Overwatch 2 breathes new life into Blizzard's stagnant hero shooter

Overwatch desperately needed change, and Blizzard delivered.

When Blizzard’s ambitious 6v6 hero shooter Overwatch released back in 2016, I instantly fell in love. Its stylish visuals and wide variety of unique and charming characters drew me in, and I regularly played the game for two years as Blizzard added maps, game modes, quality-of-life features, and heroes.

However, Overwatch’s gameplay direction started taking a controversial turn starting in 2018 with the release of suppor tank Brigitte. For example, the game became driven by abilities that could stun enemies, and while these were always a part of Overwatch, the fact that almost every hero added after launch had one or more of these moves meant that they were a constant nuisance.

On top of that, many tank combinations became annoying to play against since they could work together to clog up Overwatch’s maps with barriers and other damage mitigation abilities. These developments resulted in slow, sluggish matches that mostly consisted of trying to break tank shields and seeing which team could spam crowd control more effectively. The game became stagnant and bland, and as time passed, it was clear that something needed to change.

Last year, Blizzard confirmed that to address these issues, Overwatch 2 — an upcoming massive overhaul for Overwatch with radical balance changes, new visuals, an optional paid PvE campaign, and more — would be moving to a 5v5 format with one less tank hero on each team, accompanied by a widespread reduction of crowd control moves. At the time, I wrote about why I felt this was a good move, and now that I’ve had a chance to play the Overwatch 2 beta, I stand by it. The beta’s implementation of these changes, as well as new additions like the Push game mode and the new hero Sojourn, has me excited about Overwatch’s future.

The gameplay evolution Overwatch needed

Overwatch combat in the 5v5 era.

What has stuck out to me the most about the Overwatch 2 beta is how liberating it feels. With one less tank on each team, there’s much more space on the map for both teams to take advantage of while jockeying for positioning or attempting to flank, resulting in combat feeling more fluid and dynamic. Blizzard has also significantly reduced the number and potency of stun abilities, which makes the game much less frustrating to play in general. Whereas the original Overwatch has become a repetitive, grueling war of shield and crowd control attrition, the moment-to-moment gameplay of Overwatch 2 is full of energy and excitement.

Overwatch 2’s changes make combat more fluid and dynamic than ever before.

You may think tank players have been left out to dry with the move to 5v5, but as a tank main, I actually think the role is more fun than ever. Blizzard has buffed or reworked most of the game’s tanks with additional health and longer ability uptimes, making them more individually powerful than they ever were in the original Overwatch. Tanks now globally resist incoming knockbacks and charge enemy Ultimates less when damaged as well, ensuring that players won’t be displaced or act as an “ult battery” when playing the role. Damage and support heroes get a special role passive effect, too. Damage heroes move slightly faster than other characters, while support heroes can auto-heal after not being damaged for a few seconds.

Like tanks, damage characters also feel more powerful now that there’s only one tank that can mitigate their damage. The speed boost from the damage passive makes flanking or getting to high ground much easier, and since there aren’t as many stuns in the game, you can play more aggressively than you could before.

Many of the game’s support heroes are more difficult to play as a result of both this and the absence of a second tank, though many of them are capable of either going toe-to-toe with damage heroes or avoiding much of their damage if you play skillfully. The support role passive also makes it easy to heal up between engagements, preventing enemies from whittling you down over time.

To help several characters remain viable in the new 5v5 format, the developers have rolled out several hero reworks and other large balance adjustments in Overwatch 2. For example, Bastion can now temporarily roll around like a tank while using their devastating minigun, and Orisa’s defensive shield and “Halt!” displacement ability has been replaced with a javelin that Orisa can throw at opponents or spin rapidly in front of her to nullify damage and push into enemy positions. Brigitte’s Shield Bash, once known as one of Overwatch’s most obnoxious stun abilities, has been transformed into a mobility-focused one that helps her close the distance and initiate fights.

More changes and tweaks are still needed — support heroes in general could use a bit of a buff, and the new Orisa and Doomfist are pretty busted — but in general, Blizzard has done an excellent job of moving Overwatch to the new format.

Push might be Overwatch’s best mode yet

Two teams battle over the objective-pushing robot in Push.

Overwatch 2’s premier new game mode is Push, which has both teams fight over a large payload-like robot that pushes an objective barrier into enemy territory whenever your team controls it. To win a Push match, your team needs to push the objective farther into enemy territory than the other team pushes into yours (you also win automatically if you push the objective all the way to your opponent’s home base). If you’ve ever played Team Fortress 2, it’s a lot like the Payload Race mode.

After playing it for several hours during the beta, it’s possible that this might be my new favorite mode. The constant back-and-forth of switching between offense and defense as control of the robot changes complements the dynamic nature of Overwatch 2’s 5v5 gameplay. On top of that, the two Push maps included in the beta are well-balanced and accommodate all playstyles well with plenty of high ground, open sightlines, tight close-quarter areas, and flank routes. The giant robot that pushes the objective is adorable and charming, too, breaking up the intensity of the game mode with its exaggerated animations and humorous voice lines. I’m looking forward to playing it more as the beta continues.

A satisfying presentation overhaul

Sombra, like all of Overwatch’s heroes, has a new look in Overwatch 2.

The Overwatch 2 beta also gives fans a taste of the visual and audio improvements coming with the full release. While Overwatch’s graphics have aged well since its 2016 release thanks to its stylized art direction, the sharper textures and vibrant lighting effects added in Overwatch 2 help elevate the game to modern standards. You shouldn’t expect to have your mind blown, but the upgrade is nevertheless appreciated.

Even more impressive than Overwatch 2’s visual enhancements is its updated sound design. Everything still sounds like the Overwatch that fans know and love, but hero weapons and abilities have punchier sound and all audio across the board has more realistic echo and reverb effects. These changes make each hero’s arsenal more satisfying to use, enhancing the already-potent power fantasy that Overwatch’s heroes are known for.

The Overwatch HUD (left) and the Overwatch 2 HUD (right).

Overwatch 2 also introduces a ping system, allowing players to quickly flag enemy locations or ask their teammates to group up, attack, or defend at a specific location. This communication option is fantastic for situations where the voice chat is cluttered with other callouts, and it’s also valuable for players that aren’t comfortable with using a microphone.

The UI and HUD have also been given a minimalist visual overhaul that I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, I understand the desire to make things as readable as possible, especially since this is a competitive shooter. On the other, the original Overwatch UI didn’t need many improvements. If it ain’t broke, Blizzard, why fix it?

With that said, there are some elements I appreciate about the new HUD, such as an indicator that shows which hero you’re healing while playing Mercy or Reinhardt’s shield health indicator being moved towards the center of the screen. Since Overwatch 2 is in beta, it’s also possible that Blizzard plans to add more style to the UI and HUD at a later date.

Final thoughts

I’ll admit that I had my doubts when Blizzard announced Overwatch 2, but after playing the beta, I’m convinced that the developers are moving in the right direction with Overwatch. This is the most excited I’ve been for the game in several years, and between its excellent new 5v5 format, fantastic Push mode, and snazzy visual, audio, and UI improvements, Overwatch 2 truly feels like a new game in some ways. I strongly recommend downloading the Overwatch 2 beta and giving it a try yourself (you’ll need a copy of the original game).

There’s still work that needs to be done. A handful of the heroes Blizzard hasn’t tweaked or reworked yet feel awkward in the 5v5 format, and I wish the UI and HUD had some more style. With that said, Overwatch 2 has made a terrific first impression, and I wholeheartedly believe that Overwatch has the potential become one of the best Xbox shooters again with this new direction.

