Last week Bethesda formally joined Microsoft’s creative arm, now positioned adjacent to Xbox Game Studios. With the deal approved in both Europe and North America, Bethesda has formally onboarded the Xbox family, bringing its first-party studio count up to a massive 23. With this new acquisition comes a wealth of established studios, including the legendary Bethesda Game Studios, behind RPG icons The Elder Scrolls and Fallout.
With this talent comes an incredibly diverse and impressive backlog of games that span decades. It can be daunting for newcomers, especially when 20 top Bethesda titles joined the Xbox Game Pass games list this week. But worry not, we’ve rounded up the must-play experiences in the Bethesda family, focusing on the oft-overlooked masterpieces.
Escape the space station in Prey (2017)
Prey released back in 2017 and represented a new venture for the developer Arkane Studio. The game takes you to the space station of Talos 1, a paradise where all things seem normal, until that all changes. After spending what appears to be a normal day at the office, your way of life is derailed as aliens escape and take over the space station. It shares themes with classics like Aliens, except instead of a Xenomorph hunting you down, there are shapeshifters trying to morph and betray you. This leads to a consistently very tense environment, scanning and checking every nook for enemies.
This focus on survival and scanning for enemies is part of Prey’s absolute brilliance. Each level is incredibly detailed and provides some of the most iconic enclosed level designs since the original Bioshock. While Rapture remains possibly one of my favorite worlds created in gaming, Talos 1 remains a close second.
If you aren’t sold on Prey yet, the variety in combat styles should get you the rest of the way there. Prey’s systems are built around playing into your strengths. While you can head in guns blazing, there are more interesting and creative ways to navigate Talos 1 and the creatures that occupy it. Opportunities include leveling up your hacking to use the space station’s defense system against the Mimics or even splicing yourself with Mimic DNA, granting you incredible inhuman powers. All of these things come together to make it one of the most crucial games to play from the recent Bethesda catalog.
Kill nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order
Wolfenstein is possibly one of the most iconic FPS franchises from the era of 90’s PC gaming. Wolfenstein 3D, in tandem with the original DOOM, went forward to lead the charge of the FPS genre in 1993. Wolfenstein: The New Order was the first Wolfenstein game in over five years when it was released in 2014. Machine Games revive that magic with Wolfenstein: The New Order and turned it into a Nazi killing machine.
High-octane, Nazi-killing action is what makes Wolfenstein special.
Wolfenstein: The New Order features incredibly kinetic combat and drives home the actions you are performing. When you are blasting away Nazi super-soldiers with a mini-gun you feel the power of the weapon as it shreds through your enemies.
As much fun as blasting and rampaging is, stealth combat is equally rewarding to the player. It’s a race of killing Nazi officers so that they can’t raise the alarm, summoning waves upon waves of troops that will overwhelm you quickly.
Wolfenstein: The New Order brings that classic formula to modern times, while also introducing a cast of characters who are easy to fall in love with. Pack all of this together with an industrial metal soundtrack from the brilliant mind of Mick Gordon and it becomes the complete package. Wolfenstein: The New Order is an absolute must-play simply if you love FPS games whether you played the previous games or not. It’s a fantastic introduction to the world of Wolfenstein, with its modern rebirth bolder than ever.
Play your way in Dishonored: Definitive Edition
Arkane Studios takes the stage again, this time for the stealth action franchise Dishonored. In a corrupted world, filled with plague, politics, and bloody assassination, it shines with immersive world-building and character systems. While many stealth games require you to crouch and sneak to get a positional advantage on your enemy, Dishonored gives you a host of mystical powers that make navigating the world of Dunwall easier.
These powers force players to think outside the box to navigate each level, making Dishonored akin to the “Thief” reimagining we hoped to see. But stealth action isn’t your cup of tea, you’re not just restricted, with a wide variety of non-stealth powers and equipment to kill your targets. Have you ever wanted to watch someone be eaten alive by a pack of plague rats? Yes? Dishonored is the game for you.
