There are plenty of game subscription services out there, but which ones are worth your money and time?
The game industry appears to be following in the footsteps of the movie/TV business. Not only is physical media becoming less dominant as the years go on, but so is the concept of buying games a la carte. Game-subscription services have boomed in popularity in recent years. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, in particular, has shown that the future of gaming may very well be tied to monthly fees rather than $60-$70 games. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best game-subscription services available now.
Many of these services let you download and play games offline just like you would normally, but a few of our picks also have game-streaming services. Nowadays, you don’t have to be in front of your Xbox or PC to play your favorite games; you can stream them directly to the devices you carry around in your pocket all day. And though TV streaming services have become so segmented that subscribing to everything you want costs as much as cable–you know, the thing these services were supposed to replace–game-streaming services are often all-in-one solutions. In fact, the best game-subscription services offer incredible value, saving you money and offering you more than you could possibly play in your free time.
We’ve kept our list of the best game-subscription services to the very best across consoles, PC, and mobile devices. We hope that our thorough looks at each of these subscription services help you make the best decision for your needs. In the coming months, we’ll continue to update this list as services evolve and change. Perhaps we’ll even be able to add new subscription services to this list.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Although this list is in no particular order, if we had to choose one gaming subscription service that is the best overall, it would certainly be Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
At $15 per month (after a $1 30-day trial), Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is roughly the cost of a Netflix subscription. And much like Netflix, Game Pass specializes in variety. With more than 400 games in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate library, there really is a game–and likely many games–for everyone, regardless of which genres you favor.
Part of what makes Xbox Game Pass so great are its day-one releases. Every first-party Microsoft release is available on the service the day the game launches. The rest of 2022 is sparse when it comes to exclusives, but 2023 is absolutely stacked thanks to Forza Motorsport, Starfield, Redfall, Stalker II, and more. Those are some of the most anticipated games of 2023, period, and they will be available from launch day on Game Pass. A wide assortment of third-party games have also launched (and will continue to launch) on Game Pass just this year, including Tunic, Nobody Saves the World, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, and more. Games cost upwards of $70 at launch, but Game Pass lets you dive in without committing a large chunk of money to one game. Day-one releases alone make Game Pass Ultimate worthwhile.
If you’re new to Xbox, Game Pass opens up the door to Microsoft’s back catalog, including Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, the Gears franchise, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and plenty more. On top of that, the service often gets AAA third-party games not that long after launch. Some great examples of this in fairly recent history include Scarlet Nexus, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Back 4 Blood. And thanks to Microsoft’s acquisition of ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda, the catalog includes many hit franchises such as Dishonored, Doom, and Fallout.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes an EA Play membership, which further adds to the library with around 100 games, including Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, many Battlefield games, Dirt, Need for Speed, and older sports titles. When it comes to the brand-new iterations of EA Sports titles, you can try them out for 10 hours to help you make an informed buying decision. You also get discounts on EA games and DLC, including brand-new releases.
The library of games on Game Pass changes throughout each month, with a handful of new additions arriving and another batch of games that leave the service. It’s nearly impossible to play everything that comes to Game Pass, but that’s also what makes it such a delight: There’s always something new to play. Microsoft always gives advance notice on games that are coming and going, and it’s worth noting that you can buy any game in the Game Pass library at a 20% discount if you’re a member. That way if a game you play all the time is leaving the service, you can purchase it for less than retail price.
In addition to having access to games on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, Game Pass Ultimate subscribers also get the PC Game Pass library. Most of the time, these are Xbox Play Anywhere titles, so your progress on Xbox can transfer to PC and vice versa. PC Game Pass occasionally gets exclusives, though. To top it off, the subscription comes with Xbox Cloud Gaming, a streaming service that lets you play a huge chunk of the Game Pass library on the go via the cloud. Xbox Cloud Gaming works with iOS, Android, and PC.
