Best Xbox Series X games Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi’s round-up the best Xbox Series X games you can buy in 2023.
Microsoft’s new flagship games console, the Xbox Series X, is literally a game-changer. 4K at 60FPS, ray-tracing, HDR, spatial audio, and a huge catalogue of backward-compatible games are all features of the Xbox Series X.
These new features transform not just the way games look, but also the way they play. Your aim becomes more lethally accurate. Pixel perfect jumps become easier to judge. And your immersion in the latest survival horror epic no longer has to be broken by nasty screen tearing glitches as frame rates chop and chug, if you have a VRR display that is.
It has to be said that Microsoft didn't manage to coincide the launch of its powerful new hardware with many brand new AAA games, but games continue to launch on Xbox as time goes on. And, perhaps more importantly, the Series X has been enthusiastically supported by both substantial optimised upgrades to existing titles and a raft of impressive smaller releases from the Xbox’s passionate roster of indie developers.
The Series X’s main improvements are restricted to graphics and processing horsepower; they don’t include a major new audio technology like PS5 3D Audio. Of course, though, the Xbox consoles have long supported both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X spatial audio for gaming, so it’s no surprise that there are already numerous Series X titles out there that make spectacular use of these immersive audio technologies.
Without further ado, then, let’s get on with picking out the Xbox Series X games released so far that give your AV system the most vigorous workout.
How you can find the absolute best games for sound and picture
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
Games, like a poem or a symphony, are works of art, so the beauty therein is inevitably going to be relative. One person's Candy Crush is another person's The Last of Us. Nonetheless, games are products of design, engineering, and programming as much as they are artistic works, too.
Accordingly, there are many technical reasons why one game may look, sound, or perform better than another game. This has nothing to do with the artistry on display in a particular game and is much more a reflection of the technical state of a game and how well it all works.
So, what are the best games for picture and sound? That's going to depend on you, and not just your preferences but your hardware, too. If your TV, for example, doesn't support 120Hz, you won't be playing games at 120FPS even if that's supported by a certain game. Then, you'll often get to choose between resolution and framerate when it comes to how you want to play your games.
From What Hi-Fi?'s AV perspective, our advice is to start with your TV. Find out what resolutions it supports and at what refresh rates. Then, investigate the performance of the game you want to play. What resolution and framerate options do you have on your console, if any?
Last, figure out whether or not your TV supports display tech like VRR, HDR10, or Dolby Vision as well as audio tech like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. If you can take advantage of these kinds of features, you'll probably want to, but ultimately, it comes down to your preferences and how well your setup runs.
Before you make a purchase yourself, make sure to look up the game you're thinking about online and watch some gameplay. This won't be the same as actually playing yourself, but it's a great way to get an easy taste of what a game's AV experience will be like.
Below is our round-up of the best games on Xbox Series X for the ultimate picture and sound...
Forza Horizon 5 is the latest entry in the long-running racing franchise and the first game to debut on Xbox Series X. This Forza game takes place in Mexico, bringing the series to the vibrant vistas and colourful landscapes of the country.
The world of Forza Horizon 5 is beautiful. It's littered with trees and beaches, huge mountains and bustling villages, spread across an enormous map. Plus, the nuance and detail of this rich open world are only magnified by its pristine 4K presentation, whether you're playing at native 4K or dynamic 4K.
While native 4K looks amazing, the bristling pace of this arcade racer is particularly well-suited for the fluidity of a 60FPS experience. Plus, the game holds a stable 60FPS for the vast majority of the time, rarely interrupting the experience with stutter.
Forza Horizon 5 also comes packed with an excellent Dolby Atmos audio mix, centering you in the action at all times, and the game looks great on an HDR display with either HDR10 or Dolby Vision.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is the latest entry in Microsoft's decades-old flight sim franchise, but this game has a twist: it lovingly recreates the entire Earth for you to fly around and enjoy, leveraging Google Earth-esque technology.
Jump in the cockpit of a plane and fly to anywhere you'd like on Earth. You'll see bustling cities and arid deserts; quaint towns and lush forests; and really, anything you can imagine. Plus, all this gorgeous detail is output in 4K, upscaled from 1440p, to give depth and texture to all the nuance of real life.
There are some performance problems, especially in big cities, but Microsoft Flight Simulator is an experience unlike any other. No other game lets you explore the real world like this, and the world is beautiful, much like Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Cyberpunk 2077 launched in a rocky state, but since then, patches and updates have changed the game a lot. Now, on Xbox Series X, the game is a beautiful, unmissable gem, giving players a massive sci-fi world unlike any other to explore.
Night City is incredible, and it's only made more impressive by a suite of ray-tracing effects alongside lifelike materials, realistic facial animations, and a ton of high-quality post-processing effects that make the game feel appropriately moody and cyberpunk. Cyberpunk 2077 brings the fine-grain detail of an immersive sim to a massive open-world, and it's a sight to behold.
Whether you're just admiring the sights or the sounds of Nighty City, or all its next-gen features like Dolby Atmos and Vision, 4K output, 60FPS, and ray-tracing, the experience truly feels like a leap forward for open-world games. If you can deal with the occasional bug or glitch on top of some stutter, Cyberpunk 2077 is a feast for the eyes and ears.
The Xbox Series X updates added to the already very fine looking Gears 5 read like a wish list of everything you’d want from a next-gen title.
The unique and intense multiplayer matches now play at 120Hz, for starters, and the impact this has on your chances of pulling off a killer shotgun blast or perfect sniper headshot cannot be overstated.
