Ok ok, I hate these fucking lists with a passion. And thanks to the VGA coming out in 14 days, with all of their problems, (so much so I am going to post a blog about it in a few days.) I decided that perhaps I should throw my own pretentious hat in the ring and make a list of what I feel like the top ten of the year are this year, in the two major categories (to me at least) Game of the Year and Best Developer. And I will be honest, this racked my brain because it was hard to choose what I found to be the best experiences this year, not just in terms of fun factor, but also something new and innovative. Instead of this being a popularity contest for the masses, it's all about technical achievements and overall design along with the so called fun factor. As for studios, I chose the ten I felt deserve it. And yes, there will be some matching with my lists to the VGA list, but that should be expected, if you ask me. As a sidenote, NO PS3 GAMES WILL BE ON THIS LIST simply because I have no way of playing them. Remember this is based on what I played, not what I think deserves it. If I say Demon Souls is the best game this year without playing it (and that and Uncharted 2 it seems are in the running for that to happen.) I would lose more credibility that way. So don't say im nuts or being a fanboy, i'm just being real about it. Here we go, with top ten Developer Studio's. Part two, games of the year, will come after my class tonight. 10. Nintendo I mean come on! A list of best developers without Nintendo is like the Justice League without Superman. The oldest manufactuar out there in video games, and with some of the most memorable franchises in the world, Nintendo has a LOT going for them right now because of the success for the Wii, and the string of (mostly) hits continues to roll out of the crimson N's headquarters every year. This year we saw "Wii Sports Resort", "Mario and Luigi, Bowsers Inside Story" and "Punchout!" along with a return to form in terms of old school Mario platformin with "Super Mario Bros Wii." They should most definitly be considered a contender this year. 9. NIS Some of you may know this company, others may be confused by it's entry into this countdown, but NIS, and it's subsidiary NIS America, is a major player on the handhelds market, giving some quirky and rather addicting games (of both good and bad quality) for the DS and PSP. While the DS got a sweet little ditty called "Puchi Puchi Virus", and the crappy "Cross Edge" came out for the PS3, NIS has been a major PSP supporter recently, including quirky and fun titles like "Prinny: Can I really be the Hero?", "Mana Khemia" and the mouthful that is "Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman, What Did I do to Deserve This?" While not all super hits, NIS is not afraid to bring something new to the table, no matter how goofy sounding it is or cute and anime influenced it can be, and should be recognized more a great niche developer. 8. Vanillaware Like NIS, Vanillaware is perhaps too obscure to know. But make no mistake, if you own a Nintendo Wii, you likely played their recent magnus opus known as "Muramasa: The Demon Blade." While it is their only release this year, Vanillaware now has had some rather unique exposure to the U.S market. RPG and Action fans will likely eat up the slick, hand drawn presentation of the living Japanese art world that was created with "Muramasa." Sadly the most underrated game this year, Vanillaware has definitly been put on the map with "Muramasa" and I hope that in the coming years we see more of their distinct style on the market, which is almost a renaissance in retro graphics, hand drawn, 2-D beauty that should NEVER be ignored. 7. Double Fine Tim Schafer is pretty much the equivalent to a rock star now a days. It's funny that the game two years in the making "Brutal Legend," has put his name out there and, for better or worse with the flaws of his recent title, has made him a namesake to be reckoned with. Double Fine is known for their great stories and real quirky humor, and "Brutal Legend" is no exception. Another thing many don't know are the small flash games that Double Fine has made, most recently a really funny production called "Host Master and the Conquest of Humor" where you star as Schafer himself, trying to find jokes for the GDC to recite in a point and click style adventure game. Double Fine is a rising star, much like Vanillaware, and the games produced will only get better in time, that is for sure. 6. Gearbox Gearbox is something of an enigma to me. On the one hand, their only entry this year, "Borderlands," was a great multi-player MMO-like fest with tons of style and humor. And on the other hand, it's their past work that really fascinates me. Starting out making ports of "Half-Life" and "Blue Shift," and the "Brothers in Arms" series of games, Gearbox has literally shifted gears with this years offering, not only putting them on the map in a way unexpected, but also giving them tons of praise and press for their stylish choices with "Borderlands." With their next release being "Aliens: Colonial Marines" based of the movie franchise and about four other projects in the