It’s the start of a new month, which means your game-playing decisions are about to become more difficult by a factor of 4. Detailed below are October’s Games with Gold titles, available throughout the month (with one title being available partway through November as well) to those with an Xbox Network (formerly Xbox Live Gold) or Game Pass subscription. As always, don’t miss out on free games if you don’t have the drive space or time to play: GWG titles can be added to your library to be accessed at a later date, but this will also require an active subscription.
If you set the Way Back Machine to 10 years ago, rhythm games were a party staple thanks to the Guitar Hero and Rock Band platforms. Even people who had no real interest in video games could get on board with embarrassing themselves pretending to play guitar or the drums, but the genre has become a wasteland since then as public interest in plastic instruments waned and rhythm games became the occasional province of experimental independent games. Such is the nature of our first free title, Aaero, but don’t worry if you’re all thumbs when it comes to guitars because where we’re going we won’t need instruments.
Strap yourself into your futuristic fighter and race across gorgeous dystopian flat-poly landscapes, chasing blazing ribbons of light to increase your damage multiplier as you fight off hordes of enemies and enormous lumbering bosses, all set to a pulse-pounding soundtrack. Fusing twitch twin-stick shooter mechanics with the on-rails frantic input co-ordination of rhythm games, Aaero takes a simple premise and turns in an addictive game that will hook you from minute one. Featuring licensed music from Noisia, Flux Pavilion, Katy B, The Prototypes, Neosignal and many more.
Available from October 1-31.
CASTLEVANIA: HARMONY OF DESPAIR
Worlds away from the hi-tech electro-infused violence of Aaero (and our first free backwards compatible title for October), we return to the Belmont family’s sworn profession of hunting the ever threatening children of the night in 2D side-scrolling co-op battler, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. Functioning more like the Boss Rush Modes from previous entries in the series, the games allows up to four players to team up for three ‘rooms’ of fighting collecting weapons and gear before they take on a random boss. Harmony of Despair sacrifices the twisting plot of regular Castlevania titles to focus on super-tight co-op combat (although the game can be played solo or against other players as well.
Naturally, the game features playable characters from the Castlevania universe, including Alucard and Soma, each with their own specialisations and move sets. Repeated playthroughs with characters improve their abilities by picking up specific weapons and gear or improving sub-items, adding character meta and replayability.
Available from October 1-15.
Back to the future with Hover, a first-person open-world parkour adventure in a similar vein to the excellent but overlooked Sunset Overdrive. In a colourful cell-shaded future metropolis, the Great Admin has outlawed entertainment and leisure because video games, so you and up to 3 friends have to jump about the city like nobody’s business and drum up a rebellion among the city’s inhabitants through the medium of free-running because, again, video games. If we’re painfully blunt, many great games have had the thinner premises, and what I’ve just laid out above isn’t a million miles from the Mirror’s Edge narrative soooo…
Like Sunset Overdrive and its predecessor Jet Set Radio, Hover charges you with swaying public opinion through challenges that complement the story missions. Naturally time trials are the order of the day, but there are also anti-propaganda and citizen help quests that will help you reach your ultimate goal of unlocking the orbital station, reconnecting the communications relay and letting the universe know about the Admin’s dastardly plans. With customisable characters, a future city as your acrobatic playground and solid traversal mechanics, Hover could be the feel good time-waster you’ve been waiting for.
Available October 16 – November 15.
RESIDENT EVIL CODE: VERONICA X
Finishing off October’s free games with a bang is Resident Evil Code: Veronica X, the HD upscale of what is considered to be the cannon sequel to Resident Evil 2. Taking place months after the lethal outbreak in Raccoon City, CVX sees series stalwart Claire Redfield on the trail of her missing brother, Chris. Imprisoned on the southern ocean island of Rockfort Island after a botched infiltration of an Umbrella Corporation facility, Claire must join forces with a dangerous prisoner in order to escape another zombie outbreak triggered by the prison’s schizophrenic warden. Heading to Rockfort on a tip from RE2‘s Leon S. Kennedy, players will also get to experience the campaign as Chris during his series introduction (and before RE5 pumps him full of steroids).
Although initially conceived as a replacement for a Sega Saturn version of RE2 that was abandoned due to system constraints, this initial Dreamcast exclusive was the first in the series to feature fully interactive 3D generated environments and a dynamic camera system, unlike the previous two games which had used pre-rendered backgrounds and fixed camera angles. That being said, all of the survival staples that have helped the series endure are all present and correct: limited ammo, limited carrying capacity and limited saves all enforce risk versus reward play, especially on harder difficulties. While not as flashy as modern entries to the Resident Evil franchise, CVX is a fan-favourite and worth playing to experience the predictably bonkers story.
Available from October 16-31.