When people think of video game studios their thoughts may instantly turn to the big names such as Naughty Dog, Valve, Konami and Rockstar, which is understandable given the great titles they have given us over the years. However, at the same time Indie titles are becoming more and more popular, and the studios that are making them are not only growing in size but also in scope for what they can provide players.
Today’s Indie Studios could be developing the next big budget titles, or at the very least bringing us games in which their budgets are finally catching up to their artistic vision and creativity. This is why I’ve compiled a list of five studios and developers who have shown real promise and are destined for even more great things in the future:
Number One: Campo Santo
Campo Santo are a small Indie studio based out of San Francisco, California, responsible for the visually arresting and narratively driven 2016 game Firewatch. Though small in size the game proved to be a great success, mainly due to its art direction, engaging story and realistic dialogue, which was performed by possibly my favourite voice acting performances of last year. They strove to make a game that felt realistic in emotion whilst also giving players a unique visual landscape to traverse, making Firewatch one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences for me last year.
It’s this great attention to detail that makes me incredibly eager to see what they have in store in the near future. They were able to attract acting talent from the world of film and TV, so with the success this game proved to be perhaps we will see an even more diverse cast in their next title, whenever that may be. My hopes for their next title would be to give players an equally unique setting for their story, with a great attention to emotional detail that made Firewatch an absolute winner.
Number Two: Toby Fox
Toby Fox is the man behind the art, story, music and development of the cult indie title Undertale. The game took Toby Fox nearly 3 years to develop and create, but the end result is an often hilarious and atmospheric game reminiscent of titles such as Earthbound for the SNES, providing players with an RPG adventure told in a surreal and bizarre world.
Toby Fox has yet to confirm whether he is in fact working on a new game, however given the success of Undertale and the fandom that has amassed through the game’s popularity it’d be strange for him not to put his creativity to making a new game. The fact that the game was brimming with so many unique ideas does lead me to believe that he’ll be able to give players more unique worlds to explore. And as he has a bit of money now maybe he could hire an employee or two to help!
Number Three: Acid Nerve
Acid Nerve is a two man team based in Manchester who are responsible for the game Titan Souls, a challenging yet enjoyable game released back in 2015. The game is a top-down action adventure game set in a 2D open world, much like the classic SNES title A Link To The Past. The battles however share a lot in common with the Dark Souls series, where Titan Souls partly got its name, and Shadow Of The Colossus, giving players no other enemies other than bosses which you must defeat through strategy, trial and error.
The game had an incredible attention to detail in its art, so much so that I often found myself wandering through the open world just to enjoy the game purely on a visual level. The gameplay was also perfectly done, not overcomplicating matters by giving players a very basic roll and fire to remember, much like the gaming era it has been influenced by. I definitely look forward to seeing what direction Acid Nerve take next, and whether they stay in the realm of retro action adventure or delve into other styles.
Number Four: Playtonic Games
Playtonic Games is a UK based studio comprised of many previous employees of the company Rare. Just to give you perspective, Rare are responsible for some of the most cherished and acclaimed games of the 90s, including Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Perfect Dark, Goldeney 007, Conker’s Bad Fur Day AND Banjo Kazooie. Not a bad track record eh?
A few years ago they formed Playtonic Games and began a kickstarter for the game Yooka-Laylee which proved a huge kickstarter success, having met all of its stretch goals. The game, an update on the classic 3D platformers that Rare became so well loved for, is due for release this year, and depending on the success of this game I am sure that we’ll get to see more fun games from them in the future.
Number Five: Heart Machine
Heart Machine, the company that last year released their debut title Hyper Light Drifter, which if you check out our review for you may see I was something of a big fan of. Hyper Light Drifter is a retro style 2D action adventure game that won me over through its unique visuals, minimalist narrative and incredibly enjoyable gameplay, all of which presented with a real sense of atmosphere.
Heart Machine really impressed me with their unique visual style, so much so that I greatly look forward to what they create next. Hyper Light Drifter was heavily influenced by the game director’s own health issues, and so it would be interesting to see another title from this studio with the same emotional resonance which added real depth and heart to their debut title.
There are of course many more creators, many of whom I’m sure we’ve yet to hear of, who are creating the next great games and dreaming of new experiences to provide players. Perhaps there are designers and studios whom you feel should have been given mention on this list. Be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section below.
By James Burch