In campaign mode, meanwhile, while the game is 60Hz and can’t quite lock on to a full 4K resolution, its dynamic resolution system still delivers much better detail and texturing than the One X version.
A form of software ray tracing has been added too, to enhance lighting effects and bolster realism, and the combination of bold HDR and ultra crispness that’s long been the Gears trademark is ratcheted up again – especially in snow and city locations.
Finally, Gears 5’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack continues to sound as epic as it always has, adding tension and excitement while also helping you track enemies advancing from all sides – especially during the Horde game mode.
Cold War’s graphics are staggeringly good for a game that’s arrived so early in the Series X’s life.
For the campaign we’d recommend setting the console to 60Hz and turning ray tracing on in the game’s menus. This lets you experience the full detail, texture and stunning three-dimensional feel of the campaign’s graphics. The frame rate is reduced, but not to such an extent that the game feels choppy. You really get the full benefit of the game’s outstanding use of HDR in this set up, too.
For online play, though, set the console to 120Hz (if your TV supports that), and then marvel at how astonishingly fluid the environment looks as you pan and spin around it.
The icing on the cake comes from a stellar Dolby Atmos audio mix that’s as rich in precise detail as it is bombastic. It’s truly like being inside your own action movie.
Assassin’s Creed games are usually serious eye candy, so it’s no surprise to find Valhalla giving Series X one of its best looking games to date.
At launch it played in a 60Hz mode that targeted 4K but typically adjusted dynamically to levels some way under that, making up the difference with upscaling. Ubisoft has now added a mode, though, that lets you enjoy stable native 4K at 30 frames a second. Both versions render the game’s epic landscapes and memorable characters beautifully – though we’ve found we prefer to use the 4K/30Hz mode when we’re in the mood for just exploring new areas, and the 60Hz mode when it’s time to take on a major mission.
Stunning Japanese-influenced side scrolling adventure Ori And The Will Of The Wisps is as much a work of art as a game.
Its wistful fairytale graphical style is even richer than that of its predecessor, the hugely acclaimed Ori And The Blind Forest – and it’s taken to new heights on the Series X by being available in either native 4K at 120Hz or, uniquely, a ‘supersampled’ 6K resolution at 60Hz.
Enticing though it is to see a side scrolling game sliding by at 120Hz, it’s the supersampling mode that really stands out, adding a sense of extra refinement to all the atmospheric imagery that makes you want to just disappear into Ori’s world and never come back.
The irresistible otherworldly atmosphere is rounded out to perfection, too, by a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that combines a memorable, mesmerising score with all manner of imaginative ambient effects.
Halo Infinite was delayed after its reveal for a full year, but now, it looks like it was worth the wait with gamers agreeing Halo Infinite is an elegant return to form for the long-running sci-fi shooter franchise.
The visual presentation of Halo is as iconic as ever with lots of blues and purples and a crisp, clean finish to the world. Rendered at a dynamic 4K, edges are fine and detail is nuanced, and it does the game's high-resolution textures a lot of justice.
In multiplayer, you can access the game's 120FPS mode, which plays extraordinarily well, dropping frames only infrequently. The massive increase in fluidity that the jump to 120FPS brings is well worth it for the competitive edge it gives you in firefights.
With support for HDR alongside spatial audio in the form of Dolby Atmos (with an excellent mix that's bright and punchy), Halo infinite feels like next-gen Halo, and an open-world campaign feels like a good fit for the series.
Elden Ring is FromSoftware's latest game, but it's something of a return to form for the developer, giving gamers an open-world Dark Souls experience. Critics and fans agree Elden Ring is one of the finest games ever made, but it's also a beautiful game, too.
While the game currently struggles with stutter, it's rendered at a crisp, native 4K and targets 60FPS, which is a great fit for a FromSoftware game that relies heavily on quick decision-making and well-timed dodges. The world of Elden Ring is gorgeous and often intricately detailed, making a native 4K a great fit.
Materials are a big upgrade over earlier FromSoftware games, and Elden Ring looks great on an HDR display with lots of punchy contrast and colorful features of the world alongside more familiar dark, gray grittiness.
Plus, the game's Dolby Atmos mix is excellent. Positional audio is a big deal in a FromSoftware game where there can be hidden enemies around every corner, and you'll never be caught unaware with a good positional audio solution.
How we find games that have the best picture and sound and how we test
What Hi-Fi? covers a wide range of consumer electronics, but we tend to specialize in reviewing AV kit. Accordingly, we don't officially review games, but we do use them in the course of testing products we do review, like TVs, projectors, headphones, and speakers. Some on the What Hi-Fi? team have also worked in games media, too.
In our gaming buying guides, we look for great games that offer excellent AV experiences. We want to know if a game runs in 4K and at 60FPS as well as if it supports HDR, but overall, we want to know if a game looks and sounds stunning, regardless of what specific features it does or does not support.
When we play games at What Hi-Fi? we do so at our state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading, or Bath where our reviewers test most of the products that What Hi-Fi? reviews. We compare products we review against their competitors as well as the best-in-class version of a product.
Our reviews are always impartial as we review as a team, attempting to eliminate any possibility of individual bias when we test anything as well as build in a good way to double-check our work as an essential part of our process. As we review new products, our testing methods will evolve, too.
Buying guides, like this one, are usually the product of collaboration, as we strive to include great performing games from all genres and across platforms and prices. Regardless of what type of games you like, our buying guides will point you to the best-looking and sounding ones in your favorite genre.
Read our round-up of the Best PS5 games
4K 120Hz gaming: What is it? Read our explainer...