Happy 2023, players! 2022 was an amazing year for gaming, and this year’s already poised to be another one for the history books. So how about making a new year’s resolution to expand your gaming horizons? Trying out games from unfamiliar genres or titles made by up-and-coming developers can be a wonderful experience. January’s indie highlights are a great place to start. From terrifying twin-stick shooter nightmare worlds to the emotional drama of a fading existence to the primal satisfaction of the car wash, these games will take you to some very interesting places.
Children of Silentown
Small towns are known for fostering strong communities, where the absence of a single person can be felt by everyone. But in this hamlet in the middle of the woods, there are a lot of disappearances. There are also a lot of night sounds hereーthe sort of monstrous roars that would shake your soul from your body. Lucy’s lived here all her life, and she’s convinced that she’s old enough to get to the bottom of why townsfolk are vanishing. Her tender young mind is about to experience a very rude awakening. Children of Silentown, developed by Elf Games and Luna2 Studio, is a loving homage to point-and-click adventure classics of yesteryear with a rural horror theme. Experience charming yet creepy painted visuals and fantastic sound design as you wrack your brain to solve some absolutely fiendish puzzles. And whatever you do, don’t step foot in the woods.
Release Date: January 11 | Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment | PS4
A Space for the Unbound
Ah, the 90sーa time when gorgeous pixel art was at its peak. In A Space for the Unbound, you’ll go to rural Indonesia during that exciting decade and meet a pair of teenage lovebirds named Atma and Raya… who just happen to have supernatural powers. That’s not the only unusual happening here, eitherーa malevolent force lurks in the background that threatens everything. To get to the bottom of the bizarre happenings, you’ll meet with all manner of colorful townsfolk, using psychic powers to dive into their minds to solve puzzles and conflicts. But even the most extraordinarily gifted high schoolers still have to battle their own uncertainty and self-doubt. Immerse yourself in this gorgeous 2D pixel-art adventure from developers Mojiken and Toge, and don’t forget to pet all the cats.
Release Date: January 19 | Publisher: Chorus Worldwide | PS4, PS5
Rem is a kid with typical kid problemsーshe hates gross veggies, she’s scared of big mean dogs, she despises doctor visits, and she can’t seem to get along with her classmates. What’s not so typical, however, is Rem’s dream world: a nightmare realm where all her worries and insecurities have her trapped. To wake herself up she’ll have to face her monstrous fears head-on in fiendishly intense twin-stick arcade shooter action. Grotesque mutant eggplants and diabolical demon dogs are just some of the memorably bizarre foes Rem must blow away to escape. You’ll also use a menagerie of collectible upgrades and gear to help you overcome the most challenging stages. NeverAwake by Neotro Inc is the arcade shooter of your dreams… or should that be nightmares?
Release Date: January 26 | Publisher: Phoenix | PS4, PS5
Some people are described as “living on their smartphones,” but Backfirewall from developer Naraven takes that statement very literally. In this odd first-person adventure, you play as the Update Assistantーthat being that lives inside your smartphone and gets things ready to go when the OS update comes in. The problem is the newest update being pushed is a disaster that’ll brick the device. With the help of other anthropomorphic apps living in this self-contained smartphone universe, you’ll explore, hack, reprogram, and exploit the system to keep things stable. And you might uncover some interesting information about the User, too.
Release Date: January 30 | Publisher: All in! Games | PS4, PS5
It’s the simple things in life that are the most deeply satisfyingーyou know, like taking a high-powered water blaster and annihilating layers of accumulated filth and muck to reveal the beauty of a shiny vehicle underneath. PowerWash Simulator by developer FuturLab gives you the experience of large-scale deep cleaning without needing to wrangle a forceful hose or get sopping wet. As the owner of a cleaning business, you’ll get everything looking new: cars, houses, playground equipment, and even a Mars Rover. Join forces with a friend for intense yet strangely relaxing co-op cleansing.
Release Date: January 30 | Publisher: Square Enix | PS4, PS5
Season: A letter to the future
It’s time to leave home and go exploring the worldーa somewhat daunting proposition since you’ve been living in a quiet hamlet for all of your life so far, and you’ve never left once. As you take control of heroine Estelle and hop on your trusty bike (complete with DualSense controller-enhanced pedal controls and haptic feedback), you come to understand that everything as you know it will soon come to an end. In this atmospheric, emotionally charged third-person exploration/adventure game developer by Scavenger Studios, you’ll do everything you can to preserve the lives, traditions, words, and memories of those soon fated to fade into history. Using notebooks, cameras, and recorders to capture the details of a culture’s daily existence, you’ll strive to preserve a memory of life as it was for those in the future.
Release Date: January 31 | Publisher: Scavenger Studios | PS4, PS5
We Were Here Forever
Well, here you are, stuck in the dungeon depths alongside another sorry schmuck among the frozen tundra of Antarctica. How’d you wind up in this miserable place? And just what the heck is a castle doing in Antarctica, anyway? Who knowsーthe important thing is that you’re going to need to get out of this freezing hell, and you’re going to need the help of your partner-in-potential-freedom to do it. This spooky first-person, co-op-only puzzle adventure from TMG Studios B.V. takes you through the harsh halls of Castle Rock as you and another player work together to uncover the fort’s history and secrets, starting with only a pair of mic-controlled walkie-talkies. Can you escape, or will you both be left as forgotten, frozen corpses?
Release Date: January 31 | Publisher: TMG Studios B.V. | PS4, PS5
Which indie release this month are you looking forward to most?