Here are eight of the top Canadian-made games of 2020

Star Wars: Squadrons, Immortals Fenyx Rising and even PGA Tour 2K21 -- 2020 saw many acclaimed games come from Canada

Star Wars Squadrons

If you didn’t know, the Canadian video game industry is the third-largest producer of games in the world, after only the U.S. and Japan. On top of that, the Canadian games market contributes $4.5 billion to our country’s GDP every year.

Because of this, Canada is able to put out a slew of quality games on an annual basis. And this year, there were a variety of games that came from Canadian developers, both big and small. In fact, some of these you might not have even known were made in Canada.

It’s important to note that this list isn’t meant to be a ranking or statement on these particular games being the “best” that Canada had to offer this year. Instead, I tried to pick a well-rounded bunch of titles based on recognition and overall critical acclaim.

With all of that said, here are eight Canadian-made games that stood out this year:

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Google Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99
Metacritic score: 80 (PS4 version)

After taking a one-year break following 2018’s Quebec-made Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the action-adventure franchise is back with Ubisoft Montreal’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. This time around you play as Eivor (male or female by your choice), a Viking raider in 873 AD who gets caught up in the centuries-spanning Assassin-Templar conflict.

Notably, Valhalla places a stronger emphasis on camaraderie than many other Assassin’s Creed games by giving you and your Viking squad a variety of activities to take part in, such as raids, brawls, drinking contests and even rap battles. All the while, Valhalla dives deeper into the multi-layered RPG-like progression systems of Origins and Odyssey, allowing you to build Eivor into the ultimate warrior. Add in a sprawling England setting with some elements of Norse mythology, and Valhalla is the complete package.

For more on Valhalla, check out Patrick O’Rourke’s in-depth look at the game here.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, PC
Developer: Splash Damage (London, England), The Coalition (Vancouver)
Publisher: Xbox
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99 (also included with Xbox Game Pass)
Metacritic score: 80 (PC version)

Gears Tactics is notable for a number of reasons. In addition to being one of the few Xbox Series X/S launch titles, the game seamlessly translates the long-running third-person franchise to the strategy genre. Taking place 12 years before the original GearsTactics follows Sgt. Gabriel Diaz, the father of Gears 5 protagonist Kait, as he leads a squad of Gears against the Locust threat.

With your squad, you’ll engage in Gears‘ signature visceral shootouts, albeit from a clever turn-based, top-down perspective. As you fight the Locust, your characters will level up and can be outfitted with unlockable skills, gear and mods. While the lack of a multiplayer mode might be disappointing to some, the game sports a surprisingly meaty campaign that will take you around 25-35 hours to beat. The next mainline Gears game is likely a few years off, but Tactics proves there’s absolutely room for different kinds of experiences in the series in the meantime.

It’s also worth noting that The Coalition recently released a campaign expansion for last year’s Gears 5, Hivebusters, which follows the Scorpio Squad from the game’s Escape Mode on a suicide mission.

Immortals Fenyx Rising

Immortals Fenyx Rising

Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB rating: T for Teen
Price: $79.99
Metacritic score: 82 (Xbox Series X version)

After 2018’s Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft Quebec returns to Greece with a decidedly more mythological open-world experience. In Immortals, you play as a demigod who must roam the monster-infested lands to rescue the Greek gods and put a stop to the deadly Titan Typhon. From the start, though, Ubisoft Quebec wisely frames the narrative from the perspective of the ever-amusing duo of Prometheus and Zeus, who narrate and bicker over your adventures with much enthusiasm.

Beyond that entertaining premise, Immortals takes many of the best elements of Nintendo’s acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — namely, exploration- and puzzle-focused gameplay — while offering deeper and more satisfying action-RPG combat and progression systems.

While much of the gaming world chatter this month has understandably been focused on Cyberpunk 2077‘s messy launch, Immortals Fenyx Rising is one open-world game you absolutely shouldn’t miss.

For more on Immortals, read our review here.

PGA Tour 2K21

PGA Tour 2K21

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia
Developer: HB Studios (Lunenberg, Nova Scotia)
Publisher: 2K Games
ESRB rating: E for Everyone
Price: $79.99
Metacritic score: 76 (PlayStation 4 version)

Interestingly, the highest-rated Canadian-made sports game this year wasn’t FIFA or NHL — it was PGA Tour 2K21 from Atlantic Canada’s HB Studios. It’s effectively a continuation of HB Studios’ The Golf Club series, as the developer has shifted over to 2K’s PGA Tour franchise.

There’s a lot of content to dive into, whether it’s the PGA Tour Career Mode, licensed courses, and more — all of which feature such pros as Justin Thomas. Further, you can create and customize your golfer with equipment and apparel, as well as your own course.  Overall, PGA Tour 2K21 has been hailed by many to be the most enjoyable that golf games have been since the peak of Tiger Woods PGA Tour in the 2000s.



Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia
Developer/Publisher: Thunder Lotus (Montreal)
ESRB rating: T for Teen
Price: $39.99 (included in Xbox Game Pass)
Metacritic score: 84 (PC version)

Thunder Lotus describes Spiritfarer as a “cozy management game about dying,” and that’s pretty accurate. As the plucky Stella, you sail around the world with your endearing cat companion Daffodil to locate lost souls and help them fulfill their final wishes before passing on.

