You probably know the feeling: you wanted to find something new on Netflix, but you end up spending more time surfing the web than actually watching it. There is just so much that it can be difficult to make a choice. Recently, I've had the same problem every time I turn on my Xbox.
Game Pass, Microsoft's subscription service, is similar to Netflix and other video streaming services in that you have access to a wide range of experiences for a monthly fee. If you've followed Microsoft's marketing strategy, you'll know Game Pass is a place for the company's great first-party games. With a subscription you can play any Halo or Gears of War title. When Halo Infinite is available next year, you won't have to buy it – the game will be released on Game Pass at launch.
However, the service has resulted in a much larger selection of games. The blockbusters are still there, but so are the smaller or quirkier titles that don't necessarily sell subscriptions but can be addicting to players once they sign up. Take battletoads, for example. The game that launches tomorrow may be the ideal Game Pass game.
Battletoads is a return of the legendary Beat & # 39; em from 1991 and remains largely true to the original. That means hard (if not quite as punitive) side scrolling action; strange, colorful levels to explore; and humor intended to appeal to a 12 year old. There are a lot of things I don't like about Battletoads. The voice acting is absolutely worthy and I don't really like the new art style that makes it feel like a direct-to-video show from the 90s. It's certainly not up to the level of the recent Streets of Rage revival that was perhaps the ideal modern blow to them.
Here's the thing: none of this really matters. If a game is available through a subscription service and you don't pay for it directly, your rating will change. Think of it that way. I'm going to see a terrible movie like Bright on Netflix, but I would never pay to see it in a theater. Same goes for games. Battletoads isn't amazing and I'm not immune to its shortcomings, but I enjoy it enough to keep playing – and chances are I wouldn't have played at all if it had only been direct purchase.
Game Pass is beginning to reach a critical mass of these types of experiences. Not just games that might be below average but still interesting, but also titles that I wouldn't have thought of if they had a price tag. I'm not a huge fan of survival games, but here I'm playing the recently launched Grounded, which is essentially Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The Game. You play as a tiny teenager trying to survive in a suburb where ants the size of small cars and a single drop of water can save your life. It's fun to wander around for an hour, watch the bugs interact with each other and learn a few craft recipes. It's also a game I wouldn't have experienced without Game Pass.
A subscription service needs more than just big hits. You can sign up for Netflix to watch The Witcher, but you'll also need things like Too Hot to Handle or Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories to complete the experience. For me, the Game Pass library has already hit that sweet spot. Battletoads and Grounded aside, for the past few days alone I've been playing Carrion (an exciting action game where you are the monster and you escape a human laboratory), Spiritfarer (a beautiful management game about death), and the original Final Fantasy VII ( I've been thinking about coming back to this since April).
I also downloaded The Master Chief Collection to refresh my memory before I launch Infinite, and Sea of Thieves because I still intend to try. Oh, and Alan Wake, the upcoming Control expansion got me in the mood. I was also thinking about playing through Dragon Quest XI one more time and … well, you can see the problem here.
Game Pass isn't perfect, and notable titles come and go like any subscription service. (Red Dead Redemption II is the most recent example.) But it's still the first gaming service that made me feel paralyzed by the election that way. Even Apple Arcade, which I still use, failed to do this. Instead, an interesting game comes out once or twice a month. I play it on my iPad and then forget about the service until I get a new notification. I don't have a queue in Apple Arcade like I do on my Xbox.
Now all I need is help figuring out what to play next.