10 Best Houston Video Game Developers

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You may not be entirely aware of this, but Houston has a pretty huge scene involving local video game developers. The technology and availability of mobile and PC gaming has allowed small start ups to dive into the world of game design in a big way, and the local industry is as diverse as you would expect Houston to be. We've got everything from cutting edge adventures to the restoration of ancient gaming classics. Come meet the folks behind them.

10. Hygoon So far Hygoon has just one game to its name, Pterodactyl Attack for iOS. It's a difficult, but beautiful shooter where you, of course, fend off waves of flying dinosaurs. It also has a mode specifically for the color blind, so extra blessings be upon them for their consideration.

9. Random Features Coming out of Katy is Random Features. They specialize in mahjong titles and other simple puzzle games with cute themes. There's also their dance party series of games based on the old Simon toys where you remember longer and longer patterns to keep your creatures busting moves. It's light fare, but fun.

8. Corv Studios Founded by Oscar Gomez in 2009, Corv has put out some pretty impressive mobile offerings, mostly as Android and Kindle Apps. Pac-Ball with its tilt controls and inventive mazes is particularly fun and reached over a million downloads, and the 360-degree shooter Virus Effect is definitely addictive. I'm looking very much forward to their upcoming zombie game, ZC.

7. Lava Level On the other hand, if 16-bit is still too New School for you and you want to dive even further back, check out Lava Level and its mobile game Quest Lord by Eric Kinkead. It's a computer RPG of the type you just don't see anymore, and sure to warm the heart of any veteran adventure.

6. Killer Bee Software The folks at Killer Bee are on a mission to restore some of the most legendary strategy games of the early days of video games. Mark Baldwin and his Empire games led directly to games like Civilization and Global Conquest and Killer Bee doesn't want you to forget it. With the blessing of Baldwin himself, they've brought out Empire Deluxe and The Perfect General.

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5. Level Up Labs One of the best tower defense RPGs I've played in many a day comes from Level Up Labs. Defender's Quest is a streamlined title that does away with all the padding and delivers a really solid play-through involving wizards and zombies in a corrupt kingdom. It's basically Final Fantasy Tactics for people that would rather deal with tower defense instead of tiles. It's available through Steam, and a sequel is in development.

4. Piko Interactive Probably my personal favorite of the video game developers in Houston is Piko. Why? Because they're whole schtick is bringing together games that you can actually play on old SNES systems. They sell homebrew titles like Astrohawk and Creepy Bird, as well as re-releases like the unlicensed first person shooter Super Noah's Ark 3D. For the true joys of 16-bit gaming, accept no substitutes.

3. Bouncing Pixel The folks at Bouncing Pixel are way more than just game designers. They work with educational enterprises like the Children's Museum and Rice University. They do make games, though, and some of them are really inventive. Among the greats is Playground Bully, a clever game that shows a how a mean boy can rule a schoolyard from a lofty perch, but also how he can be knocked down. They also worked on the acclaimed Grammaropolis, which teaches kids grammar without boring them to tears.

2. Virtuix You can't talk Houston video game magic without mentioning Virtuix and their upcoming Omni. It's an amazing peripheral that ties in with the Oculus to make first person gaming a true virtual reality experience. I've tried it myself, and while playing it the first time feels a little like you've been drinking a bit too much, it turns games like Half-Life 2 into a whole different dimension of awesome.

1. On the Level Games The best studio in Houston, though, has to be On the Level. They truly think outside the box and seem the closest of our local talent to finally making the jump from PC and mobile to current generation console gaming. They combined survival horror and golf in The Curse of Nordic Cove, and developed the punk rock hack and slash masterpiece that is Boo Bunny Plague. Every release gets better and better.

Jef has a new story, a tale of mad robot nurses and a man of miracles called "Sleepers, Wake!" available now. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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