With the arrival of the new consoles, there are now plenty of Xbox Series X | S multiplayer games that offer faster loading speeds, improved frame rates and enhanced visuals that ensure that you’re using the full extent of the console’s power. Well, maybe not the full extent, but it’s better than the experience on previous gen Xbox consoles at least.
For the most part, these optimisations have meant that if you want the best multiplayer experience, you’ll have to shell out for a new console, and also a new TV if 120 fps is a big thing for you. If you’re looking for a new Xbox Series X | S multiplayer game that’s been optimised for the console to flex those extra teraflops, here are the best suggestions in no particular order.
It wouldn’t be a best multiplayer game list without throwing a mention to Call of Duty, so let’s get that out of the way in the beginning by mentioning the most recent game, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Developed by Treyarch, Cold War features all the usual trappings of a Call of Duty game, including a bombastic campaign, competitive multiplayer and Zombies.
While installing Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War might destroy a huge chunk of your console’s internal SSD, you can at least pick and choose the parts of the game you’d like to install, so if you’re done with the campaign, feel free to delete it and make way for Warzone’s hefty install size. At this rate alone, you’re going to need one of those Seagate Expansion Cards to fit all these games, and even then you’d struggle.
2. Gears 5
Developer: The Coalition Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Aside from Halo, the Gears of War series has been keeping the Xbox exclusive multiplayer scene propped up for the better part of 15 years, and while there’s plenty of enjoyment to be found in that series of waist-high walls, there’s also plenty of high level players looking to take your head off your shoulders with a Longshot. Problem is, they all have the skill to do it.
Thankfully, Gears 5 is the most accessible the series has ever been, with an Arcade mode that gives players a better onboarding experience with the rigours of Gears online. Couple that with the most intensive and rewarding Horde mode yet, and a 3 player co-op campaign to boot, and Gears 5 is definitely a multiplayer game worth checking out.
3. FIFA 21
Developer: EA Publisher: EA
Opinions may vary on where EA’s premier football series stands these days, especially considering its controversial approach to loot boxes via the Ultimate Team mode, but sometimes there’s nothing better than hopping online with your mate and deciding who’s the best with a best of 3 or 5 series. FIFA 21 provides that in spades.
EA have established the FIFA series as the top dog when it comes to football, meaning you’ll find no shortage of players who’ll get tilted with you when you score goals in a certain way. There’s a multitude of modes too, including regular kick-off matches, the dreaded FIFA Ultimate Team, Volta Street football and the underrated Pro Clubs, where each player controls their own created footballer.
4. Rogue Company
Developer: First Watch Games Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
While the Xbox has plenty of shooters on tap for you to get your fragging jollies, the console is sorely lacking in the tactical shooter department, such as the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Valorant on PC (we’ll get to Siege in a bit). Thankfully, we have Rogue Company from Hi-Rez Studios to make up for it.
A round-based multiplayer game, players pick from a roster of Rogues, each with their own abilities and weapon loadouts, and must work as a team to attack or defend key objectives. Between each round, players can spend the cash they’ve earned by performing well in-game to unlock new weapons, equipment and perks. It pays to slay, it seems.
5. Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate
Developer: NetherRealm Studios Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
We couldn’t put together a best multiplayer game list without mentioning a fighting game where possible, and while the amount of optimised fighting games on the Xbox Series X | S are minimal right now, there’s still Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate. MK 11 might not have been perfect at launch, but Ultimate is definitely one of the best fighting game packages money can buy.
The definitive version of the iconic series’ 11th outing, MK 11: Ultimate includes all content from the base game, both Kombat Packs and the Aftermath expansion. All told, that includes 25 characters from the base game, 12 DLC characters, a host of customisation options and two excellent story modes. All of this, plus a fantastic online suite of options and a Towers of Time mode with a revolving door of challenges, and you’ve got a fighting game for the ages.
6. Overcooked: All You Can Eat Edition
Developer: Ghost Town Games Publisher: Team17
Multiplayer games don’t have to be competitive to be hectic and stressful experiences that cause you to shout at the ones you love. The case in point for this is Overcooked: All You Can Eat Edition, which bundles together all the content from both Overcooked games to create the ultimate experience. Guaranteed to frustrate your entire family or your money back, probably.
Up to four players, either local or online (where it’s likely safer as no one can launch a shoe at your head), must work together in kitchen that wouldn’t pass food safety regulations, dodging obstacles and putting together meals to please the ever-hungry, ever present hordes that exist somewhere off screen. It’s a tense one, but there’s nothing more satisfying than hitting three stars on a hard level in Overcooked. A true relationship tester, this one.
Developer: Epic Games Publisher: Epic Games
Come on, you had to have known you’d see Fortnite appear on this list of the best Xbox Series X | S multiplayer games in some capacity. Even if it wasn’t optimised for the Xbox Series X | S, it probably still would have made an appearance, considering that it’s one of the biggest games in the world right now and it’s playable on the Xbox Series X | S. The optimisation is the icing on the cake.
At this point, I don’t really think I need to explain Fortnite to you all, considering that you’ve probably sustained yourself through 2020 with memes of Thanos or John Wick doing the default dance, but suffice to say that the game is the most popular version of 100 people dropping into a map to shoot each other. If nothing else, it’ll keep the tykes occupied. Just be careful if they start looking through the in-game store.
