Here are 10 Canadian video games – from classic gaming touchstones to indie hits, and even a few forthcoming titles – you need to have on your radar.
One of the breakout indie hits of 2018, Celeste is a nostalgic, technically challenging tribute to SNES pixel-art classics. You play as Madeline, a young woman journeying up an increasingly treacherous mountain – made up of over 200 levels – while battling her own internal demons. Believe it: A platformer can (and will) make you cry.
Designed for music fans, this rhythm game is all about breakdancing battles. And much like the music of legendary Canadian turntablist Kid Koala, who did the addictive and infectious throwback bboy soundtrack, it’s not so much about hitting the beats as the style you do it with. The charming twist on the rhythm genre (think Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, etc) is available for Switch, PC, Playstation and Xbox.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
There’s endless life in the two Italian plumbers who helped put Nintendo on the map, and that strange mythology has given Mario’s brother a ghost dog named Polterpup, a slimy clone named Gooigi and a cowardly need to escape a variety of haunted mansions and hotels. It’s also helped make Vancouver video game developer Next Level Games, who created Luigi’s Mansion 3, one of of the Globe & Mail’s top Canadian employers. Next time you’re trying to claim people as Canadians, as we’re wont to do, mention Luigi.
One of the most beloved series in the history of PC gaming was born out of BioWare’s studios in Edmonton. The sci-fi series’ first three critically lauded games blend a space-opera plot with tons of moral ambiguity and a choose-your-own-adventure play style with smooth gameplay and third person shooter-style combat. Rumours are swirling about a remastered release of the original trilogy – so if you haven’t played them yet, this might just be the perfect chance.
Rainbow Six Siege
Four years on from its release, this multiplayer instalment of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy-inspired tactical shooter series has steadily grown in popularity thanks to its tense, realistic action. And though the game, released in 2015, preceded the era of microtransactions and the “games as a service” model, Ubisoft has seamlessly woven in season-based releases of meaty new updates that keep players coming back.
Did you know the best-selling – and in many opinions best, period – sports franchise of all time was made in Vancouver? FIFA may be quintessentially European, but EA Sports’ soccer game is a feather in the cap of the Canadian video games industry. So much so that we’re putting this on the list even though they made the NHL hockey series too. The gameplay is fun and realistic, there’s street games too, there’s an incredible career mode, which even includes interactive press conferences (everyone’s favourite part of sports, obviously) and a player morale system.
Tactics – the second game in the Gears of War series from Vancouver-based studio The Coalition, which also handled Gears 4 – marked a shake-up for the long-running franchise. It ditches the third-person shooter format for a turn-based strategy concept that stays true to the feel of the franchise, right down to the fact-paced action, beautifully rendered graphics (thanks to its use of the Unreal Engine) and ready availability of chainsaw guns.
Night In The Woods
You are a humanoid cat named Mae who drops out of college due to depression and moves back to her small town to aimlessly chat with locals, play bass in your cruddy garage band, reckon with past emotional wounds and – surprise – investigate a series of mysterious kidnappings. Night In The Woods is the rare game that mixes hilarious dialogue, vivid characters and stellar music with an unflinching look at mental illness and some of the universe’s biggest-picture questions.
Goodbye Volcano High
Move over, angsty teen cats – we’re all about angsty teen dinosaurs in 2020. This forthcoming narrative game from artist-run Montreal studio KO_OP focuses on Fang, a nonbinary senior at Volcano High, and their friends as graduation nears like a swiftly approaching meteor. (Also, there may or may not be an actual swiftly-approaching meteor.) Expect a gorgeous art style, evocative music and at least one serious sniffle.
We’re cheating a little with this one, but who could resist claiming the internet’s favourite 40-foot-tall cryptid with an air raid siren for a face? Siren Head, the brainchild of local horror artist Trevor Henderson, is an entirely Toronto-made creation, even if the multiple fan games featuring its likeness (from Modus Interactive, UndreamedPanic, Adexin and more) are not. None of the games are officially sanctioned, but with interest in Henderson’s IP booming in the form of Twitter fanart, TikToks and YouTube videos, could something official be that far behind?