I started playing games in the 80s, but the 90s was the decade that encouraged my likes and dislikes about the hobby. Many incredible dev teams were doing incredible work, constantly changing gaming, and making us all hungry for the future. Despite the fact that new consoles and new technologies were gaining all of the power from these machines, demonstrating what the dedicated and forward-thinking might do.
This list includes teams who, according to me, are the top ten game developers of the 90s. I won''t be talking about Sega, or Nintendo, just because their locations in the pantheon should be obvious. Both companies seem to transcend lists like these, and everyone understands their name.
The 10 best game developers of the 90s
The Bitmap Brothers just seemed to tap into what made gaming cool in the 90s, making it more complicated and more complex than their predecessors. They also had some of the best intro music in the business. The intro to Gods still slaps.
Rare seemed to do no wrong during the 90s, as the team demonstrated remarkable and commercial success with the regularity that most of us eat hot breakfasts. Much like Bitmap Brothers, they had excellent performance, with games like Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, and Donkey Kong setting them apart from their peers. Perfect Dark would end the decade with another cult classic.
There is a strange kind of outcry in the modern world about Adventure games; for reasons I have never quite realized that they are real games, but I see people saying that if you didn''t play Secret of Monkey Island back in the 1990s then you were a villain. LucasArts also provided us two exceptional Monkey Island games, including Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle. They also provided us games like Star Wars: Rebel Assault and Dark Forces.
The three major titles of Wolfenstein: 3D, Doom, and Quake were all established within five years of each other, and Id Software was able to continue to develop games into the future. Weirdly enough, it was all born from Nintendo''s initial attempts to remake Super Mario Bros 3 in 3D. They eventually established their own company, where their skill and passion would change gaming forever.
It''s easy to get caught up in the Command And Conquer series, which was an absolute titan of a series, but Westwood also brought us Eye of the Beholder, Dune II, and Battletech: The Crescent Hawks Revenge. With early PC gaming becoming successful, Westwood was excellent equipped to gain the interface advantages that a mouse and a keyboard offered over a controller, and Real-Time Strategy became a much-popular genre at the time.
While Street Fighter 2 was primarily for Mario and Sonic in the 90s, everyone knew what the game was, and it was so nice that it could play with it for a while. However, the video from 1996, Dino Crisis, was released as a result of the decade. Throughout the decade, there was a whole host of Street Fighter games.
Without Blizzard, everyone knows about Warcraft, which was likely to be the focus of RTS games forever. And everybody knows about Starcraft, which would be a major hit in the 90s. They also used Diablo to develop a genre once in a single decade. It''s possible to blame those glory days for harsh moments, but it''s difficult to deny them at the time.
For a time, Lemmings was the most popular game on the planet. It was on just about everything that people could play, and it might have been argued that the success of it was a studio that was beating their weight class. The fact is that four years later, Psygnosis would release Wipeout, and change racing games forever. Just before the calendars would change to the 2000s, and they all risked the Y2K bug, they would put out Rollcage, one of
Populous II, Syndicate, Magic Carpet, Syndicate Wars, Theme Hospital, and many sequels to some of those games. It was absolutely necessary for one team to do so, but Bullfrog did it. Proof that you can burn twice as bright for half as long, and every young person who loved games wanted to end up working at Bullfrog. It was a success, but not a corporate. It was a bad accident.
Konami started out leveraging deals with properties like The Simpsons and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but they also arranged several great games that weren''t connected to major entertainment features. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Vandal Hearts, and ISS Soccer were just some of their standout games at the time. In 1998, they made Metal Gear Solid, and one of the decades finest gaming experiences had arrived before we even knew what was happening.
Sierra is not on this list for a quite straightforward reason. Kings Quest V was the most popular video game for the first half of the 90s. Nobody could knock it off that perch, and the musicians at Sierra turned the success into a $1.5 billion sale to CUC International in 1996. In 1999, they put out Homeworld, culminating the decade with a new important milestone in gaming.
The reason I give Nintendo and Sega an honorable distinction is that despite being the same players in the 90s, they both had enough money for software development due to high sales of consoles that they were operating with cheat codes. I agree with you, but I would argue that taking up two slots on this list with such obvious choices is just plain confusing. We all know who they are and what they did, and why mess about?
Although these are not the only ones that shaped a significant impact in the 90s, they are ten key groups of people who significantly impacted my personal gaming life more than any other. In the coming weeks, you may be able to go through other decades in gaming, so keep an eye on your progress.