While most of the attention seems to be on Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft is still running the Xbox free Games with Gold program for Xbox Live Gold subscribers. As a bonus to go with their access to online multiplayer features, Xbox Live Gold subscribers are typically treated to four free games each month, usually consisting of two Xbox 360 titles and two Xbox One games, with some exceptions.
Microsoft gave away 49 free Games with Gold games throughout 2021, with two Xbox 360 games and two Xbox One titles each month, plus a bonus Xbox Series X game in February. There were many instances where fans weren't happy about the Xbox free Games with Gold, but the service still offered undeniable value, and as long as one played at least a handful of the free games, they definitely got their money's worth.
Here are all the free games that were given away through the Xbox free Games with Gold program in 2021.
Xbox 360 Free Games with Gold for 2021
- The King of Fighters 13 (January 2021)
- Breakdown (January 2021)
- Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb (February 2021)
- Lost Planet 2 (February 2021)
- Metal Slug 3 (March 2021)
- Port Royale 3 (March 2021)
- Dark Void (April 2021)
- Hard Corps: Uprising (April 2021)
- LEGO Batman (May 2021)
- Tropico 4 (May 2021)
- NeoGeo Battle Coliseum (June 2021)
- Injustice: Gods Among Us (June 2021)
- Conker: Live & Reloaded (July 2021)
- Midway Arcade Origins (July 2021)
- Lost Planet 3 (August 2021)
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves (August 2021)
- Zone of the Enders HD Collection (September 2021)
- Samurai Shodown 2 (September 2021)
- Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (October 2021)
- Resident Evil Code: Veronica X (October 2021)
- Rocket Knight (November 2021)
- LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (November 2021)
- Orcs Must Die! (December 2021)
- Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (December 2021)
Since the start of the Xbox free Games with Gold program, Microsoft has given away two free Xbox 360 games every month. And even though we're two console generations ahead of the Xbox 360 at this point, Xbox Live Gold subscribers are still treated to two Xbox 360 games each month. One could argue that the Xbox 360 offerings were even more substantial and higher-quality than the Xbox One free games, which is significant since all of the games are backward compatible.
Subscribers enjoyed games like Tropico 4, LEGO Batman and its sequel, and Injustice: Gods Among Us, with the latter being one of the most significant Xbox free Games with Gold games released for the entire year. Another popular release was Zone of the Enders HD Collection, as it gave Xbox Live Gold subscribers some serious bang for their buck.
Publisher Capcom had a significant presence when it comes to the Xbox free Games with Gold games for 2021, with multiple Capcom games featured in the lineup. Subscribers were able to claim Lost Planet 2 and Lost Planet 3, as well as Dark Void, not to mention Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, with the latter being a perfect pick for the Halloween season.
While the Xbox 360 offerings consisted mostly of Xbox 360 games, there were a few instances where Microsoft slotted in an original Xbox game instead. The first time this happened was with Breakdown in January. It happened again in February 2021 with Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, which proved to be a surprise hit with Xbox Live Gold subscribers and generated a decent amount of buzz. Then in July, Microsoft gave away Conker: Live & Reloaded, the original Xbox remake of the fan favorite Nintendo 64 game.
There were many months when the Xbox free Games with Gold announcement videos were flooded with dislikes, but even so, the Xbox 360 offerings were mostly on-point and gave away some compelling games, even if many of them are very old at this point.
Xbox One Free Games with Gold for 2021
- Little Nightmares (January 2021)
- Dead Rising (January 2021)
- Resident Evil (February 2021)
- Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition (February 2021)
- Warface: Breakout (March 2021)
- Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse (March 2021)
- Vikings: Wolves of Midgard (April 2021)
- Truck Racing Championship (April 2021)
- Armello (May 2021)
- Dungeons 3 (May 2021)
- The King's Bird (June 2021)
- Shadows: Awakening (June 2021)
- Planet Alpha (July 2021)
- Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break (July 2021)
- Darksiders 3 (August 2021)
- Yooka-Laylee (August 2021)
- Warhammer: Chaosbane (September 2021)
- Mulaka (September 2021)
- Aaero (October 2021)
- Hover (October 2021)
- Moving Out (November 2021)
- Kingdom Two Crowns (November 2021)
- The Escapists 2 (December 2021)
- Tropico 5 (December 2021)
The Xbox One free Games with Gold started the year off strong, with January featuring popular games like Little Nightmares and the enhanced version of Dead Rising. February kept the momentum going with the HD remaster of Resident Evil, but then things pretty much fell off a cliff. Most of the year, the Xbox One free Games with Gold consisted of obscure indie titles that failed to generate much excitement and caused some backlash for the service.
More recognizable games returned in August when Xbox Live Gold subscribers were treated to Darksiders 3 and Yooka-Laylee, though both of those games earned mixed reviews. Co-op game Moving Out has its fans, but otherwise they were the last "big" Xbox free Games with Gold games for the year.
Microsoft is clearly more interested in bolstering its Xbox Game Pass lineup, which can explain why the Xbox One free Games with Gold for 2021 were lacking in comparison. It will definitely be interesting to see if this trend continues in 2022, especially amid rumors that Xbox Live Gold could get discontinued once Xbox Game Pass hits its ideal number of subscribers. Time will tell, but it's clear there are many Xbox Live Gold subscribers who expect more from the fre game offerings each month.
Xbox Series X Free Game
- Gears 5 (February 2021)
Sony updated its free PS Plus program with the launch of the PlayStation 5 so that every month PS Plus subscribers get two PS4 games and one PS5 game. Microsoft did not do the same with the Xbox free Games with Gold program. Instead of giving away free Xbox Series X games, it has mostly stuck to giving away two free Xbox 360 and Xbox One games each month. However, there was one exception to that rule in February 2021.
For one reason or another, Microsoft decided to give away a bonus free game to its Xbox Live Gold subscribers in February 2021. That month, Xbox Live Gold subscribers were treated to Gears 5, which has a native Xbox Series X release. This effectively makes Gears 5 the sole free Xbox Series X game that was given away by the Xbox free Games with Gold program in all of 2021. Some Xbox Live Gold subscribers no doubt hoped that Gears 5 being given away for free was going to be the start of a new trend, but that wasn't the case as no free Xbox Series X games have been given away since then.
It's possible that will change in 2022. After all, the Xbox Series X is a year old at this point, and it has quickly built up a relatively large library of games that would make solid additions to the free Games with Gold lineup. However, Microsoft's desire to support Xbox Game Pass as aggressively as possible likely throws a wrench in any hopes that Games with Gold will get a bigger slice of the pie in 2022.
Horizon: Forbidden West and Elden Ring may get the most attention of the February 2022 new releases, but Dying Light 2 could beat them both.