Game developers come in a variety of sizes. On one hand, huge and established game developers such as Nintendo and Activision Blizzard constantly churn out epic games with grand visuals and complex gameplays. On the other, independent game studios like Supergiant Games and Klei create charming, but no less enjoyable, titles.
However, there are also some games that have been developed through the perseverance of one person. Achieving the aforementioned is not an easy task, but the games below show that it’s possible for a single developer to build a successful and well-received title.
Eric Barone, also known as ConcernedApe, has arguably created one of the most inspiring life simulation RPGs. Loosely based on the Harvest Moon series, Stardew Valley had gamers assume the role of a burnt-out character who tries to escape the stress of an office job by taking care of their grandfather’s farm.
While the first version of the game was solely created by Eric Barone, succeeding updates were launched with the help of a team of developers. Because of this, every update Stardew Valley had only made the game bigger and more popular with gamers from every platform.
Iconoclasts is an open-world platformer that’s developed by Sweden-based game developer Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg. In the game, players sep in the shoes of a mechanic who has a strong inclination to solve the conflicts that threaten her friends and her home planet.
It took Joakim eight years to complete Iconoclasts. Reviewers of the game note that the world-building and narrative of Iconoclasts had was unmatched, going so far as to say that it can hold a candle against iconic games like Metroid Fusion and Final Fantasy IX.
In 2004, Japanese indie game developer Daisuke Amaya released Cave Story. The game’s story, programming, art, and even music were developed solely by Daisuke. In a time when game engines weren’t readily accessible and digital game platforms were unheard of, Cave Story is a genuine feat of accomplishment for a solo developer.
Gamers and critics gave Cave Story high marks for its remarkable Metroidvania gameplay, moving narrative, well-developed characters, and polished controls. Gamers who want to play an updated version of the game can try the ported version for the Nintendo Switch.
Markus “Notch” Persson is known to the world as the sole creator of the global phenomenon that is Minecraft. Today, Minecraft can be played on almost all consoles and platforms. The game is pretty straightforward in the sense that it just encourages players to create and disassemble different types of blocks in a 3D world.
Notch designed Minecraft to be a game that never ends. Because of this, the possibilities in the game are endless. In fact, some dedicated players were even able to create a virtual computer using the in-game’s Redstone system. But while Minecraft was solely developed by Notch, the supportive community helped him make the game a more fun experience by suggesting features and finding bugs.
Russian Alexey Pajitnov has created Tetris in 1984. Despite not being a big hit amongst gamers during its release, Tetris got to achieve global stardom when it was ported to Nintendo’s systems. As one of the oldest video games still around today, Tetris has a number of challenging and innovative titles such as Tetris Effect and Tetris 99.
Tetris also deserves the recognition and fame it has received thanks to its easy-to-understand and straightforward gameplay. Fans of the game often say that Tetris is actually the most commercially successful game developed by one person.
Mable & The Wood started its journey on Kickstarter. In 2016, game developer Andrew Stewart hunted for backers on Kickstarter who wanted to support his pixel art exploration game. Mable & The Wood proved to be an appealing project for gamers at the time due to its unique gameplay and combat.
The game also allows players to steal the powers of the bosses they defeat. However, Stewart wanted players to decide their own fate in the game. In fact, players can take secret paths that allow them to complete the story of Mable & The Wood, without having to kill any of the enemies they encounter.
Thomas Happ is an artist, programmer, and musician. His 2015 game Axiom Verge is a testament to the many skills and talents Happ has. With similarities to Contra and Metroid, Axiom Verge is a Metroidvania game that perfectly balances combat and exploration.
In the game, players have to rescue an alien world from a mad villain. To succeed in the game, players should take advantage of the various power-ups that can be found around the player’s environment. Because of its expansive gameplay and the seemingly infinite types of abilities available for the player to use, Axiom Verge is considered by many as one of the top Metroidvania games of today’s time.
Officially released for the Xbox in 2008, Braid is a puzzle-platformer that encourages players to figure out the best way to manipulate time to solve puzzles. Braid was solely developed by Jonathan Blow, but in a bid to smooth things out and make it more appealing to gamers, he worked with artist David Hellman, which then gave the game its signature painterly-cartoonish style.
It is reported that Blow spent at least $180,000 of his hard-earned money to fully actualize the game, which he had initially finished in 2005. What gamers like about Braid is that it thoroughly challenged them. Despite the requests of Microsoft to add hints in his game, Blow stood his ground and insisted that the game is supposed to test the player’s creativity and problem-solving skills.
Undertale is a game about a child’s journey in escaping the Underground. The player’s choices in the 2D RPG game can dramatically alter the story, dialogue, characters, and ending of the game.
Toby Fox, the developer of Undertale, was inspired by the various games he played as a child. Earthbound, Super Mario, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga are just some of the games that had a clear influence on Undertale. Aside from its engaging characters and adventure-filled narrative, a lot of players also enjoy Undertale as it is one of the few games that allow players to kill NPCs.
Nicklas Nygren is a Swedish game developer who’s most known for creating unique and immersive platformers. His 2012 title, Knytt Underground, is one of his self-developed games that has received commercial and critical success.
Knytt Underground’s Metroid-style gameplay, nonlinear narrative, and exciting side quests have allowed it to cultivate a dedicated fanbase. However, many gamers say that while the long campaign is filled with thrilling secrets that are enough to keep them hooked, the game has a rather unexciting conclusion.