August’s Xbox Game Pass and Gold Titles Go Through Hades to Deliver Action

By on August 16, 2021

The decision-makers at Microsoft responsible for picking what titles should be available on Game Pass this August were on top of their game this time around.  It’s no secret that the month’s full of distractions, both in terms of real world back-to-school prep and football season revving up and in terms of Madden being the big video game of the season. Instead of resting on their laurels, the Game Pass folks have made available some rather desirable action titles aimed to fill another, different void with whimsical escapism and step-by-step upgrade management.

Are these heavy-hitting AAA titles? Debatable, but not really, and that’s perfectly fine considering the substance of what’s being offered.  From a hotly-anticipated console port of a PC darling to a pair of long-awaited sequels with substantial cult fanbasres, there’s plenty to unpack and enjoy throughout the month. Let’s take a closer look, but before doing so, be sure to head over and Grab a 3-Month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Subscription at Amazon to enjoy all the titles here.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate – New and Upcoming


As mentioned in our new video game release coverage for August (click here to read!), Hades has up until now enjoyed a healthy degree of exclusivity for the PC crowd, only moving over to the Switch after leaving early access. The roguelike dungeon crawler has become one of many envies of the big console owners, with them unable to take on what’s been proclaimed as one of the best of the genre, though naturally the difficulty of the title will vary depending on the level of player you’re asking.  Some find it quite difficult and others with genre experience find it more manageable, but both camps agree upon the quality of the storytelling, atmosphere, and addictive repetition gameplay.

Now, the rest of the console crowd will be able to gain control of the Prince of the Underworld as he battles his way through the realm in an escape to Mount Olympus, who utilizes gifts from other godly observers to get through the randomized sequence of rooms and obstacles. Due to the upgrade systems, the revolving nature of the rooms, interactions with characters both in the Underworld and beyond, and the purge-and-try-again nature of the upgrades, Hades delivers a consistent rush of fresh experiences for each beautifully rendered isometric hack-‘n-slash run.

Dodgeball Academia

Dodgeball video games aren’t very common, yet despite the existence of the National Dodgeball League and the memories of countless people who played the game in their youth, there hasn’t been much of a push for it. That’s likely because the mechanics can end up being similar to other sports titles – passing, tossing, or volleying a ball to connect with a target – or even old-school arcade ball-shooting games. Therefore, the dodgeball premise needs an extra hook to make it appealing, like robots on wheels that explode upon ball impact or outlandish obstacles cruising through a circular arena instead of a rectangle.  

Dodgeball Academia goes deeper with its ambitions. While it stays true to the rectangular arena of the sport, the game that exists around it makes the experience something that’s both unique and familiar, incorporating social and role-playing aspects of Pokemon and Rockstar’s Bully alongside the elevated version of dodgeball being played. In the arena, generous powerups and delightfully flashy animations add zest to what’s otherwise a sidescrolling dodgeball experience that’s trying to be as normal as possible under those circumstances. Both critics and players young and old alike have raved about Dodgeball Academia, hinged on a charming RPG storytelling design and sharp arcade gameplay.

Psychonauts 2

As Tim Schafer’s reputation for quirky writing and vibrant, open-audience designs has strengthened through his efforts with the likes of Costume Quest and Broken Age, the demand for a return to Psychonauts has also continued to mount among its fanbase. It’s not on the same mythical level as, say, Half-Life 3 or a FFVII remaster, but this sequel has established a similarly meme-worthy demand among its niche audience that sparked every time the folks at Double Fine would succeed with another project. At long last, folks get to regain control of Raz as the psychokinetic action-puzzle gameplay again delves into themes of anxiety and mental health, embarking on a mission to get the Psychonauts back on track.

Even though it only lasted about two months, the exclusivity window for the original Psychonauts often ties people’s thoughts to it being an “Xbox title”. Because of this, something feels inherently right about the sequel emerging as a day-one offering through Xbox’s Game Pass program, though naturally Xbox Game Studios has plenty of control over that as the game’s publisher. Other consoles won’t be getting the optimized version of Double Fine’s long-awaited return to the Psychonauts universe, though, as that’ll be an exclusive Xbox Series X offering. Psychonauts 2 will be released and available for download through Game Pass on August 25.

Xbox Games With Gold

Xbox One

Surprisingly, Games With Gold shows a bit of a pulse for the month of August, including a significant recent sequel to a popular action franchise.  On the Xbox One side of the coin, Darksiders III (August 1-31) returns to the mythical open-world ambitions of the first two games after a lengthy hiatus, with publisher THQ Nordic passing the baton to the developers responsible for the successful “Deathinitive” remastering of the second installment, Gunfire Games. While Darksiders received heaps of praise for being a one of the best non-Zelda Zelda action games ever created and Darksiders II expanded the concept into a fantastic open-world design, Darksiders III and the introduction of protagonist Fury didn’t strike the same chord, enduring technical glitches and clumsily borrowing from the Souls brand of tough dungeon crawling. The second half of the month gets Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (August 16-September 15), a side-scrolling puzzle platformer featuring an animal duo that’ll stir up some nostalgia for a few classic Nintendo titles.

Over on the legacy console offerings, there’s Lost Planet 3 (August 1-15), the divisive conclusion to EA’s third-person shooter franchise. Critics and players were warm enough to the improvements in shooting and atmosphere that resulted in decent enough action, but were left in the cold by other clunky, repetitive aspects of the gameplay and questionable storytelling choices. Rounding out the month is Garou: Mark of the Wolves (August 16-31), also known as Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves and the last installment in the 2D fighting franchise. Originally released to arcades in 1999, this marks one of many ports across consoles over the past 2 decades, and mostly remains a title for the die-hard fans of the genre and Fatal Fury itself.

About Thomas Spurlin

Film, home-media, and videogame scribe who digs green tea and walking his dogs.

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