As we get closer to the launch of the next generation of consoles (just over a week!), we decided to take a look at the people responsible for the countless hours and years of joy that makes us love this hobby in the first place. So this week the Gamer Horizon crew presents The Top 5: game development studios.
This week’s first honorable mention goes to Quintet. Yeah, I’m riding the nostalgia train again. In the 1990s, Enix published several games developed by Quintet, and they are among my favorite games of all time. One of them was Actraiser, a genre bending game that featured side scrolling action levels and an overhead town building god simulation (not to mention a fantastic soundtrack). Then there was the unofficial trilogy of games that included Soul Blazer, Terranigma and Illusion of Gaia. Those games were all fantastic, and I especially liked Soul Blazer and the way the player could restore a village to existence piece by piece by destroying monster lairs. It provided much more motivation for dungeon crawling than any game I had played before it. To this day, I still wish for sequels to Actraiser and Soul Blazer.
The second honorable mention goes to Blizzard. I don’t care what anybody says, Blizzard is one of my favorite developers. I end up playing every game they produce for countless hours, and the Diablo, Warcraft and StarCraft franchises are among my favorites in gaming.
Yes, there’s one more. The third honorable mention goes to Enix, for their development of the Dragon Quest series.
5. Valve – I suppose the best way to describe Valve would be “quality over quantity.” Then again, I could probably describe Blizzard in the same way. In any case, Valve is one of the gaming industry’s best storytellers. They proved with the original Half-Life that first person shooters could tell a gripping story. With Half-Life 2, they brought emotion and humanity to their characters that had never been seen before in gaming. With the Portal games, they brought a unique sense of humor that the industry severely lacked, along with a brand new style of gameplay (courtesy of Nuclear Monkey Software, developers of Narbaclar Drop, the game that inspired Portal’s portal system). With Left 4 Dead, they introduced an A.I. controlled director to give the players a different adventure each time they played the game. Valve deserves a lot of respect for reasons outside of the scope of this article as well, but for the sake of this list, it can’t be denied that they develop awesome games.
4. Konami – I give Konami a lot of credit for creating a huge number of great games in a wide variety of genres. Aside from their classic franchises like Contra, Castlevania, Frogger, Metal Gear and Gradius, they are also responsible for the greatest music games of all time! With all due respect to Harmonix, it was Konami that lead the way with a huge variety of music games including Beatmania, Beatmania IIDX, Pop’n Music, GuitarFreaks, DrumMania and of course, Dance Dance Revolution. They’ve also got the respectable Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer) series of sports games and one of my favorite series of role playing games, Suikoden. All these games and I’m still failing to mention a lot of their key franchises. Konami is a powerhouse.
3. Nintendo – Sorry to all the haters, but Nintendo is without a doubt one of the greatest game developers of all time. They may be in a bit of a slump with the Wii U at the moment, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are responsible for a large number of the most important franchises in the history of gaming, like Super Mario Bros., Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. And as far as individual games go, Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are two of the most highly reviewed games of all time, standing near or at the top of Gamerankings and Metacritic. But more importantly, I can’t think of any company that’s more synonymous with gaming itself than Nintendo. Throughout my entire life as a gamer, Nintendo has been by my side. Nintendo is where it all began for me, and I’ll stick with them to the bitter end.
2. Bethesda – Having grown up on JRPGs, it took me a while to acclimate to the western RPGs offered by Bethesda. I played my fair share of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but I can’t say I “got it” back then, as I gave it up after 10 or 15 hours. When The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out on Xbox 360, I finally got hooked (after several hours creating characters and getting used to the gameplay). Fallout 3 managed to interest me for dozens of hours, despite the post-apocalypse being my single least favorite type of setting to experience in a game. As for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, well, I’ve played more of that game than any other game in existence short of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. At this point, I can’t think of any event in gaming that excites me more than the release of a new Elder Scrolls game, and though it’s surely years away, I can’t freaking wait for The Elder Scrolls VI. As far as I’m concerned, Bethesda creates the absolute best open world RPGs.
1. Squaresoft – Yes, Squaresoft, not Square Enix. I’m taking about the company that made the vast majority of my favorite games growing up prior to their merger with Enix. If I were to write a Top 5 of Super Nintendo games, Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana—all Squaresoft titles—would easily fill out the first four positions. The 5th spot would be an epic struggle between games like Earthbound, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Actraiser, Soul Blazer and Squaresoft’s own Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars.
Going back even further, I have the original Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Entertainment System to thank for my lifelong obsession with role playing games, though I can’t speak quite so fondly of Rad Racer. And of course, later there was Final Fantasy VII on PlayStation One, which was nothing short of an historical accomplishment, bringing role playing games to a wider audience than ever before and putting a formal end to their niche status.
The state of Square Enix today saddens me greatly. Though I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel more than the average gamer, I do feel like a lot of what made the series great has been lost, and from what I’ve seen of Final Fantasy XV, I don’t have much hope for the future. But if there was ever a company that I would want to return to glory, it would be Square Enix, so I’m rooting for them.
5. Kojima Productions – The developers of the Metal Gear franchise stepped up their game with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Now they are working on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and I can’t wait to see more of the game and eventually play it. Eventually, Kojima Productions will have to forgo the next iteration of Metal Gear Solid and make something new. Until then, I’ll bide my time.
