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8 great games first created in a game jam

The Ukie Student Game Jam 2024 is coming up next month, a fun and creative challenge for our student members to create an original game demo within 2 days. To get inspiration and ambition flowing, discover the origin story of 8 indie video game hits that were first created during a game jam.

Hollow Knight


Game Jam: Ludum Dare 27
Dates: 23-26 Aug 2013
Theme: Ten Seconds

Multi-award-winning metroidvania Hollow Knight began life as Hungry Knight!, an action game challenging players to fight their way through a strange wasteland, staying fed every ten seconds.

Though it featured the first iteration of the silent insect protagonist and art style we know today, Hungry Knight!which is still playable on the Newgrounds Player, apparently wasn't well received at the time. It was actually another game jam, with the theme 'Beneath the Surface', that led Team Cherry down the path to the final version.

The full game, Hollow Knight, released almost 4 years later on 24 February 2017.


Game Jam: Ludum Dare 43
Dates: 1-4 December 2018
Theme: Sacrifices Must Be Made

Indie developer Daniel Mullins landed on the idea of a card game that involved sacrificing as a mechanic, but he wanted to push the Ludum Dare 43 theme even further by 'having your avatar sacrifice body parts'.

His jam submission was named after the theme of the challenge, and is still available to download and play for free from itch.io. It received a lot of positive feedback, which inspired Mullins to further develop the card game.

The full game, Inscryption, released 3 years later on 19 October 2021.


Game Jam: GameMaker Studio 2 - Beta Jam
Dates: 30 November – 14 December 2016
Theme: Arena

2D game engine GameMaker celebrated the launch of GameMaker Studio 2 with Beta Jam, challenging developers to create a game making use of the new tile mapping features the updated engine had to offer.

Mariano Cavallero a.k.a. HopFrog took second place in the Beta Jam for Forager, which made full use of these new features, inviting players to 'explore a vast and mysterious world in little chunks'. A revised version of the original submission is still available to download and play for free from itch.io.

The full game, Forager, released a bit over 2 years later on 18 April 2019.


Game Jam: The Seven Day First-Person Shooter Challenge (7DFPS)
Dates: 10-17 August 2013
Theme: First-Person Shooter

The first prototype of SUPERHOT was created in 2013 for 7DFPS by a team who mostly hadn't made games before. This demo, which is still playable on the SUPERHOT website, was a viral success, so the team launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund full development of the game.

The full game, SUPERHOT, released nearly 3 years later on 25 February 2016.

Surgeon Simulator

Game Jam: Global Game Jam
Dates: 25-27 January 2013
Theme: The Sound of a Heartbeat

During the 2013 Global Game Jam, London-based Bossa Studios were struck by the idea ‘what if you were just an ordinary guy that suddenly had to perform a heart transplant?’.

The demo was extremely well received, and the submission video clocked over 2 million views within the first 36 hours (watch the YouTube version here). The team loved the concept and knew they had a hit on their hands.

The full game, Surgeon Simulator, released only 3 months later on 19 April 2013.

VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Game Jam: Cyberpunk Jam
Dates: 1-12 March 2014
Theme: Cyberpunk

Originally from Venezuela, Sukeban Games started life as a blog for discussing Japanese popular culture. Their first game, visual novel VA-11 Hall-A, was created during a cyberpunk-themed game jam in 2014.

The full game, VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, released 2 years later on 21 June 2016.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Game Jam: Global Game Jam
Dates: 24-26 January 2014
Theme: We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are

Ottawa-based Steel Crate Games took a very abstract approach to this thought-provoking theme for the 2014 Global Game Jam.

The idea came from a scene in animated comedy Archer, where two characters have a silly and disastrous back-and-forth over the phone while trying to disarm a bomb. This led to the team's heart-racing asymmetrical co-op submission to the game jam.

The full game, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, released a year and a half later on 8 October 2015.

Donut County

Game Jam: Molyjam (What Would Molydeux?)
Dates: 31 March – 1 April 2012
Theme: Ideas from the ‘Peter Molydeux’ parody account

Paying tribute to legendary video game developer Peter Molyneux, known for the Fable games, the parody ‘Peter Molydeux’ account posts short and absurd ideas for video games. Probably the most delightfully silly theme of the game jams listed here, this 2-day challenge invited participants to take inspiration from these posts.

Taking his lead from a post suggesting a game where you play as a hole, Ben Esposito submitted a demo called The Pits, which later became Kachina.

The full game, Donut County, released over 6 years later on 28 August 2018.

Honourable mention: Celeste

Seemingly made for a personal game jam, the original version of critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning platformer Celeste was made in only 4 days in August 2015. Now known as Celeste Classic, it was made for PICO-8, a fantasy console for tiny games, and is still playable on itch.io.

Wanting the concept for their game to be minimalist but with depth in mechanics, developers Maddy Thorson and Noel Berry of Maddy Makes Games landed on the idea of a character struggling to climb a mountain, which they felt fit really well with the challenge they'd set themselves.

The full game, Celeste, released over 2 years later on 25 January 2018.

To celebrate the game's 6-year anniversary, Maddy Makes Games released Celeste 64: Fragments of the Mountain on 30 January 2024, which you can download and play for free from itch.io. Returning to the origins of the game's development, Celeste 64 was created in 'a week(ish)'. It reimagines the hit platformer as a fully-3D version, as if it were made for the Nintendo 64.

Take part in the Ukie Student Game Jam

The Ukie Student Game Jam takes place over 14 & 15 March 2024. Registration is open for student teams and industry mentors until Thursday 29 February at 10am.

If you or your institution is a Ukie Students member and you’d like to take part, please check your emails. A sign-up form and further information have been released directly to you.

For details on supporting the activity or taking part as an industry mentor, please check out this participation pack, or contact Siân on sian@ukie.org.uk.