Great Games Grow… in Ontario! Did you know that the province of Ontario is one of Canada’s leaders in game development? Over one-third of the nation’s video game and interactive digital media companies (32%) are located in the province and that number continues to increase year over year.
Over the last few decades, more and more game developers have found themselves either setting up shop in or moving to the Great White North, opening studios across the province, from the GTA and surrounding areas to Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, and everywhere in between.
It’s set to be yet another banner year for games developed in Ontario. Here are 11 Made in Ontario games slated for release in 2023 that we’re looking forward to.
Toronto’s Cococucumber is back with its follow-up to the excellent Echo Generation. Announced as part of the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase is Ravenlok, a fairytale action RPG. The studio, led by Vanessa Chia and Martin Gauvreu, is known for creating games like Bunny Bonker, Planet of the Eyes, Riverbond, and Echo Generation.
Playing as the titular character, Ravenlok finds herself pulled from her own reality and thrust into a new world surrounded by darkness due to the effects of a curse from the Caterpillar Queen. It is here you’ll rise up and take on the challenges ahead of Ravenlok and help her restore order and balance to the kingdom.
Another studio headquartered in Toronto, Visai Studios is working on a beautiful new project that combines a narrative tale with cooking game mechanics. You’ve likely seen Venba in a Nintendo Indie Direct and where it created a lot of buzz on social media! The reason for all the buzz? Venba centers on a character almost never represented in games to date: an immigrant mother who has recently started a new life in Canada. Set in the 1980s, you play as the mother, cooking various dishes and restoring lost family recipes. Add in branching conversations and you’ll soon see why this story about love and loss is one to look out for in 2023.
DepowerBall is the first game from Mega Power Games, another indie studio situated in Toronto. Starting as a prototype in 2018, DepowerBall is now on Steam with a demo available. The idea behind DepowerBall is that it’s a competitive party platformer paired with chaotic, fast-paced gameplay. Each match requires players to please the Dragon Queen by feeding her. Every player starts on equal footing with the same set of powers, however, things change when a player wins a round and earn favour with the Queen, gaining the opportunity to take away abilities from other players. The “depowering” your friends meta-game can and does often lead to hilarious results.
Mega Power Games mentions both local and online multiplayer being available and the ability to Power Draft — the players in a match choose which powers are used in the match. There are two game modes including DepowerBall and T.A.G. and eight characters to choose from with tons of unlockable accessories!
Stitch Media formed Games by Stitch as an innovative studio with a focus on thoughtful, story-driven games. Remotely operating out of London and Toronto, Games by Stitch has worked with developers to deliver games like Terrorarium, Rival Books of Aster, and Flow Weaver. However, the next game from this new imprint is Broken Spectre, a hand-tracking cosmic horror story coming to Meta Quest and Steam VR.
Looking for her long-lost father, Casey learns that he may be alive somewhere in the wilderness of Northwest Canada. Departing for the mysterious Coldblood Mountain, Casey soon discovers mementos and evidence of her father and his research, and something more sinister. To unravel the mystery, Casey will need to survive the harsh climate of this remote corner of Canada. Did we mention there are cosmic and body horror elements to be discovered? You’ll need to face your deepest fears and fend off unknowable evils in order to find your father.
Situated in the Don Mills neighbourhood of Toronto, Lofty Sky Entertainment works in film, television, and video games. Under the Lofty Sky Games banner, the team has worked on Shuyan Saga, a graphic novel series featuring unique combat. In 2023, the studio is working on a new project — Sky of Tides, a narrative sci-fi adventure visual novel.
Set in an alternative universe on the brink of collapse, Sky of Tides takes place on Numen, a planet shattered into nine pieces with the ocean floating in the sky. You play as Rin D’Lorah, a farmer whose father disappears on Numen. Travelling across the unknown lands in front of Rin, you’ll come across the harsh and desolate wastelands of the Bleached Relic. Being able to shape Rin’s story through dialogue choices and molding Rin’s future with their choices is key to surviving Numen and the choices you make will reflect in your stats.
