After a shockingly strong January for video game releases, February 2023 was relatively quieter, held up by just a couple of big releases, remasters, and the launch of a new VR headset. There are still plenty of games worth playing, but you probably got the most out of February if you’re a Nintendo Switch owner.
We’ve combed through this month’s big releases to share our favorites, but let’s address the elephant in the room: Hogwarts Legacy was the most notable release of February, despite being mired in controversy. While Harry Potter fans are enjoying the title, Digital Trends was a bit less enamored with it in our two-and-a-half star review. Writer Giovanni Colantonio criticized the open-world game’s uninspired use of magic and generic design, noting that nostalgia for the IP does a lot of the heavy lifting.
As such, we’ve left it off this month’s list for a simple reason: There were just better games released in February. Our goal with this series of lists is always to compile the very best gaming has to offer every month, not necessarily the most talked-about games. From excellent remasters to a surprisingly robust rhythm RPG, these were no shortage of titles that deserved a shout-out. These were our six favorite games released in February (plus one great piece of hardware).
Metroid Prime Remastered
GameCube classic Metroid Prime is already considered one of the best games of all time by many people. As such, it’s no surprise that a Nintendo Switch remaster that adds dual analog supports and makes the game look even better is one of the best releases of the month. Metroid Prime Remastered even got a surprise launch during a Nintendo Direct, adding even more excitement to its release ahead of a physical release on February 22.
“While it might have been tempting to give the original a Dead Space-type remake treatment, the GameCube title didn’t need modifying,” Colantonio wrote about the game. “Instead, the remaster does some quiet technical work to remind players why Samus’ first 3D outing is still an unparalleled adventure two decades later.”
This refurbished version of a GameCube game has no glaring technical shortcomings. If you enjoy beautifully crafted sci-fi worlds and excellent game soundtracks, and want to experience one of the best-looking Switch games, we recommend picking this remaster up. Metroid Prime Remastered is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Capcom’s Monster Hunter series has remained relatively unchallenged until now, but EA and Koei Tecmo have finally provided it with a worthy opponent by releasing Wild Hearts. This monster-hunting game takes things in an exciting direction by letting players craft various tools to help them dynamically during the hunt. It does all of this while still feeling very respectful toward nature in its gameplay and theming.
“Wild Hearts’ actual narrative is pretty by the numbers so far, [but] its gameplay captivatingly portrays the relationship between humanity, animals, and nature in clever ways that elevate it over your standard hunting game,” Tomas Franzese wrote about Wild Hearts. “By showing players that they don’t always need to be aggressive, painting Kemono as deadly to the environment if left unchecked, and letting players assess the mark they leave on the game’s world, Wild Hearts shows more respect for nature and hunting than any other monster-hunting game I’ve seen before.”
Wild Hearts is the most challenging game on this list, as it rewards playing with others, being well-prepared for a long hunt, and crafting the right things in the middle of a fight. It onboards players better than Monster Hunter, though, so it’s a great entry point to the genre if you’ve always found those games intimidating. Wild Hearts for available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.
Like a Dragon: Ishin!
Previously unreleased in the West, Like a Dragon: Ishin! is a solid remaster of an older title in the series formerly known as Yakuza. Set in Japan during a period of great political strife, Like a Dragon: Ishin retains the narrative strengths that this series is known for. Gameplay feels a bit more dated, but will be familiar to those who’ve played the action games in this series.
“Even if this remaster of a spinoff set in 1800s Japan doesn’t do a lot to change itself from its initial release, for better and worse, Like a Dragon fans will still recognize all of the hallmarks of the series they know and love within Ishin, especially if they haven’t played it before,” Franzese wrote in a three-and-a-half star review of the game. “Its age has a way of showing through its remastered sheen, but the power of subquests like Ee Ja Nai Ka and the main narrative make this an adventure worth checking out now that it’s out in the West for the first time.”
