January, the first month of the calendar, brings with it a series of unique video games in 2023 from both major studios and indie game developers.
The games touch upon an entire spectrum of genres, ranging from action-adventure to immersive atmospheric exploration. PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC — the titles are available on all types of consoles and the computer.
Game enthusiasts had a terrific January 2022, with releases such as Spelunky 2, Rugby 22, Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection and Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In fact, 2022 saw one great video game launch after another.
Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, Elden Ring, F1 22, FIFA 23, Overwatch 2, Saints Row, A Plague Tale: Requiem, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and God of War Ragnarök were some of the biggest hits of the year.
However, January 2023 isn’t as packed with great titles as it was 12 months ago. While there is Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, it appears to be the only acclaimed legacy title in the month. Most of the others, which although seem highly promising, are entirely new, such as A Space for the Unbound and Season: A Letter to the Future.
But it is just the beginning of 2023, and, without a doubt, some of the finest games are set to be released in later months. These include The Last of Us Part I, Hogwarts Legacy, Resident Evil 4 Remake, Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, Final Fantasy XVI and the highly anticipated Street Fighter 6.
Things would possibly look more interesting second month onwards in 2023 when Sony releases its PlayStation VR2 (PS VR2). The virtual reality gaming system will be launched on 22 February, along with a free DLC of the 2021 game Resident Evil Village.
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Upcoming video game releases and their dates in January 2023
(Hero image: SEASON: A letter to the future/@SeasonTheGame/Twitter; Featured image: Age of Empires)
Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider
Release date: 12 January
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch
Remember those 16-bit video games from around two decades ago? Vengeful Guardian: Moonrider is a throwback to the retro age of gaming.
The side-scrolling action game follows Moonrider, a powerful super warrior, who is out to end the tyranny of those who have absolute control over a totalitarian state. Moonrider, who looks like a ninja, is interestingly a creation of the same forces which control the world.
Combat in the game is challenging but highly responsive. There are eight stages in all and the eye-catching visuals have been impressively created to give the most immersive feel of the pixel art games from the 16-bit era.
Image credit: Screenshot/thearcadecrew.com
Release date: 12 January
Platforms: PC, Switch
Lone Ruin is a twin-stick shooter game, where the player character is controlled by two joysticks.
Developed by Cuddle Monster Games and published by Super Rare Originals, the game follows an unnamed explorer — the player character — who must find an ancient power in a ruined magical city.
The character has to battle strange creatures in the city, which sits on top of a magical source through which mages of the past gained their powers.
The goal is to find the ancient power and help rid the ruined city of the corrupted magic that led to its fall a millennium ago.
Besides the usual adventure mode, Lone Ruin also has a survival mode for those who like taking on waves of enemies.
Image credit: Nintendo Life/@nintendolife/Twitter
One Piece Odyssey
Release date: 13 January
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, one of the best things about One Piece Odyssey is that it has been created with the direct involvement of Eiichiro Oda — the author of the acclaimed manga series on which the game is based. Perhaps this is why its visuals and gameplay combine the artistic elements of both Japanese role-playing games (JRPG) with manga.
The game marks the 25th anniversary of One Piece.
Fans of the franchise will find new characters as well as monsters in the game, which revolves around the principal protagonist Captain Monkey D. Luffy and the Straw Hat Crew, as they explore the ocean route named Grand Line.
When they are stranded on a mysterious island called Waford after a storm, the scattered crew must find a way to come together while facing enemies, natural forces and locals on the island.
Besides the main storyline, players can also engage in side missions and battles for a deeper engagement with the game and its characters.
Image credit: One Piece/@OnePieceAnime/Twitter
A Space for the Unbound
Release date: 19 January
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
The game is set in 1990s rural Indonesia. It is a slice-of-life adventure, a genre where the story mirrors the mundane daily lives of real people.
A Space for the Unbound is a coming-of-age story of a boy named Atma and a girl named Raya. They are high school sweethearts and almost always together.
