There are no shortage of RPGs in the world. But truly great RPGs, the kind that pull you into immersive worlds that keep you up until sunrise, that offer harrowing narratives that make you feel real, lasting emotions? Those are harder to find.
One need look no further than Xbox Games Pass to get your hands on arguably (but barely so) the greatest RPG of the last decade and one of the greatest of all time. But you’ll need to act fast to discover (or revisit) this classic. To paraphrase George Harrison, all things must games pass, and it won’t be available on the service after March 15.
I’m speaking of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the capstone of CD Projekt Red’s (first?) Witcher Trilogy. It follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a half-mutant monster hunter who roams the lands of The Continent peddling his slaying services, often getting far more than he bargained for. There are many reasons to take another look at The Witcher 3, even if you’ve played it before.
Top of the list are the branching narrative arcs that just beg you to play through more than once. Plenty of RPGs offer “choice” on your adventures, but few if any succeed as well as The Witcher 3 in delivering consequences. Small interactions on the roadside can show up in massive quests hours later, a thrilling mechanic that puts your wanderlust into overdrive and makes you want to explore every single nook and cranny the game has to offer. And it offers plenty. Completing the game in a week is a tall order, with playtimes ranging from a 25-hour “speedrun” to 100+ hours for plodding completionists.
You don’t even need to finish The Witcher 3 to appreciate it. Like any great RPG, the opening hours are a delight as CDPR unveils the massive world and introduces you to memorable characters and white-knuckle monster encounters. You know right away that The Witcher 3 is a game in a class all its own, and sometimes a second or third or fourth look helps you understand that even more. Maybe this time you can focus on playing Gwent, the addictive in-game CCG that was so popular CDPR spun it off into its own standalone game that’s attracted millions of players in its own right.
As if the game itself wasn’t massive enough, it also includes 16 pieces of free DLC released post-launch. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include the two biggest expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine, which need to be purchased separately, but you do get a handful of new questlines as well as lots of new armor and weapons to enjoy. Should you decide you want to extend your adventures past March 15, you can buy the game at a 20 percent discount, too.
There are a handful of other games departing Games Pass on March 15, most notably Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a fantastic Metroidvania game that both elevates and subverts everything you’ve come to expect from the genre. But if you’ve only got time for one, make it The Witcher 3. Remind yourself why everyone thought Cyberpunk 2077 was going to break the internet instead of just break.