It was, by all accounts, a strange 2023 for Xbox. Its games were all over the board, and the company itself spent most of the year embroiled in the process of getting Activision Blizzard into the figurative catcher’s mitt.
So, fittingly, our Best Xbox nominees list wound up looking a little strange. Not only did most of us play Starfield on PC, but it’s also where it felt best to play, if we were only opting for a single category. The nominees here that hit Game Pass feel like a testament to the service’s strength, at least. Pick-ups like Sea of Stars and Jusant are nice to see, and certainly made the Pass’ library feel more diverse.
But Xbox did have one winner that emerged in our voting, an early-in-the-year earworm we just couldn’t shake. I’m talking about Tango Gameworks’ Hi-Fi Rush.
In a way, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Just a few months before, Obsidian’s Pentiment showed that these more focused, AA-esque projects from Xbox’s studios could be a breath of fresh air. But Hi-Fi Rush, in my mind, cemented the impact that these kinds of efforts could have on Xbox’s Game Pass strategy.
Hi-Fi Rush is a rhythmic brawler, certainly not the type of thing you’d associate with Tango. But its relative length, effusive charm, and flat-out incredible playlist selection for the soundtrack all mixed to create a thumping, bumping, endearing action game. The lovable cast of characters and general Saturday morning vibes I got from the story helped, too.
In a year where Xbox felt shaky on its AAA legs, the passion projects shone through. And I really hope that Pentiment and Hi-Fi Rush aren’t the end, either; I’d love to see more studios get the chance to just make something this exciting and fresh, outside their wheelhouse, and put it on the Pass.
While all the nominees brought something great to the table, I think Hi-Fi Rush‘s charm and sheer inventiveness, laid over an extremely well-crafted blend of rhythm and action, will be something to remember. Hopefully it’s the start of more to come, too.
Congratulations, and here’s our nominees list, in case you forgot the field:
- Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
- Hi-Fi Rush
- Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
- Wild Hearts
- RoboCop: Rogue City
- Sea of Stars
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