Get the game


$40 at Best Buy (PC)
$40 at Amazon (Xbox)
$60 at Xbox Store (Xbox)

The cavalry’s here!

Overwatch is a competitive team-based shooter set in a futuristic world of cybernetics and robotics. All of your progress and cosmetics from Overwatch will carry forward into Overwatch 2, and you’ll also need the game to be able to play the Overwatch 2 beta.

Overwatch 2 breathes new life into Blizzard's stagnant hero shooter

Xbox and PC recap: World of Warcraft expansions and a showcase announced

A look back at a Blizzard-packed month.

Hello all, and welcome to the Xbox and PC recap for April 2022. This was a good month for gaming news across both platforms, with some really big reveals and particularly important updates on a few different projects, both from within Xbox itself and outside. We’ve got some big things to look forward to in the not too distant future.

A cold front came through gaming with some massive Blizzard Entertainment news across the past month. It also seems that Xbox console sales are doing extremely well, while a couple of big games have roadmaps, though the things players truly want may be months away. Let’s dive in.

Max Payne is back!

In an announcement I never thought would happen, Rockstar Games and Remedy Games have agreed to a stunning proposal. Remedy Games is working on remakes of the first two Max Payne titles, which will use Remedy’s Northlight engine and will be bundled into one game. The entire thing is being bankrolled by Rockstar Games, which will act as publisher on the project.

I’m a huge fan of most of Remedy’s work, and Max Payne is no exception. I thought there was a chance we’d get Alan Wake 2, however slight, but Max Payne? After Remedy sold the IP, I thought it would never see the light of day again. I’m sure it’ll be a couple of years at minimum before something comes of this, but it’s exciting all the same. When this launches, it could easily be one of the best Xbox games available.

There’s only one question: Will Max still have Sam Lake’s face?

Blizzard reveals World of Warcraft: Dragonflight and the return of the Lich King

Blizzard Entertainment officially revealed the next expansion for World of Warcraft, called World of Warcraft: Dragonflight, which takes place in a massive new area called the Dragon Isles. The story is supposed to be more grounded and focuses on the Dragon Aspects returning, including the ever-iconic Alextraza, queen of dragons. A new race called the Dracthyr are being introduced, with exclusive access to the Evoker Class. We don’t have a release date yet, however.

If that isn’t enough World of Warcraft for you, then Classic players will also be happy. Wrath of the Lich King Classic has also been announced. There is also no release date here, but it’s confirmed to be coming later this year.

While I don’t play World of Warcraft, I have to say I haven’t been tempted like I have with Dragonflight for a long time. If this expansion is really special, it feels like it’ll be the shot in the arm the long-running game needs. Continuing to appease fans with the release of classic modules is also a smart call.

Diablo Immortal is headed to PC

Not content to stop there with news for the month, Blizzard Entertainment also shared that Diablo Immortal is now set to release on June 2, 2022. Oh, and it’s coming to PC.

Mike Ybarra, head of Blizzard Entertainment, shared that the reason the team decided to do this is that since Windows 11 supports Android emulation, the developers decided to just go ahead and support the game properly. Bear in mind that this is still a mobile game first so some things may not be perfect. Regardless, it’s entering beta for PC on June 2, so you can try it out then.

Personally, I definitely see this as the right call. Cross-play and cross-progression means more players are sharing their experiences together. Plus, it’ll likely hold a lot of us over until we get Diablo 4.

Halo Infinite roadmap for 2022 is quite detailed

We (finally) have a roadmap for Halo Infinite. The good news is that Forge is launching in full open beta in September. There’s also finally a target for network campaign co-op, with a proposed August 2022 release. Less good is how Season 2 will also be extended, so Season 3 is coming in November 2022.

I’m not mad about this like many people are, but it’s definitely discouraging that (as best we can tell) we won’t get more maps post-Season 2 until what’ll be close to the first anniversary of the game. 343 Industries continues to focus first on the health of the team, which I applaud, but hopefully bringing in Certain Affinity is just one of many steps being taken to get additional content out soon.

Xbox console sales look strong

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are continuing to sell well, with serious momentum in the first quarter of 2022. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella confirmed during the company’s earnings call that Xbox is gaining market share among current-generation consoles in the U.S, Canada, U.K, and Western Europe. Additionally, the Xbox Series X|S were the best-selling consoles in dollar sales in March 2022 NPD, while they were number two in units sold.

Things are still early, but the Xbox brand is just all-around in a healthier place compared to the Xbox generation. With big games coming up in the future, stock will remain the main issue for both Microsoft and Sony with the PlayStation 5.

Activision Blizzard continues

A lot of things happened with Activision Blizzard in April, so we’re going to do some very quick hits. Activision Blizzard shareholders approved Microsoft’s acquisition bid, with over 98% of the votes saying “yes,” clearly indicating investors want to sell. While this was an obvious result, it’s the first big step of the acquisition cleared. Now, Microsoft has to complete regulatory review.

Remaster and remake expert studio Vicarious Visions has officially been merged into Blizzard Entertainment, becoming Blizzard Albany.

Raven Software QA employees have also been approved to vote for a union. If the vote goes through, this will be the first unionized group of developers at a studio in a major U.S. publisher. We expect others to follow if this goes through.

The Xbox and Bethesda Showcase is together again

Just before April ended, Microsoft shared some expected yet big news. Yes, a showcase is being held in June 2022. E3 2022 may not be happening, but Microsoft isn’t going to break tradition. The branding of 2021 returns, with this officially being called the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase. It’ll be held on June 12, 2022, at 10:00 A.m. PT / 1:00 p.m. ET.

It’s safe to say that Starfield and Redfall from Bethesda Game Studios and Arkane Austin are guaranteed to be present. I won’t speculate on much else yet, but I am excited to see both of those games. I’ve had a rough couple of years and the idea of game focused on hope and space exploration sounds very appealing. On the other hand, vampires are just cool and Arkane has an amazing track record.

Immortal Empires is coming to Warhammer 3 this year…kinda

Roadmap… there’s that word again. Creative Assembly shared a roadmap for Total War: Warhammer 3 to close out April, detailing when players can expect to get DLC, various updates, and most notably, Immortal Empires. This mega-update, which combines all three games and all the DLC into one massive battleground, is launching in beta form, which is probably a smart call to ensure bugs can be fixed.

On a personal note, I’m a little disappointed we’ll left waiting months for blood DLC and the first DLC pack, but as with 343 Industries above, I understand that real-world challenges remain in play, and it’s good to at least have an idea of what to expect.

No calm before the storm

We live in an age of constant news. Things are picking up, and while May may not deliver the actual showcases, who knows what is going to be announced as companies get their gaming ducks in a row. Personally, I want some free time so I can finally get back to playing Weird West. Until next time!

— Samuel Tolbert

Xbox and PC recap: World of Warcraft expansions and a showcase announced

Poll: Do you like the radical redesign of the XPS 13 Plus?

Dell made some big changes with the XPS 13 Plus, and we’d like to know if you think they paid off.

Dell’s XPS 13 has been one of the best Windows laptops for quite some time. Each year, Dell refreshes the device with new internals and a progressively improved design. Usually, we see iterative improvements and smaller refinements that result in a well-reviewed laptop.

