These past few years have yielded an amazing roster of games that we personally love. With so many fantastic experiences out there, we began to grow curious over what games developers particularly enjoy. During our time spent at this year’s GDC, we had the opportunity to interview a wide variety of game developers and key figures in the industry, so we decided to ask what current game they find inspiring and admire the most, and why.
As you’ll see from the responses below, the games each developer adores might not come as a surprise to you, especially if you’re familiar with their work or tastes. Others had some surprising picks that you probably wouldn’t expect. What current games do you admire the most? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to check out feature detailing the 25 best games you might’ve not heard of that we saw at GDC 2018.
Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, Directors of Cuphead
Jared Moldenhauer: I have a library of 100+ games that I’m working towards currently. But one of the earlier games that I chose and found very rewarding was Hollow Knight. It’s an interesting and challenging Metroidvania. And the visuals and the universe that they created, and the feeling within all the characters; I was happy playing every minute of it.
Chad Moldenhauer: I recently started and really enjoy The Witness. I was looking forward to that for a long time!
Yoshinori Terasawa, Danganronpa Series Producer
Yoshinori Terasawa: I love the Persona series. I adore the sense of personality that those games have. I really like how cool and stylish they are.
Rami Ismail, Producer of Nuclear Throne
Rami Ismail: So many games have really sparked me. Games that really stand out to me are Engare and Farsh, by Mahdi Bahrami, both games based on this Iranian heritage. I was very impressed by This War of Mine, which gives a unique perspective on war. Just seeing that tremendous shift in perspective translated into a game that is so powerful and poignant, that reminds me that there is so much more out there.
Tom Kaczmarczyk, Producer of Superhot
Tom Kaczmarczyk: Our game director [Piotr Iwanicki] who actually came up with the idea, he often cites an indie flash game called, Time4Cat, as one of the inspirations, because it did have the same sort of time automation mechanic. For me, I love Hotline Miami because of its action sequences. A lot of what we pick up come from action movies, and from the way people design cinematic experiences where you fall into a certain archetype of a situation, and you immediately understand what’s going on.
Tim Schafer, Founder of Double Fine (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend)
Tim Schafer: Lately, a game that really made a big effect on me–it sounds really cliché–but Breath of the Wild was a huge thing. I just loved it. Everyone loves something different about games, there’s no one game that’s perfect for everybody, but it made me realize that my number one thing is exploration. I’m constantly exploring and surprised and I just love it and I play it all the time. I also love Loot Rascals, which is a great roguelike, and I’ve recently been playing Persona 5, which is just amazing. Amazing style and tone, it’s so polished.
Jason Roberts, Director of Gorogoa
Jason Roberts: In 2017, I was a big fan of Inside and Night in the Woods; those were big games for me. I’m big on tone, mood, atmosphere. These are important to me. And I love those games. And I also, this year, I think Florence and any game from Annapurna are just very carefully, precisely created with tone and atmosphere. That’s what I value.
Dean Ayala, Hearthstone Senior Game Designer + Dave Kozack, Hearthstone Lead Narrative Designer
Dean Ayala: Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. It’s a roguelike released back in 1997. A lot of the Hearthstone design team plays it. It’s super old-school.
Dave Kozack: It has been in continuous development; it’s one of those community projects. That’s why the name, Stone Soup. But we played a lot of rogue-likes while we were working on Dungeon Run, and that was one of our favorites. It’s just something we keep coming back to as a team. It’s a lot of fun.
Ian Dallas, Creative Director of What Remains Of Edith Finch
Ian Dallas: For me, the last game that affected me emotionally in a strong way was Universal Paperclips. A game about clicking on buttons and manufacturing paperclips that I just found myself lost in for 8 hours. It was really like a troubling emotional experience, and it’s amazing that it comes out of just text on a webpage. It reaffirms the power of video games and the way that they can teach you things about yourself and about the world that you couldn’t really internalize in any other way.
Chelsea Hash, Technical Artist of What Remains Of Edith Finch
Chelsea Hash: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Their commitment to the multimedia format and drawing from different rendering styles to support their vision was something that I was glad to be able to experience, something that was willing to think outside the box.
Damon Baker, Nintendo Publisher and Developer Relations
Damon Baker: I can’t choose one game. It is like choosing my favorite child! There are so many different types of experiences. Most recently I am working my way through Night in the Woods. I haven’t been able to play that previously, and having a lot of flights lately has given me more flexibility to get through a lot of indie content. Of course, I totally enjoyed Celeste. I vowed not to use assist mode on that game at all and beat it; but it took me 1800 deaths or something to get through it, but it was a beautiful game.
Matt Thornson, Director of Celeste
Matt Thornson: I’ve been really enjoying my time with Into the Breach. It’s amazing!
Victor Kislyi, Wargaming CEO (World of Tanks)
Victor Kislyi: Civilization. All of them, because I started playing from Civ I. Now, believe it or not, before playing World of Tanks last night I was playing Civilization and I was playing on the plane on my way here. Civ 6 is amazing, and it was my MBA. I’m a physicist by education but, playing Civilization, all those layers, economy, exploration, politics, military, science, religion–your brain is trained to juggle those multiple layers like almost instantly, or at least very, very correctly. And, that’s a good analogy with business, people, finance, media, failures, exploration, etc., etc. I think Civilization, as a concept, as a game, actually, is more valuable to humanity than Mona Lisa.
Yoko Taro, Director of Nier: Automata
Yoko Taro: I think that Grand Theft Auto IV and Super Mario Bros. are two big games that influenced me when making Nier. But with games from the past–not modern games–I felt more freedom or challenge as a player. Let’s say we have a black background with a white dot on it and let’s call it the space. I feel like that really creates freedom, especially in terms freedom of imagination, and challenging the dev team to create a world without really being able to express that world visually. In that sense, I feel that in the past, game developers were trying to create a new frontier. They were trying to expand the world, expand the universe of gaming industry.
Now that the game industry has matured pretty much now, a lot of people actually go for a more safe game. They try to make all the consumers happy with that one game. I think that that actually limits to what they can do and I feel that no one is really trying to expand that arena or expand that world anymore. I am a little bit sad about that.
Takahisa Taura, Designer Of Nier: Automata + Metal Gear Rising
Takahisa Taura: When The Witcher 3 came out, we all played it and had fun with it, but we also looked at it to see what would we do if we created a game like this. We were using The Witcher 3 as a learning experience on how to create an RPG. I think that’s where it all started. Well, that’s where we came from, so it wasn’t too difficult of a task to create a JRPG.”