Xbox Games With Gold gave out $1,196 worth of games in 2019. Were they any good?

Last week Microsoft made available the last two titles in 2019’s Games with Gold lineup, closing out the year with another 46 offered to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. Were any of these any good? What would they otherwise cost? In short, what do the data say about the value of this Xbox Live Gold benefit, which has been a part of the service since 2013?

We’ll try to answer that question for this year as we have the past five years, along with a few other questions. Such as: How old is the game? Did Microsoft publish it? What publisher did Games With Gold use the most? And did these appear earlier on PlayStation Plus?

These questions may shed light on where these free games programs are headed, particularly with a new console generation arriving next year in the form of the Xbox Series X.

What about PlayStation Plus?

Getting Started

In all, there were 48 games in Xbox Live Games With Gold for 2019, with an average Metacritic score of 75 and a combined retail price (at the time of the offer) of $1,196.53 The Metacritic average is 1.9 points lower than 2018.

The total dollar value is more than $300 better than last year, with two big conditions: 1) Microsoft this year started including the MSRP of the games at the time they were announced for Games With Gold, so some self-interested inflation may be assumed. 2) Last year’s analysis took the Microsoft Store sale price of the games at the time of publication.

All Xbox 360 games in Games With Gold are compatible with Xbox One. So we also noted those games that are playable only on Xbox One. Also, many games’ availability period straddled two months. They are listed for the month in which they first appeared.

Far Cry 2
Image: Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

January

  • Celeste (Xbox One only)
  • Far Cry 2
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
  • WRC 6 (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 83

Average age: 5 years, 6 months

Total value: $104.96

Skinny: In terms of quality, January is barely edged out by August. Celeste is a very strong, widely appealing lead for this value-packed month. Its 85 metascore notwithstanding, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light already appeared on both the PlayStation Instant Game Collection and Games with Gold, doing so in June 2012 and January 2014 respectively.

Luke Skywalker, in his X-Wing pilot flight suit, in a lightsaber combat arena.

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Image: Raven Software/LucasArts

February

  • Assassin’s Creed Rogue
  • Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Xbox One only)
  • Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
  • Super Bomberman R (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 70.25

Average age: 5 years, 4 months

Total value: $89.96

Skinny: Though the Metacritic scores don’t match the name-brand firepower here, there’s still plenty of mass-market appeal, particularly in LucasArts hauling out a fan-favorite like Jedi Academy. Two good months get 2019 going strong.

garden warfare 2 review screen 3

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
Image: PopCap/Electronic Arts

March

  • Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion (Xbox One only)
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 (Xbox One only)
  • Star Wars Republic Commando

Average Metacritic score: 76.5

Average age: 6 years

Total value: $89.96

Skinny: Another throwback from LucasArts drives up the average age, but there are three strong titles here that are either very replayable or worth revisiting. Revengeance, a solid hack-n-slash from 2013, also seemed overdue for an appearance in one of these services.

A soldier leans for cover as an exploding helicopter crashes behind him

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2
Image: Ubisoft Paris/Ubisoft

April

  • Outcast: Second Contact (Xbox One only)
  • Star Wars: Battlefront 2 (2005)
  • The Technomancer (Xbox One only)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2

Average Metacritic score: 76

Average age: 7 years, 5 months

Total value: $109.96

Skinny: Battlefront 2 makes it a hat trick of mid-aughts crowdpleasers from LucasArts, and GRAW2 is timely in light of The Division 2’s launch the month before.

A golfer in garish gray plaid pants follows the flight of his shot onto No. 17’s “Island Green” at TPC Sawgrass.

The Golf Club 2019
Image: HB Games/2K Sports

May

  • Comic Jumper
  • Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon
  • Marooners (Xbox One only)
  • The Golf Club 2019 (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 69.5

Average age: 4 years, 7 months

Total value: $94.96

Skinny: Now we’re into our first so-what month. The Golf Club 2019 is a current-year sports title that Metacritics 80, but if you’re not into golf, it adds little value to this subpar lineup. Also, hope you dig Earth Defense Force because you’re about to see a lot more of it.

