Xbox Game Pass provides access to a huge library of games, including a crop of essential historical games. They include wartime shooters in the form of Sniper Elite 5 and expansive historical strategy games like Crusader Kings III. If it wasn’t already one of the best deals in gaming, the expansion of Xbox Cloud Gaming to your browser, phone and other devices cements its status.
Below we’ve collected, in no particular order, the best historical games on Xbox Game Pass. The games available on each platform vary, so our picks specify whether they’re only available on PC or restricted to the Ultimate tier of the service.
1. Age of Empires IV (PC)
Perhaps the greatest historical real-time strategy series of all time, there’s no escaping Age of Empires on this list. Embellished with stylish documentary films and with thoughtful innovations on the franchise formula, Age of Empires IV is an excellent gateway into historical gaming.
2. The Forgotten City
3. The Procession to Calvary
Constituting cut and pasted Renaissance paintings and embracing a surreal, Pythonesque sense of humour, The Procession to Calvary is a novel point and click game populated with puzzles and peculiar conversations with characters pulled directly from grotesque late medieval art.
4. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (PC)
The regent of historical real-time strategy for over 20 years, Age of Empires II is a classic encompassing 1,000 years of human history. Its multiplayer scene has continued to grow, while its Definitive Edition incarnation gives it an eye-catching remaster.
5. Trek to Yomi
Trek to Yomi is a short game which dresses the side scrolling adventures of lone samurai Hiroki in a monochrome style inspired by Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Critics have noted its unsatisfying combat as a disappointment, but praised its often screenshot-worthy visuals.
6. A Plague Tale: Innocence
As plague rips through 1349 France, the player controls child heroes Amicia and her younger brother Hugo through devastated villages. It’s a compelling stealth game, involving rats and a landscape inspired by its developers’ experiences in south west France.
7. Assassin’s Creed Origins
Some swear by Assassin’s Creed Origins as the best in the series of subterfuge-stuffed adventure games: it was the first to take on the wonders of the ancient world, and to update the series with design cues from immersive role-playing games.
Origins continues the franchise tradition of meticulously re-creating historical sites. Origins also features the first iteration of the brilliant Discovery Tour mode, which takes the form of an educational walking tour through Ptolemaic Egypt’s historical landmarks.
8. Sniper Elite 4 (Xbox)
Rebellion set their fourth iteration of this tactical third-person shooter in wartime Italy. Its levels are vast and the game design encourages players to find their own routes through them. It’s a smart approach on the stealth game that can also be played cooperatively with up to three other players.
9. Sniper Elite 5
The World War Two series returns for a fifth iteration in Sniper Elite 5, which sees its protagonist travel to 1944 France to confront the Nazi war machine. As always, the mission is to assassinate high-ranking officers through various means; usually a sniper rifle.
10. Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves has grown bigger and better over the years since it launched, and it now offers some of the best co-op experiences on Xbox Game Pass. It can be comfortably played on Xbox Cloud gaming with touch controls. Sea of Thieves recalls the pirate Golden Age, inviting players to don their best nautical garb and take to the high seas in search of tales to tell and booty to sell.
11. Raji: An Ancient Epic
A rare title to draw from the deep well of ancient Indian mythology, Raji: An Ancient Epic is a platforming action game developed by Nodding Heads Games, based in Pune, India. Bestowed with great power by Hindu divinities, Raji must rescue her brother from the demon lord Mahabalasura. Her quest is a reflection of Rama’s quest to rescue Siti in the Ramayana.
12. Battlefield V (PC + Ultimate)
Folding EA Play into Xbox Game Pass has bolstered its library of historical games with the Battlefield franchise. Battlefield 1 is present, and so are the series entries with modern settings, but Battlefield V is the best pick. The scale of confrontations and the geographical breadth of the game make it an essential World War Two game, while it retains timeless arcade action.
13. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Celtic warrior Senua’s journey through Hell for the soul of her dead lover is at the centre of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It’s big on sound, visuals and atmosphere, and has some tricky combat too. Perhaps its most novel feature is the way it depicts psychosis. It’s a unique game that was recognised with five BAFTAs in 2018.
14. Empire of Sin
A tactical strategy game, Empire of Sin takes players to 1920s Chicago and asks them to lead one of 14 competing families. The narrative gives the game spark, while its turn-based combat is effective if repetitive. Some elements of its design may disappoint: cover is not that reliable, which is a bit of a let-down in a tactics game.
15. Crusader Kings III
A sprawling simulator of medieval rule, Crusader Kings III provides a step-up from Total War but isn’t so daunting to put off newcomers. Political intrigue and securing heirs is the focus of the unpredictable sandbox, which has a marvellous capacity to generate alternate historical timelines.
Construct medieval siege engines in Besiege, a physics-based game which challenges players to defeat fortifications through a combination of wit and recklessness.
Developed by Supergiant Games, creators of the beautiful action RPGs Bastion and Transistor, Hades sends you to the underworld of ancient Greek mythology. There you’ll battle your way out of hell, befriend Cerberus and explore a remarkably atmospheric and characterful setting.
18. Humankind (PC)
The historical strategy game Humankind is turn-based and set on the same scale as Civilization. Starting from a nomadic age, players are charged with directing a community through major eras of human history, building cities and negotiating with other civilizations. Within each era, the player can select from a choice of civilization types based on historical societies as templates to develop upon.
19. Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition (PC)
The hybrid elements of Age of Empires III made it a little quirky on release in 2006 and struggled to convince Age of Empires II’s champions to jump ship. However its RPG-like management and alternative visuals ensure it’s a fresh real-time strategy experience. Its campaigns told stories about the colonisation of the Americas, sometimes taking worthy leads from dissenting narratives.
20. Europa Universalis IV (PC)
Europa Universalis IV is a deep historical strategy that gives players huge freedom to create new visions of the past. The game can be started at any point between the Renaissance and the Age of Revolutions, or played through as one of hundreds of nations vying for domination.