The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

My Top 10 Video Game Developers

Written by: Big Ross, CC2K Staff Writer

Big Ross checks in to talk about some of his favorite developers of video games.

Success breeds success. It’s not only a catchy saying or caption to a motivational poster, actual science tends to back it up. Sure the “one-hit wonder” phenomenon occurs even outside the music industry, but very often success isn’t a fluke or a one-time thing. Successful people tend to be successful, not just once, but repeatedly. That’s certainly true in the video game industry, and that’s exactly what I want to talk about. These are my personal top 10 game developers. Successful one and all, certainly, but the only metric to my ranking is how much I like the games that they make.


Honorable Mention: Id Software (Wolfenstein 3D, Doom), Blizzard (Diablo series, Starcraft series, WoW)


10) Rockstar North (GTA games, Red Dead Redemption)

Rockstar has distinguished itself as one of the great (greatest?) developers of sandbox games. Not to be confused with open-world games (there is a difference), their sandbox games in the GTA series alone has made them incredibly successful. I was never much of a fan of those, but take that formula and apply it to The Old West with Red Dead Redemption and SHUT UP TAKE MY MONEY.


9) Valve (Half-Life series, Portal)

While they haven’t done much recently, their level of innovation has defined and redefined what video games are and can be. While we’ll likely never get Half-Life 3, and they seem to be working more on the hardware side of gaming, I’d be up for whatever game they do make next.


8) Epic Games (Shadow Complex, Infinity Blade series, Gears of War series)

I’ll admit that I wasn’t a big fan of Shadow Complex, and I only have a passing interest in the Infinity Blade series (the novelty wears off VERY quickly for me). But the Gears of War series is tremendous fun, and a truly great third-person shooter. I STILL need to play the third installment.

7) Gearbox Software (Borderlands series)

Some may cry “Blasphemy!” with this entry (mostly because of Aliens: Colonial Marines), but I never played that game. However, I have played the Borderlands games and really love them. Especially Borderlands 2. It’s just so damn fun, and is one of the very few games to elicit LOL moments from me. The Pre-Sequel was a bit of a disappointment, but bring on Borderlands 3 please!


6) Rocksteady (Batman: Arkham series)

People had been trying to make Batman video games for years, and none of them were any good. No one cracked the formula, until the folks at Rocksteady came along with their special blend of sandbox environment, combat, stealth, detective work, and gadgets. It worked well in Arkham Asylum, and worked BEAUTIFULLY in Arkham City. Looks like they’re done after Arkham Knight, but that’s alright. Let’s see what they come up with next.


5) Obsidian Entertainment (SW:KOTOR 2, Fallout New Vegas)

Obsidian was dealt a shitty hand with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. Development was rushed, and the game was released buggy and incomplete. And yet it STILL was an amazing follow-up to Bioware’s epic, and did some things better than its predecessor. Fallout New Vegas accomplished the same feats without suffering the development problems of KOTOR 2. I haven’t played their latest, Pillars of Eternity, but I hear nothing but good things about it.


4) Irrational Games (Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite)

“Would you kindly?” Oh you need more than that? Okay. Although other developers on this list are great at making certain types of games (first-person shooters/RPGs) or have mastered certain styles of games (sandbox/open-world), IMHO Irrational Games are the undisputed maestros of world-building and storytelling in video games. Exhibit A: Bioshock. Exhibit B: Bioshock Infinite. Sure, they don’t crank ‘em out as often, but when they do, hold onto your butts.


3) Bungie (Halo series, Destiny)

Rarely if ever does a single game support an entire video game console, but that’s exactly what Halo: Combat Evolved did for the Xbox. It also happened to redefine first-person shooters and launch one of the most successful franchises in gaming history. While Bungie has moved on from Halo to another hit, Destiny, Bungie’s place here is largely due to those earlier games starring everyone’s favorite space marine.


2) Bioware (SW: KOTOR, Dragon Age series, Mass Effect series)

If Rockstar is ruler of the sandbox, Irrational the master storyteller, and (spoiler alert) Bethesda overlord of the open-world, Bioware is the Dungeon Master extraordinaire, Champion of the RPG. Whether they’re working in an established universe (Star Wars) or creating their own, be it fantasy (Dragon Age) or space opera (Mass Effect) Bioware crafts an RPG like no other. Large, rich, deep, nuanced, layered, customizable, varied, replayable. Don’t get much better.


1) Bethesda Softworks (The Elder Scrolls series, Fallout 3, Fallout 4)

In an RPG-style Thrilla in Manilla, if Bioware is Muhammad Ali, Bethesda Softworks is Joe Frazier. As far as analogies go, that’s nothing to scoff at (Frazier was an Olympic gold medalist, heavyweight champion, and one of the greatest boxers of all time). So yes, Bethesda is great at making RPGs, but were they reign supreme is in open-world RPGs. They are hands down my favorite game developer of all time. Let me put it this way. I’ve held out against upgrading to the current generation of consoles, not thinking it worth it. Until now. Until I heard that Bethesda is releasing Fallout 4. Looks like I’m getting an Xbox One.