As if it wasn't tough enough to create one great game, doing so multiple times takes something truly special, the end result creating incredible products that continue to entrench themselves across the global gaming community, all the while establishing an identity for the developers in the process.
While memorable games are a prerequisite for a studio to attain greatness, the ethos by which they approach this is also important. Have they sought to redefine gaming genres or the entire medium in some way? Have they taken a stand against dodgy industry practices and shown that games can achieve success in ways that challenge the norm?
Here we commend those developers who have helped shape the games industry and drive it forward, with both their end products and approaches towards game-making overall. Some of them no longer exist, others have long since passed their golden years but still deserve to be remembered for the good times they gave us, whilst others still are new kids on the block determined to shake up the industry.
Before LucasArts came along, PC gaming just felt a bit sterile; a domain reserved mainly for techy types who could be bothered to type commands into DOS Shell to open games, then play dry adventure games across five floppy disks. But that all changed when LucasArts pretty much single-handedly kickstarted the point-and-click adventure genre. It developed some decent adventure games throughout the 80s, but things really took off when they released The Secret of Monkey Island in 1990.
The game's Douglas Adams-style humour captured everyone's imaginations, and they went on to dominate the decade with adventure games like Grim Fandango, Monkey Island and Sam & Max. LucasArts' in-house Jedi Engine was fantastic too, if vastly underrated, being used for several of the studio's Star Wars spin-offs (Dark Forces II was pure magic at the time), and the cult-classic western first-person shooter, Outlaws.
Unfortunately, LucasArts slipped into remakes and licensing its name to mediocre Star Wars games from the turn of the millenium. It was eventually bought out by Disney in 2013 and had most of its staff laid off. But in their 90s heyday, they were a developer unafraid to do things differently, offering some of gaming's best-written and most memorable characters in the process. Notable titles: Monkey Island series, Sam & Max series, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Outlaws, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Grim Fandango, Zombie At My Neighbors.
Man, do we like to moan about Bethesda. " Screw them. Their games are always unfinished on release', "Booo, we'll never forgive them for the Horse Armour." And yet for all our mass moaning, there's a pretty high chance that as you read this you're playing through one of their open-world RPGs right now (is that Fallout 4 I see in your Recently Played list?).
Ever since The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back in 2002, Bethesda has for the most part worked as a successful publisher. They only dip into development every few years, but when they do, it's with a bang.
Their legendary first-person RPGs are grandiose, flawed monstrosities, and more so than most other games, they're responsible for sucking us into their vast open worlds for hundreds upon hundreds of hours.
Of course, we're talking about the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series - two franchises which evolved RPGs from a nerdy and niche video game genre to a dominant one. Bethesda has been at the forefront of open-world games ever since Morrowind, creating believable worlds with an implacable immersive magic that no others can match. They're beautifully detailed, richly designed, and utterly captivating.
Notable titles: Elder Scrolls series (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim), Fallout 3, Fallout 4.
Blizzard began by offering us the excellent puzzle-platformer The Lost Vikings in 1992, but it was the creation of a nifty little strategy game called Warcraft: Orcs & Humans that marked their major breakthrough.
Since then, they've gone on to become the kings of addictive games that have managed to transcend the medium in various ways; StarCraft has become one of the world's most popular eSports, while a certain MMO called World of WarCraft has become a cultural phenomenon.
Perhaps the reason people stay hooked on Blizzard games is because they're incredibly dedicated to maintaining their existing fanbases. Diablo II, for example, received its last patch 10 years after its initial release, while StarCraft II and Diablo III - both a good few years old - continue to be tweaked based on ongoing gamer feedback. World of Warcraft may now be descending from the peak of its popularity, but that's not saying much when it still has millions of registered players.
Not content to just stick to the genres it's historically dominated, Blizzard recently released the hit card game Hearthstone, as well as Heroes of the Storm - a MOBA aiming to challenge Dota 2 on the eSports scene.
