5 Games Free for Xbox Live Gold Subscribers in December

Being an Xbox Live Gold subscriber means you get free games each month. The service costs around $60 per year, but the games you’ll get are worth far more than that, even if you’re only interested in playing a fraction of them.

And since the Xbox One is backwards compatible with every Games with Gold offering for Xbox 360 as well, Xbox One owners now get four free games each month instead of two. As “an extra gift for the holidays,” Microsoft is throwing in an additional 360 game this month only. So in December you get five free games. Not bad.

If you don’t have an Xbox One yet, you can redeem your free games either on Xbox.com or your Xbox 360. Then if you buy an Xbox One in the future, you’ll be able to find those games in your account and download them for free. It’s like buying a new console and already having a library of games to play.

Without further ado, here are the free Games With Gold for December 2015.

1. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

Platform: Xbox One
Metacritic score: 72
Original price: $14.99
Available: December 1 to 31

While it might not have been a blockbuster hit, The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a solidly-built action role-playing game along the lines of Diablo. You play as the famed vampire hunter’s son as you eradicate mythical monsters in 19th century Europe. The action is well balanced, the dialog is crackling, and the gothic setting is smartly rendered. Nothing about it is groundbreaking, but there’s plenty of comfort to be found in its well-executed fundamentals.

2. Thief

Platform: Xbox One
Metacritic score: 69
Original price: $29.99
Available: December 16 to January 15

Thief is a game that’s perfect for the Xbox Live Gold freebie treatment. It’s the latest game in a highly respected series, but it received fairly tepid reviews when it launched last year, causing many gamers to skip it. But just because reviews weren’t outstanding doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing.

This game puts you in the sneaky shoes of a master thief and has you do two things that are very fun to do in video games: steal stuff and commit stealth kills. There’s not much story gluing the game together, but that doesn’t necessarily matter when you get to sneak through a dark and dreary city, pocketing everything that’s not nailed down.

3. CastleStorm

Platform: Xbox 360
Metacritic score: 79
Original price: $9.99
Available: December 1 to 15

In this game of medieval combat, enemy forces are encroaching on your castle, and it’s up to you to fend them off. You do that by using three separate forces. The first is a ballista you can load up with morning stars, grenades, and even sheep. Next, you have ground troops like knights and donkey riders you can send out to protect your valuable chunk of real estate. And lastly, you have magic spells you can cast to rain down supernatural punishment on those who would do you harm.

The game is a somewhat goofy take on the castle defense genre, and it’s kid-friendly enough that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

4. Sacred 3

Platform: Xbox 360
Metacritic score: 51
Original price: $19.99
Available: December 1 to 31

Like Van Helsing above, Sacred 3 is an action RPG in which you and your friends hack and slash your way through a world not quite like our own. Only instead of fighting gothic horrors, you’ll face off against orcs, goblins, and other Tolkien-esque beasts.

It’s a multiplayer-friendly game, but even if your buddies aren’t online, you get three computer-controlled compatriots to help you out. This allows you to band together with your team to perform devastating combos on swarms of enemies. Meanwhile, you can upgrade your character’s weapons and armor, and increase various stats. It didn’t exactly get glowing reviews when it launched last year, but if you and your friends are looking for a multiplayer game, you could do worse.

5. Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

Platform: Xbox 360
Metacritic score: 77
Original price: $9.99
Available: December 16 to 31

Games like Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising reveal the fictions at the foundations of popular shooters like Call of Duty. That’s because in real war, a single hit can and will knock you out of the action. Make one wrong move, and you’re toast.

Dragon Rising is a first-person shooter that rewards players for taking a more strategic approach to the action. You’re not the hero who single-handedly takes down the opposing army. You’re a cog in the machine — which may not be as exciting, but it has pleasures of its own, only one of which is that it’s more realistic. Give this game a shot if you’ve grown a little bored with shooters that play like action movies.

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