wings, including "Duke Begins," Gearbox is likely to become a fixture instead of a flash in the pan, although it will have a lot to live up too after this year. 5. Valve Valve is perhaps the only studio this year to do so little in terms of new content, releasing a sequel to "Left 4 Dead," last years surprise smash hit, a few weeks ago. Yet Valve makes the list because of one thing, and that is Steam. Yeah yeah, a download station like Steam doesn't seem like a big deal, but think of it this way, Steam has begun to clean up, despite allegations for monopolizing games you can download, the mere fact that you can get full games for your PC, both past, present, and custom, for lower prices than carbon copies is a really good inidcator of the dedication of Valves own fanbase, and the emerging mainstream support is only help the case for digital downloads. A company like Valve would be a major forerunner for this, and that alone makes them a major development studio today. And the fact that they really haven't made a bad game yet is also going for them as well. 4. Capcom I won't discriminate against Capcom, despite the fact that they are screwing over everyone with "Street Fighter IV." In fact, "Street Fighter IV", along with other Capcom favorites like "Resident Evil 5" and "Bionic Commando" are part of the reason why they make the list. Perhaps the biggest release is "Monster Hunter Tri." for the Wii, which will arrive on our shores some time next year, however. Plus Capcom has a knack for developing some decent-looking new games, notably "Dark Void," another hopeful next year that looks better every day. Add to that tons of DLC support with "MvC 2 HD" ,"Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix" and even "Puzzle Fighter" and "Age of Booty," Capcom has a nice secondary market growing, making them a formidable force in game development. 3. Atlus Everyone knows Atlus real well, wether they want to or not. Perhaps the most famous makers of RPG's outside of Square-Enix, Atlus has been really throwing their weight around this year, in terms of both publishing and distributing. This year alone Atlus has published over twenty games, most for the DS itself, including "The Dark Spire" "Knights In the Nightmare" and "Tokyo Beat Down", along with the surprise hit "Demon Souls" for the PS3. Development wise, Atlus releaed "Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey" in Japan, which will hit our shores in March of 2010, "Trackmania" and "Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor" for the DS, and a remake of "Persona 1" for the PSP. Ever busy, Atlus is with out a doubt a fixture now thanks to the exposure "Demon Soul's" has had this year, and hopefully they will continue to be a force within the gaming world. 2. Naughty Dog Ok, ok, I never played "Uncharted 2." In fact, I want to play it but can't, unless if someone wants to send me a PS3 via mail for the holidays. That being said, Naughty Dog has really come into their own with the "Uncharted" series becoming the holy grails of gaming recently. Action epics in the trailers aside, Naughty Dog is doing something right if they continuously make addictive games like the original "Crash Bandicoot" and "Jack and Daxter" games, all for Sony. Plus the fact that many gaming pubs will likely name "Uncharted 2" as game of the year is all the more reason to pay attention to the Sony subsidiary. Naughty Dog is only proving themselves with their cutting edge technology at this point. I hope they keep this tradition going with their unnanounced projects, and that they broaden their horizions beyond Nathan Drake in the future, but for now, it's clear to name them one of the best developers this year. And my number 1. Bioware Bioware has been a fixture for a while now, ever since "Baulders Gate" in 1998. In 2003 they created "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" with Lucasarts and in 2007 started their own epic "Mass Effect" which will continue in the beginning of next year. With a cell phone add-on to "Mass Effect" titled "Mass Effect Galaxy" earlier this year, and the addicting, old school spiritual successor to Baulders Gate known as "Dragon Age: Origins", Bioware perhaps has the most bang for your buck, a 60 hour RPG in old school fantasy that not only tests your meddle, but does wonders in terms of storytelling, exposition, plot and even subtle things like racism, eroticism, and gender and ethnic issues. For all these reasons, based solely on one game, Bioware is my choice for studio of the year, something they may sadly be overlooked by due to a lack of support in the "esteemed" VGA's. So there you have it, my list of the top ten developers this year. It was honestly tough to choose them, and I had others, like Infinity Ward (despite my hatred for COD) and Aksys games circling the upper half of the list for a while. In the end I feel like these are then studios to look out for, and the ten studios who put out some great games, both in terms of quantity and quality if you ask me. Later on my top ten games of this year (so far) and a real blog about how the VGA's are terrible. Until then please share your picks or your comments.