Notable titles: Warcraft series, StarCraft series, Diablo series, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm
If Rare managed to keep up their form from when it used to make games for the SNES and N64, then they would have been contender for the very best developer of all time. As it stands, their catalogue of games between 1994 and 2001 still comfortably gets them onto this list. Rare was prolific back in the days of the NES, probably best known for its Battletoads games and the NES port of Sid Meier's Pirates. But things really took off for them with the release of Donkey Kong Country for the SNES in 1994, after which point they went from strength to strength - trailblazing whatever genre they touched. There was Killer Instinct in beat-'em-ups, legendary 3D platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong for the N64, not to mention Goldeneye and Perfect Dark - two shooters that revolutionised split-screen gaming on consoles. Since Microsoft bought them out, Rare has been reduced mainly to remakes and remasters (and, erm, Kinect Sports games), but their golden age should never be forgotten.
Notable titles: Banjo-Kazooie series, Killer Instinct, Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Battetoads, Donkey Kong Country, Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Kong 64
With reports of inhumane working conditions and that incident with its prodigal son Hideo Kojima, Konami currently resembles a once-great monarch who's been driven to insanity by their own power. But the company's corporate discrepancies and mentality as a publisher shouldn't discredit the incredible work its development teams have done over the years.
This is the company that first gave us the gruelling Castlevania, adding a challenging, exploratory element to 2D platformers.
They infused video games with unparalleled horror with the Silent Hill series, and revolutionised football games with ISS (which would later evolve into Pro Evo). Even though Hideo Kojima was always presented as the mastermind behind Metal Gear Solid, his superstar status shouldn't overshadow the fact that the Konami's development team made it happen, and deserves a solid share of the credit for the legendary series.
Notable titles: Castlevania series, Silent Hill series, PES, Metal Gear series, Contra
Living up to their name, Rockstar are arguably the developer that helped games become cool in the eyes of wider society. The GTA series has, ever since the third game, pushed boundaries not just in terms of what can and can't be depicted (which is the only aspect of the games that mainstream media seems capable of talking about), but technologically too.
GTA III realised a living, breathing 3D city for the first time ever, while also being relentlessly satirical of US - and western - society. Subsequent games in the series have refined this edgy, clever formula to perfection.
Rockstar showed off their versatility with Red Dead Redemption, proving that they were equally adept at delivering darker, more serious storytelling (while realising an open-world wild west beautifully). With all these big hitters, it's easy to overlook excellent and original games like Bully and The Warriors, and quirky gems like Lemmings and Space Station Silicon valley from when they were known as DMA Design.
Notable games: GTA series, Red Dead Redemption, Bully, The Warriors, Manhunt, Lemmings, Space Station Silicon Valley
EA is one of the oldest independent publishers in the industry that still is relevant to any modern gamer. Founded in 1982, this publisher can take much responsibility for the popularization of the yearly iterative model of games with the annual release cycle of their various sports games such as NBA, FIFA, and NFL , all catering to a certain hardcore audience who’ll buy it every year without fail with minimal additions or modifications to the core mechanics.
With such a strong foundation, EA was able to acquisition growing game developers such as DICE in Sweden who makes the Battlefield franchise, now one of the most popular FPS franchises ever made. EA have also partnered with Disney to be the sole distributor of any and all Star Wars games. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Star Wars is one of the entertainment industry’s most lucrative intellectual properties, and every Star Wars game that EA has released so far has been a hit.
Notable Games: Need For Speed Series, FIFA, Battlefield Series, The Sims Series
CD Projekt RED
CD Projekt RED may not have the rich history and longevity of other developers on this list, but the AAA indie's ethos is one that should be used as a benchmark for the entire industry.
The only games on CD Projekt RED's resume so far are the excellent Witcher series, with the massive improvements between each of the successive games suggesting that they are a developer that listens to fans, learns from their past mistakes, and are determined to make their games seminal in terms of design and storytelling; The fact that The Witcher 3 looks set to be most peoples' choice for Game of the Year is evidence that they've successfully implemented all these things.
We've got good reason to be excited about what's coming up from CD Projekt RED - namely the futuristic RPG, Cyberpunk 2077 - but the company's liberal stances on digital rights management (DRM) and downloadable content also deserve praise. CD Projekt are opposed to DRM, and are one of the few AAA developers to sell the PC version of the game on the DRM-free digital games distributor, GOG.com. That essentially means you can own it without Draconian restrictions on installing it on other machines, licensing it to a digital account, and so on.
