When the Xbox Game Pass debuted a few months ago, most of the promotion behind it was centered on the big AAA titles that would be included. The problem with that was, I had played Halo 5 and Mad Max already, and most of the other ones too. So, I thought about passing on it. But, when I started looking at the complete list of games, I saw several I had never heard of and decided to throw another ten bucks at Microsoft because I got it like that, playboy.
I hoped to find weird, original games that I wouldn’t normally buy, but end up liking. I figured if I only really liked one game that would be worth the ten dollar price tag. Luckily, I found several play-worthy titles. Here are the first five that you should definitely check out.
Roundabout – If you have game pass, download this one now. This is a truly bizarre title that everyone should experience at least once. You play a silent limousine driver that is tasked with picking up clients and delivering them to different spots around town. This all sounds ordinary except for the limo must be driven while constantly doing donuts. Why does your limo have to spin counterclockwise around town while avoiding explosive and combustible barrels? Why are your passengers stuck in some seventies schlock B-movie? Why do skeletons boss you around?
Because video games, that’s why. The acting is atrocious, the plot is nonsense, and the game is difficult enough to drive you nuts at points, and it’s not even a JRPG! That being said, Roundabout is crazy fun and definitely a “seeing is believing” type game.
Shantae and the Pirates’ Curse – This is one of the better known titles on my list since it has been on every console ever made. I’m pretty sure my toaster can play this game. That’s right, my toaster plays video games. I told you I got it like that, playah! This game features a purple haired genie that goes around whipping her hair back and forth at monsters and pirates. She whips her hair back and forth, back and forth.
This game would feel at home on the SNES. Which means it looks better than most indie games out there. Colorful, vibrant graphics, and a female protagonist that is not basically in lingerie, so you can play it in front of your daughter and not have to explain anything. It is old school platforming at its frustratingly difficult best.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – This heartbreaker will make you feel hand goofy. Hand goofy is a clinical term for people that are backwards and odd. People that lack basic coordination and dexterity would probably be able to masterfully control this game. Don’t be confused, the controls are excellent. The characters on screen do exactly what they are supposed to. The problem for me is, you control two characters at once with the twin sticks and my lizard brain can’t process two things at once. Who do you think I am? Albert Eisenstein?
Brothers tells a story with zero dialogue, because not every game requires twenty minute of non-fun cutscenes. *Cough* Metal Gear Solid, Witcher, FF XV *Cough* If you can get over the awkward controls, this game is a delight to play, and by delight I mean bleak. Seriously, this one gets pretty sad. Like a prom in the mid to late nineties and your date left with another guy sad. Not that that happened to me.
The Flame In the Flood – This is a nice game about camping and sailing down a river on a raft with your dog. That is, unless you starve to death, freeze, get trampled by a wild boar, die of fever, die of infection, dehydrate, get mauled by a bear, crash your raft and drown, get ripped to shreds by wolves, or die from ant bites.
The story is fairly lean. You have to move down the river to keep surviving. Unfortunately, there are deadly wolves, bears, and wild boars that have somehow went flood crazy and attack you on sight. In the crowded genre of survival games, this one stands out because it keeps giving you just enough to keep going and when you die, and you will, it’s for a good reason. You didn’t take care of something that happened to you. This game teaches you maintenance. Drink your tea!
Layers of Fear – This game is essentially a horror walking simulator about a struggling artist (Aren’t we all brother?) that somehow lives in a gigantic mansion. He goes nuts and you are left to put the pieces together on his latest / greatest painting. The story has a decent amount of twists and I’m still not a 100% sure what happened, but the imagery was creepy and fun to move through.
Plus, I’m not opposed to easy achievements and this game is full of them. The puzzles for the most part involved something weird happening, you interact with everything in the scene and move on to the next. I didn’t think it was too scary, but it was useful a couple times to make my kids leave me alone for a couple of hours, which is worth a download any day.
New games will be added every month, so I will let you know about which hidden treasures come to the Game Pass as they come along.
Ryan Herrin (1978-) is a fiction writer living in Birmingham, Al with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Rocks. Ryan used to be a butcher, teacher, and radio disc jockey. He also worked at Home Depot, but he kept crashing the forklift. Now Ryan writes funny stories about people that don't realize they are that funny. Ryan also started a new website and blog at writeryanwrite.com.