Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Xbox Gold Ultimate with Game Pass

Anybody else out there my age? (40) If so, then perhaps you, like me, wistfully remember those golden days of weekend video game rentals from the Blockbuster Video and how awesome it was to play a game, bring it back and then grab another. It was a fantastic recipe for fun with your mates – get the card, find a multiplayer game, order a pizza, settle in and there you have it.

While the blue and yellow of Blockbuster Video is now buried deep with other dinosaurs of the pre-streaming days, Xbox Gold Ultimate with Game Pass is a little trip down memory lane, albeit from the comfort of your couch.

The Gold Experience

True story, I’m not really all that great at most video games. I like to dabble, I like to play, I set it on easy and occasionally stay with a game all the way to the final boss, but usually lose interest as soon as the game skill threshold exceeds my own. This makes online gaming a less than desirable pastime as there is nothing quite as humbling as getting trolled by a foul-mouthed twelve-year-old after they school you at a game you fancy yourself somewhat good at.

However, my 8-year-old son is really good at these things and he is the one doing the schooling, so for his sake, the Gold online subscription is a must for maximum gaming fun.

Am I sometimes taken aback by the tone and language of some of his fellow gamers? Sure. But, overall, it’s amazing to know that an international arcade exists inside my Xbox and my son is out there competing, and holding his own, in games like Rocket League and the ubiquitous Fortnite.

I even get in some NHL 19 in the 3 vs 3 arcade-style modes. I’m never the best guy on my team, having long since fallen behind on the goal-scoring mechanics of the game, but I can still lay in enough body checks to make my presence felt.

This brings me to one of the best parts of having Gold: free games. Which is how I ended up with NHL 19 in the first place.

Every month Xbox Gold owners get the option of downloading 3-4 games for free-ninety-ninety-nine. The games themselves range in terms of age and quality, but each serving generally includes an Xbox 360 title that has been adapted for the Xbox One, a weird indie game, and either a deep cut from the original Xbox or any number of other options from the massive catalogue of games the nice people at Xbox are fine with passing along for nothing. Every month I pick up at least one of these games, play it for a weekend then delete the file next month to make room.

Gold members also get plenty of discounts and deals on other games in the Microsoft Store from the Xbox’s very easy to work with and simple to customize user interface.

Gold on its own is sort of a must-have in this day and age, but with the upgrade to Ultimate with Game Pass, well that’s just a heck of a deal.

The Arcade in my basement

Like I said, I’m kind of a snacker when it comes to gaming. Yes, I do lean into games from time to time, but I like to jump into a game, play for a bit and then try something new. Game Pass allows me to do just that with over 200 games available for download at any given time.

That’s a lot of options.

For Xbox lifers like myself, there are series like Halo, Gears and Fable all available to play from beginning to end alongside a healthy mix of 360, indie and random titles.

The Arkham games are there, Crackdown is there, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, there is even a Midway classics game with Battletoads! It’s all fun stuff ranging from the excellent to the wtf is this game? Right now I have Grip, a futuristic arcade racer with cars that stick to walls, The Outer Worlds, a sci-fi RPG, Gears 5 and a few other games on the go.

One area that the pass lacks, and this is really a problem with the system more than the pass itself, is games that are suitable for kids. All the “family” games are a little beneath my kid’s skill level and most of the games he wants to play are a lot above my comfort level with violence, profanity and “adult content”. This little hiccup can be worked around by me putting a little time in on research and sampling the games and in many cases, the games themselves have an option to restrict the content. For parents looking at Game Pass as a gift idea, I really have to emphasize how important taking these steps are if you are concerned about what goes into your kid’s eyeballs while you are making dinner. Every game my son shows interest in has at least some degree of brutal violence or other material I am cautious of, so keeping a dialogue with him and being aware of what he is playing places responsibility on my shoulders for what he plays.

That serious disclaimer aside, Game Pass has been huge fun for me and I haven’t even touched the surface of all the games available for me to play.

Putting Gold under the tree

The Xbox Gold Ultimate with Game Pass subscription is $16.99 a month, but there are always deals or bundles to save you some cheddar available. I started my subscription with a free 30-day trial included with my Xbox, then got my first paid month for a dollar. Yes, it’s yet another monthly charge added to the ever-growing list we all have, but if you have a gamer or two in your life, Gold with Game Pass is the gift that keeps on giving.

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