Hello Games returns to Joe Danger for the ultimate feelgood moment

Joe Danger riding past a happy sun and an alien.
(Image credit: Hello Games)

These days, Hello Games is known mostly for No Man's Sky. An over-reaching procgen galaxy jaunt that was almost toppled by its own ambition, before one of the great comeback stories saw it over many years evolve into the experience it is now. Before No Man's Sky, however, Hello Games started off with a smaller project: Joe Danger.

This Evil Knievel-channelling 2D stunt racer was initially released on consoles and PCs before making its way to phones and touchscreens. It was a success from the start and a great sequel and spinoff saw Joe and pals build-out their world just as Hello was preparing to blast off into space. Without Joe Danger, there's probably not a No Man's Sky.

Out of nowhere, a remastered Joe Danger appeared yesterday sporting improved visuals, a higher frame rate, multitouch improvements, ProMotion and Gamepad support, and even localisation updates. It caught most folk by surprise, and the reason why it happened is that Hello itself got caught off-guard by a message from a big fan. 

Or to be more precise, the dad of one.

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Hello Games' Sean Murray anonymised the letter so we'll call our writer dad, and he begins by saying that his eight year-old son Jack has been diagnosed with autism. "One of the things that has enabled Jack and I to bond is our shared love of video games, specifically Joe Danger. Jack LOVES Joe. He loves everything about him. He has a collection of toy motorcycles that are his "Joe Dangers;" every motorcycle we see on the street is "Joe Danger". One of the first things I hear everyday when I walk in the door after a long day at work is "come on, daddy, let's go play Joe Danger!"  Just being able to say that sentence is a MASSIVE deal for [a] child with autism."

Dad goes on to explain that Joe Danger is a coping mechanism for Jack in stressful situations: He gets to play on the phone for a bit if he gets through things. Unfortunately, thanks to iOS updates, Joe Danger was one of many apps that had basically been rendered inoperable and disappeared from the App Store.

"The App store, rather casually I must admit, suggests "contacting the developer" to update the app to get it work, as if that were something that was done everyday," writes dad. "But Jack asked me to do it for him, so here I am."

Joe Danger riding on a stunt course.

(Image credit: Hello Games)

On getting Jack's message, Hello quietly set to work breathing new life into the game that was the launchpad for its own success.

"As game devs it's so easy to underestimate the impact even your smallest games can have," Seams Murray wrote, announcing the new version of the game. "It blows my mind that something you make can be someone's first game they played, hit at an important time or even be their favorite thing for a while "

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The Joe Danger Action Pack remastered is out now, and free to the million or so people who already own the original.

All the props in the world to Hello Games: You can guarantee this is the best news of the year for one young player.

As Murray notes, it's sad that Joe is only one of many games for which this is the case. I was much more into phone gaming years ago, and most of the games I used to love either don't work or are just gone. Farewell Tomena Sanner, we hardly knew ye.

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Joe Danger was never a world-beater, but it always had charm and, most importantly, it was always unabashedly fun. It's lovely to see a game that played such a big part for its developers get the treatment it deserves, and the reason why it happened. It's a feelgood moment and, these days, everyone can use one of those.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."