Top 10 Vanguard Mainstream Game Developers of All Time
Video games have always been at the forefront of experimentation. You could say that each game is an experience of complex mechanics and stories swirling together in a beautiful symphony … or sometimes nightmares. And while the game can often be unfairly viewed as rather intuitive, there are many developers who have created and transcended the game as we know it.
Every developer here is a mainstream creator who has created experimental games and a change from previous forms of play. Arguably, without these developers, we wouldn’t have a lot of iconic games, mechanics, or even entire genres. These are the pioneers who made games a respected artistic medium.
ten Valve are the original experimenters
Valve has been at the forefront of experimental gameplay. Each of their games manages to reshape the industry as we know it. Would we even have FPS games today if it hadn’t been for all the innovation? Half-life and the Source Engine brought into the world?
They might only release one game every ten years or so (or in the case of Half-Life 3: Never), but when it comes to experimenting and breaking the typical flow of AAA versions, Valve always shines. Be sure to replay Half Life 2 when the rumored remaster comes out.
9 Friction games created the genre of modern survival horror
The Frictional Games are certainly the forerunners of cosmic horror in the video game industry. From their underwater environments of Soma to the abstract ruins of Amnesia games or the frozen laboratory of Twilight, this is a group of developers who are not afraid to turn away from the avant-garde. Their most recent title Amnesia: Renaissance literally sees you entering abstract alien realms at several points in the game.
Monsters in games always haunt players until they sleep. No one will ever forget meeting their first Grunt. Already.
8 From Software loves metaphorical decaying worlds
From Software, the developers of the phenomenal Dark souls series and Transmitted by blood, knowing how to create fantastic realms teeming with incredible detail and fascinating artistic choices. Each boss in their games is a work of art that channels the fallen environment of their respective game and the intricate lore that fills them.
From Software may be one of the toughest games ever made, but it’s at least worth exploring purely for its abstract ideas of decay, death, and destruction. Get a glimpse of the incredible architecture before a surprise boss falls from the sky.
7 This gaming company focuses on tranquility
That Game Company creates games that are more of a meditative experience. In this, their gameplay is often much more sensory. Less on what the latest in-game feature is, and more on how to challenge gaming experience expectations. There is always a sense of bewilderment when opening a game by That Game Company. Journey for example, it really is as the name suggests: a journey through the spiritual and physical self and all the challenges that come with it.
Flower and Azul are equally incredible experiences that take you through abstract ideas of the environment and our role in the larger world we inhabit. Any player who has not played their entire catalog should get started, it is a relaxing experience like no other.
6 Nintendo is the leader in platform and character innovations
Nintendo is arguably the most common developer on this list, but at the end of the day, accessories keep them at the forefront. Their characters and their designs are still there. While cute and fun, ultimately containing some really confusing and interesting artistic choices. But in the end, let’s never forget that Nintendo is credited with a large repertoire of important and iconic games.
For example, Mario running down the street with normal people on a human scale in Super Mario Odyssey. Or how about the various planets playing on the weather and themes in Super Mario Galaxy. Even the lush ruins and temples of the The Legend of Zelda series and deserves to be mentioned. Say what you want from Nintendo, but they know how to be experimental and forward thinking in their artistic choices.
5 Ice-Pick Lodge loves games that lie
Ukrainian developers Ice-Pick Lodge know how to break all expectations of what a game should have. Their games are rarely designed for the convenience of the players. Meaning: Their games are ready to literally lie to you on how to play in order to make the case for the dangers of their world and create characters that extend beyond simple dialogue. Each game in their repertoire from Pathological Games, Knock Knock, and The void require deep meditation and careful analysis to truly accomplish and “beat” every game.
The design of each game is equally spectacular, featuring incredible architecture and intricate ideas previously left untouched in games. None of their games are alike, but each plays in their highest artistic form.
4 Square Enix creates triple AAA artistic masterpieces
Square Enix is known for creating truly fantastic environments in its games. Final fantasy and the Deny the series both contain an abundance of drawings of strange monsters, towns and characters. Square Enix has certainly had its time in the industry to experiment and try new innovations. But what’s more, Square Enix has long been the leader of the RPG genre.
Without their help, we wouldn’t have many of the modern (and arguably classic) RPG features that have become an industry staple.
3 Pillow Castle Games likes to play with perspective
Pillow Castle Games is the creator of the game Superliminal, asking players to use perspective to solve complex puzzles in an abstract and disorienting space. The game was a huge success last year largely due to its innovative gameplay and forward-thinking approach to design.
There is nothing more experimental than playing with the literal perspective of players in order to completely subvert and question their approach to game spaces. It will be exciting to see what this new studio has to come on the record.
2 Fullbright Company is the king of walking simulators
If anyone has perfected the art of walking simulators, Fullbright Company certainly takes the cake. Their work focuses on removing much of the typical gambling formula. There are no crazy mechanics here. Simply walk and immerse yourself in the environment. Within these limits, however, we see the stories coming first and foremost in their games. This defies most of the rules of the game, leaving some players confused or feeling like “nothing has happened”.
However, if you get past that initial impression, you’ll see how Fullbright Company chronicles some truly heart-wrenching struggles in the human condition in their two games. Gone home and Tacoma. Hopefully the next game will be just as brilliant and hopefully even stranger.
1 Tale of Tales is as an art film as it gets
The Belgian developers of Tale of Tales place artistic experiences above all in their games. In fact, while reading a review on Steam, you will see many players commenting that they can hardly believe that some of their works ARE in fact games. What they don’t see, however, is a business that primarily focuses on elevating the medium to a higher art form.
Tale of Tales creates works of art, experiences and vignettes of a difficult world. Gameplay is rarely linear. Whether it is a quick exploration of the loss in Cemetery or a complex dissection of political unrest in Sunset, there is a lot to see, hear and feel in their work.
NEXT: Twin Peaks & 9 Other Surprisingly Cutting-Edge Network TV Shows
10 anime villains who thought they were heroes
About the Author