It’s the start of a brand new year, and that means a fresh new calendar full of exciting games to look forward to. But before we get to The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or the Resident Evil 4 Remake, we’d be remiss not to stop and sample the finest new indie games of January 2023 that aren’t waiting for later in the year to make their mark.
Here are five such titles across PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & S, and Switch, each of which are certain to get your 2023 in gaming started off right. From roguelikes to narrative-heavy slow burns, each one will keep you enthralled during the lean times between major releases.
1. A Space For The Unbound
Publisher: Toge Productions, Chorus Worldwide
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Switch, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One
For fans of: Persona, Psychonauts, The World Ends With You, Slice-of-life sims
Indonesian developer Mojiken’s latest title, A Space For The Unbound takes place in Indonesia in the 1990s, as two best friends face the dual crises of the end of the world and the start of adulthood. Rendered in a gorgeous pixelated art style, these teens will spend their days exploring their quiet town, encountering strange supernatural forces, diving into people’s minds, and resolving their feelings for each other.
The mix of grounded life events, paranormal happenings, and nuanced explorations of people’s minds is an ambitious balance to strike, yet A Space For The Unbound finds the perfect proportions for all its disparate elements. Fans of coming-of-age stories and vivid, lived-in little towns will easily get lost in this lovely community, stuffed with memorable characters and gorgeous environments. Add in excellent music and intuitive, clever puzzles that never leave you feeling stumped, and A Space for the Unbound comes together as an early frontrunner for the best narrative game of 2023.
But be sure to play with some tissues handy.
2. Luck Be A Landlord
For fans of: Slay The Spire, Inscryption
Nobody likes to pay rent, and while video games are a fun escape from the economic pains of reality, rare is the game that digs into the pain of renting property and combines it with the joy of gambling. Luck Be A Landlord is a unique little gem of a game, where you try to win enough money from a slot machine to not just pay your rent, but also, as the game’s Steam page says, “defeat capitalism.”
Borrowing elements of gameplay from the roguelike deck builder genre, you’ll expand the icons on your slot machine to increase your chances of winning and the options at your disposal. Before long, the scope of your conflict and the money you’re throwing around will balloon outward beyond your wildest expectations. The tight, quick rounds make it ideal for quick play, as you can complete a loop in a few minutes and still feel like you’ve made progress, made (fictional) money, and had fun.
Thankfully, despite the focus on slot machines, money, and gambling, Luck Be A Landlord has no actual microtransactions or pay-to-win mechanics within it, so this game about the evils of capitalism won’t try and swindle you out of your hard-earned real world dollars.
3. Lone Ruin
Developer: Cuddle Monster Games
Publisher: Super Rare Games
Platform(s): PC, Switch
For fans of: Hades, Vampire Survivors
Sometimes all you want from a game is bright lights, pretty colors, and a whole lot of stuff bouncing around on screen. Lone Ruin is an isometric twin-stick shooter about delving into a deep and lethal set of ruins to plunder the treasures within. Gorgeous neon visuals bathe every new level in alluring and terrible hues, and robust and complex spells make every run a thrilling balancing act.
Repeated runs reward big risks, and the enemies and environments will always keep you on your toes. It’s also one of the more easily completable roguelike shooters out there, which means you won’t have to sink endless hours to complete a run, while still having reasons to come back, with a lot of joy to be had from internalizing Lone Ruin’s unique combat rhythms.
The journey definitely puts you through your paces, even given its briefer run time, with screen-filling swarms of enemies that are overwhelming until you have the power to chew through them with ease.
4. Season: A Letter To The Future
Developer: Scavengers Studio
Publisher: Scavengers Studio
Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4
For fans of: Sable, Death Stranding
Gliding onto consoles on literally the final day of the month, Season: A Letter to the Future has been a highly-anticipated title since it was first announced in late 2020. As a young chronicler, it’s your job to explore your world, take photos, and record the sounds of your way of life before an apocalyptic cataclysm ravages it all.
Despite this dour premise, every trailer of Season has presented a beautiful, living, and vibrant world. If you’re the type of player who loves to get lost in an open world and just soak in the sights, Season seems to have been made with you in mind. Every setting is dripping in detail and warmth, making the importance of your mission that much more powerful. You’ll meet other residents of this precarious world, learn their stories, and do your best to make the most of this perilous journey.
Season is the second title from Scavengers Studio, following 2017’s battle royale Darwin Project. The studio is most certainly taking a more original approach for their sophomore release, as Season looks incredibly singular and unlike anything else on the market right now.
Platform(s): PC, Switch, Xbox Series X & S, Xbox One
For fans of: Legend of Zelda, Minit, Tunic
Comedy and parody are tricky flavors to try in video games, with senses of humor varying from player to player. UnderDungeon, a loving parody/homage to top-down Zelda titles and classic dungeon crawlers, aims to strike a balance between recreating the hallmarks of its genre and delivering a fresh, fun spin on them.
Overzealous feline adventurer Kimuto is starting his first day on the job as a would-be hero, battling mysterious monsters and exploring the world around him. Wandering the overworld, looking for enemies, dungeons to explore, puzzles, and friendly NPCs is a constantly rewarding experience, with fresh ideas and smart level design hiding in every nook and cranny.
A colorful cast of supporting characters make Kimuto’s adventures feel fresh and exciting. While the cast is colorful, the world is not, as UnderDungeon is rendered in a beautifully minimalist black-and-white 8-bit-inspired style that contributes to the retro aesthetic. These humble first appearances are deceptive, however, as the designers at Josyan have wrung out all manner of creative tricks and graphical sleight-of-hand to make the journey stand out.
A catchy soundtrack completes the package, making UnderDungeon a clever, cozy, and concise riff on a bygone style of game.
READ NEXT: 10 Best Indie Games Of 2022
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