2023. What a year in Xbox gaming that was. Baldur’s Gate 3, Alan Wake 2, Starfield, Remnant II – we could go on. There was even room for some absolute stinkers to join the party without ruining things: in you come Redfall, Gollum and Rise of Kong.
2024 is going to have to go some to compete. If we’re honest, we can’t see how it can possibly Fosbury Flop over the same bar. But we’re optimistic and remain open minded. Perhaps January already has a classic to set the tone.
We’re going to give it a go with 9 of the best new Xbox and Game Pass games you should be playing on your Xbox in January 2024.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
We’re not entirely sure where Prince of Persia sits on the hype-train. By Ubisoft’s own measures, this is a mainline entry into the Prince of Persia series – the first since The Forgotten Sands. It certainly looks gorgeous, clearly backed by the full weight of Ubisoft’s coffers.
But it’s also a 2.5D entry, not a full 3D Prince of Persia. Should we be hyped? Should we be tempering those expectations? We’re not entirely sure.
We’re tentatively opting for ‘pumped’. That’s mainly because Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is being developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, the devs behind the modern Rayman games. It’s also using the same power set as Sands of Time, which gives it some nostalgia points.
As with most things, we will just have to wait and see, but our enthusiasm is restrained and ready to go.
Turnip Boy Robs a Bank
A couple of years ago, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion dropped onto Game Pass. It didn’t alter the rotational axis of the Earth or anything, but it quietly accumulated a cadre of fans. There was just something appealing about playing an anti-establishment root vegetable.
Well, Turnip Boy is back, and his crimes have gone up a notch. He’s partnering with the Pickled Gang to pull off a heist of the Botanical Bank. This is a gig that needs meticulous preparation, as you search the dark web for materials, plan traps, and then pull off an operation that would have Danny Ocean nodding his head in turnipy appreciation.
More importantly, Turnip Boy Robs a Bank takes a bow day-one on Game Pass. This is far more than Christmas’s leftover vegetables.
Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Yet another half-hearted port of a well-loved trilogy? OBJECTION! Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney Trilogy promises to succeed where the Metal Gear and Grand Theft Auto trilogies failed.
We could fill this little portion of the Up Next by cataloguing what’s here. There are fourteen episodes of “Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney”, “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies”, and “Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice”, plus two previously DLC-only special episodes. We are no mathematicians (we’re budding lawyers, obviously), but we make that to be a total of 16 episodes.
That’s a whole lot of pointing and shouting. We may need some sort of rope and pulley system for the arms.
Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth
Wait, didn’t this launch already? Nah mate, that was Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. This one’s completely different.
We can almost sense the eye-roll from Like a Dragon and Yakuza fans. Because this is the real deal: a meeting of Ichiban Kasuga, the Like a Dragon stalwart, and Kazuma Kiryu, who is facing the last hours of his life. This isn’t the glorified DLC of The Man Who Erased His Name: this is a full mainline entry.
We also get to explore Hawaii in Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, something of a deviation for this well-loved series. But while we’re at an entirely different latitude, we fully expect a range of professions, plenty of arcade machines to find, and the odd brawl. It would be disappointing if not.
The deets? Tekken 8 is set six months after the seventh game, with 32 fighters in the roster. The emphasis this time out is on aggressiveness, as ‘Heat’ and ‘Rage’ states generate as you take the fight to the opponent. The move sets even change as these bars increase, and health can only be regenerated when punching the enemy’s lights out. Clearly game director Katsuhiro Harada is fed up of people hopping around the arena to dodge attacks.
Mostly, we’re just happy to see the likes of Yoshimitsu, King II and Jin Kazama back. It’s like the Playstation One never went away.
Go Mecha Ball
As mash-ups go, we didn’t predict a twin-stick shooter fused to Super Monkey Ball. But that’s what Go Mecha Ball has on offer, and temptingly it is on Game Pass day one.
The mash-up doesn’t stop mashing. Because Go Mecha Ball is also a roguelike, encouraging you to roll and rocket through procedurally generated arenas for as long as you can stay alive. It looks hugely kinetic, and the genre-bending at least makes us curious, so we have a tentative interest in this one.
The Lost Legends of REDWALL: The Scout Anthology
Now this one takes us back: bawling our eyes out as teenagers to a Redwall paperback, somehow getting the feels from fictional mice armed with daggers.
The Lost Legends of REDWALL: The Scout Anthology may do the same to us. It’s a completely new story in the Redwall universe, written by the writing team of brothers Christopher and Alan Miller. They originally planned to make a movie, but a meandering path led them to an episodic narrative game.
The first episode, The Scout, launched in 2017, and it’s taken this long for a full release to hit the black box. It might make you feel bad for killing so much vermin in A Plague Tale.
Let’s stick to the plague theme. But rather than being rat-based, the plague in Howl comes from wolves. Anyone who hears a howl gets turned into a feral beast, which leaves the deaf heroine of Howl in something of an awkward position. The fate of the world now rests with her.
‘Turn-based tactical folktale’ isn’t a phrase we expected to be writing in this Up Next, but hopefully you can see from the screenshots why we’re interested in Howl. It’s drawn in a ‘flowing ink’ style, like a grim version of Pentiment, and it’s got a bold take on tactics too, as you plan manoeuvres six turns in advance.
This one may well get us baying at the Moon.
If you’ve ever sat up with interest when a driver pulls into the pits during F1 (“ooh, they mucked that tire changeover”), then Speed Crew may be for you.
Something of a spiritual cousin to Overcooked!, Speed Crew casts you as rival mechanics, looking to inspect, diagnose and then fix vehicles at speed. If you’re all coordinated enough (Pah! Like that will happen!), then your satisfied customer will bring in more cash, more punters and some renown for your team.
Sounds like precisely the kind of game we’d be pap at.
But there’s more
Alas, that is all January has for us. It’s not the most stuffed of months, but Januarys rarely are. None of us have any money left for big releases anyway.
February is when things start getting interesting. Persona 3 Reload and Tomb Raider I-III Remastered should be good, while a couple of controversial releases arrive in the form of Suicide Squad Kill the Justice League and Skull & Bones. We’re not wholly convinced those two games aren’t a mirage that will fade away as soon as January 30th arrives.
But for now, we wish you the happiest of New Years. May 2024 be kind to you.