Like well-oiled machines in tune with the cogs that power us, we have become so fluent with most heavy game studios these days. Take Rockstar, for example. Maybe even Ubisoft and CD Projekt Red. Without even having to do a spec of research into their background, we already know what worlds are being stitched from behind the scenes. We know, simply because it’s all we ever see. And we’re used to that. We are, in all honesty, spoonfed triple-A material from bombastic studios 24/7.
Of course, always being in the know when it comes to big studios isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. It’s just that, well, it dims the light on other, lesser known teams that try to engulf the world in a promising spark. And that’s a shame, especially if you don’t go out of your way to actually unearth such underdogs. Therefore, for what it’s worth, it seems only right that we flash a torch on a few of the up and coming game studios this year. Take from it what you will, but in our opinion, these five teams are definitely worth keeping on the radar.
5. Iron Gate AB
What happens when you combine the knowledge and ambition of two industry veterans in this day and age? Well, a pretty epic collaboration usually, a collaboration that can often lead to some pretty phenomenal works of art. Or in Iron Gate AB’s case — Valheim.
Although only being on the scene with Iron Gate since 2019, the two Swedish vets have already harnessed a global following from their online smash hit, Valheim. And that’s just the first title on their portfolio since booting up the company. As for 2021 and beyond, Iron Gate are putting their scope on the sandbox market, bundling knowledge trees from earlier collaborations into future projects. So, if Valheim made it into your GoTY list for 2021 — then be sure to slap Iron Gate on your radar as a one of the many studios you’ll want to keep close for 2022 and beyond.
4. Team Cherry
Another fantastic team that has also smithed gold from a smaller pick axe is Team Cherry, the developers who brought the acclaimed Hollow Knight to the spotlight back in 2017. Although vanishing from the scene after teasing the follow-up entry Silksong back in 2019, fans are starting to believe that that the talented crew are once again putting the wheels in motion for their long-awaited sequel.
Like Iron Gate AB, Team Cherry also managed to chip out a diamond in the first attempt at striking the clammy wall. Hollow Knight, proving to be one of the best indie adventure games of 2017, quickly escalated the hype for the Australian-based studio, effectively nudging the team to construct a well-deserved sequel. First teased in 2019, Hollow Knight: Silksong had us on tenterhooks through its slew of teases and announcements. Although not making any reference to it at present, Cherry fans are still keeping the studio high on the list of up and coming developers.
3. Studio MD HR
Another fine example of how two entwined minds can produce absolute gold is Chad and Jared Moldenhauer, or better known as Studio MD HR, the division that delivered us one of the most mesmerising, albeit challenging video games of 2017, Cuphead. And if you thought that game was worthy of every accolade in the book, then just wait ’til you get a load of what’s in store for 2021 and beyond.
“I’m just really loving what we do. And the ideas we have for the next game are pretty epic,” Maja Moldenhauer, Studio MD HR producer and artist told Red Bull. Although hardly letting any details slip over their next project, fans are expecting it to be another award-winning slice of 2-D madness with all the loaded challenges and quips that made Cuphead a globally recognised gem way back in 2017. But we’ll just have to wait and see what lurks on the other side. Either way, we’re pretty excited to see what comes next for Studio MD HR.
2. Giant Sparrow
As far as engrossing walking simulators go, Giant Sparrow pretty much hits the nail on the head with their bite-sized selection of hearty narratives. Just take What Remains of Edith Finch, for example. Not only was it beautifully constructed and well-paced, but also pretty darn invigorating for just a two hour experience. And that’s just one of the entries the incredibly talented studio has served up since its conception. As for the future of the story-driven dev goes, the sky truly is the limit.
“We’re focusing on the enchanting beauty of animal locomotion,” Giant Sparrow said about their next project. “Our goal is to create an experience based around movement as a way of revealing character, conveying mood, and supporting player expression. We’re drawing inspiration from works like Ico, Windosill, Spirited Away, The Life of Birds, and the spirit of Winsor McCay and early Disney films like Bambi and Fantasia that used (for the time) cutting edge technology to build something that didn’t feel technical at all, but instead felt strangely and joyfully alive.”
1. Mobius Digital
One particular developer that sprouted from the blue and took the world by storm was Mobius Digital, the very minds that brought us Outer Wilds, which garnered eternal praise and a whole stack of awards back in 2019 for its innovative design. Since then, the US-based studio has been working to deliver DLC for the acclaimed chapter, mainly with Eye of the Storm, which is set to release on September 28.
Again, with only one game under their belts and a whole ocean of potential waiting to be explored for future works, it’s definitely worth keeping your eye pinned on Mobius. If the next game is anywhere near as decent as Outer Wilds — then we’re definitely in for a treat. But we’ll just have to wait and see what cards the studio reveal after shuffling the deck for October onwards. Either way, we’re expecting pretty big things from this team.
Are there any studios you think we should keep on our radar? Let us know over on our socials here.