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The game developers who've NEVER made a bad game

Selected notable releases: Metal Gear series, Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand, Lunar Knights

Much like Harmonix, Kojima Productions' strength comes as much from a left-field exploration of the medium as the actual content of its games. Where most devs are content to experiment only within the confines of the internal workings of their title, Kojima sees everything as fair game, starting at game design and emanating outwards to encompass every experience in the player's real-world living room. Holistic interactive dicking around, if you will.

Whether it's the infamous Psycho Mantis fight, the Russian doll meta of MGS2's ending, changing a console's clock settings to insta-kill a boss through old age, or 'simply' using a real-world sun sensor to charge up an in-game weapon, KP's insistence on manipulating the very ways players interact with games has always made its output exciting and damnably enigmatic, far beyond what it achieves via its already impressive game design.


Selected notable releases: Commander Keen series, Wolfenstein series, Doom series, Quake series

People and technology, blended in unison. That's what makes id such a legendary developer (though in a fun way, rather than a Shinya Tsukamoto way, naturally). In co-founder and current Technical Director John Carmack, id of course has quite possibly the most scarily talented programmer in the industry, but it is the way in which id wraps Carmack's consistently groundbreaking tech around a design philosophy of pure fun which gives the dev its edge. Where fledgling studios often feel the need to impress with all manner of bells and whistles, id's old school experience and well-earned confidence allows it to boil game design down to a purer, more immediate, moment-to-moment experience, carried off with mind-numbing technical flair.

Hand-in-hand with id's appreciation of the player experience goes its appreciation of its own people. Employing heavily from the modding community (a community arguably kickstarted by Carmack's manifesto of making each game heavily adaptable by the player), id selectively hires designers who have already demonstrated personal passion and flair, often unpaid, to ensure a positive and intimate working environment. As Creative Director Tim Willits recently told us, "We would rather have people who fit in culturally than just brilliant dudes. But luckily we have brilliant dudes who fit in culturally." And his thoughts on the fundamental difference between id and its competitors? He confirms:

"It's the people. John Carmack plus the rest of us have been here a long time, and we have a very high standard of what we believe is fun. We've been small enough and successful enough to stick to that standard, and as we grow these teams, we try to keep a small group culture. Because really, the culture and the people at the top dictate the whole organisation."


Selected notable releases: Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect

Like several studios on this list, BioWare typifies the success a dev can earn through knowing what it's good at and continually honing its skills in that direction. In BioWare's case, that direction means deeply engaging narrative and accessible depth. Which is pretty fortunate when you consider that it's primarily an RPG house. Sensible choice, lads.

From the early days of Baldur's Gate, through to Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect and Dragon Age, BioWare's manifesto has seemed to be to create RPGs which cater to tastes far beyond the traditional Hawkwind-loving, beardy western RPG fan cliche. Happy to disguise its role-playing expertise under the guise of third-person shooter, movie license or even Sonic game, the studio always brings depth of both gameplay and story, but most importantly does it without dumbing things down or over-facing the player.

The company's games are famed for freedom of narrative choice, but the choice of gameplay approach is also key. In a scene in which mainstream RPG tastes are still dominated by the rigid and repeated mechanics of Final Fantasy, BioWare offers consistently fresh alternatives which can engage the non-nerdy player in new ways every time they play. All that, and they made Amy Rose remarkably non-punchable. That borders on genius.


Selected notable releases: Fire Emblem series, Famicom/Advance Wars series, Paper Mario series, WarioWare series, Panel De Pon

Nintendo without Intelligent Systems would be a very different company indeed. Created when members of Ninty's legendary R&D1 team splintered off to form its own separate internal studio, it has produced some of the coolest and best loved first-party Nintendo games for generations. Perhaps it's down to that slightly outsider inception, but its success definitely carries a theme of the off-kilter reimagining and expansion of Ninty's tried and tested core output throughout.

Where the Mario universe traditionally gave us platformers, Intelligent Systems gave us the self-referential comedy genius of Paper Mario and the compulsive lunacy of WarioWare. Where Nintendo's RPG output had traditionally been the light action-adventure of The Legend of Zelda, IS gave us the more tactically involved Fire Emblem and Famicom/Advance Wars. Hell, these guys even bucked the trend of all Super Scope games being a pile of old stench-crust by creating the really rather fun Battle Clash and its sequel, and when the SNES mouse turned up, it was they who put together the pulsating bundle of creative imagination that is Mario Paint. All things considered, they're about as indie-rebel as Nintendo is ever likely to get.



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99 comments

  • ThundaGawd - January 30, 2011 9:22 a.m.

    I don't know if Renegade Kid could qualify as a candidate, they've only been around since 2007, but it's founders have been in the industry for over 15 years, plus, they only have 3 games so far: Dementium I, Dementium II, and Moon. All of which are pretty badass
  • Ninja-Monkey-91 - January 29, 2011 4:56 p.m.

