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Xbox Game Pass Core, Console, PC and Ultimate. Which Tier Is Best for You?

We break down the differences between the four Game Pass tiers.

Oscar Gonzalez Former staff reporter
Oscar Gonzalez is a Texas native who covered video games, conspiracy theories, misinformation and cryptocurrency.
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Oscar Gonzalez
3 min read
Xbox Series X in black and Series S in white with respective controllers
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There's lots to consider when comparing gaming consoles, including available games. The Xbox Series X and S may be a little lacking in terms of current titles and upcoming exclusives, when compared to the PS5 and Nintendo Switch. But the Xbox has a distinct advantage in its Game Pass subscription option, which lets Xbox owners play more than 100 games for a single flat fee, billed monthly, quarterly, annually or even as part of the Xbox hardware purchase price.

Microsoft revamped Game Pass in September and added a new fourth tier, called Game Pass Core. 

Need help untangling the all the Game Pass options? Read on. 

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Game Pass is Xbox's "all you can eat" gaming subscription, where one monthly fee gets you full access to dozens of games. It started in June 2017 with a limited catalog, which was a mix of titles published by Microsoft (aka first-party) and other publishers (third-party). Over the years, it grew to encompass more than 100 games. Microsoft also sweetened the deal by offering every game it published to be available on the service on day one of its release. This includes games from ZeniMax Media, which includes such popular series as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Doom, Wolfenstein, Dishonored and the recently released, Starfield. Microsoft is also looking to complete its deal to acquire Activision Blizzard, which would add even more titles to Game Pass. 

There are currently four tiers to Xbox Game Pass: Core, Console, PC and Ultimate. Core, previously known as Xbox Live, allows for online multiplayer on Xbox and comes with access to 25 games for free including Doom Eternal, Forza Horizon 5 and Fallout 76. Game Pass Console includes access to more than 100 Xbox games to play but does not include online multiplayer on the console. PC Game Pass gives access to a catalog of  Windows PC titles, and Ultimate covers both platforms and console multiplayer. Moreover, PC and Ultimate tiers include access to EA Play, which consists of access to EA games, rewards and other members-only content. A subscription would normally cost $5 a month. 

Game Pass Ultimate also delivers access to Xbox Cloud Gaming (formerly known as xCloud), which streams certain titles to Android and iOS devices using a Bluetooth controller or touch controls, as well as stream via supported internet browsers. Nvidia GeForce Now Ultimate members with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or PC Game Pass subscriptions can also stream select Xbox games through that service.

Xbox Game Pass tiers

Game Pass CoreGame Pass ConsoleGame Pass PCGame Pass Ultimate
Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox Series games YesYesNoYes
PC games NoNoYesYes
Online console muiltiplayer YesNoNoYes
Member discounts and perks YesYesYesYes
EA Play NoNoYesYes
Cloud gaming NoNoYes (select games via GeForce Now Ultimate)Yes (via Xbox Cloud Gaming and select games via GeForce Now Ultimate)
Monthly cost $10$11$10$17

Which tier of Xbox Game Pass should I subscribe to?

This depends on your gaming habits. Game Pass Core is the bare minimum needed if you want to play Xbox games online. The addition of the 25 games is a nice bonus, but if all you care about is playing certain multiplayer games, Core is all you need. 

Console and PC Game Pass are self-explanatory. These should be picked by those who only have an Xbox console or a gaming PC. 

On the other hand, if you want what is the equivalent to "Netflix for video games," then Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is an easy choice. You have more than 100 games to choose from, and you'll be able to play them from multiple devices. Having hundreds of games, which include major titles available at launch, is what makes Ultimate a great deal. 

What is Xbox All Access?

Xbox All Access is a monthly installment payment option for a new Xbox Series S or X. Customers can sign up for the plan to pay $35 a month for an Xbox Series X or $25 a month for an Xbox Series S. Both plans include 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. There are no upfront fees and 0% APR. Best Buy, GameStop, Microsoft Store, Target and Walmart are all participants in the program.

Can I really play Xbox games on phones and tablets?

Yes, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members currently have access to the beta version of Microsoft's Xbox Cloud Gaming service, which lets them play cloud-based Xbox games on Android and iOS devices. The games are streamed in real-time to the devices via an app or the Microsoft Edge browser.