A literal uphill battle for this Game of the Generation contender, saw it break the mould of an indie gaming archetype, to go on and become a Triple-A success story.
In what would be a redefining moment for independent development, the team at Extremely OK Games (Formerly Matt Makes Games) created an instant hit in Celeste. After the success of the initial Ouya exclusive Towerfall, Maddy Thorson planned to extend the single-player campaign of the title after the downfall of Ouya. This had PlayStation knocking on the Canadian developer’s door, signing them to an exclusive deal to develop variants of the 16-bit, Zelda inspired classic. Stating that they had moved onto a new project, Thorson had approached Noel Berry to create a new prototype during a four day Game Jam.
The duo designed “Celeste” (now known as “Celeste Classic”), with the idea of challenging skilled speedrunners, in developing new reflexes in their ambi-dextrous abilities. After successfully designing what would be known later as the title’s prototype, Berry and Thorson would go on to rebuild the entire title from the ground up, borrowing heavy inspiration from Thorson’s work on Towerfall. The thought of the title was set to be an amalgamation of both Super Mario Bros. 3 and Towerfall, with Super Meat Boy thrown in for challenging puzzles. It did not take long before Celeste garnered universal acclaim upon its initial release in 2018.
Fans were awestruck at the Celeste’s complexity and depth. A well thought out title with astonishing level design, mechanics that were incredibly innovative, obstructions that were ferociously challenging, a narrative that highlights overcoming struggles within Mental Health, and one of the best video gaming soundtracks ever composed by BAFTA nominated composer, Lena Raine. The detail demonstrated within every mechanic, the design of each animation, the identifiable easter eggs enforced; Celeste brings out the best within video gaming, not only in development and design, but as a conversational piece.
If it weren’t for this title, I don’t think I would be sitting here writing this piece today. It helped re-invigorate a creative energy within me to create content. I was fortunate to develop a friend for life in my Dash Culture co-host, Buddy Watson. We both (especially Buddy) celebrated its feats, magnifying its facets, and exalted its original overture. Celeste will forever be one of the greatest independent title’s of an era that was comprised of “graphics > gameplay”, proving the aforementioned completely null and void. It will go down as one of the best of all time. #CelesteGameOfTheYear.
Celeste is a platforming video game by Canadian video game developers Maddy Thorson and Noel Berry, with art by the Brazilian studio MiniBoss. The game was originally created as a prototype in four days during a game jam, and later expanded into a full release.