CD Projekt are also adamant that games should be bolstered by free DLC for months after release, and followed through with this after releasing The Witcher 3, adding plenty of free items, quests and other perks into the game. Now that is how gamers should be treated.
Notable Game: The Witcher Series
Setting aside the fact that Valve revolutionised PC gaming thanks to its Steam digital games platform, the all power corporation has also proved itself to be one of the greatest developers of all time. What better way to make your debut as a developer than by releasing a seminal game like Half Life in 1998?
The game was technically so far ahead of everything else at the time that it was a good few years before other shooters on the PC seemed worthy of being played. Valve's subsequent achievements spring-boarded off the back of Half-life, with each new game heralding in its own mini-revolution.
Counter-Strike and Team Fortress redefined online shooters, Half-life 2 reshaped the FPS genre just like its predecessor, while Portal proved that a non-violent puzzle game could enthral the world. Not to mention Dota 2 - the game responsible for turning eSports into a global phenomenon.
Then there was Left 4 Dead, which may not have been revolutionary, but man, was it insanely fun. In fact, the only thing that stands between Valve and God-like greatness is Half-life 3. Make it happen, Valve...
Notable games: Half-life series, Counter-Strike series, Team Fortress series, Dota 2, Portal series, Left 4 Dead series, Day of Defeat
With each successive console generation, Naughty Dog have been fearless in creating new IPs while gracefully leaving old ones behind. Granted, they might be bucking that trend slightly now with Uncharted 4 in development and The Last of Us 2 rumoured to be in the works, but that shouldn't take away from their successes with those series, as well as Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter.
Naughty Dog are masters of infusing their games with a fantastic, vibrant sense of character. From the relatively lo-fi characters of Crash that we'll nostalgically reminisce about forever, to the whimsical charms of Jak, Daxter and Nathan Drake and co, right through to the powerful turns of Joel and Ellie.
Always making the most of any console's resources, the resulting technical accomplishments often leave us speechless. In recent generations, they also got to show off their adeptness at storytelling and pacing; the Uncharted and Last of Us games being unafraid to slow down excellent action sequences with moments of environmental storytelling or lengthy, engaging conversations between characters.
Notable titles: Crash Bandicoot series, Jak & Daxter series, Uncharted series, The Last of Us
There could only really be one winner. From the mid-80s right through to today, the Japanese powerhouse has been responsible for some of the greatest, most instantly recognisable games in history.
Just as with any developer, you can accuse Nintendo of 'sticking with what they know', but they've shown an incredible level of mastery in every genre they touched.
They mastered the platformer with the Mario series, before converting it brilliantly to the 3D realm. They're behind arguably the most important adventure game of all time in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and haven't been afraid to experiment with existing genres like the beat-em-up (Smash Bros), or more recently the shooter (Splatoon).
As well as having a flawless games repertoire across every generation since the NES, Nintendo have created characters that engaged not only gamers, but everyone in the world. They're universally recognised and loved, and have helped integrate video games with mainstream culture like nothing else in the industry.
For all the tired opprobrium about video games as a menace to society, Mario, Luigi et al. will always be around to remind people that there's a little gamer in all of us. The continuing impact of Nintendo's games as technical and cultural products is unparalleled, and for that, we should always revere them.
Notable titles: Super Mario series, Metroid series, Zelda series, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, Pikmin, Splatoon, Yoshi series, Wario series, Mario Tennis, F-Zero, Pilotwings, Star Fox, Wave Race, Luigi's Mansio
Sega Corporation or, as they're usually called in the world, SEGA is the video game company with the most published and developed games of all time. Most people recognize SEGA's official mascot, Sonic The Hedgehog, even if they haven't played a single one of the games he's featured in. SEGA was a forerunner in the console wars until the year 2002, when they ceased production of their SEGA Dreamcast and decided to fully dedicate themselves to arcade and video game development and publishing. This business decision was brought about as a result of the Dreamcast's poor reception, and an ever increasingly competitive console war (Microsoft had recently joined the fray with its Xbox)