We have compared the analgesic potency of MAC-equivalent concentrations of xenon (10, 20, 30 and 40%) and nitrous oxide (15, 30, 45 and 60%) in humans using a multimodal experimental pain testing and assessment technique. We tested 12 healthy volunteers in a randomized, single-blind, crossover study. The following experimental pain tests were used: nociceptive reflex to repeated stimuli; pain tolerance to maximal effort tourniquet ischaemia; electrical stimulation; mechanical pressure; and cold. Reaction time was also measured. Xenon and nitrous oxide produced analgesia to ischaemic, electrical and mechanical stimulation, but not to cold pain. There was no difference in MAC-equivalent concentrations of xenon and nitrous oxide. Both increased reaction time in a similar manner. Xenon and nitrous oxide evoked nausea and vomiting in a large number of volunteers.