For many years now Australia has been pumping out high-quality video games, however recently it feels like the level of critical acclaim has gone up another level, with games like Florence, The Gardens Between and everyone’s favourite jerk goose simulator Untitled Goose Game all launching to high critical and consumer praise. What many people don’t realise is that Australia is a hotbed of indie dev talent, with countless studios hard at work on unique and engaging projects. To prove it, here are nine homegrown titles launching this year that you should keep your eye on. Before we get into it it’s worth mentioning that this article is based on games that have been given a 2020 date as of publication. If you want a full list of all the Australian-made (and New Zealand) games that are releasing in 2020 you can click here.
Release: Q1 2020 (PC)/2020 PS4/Switch | Developer: Route 59 Games | Publisher: Route 59 Games/Coconut Island Games/AGM PLAYISM | Platforms: PC/PS4/Switch
Made In Australia Interview // Made In Australia Studio Feature
Made in Melbourne, set in Melbourne and by a team named (I assume) after a popular Melbourne tram route, Necrobarista is about as local as it gets. The game’s reach has spread far beyond its home town/country though, with media outlets and fans the world over frothing over this anime-inspired visual novel with a morbid twist. Set in a café frequented by dead souls spending their last day night on Earth (probably a pretty similar vibe to actual Melbourne cafés), Necrobarista’s unique concept is married to a flair for animation and cinematography that helps it really stand out.
Release: March-April 2020 | Developer: Wicked Witch | Publisher: Tru Blu Entertainment | Platforms: PS4/Xbox One/PC
While this game technically isn’t an indie game due to the AFL’s involvement, AFL Evolution 2 is about as true blue as it gets. Arguably Australia’s national sport, the AFL continues to provide millions of fans with weekend entertainment (or frustration depending on who you barrack for). However when it comes to video games the AFL has largely resembled last year’s grand final: disappointing. I’ve argued in the past that perhaps the sport just simply can’t be translated into a video game – but then how do you explain AFL 99 being so damn good? When AFL Evolution released back in 2017 it brought the sport to current-gen consoles but didn’t quite set the world on fire. Now after three years and multiple delays AFL Evolution 2 is set to launch in 2020 with a visual upgrade and improved mechanics, bringing with it the hopes of many avid footy fans. The AFL won’t want another dud, so expect better things from Wicked Witch this time around.
Release: 2020 | Developer: Vivink Studios | Publisher: Vivink Studios | Platforms: Switch/PC
Charming 2D platforming? Check. Beautiful, hand-drawn art? Check. A red panda for a main character? Now we’re really talking. There’s been a great shift of late towards games starring or promoting messages of endangered species and helping to raise awareness of conservation. If Ailuri can continue that trend and offer up the kind of lush contemplative platforming adventure that it looks like, it’s sure to be something special. Plus this panda is so damned cute!
Known as Grand Theft Cthulhu, Dead Static Drive is part joyride, part survival game in an apocalyptic America that has been infested with cosmic monsters. The isometric game features a striking art style and a huge emphasis on replayability. Players have 30 days to ‘survive’, and with a number of towns to explore and branching storylines where your relationships matter, it will take several playthroughs to see everything or to get it right (read: not die).
Melbourne-based studio Fanclub, lead by Mike Blackney, has been hard at work on Dead Static Drive for a number of years and in 2020 the game will finally launch on Windows and Xbox One (including Xbox Game Pass on day one). DSD has been on every media outlets lips since it was announced – it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.
Having recently moved house, this is a game that resonates with me. However I can categorically say that Moving Out the game is more fun than actually moving out – although I am not sure which one is more chaotic. Having gone hands-on with the game in 2019, I have no shame in admitting that there were several times where I wanted to relive those moments and throw a piece of furniture through the front window (goodbye bond). While vacating a residence is one of the most stressful and frustrating things a person can do, SMG Studio and DevM’s Moving Out is all about chaotic fun, where up to four players can partake in the madness. Whether it’s flinging beds across pools, rounding up farm animals or evading traffic while carrying an L-shaped couch, Moving Out is sure to be a banger of a time when it launches in 2020.
Release: 2020 | Developer: Hungry Sky | Publisher: Hungry Sky | Platforms: iOS/Android
Being an ex-Perth lad myself, it’s heartening to see talented developers from Australia’s west making a splash. Nekograms is a sliding-tile puzzle game about helping sleepy kitties get a comfortable rest on their favourite cushions and, really, what else could you ask for in a game? It’s all too easy to forget that Australians have been responsible for some huge successes in the mobile gaming sphere and I sincerely hope that Nekograms joins the ranks of those other success stories. Did I mention this is a puzzle game about helping cats get to sleep? Get keen.
Release: 2020 | Developer: Anthony Tan | Publisher: Team17 | Platforms: PC/PS4/Xbox One/Switch
At first glance, Way to the Woods looks like a really great effort from a small indie team – and then you realise that it’s an incredibly small team. This beautiful-looking adventure is the creation of just one person. Melbourne’s Anthony Tan was only 16 when he shared the first screenshots of his ‘little deer game’ in 2016, and by 2019 the game was being featured on the E3 stage. It’s a fantastic success story, and one that will hopefully come to an equally fantastic conclusion once the game launches this year.
Release: 2020 | Developer: Ghost Pattern | Publisher: Ghost Pattern | Platforms: PC/Mac/iOS/Android
I’m a sucker for interactive stories and at PAX Aus 2019 Wayward Strand was my game of the show. Set aboard an airborne hospital in 1970s Australia, Wayward Strand is an interactive story that focuses on three days in the life of young journalist Casey Beaumaris, who has joined her mother (a nurse on the ship) on board in order to speak to the hospital’s populous for an article for her school newspaper.
A unique feature in Wayward Strand is that everyone on board has their own timeline, meaning that choosing to speak with one person may mean that you miss out on speaking with another. Despite only having a brief runtime of a few hours there’s plenty of stories to find, meaning that multiple playthroughs will be a must. Given the game’s impressive writing and soundtrack, and gorgeous art style, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.
Release: 2020 | Developer: Myriad Games | Publisher: Myriad Games | Platforms: PC/Mac
From my homeland of Tasmania via Myriad Games, Where the Snow Settles is a gorgeous narrative adventure that centres on Aurelia’s search for her missing sister with the help of mysterious spirits. It’s a game whose themes focus on the fear of change and introspection. I got the chance to play a short demo at PAX Aus 2018 and despite being an early build I was intrigued by the game’s premise, with both the visuals and soundtrack aiding the storytelling. Although it hasn’t been seen since, Myriad Games assures me that the game is on track for release in 2020. I hope so, because Where the Snow Settles has the potential to be great.
With so many promising games on the horizon it’s always hard to keep these lists to X amount (nine in this case). What is certain is that Australia’s standing in the gaming world is continually strengthening thanks to high quality and unique experiences it exports, and 2020 looks like it’ll be no slouch in that regard.
If there’s an Aussie-made game you’re keen to get your hands on this year let us know in the coments or on social media.