The Canadian video game industry is massive — we’re talking, “third-largest producer of games in the entire world” massive.
With that in mind, there are scores of new games that are released every year that were made here at home. 2021, in particular, had quite a few standout ones from both the AAA and indie space.
Keep on reading to learn more about just a handful of them.
The Big Con
Developer: Mighty Yell (Toronto, Ontario)
Publisher: Skybound Games
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
It’s not every day a game gets recognized by Tribeca, the world-renowned film festival co-founded by Robert De Niro, but Toronto-based Mighty Yell was the little indie that did just that. The Big Con is particularly notable, too, as it’s a game that’s completely devoid of any combat. Instead, you assume the role of a sarcastic teenager who travels across America to steal enough money to help save her mum’s business from nasty loan sharks. From its delightful ’90s setting, charming Doug-esque art style and witty writing, The Big Con is a uniquely delightful game that’s absolutely worth your time.
Read more on The Big Con in our review.
Developer/Publisher: KitFox Games (Montreal, Quebec)
Genre: Action-RPG, dating sim
Platform: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac
What other game do you know that mixes dungeon crawling with a dating sim? In Boyfriend Dungeon, you fight your way through isometric locations with the help of a human partner who can transform into a sentient weapon. Outside of combat, the game features visual novel-style conversations to let you date characters of your choice. It’s through this novel approach that Boyfriend Dungeon has really found its audience — it features a refreshingly gender-diverse cast to romance, but it also doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of dating, particularly when it comes to stalkers. There’s nothing quite like it.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Developer: Greg Lobanov (Vancouver, B.C.)
Platform: PlayStation 4/5, Nintendo Switch, PC
At first glance, Chicory: A Colorful Tale‘s cute, doodle-esque art style might suggest a light and fluffy experience, but the game is anything but. To be sure, there’s a lot of earnest joy to be found with its simple-yet-deep painting mechanics. Pretty much everything in the world can be painted over and manipulated, offering a wonderful sense of creativity to the moment-to-moment gameplay. But beneath that, Chicory tells a surprisingly affecting story about mental health — specifically, the darker depths of self-doubt and the importance of self-care.
Developer: Torn Banner Studios (Toronto, Ontario)
Genre: Multiplayer slasher
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Platform: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, PC
Chivalry 2 is the epitome of a fun multiplayer experience. Without a single-player campaign, the game instead focuses on engaging player-vs-player melee combat. On top of medieval weapons like swords, battle axes and sledgehammers, you can use amusingly unorthodox weapons like severed limbs, chairs, a rolling pin and even bread. A variety of game modes are also supported, including Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All and more objective-based options. All the while, the game retains a lovable Monty Python-esque sense of humour, which is just icing on this thrilling multiplayer cake.
Far Cry 6
Developer: Ubisoft Toronto (Toronto, Ontario)
Genre: Open-world first-person shooter
Platform: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, PC, Google Stadia
If you’re not over the tried-and-true Far Cry formula, Far Cry 6 is the perfect kind of gaming comfort food. As with previous entries in the series, Far Cry 6 puts you in a beautiful location (the Cuba-inspired Yara), gives you a slew of fun new weapons to use and offers some great drop-in, drop-out co-op functionality. But Far Cry 6 is most surprising for its storytelling. While there’s certainly a disconnect at times between the earnest revolutionary story and zany open-world shenanigans, you’ll come to meet the best cast of characters in a Far Cry game to date. Protagonist Dani Rojas is extremely likable, while Giancarlo Esposito’s scene-stealing Antón Castillo breaks a long-running series trend of underused charismatic villains.
Read more on Far Cry 6 in our review.
Developer: Daniel Mullins (Vancouver, B.C.)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Genre: Adventure, strategy
Inscryption is a tricky one to talk about, as most who’ve played it would agree that you’re best going in knowing very little. What you should know, though, is that it mixes card games, roguelikes, escape room-style puzzles and psychological horror. It’s a game that makes full use of the medium’s uniquely interactive elements to create an experience that really couldn’t work in a film, TV series or novel.
JETT: The Far Shore
Developer/Publisher: Superbrothers (Quebec, Canada), Pine Scented Software (Tokyo, Japan)
Genre: Open-world adventure
Platform: PlayStation 4/5, PC
In JETT: The Far Shore, you assume the role of scout Mei, who must explore an ocean planet to find out whether it’s suitable for human habitation. Piloting the titular jetts to fly around foreign vistas is thrilling, especially when enhanced by the PS5’s DualSense controller rumble. With its open-world setting, you’re free to just lay back and casually explore the geographically-diverse planet. But it’s the slow discovery of the world and larger narrative — filled with both heartfelt moments and bouts of existential dread — that prove to be JETT‘s most memorable qualities.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
Developer: Eidos Montreal (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
There was a lot of apprehension going into Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. After all, Square Enix’s last Marvel game, 2020’s Marvel’s Avengers, was a disappointment to many. Thankfully, Square Enix-owned Eidos Montreal’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is so much better. Doing away with the controversial “live service” model, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy offers a purely single-player, microtransaction-free experience. Drawing more from the comics than the movies, Eidos’ Guardians of the Galaxy uses the long-form storytelling potential of games to fully flesh out Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot. It’s a surprisingly emotional story with so much heart — not to mention some decent team-up command-focused third-person shooter combat thrown in for good measure.
For more on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, read our review.
Developer: Bunnyhug Games (a U.K.-based team led by Canadian creative director Zach Soares, plus some other international Canadian developers)
Genre: RPG, fishing sim
Platform: Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S (including Xbox Game Pass), PC
If the idea of a wholesome, relaxing fishing experience with a charming voxel-based artstyle in a fictional Eastern Canadian town in the ’80s appeals to you, then Moonglow Bay might be exactly what the angler ordered. After your partner’s passing, you find yourself struggling to fulfill their final wish by keeping a business afloat. In addition to 100-plus species of fish to catch, Moonglow Bay lets you explore the eponymous seaside town to meet NPCs, take on new quests and stock up on supplies. But you’ll also guide your character through processing their grief alongside their daughter in a thoroughly heartfelt story. There’s even drop-in/drop-out co-op so you can catch some fish (and feels) with a friend.
For more on Moonglow Bay, read our interview with Bunnyhug.
The Vale: Shadow of the Crown
Developer/Publisher: Falling Squirrel (St. Catharines, Ontario)
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, PC
Perhaps the most innovative entry on this list, The Vale: Shadow of the Crown was developed in partnership with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to be accessible even to those with vision loss. That’s because it leverages 3D Spatial Audio and controller haptic feedback to create a new kind of action-RPG experience. The story follows the blind sister of a warden whose caravan gets attacked, forcing her to navigate a dangerous world to return to the castle. Smart uses of audio cues and vocal performances help guide you through combat and visiting towns, ensuring that those with any level of vision can play and enjoy.
For more on the importance of accessibility in gaming, read our interview with Canada’s own Steve “The Blind Gamer” Saylor, an accessibility advocate and content creator who’s consulted on games like The Last of Us Part II.
Of course, there are so many Canadian games that come out every year, especially from indies, that it’s impossible to cover them all. Some others that we didn’t get to:
Some other relevant reading: check out our interview with Jayson Hilchie, the president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, on the organization’s recent study examining the Canadian gaming industry’s rapid growth.