Free Stuff: The Best Free Xbox One Games
There may have been experimentation in the last generation, but now we can say that free has finally come to consoles. Arguably, Microsoft has embraced the strategy in a way that Sony still seems afraid to. The result is a collection of free-to-play games on the Xbox One Store that aren’t completely barebones.
The simple advantage of the free-to-play model is the non-existent barrier to entry for curious gamers. There is another commodity you’ll be spending – your time. So, in the interest of not spending your youth on thankless experience grinding and so-so DLC plans, you should be asking: where to start? That’s so crazy, because I wrote this whole thing to answer that very question.
Did you ever wonder it would be like if you mixed Starcraft with League of Legends? No? What about Transformers with Command & Conquer? No to that to? What if you didn’t predicate all of your joy on your predisposed comfort with a given piece of entertainment? Yes? Okay well here’s AirMech Arena, whether you want it or not.
Now that you understand everything about the game after looking at that screenshot, you should just go download it.
The tutorials, of which there are an alarming amount, do a much better job of explaining things, but here it goes: You control an Airmech unit (surprise) and work to overtake bases over the distance of the playing field, making your way from your base to the enemy’s. But you don’t do it on your own. In addition to one or two more teammates, it’s your ability to create and direct an army of diverse minion-like units that sets the whole game apart. Or, it’s the combination of that and the MOBA-like base crawl and character upgrading that sets it apart.
Frankly, since the game’s launch on PC way back when the developers have been tweaking and balancing all along the way, and they haven’t quite reached a place where the army of units feels acceptably balanced. Still, it’s an engaging and, more importantly, unique experience, especially with cooperative friends and decent competition in PvP. The slow process of unlocking and purchasing new units, through in-game or real cash, is surprisingly satisfying.
It’s rare that a reboot truly outdoes its predecessor. What’s more baffling is how Killer Instinct came to triumph in the new world and not falter in a futile desire to recreate the old. That’s my fancy way of saying that the game takes great advantage of its time, from a business standpoint and a development one, all without making you want to rip the cords out of your wall in frustration at the monetization.
At quick glance Killer Instinct looks nothing more than a Street Fighter clone. Once it’s under your thumb, though, you’ll realize the game is a much more visceral treat, visually and mechanically. Not to mention – and maybe this does have something to do with the reboot nature of the release – a sweet throwback narrator that calls out all your delicious combos.
The best part about Killer Instinct is it isn’t going to die anytime soon. Instead of putting out a new version year-over-year, the base game is being supported by multiple seasons of roster updates, meaning all that investment and time put into it won’t go wasted on an obligatory Killer Instinct 2. Instead, Killer Instinct: Season 2 just ups the ante on the original game. It also affords the developers a viable long-term business plan that doesn’t involve building an entirely new game every year. So many kinds of games would benefit from such an outlook. Sadly, very few do (I’m looking at you, Madden).
I can’t say that I personally enjoy this game, but I also can’t say I enjoy Minecraft, Disney Infinity or LittleBigPlanet, so clearly I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Create-a-thons the likes of these games might have been called a niche genre had they not exploded into popularity. The fact that Project Spark survived this long the face of such competition means it’s got something to say for itself. Also, there’s Conker.
While the aforementioned titles are used as equally for creating game experiences as they are for creating pretty objects, Project Spark was created under the explicit ideal of creating little games inside this big one. It’s still growing and it suffers from s severe case of complexification. But it’s a fertile farm arming burgeoning creators with a waterfall of tools. Also, there’s Conker.
Happily, the free part of this game comes with access to a lot of the games created by other players, so you won’t need a builder’s spirit to have fun. Unfortunately, if Bob did inspire you as a child, the creation tools come at a price. It’s a strange way to make a book, and so far unproven. But, like I said, the game still exists for a reason.
Pinball FX 2
Pinball simulation might not be the most exciting template for a game, but you won’t remember that when you’re actually playing Pinball FX 2, which offers up one free pinball table and an ever enlarging collection of Marvel, Star Wars and other themed tables.
What sets Pinball FX 2 apart from all those other simulators is its stringent reliance on realism bolstered by surprisingly creative table design. It’s almost like the 1980s aren’t over and your life hasn’t devolved into an ongoing trip of depressive nostalgia.
The point is, these guys would have been making great tables back in the day. Instead, they’re doing the digital thing and reaching a much wider audience because of it.
Future Potential: Smite
Smite is our representative of the ultra-competitive MOBA category, a rival to League of Legends and DOTA 2 that’s doing something neither of those two games dare to do: try for consoles. It’s already on Xbox One, sort-of. The closed beta is accessible through a sign-up on their website (with only a chance at being invited), or through purchasing a pricey Founders Pack ($30) that will net you each of the 60+ playable Gods. For this reason, it belongs on the potential part of this list for now.
Though it doesn’t do too much differently from those other games – from a layman’s perspective, at least – the camera dropped into a third-person perspective lends itself well to the Xbox One controller. Testimony to such is the fact that the Xbox 360 controller is used prolifically by players of the PC version. Also in the game’s favor are the playable heroes themselves, which aren’t so much random video game archetypes as they are literal Gods ripped from the more colorful mythologies of past civilizations. In other words, you get to pit Zeus against Thor and Ra against Cupid.
It’ll be a while until Jesus joins the ranks, though.
Future Potential: Gigantic
Microsoft scooped this game up as it was being developed. Now it’s touted as a Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive, featuring cross-platform play and a whole host of other features only a partnership with Microsoft will net you. Here’s a quick preview:
As with many MOBA-inspired games, the objective here is, alongside four teammates, to topple the base at the other end of the playing field. It just so happens that base is a gigantic creature that acts more like a boss fight than a pile of bricks. Hopefully this one turns out as whimsical as it looks.