Oh, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate comes with Xbox Live Gold baked in, so you get a few free games each month as well as access to online multiplayer. It’d be nice if you could pay for an annual subscription and get a discount–like most other services on this list–but even at its total yearly cost of $180, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is a bargain.
Xbox Game Pass
Xbox Game Pass (without the Ultimate) grants access to the library (sans EA Play titles), but you won’t be able to play online multiplayer, as it doesn’t come with Xbox Live Gold. Xbox Game Pass is $10 per month. If you really only play Xbox games solo and don’t care about online multiplayer at all, it’s not a bad idea to save $5 a month and opt for regular Game Pass. You can only play Xbox Game Pass titles on Xbox with this subscription, so you’re missing out on PC and Xbox Cloud Gaming. You still, however, get the 20% discount on the library of games, should you choose to buy them before they leave the service.
PC Game Pass
If you’re a PC gamer and don’t own an Xbox, opting for PC Game Pass makes the most sense. For $10 per month, you get a library filled with hundreds of games, including all of the first-party Microsoft games available on PC and a significant number of third-party games that are featured in the Xbox Game Pass library. Since you don’t need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play online multiplayer on PC, this particular tier of Game Pass feels far more complete than the standard Xbox Game Pass. Keep in mind that you don’t get access to cloud gaming with PC Game Pass; you need the Ultimate subscription for that.
We recommend PC Game Pass over any other subscription service that focuses on PC gaming.
Xbox Live Gold
It’s strange to say now, but Xbox Live Gold feels like an afterthought in 2022. Microsoft is focused on Game Pass Ultimate, and that’s really apparent when you see the list of free games that Microsoft gives out each month as part of the Games with Gold program. The freebies have been, let’s say, underwhelming for years now. Historically, Microsoft has given away a pair of Xbox One games and a pair of backwards compatible Xbox 360 (or original Xbox games), but September is the last month for the backwards-compatible freebies. But any Xbox 360 games that you’ve claimed in the past will be yours to keep even if your subscription lapses.
Overall, the main perk here is access to online multiplayer. We only recommend getting an Xbox Live Gold subscription a la carte if you mainly just play a couple of multiplayer games with friends each year, such as Madden, FIFA, GTA Online, Call of Duty, etc. If that describes you, then you’re saving a lot of money by just going with Xbox Live Gold. The subscription costs $60 per year or $10 per month. The monthly plan is twice the price over the same period of time, so don’t go that route unless you only play a game for a couple months per year, such as the new Call of Duty at launch.
It’s worth noting that popular free-to-play games don’t require an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online multiplayer with friends. So if you’re largely interested in Fortnite, Apex Legends, Destiny 2, or Warzone, among others, you can skip Xbox Live Gold altogether.
PlayStation subscription services
Up until recently, PlayStation Plus was essentially PlayStation’s version of Xbox Live Gold. Now, much like Game Pass, there are multiple tiers of PlayStation Plus to choose from for PS5 and PS4 gamers. The new tiers replace Sony’s PlayStation Now service, which offered game streaming and downloads for hundreds of games. Since this tiered model is so new, it’s hard to definitively say whether the higher priced tiers will be as good of a value in the long run as Game Pass. But given what’s available now, we can confidently recommend at least trying them, simply because the library is large enough that you’ll almost certainly be happy for the first year. Let’s break down all three tiers.
PlayStation Plus Essential
PlayStation Plus Essential is the rebranded base tier of the service. The main perk that makes it a must for most PS5 and PS4 owners is access to online multiplayer. The vast majority of games that support online multiplayer on PlayStation require an Essential subscription. However, some popular free-to-play titles such as Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Warzone do not require players to be a PS Plus subscriber.
That said, PlayStation Plus Essential offers better value than Xbox Live Gold. It costs the same at $60/year or $10/month, but PlayStation tends to give away much better games. In 2022 alone, PlayStation has given away a bunch of great games, including Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2, Persona 5 Strikers, and God of War. You get three free games each month, but sometimes one of the freebies is only available on PS5.