It’s unlikely you’ve properly experienced this game before unless you know Japanese. As such, this remaster is worth checking out and serves as a reminder of what the series was like before it got superpopular in the West. Like a Dragon: Ishin is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.
Octopath Traveler II
If you’re a fan of more traditional JRPGs, then Octopath Traveler II will check all the right boxes for you. This sequel to a 2018 Nintendo Switch game doesn’t change much about the basic formula, as it’s still centered around the stories of eight different playable characters with unique abilities. Its turn-based battles still feature break and boost systems that will have players’ balancing the risks and rewards of each decision.
“Octopath Traveler II is a very beefy JRPG game that will easily last over 60 hours to even get to the end credits,” George Yang wrote in a four-star review of Octopath Traveler II. “There are a ton of customization options for characters, and the battle system feels fun and enticing to play despite having some of the same issues that plagued the first one.”
This game also sports Square Enix’s beautiful HD-2D aesthetic that we’ll never get tired of seeing. You probably already know whether or not Octopath Traveler II is for you, and if it does entice you, then you should have a good time once you pick it up. Octopath Traveler II is available now for PC, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.
Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe
Continuing the streak of great remasters this month, Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is a lovely double-dip into a fun and approachable Wii platformer. The base game was already great, but Dream Land Deluxe packs in a Merry Magoland mode with new minigames and an epilogue adventure featuring the character Magalor that tests the waters with some new game-progression ideas.
“Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is even more charming now than it was over a decade ago thanks to an excellent visual makeover that makes classic platforming feel modern again,” Colantonio wrote in a four-star review of the game. “Though what’s especially impressive here is the package’s brand new features, which double the amount of content and give developer Hal Laboratories space to experiment with ideas that could radically reinvent Kirby’s next mainline adventure.”
This is yet another game that’s aged quite gracefully, and as a kid-friendly title with multiplayer, it’s a worthwhile pickup for any families looking for something new to play together this month. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe is available now exclusively for Nintendo Switch.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
The Final Fantasy series can be intimidating. If you didn’t play every game when they first launched, you’re looking at a thousand-hour backlog of RPGs at this point. That’s why Franzese loves Theatrhythm Final Bar Line. The supersized rhythm game packs every Final Fantasy game into one massive musical experience. It features hundreds of tracks from across the series, which players can tap along to. It’s essentially a playable soundtrack, though with a cute RPG hook that happens alongside the music.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line essentially retells the story of every Final Fantasy game through those elements. While it doesn’t go into depth on any story, it goes through the major beats and introduces every notable character. More importantly, the music gives players a sense of what each game’s tone is. That makes it easy to hear the evolution of a constantly changing series from game to game. Franzese loved getting to experience entries he’s missed for the first time by tapping along to excellent retro compositions and unlocking a collection of art to go alongside that. If you want an easier way to catch up on the series, this might be the best way to do it.
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is available on PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. ~ Giovanni Colantonio
February 22 saw the launch of a new virtual reality device: PlayStation VR2. While that’s not a game itself, it’s worth including on this list as its a major hardware launch. Connected to a PS5 by only one wire, the PSVR2 is one of the most impressive gaming VR headsets on the market, with 2000 x 2040 resolution per eye, up to a 120Hz refresh rate, eye tracking, and a 110-degree field of view. While this is hardware and not a game, it’s still one of the most important releases for the game industry this month.
“As a first dive into the tech or an upgrade to Sony’s first headset, PSVR2 is an impressive evolution of Sony’s gaming gadget,” Colantonio wrote in a three-and-a-half star review of the headset, “Excellent specs set the stage for Sony to deliver high-end VR experiences that can diversify PlayStation’s already top-notch game library.”
There’s a lot to play on the device if you’re picking one up, including Horizon Call of the Mountain, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge Enhanced Edition, Fantavision 202X, and Kayak VR: Mirage. If the VR space interests you, or you’ve been waiting for the right time to try this nascent technology out, you should consider picking up a PlayStation VR2.