Player two has entered the game. Welcome to WatchMojo UK and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 British video game developers. For this list, we’ll be focusing on the most impressive and significant video game developers from Britain, both past and present.
We’re starting with a typically British brand of gaming here, as Sports Interactive is famously known for creating the extremely addictive “Championship Manager” and “Football Manager”. Essentially just focussing on football titles, SI didn’t just make this list for creating a decent footy manager simulator, they made it because they’ve bossed that section of the market since its first “Champ Man” game 25 years ago. And it all started from someone’s bedroom. The company’s success ultimately led them to become a subsidiary of SEGA in 2003.
A company made up of ex-Lionhead Studios employees – we’ll get to Lionhead later – it took just four years after starting up in 2006 for Media Molecule to become a branch of Sony Computer Entertainment. What game clinched it for them? Well, their first game actually, the multi-award winning, fun-loving “LittleBigPlanet”. Following up with other titles like “Tearaway”, it was their LBP franchise that really made a splash. Being a totally original concept and an undeniable gamechanger, it influenced future releases on the PS3 and many puzzle and platform games that followed. This is another example of a company finding its perfect niche.
After releasing various games in different genres, battle strategy eventually became Creative Assembly’s bread and butter, with its “Total War” series setting the benchmark for battlefield simulation. And the first game in the franchise, “Shogun: Total War”, is still regarded as one of the best strategy games out there. Over the last few years however, the developer has surprised gamers everywhere by branching out, with titles like the claustrophobic “Alien Isolation” and epic “Halo Wars 2”. Batman has had a turbulent history in the world of video games, with some great and some not-so-great entries.
But Rocksteady’s “Batman: Arkham” series surpassed expectations. Established in 2004, Rocksteady hasn’t been that active, with its only other exploration being “Urban Chaos: Riot Response” in 2006. But it seems Rocksteady were biding their time, waiting to release what is arguably the best handful of Batman video games ever made. If you want to know how to make a successful superhero game that thrives off its source material, come to these guys. There’s an abundance of British developers that’ve made great driving games.
Codemasters, Bizarre Creations, Evolution Studios – but our vote goes to Criterion Games. Sure, they’ve made the likes of “Black” in 2006, “Deep Fighter” in 2000 – and remember 2001’s “Airblade”? But they’ll always be known for their crash, smash, adrenaline-soaked “Burnout” series, as well as their “Need for Speed” additions. “Burnout” in particular showed gamers that crashing was sometimes just as fun as winning. Criterion also recently collaborated with DICE to create “Star Wars Battlefront II”.
Free Radical Design
Now dissolved, although technically rebirthed as Dambuster Studios in 2014, Free Radical Design made its name with the popular “TimeSplitters” series that began back in the year 2000. It also produced games like “Second Sight” and, after it was taken over and became Crytek UK, “Crysis 2” and “Crysis 3”. Unfortunately, the flop of the game “Haze” and the cancellation of “Star Wars: Battlefront III” sent the developer into bankruptcy. Hopefully we will see it live on through Dambuster.
It’s easy to forget just how popular and influential Traveller’s Tales has been over the years – especially given its high number of kids’ games and recent monopoly of LEGO in gaming. But it’s created some brilliant mascot-fronted classics, with games in the “Sonic”, “Crash Bandicoot” and “Spyro the Dragon” franchises. It’s even got Disney titles like “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo” and “Toy Story” under its belt. For many, it’s a developer that defined their childhood, and it’s still going strong.
Chances are, if you’ve played games by this developer, you won’t have merely dipped your toe, you’ll have gone full curtains closed, 24 hour gaming, snacks and all – because it’s responsible for epics like “Fable” and “Black & White”. Yes, the seemingly endless, immersive world of the “Fable” franchise, and Lionhead’s horse in the ever-expanding role playing genre. It’s “Black & White” series, where you play the hand of god, has proved a popular RPG as well. But let’s not forget its take on the film industry with “The Movies”. This developer has evolved into greatness, starting out as Acme Software, then becoming DMA Design, and finally in 2001,
Rockstar North. Its 90s days saw it release a flurry of “Lemmings” games, before establishing itself as a powerhouse with “Grand Theft Auto” in 1997. Since then, it’s took its smash and grab GTA formula and spawned an entire legacy of games, as well as other violent releases like “L.A.Noire”, “Red Dead Redemption” and the highly-controversial “Manhunt”. Its releases read like a who’s who of glorious gaming ultraviolence.
Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honourable mentions. It may not be the heavyweight it once was, but there’s no denying what Rare has done for the gaming industry, with colossal titles like “Banjo-Kazooie”, “Donkey Kong Country” and oh, a little game called “Goldeneye 007” for the Nintendo 64. In many ways, Rare has set the frameworks and benchmarks for a series of different genres over the years, with makers everywhere trying to emulate the addictiveness of its games, like Goldeneye’s enthralling multiplayer format. Rare is a legendary developer and one well-deserving of this list’s top spot.