4. Capcom – Capcom has created some great franchises, like Resident Evil, Mega Man, Lost Planet and Street Fighter. I’m a big Resident Evil fan and I personally like the direction the franchise went with the more action feel to it. I’m not a fighting game fan or fanatic, but Street Fighter is still at the top of the list. Even with Street Fighter in the books, Capcom created another fighting great fighting game with Marvel Vs. Capcom. My love for Capcom started on the Nintendo with Bionic Commando, which I played over and over because I really like the gameplay and story it told.
3. Sucker Punch – Sucker Punch has created some of the greatest games around. Sly Cooper, Infamous, and Rocket: Robot on Wheels are jut some the the games to come out of this Bellevue, Washington studio. I took notice of Sucker Punch when the super hero game Infamous game came out. I didn’t play Sly Cooper until the collection came out and I decided to pick it up. With Infamous: Second Son coming out in the near future, I can’t wait to see what Sucker Punch has in store for their next project.
2. Insomniac – The creators of the awesome Ratchet & Clank franchise, the great Resistance franchise and the not so good FUSE game that bombed (ha! -Ari). For those that don’t know, Insomniac also created the space Pokemon game for Facebook called Outernauts. They are working an Xbox One game called Sunset Overdrive which features parkour, an open world, and over powered weapons. All that said, I’m still waiting for Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus. It’s my favorite platforming franchise. With Resistance done and FUSE dead in the water, I’m waiting patiently to see what new shooter Insomniac will bring to the PlayStation 4.
1. Bioware – Bioware are the creators of my favorite game franchise, Mass Effect, and also created Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, one of the greatest RPGs. Bioware could do no wrong, up until they made Dragon Age 2. Fortunately, they learned from that mistake and are taking their time with the development of Dragon Age 3. I’m patiently waiting for more news on that and the next iteration of Mass Effect. Hopefully Bioware will release some information soon on both titles.
5. Nintendo – While I haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the SNES (I’ve only played one game since – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) there is no denying that Nintendo are world class developers and have made some of the greatest games of all time. To this day, Super Mario Bros 2 is in my top 10 games of all time, as well as The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Their games are enduring classics for a reason.
4. Rockstar North – With the entire Grand Theft Auto series – which includes 13 games and Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar is the reigning champion of open world games and fantastic storytelling.
3. Bioware – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic began my love of Bioware and it’s continued throughout the Mass Effect trilogy. When Bioware does sci-fi, I’m all in.
2. Ubisoft Montreal – Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Rainbow Six: Vegas, Assassin’s Creed II, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Far Cry 2, Far Cry 3 – enough said.
1. Naughty Dog – If I had been posited this question last generation, Naughty Dog wouldn’t have even made my list. The reason being this: outside of the first Jax and Daxter, they didn’t really make games that interested me, regardless of their quality. With the release of the original Uncharted, Naughty Dog got my attention. The reason I bought the PlayStation 3 was to be able to play Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves expanded on all of the good things in the first game, and turned the whole thing up to 10. While Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception didn’t quite match the consistent heights of its predecessor, it was still a fantastic game that I have revisited over and over. Then, of course, there is The Last of Us. Naughty Dog’s masterpiece of storytelling and performance in a video game. If it had nailed the gameplay and variety the same way Uncharted 2 did, it would easily be my favourite game of the generation. As it stands, it’s still an amazing achievement and with a record of 4 for 4 this generation, it’s an easy choice for me.
5. IntiCreates – Who the hell are these guys, you might ask? If you’ve played a modern Mega Man game and liked it, these people helped developed it. They made the Mega Man Zero series, and Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10. They’ve been tapped to work on Mighty No. 9, but the reason I have them on my list is because they are responsible for that kind of sublime Mega Man level and game design. They’ve inherited that mandate, and so far they have done well.
4. Lab Zero – I am so biased. I know several members of Lab Zero on a somewhat personal basis, however seeing what they have gone through to get Skullgirls published and updated is admirable to say the least. They asked for $150,000 to get a DLC character made, and got that amount in 24 hours. They ended up getting over $800,000, and are working on the second of 5 DLC characters. Skullgirls is a pure labor of love, and for the trials and tribulations Lab Zero has gone through, they are on my list.
3. Riot Games – They make one game, League of Legends. However, it’s the most played game in the world. Not bad. Riot Games recognizes the power of eSports, and sponsors some of the biggest and most bombastic events in the world. They even filled Staples Center this year. They update their game frequently, and even with their rapid growth, haven’t stopped listening to their fans, as some of the skins available for characters are directly from the community.
2. Sony Santa Monica – This studio makes some of the best titles around, but more important is the guidance they give as publisher to some certain indie titles. Namely, Journey. Sony Santa Monica set the template to make indie games successful on PlayStation, and as a result the platform is THE place to go for indie titles.
1. Nintendo – In the early 80’s, there was less of a focus on quality of video games, and more of a desire to sell whatever could be sold. This led in part to the gaming crash of the early 80’s. Were it not for Nintendo, it probably would have stayed that way. Nintendo has a relentless drive for quality that is unmatched in the industry. Lately, they still have trouble figuring out this “online” thing, but that is the only weakness in this development juggernaut.
What do you think of our lists of The Top 5: Game development studios? Let us know, and tell us about your lists in the comments below!