While this sounds like heavy subject matter, strong writing and lovable characters ensure that Spiritfarer pulls at the heartstrings without ever becoming overbearing. It also helps that the game sports a gorgeous cartoonish aesthetic with charming anthropomorphic characters to help keep the mood lighter. Further easing you into this world are streamlined management simulation mechanics that allow you to upgrade and maintain your ship and resources at your leisure — no excessive grinding required.

In a year like 2020, a game about connections and saying goodbye might understandably be too hard to bear, but if you’re able to play it, Spiritfarer is a profoundly beautiful and affecting experience unlike any other.

Star Wars: Squadrons

Star Wars: Squadrons

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: EA Motive (Montreal)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
ESRB rating: T for Teen
Price: $54.99
Metacritic score: 79 (PlayStation 4 version)

After working on the single-player campaign for 2017’s Star Wars Battlefront II, Montreal-based EA Motive has come out with a Star Wars game all of its own — and this time, it’s all about spaceships.

Set after Return of the Jedi, the game’s story focuses on the conflict between the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron and the Galactic Empire’s Titan Squadron, with players able to experience both sides of the fight. In terms of gameplay, Squadrons lets you pilot classic Star Wars ships like the X-wing and TIE Fighter in first-person and customize your ships through different loadouts and cosmetics. Outside of the campaign, there are two multiplayer modes to let you live out your Star Wars space battle fantasies with other players. What’s more, PlayStation VR owners can even play through the entire game in virtual reality.

All in all, Squadrons offers engaging dogfights and a nice change of pace for Star Wars games after last year’s lightsaber combat-focused Jedi Fallen Order and the two modern Battlefront titles.

Unto the End

Unto the End

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia
Developer: 2 Ton Studios
Publisher: Big Sugar
ESRB rating: T for Teen
Price: $33.49 (also included with Xbox Game Pass)
Metacritic score: 83 (PlayStation 4 version)

There are many neat qualities to Unto the End, but perhaps the coolest of all is the fact that it was developed by just two people — California-based Canadian ex-pats Stephen Danton and his wife Sara Kitamura.

Beyond that, Unto the End is notable for being a rather challenging 2D action game. All told, battles can be won or lost in just two or three hits, thus requiring you to really study and react to incoming attacks. At the same time, there is a handy ‘Combat Assist’ setting to make things a bit easier if you need it. In between these battles, you’ll travel across an unforgiving terrain in the hopes of finding your lost family.

If you’re itching for a smaller-scale Dark Souls-like experience, Unto the End might just be the perfect game for you.

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion

Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Google Stadia
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto
Publisher: Ubisoft
ESRB rating: M for Mature
Price: $79.99
Metacritic score: 76 (Xbox One version)

In near-future London, you must lead hacktivist group DedSec against the authoritarian regime of Albion, which has turned the city into a police state. To do this, Legion offers up a fascinating new ‘Play As Anyone’ mechanic that, as the name suggests, allows you to recruit any non-player character. Powering this system is a staggering amount of variety among characters to ensure that each has their own background, unique skills and recruitment requirements.

As long as you go in knowing that the lack of a central character means there’s likely not a huge narrative hook for you, Legion‘s meticulously crafted world, expansive assortment of potential recruits and intuitive hacking mechanics make for a wonderful sandbox to play in.

What’s more, the game is going to get even bigger once its multiplayer component — which includes co-op and versus modes — drops in 2021.

For more on Legion, check out our review here.

Of course, this list only scratches the surface of total Canadian-made games. In addition to what’s already here, we’d be remiss not to mention the latest entries in annualized heavy hitter sports franchises, EA Vancouver’s NHL 21 and FIFA 21.

Further, the ever-expanding Quebec City-based Beenox handled this year’s remaster of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 campaign. Even 2020 games predominantly made by U.S. developers, like Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 HDCrash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time and Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, all received development support from Beenox.

That’s also to say nothing of games that released in 2019 but reached new audiences by coming to new platforms this year, like Toronto-made Grindstone (Capy Games) and A Short Hike (Adam Robinson-Yu) being ported to Switch.

And it doesn’t stop there. So far, we know of several big Canadian games for 2021 as well, including Ubisoft Toronto’s Far Cry 6 (between April 2021 and March 2022), Ubisoft Quebec’s Rainbow Six: Quarantine (between April 2021 to March 2022), BioWare Edmonton’s Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (early 2021) and Warner Bros. Montreal’s Batman-centric Gotham Knights (TBA 2021).

Not bad, eh?

Update 04/01/2021 — This story originally did not include any mention of the widespread workplace misconduct allegations that were levied against Ubisoft in 2020. Many developers at Ubisoft studios across the world, including those in Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal, accused those in positions of power of sexual harassment and other abusive behaviour. According to Ubisoft, this has led to a restructuring of the company and new employee behavior training initiatives.

Failing to mention these events was a genuine oversight on my part and I apologize. That said, I do think it’s still worth celebrating the 2020 games that came about thanks to the hard work of hundreds of innocent and talented Canadian game developers. Therefore, we’ll still keep their games listed here.

Image credit: Electronic Arts

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