Before They Were Stars: Video Game Edition

These are 12 of the biggest names in game development. And before they made hits, they had awkward growing pains, like the rest of us.

1. Bungie hit it big with Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001.

ID: 1299591

Only four months before, they released Oni, a third-person shooter set in the year 2032.



ID: 1299631

2. Naughty Dog, which just released game of the year candidate The Last of Us, had their first smash with Crash Bandicoot in 1996.

ID: 1299668

The year before, they released Way of the Warrior, a now-forgotten Mortal Kombat knockoff.

ID: 1299683

It was only available on the 3DO, the disastrous licensed game console.


ID: 1299734

3. Blizzard, the force behind the titanic World of Warcraft, released the first Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, in 1994.

ID: 1299782

Earlier that year, Blizzard released an extreme, side-scrolling dark fantasy shooter called Blackthorne.


ID: 1299791

(Actually, this game rules.)

But still, gurrr??

ID: 1299802

4. Rovio is the Finnish developer that can print money due to the Angry Birds games, the first of which came out in 2009.

ID: 1299910

The same year, they released Bounce: Evolution, a game about a ball with eyes.


ID: 1299928

For the Nokia N900. That world-conquering piece of technology.


ID: 1299933

5. BioWare is the Canadian developer that has been making classic RPGs from 1998’s Baldur’s Gate all the way up to the Mass Effect trilogy.

ID: 1300007

Their first game came out in 1996. It was a middling mech game called Shattered Steel.


ID: 1300053

6. Bethesda, which has released the triumphant Skyrim and Fallout 3 in the past 5 years, put out the first Elder Scrolls game in 1994.

ID: 1300099

The year before, they released The Terminator: Rampage, a Doom knockoff.

The hell?

ID: 1300134

7. Insomniac started on their run of terrific platformers with 1998’s Spyro the Dragon. They’ve since moved onto the Resistance and Ratchet and Clank series.

ID: 1300172

But in 1996, they got their start with the generic first person shooter, Disruptor.

What in god’s name?

ID: 1300186

8. Ubisoft Montreal has made almost too many great games to name, starting in 2002 with the first Splinter Cell.

And including the Assassin’s Creed games, Far Cry 2 and 3, and the modern Prince of Persia games.

ID: 1300235

Their first game, from 1998, is a wacky N64 platformer called Tonic Trouble

No. No. No.

ID: 1300254

9. Polyphony Digital, a Sony studio, has made every Grand Turismo since the second one, in 1999.

ID: 1300292

Earlier that year, they released Omega Boost, which is definitely something.


ID: 1300313

10. DICE are the graphic-master Swedes behind the Battlefield series, the first of which, Battlefield: 1942, was a smash in 2002.

ID: 1300350

The year before, they released Diva Starz: Mall Mania. It’s a game about some dolls at the mall.

ID: 1300374


ID: 1300384

11. SCE Santa Monica had its first major hit with God of War in 2005.

Great game.

ID: 1300406

Their only game before that? Kinetica, a forgettable 2001 racer.

Uh okay.

ID: 1300414

12. Neversoft are responsible for the legendary Tony Hawk series. The first game came out in 1999.

ID: 1300453

They got started in 1995 with Skeleton Warriors, which is not awesome.


ID: 1300470

13. And then there’s the mighty Valve, of the nearly perfect Portal games.

ID: 1300567

Their first game, in 1998, was just a little nothing game called, oh wait.

ID: 1300574


ID: 1300577

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Joe Bernstein is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bernstein reports on and writes about the gaming industry and web culture.
Contact Joseph Bernstein at

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