At the time of writing, it’s been more than two weeks since the final day of PAX Australia brought the 2022 Melbourne International Games Week (MIGW) to an official close, but those eight days of events have nonetheless left a lot for gamers to think about as they prepare for the next 12 months and beyond in the world of gaming - particularly with regards to the future of Aussie indie gaming.
One particularly notable standout from the week was the continuation of the run of triumphs celebrated by Australian indie game Cult of the Lamb since its initial release in early August, with 2022’s breakout game of the year contender cleaning up at MIGW’s Australian Game Developer Awards on October 5. Claiming awards for Excellence in Music, Excellence in Gameplay, Excellence in Art and Game of the Year, the multi-platform release had a lot to celebrate by the time it launched its showcase to adoring local fans over the three days of PAX Australia.
It could all be about to get even better for the title, too, with it managing to snag a nomination for Best Indie Game of the Year at this year’s Golden Joystick Awards, to be held by our sister site GamesRadar in November.
Cult of the Lamb comes from Melbourne developer Massive Monster, and sees you take up the role of a cult leader and combine city-building simulation with rogue-like dungeon crawling gameplay, all in the guise of a cutesy animated lamb. The combination of gameplay types, quirky and irreverent humor and animation style has proven an enormous hit with gamers all over the world. Australia’s latest indie darling managed to move more than one million units within its very first week of release and has marched on in winning fashion since then.
But while the lamb might sit on the throne of Australian gaming for now, both MIGW and PAX Australia saw a catalogue of fellow Aussie hopefuls presenting their own cases for becoming the next breakout success to emerge from Australian shores.
So who do we think could be in with a chance? Check out five standout Aussie titles that just might be the next cult indie hit:
The Drifter (Powerhoof)
Two-man Melbourne studio Powerhoof’s The Drifter has been in development for several years, with its initial announcement and first demo landing in 2019. It reappeared as a part of 2022’s MIGW showcase and, despite the time since first emerging, it’s lost none of its intrigue; the point-and-click adventure still offers plenty of promise for gamers hungry for unique story. Essentially casting gamers as a 16-bit Liam Neeson in a Neeson-style thriller set against a murky Australian backdrop, the demo and all glimpses of this title have been cruelly brief, but still offer enough hints of greatness to suggest this is a game to keep an eye on. While perhaps lacking the kind of commercial appeal that Cult of the Lamb has benefited from, the story alone should nonetheless hopefully give The Drifter a chance of staking its claim as a breakout success.
There’s still no set release date on the horizon for The Drifter, but it’s slated to be available for Nintendo Switch, Steam, Linux, Windows and Mac… whenever it does finally arrive.
Final Profit: A Shop RPG (Brent Arnold)
Melbourne developer Brent Arnold has reimagined The Legend of Zelda circa the Gameboy Advance era as a merchant life-sim and capitalism parody, where you’re tasked with attempting to progress through the game via XP gained as a result of sales – all on your quest to ultimately overthrow the insidious Bureau of Business. A game meeting this kind of description has no right being as deceptively addictive as Final Profit is, as the core gameplay and accompanying sense of humor prove unexpectedly appealing. Still, it would be long odds to hope that Final Profit will achieve the same kind of overall success that Cult of the Lamb has, but we'd consider it a dark horse with an outside chance regardless.
A release date for Final Profit is currently TBD, however you can snag the PC demo on Steam.
The Godfeather: A Mafia Pigeon Saga (Hojo Studio)
One of the leading contenders for the chance to claim Cult of the Lamb's throne, Sydney-based Hojo Studio’s The Godfeather was a huge hit with its showcase to the crowds at PAX. As with Cult of the Lamb, The Godfeather joins roguelike gameplay with a cutesy animation style and distinct sense of humor to offer a top-down shooter with a Mafia (and… poopy) twist, and enough uniqueness and character to suggest that it has every chance of seeing the kind of breakout success that Cult of the Lamb has enjoyed.
Though less polished at first glance than other competitors, The Godfeather's primary strengths are its sense of humor and the overall fun to be found in its gameplay. There’s no telling what the creators of classic animated series Animaniacs and its Goodfeathers characters might have to say about this one, given the striking similarities, but we doubt gamers themselves will have any complaints once they get their hands on this potential gem.
The Godfeather is scheduled for release in late 2023 on Switch, Steam and mobile, and it’s well worth watching closely for the chance it could become Aussie gaming’s next success story.
The Box Knight (We Made A Thing Studios)
While it's yet another roguelike, Box Knight from South Australian developer We Made A Thing could very well be the pick of the bunch. With an art style reminiscent of beloved animated series Bob’s Burgers – plus a sense of humor to match – and easy-to-learn but challenging-to-master gameplay Box Knight packs a lot of charm in a small box. The appeal of each of these factors is something clearly front of mind for its developers, who describe the title as “a mix of The Office and Lord of the Rings with a comic-like aesthetic”.
Slightly hidden back from the main thoroughfare at PAX, the showcase for Box Knight may not have enjoyed the same level of attention as some other titles, but it didn’t take long with the game’s active alpha for us to realise it's a strong contender for the Lamb’s throne. It’s planned for release sometime in 2023.
Hollow Knight: Silksong (Team Cherry)
OK, it might be cheating (given its profile and its non-appearances during MIGW and PAX Australia) but it’s worth a mention that the long-awaited sequel to 2017’s Hollow Knight appears to (finally) be on the near horizon. Before Cult of the Lamb was a glimmer in the eyes of its Melbourne creators, Hollow Knight was Australian gaming’s Cinderella story, proving a critical and commercial smash hit. Given the metroidvania title’s animation style shares similarities with Cult of the Lamb, it’s not unreasonable to assume it provided at least some inspiration for the developers behind 2022’s breakout success, and the already frenzied appetite for the release of its sequel in Hollow Knight: Silksong is more than enough reason to think a victory lap for the Aussie hit is on the cards for 2023.
Fans are still awaiting the announcement of a specific release date, but the title will be available on PC, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation when it’s eventually unleashed.
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James is a senior journalist with the TechRadar Australia team, covering news, analysis and reviews in the worlds of tech and the web with a particular focus on smartphones, TVs and home entertainment, AR/VR, gaming and digital behaviour trends. He has worked for over six years in broadcast, digital and print journalism in Australia and also spent time as a nationally recognised academic specialising in social and digital behaviour trends. In his spare time, he can typically be found bouncing between one of a number of gaming platforms or watching anything horror.