The Best Australian Games Ever Made

Currently, the Australian games industry is experiencing what I’d describe as a golden age. Crossy Road, Armello, Hand of Fate, Assault Android Cactus, Hacknet...

But Australia has been making great games for years.

I thought it might be fun to make myself a list. Here is what I believe are the greatest Australian games of all time.

Note: this is hardly a definitive list. This is my list.

Disagree? Think I’m insane for leaving THIS GAME OUT OH MY GOD HOW COULD YOU? Make your own list and tell me why I’m wrong in the comments below.


1. Way of the Exploding Fist

True story: Way of the Exploding Fist is one of the first games I ever played. At a guess it might have been the fourth game I played ever. In the infancy that was my love of games, Way of the Exploding Fist was pivotal. If you had asked me at age six what my favourite game was, I would have said Way of the Exploding Fist.

Way Of The Exploding First was one of the earliest games out of Melbourne House. I had the pleasure of speaking to Gregg Barnett, the creator, a few years back. He told me a interesting story.

He had just finished creating one of the first playable builds of the game, on the Commodore 64. He went to make a cup of coffee. When he got back, everyone in the office was at his desk, fighting over who was going to play next. That’s when he knew he had a hit on his hands.

What’s so special about Way of the Exploding Fist? Well, to use an 80s term, it was incredibly ‘playable’. It was a pre-cursor to games like IK+, Street Fighter 2. The DNA of Way of the Exploding Fist is present is present in practically every modern fighter. That’s an incredibly powerful legacy.


2. Shadowrun

Amazingly, Greg Barnett also worked on my second favourite Australian game every made: Shadowrun.

Shadowrun was successful against all possible odds. Not only was it created on an incredibly tight deadline, the developers at Melbourne House somehow managed to make that already tight deadline worse for themselves – to the point where the small team had to truly rush towards the final deadline. Developers were practically living at the studio in the end.

You could argue the end result was well worth it. Shadowrun was truly a game ahead of its time in every sense of the word: in terms of story, art – everything.


3. Fruit Ninja

Only one game has been downloaded more on iOS than Fruit Ninja and that game is Candy Crush Saga. Allow that to sink in for a second: Fruit Ninja is the second most popular video game on the biggest gaming platform we’ve ever seen or are likely to see in our lifetime.

That’s insane.

So commercially Fruit Ninja is an incredible success. That much is obvious. But we rarely discuss the real genius of Fruit Ninja – its ability to find fun in a brand new interface. Who could have known how tactile it would be, how rewarding it would feel to slash fruit with a slice of your finger. Fruit Ninja is a powerful lesson: it’s a reminder that the real joy of video games is in their ability to give you power in a virtual space, the power to affect an environment in rewarding ways. Fruit Ninja is game design at its purest. It’s incredible for that.


4. The Hobbit

The Hobbit was one of the very first major video games made in Australia. It was certainly the first game made by Melbourne House, probably the most important and prestigious development studio in Australian history.

It was a humdinger.

The Hobbit was essentially the gold standard for text adventures in a time where text adventures were important. It’s difficult to get a true representation of just how successful The Hobbit actually was, but it was a barnstorming commercial hit. It might be the best-selling text adventure of all time.

It was dramatically ahead of its time. The Hobbit used an incredibly complicated parser that allowed for some of the most intricate text inputs ever seen in a text adventure. It remains one of the greatest achievements of any Australian studio ever.


5. Escape From Woomera

Escape From Woomera proved that video games could be part of broader conversations about major political issues.

A point-and-click adventure created using the Half-Life engine, Escape From Woomera had players attempt to escape from a detention centre built to detain asylum seekers attempting to get to Australia. Incredibly it was made using a $25,000 grant from the Australia Council.

In a lot of ways, it’s a miracle that Escape From Woomera exists.

But we should be glad it does exist. Escape From Woomera may be the most important Australian game ever made.


6. LA Noire

Where do you begin with LA Noire?

Its history is tainted by stories of developer mistreatment and an allegedly catastrophic development period. To this day we still have no official confirmation whether Team Bondi as a studio is closed or not!

But for all that, LA Noire is still important. It’s still a video game that people loved. For all its flaws, I loved it.

I’m yet to play a game with better facial animation, yet to play a game that captured performance in quite the same way.


7. Crossy Road

How can you mess with Crossy Road? One of the most successful Australian games of the last decade. A game that does mobile free-to-play correctly. A game that’s helped kickstart the careers of a whole host of talented developers in Melbourne.

Crossy Road is almost its own industry.

It’s also a very, very good mobile game. It’s easy to forget that.


8. Framed

If it’s good enough for Hideo Kojima it’s good enough for me.

Seriously though – how good was Framed?