Dell took a different approach with the XPS 13 Plus. The company made radical changes, but rather than introduce them to the well-received XPS 13 lineup, it created a Plus variant of the device.

The XPS 13 Plus looks a bit like if you took a time machine and checked out an XPS 13 from 2025. It has a seamless glass haptic trackpad, a zero-lattice keyboard, and a row of light-up function keys that can swap over to multimedia buttons.

We want to know if you like the radical redesign of the XPS 13 Plus or if you prefer the more traditional look of the XPS 13.

Do you like the radically redesigned XPS 13 Plus?

The touchpad of the XPS 13 Plus has caused quite a bit of controversy. Some argue that since the device has no visible indicators of where the trackpad is, people won’t know where to place their hands. Others counter that sentiment by highlighting that many modern touchpads don’t have lines or icons for left and right-click and that people seem to use those without issue.

The LED function keys have also drawn criticism, with comparisons being made to Apple’s Touch Bar. Those aren’t exactly fair, however, since the function row of the XPS 13 Plus isn’t dynamic. It isn’t trying to adapt to different apps, and it doesn’t require a separate processor like the Touch Bar did. Instead, users can toggle between F keys and media keys.

The keyboard design of the XPS 13 Plus also allows the laptop to dissipate heat more efficiently. Even with that benefit, some would prefer a traditional row of function keys.

Pitting the XPS 13 Plus vs. the XPS 13 is a trendy topic right now, and we’d like to know which side of the aisle you fall on. Let us know in the poll above and explain your reasoning in the comments below.

Poll: Do you like the radical redesign of the XPS 13 Plus?

Nostalgia blast: Audacity and PuTTY land in the Microsoft Store

Microsoft’s new store policies attract more “classic” apps for Windows 10 and Windows 11.

What you need to know

Official PuTTY and Audacity apps are now in the Microsoft Store.
The new listings are part of the revitalization and new policies Microsoft made for Windows 11 (and now Windows 10).
The apps join Firefox, Opera, Epic Games, Discord, Zoom, and others.

The new Microsoft Store for Windows 11 (and now Windows 10, too) brought with it newly relaxed policies that let older “classic” apps to be listed without adopting any new Microsoft technology like installers. The effort is to woo developers to place their apps on the store with the hopes that, down the line, they will slowly begin to use more modern tools to give a better consumer experience.

Starting today, two very old school and still wildly popular apps are now available in the Store: Audacity and PuTTY (via @kid_jenius).

The new-old apps join other big titles first announced with Windows 11, including Zoom, Epic Games, Firefox, Opera, Discord, Disney+, TikTok, Adobe Creative Cloud Express, Canva, and WinZip, in addition to already existing applications like iTunes, iCloud, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

Audacity is a well-known, free, easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recording tool. Coming out originally in 2000, the open-source app has been downloaded over 200 million times since. The app is quite relevant in 2022 and is likely to be a go-to solution for those who want familiarity with easy-to-use audio editing options (Fun fact: Back in the early 2010s, our podcast was edited by me in Audacity).

The next app is also a legend: PuTTY. PuTTY is another free and open-source project and acts as a terminal emulator, serial console, and network file transfer application. According to Wikipedia, “PuTTY” has no official meaning despite its unique capitalization. Like Audacity, it was developed in the late 1990s and was available to download in 2000 – apparently a great year for free software.

Anyway, both are now available, and we can’t wait to see what other age-old goodies show up.

For more on the story behind Microsoft’s new store for Windows 11, including design goals and features, check out my interview with Giorgio Sardo, the General Manager of the new Microsoft Store.


Free at Microsoft

PuTTY is a communications tool for running interactive command-line sessions on other computers, usually via the SSH protocol. It can also communicate over a serial port, or speak various legacy Internet protocols such as Telnet.


Free at Microsoft

Audacity is an easy-to-use, multi-track audio editor and recording tool. It is free, open-source software that has been developed by a dedicated community since 1999.

Nostalgia blast: Audacity and PuTTY land in the Microsoft Store

Here's what's coming with Xbox Games with Gold May 2022

A new month means more games to grab.

What you need to know

Microsoft shared the May 2022 Games with Gold.
Games with Gold brings four games every month for Xbox Live Gold subscribers.
Games with Gold titles are regularly criticized for being much older or irrelevant titles.

Every month, Microsoft shares four new games that are added to Xbox Games with Gold, a monthly drop of games for anyone subscribed to Xbox Live Gold or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

With Xbox Live Gold, which is included with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, players continue to get four new games every month. The games are often seen as weaker titles when compared to what’s included in the growing Xbox Game Pass library. As shared on Xbox Wire, here’s the four games coming in May 2022:

Yoku’s Island Express: Available May 1 to 31
The Inner World – The Last Wind Monk: Available May 16 to June 15
Hydro Thunder Hurricane: Available May 1 to 15
Viva Piñata Party Animals: Available May 16 to 31

If you have an active membership, you’ll want to grab your games during the window of time mentioned above for each particular game.

Xbox Game Pass, which is also bundled into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, is by contrast widely seen as a must-own for Xbox players. In addition to a library of third-party titles, Xbox Game Pass gets day one titles from Xbox Game Studios and Bethesda Softworks. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes PC Game Pass, EA Play, and Xbox Cloud Gaming, making it the best option for anyone interested in getting every gaming subscription possible across the Xbox ecosystem.

Best of all worlds

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate 3 Month Subscription

$45 at Microsoft
$45 at Amazon

Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold in one

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate gives players access to all new Xbox first-party games, in addition to a library of other titles, including access to PC Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold and PC Game Pass.

Here's what's coming with Xbox Games with Gold May 2022

Get the BEST Xbox games for your kids right here!

Xbox makes no exceptions when it comes to gaming for all ages!

The Xbox has an extensive library of games that can satisfy gamers of all ages. These include AAA blockbuster adventures or charming little indie darlings that can teach us meaningful life lessons. And if a child somehow comes across a violent title without your notice, you can use the Xbox’s parental controls to protect them. However, since there are so many video games to choose from it can be difficult as a parent to determine which game is right for your kid. But don’t worry, we’re here to help.

We have rounded up all the best Xbox games you can buy for kids of any age in 2022. While most of our picks cater to younger children, we have included some titles for the older kids. These are family-friendly joyrides that prove that video games can be made for everyone. Here are the best kids games for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Best Xbox kids games:

1. Minecraft
2. Minecraft Dungeons
3. Kingdom Hearts III
4. Spyro Reignited Trilogy
5. Sonic Mania Plus
6. Stardew Valley
7. New Super Lucky’s Tale
8. Slime Rancher
9. Unravel Two
10. Roblox
11. The Gunk
12. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

1. Minecraft

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Android

Who would’ve thought this humble, charming game about building blocks by Mojang Games would become one of the biggest video game franchises on the planet? Minecraft is a 3D survival game where you can do whatever you want, thanks to this game’s procedurally generated maps.

You can craft weapons and armor to fight your way through the Nether and slay the Nether Dragon in survival mode. Or you can kick back and relax in passive creative mode to build whatever your mind can conjure up. Towns, castles, mountains, monuments, you name it, you can create it. The sky is the literal limit.


In-depth crafting system
Huge, charming world to explore
Memorable monsters to fight
Cross-platform and multiplayer support


Steep learning curve for beginners

Minecraft (Xbox)

$30 at Microsoft

Minecraft leans heavily on exploration, team play, cooperation, and Lego-like creativity. Kids will find the emergent gameplay exciting, resulting from the game’s procedurally generated maps. If survival mode is too stressful, Minecraft also has a passive creative mode to let your imagination really come to life and an educational mode that teaches chemistry!

