With new games of all sizes filling real and digital shelves every week, it can be near impossible for anyone to keep up. So during the first week of every month, we’ll be here to help with a curated selection of new, notable games we think should be on everyone’s radar for the month ahead.
Of all the game genres to have fizzled out over the years, the classic arcade beat ’em up—best remembered for the likes of Double Dragon, X-Men, and The Simpsons—is one that never managed to mount a notable comeback. There have been successful revivalists here and there, but most of those games have brought the dead-simple concept back with minimal modernist finagling. Household Games’ Way Of The Passive Fist is just as loving an homage to those brawlers, but it subverts the relentless button-mashing offense they were known for by stripping you of attacks almost completely. Inspired by defensive play in fighting games (such as the famous, eternally amazing “Evo Moment #37"), Passive Fist is instead an exercise in timing and rhythm, challenging you to read the moves of your tactless enemies and react accordingly.
Amanita Design’s whimsical adventure games keep getting better. 2016’s Samorost 3 was an undeniable pinnacle, a meditative musical that had you traveling through space and communing with surreal natural wonders. The Czech studio’s next game, Chuchel, sees the return of illustrator and designer Jaromír Plachý to the helm. With him comes the same cartoon slapstick he brought to his last project, Botanicula, only here it’s been juiced up to manic levels. Chuchel is also the first time since Botanicula that Amanita is reuniting with DVA, the Czech freak-folk duo who provided that game with one of the decade’s best soundtracks.
It’s hard to imagine Kirby getting more adorable than the time he and his world were made entirely of yarn, but Nintendo’s making a strong go of it with Star Allies, the ravenous pink dough ball’s debut for the Switch. This time around, instead of swallowing and stealing the abilities of other cuddly characters, Kirby can also literally throw hearts at them and turn them into friends who’ll then help solve puzzles or team up for powerful combination attacks. It also makes the game perfectly tuned for the kind of breezy co-op play for which the Switch was built.
A lot of properties have been grafted onto the mindless hacking and slashing skeleton of the inexplicably immortal Dynasty Warriors series over the years, but none have been quite as strange as developer Omega Force’s take on the anime hit Attack On Titan. The game has you using an omni-directional grappling-hook suit to swoop through the air and build up as much speed as you can to better wallop the giant, naked (but genital-less), people-eating dudes known as Titans. Like any Dynasty Warriors-style game, it gets monotonous quickly, but when done well, there’s nothing quite like the momentum and maneuverability of a good video game grappling hook and Attack On Titan did it surprisingly well.
There have been a few highs (Viva Piñata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts) and a lot of lows (pretty much everything else) for Rare since Microsoft bought the storied studio in 2002. Finally released from motion-controlled video game hell, Sea Of Thieves is the first chance the company’s current incarnation has had in many years to live up to its legacy. This goofy pirate simulator unleashes players on a huge watery world with no goals other than to become the best pirate you can be, which means seeking out lots of buried treasure, joining with other scurvy dogs to pilot ships, battling it out with roving crews of other players, and of course, getting trashed out of your mind on grog.
The last time Josef Fares directed a game he delivered Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, putting you in control of two siblings at the same time to tell a heart-wrenching fantasy story. His next game concerns brothers of a different sort, two strangers who meet in prison and break out together. Taking a deliberately opposite tact from Brothers, though, A Way Out requires two players to be working in tandem at all times, each dedicated to one of the two main characters but making decisions together, covering for one another, and trying to survive on the outside.
By now, you might have heard Hollywood is making a movie with a talking, crime-solving Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds, but Detective Pikachu is actually based on a 3DS game that came out in Japan in 2016. With the movie on the horizon, Nintendo is finally bringing its hard-boiled, coffee-slurping Pikachu to the rest of the world. Hearing that gruff, Will Arnett-like voice coming out of the electric rat’s doughy little face is deeply disturbing, but there’s something charming about seeing a Pokémon tell off the idiot prepubescent boy that usually gets to boss them around with impunity.
The Japanese role-playing-game specialists at Level-5 made a big splash with the original Ni No Kuni, a fairy tale adventure with art, music, and cinematic scenes created in partnership with Studio Ghibli. The legendary animation house isn’t as involved in the sequel—longtime Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi and animator Yoshiyuki Momose returned—but it’s still a stunning, living rendition of the studio’s house style, and now the rest of the game has been expanded well beyond the original’s strictly traditional JRPG scope.
After four games of murder and mayhem in far-flung locales, Ubisoft is bringing Far Cry to its wildest setting yet: rural Montana. Pitting players against a Christian extremist who’s turned an entire town into a heavily armed, anti-government cult with him as their messianic leader, the premise has the potential to be boldly political, but the question of whether Ubisoft will actually have something to say or just use this deeply resonant and uncomfortable imagery as buzz-generating window dressing is still up in the air. (Sadly, but unsurprisingly, early reports point to the latter.)
Although Major League Baseball itself has stepped up to compete (its latest attempt at reviving the classic R.B.I. Baseball series is also due in March, and it’s looking like a big upgrade over past efforts), Sony’s The Show remains the gold standard for simulated slugging.
Set in a disgusting vision of hell, Agony is a horror game that has gotten a lot of buzz from cranking its edginess dial to the limit and then forcibly snapping it off. It carries a striking look that renders the depths of Hades as a fleshy, wet wasteland and, from what we’ve seen in previews, a dedication to some graphic, bizarre gore. But judging by its developer’s Twitter feed’s near-exclusive focus on screenshots of horny demons rubbing their naked bodies or lying around with their legs spread and their crotches covered by the words “The gates of hell will open wide” (not to mention the logo, where, let’s face it, the “O” is obviously a toothy vagina), we can’t shake the feeling that it’s also maybe one big exercise in demon fetish porn. And you know what, that’s totally cool if that’s your thing. But for all other horror junkies who are just looking for a freaky game to give them their fix, you might want to proceed with caution.