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The Greatest Minds in Gaming
It wouldn’t be possible for us to have played some of our favorite games without the men and women that are behind the scenes slaving away at development. Making games isn’t easy and coming up with blockbuster ideas, characters, stories, and scope can make some people go crazy with stress. The expectations can be daunting. The hype can be overwhelming. Some crumble before completion. Some are recognized for their work. Others rise to legendary status whose names are well known and their achievements ring loud for all to see. These minds are the ones that constantly give their all and have produced, directed, created, developed, and composed their ways to success and into the halls of gaming fame.
Best known for: Psychonauts, The Secret of Monkey Island, Brutal Legend, Grim Fandango
You’ll see a lot of different people on this list but Schafer may excel over them all with his unique writing style and expert comedic story telling. He may not be the best person on this list but when it comes to pouring heart, soul, and being into a game Tim Schafer does it in everything with his name on it. He is active with his fans and players and enjoys keeping them involved. Recently we’ve seen him in a wildly successful Reddit iama (interview) and Kickstarter fund for a new game. The Kickstarter showed just how gamers think of him and believe in his skills to help create another classic.
Best Known for: Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls
Howard’s knack for creating open world RPG’s is nearly unmatched. He has served as director or team lead for Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, Morrowind, Fallout 3, and Skyrim. His vision and mastery of story and world scope has given us some of the best games over the year. Recently, Skyrim has become one of the most beloved games that survived a highly hyped up released. Howard’s ability to weave a story, position quests correctly, and make the flow of something so epically huge is a momentousness task. A task that Howard has overcome multiple times.
Best known for: Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts
Many gamers who know of Nomura will recognize him for his work in character design. He has been instrumental in making nearly every Final Fantasy character look the way they do and stay in our minds. Nomura’s characters all have a distinct look to them and each tell a story. His artistic prowess has commanded games visually for decades. He has climbed the ladder with Square-Enix and while he still designs, we now see him more often in the director’s chair and leading creative teams. Nomura’s Kingdom Hearts series is critically acclaimed and is currently heading the team for the ambitious Final Fantasy Versus XIII.
Best known for: Bioshock, Thief, System Shock
Heralded as a master storyteller and someone who understands the need for exciting plot events and unconventional twists, Levine has been the mind behind some of the most thought provoking tales over the years. With his work on System Shock and Bioshock, we laid witness to some of the most unexpected plot twists and themes in gaming. He is someone who using gaming as a way to bring out the full extent of his imagination. He also uses his love for his hobbies in his work, like Freedom Force, which was based on his infatuation with old comic books. For years, my friends and I played his tactical shooter, SWAT 4. Levine’s name is written in the books as one of the most unique minds in gaming.
Best known for: Mega Man, Resident Evil, Onimusha, Dead Rising
Inafune may be known as a creator of the Blue Bomber but he has done so much more. His achievements in the realm of Mega Man shouldn’t be overlooked, though. The harder task is finding a Mega Man game he wasn’t involved with. Inafune not only designed him but also produced some of the best games in the franchise such as the Legends series, X4, the recent MM9 and 10, and Zero. He also produced Resident Evil 2, 4, and 5 making him a survival horror king along with knowing his way around platformers. His work on Dead Rising has given us some of the best zombie beat ’em ups in gaming history. It doesn’t matter which genre the game is, if Inafune is attached to the project he ensures that he leaves his all into the production.
Best known for: Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic
First off, put your pitchforks away. He wasn’t attached to Mass Effect 3. However, he has written the first two games and all of the novels. Drew’s expertly crafted tales of fantasy and sci-fi have made himself a huge name in many franchises. His work with Star Wars is some of the best in not only gaming but also the Expanded Universe novels. He was responsible for Knights of the Old Republic, one of the most acclaimed games, and even the more recent MMO based on the same time frame in the Star Wars universe. Drew was also attached to Jade Empire, a game which has been noted on this site as one that needs a sequel badly. His stories are some of the best on the market. Drew can spin a tale that starts with nothing and ends in intrigue, suspense, and unforgettable memories.
Best known for: Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo
The Blizzard guy. Metzen is the creative genius behind all three of Blizzard’s great franchises. He is responsible for the stories and extensive lore behind each one. We wouldn’t be galloping throughout Azeroth, slaughtering demons in Sanctuary, or positioning troops in StarCraft without him. As the head of games like Diablo 1 and 2, Warcraft III, and StarCraft he has given us some of the best action and strategy games in gaming history. Diablo 2 is still widely played with a gigantic sequel coming next month. World of Warcraft is the most played MMO in the world. StarCraft 2 is one of the most played games in competitive circles. His work is played by millions worldwide. Plus, I have never seen a gaming mythos as detailed as Warcraft. Seriously, Wowwiki.com is like tvtropes. I get lost in it for hours.
Best known for: Metal Gear, Zone of the Enders, Policenauts, Boktai
Kojima is the most complex mind in gaming. His stories are so thought provoking and intriguing that they cannot be missed. The Metal Gear franchise is among the most beloved and successful on the market and in many lists on this website given top honors. His characters and themes are some of the most famous in video games. The Zone of the Enders series showed us that he could deliver more classic sci-fi tales like Policenauts. Recently, his vision for Castlevania has helped bring that franchise out of a certain expectation and to all new levels. Nearly everything Kojima touches becomes gold. He commands a belief that his works will be well worth the price of admission.
Best known for: Final Fantasy, helping to make the RPG genre what it is
The father of Final Fantasy has been creating games since the early 1980’s. His work has helped shape an entire genre and an influence that is still felt to this day. When people say they want to make a “Final Fantasy-type game”, they really mean that they want to emulate Sakaguchi. He was the producer of nearly every Final Fantasy game from I to XI and given special thanks for his work on XII. He, along with Nomura, created the Kingdom Hearts series and he was responsible for many of the RPG classics we saw during the SNES and PS1 era. Since his departure from Square and the founding of his Mistwalker studio, Sakaguchi has delivered Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and soon The Last Story. He never stops creating.
Best known for: Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Star Fox
Is there anyone else that should have this spot? For many of us, Miyamoto is the reason we started gaming. His world renown characters and games have helped shape gaming since the days before home consoles. He is the father of Mario and the creator of Zelda. He gave us Donkey Kong, Star Fox, Kid Icarus, Kirby… I could go on forever. Miyamoto is the man behind gaming. He’s the architect. Every generation since the mid-to-late 80’s has played a Mario game. I’ve enjoyed so many of his games throughout my entire life. Going strong, Miyamoto’s ideas and games still command the same effort and innovation he had decades ago. Not only has he continued to deliver, but he has made the best use of every feature in any machine he creates for. With the coming of the Wii U, we can only try and think of what he’ll do next.