2. Minecraft Dungeons

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Android

Minecraft Dungeons is an unexpected, action RPG take on the Minecraft universe. Shifting the focus from peaceful crafting and building to dungeon crawling for powerful loot and stopping the evil Arch-Illager from conquering the world.

While Minecraft Dungeons takes inspiration from popular dungeon crawlers like Diablo, it manages to stand on its own merits with great presentation, polished combat, and a character development system that will keep you and your kids busy for hours.


Endlessly satisfying, polished combat
Great performance and optimization
Tons of possible gear combinations
Great art and music
Great price


Some minor bugs in the PC client, with disconnects and memory drain
Barebones story treatment is a missed opportunity

Minecraft Dungeons (Xbox)

$20 at Microsoft

Minecraft is a legendary franchise loved by millions worldwide, and it’s already begun spawning off other titles ideal for family play. Minecraft Dungeons takes the popular building sim and condenses the experience into 1-4 player action combat scenarios, with scaling difficulty for everybody from the youngest to more skilled older teens. Minecraft Dungeons also now features crossplay between Xbox and Nintendo Switch!

3. Kingdom Hearts III

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

The Kingdom Hearts series is a wild and epic crossover that combines the worlds of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series with that Disney’s most popular movie franchises. These games have you assume the role of Sora, a young boy that has been gifted with a magical weapon called the Keyblade. With this weapon and aid from Donald and Goofy, Sora travels to each of the Disney Worlds and defends them from the wrath of evil creatures known as the Heartless.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is the epic conclusion to a storyline that has been in the making for over a decade across the entire franchise. The staple hack-and-slash gameplay has been refined and improved to extraordinary levels — allowing players to pull off attacks that are a grand spectacle to behold. And the game is complemented with an extensive roster of Heartless monsters and classic Disney villains.

If you and your kid are Disney fans, you will love the representation of the Disney worlds on display, from classic worlds such as Hercules, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Toy Story to modern Disney favorites like Tangled, Big Hero 6, and Frozen. Each world is so well designed and faithful to the source material — it makes you feel that you jumped into your TV screen and became part of your favorite Disney movies.


Streamlined combat that is easy to learn for beginners
Lots of Disney and Final Fantasy references
Excellent music and vibrant visuals


The plot can be confusing to follow, especially if you haven’t played the previous games
Cutscenes can drag on for a bit too long

Kingdom Hearts III (Xbox)

From $17 at Amazon

Kingdom Hearts III is an epic brand mashup from Disney and Square Enix, combining the worlds of Final Fantasy and some of Disney’s biggest franchises. Teaming up with Donald Duck and Goofy, Sora battles across various Disney worlds, meeting some of the company’s most famous characters.

4. Spyro Reignited Trilogy

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

Spyro the Dragon was a series of 3D platformers that debuted back on the original PlayStation. They were fun adventures filled with memorable characters, brain-teasing puzzles, and vibrant, magical locales that were a delight to explore.

Many years later, a new generation would get to experience Spyro’s adventures with a fresh new coat of scales in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy. This collection contains the original PlayStation trilogy of Spyro games: Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage, and Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon. But all three games have now received visual HD upgrades, re-recorded voicework, and a redone soundtrack.

The gameplay, however, was left unchanged because it still holds up even after 20 years. If you’re an old fan looking for a nostalgia trip back to the 1990s, or you want a light-hearted romp to introduce your kids to the platforming genre, look no further than the Spyro Reignited Trilogy.


Beautiful art design
Tight platforming gameplay
Fun story
A huge variety of unique levels


Occasional camera issues
Questionable Xbox One X support

Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Xbox)

$40 at Microsoft

The Spyro Reignited Trilogy remasters classic platforming games featuring the eponymous purple dragon, with attitude. Spyro games are full of light-hearted, memorable characters, fun platforming missions, and simple puzzles, and this pack comprises three games, which should hold a youngster’s (and frankly, an adult’s) attention for quite some time.

5. Sonic Mania Plus

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

There was a time when the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise was the hottest series of platformers on the market. The original trilogy of SEGA Genesis Sonic games was so polished and well received that they rivaled the Super Mario Brothers during the height of the ’90s console wars between Nintendo and SEGA. But ever since the Sonic series made the transition to 3D, the quality and focus of the games have radically fluctuated with each new entry.

Fans of the older games had wanted a return to 2D for the blue speed demon because they believe that’s when Sonic was at his best. They would get their wish with Sonic Mania, a Sonic the Hedgehog game that feels like a long-lost sequel to the classic SEGA Genesis Sonic games.

It features everything that made the classic Sonic games great. A gorgeous art style that mimics the 16-bit graphics of the Genesis era. Tons of well-designed and creative levels to blaze a trail through. And challenging boss fights that will surprise even veteran Sonic fans. Not only is this game great for Sonic fans, but it’s also great for kids too. Not to mention this game has a co-op mode where you and your kid can join forces to defeat the evil Dr. Eggman.


A true return to form for Sonic
Excellent and creative levels to race through
Beautiful graphics that mimic the original 16-bit games


The bonus stages can be tough for younger kids
Many gameplay features would benefit from an in-depth tutorial for new players

Sonic Mania Plus (Xbox)

$20 at Microsoft

Sonic was a staple of ’90s video gaming, and while his popularity has declined, Sonic Mania recreates everything great about the original games with some modern flair. Focused on rapid platforming, action gameplay, this is a title that gamers of all ages will be able to appreciate.

6. Stardew Valley

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

If you’re looking for a title that will teach your older kids the values of hard work and resource management while also being fun, give Stardew Valley a try. Stardew Valley is a farming simulator where you play as a farmer who has inherited a farm from your grandfather. It is up to you to restore the farm to its former glory and help the nearby community of Stardew Valley prosper.

This is a laidback and relaxing game where you can cultivate crops, raise cute farm animals, and explore caves filled with treasure and monsters to slay. You can also interact with the nearby town’s locals and help out by selling your crops or doing them a favor. The best part is this game has cooperative multiplayer, so you can help your kid create the best farm in the land.


Open-ended gameplay
Detailed pixel art
Tangible goals
Relationship options


Lack of NPC diversity
Short days

Stardew Valley (Xbox)

$15 at Microsoft

One game that parents and older relatives should look into for older children is Stardew Valley. Stardew Valley is an easy-going RPG with simulation elements. To escape the monotony of his 9-to-5 office life, the main character takes over his grandfather’s derelict farm to reconnect with nature and a sense of community.

7. New Super Lucky’s Tale

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

New Super Lucky’s Tale is an indie platformer that follows the adventures of Lucky Swiftail. He is an optimistic fox on a journey to help his sister Lyra retrieve the Book of Ages from the evil cat wizard, Jinx. If Jinx isn’t stopped, he will use the power of the Book of Ages to reshape the world to his liking.

This is a fun and jovial platformer where you will hop and dig your way through colorful and wacky worlds within the Book of Ages. This journey is jam-packed with addictive gameplay, funny characters, delightful visuals, and hidden collectibles that will keep your kids busy for hours on end.


Gorgeous visuals
Addictive gameplay
Collectibles and secrets that offer lots of replay value
Relationship options


Relatively short length

New Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox)

$30 at Microsoft

New Super Lucky’s Tale is a 3D platformer featuring Lucky, a charming young fox on a mission to save his world. Players will explore a vibrant, colorful world full of intriguing characters, light puzzles, and collection mechanics as you attempt to thwart the nefarious Jinx.

