Best Canadian Game Developers

Jul
01

Best Canadian Game Developers

It’s Canada Day and, being a Canadian website, that means it’s time to celebrate the best of what Canada has to offer: beer, crystal blue lakes and some of the world’s best game developers. While our media is usually overshadowed by our more populous neighbour to the south, Canada has one particular area where it dominates: video games. From Assassin’s Creed and Dead Rising 2 to Super Mario Strikers ajd EA Sports’ NHL (of course), the immense pool of game development talent stretches from coast to coast, and world-renowned studios are present in nearly every province.  We’re taking a look at some of Canada’s best—the studios that shine the brightest and that are known across the world for their output. This is not a comprehensive list; indeed, there are many immensely talented studios that we just couldn’t fit into this list or with which I’m sure we just aren’t familiar.

Relic Entertainment

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

Relic, parts of Sega’s empire since THQ collapsed, has been quietly pumping out some of the world’s best RTS games for nearly 20 years. Homeworld, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War and the Company of Heroes franchises were all created (and, with the exception of Homeworld, still developed by) Relic. Even Relic’s rare excursion outside of the RTS genre, such as 2011’s Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, are met with critical and commercial success, cementing Relic as not just masters of one genre but rather masters of the entire industry.

Klei Entertainment

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia

Few indie studios have made their mark as quickly as Klei Entertainment, the studio started by a former Relic employee. Known for making fun, visually striking-striking games, Klei’s games are always distinctive and almost universally praised.  Shank, Don’t Starve, Mark of the Ninja and Invisible, Inc. are Klei’s best known games, and chances are good that you’re madly in love with at least one of them.

BioWare

Location: Edmonton, Alberta

If we were to make a list of not just the greatest Canadian game developers but of the best game developers (period), BioWare would still be right near the top of the list. Reading off a list of the franchises they created—Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age—is like walking through an RPG Hall of Fame. Few other developers can claim to have so thoroughly dominated a genre as BioWare has with RPGs, nor can they claim to have released so many games of such high quality over such a long period of time.  Other than the odd blip on the radar (we’re looking at you, Sonic Chronicles), BioWare has an impeccable track record and nearly every single one of their games is among the greatest that the industry has ever seen.

Takes place in space, but made in Canada.

The Mass Effect series takes place in space but is made in Canada.

Ubisoft Montreal

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Ubisoft’s Montreal development studio is one of the world’s biggest (over 2,500 people work there), and it serves as the central pillar of Canada’s most game-centric city. Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell, and Watch_Dogs were all born here, and all the modern entries of Far Cry, Prince of Persia and Rainbow Six were made within the walls of Ubisoft Montreal.  A large part of the credit for Ubisoft’s transformation from small-time, niche publisher to industry giant can be laid at the feet of its Montreal studio, and so too can Montreal’s transformation into a game development hub.  That dozens of other studios have opened their doors in Montreal is a direct result of Ubisoft Montreal’s success.

Eidos Montreal

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Another studio in Canada’s game development capital, Eidos’ studio may be newer than Ubisoft’s but it’s already made its mark on the industry.  The studio’s debut game was the phenomenal Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Since then, they’ve gone on the create 2014’s Thief reboot and the upcoming Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and have helped Crystal Dynamics work on both entries of the rebooted Tomb Raider series. They haven’t made as many games as the other studios on this list but, with the quality of what they have worked on, we feel confident including them among the country’s best.

Capybara Games

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Another indie darling, Toronto’s Capybara Games started their life by making obscure mobile games before finally striking gold with 2008’s Critter Crunch. This success catapulted them even further, and allowed them to create a series of critically acclaimed games, such as Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and Super Time Force. It’s rare that such a small studio gets a game recognized front and center at a show as large as E3 but that’s exactly what happened to Capybara. Below, their latest game, was announced and prominently featured during Microsoft’s press conference at E3 2013.

Capybara certainly has no shortage of style.

Capybara certainly has no shortage of style.

We don’t mean to forget any studios originating from or working within our immensely talented country so make sure to spread the love in the comments and champion your favourite Canadian development studio—indie, AAA or otherwise.

About Justin Arnott

Justin is the Founder of Controller Crusade and has played video games for as long as he can remember. He loves all games but there's an extra special place in his heart for anything created by Nintendo. He's also a big retro gamer and is deeply interested in video game history—so there's that. You can contact him via email at jarnott@controllercrusade.com or via Twitter @sirultimos

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