How’s the waistline holding up? Feeling sleepy after your triple-decker turkey sandwich? Well, that sounds like the perfect time for us to get down and dirty with the games coming in the first month of 2023.
We’re hearing a lot of noise around 2023 being a banner year for gaming. There are theories abound: will the lockdown dam burst and all of the brilliant games come sluicing out? But if that line of thinking is to hold, then January would have to be one of the best January’s in living memory. And guess what? It really is.
January is normally utter rubbish, a desert of gaming. But we struggled to keep the list of the games you should be playing on your Xbox in January 2023 down to eleven. We’ve got two Personas, a Monster Hunter, a full-blown One Piece RPG and the return of Dead Space. That’s not Dry January: that’s Rather Moist January.
Children of Silentown
The Daedalic team are known for their watertight, immersive graphic adventures, from Deponia to the Dark Eye series, and their latest adventure point-and-clicks its way onto Xbox in January.
Silentown is a place where monsters truly exist. But there are rules around whether they’ll get you: speak too loud, and you’ll get eaten; ask too many questions, and you’ll get eaten; disobey any rule, and you’ll get eaten. Something isn’t right in Silentown, and the monsters are only half of it.
Children of Silentown adopts a neat music system, as you can make changes to the environment, and people, through the power of song. Find out what people are thinking, raise ghosts and grow plants with a single ocarina-like tune.
One Piece Odyssey
Just to make you feel old (as if we needed any prompts for that), One Piece is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2023. And what better way to commemorate that milestone than creating the series’ first ever full-blown RPG in One Piece Odyssey. Like, a truly huge, Final Fantasy-sized One Piece RPG.
On a journey along the Grand Line, Captain Monkey.D.Luffy and the Straw Hat Crew are caught in a sudden tempest. As the skies clear, they find themselves stranded on a lush, but mysterious island called Waford (not Watford, unfortunately, which would have added a little je ne sais quoi). They’re separated, which means some good old character-swapping, as the crew set out on a swashbuckling adventure filled with hulking fauna, deadly enemies and some rather pissed locals.
Persona 3 Portable / Persona 4 Golden
Last year, we sounded the trumpets because Persona 5 miraculously came to Xbox. Like Dragon Quest before it, it just wasn’t a series that we could imagine in a green Xbox case, but there it was. Well, now we can take that total up to three, as two Persona ports arrive on the big black machine.
These were portable classics in their day, Persona 3 Portable being one of the main reasons to pick up a PSP, and Persona 4 Golden being a linchpin of the PS Vita. Now, they’re here on Xbox, remastered for the latest gen, and delivered in their entirety.
If you have any love for RPGs, JRPGs, the Persona series, or watching school children risk their lives in demonic hellscapes, then these are both well worth picking up.
Monster Hunter Rise
Talking of portable Japanese RPGs that make surprising entrances this January, we bring you Monster Hunter Rise. Originally a Nintendo Switch joint, CAPCOM hasn’t been able to resist bringing it over to Xbox.
You likely know the deal. You are the titular monster hunter, exploring vast and beautiful environments, on the search for beasties to scalp for their basic, natural materials. It’s all a bit mean-spirited if you sit back and think about it, but when the combat is almost as slick as a Bloodborne, and the crafting systems are as dense as the ones on offer here, who cares?
There are thirteen different weapon types, and countless weapons within each of those categories, so go bring down a Magnamalo and fashion it into a rather swish-looking set of pantaloons. You know you want to.
Holy crap, this brings back memories. We have a long list of dodgy RPGs that we loved on the Xbox 360 back in the day (Two Worlds! Bound By Flame!) and Risen is right at the top of them. We loved the shonky old-school RPG with all our heart, and now it’s back in all of its latest gen glory. It’s the most unlikely comeback since Mbappe tucked in his hat-trick.
The hokeyness is being addressed (although, we hope it retains some of its charm), with full gamepad control and reworked UI, no loading screens and all supplemental content included. That means the focus can turn to the stuff that worked: the open world, the branching consequences for your actions, different factions to join, twenty spells to master, and a veritable walk-in-wardrobe-worth of armours, crafting options and upgrades. It’s good to have you back, Risen.
Which segues rather nicely into Dead Space. Because as much as we do love a bit of Risen, we’re faintly aware that, as a remake, Dead Space might have a few more fans. They’re scrabbling for a look at the latest trailers and footage as if they were the ones corrupted by the Marker.
