Australian games are products of hard work, passion and pure talent. Our local industry is often overshadowed by larger-scale releases from massive overseas studios, but that doesn’t mean we should celebrate the achievements of the local Aussie scene.
2020 has been a great year for Aussie-made games, even with all the hardship brought on by coronavirus and bushfires.
We saw plenty of incredible games this year, including smash hits like?Moving Out?and?Golf With Your Friends.?We also saw dungeon crawlers, narrative adventures and wide open worlds take the spotlight — and there was even a welcome return for a distinctly HONK!-shaped friend.
These were the best Australian games of 2020. They represent everything incredible about Australia’s local industry.
Image: Necrobarista, Route 59
Necrobarista?will stay with you for days. This visual novel from Melbourne’s Route 59 is a deep, well-written tale about the intersection between the living and the dead, all set in a cosy Melbourne cafe. Even when it’s dealing with deeper themes like broken friendships, the short span of living and the nature of death, it’s wrapped up with such clever, overtly Aussie writing it’s a pure delight.
Whether you like narrative adventures or stories with a beating, golden heart at their centre, Necrobarista?is the game for you. It’s one of 2020’s most sharply written games.
Image: Ring of Pain, Twice Different
Ring of Pain?is hard to define by its genre, but essentially it’s an action-adventure dungeon crawling strategy roguelike dubbed a “painlike” by developer Simon Boxer. Still with us? Over the course of the game you’ll travel through the depths of the Ring of Pain, combine cards to defeat enemies, perfect your deck and uncover new monster-destroying strategies. While you will need to invest hours to build your strength, you’ll quickly grow to love its charming mechanics. That goes doubly so if you’re a fan of Slay the Spire.
The game is a deeply rewarding challenge, much like its development cycle.
“It’s hard to communicate how much sacrifice and risk is involved in creating games, especially new IP,” Boxer told Kotaku Australia. “The project was scoped to a part time schedule, and our staff all worked 2-4 days a week. As we progressed through lockdown we had room to flex without going beyond a full-time schedule … We’ve run intentionally lean and for me personally it’s been a labour of love. In some ways making the game might’ve even helped me through lockdown, having something to focus on (though I’d rather make games under normal conditions).”
The enthusiastic response to the game is a sign of how much love was poured into creating?Ring of Pain.
Image: Moving Out, SMG Studio/DevM Games
Everyone hates moving out, but everyone loved?Moving Out.?This?Overcooked-style moving simulator focused on the pleasure and pain of moving houses — and it made for an incredibly fun party game. Whether you play Moving Out?in co-op or on your lonesome, there’s tonnes of ridiculous fun to be had. Throw a pot plant into a wall. Smash your least favourite cupboard to bits. It’s all fair game in this high-speed affair.
You will need to get through some tough puzzling to complete the harder levels of the game, but even when the going gets tough,?Moving Out?is an extremely good time. Grab a bunch of your mates and get ready to (“accidentally”) smash some stuff.
Image: Speaking Simulator, Affable Games
It’s hard to believe?Speaking Simulator?came out this year, but in January 2020 we got this weird little Aussie gem. If it looks a little strange, that’s because it is — and we love it for that reason. In Speaking Simulator,?you need to pass yourself off as human by manually operating the mouth movement of an automaton to sound out vowels and consonants. For the best results, you shouldn’t take the game too seriously: you’ll find yourself stumbling and tripping over words often, and that’s where all the fun lies.
Speaking Simulator?is a silly little game, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need in our lives. It’s just the right amount of ridiculous for 2020.
Image: Golf With Your Friends, Blacklight Interactive
Golf With Your Friends?might just be the perfect multiplayer game. See it’s golf, but with your friends. Simple, right? You throw in a couple of strange courses, exploding golf balls, candy lands and high-speed challenges, and you’ve got yourself one of 2020’s best Aussie games.
There’s a bunch of rad courses to golf in and plenty of modes to tackle so if you’re looking to settle down and whittle a few hours away with mates it should definitely be on your list. Even if you’re just playing solo, it’s still deeply entertaining. If you want to see Kotaku Australia tackling a few of the Golf With Your Friends courses, check out our stream VOD from a few months ago.
Image: Windbound, 5 Lives Studio
It would be cheap to call?Windbound?a Wind Waker?game, but it’s the nearest analogy for this world-sweeping adventure. In it you take the role of Kara, a shipwrecked warrior attempting to carve out a new path in a dangerous land. You’ll need to forage and fight your way through gorgeous islands to survive, collecting materials along the way to strengthen your gear.
Windbound Nails The Terrifying, Calming Peace Of Being In Open Waters
Windbound?takes many cues from traditional survival games, and adds in gorgeous islands to explore and deeply cathartic (and often challenging) gameplay. If you’re looking for a world to get lost in, visit the shores of Windbound.?There’s plenty of magic to discover.
We can always do with more?Untitled Goose Game?in our lives, and the surprise addition of a two player co-op mode in September was most welcome. More than being absolutely adorable, it gave us all a chance to revisit the wonders of being a no-good horrible goose with a friend in tow. For a brief moment, there was more mayhem and madness in our little villages than we could handle — and it was?wonderful.
While it wasn’t quite a full game, the new mode added a whole lot of fun to the original and opened up a world of hideous possibilities. Long may the geese continue their reign of terror.
Imagine a new?Ace Combat, but it’s spearheaded by a developer in Perth. And the whole game has VR support, an excellent soundtrack, and a superb roguelike-esque Conquest mode. And the whole thing is only $35.95 Australian.
Creating video games in Australia is a difficult task due to a continued lack of federal government support. Many of these projects were brought to life by the passion and hard work of a our talented local developers, and the quality here is a testament to their skill.
While not every Aussie game scheduled for 2020 managed to release this year, the good news is 2021 is absolutely stacked with Aussie talent. From?Unpacking?to?Sports Story, Hollow Knight: Silksong?and more, there are plenty of great Australian games on the horizon.
We can’t wait to see what the new year brings.