The Best Games of January 2016

As fans of video games, we’re in a very fortunate position at the moment. Even though winter is supposed to be a slow period for new releases, we are being inundated with great games from all directions, and there’s no sign of this changing any time soon. It got us thinking: what if, instead of highlighting one game as the best of the month, we showcased every game that won our hearts and minds?

So, after two years of celebrating one game per month, we at GameSpot want to showcase everything great that comes our way. It not only gives us the chance to recollect and highlight every game that we love, it allows us to create snapshots of the game industry’s best work at a particular point in time.

Without further ado, these are our favorite games that came out in January 2016.

Jan. 5, 2016: Amplitude – 7/10

Scott Butterworth, Amplitude Review “The game is plenty demanding when playing solo, but when you add up to three other players, the action gets downright frantic. You can block opponents by diving into adjacent lanes, mess with your enemies by deploying special power-ups, and even partner with a friend for two-on-two battles. There’s no online option, but the gameplay works extremely well on a shared couch. By focusing on Amplitude’s exemplary gameplay–thereby shifting the focus away from its somewhat lackluster music selection–multiplayer extends the game’s long-term appeal.”

Justin Clark, That Dragon, Cancer Review “More than it is any sort of game with a victory-state, or a satisfying climax, That Dragon, Cancer is Ryan and Amy’s abstract, dream-world document of the continual search for, if not their own grace, then at least respite for themselves and their lost child. As such, it’s hard, bordering on impossible, to judge as a game in the strictest sense, even under looser Gone Home/The Beginner’s Guide terms. It has no need or interest to entertain anyone who plays it. The existential terror and disorientation of the experience has no real satisfaction, just the hope that expressing it can let its creators lift the burden. There are no Achievements, no points to be gained. There is only the ability to weave and work abstractly through the pain of its creators as they did, the interactivity of the medium allowing them the freedom to craft often virtual cathedrals to stand in monument of it.”

Jan. 15, 2016: Oxenfree – 8/10

Alexa Ray Corriea, Oxenfree Review “Oxenfree is more than a ghost story with a Freaks and Geeks-like coating. It’s a tale of coping with loss, broken relationships, and the inflexibility with which teenagers deal with sudden change, all layered under an alarming paranormal encounter. I left Oxenfree feeling hollow and strained, emotionally spent yet excited to play again and uncover more of the mystery. It doesn’t hammer you with platitudes about friendship and loss, but hands you a knot to untangle that rewards you at every success with an emotional gut punch. It doesn’t ask you any big questions, and certainly isn’t easy in relenting its answers; Oxenfree just is what it is, a big little game about the all-too-human inability to let go of what hurts us.”

Peter Brown, Resident Evil 0: HD Remaster Review – “Zero bears the hallmarks that made the original Resident Evil enjoyable. At a glance, it looks impressive, with some expertly composed shots and highly detailed environments. Some issues from the original persist, reminding you how far controls in games have come since 2002, but they are temporary frustrations that fade once you find your footing and continue your journey. You may tire of the formula by the end of the game, but with Wesker at your fingertips, don’t be surprised if you find yourself eager to sprint through zombies and decapitate them with energy blasts. It’s just crazy enough to work.”

Daniel Starkey, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak Review “Homeworld was always about loneliness. It was always about clarity and focus. Kharak isn’t new in that regard, but it is special. It shows us that when you get things right — and excel — that formula isn’t easy to exhaust. Kharak does its part to add to that, though. Its use of voice acting and efficient visuals is a brilliant addition that’s far from superficial. It helps narrow the scope of what you need to manage, so that it can load you up with as much as your brain can handle. It’s a fast, daunting experience that’s tough to shake, making Kharak as intoxicating as Homeworld has ever been.”

Mike Mahardy, The Witness Review “The Witness is one of the most challenging games I’ve ever played. During my playthrough, I experienced confusion, uncertainty, and mental exhaustion as I tried to understand this game’s intricacies. At times, I considered giving up. The Witness makes few attempts at handholding, opting instead to convey its mechanics in subtle, cryptic ways as you struggle to make sense of it all.

But when you do persist, frustration gives way to gratification. This is what makes The Witness special. Unlike many puzzle games, it doesn’t just make you feel intelligent–it begins on the assumption that you are intelligent. It trusts that you are a perceptive human being, capable of patience and critical thinking, and it rewards you for using both.”

Alexa Ray Corriea, Final Fantasy Explorers Review “Final Fantasy Explorers is an homage to the series in the vein of Final Fantasy XIV; a world of reverential cameos and winking allusion glossed with the series’ staple tone of wonder. The sheer number of quests and the complexity of customization will keep you busy for hours. If you like that sort of thing, that is. Even though its economy leaves a bit to be desired, it’s not clunky enough to dissuade you from working hard to earn items and craft your ultimate armor. Because while Final Fantasy Explorers isn’t a true Final Fantasy game, in a sense–it’s more a Monster Hunter clone with a touch of Destiny than anything else–it still hits the sweet spot by sending you into a strange new world against magnificent creatures and impossible odds.”

Justin Clark, This War of Mine: The Little Ones Review “Having the soul of a child hanging in the balance every day in this game changes the tone of many of the day-to-day activities, especially scavenging. If you’re reduced to two survivors living in a house, and the adult has to scavenge, there is an emotional cost, and it has to be made up during the day, which is not always an option. The incredibly nuanced AI successfully makes these children feel real, instilling real emotion when you make tough decisions.”

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