An incredible high concept, beautifully executed on just about every possible level from aesthetics, to music, to narrative to the seamless way it all came together. Framed is unreal.


Honourable Mentions De Blob Puzzle Quest Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Dark Reign Armello Hand of Fate


What did we miss? What did we get wrong? Let us know in the comments below!


Comments

    No KKND2 Krossfire?

    Last edited 07/04/16 11:54 am

      Never played it, but noticed my Uncle has an old copy with his PC

        Play it if you can, it's kinda like starcraft fused with fallout.

          KKND had the funniest manual I've ever seen and those awesome FMVs.

      "Be there soon"
      "The journey has begun"

      KKND - those crazy kids at Beam. Didn't they kick ass with an AFL console game there in the 90's too?

    LA Noire was so, so good. I wish it could've got a sequel to polish the gameplay a bit better.

    Framed was great too!

      Yarrr I came to say the same! The LA Noire DLC was amazing too and it makes me sad when I re-visit it that there won't be another (I assume so anyway). Maybe NY Noire...

      The motion scanning facial animation was so good at bringing drama to the dialogues that I can't believe it hasn't been used again. Too pricey perhaps?

        I still hold on to hope that someone will pick up the IP to LA Noire and run with it - whether another film noir detective drama (Chicago? London? NY? There's plenty of stories to tell.), or a direct sequel, since:
        Kelso has great motivation to continue to go after the bad guys, most of which are still in positions of power at the end of LA Noire.

        I was always a big supporter of the sequel being Vegas Noire!

        The followup was going to be about organised crime in 1930s Shanghai, which sounds like an amazing setting. The proposed title "Whore of the Orient" might have been a smidgen on the overly lurid side though.

        After the troubles at Team Bondi, I'm not sure whether seeing that one go into development would be entirely positive, but the game itself certainly sounds compelling.

        It didn't make any money, that's one of the main issues. It just about broke even. That's a huge gamble even for a Rockstar or equivalent. You wanna drop 100 mil plus on a sequel? Nope, didn't think so.

      Good luck getting that wreck of a production going again.

      Going from some of the articles that were published here and other sites stated that production was a nightmare. so i would say a sequel would be filed under Half life 3 and never.

    Android Assault Cactus is apparently really good, I'm keen to try that.

    Twilight Princess HD should also get a shout, right?

    AFL Footy on the NES would be my choice.

    Was there a transformers game made in Australia? I remember that being actually quite good.

      That one on PS2, right? Never played it myself, but I remember hearing about it. Seemed to have a good rep.

      Yes it was and it was pretty decent. (I still have my copy)

        I wish I still had my copy. I loaned it to someone for their kids to play and never got it back. I really should track it down as I thought it was pretty great.

      It was

      And what about Merceneries 1? An amazing Australian GTA style wartime sandbox!!
      2 was ruined by EA, but the original was a diamond among turds

    Space Marine

      To quote Transientmind from December 14th... "... wasn't made it Australia"
      To which you'll reply "Australia is part of the Emperor's Holy Terra. The Emperor is Timeless. Therefore, This is the most Australian game ever made, by default."

      Last edited 07/04/16 11:24 am

        Damn right, buddy.

        Also, bonus round:
        "Well, in that case, Warhammer 40,000 Regicide"
        That was Australian developed.

        BUT - i still stick to Space Marine being the greatest Australian/Worldly/Galactic/Universal Game of all time.

    de Blob is proper #1 for me, it still holds the honour of being the only game I can think of where a waggle control actually made it better (jumping via button press in the sequel just wasn't as fun), and it also has one of the best soundtracks in any game. Both it and the sequel albums are still getting a run in the car from time to time.

    I did download fruit ninja but wasn't sure what all the fuss was about, i probably spent about 10mins with it. I thought Jetpack Joyride was a far better game by Half Brick.

      Ditto this. It was a big improvement over Monster Mash and the added accessories you could buy kept coming back to collect more coins over and over. I sort of dropped off in interest when they started introducing exclusive limited edition items to encourage in-app purchasing though. The completionist in me couldn't bear it.

    Aghast at the total lack of Warlords. I am disappoint. :P

      So much love for warlords. So sad it isn't up on GOG. I still have my warlords II deluxe cd floating around somewhere.

    Nobody, anywhere, ever who wasn’t already a refugee advocate ever played or heard of Escape from Woomera.

    It’s just a list, but it’s pretty rough to have a technically garbage game that nobody played and which was funded with someone else’s money and leave off games like Dark Reign, De Blob and The Pre-Sequel that people actually put significant time, effort, creativity and money into.

    The Pre-Sequel is one of the best satires of Aussie culture I’ve ever seen.

      If you want to throw some of the local satirical agitprop in there, I'd suggest that Harpooned does a better job of pitching its message through gameplay.
      http://harpooned.org/

      I'm a refugee advocate and I've never heard of it either.

