vaporware for years, but it's finally here - and it's not entirely what we were expecting. Furore about loading screens aside, Bethesda's first new franchise in decades is ambitious, and whether it lives up to the reputation of Skyrim or Fallout 4, there's a lot to enjoy regardless.

Players can uncover galactic mysteries, steal and sell some great ships as a pirate, or just spend their time exploring over 1,000 planets.

6 - Forza Motorsport

Forza Motorsport car showroom screenshot
Click to enlarge

Forza Motorsport details & key features

  • Release date: 2023
  • Key features:
    • Franchise reboot
    • Set to add content over time
    • Looks amazing

A franchise reboot, Forza Motorsport is the start of a new era for on-track racing for Microsoft and all signs are looking to it being an exciting one. With a whole host of cars, stunningly recreated alongside some of the most detailed tracks in gaming, complete with Forza's signature focus on making complex driving systems accessible for all.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that it's only expected to get better, with Forza Motorsport (2023) offering a platform for further expansion.

5 - Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps screenshot showing Ori riding an Owl
Click to enlarge

Ori & The Will of the Wisps details & key features

  • Release date: 2020
  • Key features:
    • Metroidvania platforming
    • Wonderful soundtrack
    • Gorgeous to look at

Ori and the Blind Forest was a breakout hit on Xbox One, and the sequel, Will of the Wisps, is cuter, more challenging, and somehow even better looking.

Moon Studios' second platformer isn't easy, but it'll have you so enraptured that you simply won't care that you've died multiple times in the same spot. The soundtrack is so good that it helped catapult composer Gareth Coker to industry superstardom, working on the likes of Mario & Rabbids: Sparks of Hope, Ruined King, and the next game on our list, Halo Infinite.

4 - Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite screenshot showing two Spartans
Click to enlarge

Halo Infinite details & key features

  • Release date: 2021
  • Key features:
    • Single-player campaign
    • Multiplayer is free-to-play
    • Forge mode features user-generated content

While it might not be for everyone, Death Stranding Director's Cut is the definitive way to play one of our favourite titles, and easily one of the best PS5 exclusive games out there right now.

Death Stranding was already a phenomenal visual achievement back on PS4, but with the upgrade to 60fps in stunning 4K visuals, it doesn't get much better than this. If you love grand narratives, and find the prospect of walking across a post-apocalyptic wasteland appealing, then you should pick up Death Stranding Director's Cut for more.

3 - Microsoft Flight Simulator

Flight Simulator Screenshot showing an Airbus A310-300
Click to enlarge

Microsoft Flight Simulator details & key features

  • Release date: 2020
  • Key features:
    • Fly over geographically accurate landscapes
    • Pilot dozens of aircraft
    • Top Gun expansion

Ever wanted to see what your house looks like from 50,000 feet? You may be able to with Microsoft Flight Simulator. High up on this list but arguably less game, more tech showcase, Microsoft Flight Simulator features a huge map generated by real-world data so you can fly over your home, landmarks, and anything else.

It's stunning in motion, but you'll want to splash out on a joystick for the authentic experience.

2 - Hi-Fi Rush

Hi-Fi Rush screenshot showing combat
Click to enlarge

Hi-Fi Rush details & key features

  • Release date: 2023
  • Key features:
    • Rhythm-based combat
    • Great use of colour
    • Fun characters

What a wonderful surprise Hi-Fi Rush was, stealth-dropping earlier in 2023 during an Xbox event. Coming from Tango Gameworks, it couldn't be further from The Evil Within or Ghostwire Tokyo, offering a cartoonish rhythm-action title where you'll attack enemies to the beat.

There's nothing else like it on Xbox, or anywhere else, really, and it's well worth a look. Check out our review for more.

What is the best Xbox-exclusive game in 2023?

1 - Forza Horizon 5

Forza Horizon 5 Hot Wheels expansion
Click to enlarge

Even with Forza Motorsport launching this year, we keep going back to Forza Horizon 5. Its version of Mexico is full of secrets, events, and opportunities to showcase the incredible photo mode, and it's possibly still the best-looking game on Xbox consoles.

Add in the Hot Wheels expansion (pictured above) and the game goes from arcadey fun to a white-knuckle thrill ride that you won't get enough of.

Those are our picks for the best Xbox-exclusive games, but for more, be sure to check out our Xbox homepage for the latest in the Microsoft ecosystem.

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Lloyd is GGRecon's Editor-in-Chief, having previously worked at Dexerto and Gfinity, and occasionally appears in The Daily Star newspaper. A big fan of loot-based games including Destiny 2 and Diablo 4, when he's not working you'll find him at the gym or trying to play Magic The Gathering.

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