2023 is already off to a strong start in terms of game releases. PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch all received notable new exclusives, while multiplatform AA games and indies helped add even more depth and flavor to January’s game lineup. From rhythm-based action games to engaging strategy RPGs to highly polished retro throwbacks, the best games of this month were extremely varied in the experiences they offered too.
- Hi-Fi Rush
- Fire Emblem Engage
- Dead Space
- Season: A Letter to the Future
- One Piece Odyssey
- SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
- Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider
Unexpectedly, this has been one of the best months for video game releases in a while. As such, there are already a lot of great games to keep track of. If you’re wondering which brand-new games you should check out, Digital Trends recommends the following eight games from January 2023.
Hi-Fi Rush is January’s biggest shocker because it launched immediately after being announced at Xbox’s January 25 Developer Direct show. While it’s from Tango Gameworks, the developer behind horror games like The Evil Within and GhostWire Tokyo, Hi-Fi Rush couldn’t be further from being a scary game. Instead, it’s a stylish rhythm action game where everything from the player’s attacks to idle environmental animations moves to the beat of whatever song is playing.
Rhythm-game genre mashups aren’t a new concept. Still, Hi-Fi Rush manages to be one of the more approachable games of its kind because of some useful accessibility options and great tutorials that will have players fighting to the beat in no time. On top of that, Hi-Fi Rush features a gorgeous visual aesthetic, with graphics and character animations that make you feel like you’re watching an excellent animated TV show. “Hi-Fi Rush rockets to the top of the rhythm-action genre thanks to a stellar combat system that goes far beyond simple beat-matching,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-and-a-half-star review of the game.
There’s always been a rhythmic sense to action games like Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. Hi-Fi Rush makes that rhythm an active part of the action, and it looks great while doing it. Hopefully, this is the start of an exciting 2023 for Xbox players. Hi-Fi Rush is available now for PC and Xbox Series X/S and is available as part of the Xbox Game Pass subscription.
Fire Emblem Engage
Intelligent Systems and Nintendo’s long-running strategy game series Fire Emblem has returned with a new console game that takes the best ideas from the successful mobile title Fire Emblem Heroes. Fire Emblem Engage is a fantastic celebration of the series, as players can call upon past Fire Emblem game protagonists to aid them in the series’ trademark deep strategy battles.
“Fire Emblem Engage delivers another strong tactics experience made just a bit better thanks to smart, mobile-adjacent hooks,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of Fire Emblem Engage. “Its story isn’t as engrossing as some recent installments and its side activities can get tedious, but memorable characters and colorful art direction make for another easy victory in a long line of them.”
It takes a slightly different approach than its predecessor, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, but this game is still a treat for fans of strategy games. It also marks the start of a busy 2023 for Nintendo, which will finally release games like Pikmin 4 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom this year. Fire Emblem Engage is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Dead Space finds itself in a similar situation to The Last of Us Part I: it might not be the most necessary remake, but it’s still an excellent game. This is the iconic sci-fi horror game for 2009 set on a scary space station that you remember, only with better graphics, more accessibility, and more detailed animations as you hack away at the limbs and flesh of necromorphs.
“For anyone who’s yet to play one of gaming’s horror greats, the new take on Dead Space is a fairly definitive version of the experience,” Giovanni Colantonio’s four-star Dead Space review explains. “Its limb-carving combat and claustrophobic atmosphere still outclass its peers 15 years later, and that fact is only emphasized with some smart adjustments.”
If you enjoyed playing through the original Dead Space, you’ll almost certainly have just as much of a good time with this remake. That said, this remake should also serve as a fantastic jumping-on point for players that are new to the series. Dead Space is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.
Season: A Letter to the Future
Season: A Letter to the Future is a game about a young girl traveling the world before an apocalyptic event wipes away every. That sounds daunting and scary, but in practice, this game can be laid back as atmospheric as players travel the world, choosing what to keep records of and taking in the visuals.
“Season: A Letter to the Future is a meditative indie adventure that rewards players who are willing to slow down and take it all in,” Giovanni Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of this game. “Even when its written story wanders, its vibrant world and detailed sound design always speaks for itself.”
Likely one of the first true indie darlings of the year, this game should be on your radar. Season: A letter to the Future is available now for PC, PS4, and PS5.
One Piece Odyssey
Anime fans, this one is for you. One Piece Odyssey received a massive Dragon Quest-style JRPG this month. While it gets off to a slow start, it’s still a surprisingly approachable JRPG that will fully immerse you in the world of this long-running anime and manga.
“It sets out to be a journey that anyone can enjoy, and achieves it by embracing well-established formulas while adding its own flavor into the mix,” De’Angelo Epps writes in a four-star review of One Piece Odyssey. “While there are a few bad winds pushing the ship away from the harbor of being a perfect experience, this is an excellent addition to the JRPG genre and one that I think you should try out whether you’re a big One Piece fan or just an appreciator of JRPGs.”
You probably already know if One Piece Odyssey is for you, but because anime game adaptations can be so hit or miss, it’s good to get a massive JRPG for one that’s this good. One Piece Odyssey is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake
A follow-up to SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated, this simple 3D platformer is a faithful SpongeBob experience filled with humor, pretty visuals, and surprisingly solid level theming and design. It’s not pushing the boundaries of what 3D platformers can do, but as far as licensed games based on kids’ TV shows go, it’s one of the best in recent memory.
“Especially on platforms like PS4 and Xbox One, where kid-friendly platformers like Kirby and the Forgotten Land and Super Mario Odyssey aren’t as common, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a fun platformer for your kids,” I wrote in a three-and-a-half star review of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake. “Even if you’ll notice some of its presentation flaws and lack of gameplay ambition as an adult, it’ll still be delightful if you’ve ever had a bit of love for SpongeBob’s misadventures.”
If you’re planning to pick up one game on this list for your kid, I’d recommend SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake. This game is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider
If you’re looking for a fun new indie title to add to your game library this month, we recommend Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider. Taking inspiration from the likes of Shinobi and Mega Man, this retro-style platform nails both the aesthetic and gameplay feeling of games on the Sega Genesis. It’s a simple retro-inspired indie title but achieves precisely what it sets out to do quite well.
“Because retro throwback games are so common, new ones need to go above and beyond with their presentation to stand out,” I wrote of the game earlier this month. “Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider does so, just as Blazing Chrome successfully did. In terms of gameplay, it also feels like JoyMasher and The Arcade Crew pulled it right out of the 16-bit era, with a couple of refinements.”
It’s a short and sweet game, too, only clocking in at about 2 to the 3 hours for most players. That should make Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider a great palette cleanser between this month’s AAA heavy hitters. Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Amazon Luna.
Forspoken game follows a girl named Frey who is transported to the magical world of Athia and must save it from an annihilation wave called the Break. Although the story isn’t great, running around its open world and fighting enemies is enjoyable, thanks to Frey’s magical abilities. Few games incorporate magic as deeply into their game design as Forspoken does.
“I would recommend Forspoken to action and RPG fans, but I wish I could give them one of my save files with total open-world freedom and most of the traversal and combat spells unlocked from the jump,” my three-and-a-half star Forspoken reviewstates. “The adventure is at its weakest when it’s forcing players to wade through lots of poor narrative content that takes too long to pay off. Its best beats aren’t paced or delivered well and serve as a weighty vambrace holding back this game’s real magic: a dazzling open-world game that truly does feel next-gen.”
If you can navigate your way through the divisive discourse surrounding this game’s writing and get through its weaker narrative sections, you’ll find that Forspoken is actually quite fun at its core. Forspoken is available now for PC and PS5.
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