8. Slime Rancher

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Ever wanted to raise a farm of adorable slimes? Have your kids try out the light-hearted, sci-fi farming simulator, Slime Rancher. In this game, you play as Beatrix LeBeau, a young rancher who ventures off into space to start her own farm on the “Far, Far Range.” With her trusty vacpac, you will help Beatrix explore wild, untamed lands and gather resources to build your ranch where you will raise your slimes.

Slime Rancher is an incredibly adorable farming simulator that will teach your kid resource management skills while putting a big smile on their face. With Slime Rancher 2 on the horizon, now is the perfect time to jump in and learn what it takes to be a Slime Rancher.


Dozens of hours of content
Relaxing and fun simulation experience
Rewarding exploration
Cute slimes


Lacks decent “endgame” content
Unengaging story

Slime Rancher (Xbox)

$27 at Amazon

Slime Rancher is a super cute farming simulation game with an edge of sci-fi fun. In Slime Rancher, your job is to cultivate a slime farm in outer space. You grow specific foods to meet the needs of specific slimes, explore large alien sandboxes, discover new cute slimes to wrangle back to your customizable farm, all while trying to turn a profit. Slime Rancher is a fun and light game for players of all ages.

9. Unravel Two

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

Unravel Two is a whimsical and heart-warming platformer where you play as living creatures made of string called Yarnys. On this adventure, you have been separated from your owner after a terrible storm. With the help of another Yarny, you two will work together to solve puzzles and traverse precarious obstacles to find your way back home.

While this game has a strong singleplayer campaign, Unravel Two is best experienced playing with your kid in its split-screen co-op mode. In this mode, you and your child can experience the engaging gameplay and a stunning presentation of this larger-than-life world together.


Strong gameplay
Amazing level design
Excellent presentation


Bizarre lack of online co-op
The story feels really short

Unravel Two

$20 at Microsoft

Unravel Two tells the heart-warming tale of Yarny, a creature made entirely of string. In this adventure, you must guide multiple Yarny characters on a quest through dangerous lands. Using your string-bound body as a tool, Yarny can swing from trees, pull objects, and even hitch a ride on the wind in this completely non-violent game, in singleplayer or 2-player local co-op.

10. Roblox

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

Roblox is a creative platform developed and published by the Roblox Corporation that allows gamers to craft their own video games. Create your personal avatar and set yourself loose in a giant virtual playground filled with millions of players around the world to hang out and play with.

What kind of games can you create in Roblox? Anything your mind can come up with. Such fine examples include Jailbreak, an action game where you can either play as criminals escaping prison or police officers trying to arrest the escapees. There’s also Theme Park Tycoon 2, a theme park building simulator where you can construct your own amusement park for your friends to have fun in. And there’s Adopt Me, a social roleplay game where you build a house, raise adorable pets, or go camping and partying with your pals.

These are only a few out of hundreds of games you can create and play in Roblox. If your kid’s not the creative type, they can still play enjoy the games created by the community, and chat with their friends. This game also features extensive parental settings that can determine what games are suitable for your child to play and with whom they are allowed to socialize.


Create and play your own games or games created by others
A large, passionate, and positive community of players
Numerous parental settings that can safeguard your children


Younger children may need parental guidance when navigating menus and certain games


Free at Microsoft

Roblox is a creative platform that grants gamers the ability to create their own games and chat with their friends in a massive online playground. Roblox features hundreds of games from all sorts of genres that you and your child can have fun with. Play cops and robbers with Jailbreak, build a theme park in Theme Park Tycoon 2, or adopt and care for pets in Adopt Me, and so much more.

11. The Gunk

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC

The Gunk is an action-adventure platformer where you play as a young spacefarer named Rani. Along with her partner, Beck, they travel the universe together to find valuable resources that can help them survive. One day, they come across a planet containing tons of resources, but it is infested with a parasite sludge called “Gunk” that is ruining the ecosystem and killing off all life on the planet. Armed with your prosthetic hand that can suck up the Gunk, it’s up to you to save this world and discover the origins of this mysterious substance.

This game is a wonderful indie adventure filled with brain-teasing puzzles and gorgeous environments that truly shine once you clean up the Gunk infesting them. The story is also a big selling point as it features endearing characters and an engaging plot that teaches important life lessons about caring for your world.

Disclaimer: Be warned. Parents should be aware this game contains a few scenes of mild swearing that may be offensive to younger audiences.


Breathtaking alien environments to explore
Intricate and well-designed puzzles to solve
Intriguing narrative and well-written characters


Combat can be too simplistic
Finite options for accessibility

The Gunk

$25 at Microsoft

The Gunk is an action-adventure about two young space explorers down on their luck, hoping to find a planet with valuable resources that can earn them money. They eventually find a world teeming with the resources they need, but it’s under threat of a parasitic goo that is destroying all life on the planet. Arm your prosthetic arm with a vacuum to cleanse the Gunk, solve complex puzzles to uncover upgrades for your arm, and explore ancient ruins that could hold answers to where this mysterious goo came from.

12. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

Available on: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S

The Lego Star Wars games are a series of action-adventure games based on the Star Wars movie franchise. These games have brought joy to Star Wars fans worldwide for their light-hearted and comedic retellings that poke fun at and celebrate the iconic space opera series.

The games’ developer, Traveller’s Tales, continues to uphold the series’ pedigree of quality with its biggest Lego Star Wars game released to date — Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. This game will let you experience all nine mainline Star Wars movies, reimagined with the signature Lego-themed humor that fans have come to love the Lego Star Wars games for.

On top of great writing and humor, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a fantastic game in its own right. It features hundreds of unlockable characters and ships to play as, huge levels filled with secret collectibles to find, and a 2-player co-op mode where you and a friend can play together to save the galaxy. And thanks to its simplistic yet fun combat system and laid-back difficulty, anyone of any skill can enjoy it, including younger kids.


A hilarious and charming take on Star Wars
Large areas filled with secrets to explore
Split-screen, 2-player co-op
A massive abundance of characters and ships to unlock
Tons of replay value


Some minor glitches
Inconsistent tutorials

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

$60 at Microsoft

Relive the iconic Star Wars franchise through the light-hearted lens of Lego with Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga. Play as hundreds of iconic Star Wars characters across all the mainline movies in a charming and hilarious adventure that is sure to bring a smile to any Star Wars fan, whether they be a parent or child.

What are the best games for my kids?

What’s great about the Xbox’s huge library of games is that many of the most popular games are non-violent and appropriate for children. Not to mention many of the best games on Xbox are available at cheap prices on Xbox Game Pass. So if you have a subscription, you can take advantage of the best deals on Xbox Game Pass for your kid’s gaming experience.

Take Minecraft for instance. Minecraft has been one of the best games to introduce your kids to gaming for over a decade. It is a charming and fun sandbox game where you can build anything your heart desires. The levels of creativity this game’s building system provides is on par with that of Lego. The cherry on top of this blocky cake is that this game has online multiplayer and cross-platform support across all Microsoft platforms. This means that you can play Minecraft together with your kids anytime and anywhere.

