Revisiting Matt Thorson’s TowerFall


From the onset of the game arcade to present day consoles, fighting titles or “brawlers” have been constantly churned out to markets. Heightened by the likes Mortal Kombat and, most recently, Super Smash Bros, they have become a staple of casual and hardcore gamers alike. One title in particular, TowerFall, has garnered critical acclaim; but as a low-budget indie it hasn’t attracted as many fans as other mainstream games, even though it has earned more than 500,000 dollars.

Developed by Matt Thorson and his publishing company Matt Makes Games, it launched on the Ouya in June 2013 and was later ported to PlayStation 4, Linux, OS X, and Windows renamed Towerfall Ascension. As a party game, it was favorably compared to Super Smash Bros, and its strong local multiplayer fulfilled a niche in the new console generation.

But for many players, the first interaction with the game was through PlayStation’s free “Plus” games in June of 2014, when many downloaded what they thought was another simple indie title and were pleasantly surprised to find an excellent archery game, with great level and music design. I was one of those players, with low hopes and expectations to fulfill. Two years later, I’m still playing it, finding new challenges, completing harder levels, and overall having a great time (be it alone or with friends). Sadly, the lack of online support and a small community around it means that I’m restricted to playing local alone or with a few close friends.

But even so, TowerFall’s charm is unavoidable. It’s easy to pick up and learn, and every match has a certain uniqueness and randomness, which in turn means it becomes highly addictive. Few times have I seen FIFA addicts or Call of Duty veterans ask for a game be played that is different from their own favorite, but TowerFall has provided many nights of fun where any segment of gamer (beginner, pro) can pick up and enjoy it to its fullest.

Stages are different and dynamic: with traps, side openings, powerups, and sets of rules to follow. The pace quickly rises and the chaos around ensures a fun yet challenging endeavor, be it competing in multiplayer matches, or the single player monster-hunting levels that also allow for co-op play. Hopefully, TowerFall can become the first indie game to bring indies into the esports limelight. It has all the elements to become as big a brawler as Super Smash Bros and its easy entry point, coupled with its broad audience reach (PS4, PC, Handhelds, Steam, etc.) means that it can ultimately rise as high as Smash and other brawlers have.

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