For a lot of people, this will be THE game for January. It’s a return to those halcyon days when you first woke up on the Ishimura, with madness creeping into Isaac’s skull and mutated space corpses trying to nudge in there too. It was a time before monetisation started corrupting the whole shebang in Dead Space 3, and the scares were pure. Ah, we can almost hear the scuttling of limbs. Good times.
Why get excited? Well, this is being developed in the Frostbite engine with the ultimate aim of being one, long tracking shot. An unbroken Dead Space experience fills us with equal dread and excitement, and we can’t wait to tuck in.
SpongeBob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake
We stray away from remake waters, and find ourselves in the land of ‘More of the Same’. Because SpongeBob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake comes from Purple Lamp, the developers of SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated. They handled the port for that rather good remake, and now it’s their turn to show what they can do from the ground (or seabed) up. For all intents and purposes, this is a sequel to Battle for Bikini Bottom, and that’s a rather good thing indeed.
It’s a simple premise that’s ripe for laughs. SpongeBob and Patrick have some mermaid’s tears, which happen to grant the holder wishes. Now, in any other game, those wishes would be in the hands of an evil villain, and you’d be questing to retrieve them. In The Cosmic Shake, you’re the one causing all of the global issues, tearing holes in reality and generally shaking up the place. It’s also a tidy means of bringing in pirates, knights, cowboys and prehistoric snails into one place.
As SpongeBob would say: I’m ready! I’m ready! I’m ready!
We Were Here Forever
The long-running co-operative series ‘We Were Here’ is back! The under-stated series has been winning hearts and breaking relationships for a few years now, with its Myst-like puzzling and occasional need for coordination.
We Were Here Forever has been out on PC since 2019, earning plaudits and ‘Very Positive’ reviews on Steam for its spine-tingling storytelling and fiendish, two-player puzzles. With the winter months being far too cold, and families forced to sit in the same rooms as each other, this might be the ideal remedy.
Just make sure you work together and not against each other, okay?
Chasing Static from Headware Games knows what it’s doing. There’s a metric ton of players who hanker for the return of Silent Hill and Silent Hill 2, who played the originals on their CRT monitors and got the willies from some pretty rudimentary polygons. Because Chasing Static looks and feels like an homage to classic PS1 horror titles, and has gone out of its way to look like one.
But rather than jetting to Silent Hills in America, we’re taking a left turn to rural Wales. Folk from the town of Hearth seem to have just upped and run away, and a mysterious facility is at the heart of it. This is a psychological short story that is absolutely going to give us the willies, but we’re too intrigued not to head right in. That’s how they got the townsfolk from Hearth, no doubt.
Tortuga: A Pirate’s Tale
We’ll get the piratespeak out of the way early – arrrrrrr, jim m’lad! – and try to keep sensible for the rest of the next couple of paragraphs.
Now, if you have a penchant for a bit of Sid Meier’s Pirates, and prefer your swashbuckling to be done at a remove, managing your pirates as if a pirate god, then Tortuga: A Pirate’s Tale is very much your cup of grog.
Kalypso Media know their way around a management sim, so we’re in safe, hooked hands. Everything you’d want is here: naval combat, boat customisation, crew management and a spot of pillaging, taking the spoils back to share (or not share) as the case may be. You even get to customise your own flag. Rainbowbeard it is then.
A Space for the Unbound
Last but certainly not least is a slice-of-life from a very different part of the world. We ditch the Caribbean for Indonesia, as A Space for the Unbound tells the story of two friends, a boy and a girl, who simultaneously learn of their supernatural powers. That would be exciting to most people, but Atma and Raya are prone to mental health issues, including bouts of anxiety, so the powers begin to take on a darker edge.
We’d say that 90s Indonesia is an uncommon backdrop for a game, and we’re always thrilled to be taken to new places. With Atma and Raya’s abilities you can go even further than that, as you dive into the thoughts of the people around you, piecing together the mystery of your powers, as well as having to share their earworms (probably). This could be a gentle triumph to start off the year. It certainly looks dreamy.
Alas, we reach the end of our January 2023 rundown. Hopefully you’ve seen the promise of 2023, as traditionally the worst month for gaming is absolutely rammed with worthwhile games.
February may well keep the run going. If announcements are to be believed (and 2022 taught us that they may not), then February brings us Hogwart’s Legacy, Destiny 2: Lightfall, Like a Dragon: Ishin, Wild Hearts and Atomic Heart. And that’s not even scratching the surface.
With that promise of quality we bid you adieu. Have a very Happy New Year from all of us at TheXboxHub, and the best of wishes in 2023!