We weren’t kidding when we said Ontario is stacked with talented developers! PixelNAUTS was founded by Alex Golebiowski and Chris Iacobucci. Located in St. Catherines, Ontario, the indie studio has worked on Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity, worked on Contrast with Compulsion Games, and now are focusing on their next title, Rocket Rumble!
Made for up to four players, Rocket Rumble combines racing and party combat into one exciting title! You choose your character (did we mention you can be a Corgi?) from eight furry friends and smash your way through levels including Asteroid Fields, Lush Forest, pirate Strongholds and more. The name of the game is being fast so be ready to use ramps, boosters, and bouncers to get to the finish line first with procedurally generated obstacles ensuring each race is never the same!
Rocket Rumble is currently in Early Access on Steam.
Who doesn’t like being cozy? Kitten Cup Studio, located in Toronto, thrives on making cozy video games for everyone. Take Pekoe, a cat-inspired, tea-making simulator. It isn’t the easiest thing to make the purrrfect cup of tea, so why not practice making tea in your very own teahouse? The goal in Pekoe is to build relationships while expanding your business and upgrading your teahouse – the key to success is in discovering new recipes and ensuring your patrons receive their orders.
Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before: a dinosaur walks into a school and.. okay I’ll stop. Rocket Adrift is located in the Junction area of Toronto and you’ve likely heard of the indie studio – consisting of Patrick Smith, Lindsay Rollins, and Titus McNally – before. Their previous game Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance – a dating simulator set in Ontario in a town full of Cryptid teens – won rave reviews from dating sim fans. Their follow-up title Psychroma is aiming to launch later this year!
Playing as Haze, a medium, Psychroma is a narrative-driven side-scroller where you’ll confront the past by piecing together the broken pieces of a cybernetic house. This means exorcizing the ghosts in the machine while you regain your memory of what put you in this situation. Haze continues to wake up in the same exact way over and over, eventually deducing that she is caught up in a Groundhog Day-style time loop.
A studio with a focus on artificial intelligence, Transitional Forms is working on building groundbreaking tools and content powered by the potential of AI. With a headquarters located in Toronto, the team at Transitional Forms isn’t working on just any game, they are working on Little Learning Machines – a game that uses real machine learning to train cute AI robots.
The idea behind Little Learning Machines is to use the power of reinforcement to train and inspire your little machines. If you’re curious about what reinforced learning is, it is a method of training machines by rewarding desired behaviours and punishing undesired behaviours. By nurturing your companions, they will develop their own personalities over time, leading you to build meaningful connections with your machine. This idea alone is something we’ve yet to see much of in the video game industry and that alone is a reason to keep an eye out for Little Learning Machines.
Big Blue Bubble has been around for over two decades and has worked on over 100 games, gaining recognition for My Singing Monsters among others. The studio is located in London, Ontario, and most recently worked on the side-scroller Foregone for Epic Game Store and consoles in 2020. Now, Big Blue Bubble is working on a heavy metal roguelike deck-building game called Power Chord.
Deck-builders are all the rage right now. Power Chord is a team-based deck-builder where the goal is to build your band and then battle through legions of demons from Helmoth. Each member of your band comes with their own unique cards and gear, and you’ll need to ensure they are equipped with instruments powerful enough to close the rift between worlds.
It isn’t every day you’re told to slay the princess, right? Black Tabby Games is an indie studio in Toronto Ontario founded by Abby Howard and Tony Howard-Arias. Together, the married team is working on Slay the Princess, a visual novel choose-your-own-adventure where slaying the princess means saving the world.
The exciting thing about Slay the Princess is that the at every turn the princess will do all she can to stop you from slaying her. She’ll charm you, she’ll lie, and she’ll promise to be yours and do as you desire. Are her empty promises worth sacrificing the world for? If you fall for her lies, it is likely she’ll make you regret not slaying her the moment you saw her.
This is just a small sample of the amazing titles set to arrive from Ontario game developers this year. From AAA franchises to indie darlings, there are plenty of great games being released by Ontario-based studios in 2023. Will you play them all?