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In the last few years, the South African game development industry has seen some staggering growth with a plethora of great titles making waves in the international gaming scene. From action-packed platformers to quirky cleaning sims, SA devs have proven that they boast some serious creative talent and an undeniable dedication to their craft.
In celebration of our bustling and ever-growing gaming scene, we’ve decided to round up some of South Africa’s most notable gaming titles.
If there are any titles you feel should have been featured on this list, let us know in the comments section!
Viscera Cleanup Detail
In games we are usually the authors of bloody destruction, leaving behind a trail of limbs and debris in the wake of our violent adventures. But has anyone ever considered the poor fool who has to clean up afterwards? Well, that’s exactly what Viscera Cleanup Detail sets out to do and does so in surprising style.
Developed by Howick, KZN-based studio Runestorm, this title places you in the shoes of a janitor who has to clean up the bloody aftermath of various gruesome conflicts.
Armed with a mop, a bucket of water and a pair of rubber gloves (among a variety of cleaning equipment), you will be tasked with wiping up oceans of blood and picking up a staggering amount of human limbs in the pursuit of ultimate cleanliness.
Stasis is a terrifying and often gruesome isometric point-and-click adventure set on a distant space station called Groomlake.
You play as husband and father John Maracheck, who wakes up from stasis (suspended sleep) to find his family missing and the ship in utter disarray. The crew is missing, the walls are covered in blood and the ship has perceivably been through some mysterious catastrophe. Now it is up to John to make his way through the ship to find his family and discover the story behind this strange disaster.
Statis is a well-paced, beautifully crafted and intelligently written horror game that draws influence from classic sci-fi media such as Dead Space, Aliens and Event Horizon.
It doesn’t bombard you with jump scares but rather spends its time gradually but surely building up tension. And when that tension does eventually break, it will leave you staring at your screen in disbelief.
Semblance is a charming but challenging 2D platformer with very interesting puzzle mechanics.
You play as the aptly named Squish, a small purple blob that is able to shape its surroundings to navigate unique spatial puzzles in a strange and enchantingly beautiful world.
While the game mechanics might seem unusual at first, simply because of the mildly unconventional gameplay, it doesn’t take too long before you’re altering the environment to your puzzle-defying will.
Semblance was the first title developed on African soil to drop on the Nintendo Switch (now also joined by Broforce).
When one thinks of South African-developed games, Broforce is usually one of the first titles to come to mind.
Developed by Cape Town-based studio Free Lives, this action-packed 2D platformer is the most successful and internationally-renowned game to hail from the SA game development scene.
In Broforce, players take control of a series of purposefully familiar action heroes whose names have been exchanged with bro-puns (copyright infringement and all that). Robocop becomes Robrocop, Rambo becomes Rambro, Judge Dredd becomes Bro Dredd… I’m sure you get the picture.
Controlling this army of bros, you are simply tasked with blasting your way through an unnamed terrorist force lead by the Devil itself. And what an absolute delight it is. With the great variety of bros and their arsenal at your disposal, you will be able to orchestrate a symphony of destruction as you turn your foes into fountains of bloody red pixels.
Developed by one-man indie team, 16-year-old Brandon Kynoch (aka Hard Graft Studios), mobile game Torus simply tasks you with connecting a series of downward-scrolling dots in an attempt to rack up the highest score possible, marking your place on the international online leaderboard.
But while the concept might seem very simple, to actually excel at its gameplay demands some seriously nimble finger work, echoing Atari founder Nolan Bushnell’s sentiment of “easy to learn, hard to master”.
Torus is by far the most successful South African-brewed mobile game to hit the App Store, being featured as the game of the day in a staggering 137 countries.
Desktop Dungeons is a charming and eccentric 2D roguelike dungeon crawler developed by Cape Town-based developer QFC Design.
Players are tasked with exploring and clearing out a series of randomly generated dungeons, ending their pixelated adventure with a good ol’ boss fight.
What makes Desktop Dungeons particularly unique is the fact that a session only takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete, providing a fairly robust RPG experience to those with less time on their hands. But don’t be fooled. Just because this title can be played in short bursts doesn’t mean that it will test your knack for strategic gameplay.
If you’re looking for something genuinely unique to play, Genital Jousting is certainly not a bad bet. Yet another title created by Broforce developer Free Lives, this rather unconventional title lets you play as… a sentient penis.
At its core, Genital Jousting is a party game that boasts a series of wacky online and local multiplayer games modes, but even throws in a narrative-driven single player mode where you play as John, “a dick who wants to find a date for his high school reunion”.
But while the game might seem shallow and rather absurd at first glance, there is a deeper inspiration behind for the creation of Genital Jousting.
“Genital Jousting is largely about disarming masculinity. In a patriarchal society, penises are associated with power. They are considered the dominant sexual organ. But in Genital Jousting, they are often the butt of the joke. We want to present the phallus as something silly, abject, and non-threatening,” Free Lives explains.
Described by its creator, Made With Monster Love, as a “musical playground”, Cadence is an experimental title that allows you to create surprisingly complex musical patterns by utilizing the game’s unique and simplistic 3D node system.
The game features both a campaign mode, where you’ll be tasked to solve musical puzzles, and a creative mode, where you are set loose to create beats to your heart’s content.
Like most things musical, it is better to see (or rather hear) Cadence in action than trying to describe it in words. Check out the video above to see the wide range of possibilities this intriguing title has to offer.
System Crash is a cyberpunk-themed narrative-driven collectible card game “inspired by Blade Runner and Neuromancer” according to developer Rogue Moon Studios.
At its heart, System Crash is a narrative title that uses its card-battling mechanics as a means of tackling various scenarios in the story.
The often thought-provoking narrative, which delves into popular cyberpunk themes such as tyrannical corporations and body augmentation, is complimented well with stunning art and music, a great blend that leads to an immersive and engaging experience.
And for a third (and hopefully not final) time, we are once again treated to a homebrewed title by Free Lives. Taking inspiration from Broforce’s straight-to-the-point brutality, Gorn is a relentlessly violent VR game that throws in your very own gladiatorial battle arena.
From slicing, dicing, and bashing your opponents to pieces, to literally ripping their limbs from their body, Gorn will allow you release that post-work day tension in the most violently pleasing ways possible.
If you’re not too keen on narratives in gaming and you’re just looking to jump straight into the action, Gorn is definitely the way to go.
When it comes to first-person shooters (FPS), it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between the vast ocean of titles that, upon deeper inspection, pretty much offer the same thing. Thankfully, Polygod throws the genre upside-down on its head and provides us with a pleasingly bizarre FPS experience.
Polygod is described by its developer Krafted Games, as a “rogue-like, randomly generated, single & multiplayer FPS with a brutal difficulty curve”.
Polygod’s vibrant and low-poly aesthetic gives it a very unique flavour and combined with your character’s fast, fluid and low-gravity movement (akin to older FPS titles like Quake and Unreal Tournament), throws us in a distinctive experience that few titles can currently match.
Feature image: Free Lives