NHL 19 - Alexander Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup

NHL 19
Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts

June

  • Earth Defense Force 2017
  • NHL 19 (Xbox One only)
  • Portal: Still Alive
  • Rivals of Aether (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 78

Average age: 6 years, 5 months

Total value: $104.96

Skinny: Microsoft went to E3 touting the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate bundle and sent a decent foursome to help their sales pitch. NHL 19 is a current-year sports title that aggregated an 82, offered right as the Stanley Cup Finals are capturing attention. Portal: Still Alive may be more than a decade old, but that speaks for itself. Dan Fornace’s Rivals of Aether is an indie fighting game that didn’t get enough reviews to pull a Metascore, although those who did look at it liked what they saw. We used the user score for our analysis here.

a robot shines a single eyebeam light in the darkness of a warehouse

Inside
Image: Playdead

July

  • Big Crown: Showdown (Xbox One only)
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Inside (Xbox One only)
  • Meet the Robinsons

Average Metacritic score: 77.5

Average age: 7 years, 1 month

Total value: $62.96

Skinny: July is typically a weak month, but here it’s carried by the high quality puzzle game Inside, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (showing up here seven years after it did for PlayStation Plus subscribers). Meet the Robinsons begins an unfortunate trend of decade-old shovelware adaptations of Disney animated movies. There will be two more by the end of the year.

Forza Motorsport 6 Apex

Forza Motorsport 6
Image: Turn 10 Studios/Microsoft Game Studios

August

  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
  • Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One only)
  • Gears of War 4 (Xbox One only)
  • Torchlight

Average Metacritic score: 83.75

Average age: 6 years

Total value: $163.97

Skinny: Although this is the best month for Metacritic and for dollar value, there are some qualifiers. First, Microsoft inflated Forza 6’s MSRP to $99, owing to some DLC thrown in with the base game. Secondly, Microsoft routinely lists one of its Forza titles in Games With Gold the month before removing it from sale entirely (Forza 6 came out in 2015). Gears of War 4 is a good get, but it’s also Microsoft-published and available in the Xbox Game Pass library, meaning Microsoft gave up very little in this bargain.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2
Image: Bandai Namco

September

  • Earth Defense Force 2025
  • Hitman: The Complete First Season (Xbox One only)
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2
  • We Were Here (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 74.75

Average age: 4 years, 1 day

Total value: $114.96

Skinny: We Were Here was the only game to launch on Games With Gold in 2019, something that used to happen more frequently. Hitman: The Complete First Season is a good get but if you also have a PS4 and PS Plus, you got it in February.

Tembo the Badass Elephant review tweaked image

Tembo the Badass Elephant
Image: Game Freak/Sega

October

  • Disney’s Bolt
  • Friday the 13th: The Game (Xbox One only)
  • Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
  • Tembo the Badass Elephant (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 62.5

Average age: 6 years

Total value: $74.96

Skinny: A terrible month starts Games With Gold’s limp to the finish line. Not only is Friday the 13th a bad game (Metacritic 53), a lawsuit forced it to cancel all plans for DLC and free updates in the summer of 2018. It was also handed out on PlayStation Plus in October 2018. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

A Jedi Starfighter attacks a space station floating in a green nebula

Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
Image: Lucasarts

November

  • Joy Ride Turbo
  • Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter (Xbox One only)
  • Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
  • The Final Station (Xbox One only)

Average Metacritic score: 70.25

Average age: 7 years, 10 months

Total value: $89.96

Skinny: Joy Ride Turbo is basically a reconditioned version of a Kinect (1.0) kart racer. LucasArts makes a curtain call with another OG Xbox Star Wars game.

A T-Rex lets out a powerful roar somewhere inside Jurassic Park

Jurassic World Evolution
Image: Frontier Developments/Universal

December

  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate HD
  • Insane Robots (Xbox One only)
  • Jurassic World Evolution (Xbox One only)
  • Toy Story 3

Average Metacritic score: 78

Average age: 4 years, 7 months

Total value: $94.96

Skinny: Jurassic World Evolution got a middling Metascore, but the zoo-tycoon-meets-dinos concept (in the hands of a studio that does tycoon sims well) and the license are enough to give it a strong player base (on PC, anyway). Otherwise, Microsoft goes back to the Konami well — hell, back to the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow well — one more time to end the year.

