There’s plenty of Game Developers who make good games. But after the past few years of microtransactions, loot boxes, overpriced season passes and terrible releases, a lot of companies have plummeted in fan estimation. Just look at Bethesda – in 2011 when Skyrim released, they were easily among the most popular companies in the business. Now, after the lacklustre Fallout 4 and the omnishambles of Fallout 76, fan trust is at an all time low. On a similar level, Bioware was one of the best RPG makers in the business at the start of the decade – now resentment over Mass Effect 3’s botched ending, Andromeda’s poor launch and Anthem’s notoriously poor quality has left them subject to much berating online. So, I thought I’d celebrate 5 game developers, who, while not perfect, the gaming industry would be much poorer without. I’ve also thrown in my top 5 PC games for good measure.
Top 5 Game Developers:
This aren’t the developers who pump out the most games – these are ones with consistency and less annoying business practices that I personally am a big fan of.
5: Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls, Detroit Become Human) They’ve made the least games of anyone in this top 5 (only 3 in the last 10 years) but they are some of the best storytellers in gaming. Prestigious actors are often a part of their games (including Ellen Page, Lance Henriksen and Willem Defoe). I’ve found all three of their recent games to be extremely compelling, with considerable replay value. Sure, they don’t have the best gameplay in the world (they mainly rely on quick time events or QTE’s) but they deal with hard-hitting subjects and adult themes in a way few gaming companies do. Interactive Drama is probably the best way to describe them, but if you love story led gaming, you need to check these out. A company with a small output, but a great one which is always looking to deliver something new with its releases.
4: Creative Assembly (Total War): Unlike the other 4 companies on this list, Creative Assembly has had its share of controversies and the occasional backlash. Empire Total War and Thrones of Britannia were not good games, and games like Rome 2 had decidedly shaky launches. CA releases a lot of DLC for its games, which at times is expensive for what your getting. Why then does it make this list: simple – it learns from its mistakes in a way that COD publishers, Bethesda and Bioware have not. When Empire overreached and suffered as a result, but its sequel Napoleon scaled back the action and delivered a much better experience. Slowly but surely, with DLC campaigns and patches, Rome 2 is now a much better game than it was at launch. Thrones of Britannia was lambasted for a weak campaign system, but Three Kingdoms has improved on that in many ways. The DLC may occasionally be on the expensive side, but its hardly a rip-off, especially given that Total War is part of Steam sales fairly regularly. Overall, Creative Assembly lack the greed some other companies seem to have – yes there’s DLC, but no microtransactions or season passes. Its hit rate is noticeably higher than other long running franchises (way better than COD or Assassin’s Creed – both of whom have similar yearly release schedules) and has a much better tendency to innovate. They aren’t perfect, but no one else is anywhere near them in the real-time strategy market.
3: Obsidian (Fallout New Vegas, Alpha Protocol, The Outer Worlds) Obsidian are a rarity in that when they make a game for an existing franchise, they tend to outshine the parent company. Fallout New Vegas is a case in point – its often highlighted as the best (or 2nd best if you someone who prefers Fallout 3) of the modern Fallout games. It’s also the only one since F3 not made by Bethesda. When you compare New Vegas and Fallout 4… the two aren’t even close. Obsidian are a smaller company, which often results in games that can be buggy, but are very good quality underneath. They are not someone who adds multiplayer for no good reason or cuts half the game out to sell as DLC later – Obsidian are a real gem, and when the Outer Worlds (their latest game – by the looks of it a spiritual successor to F:NV) releases, I’ll be buying it on day one. There’s very few publishers who give me the confidence to do that anymore.
2: Insomniac (Spyro, Ratchet and Clank, Resistance, Spiderman) If you’re a play-station gamer from any era, you know Insomniac. They’ve made some of the best PS exclusives (and best single-player games) of all time. Spyro made a lot of peoples childhoods on PS1, Ratchet and Clank did the same on PS2 and PS3 and Resistance is still one of the most unique shooter trilogies you can find. Spiderman won critical and commercial acclaim as one of the best games of 2018. Insomniac’s record is simply amazing – the only ‘bad’ games it has made were spin-offs, its main games are all good or great – whether they’re to your taste is the only question. Their games are extremely fun – Insomniac games feature compelling leads, memorable enemies and level designs and a huge variety of guns and gadgets to use. As long as they are exclusive to Sony, Xbox simply can’t match up.
1: Naughty Dog (Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted, Jak and Daxter, The Last of Us) From one Sony pillar to another, Naughty Dog are a gaming legend. Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter remain very popular franchises well over a decade after their last original release. Uncharted produced 5 good games out of 5 (3 of which were amazing) which is a virtually unheard of strike rate in gaming. The Last of Us is a strong contender for best game of the last decade, and you can bet its sequel will be a contender for best game of the next. Naughty Dog really does seem to put its customers first – very few of its games feature DLC, and when they do, its both really good and value for money. Another PlayStation exclusive, so if you don’t love them, you’re probably an Xbox gamer. I’ve never had a bad word to say about Naughty Dog, and while Insomniac run then close, I have to name them my favourite Game Developer.
