The Xbox One is a killer game console.
Not only is it a looker, but it’s a powerful little box – the Xbox One “S” model seen above is the new standard for the console, replacing the original box that launched in 2013. It plays the same games, but looks better, does more, and costs less.
All of which means now is the best time there’s ever been to buy a new Xbox One. Here’s why:
1. It starts at just $250.
You can get a basic Xbox One S console, with 500 GB of storage, for $250. That said, you’re just as likely to find a bundle with a mildly-aged game like “Battlefield 1” for the same price.
However, if you’re willing to go a tad higher and drop $280, Microsoft has a bunch of different bundles this holiday that come with extra stuff that’s more than worth your $30. There’s a “Minecraft” bundle, with a ton of “Minecraft” stuff (including the game); there’s a “Halo” bundle with a ton of “Halo” stuff (including the most recent game); etc.
2. It’s backward compatible with a growing library of Xbox 360 games.
Microsoft, unbelievably, added this feature after the Xbox One launched. It’s been a huge freebie to long-time Xbox owners – over time, more and more games from the Xbox 360 are supported on the Xbox One. So if you owned them for the 360, you already own them for Xbox One.
Any games you bought digitally on Xbox 360 automatically show up in your current collection, and all your progress and old save files will transfer over too. For physical Xbox 360 games, just slip the disc into your Xbox One and the game will download straight from Xbox Live. This also includes Xbox 360 game expansions, downloadable content, and achievements.
3. It’s a game console, plus a cord-cutting solution.
You don’t need an extra set-top box to enjoy TV and movies if you have an Xbox One.
It supports an array of video streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Sling TV, ESPN, and Twitch. It can also play your Blu-ray discs and media from your storage devices via USB. You can even make Skype video calls over your Xbox if you have the Kinect accessory. And it’s super easy to switch back and forth between different content.
4. The Xbox One S supports 4K Blu-ray discs and streaming video.
- REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Getting a new 4K TV this holiday? The Xbox One is a killer companion.
It can play 4K/”Ultra HD” Blu-ray discs, and it can stream 4K content from services like Netflix and YouTube. The console even upscales standard high-def games (1080p) to 4K, and adds HDR support.
What all this jargon means in practice is that games and movies will look as sharp as ever on your new 4K television, and with HDR support they’ll be more vibrant than ever.
5. Not ready to cut the cable just yet? Maybe you’re a diehard sports fan? The Xbox One has a solution for your cable box.
When you spin the Xbox One around, you’ll notice two HDMI ports: one is an HDMI out which goes to your TV, and the other is an HDMI in which your cable box plugs in to.
Through an interface built into the Xbox One software, you can easily watch live TV from your cable box. Anything you would normally do with your cable box, you can do through the Xbox One interface – without ever leaving your Xbox One dashboard. It’s a simple addition that makes the console feel like more of a centerpiece or control hub for your home entertainment center.
6. There’s even an option for pulling in local channels using an antenna.
You can buy the Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner for less than $60, which enables access to NBC, CBS, Fox, and more – anything you would normally get through a digital antenna. Microsoft also sells its own digital tuner, though it’s seemingly hard to find.
In so many words, if you’re getting broadcast TV channels in your house and want them on the Xbox One alongside cable and streaming services, you totally can.
7. Xbox Live Gold is a great way to play a ton of games for a ridiculously good price.
As of this writing, the three games above are available on Xbox One for Xbox Live Gold subscribers in October. For $60 each year, you get a bundle of “free” games each month. For the first part of October, the three games above are available – included in your subscription at no extra charge – and another two will become available on October 16.
As long as you remain a paying Xbox Live Gold subscriber, you keep these games. It beyond pays for the cost of an annual subscription. It pays for the cost of the annual subscription in just one month.
You also get basic features like online multiplayer, voice chat, matchmaking, and other standard features of modern game services.
8. If you buy a game on Xbox One, you can play it on your PC.
If you have a Windows 10 PC, the Xbox One is a great companion. If the game’s published by Microsoft, you’ll get a copy of the game on your computer as well as your Xbox.
Better still, you can stream all your Xbox One games to any of those computers – even the Surface tablet. Microsoft is making big moves to put your Xbox game library wherever you are, and that’s a meaningful value-add to consider.
9. You have lots of options when it comes to controllers.
Though every Xbox One controller is nearly identical, there’s a ton of color options for people who want controllers that match their personal tastes. You can get tons of different face plates, but Microsoft also sells controllers in white, black, and a handful of military-inspired styles like “Covert Forces” and “Midnight Forces.”
There are even “Minecraft” game pads for people who are big into controllers having a tail.
10. The Xbox One Elite controller is the best controller ever made.
Despite the array of beautiful Xbox One controllers out there, one controller stands head and shoulders above the rest. It unfortunately doesn’t come with the console, but Microsoft’s $150 Elite controller is the best gaming controller I’ve ever used.