8. Rainbow Six Siege
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft
When I said that the Xbox Series X | S doesn’t have many tactical shooters on offer, Rainbow Six Siege is the most notable exception to this. A cerebral multiplayer experience, Siege is less about running and gunning in order to earn your kill streaks and nuke the whole map, and instead focuses on rewarding precision. Siege is the scalpel to CoD’s missile from orbit.
Two teams of five take turns attacking and defending a fortified position, using operatives that, like Rogue Company, have their own abilities and weapons. The key to success in Siege is to work as a team, as certain operatives can counter the opposing team’s strategies. While getting five kills in one round is possible, it’s rare, and success is more often found with co-operation. If you have 4 other friends to play with, Siege is a good shout, especially as its on Game Pass.
9. Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Developer: Bungie Publisher: Bungie
There’s plenty of looter shooters to go around, but the best one that’s been optimised for the Xbox Series X | S is undoubtedly Destiny 2: Beyond Light. While the Destiny games have been a bit disappointing at launch, Bungie always finds a way to turn the ship around after a few updates, with the most recent, Beyond Light, completely changing aspects of the game experience.
Admittedly, Destiny 2: Beyond Light is a better pick now for new players than it has been in the past, as Bungie made the decision to vault huge parts of the game that weren’t being used as much by the player-base, leading to a more streamlined experience. That being said, there’s content no longer available that people paid for, and that’s not great.
10. Rocket League
Developer: Psyonix, Panic Button Games Publisher: Psyonix
Between Fortnite, Rogue Company and now Rocket League, there’s plenty of bang for your buck when it comes to multiplayer games on the Xbox Series X | S, if your buck is non-existent and you’re just looking to play some games for free anyway. Despite its simplistic premise, few multiplayer games have endured quite like Rocket League has over the past five or so years.
Combining the core tenets of football and “big rockets strapped to your car so you can do cool flips”, Rocket League is the perfect embodiment of being easy to learn and hard to master. Practically anybody can pick up a controller and hit the ball towards the opposition’s goal, but it takes a real pro to hit those ceiling flip shots on the regular. I’ve seen high level gameplay for Rocket League, and I don’t get it.
11. Forza Horizon 4
Developer: Playground Games Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Racing games are often incredibly fun multiplayer experiences, as players compete bumper-to-bumper to prove who’s the fastest. The Xbox Series X | S have a couple of optimised racing games to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with Forza Horizon 4, which might just be one of the best driving games ever made. It’s a bold claim, but FH 4 deserves it.
Set in the beautiful British countryside, you’re given access to hundreds of fast cars, and some weird ones too, and can race across a number of disciplines with friends or against random people on the internet. Even if racing isn’t your thing, you can simply hang out together in free roam completing stunt jumps or speed traps, or take on some Playground games like infected and others. There’s something for everyone here.
12. Sea Of Thieves
Developer: Rare Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Persistent online servers populated with random players are certainly appealing to a lot of people. The unpredictability of the emergent gameplay creates scenarios that quickly become anecdotes to share with all of your friends, or with people online, and perhaps there’s no greater avatar for that kind of chaos than Sea of Thieves.
Up to four players, or should that just be pirates, work together sailing a ship across the high seas, finding treasure chests and loot along the way. Unfortunately, that treasure is only safe once you bring it back home, meaning you’ll have to contend with a plethora of A.I. controlled enemies and other players hungry for your treasure. There’s a lot of combustible elements at play, but the resulting fireworks can be spectacular.
Developer: Obsidian Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Multiplayer games don’t have to be adversarial, as survival games can task players with working towards a common goal, that goal in the case of Grounded being not becoming spider food. If you’re afraid of said spiders, there’s an arachnophobia mode that changes the properties of the spider to something less scary, but those floating orbs that replace the spiders are just as creepy, if you ask me.
Grounded has a simple premise, in that you must build up a base in a hostile environment, but Grounded is small scale in pretty much every sense of the word. Not only are there only a few players allowed in a game, but the map and game world take place in a back garden where you’ve been shrunken down. Grounded is still in Game Preview, but I’m expecting the full launch to feature Rick Moranis, revealing the whole game was a “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” prequel.
Asymmetrical multiplayer games allow developers to truly be inventive when it comes to creating games that force us to compete with our fellow man, and perhaps the best example of that is Dead By Daylight. 4v1 is normally considered unfair by traditional multiplayer standards, and the same is true in Dead By Daylight: 4 survivors usually isn’t enough against the killer.
In Dead By Daylight, 4 survivors are placed in an arena against one killer. The killer’s job is simple: hunt down the other players and hang them on hooks as a warning to the others. The survivors must use a combination of stealth and cunning to activate a series of generators, open the gates to the level and escape into the night. At its best, with competent players against a competent killer, Dead By Daylight is utterly thrilling.
15. Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Developer: 343 Industries Publisher: Bungie
In the absence of Halo Infinite, which was given a much-needed delay to sort out the game’s litany of issues that emerged during the gameplay reveal event, let’s talk about Halo: The Master Chief Collection. For any Halo fan, the MCC is the ultimate package, celebrating the greatest hits of the big green space marine’s career (no one talks about Halo 5), along with ODST and Reach as extras, which are also fantastic.
Multiplayer has always existed in the heart of Halo, whether that comes from the campaigns that have supported co-op play ever since the original game, or the multiplayer lobbies that can accommodate up to 16 players. The MCC wasn’t the best at launch, but years of updates and optimisations have cemented this collection as a force to be reckoned with. The fact you can pick it up for cheap, or download it through Game Pass, is just an added bonus.
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