Top 5 Most-Loved Developers in the Video Game Industry
Gaming is rich with classic titles. No matter what genre they inhabit, a classic game can transcend time, age, country of origin, and definitely something as nebulous as “genre.” Furthermore, some game studios are so consistent in churning out tremendous games that when they craft a game that fails to meet expectations, it is seen as a shock and a blip on the radar – rather than a true representation of the company that produced it. Many famed developers have a huge fanbase that seeks out the smallest glimmer of news about upcoming games, and with good reason – many of the finest studios of all time have a certain aesthetic and stylistic sheen that serves as a connecting factor across their entire oeuvre. There have been many popular game developers over the years, some of which are now defunct, but let’s explore the Top 5 Most-Loved Developers in the Video Game Industry.
This Alberta, Canada-based company has been in the business since the mid-1990s when they released their first game – an action-adventure mech game called Shattered Steel. However, it wasn’t until their follow-up game, an isometric fantasy roleplaying game called Baldur’s Gate, that BioWare turned into one of the most popular RPG developers of all time.
Set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, this game featured impressive visuals for the time as well as what BioWare has been defined by through much of its history – stellar writing. Many of the greatest writers in gaming history have penned titles for BioWare, including Drew Karpyshyn, David Gaider, Mike Laidlaw, and Mac Walters (among many others).
After Baldur’s Gate, the company released a slew of highly acclaimed hit games, including Baldur’s Gate II (which is widely cited as one of the best games of all time), Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which features one of the best gaming twists of all time), Jade Empire, the Mass Effect Trilogy, the Dragon Age series, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, making BioWare one of the most-loved developers in the video game industry.
All of the above games were massively successful in terms of sales, gameplay, and writing and only helped to build the massive cachet that BioWare continued to accrue… until the consecutive releases of Mass Effect: Andromeda (a shoddily written and poorly animated game) and Anthem, which was the company’s attempt at latching on to the cooperative third-person shooter genre – but it lacked the company’s trademark charm, writing and thrilling gameplay.
Still, Dragon Age 4 is in development, and it will take more than a couple of duds to tarnish the legacy of this tremendous studio.
An important English video game developer that played a pivotal role in the feted “Console Wars” between Nintendo and Sega in the early- to mid-90s, Rare is known for a bevy of enjoyable titles, starting off with Battletoads for a variety of systems in the early 90s.
However, Rare is synonymous with its brilliant run for Nintendo starting in 1994 with the release of Donkey Kong Country. Its graphical mastery at the time combined with astounding gameplay helped to single-handedly rekindle the flagging Super Nintendo console.
Rare followed that up with two equally popular sequels before Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 console – prompting what is likely the best run of any developer on this list. The sheer breadth of genres and near-universal acclaim that these games received (not to mention the cutting-edge elements of game design found within) are among the greatest achievements any developer has ever reached, making them one of the best, if not the most-loved developers in the industry.
From 1997 to 2001 on the N64, Rare developed and released Blast Corps, GoldenEye 007, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Almost all of those games are regarded as classics in their respective genres, with GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, and Perfect Dark all being widely lauded as among the greatest games of all time.
An American company based in Santa Monica, California, Naughty Dog struggled to find itself during its early years, releasing a number of titles for a bevy of systems including the Apple II, Sega Genesis, and 3DO. It wasn’t until the company partnered with Sony’s PlayStation that they discovered their niche.
In 1996, Naughty Dog released Crash Bandicoot, featuring the titular character, a zanily humorous platformer with punishing difficulty and ample charm. Two sequels followed for the PS1, as well as a cart racing game (CTR: Crash Team Racing). All three of the mainline Crash games were huge successes, both critically and commercially, and paved the way for Naughty Dog to tether themselves to a single franchise for the lifespan of a console – unlike all of the other developers on this list.
For the PlayStation 2, it was Jak and Daxter, an immensely enjoyable platformer game with similarly snarky humor and crisp controls. For the PlayStation 3, Naughty Dog opted for an Indiana Jones-esque action/adventure series called Uncharted, which followed the exploits of roguish main character Nathan Drake. The writing and voice acting in these games helped its main characters jump off the screen, and the company expounded on this angle by breaking its self-imposed “one franchise per console” rule when The Last of Us was released to massive fanfare, huge critical plaudits, and big sales numbers in 2013, cementing Naughty Dog in our list of most-loved developers in history.
Soon thereafter, the PlayStation 4 was released so Naughty Dog remastered the original Last of Us and then followed that up with The Last of Us Part II in 2020. While stories of massive crunch and extremely unpleasant working conditions scarred the release of Part II, the game is a staggering technical achievement with a story that is both heartbreaking and thrilling – certainly showcasing all of the talents that Naughty Dog as a studio still so obviously contains.
In saving the best for (nearly) last department, at one point Nintendo was synonymous with video games in general throughout much of the late 1980s and early 90s. Other than popularizing video games following the crash that brought Atari (and the industry at large) to its knees, Nintendo is responsible for designing and developing some of the greatest video games of all time.
While they are also a famed publisher and console creator, their original games remain some of the most highly regarded of all time, as various Nintendo development teams have been responsible for the following franchises: Metroid, Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Kirby, Wario, The Legend of Zelda, Wii Sports, Splatoon, and many, many more.
Sure, this might seem like an obvious choice, but Nintendo has been – and will remain – one of the most-loved developers of all time.
While these last two might reek of extreme fandom, it cannot be denied that both of these developers have multiple-decade track records of producing that games that are both extremely popular and able to birth a franchise right off the bat.
Though this Japanese company started off making various different titles, including two puzzle games featuring popular Nintendo characters Yoshi (1991’s Yoshi) and both Mario and Wario (1993’s Mario + Wario), it wasn’t until they released the first Pokémon game in 1996 that the company really took off.
Of course, the games truly erupted in popularity when they were released in North America in 1998, and Game Freak hasn’t looked back. With the series nearly reaching its 9th generation of “pocket monsters,” Game Feak has surely cemented itself as one of the most-loved developers of all time. Now, they only have to deliver on their Pokemon Legends Arceus and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.