Top Xbox Series X and Series S games for 2021: Add these titles to your next-gen library

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(Pocket-lint) - The Xbox Series X and Series S are here at last - Microsoft's two answers to the next-gen question, bringing 4K gaming in the case of the bigger box and lower-res value from the smaller option. 

They're both great in their own ways but, of course, a games console isn't anything without games to play on it. We've gathered together the very best titles for the next-gen Xboxes right here, a tight and carefully-curated list of your very best options.

Many of these are also available on the Xbox One in its many incarnations, but they'll all play at their best on the new hardware. 

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Best shooters

Gears 5

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The Xbox team has been making a big hoopla about the upgrade it's brought to Gears 5 for next-gen, and it's fair to say the results are super impressive. You get 120 FPS action on both consoles (if your TV can handle it), which makes for hyper-smooth gameplay in competitive modes. 

The visuals are also pin-sharp and the upgrade compared to the Xbox One version is noticeable throughout. Best of all, you'll get this great shooter included on Game Pass, meaning you can get into it for no additional cost. It's well worth checking out, especially if you're new to the series. 

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

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Of course, when you think Xbox you think Halo, and while Infinite has been delayed and won't appear for a little while, we can still enjoy all that came before. The Master Chief Collection is a curated and upgraded selection of historic Halo titles and plays like a dream on the Series S and X.

You can play through classics like Halo: Reach or the original trilogy with high frame rates and resolutions, and even enjoy their more vintage multiplayer offerings. It's a must-download for anyone with a Game Pass membership. 

Resident Evil Village

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The latest game in the Resident Evil series is an unhinged thing of beauty, with a story that's close to the point of being baffling but super-fun gameplay throughout its twists and turns.

Plus, it looks incredible on Microsoft's next-gen boxes, with ray tracing and high frame rates making for a beautiful, smoothg experience that will stay with you for ages. 

Control Ultimate Edition

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One of the most surprising and impressive games of the last generation has been re-released with a huge graphical upgrade for Series X and S, bringing ray tracing and the option of 60FPS play, and smoothing out performance hugely.

That means it's the perfect time to pick up this supernatural shooter whether you've enjoyed playing through its mindbending story before or not. Trust us, by the time it ends you'll have seen and done things you've never experienced in a game before. 

Hitman 3

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The final game in the World of Assassination trilogy, Hitman 3 is a fitting conclusion to a hugely impressive modern update of the Hitman series. Once again you'll play as Agent 47, stalking through intricate and immaculately-designed levels to off your targets one by one.

It's amazing fun, and the perfect way to scratch that itch for some stealth. It looks beautiful on next-gen, as well, making it the perfect pairing with a new Xbox. 

Call of Duty: Warzone

The battle royale of the moment is Warzone, a behemoth that finally makes the Call of Duty franchise a proper player in the genre. It's totally free to play, and while it might hog plenty of space on your hard drive, it's well worth it for a brutal, addictive formula.

On next-gen, you'll notice smoother frame rates and much-improved loading times, and there's loads more content to come down the line, so there's no wrong time to pick it up and try it out. 

Best racing games

Forza Horizon 4

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Our final pick goes to a stellar racing game from the last console generation, the excellent and Xbox-exclusive Forza Horizon 4, which still looks completely beautiful and plays like a dream on the two new consoles. It's a superb arcade racer with a delightful rendering of the UK in compact open-world format.

You'll take part in all sorts of races across many terrain types, and you can dial up the difficulty, or make it more accessible, in countless thoughtful ways. Online racing makes it even more long-lasting as a pleasurable virtual space in which to spend some time. 

Dirt 5

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The first racing game to release with next-gen consoles in mind during its development, Dirt 5 does a great job of summoning the energy that made the series so popular. It's raucous fun with an emphasis on accessibility, although you can make its driving pretty in-depth if you fancy.

It looks super sharp on the new hardware and runs at blistering frame rates to give you total control and to slim reaction times down to almost nothing, while lighting and reflections also look sumptuous. It's a great way to scratch that racing itch. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator

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Okay, it might not be exactly a racing game, but we think it fits in here - this superb, calming flight experience lets you explore literally the whole world in a fleet of aircraft, and it looks absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful while you're doing so. With full 4K resolution on Series X and 1080p on Series S, this is a real next-gen powerhouse.

Whether it's just a fly-past of your home, or checking out somewhere iconic like the Pyramids at Giza, you're sure to scratch that exploratory itch with Flight Sim.

Best role-playing games (RPGs)

Assassin's Creed: Valhalla

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Valhalla is finally here - the latest big Assassin's Creed game plays absolutely stunningly on Series X and S, with smooth frame rates and gorgeous visuals. The game's sprawling map is superb fun to explore, while the SSDs in the Series S and X make for much-improved loading times. 

You play as the Viking Eivor, coming from Norway to stake a claim to England, and fighting off the perennial threat of evil Templars the whole way, with a great cast of characters to meet while you do so. 

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition

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One of gaming's very best trilogies has got a lick of new paint and is now playable with fewer roadbumps than ever on the latest Xbox hardware. The Mass Effect games are back, and they're looking beautiful in full 4K on the Series X, letting you enjoy a truly epic story across three massive titles. It's a real joy to play these through again, so be sure to check it out.

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Another game that benefits massively from the SSD in the new consoles is Red Dead Redemption 2, which has some absolutely agonizing loading times on older hardware. This is shortened hugely by the new tech, a worthy improvement on its own, but that's also added to better visual performance.

It makes it a superb way to play one of the defining games of recent years, a huge sprawling cowboy epic set in what might be the most lushly-detailed open world ever created in a game. It's a stunning monument to developer Rockstar's abilities. 

Best sports games

FIFA 21

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As far as sports games go, there's only one for us - FIFA does the same trick every year, and sometimes we'd like a bit more revolution than evolution, but it's still a tried-and-tested game at this point, iterating carefully to add even more precision.

Now there's been a free next-gen upgrade, too, to let you take advantage of quicker load times and smoother performance on your new hardware, so it's definitely a superior experience. 

Rocket League

It might look simple, but the skill ceiling in Rocket League is absolutely stratospheric, and getting better at the game will take plenty of hard work. Invest the time, though, and you'll soon be having a whale of a time, especially if you can rope some mates in to form a team. Best of all, it's completely free-to-play.

Best Indie games

Death's Door

This gorgeous little hack-and-slash game sees you take on the role of a rookie reaper, dispatched to collect the souls of the damned. When your first big soul goes missing, though, you set off on a fun adventure to get it back, with tough boss fights and a great little combat system to get the hang of along the way. It's funny and really inventive, and well worth a try.

Doki Doki Literature Club!

Without wanting to spoil the horrific surprises in store, know this - Doki Doki Literature Club scared and horrified us more than any other game we've played in the last few years, far outpacing the likes of Resident Evil Village, above. It's a demon in disguise, but absolutely jaw-dropping to play through for the first time.

Hades

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A beautiful roguelike that tells a heartfelt story while you play it repeatedly, Hades is a real masterpiece. There are endless combinations of powers and tactics to think up, and randomly generated levels to keep you invested, but it's the amazing writing and beautiful art that lingers longest in the memory. Best of all, it's on Game Pass!

The Forgotten City

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This inventive mystery game drops you into a Roman compound frozen in time, leaving you to figure out why everyone gets violently turned to gold anytime a sin is committed. It's got some great twists and turns up its sleeve, and the ability to tackle it however you want was something we found really rewarding.

Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Originally published on 4 November 2020.

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