While January used to signal a dead zone in the entertainment world, mid-season TV, Oscar hopeful holdovers from the year before, and now, a slate of surprisingly exciting games has transformed the beginning of the year into an exciting season of releases.
This year’s January game releases may not reach the blockbuster heights of February or March on the calendar, but there’s still a suite of exciting new releases to spend those gift cards on right after the holiday season. The first month of 2016 heralds the return of a cult music gaming classic, a Super Mario mash-up, the return of the Avengers in brick form, and a wealth of other new titles. Read on for a preview of some of the biggest debuts of the month, along with a list of other notable releases.
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Release Date: Jan. 5
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Harmonix, continuing its rockstar revival phase that began with Rock Band 4 last fall, goes back to its rhythmic roots in Amplitude, a new take on the 2003 PlayStation 2 classic. Players pilot a futuristic ship through the different aspects of a song (synth, drums, vocals, etc.), tapping along to the right beats on each track to keep the music alive. Those who can’t stand some electronica may want to look elsewhere, but connecting players to the driving toms and grooving basses of the soundtrack makes for an engaging, if not by this point revolutionary, time. Our experience with the game so far has made it hard to put down, Harmonix’s knack for selecting (or in this case, composing) some great tunes so fun to play that it feels like the player is crafting the music as it plays on full display in the franchise’s Kickstarted return.
Release Date: Jan. 15
Platforms: Windows PC, Xbox One
Lost meets Twin Peaks with a healthy dose of teen dramedy thrown into the mix, as Night School Studio’s adventure game Oxenfree arrives. The trappings of recent adventure games are included — players choose the dialogue of their character, affect relationships with other characters, and solve puzzles around the environment — but the setting, story, and style indicate Oxenfree is staking its own claim in the genre. As players take on the role of Alex, they’ll explore the ghostly goings-on of an island while fleshing out Alex’s relationships with her new stepbrother Jonas and a group of classmates, blending an honest look at teenage life paired with a healthy dose of supernatural events threatening them at every turn. Stay tuned for EW’s full review of the game later this month.
Release Date: Jan. 22
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Back in the days of the Nintendo 64, the Paper Mario series launched one of the best Super Mario side projects that has sadly faded in time with the Nintendo canon. (A successful Gamecube sequel was followed up by the unique but fun Super Paper Mario and then the disappointing DS Paper Mario: Sticker Star). The franchise returns to its role-playing game roots by combining with another successful Mario series, Mario & Luigi. The two combine worlds for an upcoming adventure that mashes the two art styles together. The turn-based fun of both franchises at its best delivered some of the most fun — and funniest — entries in the Italian plumber’s history, which will hopefully mean these two great tastes taste great together.
Release Date: Jan. 26
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, 3DS, PlayStation Vita, Windows PC
TT Games has adapted the Marvel universe to its Lego format before, but Lego Marvel’s Avengers hones the focus from the wider Marvel comics universe to the titular team, focused around their cinematic exploits. That doesn’t mean the game is a pared down adventure by any means, with content from the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest movies, including both Avengers films, along with missions and characters from TV series like Agent Carter. And where the developers couldn’t adapt, they improvised with comic book inclusions — the Netflix Jessica Jones series may have been too dark for the game, but the character is still playable. From Sokovia to Tony Stark’s Miami mansion, Lego Avengers makes what’s old new — and hopefully even funnier in brick form.
Release Date: Jan. 26
Jonathan Blow’s last and only major game release came in the form of 2008’s twist on the Super Mario format, Braid. His long-awaited game The Witness finally debuts this month, and there’s a reason EW put it on our 2016 most anticipated list. After a hands-on preview with the game, Blow and his team’s thoughtful attention to detail for the game’s single yet multitudinous island has set the stage for a fascinating journey. Players are tasked with exploring an island and solving a host of puzzles of increasing complexity, uncovering the secrets of the island all the while. The game is as layered as the island itself, letting players simply enjoy the puzzle solving on the surface or jump in to uncover the full story of the haunting, beautiful setting.
Check out some of January’s other big scheduled releases below:
Hardware: Rivals (PS4) — Jan. 5
Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India (PS4, Xbox One, PC) — Jan. 12
The Banner Saga (PS4, Xbox One) — Jan. 12
Gemini: Heroes Reborn (Xbox One, PC) — Jan. 12 (PS4 on Jan. 19)
That Dragon Cancer (PC) — Jan. 12
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (PC) — Jan. 15
Darkest Dungeon (PC, Mac, Linux) — Jan. 19
Resident Evil Zero HD (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360, PC) — Jan. 19 (Also available with Resident Evil in the Resident Evil Origins Collection for PS4 and Xbox One)
Civilization Revolution 2 Plus (Vita) — January 26
Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS) — Jan. 26
This War of Mine: The Little Ones (PS4, Xbox One) – Jan. 29
Bombshell (PC) — Jan. 29