Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is essentially a bundle of multiple services in one monthly payment. With it, subscribers get Xbox Game Pass for console, the PC version, and Xbox Live Gold all rolled into one.

That means you can pick from a buffet of games on console or PC, and be able to play them all online, and you may never need to buy a game ever again on Xbox One or one of the new Xbox Series S / Series X consoles.

The service is such a core pillar of Xbox’s strategy that you can buy one of the new consoles with it as part of the Xbox All Access service.

With a wealth of third-party games rotated into the service on an almost weekly basis, first-party games arriving on launch day (including the upcoming Halo Infinite), and your monthly Xbox Live Gold fee included, it’s a great deal even if you’re just a console player.

Factor in the PC version of Game Pass for even more titles to play, as well as the addition of EA Play on both platforms, and you’ll never run out of games to try.

You’ll even be able to stream Xbox games to your Android phone via Cloud Gaming (previously known as Project xCloud), and while iOS compatibility remains a big question mark, the current system works very well for anyone using Google’s mobile OS.

Here’s everything you need to know about the bundle, including how much it costs, and what it offers.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Get Halo: MCC on Xbox Game Pass (Image credit: Microsoft)

What is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate?

While Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass on PC are two different services, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate bundles both together and then adds extra perks on top.

While each of those will set you back $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$10.95 each, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate offers both for $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 per month, and also includes Xbox Live Gold (now only available annually in many territories, and costing $60.00 / £50.00 / AU$80.00).

Subscribing allows users to download huge titles on the Xbox One (and soon, the Series S/X) like DOOM Eternal, Forza Horizon 4, and Gears 5. You can then play whenever you’d like, and try out backward compatible titles from both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 console generations, thanks to Xbox’s extensive backward compatibility program.

Since you get Xbox Live Gold included, too, you’ll be able to hop straight into a match of Rainbow Six: Siege or any other multiplayer title in the service, too.

PC players won’t need to play online, but they can still pick from a wealth of games to download. Recent releases like Crusader Kings 3, as well as the likes of first-party hits like Gears 5, can be found on the Xbox app for Windows 10.

Add in the EA Play catalog joining the service next month, and you’ve got the likes of Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Skate, too. Previously a $4.99 / £4.99 added cost, it’s now free of charge for Game Pass Ultimate subscribers.

Mass Effect

Play the original Mass Effect when EA Play joins the service (Image credit: EA / Bioware)

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also offers its own unique perks, with digital goodies for free-to-play titles like Warframe, as well as gaming-adjacent bonuses like Discord Nitro and Spotify memberships.

Speaking of extras, players can complete ‘Quests’ by trying new games and ticking off Achievements, which can be redeemed towards giveaways and gift cards – although it’ll take time to do so. Still, it’s a nice incentive to try new games.

While games aren’t permanently fixed in the service, you’ll get plenty of notice before titles leave. If you want to add them to your collection permanently, you’ll get a 10% discount, and you’ll also save on any DLC for games in the Game Pass library too.

As of last month, players can even play many of the included titles on their phones – at least if you’ve got an Android device. Microsoft and Apple still can’t get their act together to allow Game Pass on iOS or iPadOS, but anyone running Android 6.0 or later will be able to play on the train, on a lunch break, or… in the bath?

You’ll need a solid connection (and 5G is likely to boost your chances of a lag-free experience), but it’s something to consider if you’ve got a non-Apple handset or tablet.

Competitor Sony has dropped the price of PlayStation Now to $9.99 / £8.99 per month (with no Australian release yet), but since you’ll also need to pay $9.99 / £6.99 a month for PlayStation Plus if you want to play online.

Ori and the will of the wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (2019) (Image credit: Microsoft Game Studios)

Design and interface

Because Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is made up of several elements, it doesn’t necessarily have a unified interface. Instead, there’s the Xbox app on PC, as well as a section on the Xbox dashboard (which is now unified between Xbox One and Series S/X consoles).

For console users, it’s hard to miss – Microsoft has put Game Pass almost front and center on the home screen. With just a couple of button presses, users can start browsing the catalog.

Each game has a trailer, screenshots, and the file size listed, so you can pack as much onto your hard drive as possible.

You can also filter by genre, see what friends are playing, or flick through recommendations. It really is similar to Netflix, only with downloads instead of streaming, and shows games that are recently added or leaving soon, too.

The “My Games and Apps” menu will show which titles are from Game Pass or EA Play, too, so you can easily spot them amongst games you’ve purchased.

For PC users, you’ll find Game Pass within the existing Xbox app, meaning you won’t have to worry about downloading any extra launchers.

Games don’t have to be launched from the app either, meaning you can manage installations from Control Panel, just as if you’d installed the game from the Microsoft Store (which, incidentally, is where games are updated from).

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass has nearly 200 titles to choose from (Image credit: Xbox)

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate content library

Taking the perks, the Quests, and the Xbox Live membership out of the equation, it’s time to answer the question: what is there to play?

While PlayStation Now offers more than 800 games, some of which are playable on PC, much of it relies on a streaming connection.

Xbox Game Pass offers around 200 titles on console, all of which are able to be downloaded and played locally, while PC players have around 150 to enjoy.

Both get a healthy mix, too, so expect the likes of indie darlings like Slay The Spire and Dead Cells to sit alongside Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Forza Motorsport 7, and Sea of Thieves on both platforms.

Then there are big-budget third-party titles, with the likes of the aforementioned DOOM Eternal and Rainbow Six: Siege on console, while PC players can enjoy new releases like Crusader Kings 3 and popular titles like ARK: Survival Evolved.

Destiny 2 is available for console players, with the Beyond Light expansion launching into Game Pass, with Microsoft hoping to bring the looter/shooter/MMO hybrid to PC players next year.

Not only is Microsoft looking to snap up plenty of upcoming content, but Game Pass offers plenty of backward-compatible titles to get your metaphorical teeth into as well, doubly so with EA Play adding everything from Plants vs Zombies to Peggle to sports titles and Need For Speed.

Xbox Series S

Xbox Series S: an affordable Game Pass console (Image credit: Microsoft)

We liked

  • A simple, all-in-one, subscription service that offers incredible value for money.
  • EA Play will bolster an already large library of titles.
  • Plenty of added perks, including free digital content and discounts.
  • Xbox Live Gold included, allowing online play.

We disliked

  • PlayStation Now offers a larger library, albeit through streaming.
  • Cloud Gaming only on Android for now.

Verdict

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is an obvious purchase for anyone planning to play games on both Xbox and PC.

Cheaper than paying for each platform’s library separately, and including online play for console, that would be worth the monthly fee alone. Adding in discounts, a reward system, and even free digital goodies for gamers and non-gamers alike, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft is changing the game.

Whether it’ll entice people to buy an Xbox Series X or Series S is another question entirely, but it’s also almost beside the point: make no mistake, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is Microsoft’s real focus for next-gen.