    Good article but What about Naughty dog? Even jak x was still a good game. From crash to jak & daxter to uncharted I can't think of a bad game they've made
  • Shuuvuia - January 29, 2011 2:23 p.m.

    Insomniac definately deserved a spot. As of January 2011, they've made 13 games, all of which are classics. Heck, they have two games coming out this year, both of which have a 99.9% chance of being amazing. :D
  • celticsfan645 - January 29, 2011 12:17 a.m.

    Naughty dog should be here. I have an xbox, but i have fond memories of playing Crash Bandicoot on my playstation. The closest thing they made into a bad game was jak: combat racing. But im not even sure that was them.
  • Ganonpork - July 16, 2010 11:20 p.m.

    XD....... Suda 51.
  • mrmorozov987 - June 1, 2010 2:43 p.m.

    Uhm, where's Rockstar? Grand Theft Auto I, II, III, Vice City, San Andreas, IV, and Red Dead Redemption. All awesome.
  • Kytl - January 27, 2010 3:41 a.m.

    Hooray for Intelligent Systems, I love the games this team makes, especially their Fire Emblem series. Hmmmm Mario and Luigi 3 release at the end of last year and that Wario Ware DSi game that lets you make your own microgames should be coming out soon....i wonder when they'll make another Wars or Fire Emblem game...
  • AlexMercer1337 - January 26, 2010 10:53 a.m.

    What about Tim Schafer, heading Double Fine? Psychonauts and Brutal Legend are pretty hard to top.
  • HunterWolf84 - January 25, 2010 1:58 p.m.

    @xFnKxTaLeNtx: LOLs, WHAT !!!! .. "Myth" worst games on the planet .. WTH really .. it's one of the best Strategy games i ever played and is highly acclaimed as one of the most interesting, fresh and innovative games made by Bungie in market stagnant with copy-cat games .. their scores are around 9 to 8 on most gaming sites .. whatever you are drinking you should really stop it ... "worst games on the planet" my $%^ .. Gamespot renounces it saying "Myth II is about as good as a computer game can possibly be" and i wholeheartedly agree. Bungie other games are also extremely well made .. not perfect but far from bad ... Oni was a very interesting 3D action brawler a little bland to look at but heaps of fun to play .. Halo doesn't nearly need any introduction .. it sold the XBOX for Microsoft and made FPS on consoles main-stream that all FPS console games afterward keep copying mechanics from it till today (rebounding health, limited weapon choices, grenade throwing button, ... etc etc etc) They deserve to be on the list along side Level 5 (Dark Cloud, Rouge Galaxy, Professor Layton, White Knight) and VanillaWare (Grimgrimmore, Odin Sphere, Muramasa).
  • damnstraight - July 3, 2009 8:02 a.m.

    WTF WHERE THE HELL IS BLIZZARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????? LAST
  • linkganon - May 10, 2009 5:37 a.m.

    kojima, how does he do it. not a single mistake in the mgs series, except for the exception of (cough cough) raiden's existance. 1 in 10 people don't realize this but raiden was kinda a joke character made in rataliation of a girl's comment. one point the president, which is inaccurate since he's barrack, not this other guy, actually grabs him below the belt before realizing he's not a girl. back on topic, you know, technically in mgs's timeline, raiden would have killed george sears a couple of days before this comment, April 30th/09 to be exact.
  • flyhighj65 - April 29, 2009 2:31 a.m.

    Wat about Infinity Ward? Cod, Cod 2, Cod 4? I consider those pretty succesful
  • XxGHOST666xX - March 14, 2009 11:54 p.m.

    Um... What about Good Ol' Blizzard, I don't think they could make a bad game if they tried. Even their arcade classics are amazing.
  • MakutaYnot - March 9, 2009 8:28 p.m.

    Ok, Insomniac, why aren't they on this list? Or Naughty Dog for that matter?
  • Backfire001 - March 8, 2009 7:33 a.m.

    Valve has left 4 dead OOOOOOOO buuuuuurn.....(Ps. i dont like left 4 dead.....its the SAME THING OVER AND OVER,and its not fun)
  • screath - March 6, 2009 8:58 p.m.

    Bioware doesn't have as perfect a record as you may think. Remember Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood?
  • reyalejandro13 - March 6, 2009 2:59 a.m.

    Yeah, Valve and Haarmonix have yet to disappoint. Both are epic wins forever. About Kojima... i srsly need to get the MGS games.
  • mlaborem - March 6, 2009 12:59 a.m.

    Blizard?........!!!!!!!!!! It's a real miss!!
  • Nutter87 - March 5, 2009 11:40 p.m.

    To any one asking why Square-Enix isn't on the list Tho I am a big FF fan, FF 2,X-2 are totaly rubbish.
  • thochaos - March 5, 2009 5:21 a.m.

    Lionhead makes average games so I don't think they belong on this list. The rest do though. Good article.

Showing 1-20 of 99 comments

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