2023 was another strong year for Canadian games.
On the AAA front, Montreal-based EA Motive garnered significant acclaim for its remake of the survival horror classic Dead Space, and that was just in January. Then, in the months that followed, indie developers like Quebec City’s Sabotage (Sea of Stars) and Toronto’s Visai Games (Venba) commanded attention on the global stage with numerous awards and placements on end-of-year lists.
Thankfully, that momentum is continuing into 2024, with Canadian developers both big and small having all kinds of promising experiences set to release. From heavy hitters like an ambitious new Star Wars game and Dead by Daylight spin-off to the next games from the creators of indie darlings Celeste and Spiritfarer, this year has no shortage of quality Canadian games. Here are 10 of them you should have on your radar.
The Casting of Frank Stone
Guildford, U.K.-based Supermassive (Until Dawn, the Dark Pictures Anthology series) has teamed up with Canada’s largest independent developer, Behaviour, for a new game set in the universe of the latter’s massively popular Dead by Daylight. Unlike DBD, though, The Casting of Frank Stone is a single-player choose-your-own-adventure game in the vein of Supermassive’s previous works. Naturally, you’ll control a group of young friends as they become embroiled in the legacy of an infamous serial killer, with every decision you make affecting the outcome of the story and, more importantly, the fate of each character.
For more on Behaviour, check out our interview with CEO Rémi Racine.
Developer/publisher: Extremely OK Games (Vancouver, B.C.)
Release date: TBA 2024
After 2018’s beloved Celeste, Extremely OK Games (formerly known as Matt Makes Games) is back with this new platformer. As a mysterious child named Névoa, you must return to a ruined Earth and piece together the planet’s fractured history. Structurally, Earthblade has Metroidvania elements but features a more “seamless” world and progression. While exploring, players can expect the tight platforming of Celeste alongside snappy melee combat.
While so many games are made in Montreal, it’s rare to see the city actually depicted in them, which makes this gorgeous game so notable. In Été, you play as an international artist who arrives in Montreal to recruit local talent. At first, the world is presented entirely in white, requiring you to use your paintbrush to restore colour to it all. The stunning watercolour love letter to Montreal houses recognizable city landmarks as well as everyday citizens for whom you can take on slice-of-life sidequests.
For more on Été, check out our preview with creative director Lazlo Bonin.
What would happen if a 12-year-old was put in charge of guarding a castle gate? That’s the charmingly quirky premise of Lil Guardsman. Inspired by Lucas Pope’s celebrated immigration puzzle game Papers, Please, Lil Guardsman is a more lighthearted romp that challenges you to deduce whether you should admit the colourful cast of 100-plus characters consisting of everything from humans and elves to goblins and cyclopes. As a nice touch, Hilltop has integrated a rewind mechanic to place less of an emphasis on “bad” choices and more on players experimenting with different choices to see all of the different humorous outcomes.
With nearly 20 years of experience at BioWare Edmonton working on the likes of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, Canadian developer Aaryn Flynn certainly knows a thing or two about rich and creative universes. Now, as the head of Inflexion Games, he’s spearheading a brand-new IP called Nightingale, a PvE (player versus environment) open-world survival crafting game. In this dangerous Victorian-era fantasy world, you’ll have to fight all kinds of magical creatures and forage for resources either alone or with friends.
For more on Nightingale and Inflexion, check out our interview with Flynn.
The Outlast Trials
After being in early access on PC in 2023, the latest entry in the well-received Outlast survival horror series will finally have a full launch on all platforms this year. Unlike the past two Outlast games, though, Trials can be played solo or with up to three other people as you’re subjugated to gruesome Cold War experiments. To do that, you’ll have to avoid enemies while completing challenges and unlocking tools that will improve your stealth and evasion. Think you’ll survive?
Roots of Yggdrasil
In a unique spin on the time loop narrative, Roots of Yggdrasil mixes roguelike and city-building elements with Norse mythology. Following the devastating events of Ragnarok, Sunna and her tribe must navigate a perpetual time loop to explore the fractured World Tree in search of answers. Meet a diverse cast of characters, collect artifacts and upgrade your deck of buildings as you seek to expand your settlements.
For more on Roots of Yggdrasil and Manavoid, check out our interview with co-founder Chris Chancey.
Star Wars Outlaws
Developer: Massive Entertainment (lead studio)
Platforms: PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release date: TBA 2024
The first-ever open-world Star Wars game lets players control a scoundrel named Kay Vess as she fights to get by in the Galactic Empire. Although Ubisoft’s Massive Entertainment (The Division) is a Swedish team, the narrative of Star Wars Outlaws was handled by Canada’s own Ubisoft Toronto (Far Cry 6) — specifically, Toronto-based narrative director Navid Khavari and lead writer Nikki Foy. On top of that, the voice and performance capture for Kay herself comes from Venezuelan-Canadian Humberly González (Ginny & Georgia). Set between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Outlaws will allow players to explore several new and returning planets (plus outer space), blast their way through enemies in third-person shooter combat and make choices in branching dialogue.
One of the highlights of Summer Game Fest last year, 33 Immortals is a 33-player action-roguelike — yes, you read that right. With that sizeable player count, Thunder Lotus (Spiritfarer) says it wants to offer a leaner take on the MMO raid experience. Alongside your fellow damned souls, you’ll have to wield all kinds of weapons and spells to rebel against God’s final judgment. Impressively, of all the games Xbox showed off last summer, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said 33 Immortals was his favourite.
Times & Galaxy
After writing for such big acclaimed games as Mass Effect 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Control, Vergeville, Alberta’s Ben Gelinas opened his own indie studio, Copychaser, in 2017. Following the 2018 horror-comedy game Speed Dating for Ghosts, the team’s next work, Times & Galaxy, rather interestingly draws from Gelinas’ background as a reporter. In the lighthearted point-and-click detective game, you play as the first-ever robo reporter who must travel across the galaxy to cover news stories. As you interview the quirky cast of 100-plus characters, you’ll have to determine the facts and put together your own news stories using an intuitive ‘Build-A-Story’ tool.
Which Canadian games are you most excited to play? Let us know in the comments.
For a breakdown of some of the biggest 2024 games in general, Canadian or otherwise, check out this list.
Image credit: Inflexion/Behaviour Interactive/Manavoid/Ubisoft/Copychaser/Hilltop/Extremely OK