Hundreds of games get released on Steam every month, and tens of thousands are released every year. Some of those are major blockbuster productions; most are the work of small studios. It's hard to stand out from the crowd, especially if you're an Australian studio with a small staff, and even smaller marketing budget.
But amongst the tens of thousands of games filling up Valve's content servers, there is one that sits at the very top. And that game happens to be Australian.
If you narrow the search down to exclusively indie games, taking DLC, non-games and demos out of the equation, there are currently 9258 indies on Steam. Broaden the search to include all games, and the number grows to 13,951.
When you sort that list by "User Reviews", some familiar names stick out. Portal and Portal 2 are in the top 5. Understandable: they're two of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is on the first page with a 98% user rating. Makes sense: it's one of the best party games you can play today, either in VR or with a low-end laptop, screaming instructions to your friend.
But sitting atop the list, whether you sort by all games or just indie games, is an Australian title: Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.
The success of the Ty remaster is partially due to nostalgia. Steam reviews are littered with memories of the game's launch back in 2002, people talking about how they first discovered the game, and their joy at rediscovering it on Steam.
Look deeper, however, and you'll see sprinkled bits of praise for the things that people look for in a good remaster. Respect for the original game, good optimisation, developers responding to feedback. But there's also a lot of love for Ty's original qualities too, like the semi-linear levels, enemy variety, the ocker theme and the tight controls.
Steve Stamatiadis, an artist and designer at Krome Studios, told me that the studio is pretty perplexed at Ty's new found popularity. "Our best guess is that nostalgia definitely plays a huge part in it," he told me over email."There’s probably also the fact that most of us have worked on TY since the beginning ... that extra effort has to be what drives people to leave so many positive reviews."
"Great memories of childhood fun would be shattered if it was a lazy, poorly put together port. People can see the love and dedication that goes into the product. We’ve added in features that we wanted in the game originally but had to cut due to memory, updated the controls and camera, and added better collectible tracking."
Ty's re-release isn't completely faithful to the original content, then. Krome has already told users on Steam that the mandatory go-kart sections in Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 3 will be tweaked to be less frustrating for users, for instance.
But clearly, users don't seem to mind. At the end of the day, a good product is a good product. And one that rides the nostalgia wave as much as Ty? Well, that's how you get the best rated game on Steam.