Atma and Raya are faced with an existential crisis when a mysterious supernatural force threatens their world. They band together to find out the secrets of the supernatural force and, in the process, learn more about themselves.
The plot of A Space for the Unbound explores themes of depression and anxiety, as much as it plays around with fantastical elements. The game features gorgeous pixel art, which helps add depth to the environment of the game.
Developed by Indonesian indie game developer Mojiken Studio, A Space for the Unbound has been published by Toge Productions and Chorus Worldwide.
Image credit: Chorus Worldwide/@ChorusWorldwide/Twitter
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
Release date: 19 January
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch
Popularly known as Persona 3 Portable or P3P, the game is part of the long-running Shin Megami franchise of games, manga, anime and other media.
P3P was originally launched on PS2 in 2006 by its developer Atlus. The game was later released on the PSP console. The original game was received positively by critics and gamers.
The story of the video game will essentially be the same for the new consoles, where it will become playable in January 2023, as it is in the PSP version.
The player character is a member of a secret school club and must save humanity from its doom at the hands of dangerous creatures by channelling an inner power called Persona. Players can pick a female protagonist — a decision that affects the game’s dynamics and introduces new abilities among other gameplay effects.
Atlus had officially announced the release date of the P3P for PC and modern consoles on 8 October 2022. The company had also said that Persona 4 Golden (P4G), which is another game of the same franchise, will also be released on modern platforms on the same day.
Image credit: Screenshot/Official ATLUS West/YouTube
Release date: 24 January
Platforms: PC, PS5
Developed by Luminous Productions and published by Square Enix, Forspoken is about Frey Holland who lives in New York City.
In the game, Frey suddenly finds herself transported to a mysterious world known as Athia and discovers that she has magical abilities and enhanced parkour skills.
She learns that the land was once beautiful, but a phenomenon called the Break corrupted it and all beings living on it. She faces monstrous beasts and evil sorceresses known as Tantas, who were once benevolent matriarchs.
Frey must use her newfound powers to battle enemies and find a way through the treacherous land back to NYC.
The open-world game has stunning landscapes, with deep canyons, floating boulders and majestic walls — all of which are perfect for the display of Frey’s exceptional parkour skills.
Image credit: Screenshot/forspoken.square-enix-games.com
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition
Release date: 31 January
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Hailed universally as one of the greatest games of all time, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition was originally released on PC in 2019. The console release will bring the outstanding game to those who like building empires with a joystick in hand.
The game is essentially a remastered high-resolution version of the critically acclaimed 1999 original, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. The new version contains all previous expansions, including The Conquerors, The African Kingdoms, and Rise of the Rajas — the last of which focuses on the ancient kingdoms of South East Asia. Later expansions such as Dawn of the Dukes and Dynasties of India are also part of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.
There is not much change in the core gameplay of this strategy game. Players can pick their civilisation and utilise resources to create armies and conquer the enemy. There are unique campaigns featuring the exploits of numerous real-life historical characters.
Image credit: Age of Empires
Season: A Letter to the Future
Release date: 31 January
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5
A gameplay trailer of Season: A Letter to the Future from developer-publisher Scavengers Studio shows a breathtakingly beautiful world that instantly gives Studio Ghibli vibes.
The colours and the third-person atmospheric adventure guarantee to draw players into the game’s environment. It also follows the adventures of the protagonist, Estelle, who goes about on a bicycle, recording her observations as a document for the future.
“Close your eyes, take a breath, and be carried away into this atmospheric adventure. Record memories, experience the story and witness the last breath of the season,” reads a tweet by the makers describing the game.
Though there seems to be a hint of impending doom, it is not made clear why Estelle, as a player character, harbours deep feelings for her secluded community. In the game, she can hop off her bicycle anywhere to record sounds, take pictures or draw sketches of ancient artefacts, landscapes, people and almost anything that catches her eye. It is as if she is documenting everything before all of it ends.
Image credit: SEASON: A letter to the future/@SeasonTheGame/Twitter