5 Games We’re Looking Forward to in January

Games Lists

January is a notorious dumping ground for the worst movies, dreck that somehow avoids a straight-to-VOD release and actually sneaks into theaters for a week or two. With games the situation is slightly different. Usually there just aren’t that many games released in January at all. The industry’s still recovering from the holiday onslaught. There’s often a lot of quality found in January’s slim pickings, though, and it’s a great month to release a smaller game that maybe would’ve been swallowed up by the hype over the latest shooter or Ubisoft-style map expander. Some of the best games of 2014 came out in January, like OlliOlli, Nidhogg, The Banner Saga and Broken Age. Maybe this January will be as strong?

1. Life is Strange
Release Date: 1/30
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Life is Strange is a wildcard. It’s always getting compared to Gone Home, which is good, and to Heavy Rain, which is as bad as bad can get. Basically that just means it’s a game about a woman who doesn’t seem to shoot anybody. We need more games about women, and we need more games where not every interaction ends with a corpse. And the developers, Dontnod Entertainment, put forth a fine effort with their last game, Remember Me (which at this point I think is only remembered by people who write for Paste.) The best parts of Remember Me was its sense of place and character, which makes me think Dontnod could do a good job with a graphic adventure like Life is Strange. Hopefully the first episode isn’t as consistently morose as the trailer indicates—my goth tolerance wears out by the sixth minute of “Pictures of You.”

2. Grim Fandango Remastered
Release Date: 1/27
Platforms: Playstation 4, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux

Here’s where I admit to never playing yet another classic game. If Grim Fandango had come out on the Nintendo 64 back in 1998 it probably would’ve wound up in my system at some point, but my deep lifelong ambivalence towards PC gaming prevented me from digging into it at the time. (I play PC games sometimes now. I’m a professional.) Now the time has come to finally see why everybody loves this game more than all of the other games, or, if you are one of the faithful acolytes, to welcome that magic back into your heart one more time. Tim Schafer’s done some good things. Maybe this is one of them. As happens with all remasters, some longtime fans will probably hate this. Their arguments will mean nothing to me.

3. Saints Row IV: Gat Out of Hell
Release Date: 1/20
Platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One

I’m actually a little hesitant on this one. I will play it, because few games were as full as 2000AD-style thrill-power as Saints Row IV. The best thing about IV is how much freedom it gives the player, especially when it comes to designing a character. The spinoff Gat Out of Hell lets you import your character from IV, but won’t let you create a new one from scratch. It locks you into either that imported character or two of the game’s standbys. And as entertaining as these games can be, there’s nothing particularly exciting or memorable about its prefab characters. Gat Out of Hell promises some slight variations on IV’s absurd superpowered action, as well as a new setting, so hopefully it’ll feel like more than just a slightly hobbled rebrand of one of 2013’s best games.

4. Citizens of Earth
Release Date: 1/20
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Wii U, 3DS, Vita

One of the worst things about role-playing games is how melodramatic they can be. I can handle seriousness, but the last several Final Fantasies have been the wrong kind of soapy—too sincere, too straight-faced, and not nearly self-aware enough. That’s not uncommon for RPGs, especially ones from Japan. Citizens of Earth isn’t from Japan, but it’s indebted to the classic RPG formula, and doesn’t seem to have a single line of sincerity in its code. It looks a bit like Earthbound but stars a redheaded Mitt Romney as the “Vice-President of the World”, leading a party of apparently regular citizens into battle against assorted ruffians. The theme’s got promise, with its goofball humor and contemporary setting resembling a more earthbound Paper Mario. Hopefully its sense of humor isn’t too overbearing or aggravating.

5. Dying Light
Release Date: 1/27
Platforms: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One

This is docked a slot or two because of the zombies. It’s well past time for a zombie break. Let’s cool it on those guys until Malia Obama is president. Dying Light promises to focus more on survival than action, while also rewarding a more cerebral style of play through preparation and exploiting the environment. It seems to take notes from some of the better recent zombie games, including Day Z and Zombi U, which makes me more interested in yet another zombie game than I ever thought I would be. Also I get a nice Mirror’s Edge high from that parkour-heavy trailer.

Garrett Martin edits the games and comedy sections for Paste.

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