What makes a great video game company? Consistency, consistency, consistency! (Did I mention consistency? Oh, I did? Good). Over the past few decades, many great game developers that might have been seen at the top of the heap at one point have been submerged by a deluge of crummy releases one after the other, leaving them dead in the water in the end.
But when a company can consistently push out great releases, one better than the last, then you know you have a name-brand that you can trust, and a large smile envelops your face whenever you see their logo flash across the screen. Below are just a few of those companies.
Now, I must warn you in advance that some of your favorite game companies WILL NOT BE ON THIS LIST, and for the companies that ARE on this list, you’ll probably be upset with how low (But really, with a top ten list, is any number really low?) they are on this chart. One thing is certain, though: Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony fanboys, be prepared to be greatly upset.
Left 4 Dead and Portal are just recent examples of a company that prides itself on crafting intelligent and witty games. But this 1996 founded company goes even deeper than that, with the Half-Life series being its pride and joy, and the free Counter-Strike -- which, as my friend once put it, provided the most fun per cost ratio ever -- solidified the deal. Whenever a Valve release comes out, you just know it’s going to be something special.
SNK has ALWAYS been too hardcore for you, and you know it. Mostly known for its King of Fighters series, this company also made the hardcore swoon with titles like Bust-a-Move, Metal Slug, and King of Monsters (C’mon, you know you love it). And what always sweetend the deal was that anytime you went to an SNK cabinet in the arcade, you knew you usually had up to four awesome games to choose from. And what other arcade cabinet could give you that? None! That’s how many.
The company that made beating up hookers and taking their “lunch” money with Grand Theft Auto has a lot of other great titles to choose from in their highly eclectic selection. The Warriors, based on the movie, was a greatly under-looked brawler, and the Midnight Club series, love it or loathe it, has definitely added something to the illegal street racing genre, whether you like it or not. And let’s not forget Table Tennis, of course. (But let’s DO forget State of Emergency, please. That game was horrible). Seriously, with Rock Star, you’re usually guaranteed some kind of promised greatness or interactive originality.
Okay, while I DID mention that consistency was important with any great game company, I didn’t mean it had to be a company that was STILL making consistently great games. But back in the 90s (The entire decade, really) Sega was pumping out hits like nobody’s (except Nintendo’s) business, never taking a single moment to wipe off its brow with the back of its arm. Sonic the Hedgehog ushered in the Genesis generation, but the company was making great hits way before that, with the Sega Master System. And quite frankly, even with the stumbling Saturn, they STILL made great hits all the way up to the Sega Dreamcast in 2001. Sega now makes games for other companies, and while most of those games leave much to be desired (Sonic anything, 2001 to present), they’re still able to churn out a hit once every blue hedgehog colored moon.
Here’s another stellar company that’s seen its heyday come and go. Back in the mid 90s, you couldn’t go to an arcade and not find a Midway game somewhere totally packed with unctuous, smelly gamers. I mean, come on, the company had everything going for it in every genre. You had your light gun shooters (Area 51), your off the wall sports games (NBA Jam), your fighters (Mortal Kombat 1-4), and even your racers (Cruis’n USA). Anybody who disagrees with this entry on the top ten best video game companies of all time is either too young to have ever gone to an arcade, or is a liar. Which one do you happen to be? Be honest…
When Square teamed up with Enix, it was big news…In Japan, at least. And this was because it meant the cohesion of the house of Final Fantasy, and the house of Dragon Quest (Or, Dragon Warrior, as most Americans first heard of it as). While the joint company does have its faults sometimes (Releasing all those FF’s as single releases for the DS is a cheap trick, Square!), they’re usually on the ball with their releases, usually putting out a
Namco goes way back, probably much further back than you even realize. Dig Dug and Pole Position? Yeah, those were Namco. How about Galaga and Pac-Man? Yep, those were Namco, too. How about Splatterhouse, for God’s sake?! The first official game to EVER get a Parental advisory warning (of sorts)! Yeah, that was Namco, too. You see, this is what I’m talking about when I ramble on about consistency, as Namco is STILL pumping out hits, with Tekken, Soulcalibur and Time Crisis just being a few of their most recent offerings. You can count on this company…I’d say 80 percent of the time. And I don’t know about you, but I like those odds!
While some may say that Konami reached its peak with the Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis era (Super Contra, Super Castlevania, and, erm, Sunset Riders all came out around this period), anybody with an eighth of a brain can tell you that Konami has gone on to do other great things, with Metal Gear Solid 4 just being one such example. While I will admit that I’m not a huge fan of the Dance Dance Revolution phenomenon, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, I can say that I’m still a huge fan of the DS Castlevania’s and also every new Silent Hill entry that happens to be released on store shelves. But let’s not beat around the bush. This is one company that knows how to totally milk its franchises for all their worth. But not, of course, as much as this next company.
Okay, do I even have to mention the titles created by this brilliant company? Mario, Link, Metroid, Smash Brothers, Pikmin, Wii Fit, the list goes on and on, and most of them are from the genius mind of Shigeru Miyamoto, who had the foresight to know that both Mario and Link could become household names with just the right sprinkling of ideas and adventure to back them up. Nintendo is by far the only company on this list that could probably just sell games on name alone, and it does, by the buttloads too. But therein lies one of Nintendo’s greatest problems. If not for the recent behemoth that is the Wii, Nintendo, in many ways, would probably be overshadowed by their spotty track record when it comes to making consoles. Besides the original NES, the SNES, and the timeless Gameboy franchise, I’d say that the Big N has missed out more times than it’s struck gold.
Nintendo 64 had only a few good titles, and almost all of them were first party releases. The same goes for the Gamecube, which was yet another cruel joke to most Nintendo fans who were looking for an answer against the dominating PS2, and second place, Xbox. And the Virtual Boy? Don’t even get me started on that piece of garbage. In the long run, being such an amazing first party publisher has made it clear just how limited their consoles really are, as no real company can truly utilize its capabilities except Nintendo itself. Luckily for us, that’s usually enough. But that still keeps it away from being the number one game developer of all time, which is…
While Nintendo’s pretty much innovated the field of video games forever, no company has been as consistently genre-defining as Capcom, which has pretty much made a great game in every single iteration of video game history imagineable, fighting games just being their particular forte.
When the original NES was around, they were adapting Disney movies into games with astounding grace and skill. When the arcade boomed, they made Street Fighter II, which changed the arcade forever. Heck, they even make great Nintendo tentpole games, like the marvelous The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons for the Gameboy, which are two of my favorite games in the entire series. Nintendo may have made a bigger impact on gaming forever, but Capcom probably made a more impressive imprint, what with not having to bow its head in shame from three unsuccessful consoles, that is. Bar none, Capcom is the greatest video game company that has ever existed. Can I get an amen, people? Wait, screw all that. Can I get a Ha-dou-ken, people? I think that’s be more appropriate, don’t you?
NOTABLE MENTIONS: Electronic Arts, Bioware, Rare, Taito, Insomniac, and id Software