Top 5 PC Games:
Note – this list is heavy on Nostalgia. I’m more of a console gamer, so if I play a game consistently on PC, its because I absolutely love the thing. Don’t expect this to be a list of the best games you can buy on PC or the best exclusives on PC. It isn’t either – it’s just my 5 favourite games to play on PC. All but 1 are PC exclusives though and all are very well regarded by the majority of gamers that play them.
5: Galactic Civilizations III: Galactic Civilizations II was probably the last PC game I was heavily into before I became permanently side-tracked by console games. Of all the PC games I’ve brought this decade, its sequel, GC3, is the only one I’ve logged really substantial hours on (some I haven’t got round to yet, some I definitely need a better PC to run properly). Galactic Civilizations is kind of the everyman’s 4X game. 4X stands for games that require you to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate – they’re mostly space based games, with some exceptions like Endless Legend. In 4X games you take control of one of a number of races or factions and guide them to supremacy, usually using a mix of military strength, economics, diplomacy and research to gain superiority over the other races. Galactic Civilizations is probably the easiest game of this type to get into for beginners (the user interface is simple but the game itself has plenty of depth)
4: The Simpsons: Hit and Run: A game everyone has fond memories of, this was one of the highlights of my (and many others) childhood. Oft described as GTA for kids, the Simpsons was a great game with a wide variety of missions, races, collectibles and jokes. You play as Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge and Apu and interact with everyone from Mr. Burns to Professor Frink to Kang and Kodos in 7 levels of pure madness and joy. Mission highlights included destroying Laser Gun stands for Krusty, capturing monkeys for Dr. Nick and helping Snake complete some ‘community service’ (which in reality saw him and Apu destroying an armoured car). Endlessly entertaining, laugh out loud funny on occasions, its a classic. The fact we’ve never got a sequel or a remaster is a crying shame. I’ve played this on PS2 at a friends house, but my copy was PC, so I will always think of it as a PC game.
3: Dawn of War: Dark Crusade: Warhammer 40,000 has perhaps the most video game adaptations of any Warhammer genre. Dark Crusade represents one of the few really good ones (Total War Warhammer 1+2 being basically the only others). The other dawn of War games are a disappoint by comparison, and unfortunately Dark Crusade is likely to remain the best game in the series for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, its a bloody good game and you won’t be desperate to replace it anytime soon. Featuring 7 available factions (The Imperial Guard, Space Marines, Chaos, The Tau Empire, The Eldar, The Ork Hordes and the Necrons), the game has a lot of variety in its faction rosters. The Imperial Guard has weak infantry but really strong tanks and artillery, the Orks are quite weak in general but have huge numbers and really strong top tier units, Chaos has a huge variety of infantry but a very limited range of vehicles etc. There’s a fare few unique things about each factions’ playstyle, but in general, its a case of capturing strategic points to earn requisition, building up your bases to gain power and recruit better units and finally throwing your forces in an all out assault on the enemy’s bases.
2: Rome: Total War: The game that got me into Total War, I probably spent more time on Rome 1 than any other video game I’ve ever owned. Its a pity it doesn’t run well on Windows 10, because its still a great game even now. Sure, the diplomacy stops working pretty early in the game, factions will betray you randomly and Rome is overpowered compared to the other factions, but for all its flaws, it is so fun to play. The variety of factions is great (particularly if you edit the game files to unlock all factions – which is very easy to do). Whatever playstyle you like, there’s something for you – want to crush your enemies with elephants? Go for Carthage. Want to reign arrows on foes then pull back before they can retaliate? Scythian Horse Archers are your friend! Want to carve your way through hordes of ill-disciplined Barbarians? The House of Julii welcomes you. If you ever get bored of the main campaign, there’s plenty of mods out there to try as well. Any game from 2004 that’s still mentioned fondly by Youtubers is one that is iconic in the eyes of the fanbase – this one more so than most.
1: Medieval 2: Total War: While Rome is perhaps the most fun Total War game, Medieval 2 surpasses it by the virtue of being a touch more refined, with a lot more depth. Diplomacy actually works, there’s no weak factions, the Crusade/Jihad mechanic is very fun and the Mongol and Timurid invasions provide a reason to keep playing long after its clear you’re going to win. The sheer scope of what you can do here is great – the campaign can see you try to survive the Black Death, master the use of gunpowder and discover America and conquer the Aztecs. If you’re a Christian faction, you’ll also have to contend with the pope, who will send you missions, demand you take part in crusades and (if you piss him off) send inquisitors to try your generals for heresy, excommunicate you and cause you public order problems, or even declare a crusade on you! I won’t claim the game is perfect (the first 50 turns are definitely the most fun – only crusades, mongol invasions and timurids can threaten you after that if you know what your doing) and the AI could definitely be better, but its still a lot of peoples favourite Total War game – me included. The Kingdoms expansion is the icing on the cake, and there’s more mods out there for this than any other Total War game. If your looking to get into the series, i’d recommend starting here – as an old game its very cheap on steam!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this, the next top 5 list will be up tomorrow!