The Mystery Developers Behind 2009's Biggest Games

They may not be household names for all gamers, but these companies have talent, and the high-profile projects to prove it.

The 9 Mystery Developers

The following nine companies may not have their names on as many boxes as Epic, Bungie, or Rockstar, but their talent has landed them some of the most high profile titles of 2009 and beyond. Here are the 9 mystery developers behind 2009's biggest games, which we've ranked in order of both anonymity of the studio and profile of their project.

9- Watchmen: The End is Nigh, Deadline Games

If you're a fan of Latin-flavored shooters, then Deadline Games might be familiar name to you. The company created the Robert Rodriguez-esqe Total Overdose for consoles in 2005 and a souped-up port for the PSP entitled Chili Con Carnage. The developer's knack for brutal action led it to score the license for one of 2009's hottest IPs, Watchmen. While the game didn't receive a retail release, the hardcore brawling action of Watchmen: The End is Nigh has endeared it to many fans of the movie. Presumably, we'll get to see more of Deadline's work in the next instalments of the Watchmen video game series, and hopefully later on in the stylish and mysterious Faith and a .45, currently in suspended development.

8- Splatterhouse, Bottlerocket Entertainment (partial)

Bottlerocket Entertainment was born and bred to make bloody hack-and-slashers. The company's first "official" game was Rise of the Kasai, the sequel to the cartoonish kill-fest Mark of Kri, which in turn was developed by many members of the Bottlerocket team. From there, the company scored a second-tier cartoon license for Xiaolin Showdown, which performed as respectably as a Kids WB-based brawler could. The company moved back to it's forte, gore-filled orgies of violence, with Splatterhouse, which the company had worked on for over a year and a half before the publisher, Namco Bandai, took back the reigns for the title. Reportedly, Namco was disapproving of the progress, while Bottlerocket claimed Namco was inept. Hopefully Bottlerocket provided a solid foundation for Splatterhouse that not only leads to a great game, but for more opportunities for this quality studio.

7- Ghostbusters, Terminal Reality

Terminal Reality, a game studio based in Lewisville, Texas, and founded in 1994 by lead programmer and former Microsoft employee, Mark Randel, play homage to the 20th anniversary of Ghostbusters: The Video Game for the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, using technology from its multi-platform Infernal Engine. Terminal Reality is also responsible for their work on the BloodRayne series and Metal Slug Anthology in addition to over twenty other games. The independent game studio prides itself with the philosophy of a mid-sized, relaxed, non-corporate atmosphere to foster a fun and motivated creative team effort. Perhaps this is just the formula we need to successfully bust down the ghastly ecto-plasmic critters that haunt New York City.

6- I Am Alive, Darkworks (partial)

Darkworks began as a small team of talented individuals in 1998 who worked on Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. Today, its staff is still relatively small with only about 100 dedicated game developers. Darkworks is yet another game developer studio based in France whose work on the solid survival horror game Cold Fear led to more work on the upcoming post-apocalyptic survival game, I Am Alive for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Ubisoft has taken the title in-house, but Darkworks' success with the game will be recognized and hopefully lead to more work.

5- Brutal Legend, Double Fine Productions

Double Fine Productions only has one title to its credit--the criminally underlooked Psychonauts. Don't mistake the lack of titles to its credit as a lack of experience, though, as the company is helmed by one of the industry's greatest minds in Tim Schafer. Schafer and many of his cohorts at Double Fine have worked on some of the most creative games of all time while in the employ of Lucasarts, including Day of the Tentacle and The Secret of Monkey Island. Now the company has a title worthy of its creativity in Brutal Legend, a metal-themed action title starring Jack Black, which looks every bit as awesome as its premise. Don't let Activision's divorce from this title sway you--the company seems to be shying away from anything it can't turn into a yearly sequel-factory.

4- inFamous, Sucker Punch Productions

The developer behind inFamous has definitely delivered some quality titles. Just not the kind you'd expect from a company working on one of the biggest open-world crime-sims of this generation. Sucker Punch Productions is best known for creating the Sly Cooper platforming series. While the series never reached the heights set by Jak or Ratchet, the company's ability to create memorable characters and unique settings apparently convinced parent company Sony to let them create the moody and ambitious inFamous, which allows you to make use of electricity-fuelled powers to save or condemn a crime-ridden city. We know the company will eventually get a crack at making Sly Cooper more of a household name with PS3 and PSP iterations of the series, but we're thankful they're taking a brief detour into (hopefully) M-rated territory.

3- Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream

Quantic Dream is a game studio based in France with few games under their belt, but it's not quantity but quality that matters. Take, for example, their most notable game Indigo Prophecy--also known as Fahrenheit--whose use of interactive cinematic gameplay gave way to its non-linear storytelling--that is, the various decisions that you make affect the various outcomes of the game. Another notable game which gave players the opportunity to experience an open-world environment is Omikron: The Nomad Soul, a game published by EIDOS Interactive for the PC and Dreamcast. This low-profile developer studio may soon have its name on the map yet again with its upcoming release of Heavy Rain. From what we've seen so far, the stunningly realistic graphics are the most impressive we've seen yet on the PlayStation 3.

2- Dead Rising 2, Blue Castle Games

The original Dead Rising, created in-house by Capcom Japan, was, by most measures, a success. However, the company has made it perfectly clear that they want their games to appeal even more to American audiences (hence the Gears of War-inspired turn Resident Evil 5 took). It is perhaps for that reason that the company is entrusting its "other" zombie franchise to a company known for the most American of ideals--baseball. Blue Castle Games, based out of Canada (oops) has three games under its belt thus far, all of them different flavors of hardball. They started with arcade baseball in The Bigs, moved onto standard fare with Major League Baseball 2K8, and then went deep sim with Major League Baseball Front Office Manager. We're unsure of how this company will fare at creating an action title, but at least the new protagonist will have sweet bat-swinging mechanics!

1- Punch-Out!!, Next Level Games

They may not have the same level of adoration worldwide (yet), but around the GamePro offices, Next Level Games are revered as development gods. Their 2007 arcade soccer funfest Mario Strikers Charged is still being played daily during lunch breaks, well over two years since preview builds first landed on our desks. Before then, the company had created the GameCube's Super Mario Strikers, and the intense hockey title NHL Hitz Pro. All of this has led up to the company's most high-profile title yet, with the Wii's biggest game of the year in the hands of this Vancouver studio. By all accounts, their work on Punch Out has been nothing short of a knockout effort.

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors