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When you’re thinking about buying a new console, one of the most important things to take into consideration is what exclusives you can pick up. Exclusives are games that are only available on that console; you either can’t buy them for any other platform or can only find them on PC, meaning if you want to play the game on a console, you’ve only got one choice.
Microsoft and Sony’s approach to console exclusives have been a little different this generation. While Sony has focused hard on bringing in the major players to entice people to buy a PS5, Microsoft has banked more on Xbox Game Pass and other ancillary services to bring people into the Xbox family. With that said, both consoles still have their fair share of great exclusives, so let’s take a look at them!
PS5: the big hitters
Historically, Sony’s strategy has been all about securing huge triple-A titles for gamers to justify their purchase of a PlayStation console. This generation, their approach is no different; you’ll find several huge games on PS5 that you can’t get anywhere else, although some of them are now cropping up on PC as well. Here are some of our PS5 exclusive highlights.
Bluepoint proved itself as a remake creator par excellence with its PS5 reimagining of Demon’s Souls. While it hews pretty closely to the original, the visual and mechanical upgrade means it’s well worth picking this one up if you like From Software’s brand of brutal action RPGs. Sony’s choice to include Demon’s Souls as a launch game shows a daring that Microsoft hasn’t quite managed to summon up yet.
Horizon Forbidden West
Now this is more like what we’re used to from Sony. Horizon Forbidden West is a huge, prestige open world title that plays it completely safe, but puts all the money on screen nonetheless. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful, entirely familiar open world experience that continues Aloy’s adventures from Horizon Zero Dawn, so if you enjoyed that game, you’re going to love this one too.
Another very strange exclusive for Sony, Returnal is a brutally difficult roguelite shooter from Housemarque. Its bizarre, nigh-incomprehensible story meets fluid, fast-paced gameplay for an experience as unforgiving as it is rewarding. The PS5 is cementing its place as the platform for hardcore gamers with games like Returnal and Demon’s Souls, as opposed to Microsoft’s more inclusive approach.
Gran Turismo 7
Qualms about microtransactions aside (although very valid qualms they are), Gran Turismo 7 represents a real return to form for the racing series. After the somewhat unusual Gran Turismo Sport, 7 shows us that Sony and Polyphony still know how to make quality racing sims. This game throws back to the originals, too, thanks to the return of features like Championships and the Driving School.
Xbox Series X: something for everyone
Unlike Sony, Microsoft’s approach to exclusives has been to bring them to its Xbox Game Pass subscription service on day one. On the one hand, this is an excellent way to expose more people to first-party titles, but on the other, it can feel a little like Microsoft is playing it too safe with its exclusives. Still, there are some brilliant offerings on this little black powerhouse.
It wouldn’t be an exclusives list without a Halo game, now would it? Microsoft’s long-awaited first-person shooter was delayed numerous times leading up to its release, but when it finally launched, it brought a new open world dimension to the Halo series. Master Chief’s traditional adventures against the Covenant got a little spice thanks to the addition of free-roaming areas and a grappling hook.
Forza Horizon 5
The Forza Horizon series has been flying the flag for accessible racing in a landscape largely dominated by dry simulation experiences. Horizon 5 has lots of tweaking and tuning options if you want them, but it also lets you simply pick an event or a point on the map and just drive for a while. The game might play it a little safe, but it’s a satisfying racer nonetheless.
Double Fine’s long-awaited sequel to one of the best platformers of all time is just as weird and wonderful as you want it to be, although its story does, again, play it just a little too safe. Raz and his friends return in an offbeat adventure-platformer that pays homage to the original Psychonauts while still managing to find a voice of its own. It’s not perfect, but it’s an excellent, whimsical game that you should check out.
Who’d have thought that marrying Gears of War with XCOM would pay off? It does, though, and Gears Tactics is a satisfying strategy experience with plenty of depth and complexity. It won’t match XCOM for narrative quality or enemy variety, but you’ll find a surprisingly complete strategy game here, and if you love the Gears of War universe (somehow) then you’ll like this too.
Both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X have plenty of games in their future, too. The PS5 will see the likes of Final Fantasy XVI, the profoundly weird-looking Pragmata, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, while Xbox is getting all of those lovely Bethesda RPGs like The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield.
So, which console has the better exclusives? For our money, the award goes to Sony on this one. This doesn’t necessarily mean these games are better than their Xbox counterparts, just that the PS5 arguably has a superior lineup of games you can only play on Sony’s machine. If you’re in this for quality gaming experiences only, then pick up a PS5, but Xbox Game Pass makes the Xbox Series X an enticing prospect if you want to experience a little bit of everything.