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Top 5 Most Underrated AAA Developers

They may have money and resources, but these developers don't always get their due.

It's easy to assume when you hear the term "AAA Game Developer", that they get all of the credit and profits that they deserve. But while some companies do have many employees and a large chunk of change to throw around, not every developer has the same luck as Nintendo, Bethesda, or Naughty Dog.

These five game devs have made fantastic games, and some have gone above and beyond in treating their fans well. Hopefully one day, they'll all get their due.

5. Oddworld Inhabitants

Oddworld Inhabitants is a studio who has never made a bad game -- while it's true that (not counting re-releases and remakes) they've only developed four games, with a fifth currently in the works, all of them have been absolute gems.

Abe's Odyssee and Abe's Exodus are must owns for fans of the original PlayStation. Munch's Odyssee, while the weakest of the Oddworld games, is still a gem, and Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath is in my top ten favorite games of all time.

In addition to producing great games, Oddworld Inhabitants is also very friendly with their fanbase. In particular, their Twitter is very fun to follow.

It's easy to see why the company is so often overlooked though. All of their games are part of one series; and with how insane the lore and story are, some people may feel alienated.

4. Hi-Rez Studios

 Much like the last entry, Hi-Rez Studios has only developed a few games -- six in total. However, while I haven't played all of their games, they've all received critical acclaim. 

Their most popular game, Smite, is a very original and fun take on the MOBA genre, and there are many, including myself, who prefer it over the more traditional MOBAs such League of Legends and DOTA 2.

The other game that I've played from Hi-Rez is Jetpack Fighter, a speed platformer which stands among the better mobile games I've played.

Hi-Rez Studios also has a great relationship with their fans. They've sponsored many charity streams, and have developed a good rapport with the game journalism community.

They're the newest developer on this list, and given enough time, they'll likely gain the popularity they deserve.

3. Nihon Falcom

From the newest developer on the list to the oldest, Nihon Falcom has been pumping out games since 1981. They have released dozens of games, and while I fully admit to having not played most of them, the Ys series of action RPGs is absolutely fantastic. In fact, Ys is the second largest series of eastern RPGs, eclipsed only by Final Fantasy.

The main reason for this studio being on the list is the opposite of the reason for why it's only number three on the list. While in the west, the games the studio has made are virtually unheard of, it's a completely different story in the east. There, series like The Legend of Heroes, Zwei, and Brandish are all incredibly popular.

Many of their games haven't made it to North America and Europe, but come on my fellow westerners: Give Nihon Falcom some love!

2. Grasshopper Manufacture

Suda51 is a mad genius and I love him!

Formed in 1998 by Goichi Suda, Grasshopper Studios has a knack for making very distinct games. It's almost impossible to mistake one of their games for another, and you can always see Suda's fingerprints. 

While early on it seemed they'd be doomed to having their games stuck in the east, they eventually found mainstream success in the west with Killer7. And while games like Lollipop Chainsaw and Liberation Maiden are a blast to play, it's the No More Heroes games which have earned the company my loyalty. 

They don't have the same great relationship with the fans that some of the other mentioned developers do -- not that it's a bad one either -- but given how terrific and imaginative their games are, Grasshopper Manufacture is a highly underrated studio.

1. Origin Systems

The story of Origin Systems is one of gaming's most tragic.

Founded in 1983 by the Garriott brothers, Richard and Robert, Origin was a studio fueled by passion. Many great games came from the studio, such as Ogre and the Wing Commander series, but for me, when I hear Origin Systems, I think Ultima. 

The Garriott brothers, inspired by the table-top RPGs they played, crafted an entire, in-depth world within the Ultima games. This series revolutionized the RPG genre, and throughout the 80's and 90's, it was beloved by many PC gamers.

Sadly, due to executive meddling from EA, the main Ultima series ended on a sour note with the absolutely dreadful Ultima IX: Ascension. 

EA kept the company alive until 2004, not actually letting them develop new games mind you, at which point the developer was dissolved. The saddest part of all of this is that most people don't seem to remember Origin. Sure, a die-hard Ultima or Wing Commander fan will, but to the general gaming community, they're just a blip in history.

What AAA game developers do you feel are underrated? What do you think of these choices? And had you heard of Origin Systems before reading this article?

Let me know in the comments below!

Published Nov. 4th 2016

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