Lara Croft

Image: Crystal Dynamics/Square Enix

Wrapping it up

Despite a strong start, and even considering the reduced catalog of PlayStation Plus, which was also loaded with first-party titles, it’s hard to say Xbox Live Games With Gold had a better year than its rival. Games With Gold can and does do backward compatibility where PlayStation Plus does not, but that also means a lot of the library’s name recognition comes from decade-old titles that don’t cost much, if anything, on the marketplace.

Games With Gold has been showing its age for a while, and simply seems cannibalized by the better value offered in an Xbox Game Pass subscription, which can now be added onto a Gold subscription for $5 more a month. Microsoft recently pulled the door shut on its backward compatibility program for OG Xbox and Xbox 360, and it’s hard to think Games With Gold also survives into whatever subscription will support the Xbox Series X when that launches next year. Although all three preceding console generations will be supported within Series X, all signs point to Microsoft opening that firehose of content with Game Pass.

2013, after all, is six years ago, which is a geological era in this industry. This may be the penultimate year we do one of these things. If so, let’s hope the series can rally in 2020 with some greatest hits to remind us of the most fun we had on the past two console generations.

Io Interactive/Square Enix

By the Numbers

Average score: 75

Average price: $24.93

Average age: 5 years, 11 months

Highest average Metacritic month: August (83.75) with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (83), Forza Motorsport 6 (87), Gears of War 4 (84) and Torchlight (81).

Highest dollar value month: Also August ($163.97) with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow ($9.99), Gears of War 4 ($29.99), Torchlight ($14.99) and Forza Motorsport 6, which Microsoft valued at $99.

Month with newest games on average: September (4 years) with Earth Defense Force 2025 (February 2014), Hitman: The Complete First Season (March 2016), Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (September 2012) and We Were Here, which launched the day it was available on Xbox Games With Gold.

Lowest average Metacritic month: October (62.5) with Disney’s Bolt (57), Friday the 13th: The Game (53), Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (70) and Tembo the Badass Elephant (70).

Lowest dollar value month: July ($62.96) with Big Crown: Showdown ($12.99), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ($9.99), Inside ($19.99) and Meet the Robinsons ($19.99).

Month with oldest games on average: November (7 years, 10 months) with Joy Ride Turbo (May 2012), Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter (October 2016), The Final Station (March 2016) and Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter (May 2002).

Published by Microsoft: Four titles (Comic Jumper, Forza Motorsport 6, Gears of War 4 and Joy Ride Turbo)

Publisher with the most titles: Konami with six (Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow — Mirror of Fate HD, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Super Bomberman R).

Appeared on Games With Gold earlier: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (January 2014).

Appeared on PlayStation Plus earlier: Far Cry 2 (February 2012), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (May 2012), Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (June 2012), Earth Defense Force 2025 (March 2017), Friday the 13th: The Game (October 2018) and Hitman: The Complete First Season (February 2019).

Total value: $1,196.53

Title screen for Celeste

Image: Matt Makes Games

Platform Averages

Xbox 360: 76.6 Metacritic average, 9 years, 10 months old, $17.49 per title.

Xbox One: 73.4 Metacritic average, 1 year, 11 months old, $32.37 per title.

Highest rated Xbox 360 game: Portal: Still Alive (90).

Highest rated Xbox One game: Celeste (94).

Highest price Xbox 360 game: Earth Defense Force 2025 ($49.99).

Highest price Xbox One game: Forza Motorsport 6 ($99).

Lowest rated Xbox 360 game: Disney’s Bolt (57).

Lowest rated Xbox One game: Friday the 13th: The Game (53)

Lowest price Xbox 360 games: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Star Wars Republic Commando, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Toy Story 3, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, Joy Ride Turbo and Disney’s Bolt ($9.99 each).

Lowest price Xbox One game: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and Marooners ($9.99 each).

Metacritic ranges

90 and up: 3

80 to 89: 16

70 to 79: 13

60 to 69: 13

59 and below: 3

Price ranges:

$40 and up: 7

$30 to $39.99: 5

$25 to $29.99: 3

$20 to $24.99: 0

$15 to $19.99: 12

$10 to $14.99: 10

$5 to $9.99: 10

$4.99 and under: 1