PlayStation 5 owners also have access to 19 extra PS4 games, including Uncharted 4, Ratchet & Clank, Days Gone, and The Last of Us: Remastered. This provides even more value for Essential subscribers, but you can only play these extra games on PS5–at the PS5’s launch, some players actually got banned for using account-sharing to grant PS4 users access to the games
Though the freebies and online multiplayer are the main selling points, PlayStation also locks cloud saves behind a PS Plus subscription. Cloud saves are a nice perk, because you can easily pick up where you left off on a different PlayStation console. When you upgrade from PS4 to PS5, all you have to do is sign into your PSN account and your saves will be there automatically.
At just $5 per month if you opt for the yearly membership, PlayStation Plus Essential is easy to recommend to all PS5 and PS4 owners.
PlayStation Plus Extra
PlayStation Plus Extra comes with all of the perks of an Essential subscription as well as a library consisting of more than 300 PS4 games to download and play whenever you want. PS5 versions of some games are sprinkled in here and there, but it’s mainly PS4 titles. The library includes some heralded exclusives such as the Director’s Cuts for Ghost of Tsushima and Death Stranding as well as Marvel’s Spider-Man. You also get plenty of third-party games, including AAA titles from major publishers: Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Fallout, and Final Fantasy are just a few of the notable franchises represented in the PS Plus Extra library.
PlayStation Plus Extra costs $15 per month or $100 for a 12-month membership. So, is it worth the cost?
Right now, yes. The service is only a few months old at this point, and the initial library of games is certainly strong. But there are a couple of key things to consider when deciding whether to keep the Extra membership for the long haul. PlayStation is not launching its exclusive games on the service on day one, and so far the actual PS Plus Extra launch games has been practically nonexistent, except for the adorable cat simulator Stray.
PlayStation has been adding games to the service each month, though. August has brought multiple Yakuza games, with more to come to round out the franchise. Last month, a bunch of Assassin’s Creed games landed in the library alongside Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Marvel’s Avengers. And in September subscribers will be able to download another handful of games, including Deathloop and Chicory: A Colorful Tale, two of the best games from last year.
PlayStation Plus Extra has a ton of potential, but you may have to be fine with not getting many day-one releases on the service. If you’re new to PlayStation, we’d highly recommend subscribing to at least the Extra tier. And you should perhaps even consider…
PlayStation Plus Premium
PlayStation Plus Premium is the priciest tier to subscribe to at $18/month or $120/year. But, naturally, it has the most content. PS Plus Premium unlocks the Classics library, PS3 games, and game streaming on console and PC.
All told, you practically double the PS Plus library by going with Premium over Extra. Out of the hundreds of games in the Premium library, the majority are PS3 games. Because of the convoluted PS3 architecture, you can’t download PS3 games on your PS5 or PS4. Instead, you have to stream them. If you have a solid internet connection, PS3 game streaming works incredibly well. The library of PS3 games is quite impressive, too, with Red Dead Redemption, God of War, Resident Evil. Ratchet & Clank, and many more hit franchises represented. The PS3 library is essentially the same as the now-defunct PlayStation Now service.
The Classics library, which includes remasters as well as PS2, PS1, and PSP games, is a bit sparse at the moment–especially on the PS2 and PSP side–but it also has potential. What’s unclear at this time is how often PlayStation will add to the Classics library, as it has largely gone untouched since the service launched.
You can gain access to game streaming on PlayStation and PC for select PS4 games in the Extra/Premium catalog. This can be helpful if you’re traveling or if you don’t want to take up space on your hard drive to simply try a game. PS4 game streaming works every bit as well as PS3–as long as you have a stable high-speed internet connection.
Considering it’s only a couple bucks more than PS Plus Extra, we think it offers a better value overall. Premium considerably adds to the library to make it the most plentiful library on this list. There are concerns about the Classics library remaining stagnant, but we’d recommend checking it out at least for a month or two to see if you wind up enjoying the nostalgia factor.