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.
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.
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.
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!