      But it's not about the game play, it's about the message or some crap.......or as Mark puts it >"Escape From Woomera may be the most important Australian game ever made"
      Why? I don't know...
      Never heard of it either.

      I did a gaming course and we were told of Escape from woomera. The reason it's important is because it tackles a serious issue, something Australian games usually don't touch. That's why it's important

        It tackles a serious issue because it was funded (with our taxes by the way) for that reason - It has a purpose and a cause. It's political.
        I just don't think that makes it important. It makes it serious or mature. It's controversial.

        Last edited 08/04/16 9:21 pm

      It was one of the first examples of a game created explicitly to convey a political message, and the first to actually succeed at making an impact. It might be obscure but it's definitely important to the medium.

      I guess it depends on what you mean by 'best'. It certainly succeeded in its artistic goals.

    Destroy All Humans 1 and 2 are always forgotten, but goddamn those were amazing.

      I live for the day (which will not come) when those are ported to PC so I can play them again.

        They might be re-released on Steam.... hopefully...?
        But I'm not sure where the rights ended up after THQ went under.

    LA Noire was the ultimate! Mrs is not a gamer and she loved that too!!!

    OTTTD
    Transformers (for PS2, also from Melbourne House)

    I think Powerslide was one of the first 3D games I played on a PC (well, other than Stunts) so it automatically gets cool status.

      Powerslide was awesome, a technical marvel as well as a fun racing game.

      Came here to say this. It's graphics were amazing for the time, it ran incredible too due to good optimizing (a voodoo banshee on a p166 with 16mb ram could max it) and it was fun! Also one of the few notable games to come from adelaide, and one of the tracks (devils elbow) actually is based on a real road here - the old freeway prior to the tunnels being built. Devils elbow was a notorious corner that trucks often rolled on.

    no TY? no Don Bradman Cricket? No Pre-Sequel?

    I'm not sure if your taking the piss or not with Escape from Woomera...

    I personally found it to be an incredibly shallow, poorly created and incredibly unrealistically one sided portrayal of a political issue that has nothing to do with games in the first place. The approach, dialog and delivery of the message in the game was "This is totally happening and everyone in here is 100% suffering and the authority is 100% evil and doesn't care at all, look how evil they are and how they are treating us!"

    I approached the game with an open mind but when any side throws it message in my face so hard it leaves a bloody nose i tend to get sour towards it.

    Personally in terms on "Best game" i would say: Bioshock, Hand of Fate, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, La Noir, etc.

      I don't want this to turn into a refugee debate, but I used to work in the medical industry and I saw medical histories of refugees both before and during their detention. I've never played the game, but some of the things going on in detention centres are utterly fucking sickening. Especially offshore.

      Not every detention centre is a hell hole and not every refugee has been abused while in detention. But whatever was in the game, I 100% guarantee you that it is mild by comparison to some of what goes on in real life.

    Powerslide. Still love that game! Most of the Ratbag driving games were class.

    The more I write the more I remember. Lets go with this list for now.

    - Hand of Fate
    - de Blob (1 & 2)
    - Freedom Force
    - Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis
    - Powerslide
    - Alien Carnage/Halloween Harry
    - Destroy All Humans
    - Heroes of the Pacific
    - Tribes Vengeance
    - Fallout Tactics
    - Duet
    - Captain Forever
    - Defect SDK

      Oh Halloween Harry and your Alien references, seemed very sexualised, but i haven't played it since i was like 8.

      Battlezone 1 & 2, Dark Reign 1 & 2, Full Spectrum Warrior were all primarily made by Pandemic Brisbane.

    Surely Dark Reign deserves a spot on the main list more than Escape from Woomera. The latter was about as meaningful as PETA's Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals.

    Transformers PS2. Voxel based shooter

    The second I read this headline I mentally voted for "Shadowrun on SNES!!" for #1. So close! Still one of favourite games of all time. Brooding ambient bass lines with sudden bursts of electronica signalling a gunfight! Ghost dogs, uzi toting trolls, elven cyber samurai. Take it easy chummer.

    Shadowrun and LA: Noire were made in Australia? I had no idea!

    Shadow is one of my top SNES RPG's, which is a tough call considering i finished most of them (both English and japanese RPG's)

    YOU'RE WRONG @markserrels hahaha it's your list, but not even an honorable mention of Medieval 2 Total War made right here in Brisbane? My second most favourite game ever (after TF2). I still play it to this day, or I would if my PC was currently compliant. At the time in my eyes it was the best looking game around and still looks ok

    Payload for the Nokia NGage. Prove me wrong!

      I have a friend who was recently running through NGage games. I'll have to ask him about that one :P

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