If your child likes Minecraft but prefers fighting instead of crafting, check out Minecraft Dungeons. This spinoff title has all the charm and creativity of traditional Minecraft, except now you get to fight hordes of enemies with magical powers and weapons. This game also features cross-platform support and multiplayer (both local and online), so you can save the world from the evil Illager together with your kids. Plus, if it gets too challenging for your child, you can adjust the difficulty setting to their liking until they’re ready to take on bigger challenges.

We will update this list with more games as time passes. So keep this page bookmarked to stay up to date with the best Xbox games for kids.

The Netflix of gaming

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (1-month or 3-month subscription)

From $1/month at Microsoft
$40 at Amazon (3-month subscription)
$15 at Amazon (1-month subscription)

All of Xbox gaming’s greatest hits for a low price

With the power of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can experience hundreds of the greatest video games at a meager monthly cost. This subscription service is too good to miss out for any gamer, whether they want AAA blockbuster extravaganzas or artistic, thought-provoking indie treasures.

Get the BEST Xbox games for your kids right here!

Commissioned study by Microsoft proves right-to-repair is good for planet

Surface Laptop SE (2022) is very easy to repair with few tools.

A new independent study by Oakdene Hollins on behalf of Microsoft demonstrates that right-to-repair has significant positive impacts on the environment.

Microsoft’s Surface devices often win accolades for their advanced, clean, minimalist designs, but those come at the expense of repairability. Instead of relying on visible screws, Microsoft often depends on glue and a chassis that is hard to open without destroying the device. A computer like Surface Pro 7 earned a measly score of one (out of 10) for repairability from iFixit — the same score shared by previous Surface Pros.

As a consequence, in October 2021, Microsoft was called out by As You Sow, a shareholder representative, which filed a resolution demanding that the company respond to the growing right to repair movement. Microsoft had a quick turnaround on the matter, which resulted in the complaint being withdrawn. In its response, Microsoft remarked it would take these immediate actions:

Complete a third-party study evaluating the environmental and social impacts associated with increasing consumer access to repair and determine new mechanisms to increase access to repair, including for Surface devices and Xbox consoles;
Expand the availability of certain parts and repair documentation beyond Microsoft’s Authorized Service Provider network; and
Initiate new mechanisms to enable and facilitate local repair options for consumers.

The latter two were later addressed with a partnership with iFixit. The two companies announced official repairability tools for recent Surface devices, including Surface Pro 7+/8/Pro X, Surface Laptop 3 and 4, Surface Laptop Go, Surface Laptop SE, and Surface Laptop Studio. The tools are available to independent repair technicians and give consumers another low-cost way to do repairs on Microsoft products without much hassle.

Today, Microsoft has completed the first part of its October promise —a third-party study evaluating the environmental and social impacts of increased consumer repair access.

The study was published by Oakdene Hollins and given to Windows Central by Microsoft. The paper is 11 pages long and very detailed about the assessment and conclusions, which speak heavily in favor of the somewhat obvious environmental benefits of giving consumers the ability to repair PCs versus junking them.

The crux of the study’s conclusions can be found below:

The study found that, compared to a device replacement scenario, all forms of repair offer significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and waste reduction benefits. It also found that enabling repair through device design, spare part offerings, and localization of repair have significant potential to reduce carbon and waste impacts. Finally, it highlighted the role that transportation logistics can play in contributing to overall GHG emissions associated with repair services. To further reduce waste and GHG emissions, Microsoft is advised to take steps to expand repair locations and capabilities across more devices and to promote mail-to repair services.

Some other key findings from the report from the press release:

For the seven devices studied, the study showed that repairing the product instead of device replacement can yield up to a 92% reduction in potential waste generation and GHG emissions;
Greater than 20% of the net sustainability benefits of repair are determined by the transportation method and logistics for delivering devices to repair facilities; and
“Mail-to” repair services offer the lowest GHG emissions, even over long distances, compared to other transportation methods, such as consumers driving their own vehicles to repair facilities.

The study notes that mailing devices to Authorized Service Providers (ASP) have the lowest overall GHG impact. Still, Microsoft could do even more by expanding “ASP repair locations and capabilities across more devices and promote bulk mail-to repair services when feasible.” The recommendation is stated because “Currently, ASP Repair is only available to Microsoft’s commercial customers, but this study supports the case for expanding ASP repair to all customers.”

Expanding consumer ASPs is part of Microsoft’s strategy for improved repairability.

Counterintuitively, while it may seem better for consumers to drive their devices to an authorized repair shop, the study notes that, even over short distances, “GHG emissions may increase rapidly.” But having closer ASPs where “mail-to” exists “offered an order of magnitude lower GHG emissions impact even over much larger transport distances and, therefore, should be encouraged.”

That’s good news, although it does make one wonder what if Microsoft didn’t shutter all its official stores in 2020. But unlike Apple, Microsoft never did on-site repairs for Surfaces at those shops. Instead, it would simply exchange the product for a new one while sending out the defective product for a long-distance factory repair. Later, that device would be sold as refurbished or sometimes used in a warranty exchange. The environmental impact was likely significant, with such policies causing unnecessary waste.

Today’s report also follows Apple’s remarkable 79-pound rentable repair kit, which can be sent to consumer homes directly, albeit wheeled in. The environmental impact of sending 79lbs of equipment instead of mailing out a 6-ounce iPhone seems hilariously contradictory if sustainability is of concern.

Microsoft’s improving repairability with Surface

Starting in 2017, Microsoft began to look at ways to improve better repairability with its Surface devices, most of which were developed for years before hitting the market. One of the first devices was the Surface Laptop 3, which allowed the keyboard deck to be removed to access the internals. Since then, Surface Pro X and Surface Pro 8 have offered easy access to the SSD compartment, while the new Surface Laptop Studio is magnitudes more serviceable than Surface Book 3.

Surface Pro X even beat out Apple’s iPad in 2019 for repairability by earning 6 (out of 10) from iFixit, a substantial jump from one for Surface Pro 7. The news even caught iFixit by surprise:

It would seem that Microsoft has placed at least one foot on the repairability train—between this Pro X and the Laptop 3, we can hardly believe all the repair-focused changes they’ve made!

In a conversation with Jason Brown, Director, NPI Design for Repair, and Jeremy L McClain, Director, Customer Success and Experience at Microsoft, I asked about the challenges Microsoft faced in balancing Surface ID (its look, feel) with the need for the right to repair. After all, going from everything glued to relying on (hidden) screws is not trivial. The answer was straightforward: Standardized tools. Microsoft can create a set of principles around design and rely on a simplified set of tools to create a consistent experience around repairability. But the devices need to be designed from the ground up with these considerations in place while not sacrificing innovation.

When it comes to repairing, Microsoft tells me that displays are usually the top “failure modes,” followed by keyboards when it comes to laptops. Batteries rarely break, but, long-term, they are often at the point of failure as they degrade over time. Being able to replace those batteries, especially after the warranty has expired, is one area where Microsoft is focused on in preventing Surfaces from ending up in landfills. The same goes for displays, which can break many years later even without early Q&A failure.

For Microsoft, there’s a double focus on repair and extending device longevity.

Microsoft also noted that on-site repair, especially for schools, is critical for controlling costs. This concept was crucial to something Surface Laptop SE, which can be completely torn apart with just a couple of tools.

Of course, not all devices are created equal. While Surface Laptop Studio is much easier to work on than Surface Book 3, something like Surface Duo 2 is more complicated. Microsoft notes that when it comes to design, it still needs to balance safety with design/innovation while also attempting to make it repairable. That said, Microsoft did tell me that devices going forward are all being designed with repairability in mind meaning there will be “zero regression” between generations.

