Maōri photography game Umurangi Generation wins top honour at 2021 Indie Games Festival

Umurangi Generation has been hailed the best indie game in the world.
Umurangi Generation has been hailed the best indie game in the world. Photo credit: Supplied

New Zealand made video games are impressing worldwide this week with one topping a Steam chart and another claiming the biggest award at the annual Indie Games Festival.

Umurangi Generation, developed by Australian-based Māori Naphtali Faulkner, won the festival's most important honour - the Seumas McNally Prize - as well as picking up an Excellence in Narrative award.

The game is a first-player photography game set in Tauranga "in the shitty future". Players take on the role of a Māori courier for the Tauranga Express, using photography to document the city during an alien invasion.

Previous winners of the Seumas McNally Prize include renowned games such as Papers, Please and Night in the Woods as well as last year's winner A Short Hike.

Faulkner, who is Ngāi Te Rangi, took around 10 months to develop the game and began working on it full-time at the beginning of 2020.

Maōri culture plays a role in the game, including a massive part in the ending, Faulkner told IndieGameWebsite.

"In Maōri iwi, we have certain animals which are chosen to represent us once humans are no longer here on earth," he said.

"The Huia which appears in the game was originally going to play a little bigger role," he continued. 

"The feathers of the Huia are treasured by families and are often passed down. There are characters in the game who wear feathers in their hair."

The game was described by Aotearoa-based reviewer Dan Taipua as "the best work of Māori science-fiction to emerge from our fresh decade" in a piece for The Spinoff.

He also compared winning the Seumas McNally Prize to winning the grand jury prize at Sundance Film Festival.

"Of all the independent video games made all around the world last year, the very best of them was Māori," Taipua tweeted.

Umurangi Generation was initially released on Windows in May, 2020 but was ported and released on the Nintendo Switch in June this year.

Meanwhile Mini Motorways, developed by Wellington-based Dinosaur Polo Club, took top spot in the New & Trending section on PC gaming platform Steam on Thursday.

The puzzle strategy game involves connecting buildings to each other by creating motorways between them with the aim of collecting as many 'pins' as possible from the larger buildings.

It was launched on iOS in 2019, but was only released on Steam this week. For a time yesterday it sat above the official F1 racing game developed by Electronic Arts in the chart.

In the Top Sellers list on Steam today Mini Motorways is currently just under the Cottage Living Expansion Pack for the hugely popular game The Sims 4, and ahead of classics such as Grand Theft Auto V and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Both Mini Motorways and its predecessor Mini Metro, which involved building rail systems instead of motorways, are free to Apple Arcade subscribers on iOS.