It’s beautiful, it feels great, and it’s highly customizable: you can attach different thumbsticks, different directional pads, different triggers, and you can even assign different functions to those buttons for different games.
There is literally no comparison to the Xbox One Elite game pad. It’s miles ahead of everything else, though it unfortunately comes with a premium price. “Elite” is right there in the name, after all.
11. While we’re talking premium, there’s a new Xbox One coming in November: The Xbox One X. It costs $500.
The Xbox One X is a new, far more powerful version of the already existing Xbox One game console.
It’s smaller, stronger, and much more expensive: At $500, it’s aimed squarely at people looking for a bleeding-edge experience. The reason it costs so much: everything inside is upgraded to make it capable of powering 4K/HDR gaming in a way that no other console can.
But, it runs the same games that the standard Xbox One does, and it doesn’t do anything that other Xbox One consoles can’t. If you’re buying this, it’s for the graphics horsepower. It’s an option, but nothing more than that.
- Studio MDHR
“Cuphead” is a delightful anachronism among modern games. It’s a hand-drawn game set in a 1930s-style cartoon universe, where an anthropomorphic cup (“Cuphead”) and his brother Mugman fall into a trap set by The Devil. To save their own souls, they have to carry out his list of debts – essentially collecting the souls of other folks who’ve fallen into The Devil’s traps.
And what don’t you do?
That’s exactly right. You don’t make deals with The Devil. But that’s the hand you’re dealt in “Cuphead,” which punishes players with outrageously challenging combat and platforming. It plays like an old-school “Contra” or “Metal Slug” game, forcing players to master controls and overcome insane enemies – often by memorizing patterns and staying focused amid chaos.
It’s a truly delightful new game, and it’s only available on the Xbox One and PC.
13. “Halo: The Master Chief Collection.”
“The Master Chief Collection” includes the first four “Halo” games, which have been remastered and optimized for the Xbox One. “Halo 2” gets some extra love in the form of specially-remastered cut scenes, which really do look spectacular. And the collection also includes a cool feature that lets you switch between the game’s original graphics and the remastered graphics in just a click.
It probably goes without saying, but the “Halo” franchise is a classic – and this is the main trilogy in full.
14. “Halo 5: Guardians.”
It’s not quite as amazing as previous entries in the “Halo” franchise when it comes to story execution, but “Halo 5: Guardians” is the best-playing game in the long-running franchise.
You once again play as Master Chief, the quiet, idealistic superhuman soldier featured in previous games. Controlling him is as tight and exhilarating as ever, seemingly leaping from enemy to enemy in between taking out snipers in the distance. There are few games that nail the feeling of moment-to-moment tactical first-person shooting like the “Halo” series does, and “Halo 5: Guardians” is the latest one to pull that off.
Also like previous “Halo” games, there’s a robust multiplayer community – though the game is a couple years old at this point, folks are still playing “Halo 5” in droves.
15. “Forza Horizon 3″
- Microsoft / Reddit
There’s a simple structure to “Forza Horizon 3.” You start the game with one of several cars, and you prove your worth in races to earn money, fans, and experience. As those things accumulate, you unlock more stuff: new areas, new cars to buy, new races to race, etc.
Thankfully, all of that quickly melts into the background as one of the game’s hundreds of cars goes flying over a sand dune at 150 miles-per-hour. Wanna drive an automatic Tesla Model S through the rainforest? Please, go right ahead! And might we suggest you race this train?
“Forza Horizon 3” is a massive, delightfully silly game that encourages fun at every possible moment. If you’ve ever enjoyed a racing game – whether it was “Need for Speed” or “Gran Turismo” or a “Cruisin’ USA” machine back at your local pizzeria – you will enjoy “Forza Horizon 3.”
16. “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds”
- Bluehole Studios via SideArms4Reason/YouTube
“PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” is a game that exploded in popularity in 2017. It’s currently available only on PC, but it’s coming to the Xbox One exclusively this year.
The game is essentially a third-person multiplayer shooter. The twist is that it’s a 1-vs-100 death match on a massive, deserted island. And everyone starts unarmed, by parachuting onto the island from a nightmarish plane. When and where you choose to leap out is the first choice you’ll make of many. Let’s say another player lands near you in a town.
Here’s how that might play out:
-You both land around the same time, see each other, and head toward separate buildings.
-Maybe your building has a good weapon, or maybe it has a police vest for protection. Maybe it has nothing.
-But what about that other player? You’ve lost them, and they could have a killer weapon. Do you head out to another nearby building, hoping they aren’t in the same one? Do you wait near a window, keeping an eye on the building they’re in, waiting for them to leave? Do you take off running toward another nearby town, hoping for better supplies?
This is the central tension of “Battlegrounds,” and it starts immediately. The game is such a hit because it’s incredibly good. It so good that it’s fun to just watch this game, and I strongly encourage you to. It’s one of the top 10 most-watched games on Twitch every month. That’s why it’s such a big deal that it’s coming to Xbox One exclusively.
Dave Smith contributed to a previous version of this piece.