Overall, Microsoft is taking ambitious steps to make Surface (and Xbox) easier to repair than ever. While more progress is needed, and only newer Surfaces will benefit, at least your Surface Pro 8 now stands a better chance of living a second life instead of being recycled somewhere. Whatever your views are on the environment, we can all agree that easier repairs are a better consumer experience.

Commissioned study by Microsoft proves right-to-repair is good for planet

These laptops have bright screens great for outdoor use

The best thing about laptops is that they can go anywhere, including outside. Sometimes it’s nice to get some fresh air while you work, and the portability of laptops provides you with the freedom needed to achieve this. That being said, not all laptops have screens that are bright enough to counter sun glare, and even some of the best devices out there aren’t suited for the outdoors. Therefore, we put together a list of the best laptops available right now with bright screens that effectively nullify glare.

Maximum brightness

Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha 13.3-inch QLED

Staff pick

The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha is a powerful, well-rounded convertible that features Samsung’s superb outdoor mode that allows you to boost the display to up to 600 nits of brightness, making it our top choice. It’s also considerably more affordable than many competing devices, which is great if you don’t have a huge budget.

From $1,050 at Samsung
From $1,100 at Amazon {.end}

Cutting-edge power

Dell XPS 13 Plus

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is a new version of Dell’s iconic Ultrabook that features top-of-the-line 12th Gen Intel CPUs, DDR5 RAM, and a snazzy design with a razor-thin profile and a large, comfortable keyboard. It also comes with a stellar and bright display that looks phenomenal. It’s pricier than the classic Dell XPS 13, but it’s worth it.

From $1,273 at Dell

A true classic

Dell XPS 13 (9310) 13.4-inch

The tried-and-true Dell XPS 13 is one of the best laptops in the world, featuring excellent specs, a premium design, and a killer display that, while not as bright as Samsung’s outdoor mode, is still quite bright. It also has industry-leading battery life, ensuring that you won’t need to worry about charging too often.

$1,649 at Amazon From $1,196 at Dell

Stellar convertible

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (9310) 13.4-inch

If you prefer 2-in-1s and want the best of the best, we recommend the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. It’s essentially everything that makes the Dell XPS 13 great (including the bright screen) in a convertible design. Even though it can be expensive, the additional flexibility offered by the laptop’s design is definitely worth it.

From $1,697 at Amazon

Highly configurable option

Dell XPS 15 (9520) 15.6-inch

The Dell XPS 15 features a similar display to the Dell XPS 13, and also it has tons of configuration options. This makes it great for people who are highly specific about the specs they want. It’s also a good choice for folks who find 13-inch displays too small.

From $4,299 at Amazon From $1,420 at Dell

17-inch king

Dell XPS 17 (9700) 17-inch

The Dell XPS 17 is a beast of a laptop with quality specs, Dell’s stellar laptop design, and a huge, bright display that nullifies glare effectively. It’s perfect for creators, and it’s capable of performing solidly for gaming as well.

From $1,812 at Dell
$2,400 at Amazon {.end}

Gaming-focused option

Gigabyte AERO 17 YE5 17.3-inch 120Hz

With its NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti, powerful Intel Core i9-12900HK CPU, and 32GB of DDR5 memory, the AERO 17 is one of the best gaming-focused laptops available today (it doesn’t come cheap, though). It also has an extremely bright 4K Mini LED display that looks gorgeous and effectively counters glare.

$4,400 at Amazon
[$5,219 at Newegg](https://www.newegg.com/p/N82E16834233516?Description=GIGABYTE%20AERO%2017%20YE5&cm_re=GIGABYTE_AERO%2017%20YE5–34-233-516–Product&quicklink=true{.cta .shop.nofollow) {.end}

Brightness on a budget

Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 15.6-inch

The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro is an excellent choice if you need top brightness on a budget, as it’s the most affordable Samsung laptop that still features Samsung’s outdoor mode. The performance and design of the Galaxy Book Pro are both great, too.

$849 at Amazon
$899 at B&H {.end}

If we had to choose

All of these laptops are excellent, but if we had to choose just one, it would be the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha. With its dependable and capable specs, fair price, and the inclusion of Samsung’s special brightness mode that boosts the display to 600 nits, it’s the best overall option on the market for something reliable to use while outside. Its convertible design also makes it more versatile than traditional clamshell devices, allowing you to use it like a tablet while on the go.

If you’d prefer something that delivers stronger performance while still offering a bright screen, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is for you. Its exceptional specs and superb physical design make it one of the best laptops ever made, and its amazing display is very bright, too.

Finally, if you’re looking for a device that can handle the latest and greatest games without even breaking a sweat, look no further than the Gigabyte AERO 17 YE5. Its RTX 3080 Ti graphics and 12th Gen i9 CPU offer near-unparalleled gaming performance, and it’s got a beautifully bright 4K display, too.

If the laptops in this roundup don’t appeal to you, make sure you check out our list of the best Windows laptops for more great options.

These laptops have bright screens great for outdoor use

Review — The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is still a narrative masterpiece

This isn’t The Stanley Parable of 2013, and it’s even harder to define than before.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe openly defies traditional attempts to review it. It’s an abstract, convoluted narrative adventure that begs to be described with a long string of intricate, metaphor-laden words, yet constantly subverts attempts to do so; it challenges players to label it, and then paints over the label any time their back is turned. The Stanley Parable is both a game that is excruciatingly self-aware and is not a game that ponders, “If I am not, then what am I?”

Others have managed to capture the essence of The Stanley Parable more eloquently than I’ll be able to, but I’ve been assigned the dubious task of reviewing it. My immediate advice? Don’t read this, or any other review. If you’re even remotely interested in what The Stanley Parable could offer you, go and play it; just be prepared to have your expectations consistently proven wrong. Even if you played the original game, understand that “Ultra Deluxe” is not just a marketing term and encapsulates a much more significant addition of content than any of the hype leading up to release would have you believe.

2013’s The Stanley Parable was a narrative masterpiece that won over the hearts and minds of thousands of players; the Ultra Deluxe expansion builds upon its predecessor in innumerable ways. At points, you may even believe you’re playing “The Stanley Parable 2” rather than an updated version of the original.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe review

What’s good
What’s not good
Should you play?

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

Bottom line: The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe expertly expands the original critically acclaimed narrative adventure with hours of brilliantly written new content and a lot more of Kevan Brighting’s incredible narration. Even if you played the original, you shouldn’t miss this updated version.

The Good

Incredible, self-aware writing that constantly engages
A ludicrous amount of new content to explore
Kevan Brighting is as brilliant a narrator as ever
Available on more platforms, and with more accessibility features

The Bad

Relies on a player’s willingness to embrace absurdity

$25 at Xbox (Xbox)
$25 at Steam (PC)

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Crows Crows Crows. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe — What’s good

What is The Stanley Parable? Would you believe a generic synopsis, which describes the game in the vaguest possible terms, with no regard for or insight into what lies quivering expectantly behind them? Then The Stanley Parable is a story about Stanley, a nobody of no import, attempting to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of his coworkers. If you would instead turn to the general consensus of The Stanley Parable, you may find yourself viewing the game as a satirical commentary on the nature of choices in video games, on narrative tropes, and the video game phenomenon known as “ludonarrative dissonance.”