While Dishonored offers you a wide variety of ways in which you can play, constantly make you second-guess your kills and experiences. The more people you kill in Dishonored the more chaotic your ending will be. Dishonored can be played from beginning to end non-lethally, while many stealth games offer this. Dishonored counts this in their “Chaos” system that will ultimately affect your ending. In a world full of evil, it is your choice in how you want to approach, making for an incredibly unique stealth experience.
Feel the terror in The Evil Within
If you loved Resident Evil 4 back when Capcom was released many years ago, cast your attention to The Evil Within from Tango Gameworks. The Evil Within takes a lot of inspiration from a lot of early survival horror games but playing with psychology that creeps under your skin very quickly. It’s often hard to describe horror to people, but with the Evil Within, you’re one cold person if you walk away unphased.
It is not just the monsters that create this uneasy feeling you will experience from The Evil Within. It is the world itself, both unsettling and thrilling, springing some of the most terrifying horrors on you without notice. And while you may fear every corner has a monster waiting, there are a wide variety of weapons and tools, opening a matter of picking your battles.
Very few games attempt such an approach to survival horror today, and even fewer games execute that premise like The Evil Within. If you are a fan of horror survival games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil — or a general horror fanatic — then you must try The Evil Within.
Explore Morrowind two decades later
While would recommend Skyrim to experience the Elder Scrolls franchise, the most modern installment of the franchise, don’t sleep on Morrowind. Yes, Morrowind is an original Xbox game that was released back in 2002. So while it certainly shows its age, it’s still one of the most important RPGs of its time. It truly pushed open worlds to the limit for its time and a true inspiration for its time. Without Morrowind, we most likely wouldn’t have amazing open-world RPGs like The Witcher 3, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and many more.
The world is surprisingly alive for a game from 2002, filled to the brim with non-player characters (NPCs) that want to help you, hinder you, and harm you some more. The game is set in the province of Morrowind as a deity is rising to power in order to overthrow the Imperial empire that ruled over the province. And when playing through Morrowind, you will find much of the early beginnings of Oblivion and Skyrim.
You can slowly experience the build-up to what we know as the Elder Scrolls franchise in its primitive stages in Morrowind. While the AI certainly feels dated, and the combat is certainly clunky by modern standards, there’s just something so special about Morrowind. I certainly have nostalgia for the game which helps. but I hope everyone can experience even a few hours of the game to understand its importance to the games we love.
Return to Fallout 76 after its best updates yet
Now hear me out — Fallout 76 was criticized very heavily when it launched. It was all very well deserved, from the state of the mission design, as well as the many game-breaking bugs. However, Bethesda knuckled down and began fixing these bugs, and creating free DLC to make Fallout 76 more like a… Fallout game.
With the addition of NPCs, the world feels much more like a traditional Fallout experience, with a focus on companion quests, base building, and survival mechanics. There’s is a great mix of new enemies that separate Fallout 76 from previous Fallout installments, like a flying Scorch Beast, an acid-spewing dragon that provides a formidable foe for even the most seasoned players. Fallout 76 went from the black sheep of the Fallout franchise to possibly one of the riskiest gambles that paid off for Bethesda in the long term.
There’s no better time to come home to West Virginia. It feels like a classic Fallout experience, with the added benefit of being able to experience it with your friends. The MMO-lite aspects of the game, that keep you constantly scavenging, participating in events, and base building blends phenomenally with the Fallout universe. If you love Fallout and have a few friends who also love the long storied franchise, then Fallout 76 is certainly worth a download.
The start of something bigger for Game Pass
These are some of my favorite Bethesda-related games that you will be able to access as part of your Xbox Game Pass membership. There are many, many more already there, as well as more to come in the future. Games like Starfield, Elder Scrolls 6, and more will all join the best Xbox Game Pass games from launch day, so it’s ideal to see the best of these franchises.
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An Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription gives you access to hundreds of games on both PC and Xbox. For $15 a month, you get day one access to first party Xbox titles, and more games are constantly added to the service month after month.
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This post was written by Nicholas Downie and was first posted to WindowsCentral
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