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

Crows Crows Crows

Crows Crows Crows

Narrative adventure

Game size

Xbox version
Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One


8+ hours

Launch date
April 27, 2022

Launch price

Xbox Game Pass

Reviewed on
Xbox Series X

Personally, I believe The Stanley Parable is a game about endings. After all, the game is positively teeming with them; you can comfortably describe The Stanley Parable as being possessed of an “infestation of endings.” It seems that every choice you make hides another ending just around the corner — ultimately, however, every ending leads you back to the beginning. Every choice is meaningless, every ending amounts to nothing; “The end is never.” Some endings are in themselves beginnings, which lead to yet another series of endings, which then branch into new beginnings, until you’re lost on an hours-long tangent so far off the path you were initially set on, futilely following the introspective, postulating ramblings of your ever-present, always-charming Narrator.

The Stanley Parable is a game about choices and endings.

Those who played the original release of The Stanley Parable on PC in 2013 will be familiar with all of this. Those people may be wondering what has changed with this expanded re-release, this “Ultra Deluxe” edition. Is this the same virtual experience they already explored in the past? Is this simply a marketing push to accompany The Stanley Parable’s long-awaited release on consoles, complete with a minor visual facelift and inconsequential additions?

The marketing leading up to the release of The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe was entertaining, but hardly did the title justice. “Ultra Deluxe” is an apt moniker, as hours upon hours of additional content have been injected into The Stanley Parable. Crows Crows Crows expanded, added, shifted, and changed numerous parts of the original narrative masterpiece, and it shows. There are more choices, more endings, more satire and comedy, and more reasons to poke and prod at the Narrator and ruin their carefully constructed story.

Doubling down on what made the 2013 release so unique, the Ultra Deluxe edition also comments on other aspects of the video game industry, like aggressive monetization practices and the incessant push for “more, more more;” the overwhelming power of nostalgia and how it obscures any attempt to create something new; the unhealthy pursuit of perfection and subsequent obsession over negative feedback; the expectation that video games have to become bigger, better, and bolder over time continually; and much more beyond that.

Kevan Brighting returns as the quixotic, constantly piqued, perpetually charming Narrator, and their performance is just as mesmerizing and alluring as in 2013’s The Stanley Parable. Brighting delivers every word of The Stanley Parable’s indelible writing with impeccable inflection and enunciation, and never fails to draw you into what they’re saying. The Stanley Parable couldn’t exist without the Narrator, and I’m ecstatic to say that Brighting is at their very best in Ultra Deluxe.

The best way to experience The Stanley Parable is to play it yourself.

I won’t spoil anything I saw in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe. Even if I just focused on new content I noticed, this review could easily be thousands of words longer — and it wouldn’t be enough. The best way to experience The Stanley Parable is to play it yourself, so you can witness the direct consequences of your choices and attempt to understand why things are happening. There’s an insurmountable amount of chaos and absurdity, and very little of it is likely to fit inside your idea of a “video game.”

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe doesn’t just include additional content. There are more accessibility and localization options that invite new players to experience it (there’s still not a ton, but it is an improvement), and the game in general appears to look and perform better. It’s certainly not a visual showcase, even on Xbox Series X, but I never had any complaints about the playing experience in the Ultra Deluxe edition.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe — What’s not good

While the Ultra Deluxe edition may be a more considerable expansion than many may have initially suspected, it is still, at its base, “more The Stanley Parable.” If you played the original and didn’t enjoy what you found, you’ll most likely feel the same about this version. If you’re expecting to play a video game, complete with objectives, a variety of gameplay mechanics and overlapping systems, and an actual all-encompassing story to wrap everything up, you won’t find any of that in The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe.

Don’t expect anything from The Stanley Parable — just explore.

None of this is a con against the game — not really. The Stanly Parable wouldn’t be what it is with any of those more traditional video game elements. It is something to bear in mind, however, if you’re considering playing it. The Stanley Parable is a “walking simulator,” as some may describe it, and relies entirely on the player’s willingness to embrace absurdity, and boldly defy the game and the Narrator at every turn.

If you allow yourself to be led and follow the “main story,” you can complete The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe in a matter of minutes. If you careen off the beaten path and forge your own route (or at least the illusion of your own route), The Stanley Parable can keep you occupied for, easily, more than a dozen hours. It is a narrative adventure, a drama-laden trek through the life of Stanley and the musings of the omnipresent Narrator. Don’t expect anything; explore, listen to, laugh at, and ponder The Stanley Parable.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe — Should you play it?

out of 5

Should you play The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe? A seemingly simple question with a purportedly equally simply answer, but the reality isn’t as clear cut. This is one of my favorite games of 2022, and it is an experience that will stick with me for a very long time. Without a shadow of a doubt, The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is one of the best Xbox games released in years, and accomplishes with aplomb absolutely everything it set out to do.

The Ultra Deluxe version is a marked and substantial improvement over the already-incredible original, and it’s available, for the first time, on console platforms. It’s astounding how good this game is, when you effectively only walk around and occasionally press the “A” button. It is insightful and clever, genuinely hilarious, and will surprise you at every turn.

Still, a “Call of Duty” this is not. This is a game that actively disregards much of what makes a game a “video game,” and that alone is polarizing. There are no puzzles to solve, objectives to complete, and no sense of accomplishment for having “finished” the game; The Stanley Parable is an experience, and it will give you as much as you’re willing to put in.

If any of what I’ve said even remotely piques your interest, go and play The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe right now. Support the developers and their awesome work, the culmination of years of planning and iteration. Be the latest person to enter the perspective of Stanley in Room 427, to hear the encouraging voice of the Narrator, and to attempt to understand why the “end is never.”

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

Bottom line: The Stanley Parable explores the dissonance between narrative and player choice, and does so in a way that constantly surprises, engages, and forces you to think. The Ultra Deluxe version is all of this and so, so much more, on top of being remade for modern gaming platforms and audiences.

$25 at Xbox (Xbox)
$25 at Steam (PC)

Review — The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe is still a narrative masterpiece

Windows 11 Build 22610 rolls out to Insiders in Dev and Beta channels

Microsoft’s dynamic Widgets panel features are now available for more Insiders.

What you need to know

Windows Insiders in the Dev and Beta channels can now grab Build 22610.
The build adds several new group policies and includes a long list of fixes.
Previously announced dynamic content for widgets is now rolling out to the Dev and Beta channels as well.

Microsoft just released Windows 11 Build 22610 to Insiders in the Beta and Dev channels. The update includes new group policy options and includes a long list of fixes. It also adds the dynamic content that Microsoft announced for the Widgets panel back with Build 22563.

Here are the TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) highlights from Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc:

This build introduces some new group policies for IT administrators and an update to the Family Safety Widget.
This build also includes another good set of fixes that will improve your overall experience.
This build includes two new known issues that will impact Windows Insiders – please read the known issues list below. We have marked the new known issues as [NEW]. One of these known issues impacts the hidden icons flyout in the system tray.

In addition to those highlights, the build adds the dynamic content for the Widgets panel that Microsoft announced with Windows 11 Build 22563.

“We’re trying out some changes in Widgets to bring more dynamic content to your Widgets board, by experimenting with bringing together the widgets and news feed experiences as a dynamic blended feed containing both widgets and news content,” explained Microsoft in the release notes for Build 22563. “This should make it easier for you to discover and engage with new widgets and news content through your feed.”

You can read the complete changelog, including fixes and known issues, in Microsoft’s blog post for the build.

Windows 11 Build 22610 rolls out to Insiders in Dev and Beta channels