Supergiant Games: A Contender for “Best Indie Company”

Hades is no stranger to praise. With awards for “Best Game,” “Artistic Achievement,” “Narrative,” and more, countless trophies lie with the Greek mythology-based game. Even the nearly seven-decade-old Hugo Award, which honors sci-fi and fantasy literature works, recognized Hades as the first video game to receive the award. At this point, it’s almost easier to list what it hasn’t won.

Behind every great game is a team of outstanding individuals. And, to be honest, Supergiant Games, the 13-year-old indie developer behind the four critically praised titles Bastion, Transistor, Pyre, and Hades, is nothing short of extraordinary.

First off, it was 2009 when the company began with seven team members. Over ten years later, the same seven people remain (alongside additional hires). The organization treasures its employees’ well-being. In contrast to the modern norm of “work till you drop,” an emphasis is placed on a non-stressful work environment, to the point where Supergiant Games requires staff to take days off. To avoid overworking, employees must take at least 20 days off per year, and emails are prohibited after 5 p.m. on Friday and the weekend.

Even more, the team’s creative director, Greg Kasavin, noted the importance of welfare checks, “We try to look out for each other and say, ‘Hey, is this too much?’… Sometimes, it’s not even a question, right? It’s like, ‘No, you’re doing too much.’” Other workplaces should do the same. After all, people work best when they’re – surprise, surprise –  not overstressed, overworked, or burned out by the fear of impending deadlines.

With an emphasis on quality over quantity, Kasavin wonders, “It’s cool we hit our 10-year mark, but could we make it even further? How long can we go while everyone is still doing their thing and wants to keep doing it?” 

And while the company has two founders, Amir Rao and Gavin Simon, neither holds an official CEO title to avoid a sense of supremacy. There is no “Big Boss” or higher-up breathing down everyone’s neck in the organization. Instead, there is collaboration and a willingness to grow together. The new set of skills they learn with each completed game is employed in the next.

Supergiant Games’ track record demonstrates the importance of skill development and healthy minds and bodies. Their games have routinely received ratings of 80/100 or above on review sites, and many critics and gamers leave satisfied after a gaming session. Given that the games excel in every facet of game development, including music, sound, visuals, story, and gameplay, it’s no wonder.

For example, let’s dive into the company’s most recent and famed release: Hades, which was discussed before. The game is a fast-paced action roguelike (a dungeon crawler that produces maps at random when you die) that sets you in the soles of Zagreus, the God of Death’s son. It hooks you for hours with its hack-and-slash combat, fascinating and accurate Greek gods and heroes, and a soundtrack that you’ll probably start listening to while you study.

When playing Hades, you can feel the passion behind the hands who designed the masterpiece of a game. 

To begin, there are approximately 20,000 lines of unique dialogue divided between over twenty fully voice-acted characters. Yes, 20,000 lines! That’s more than 300,000 words or the equivalent of two to three full-length novels. So, when you die in combat and have to restart the dungeon, it never feels like you’re stuck in a loop straight out of Groundhog’s Day since you’re greeted with some sweet new dialogue.

Hades also strives to appeal to players of all skill levels by including an assistive mode, “God’s Mode,” to ease newcomers. An “easy to learn, difficult to master” mentality is implemented to ensure that everyone has a chance of getting beyond a boss or two,

Now, those are but some of the best parts of Hades. You can expect the same exceptional quality with other Supergiant works. These days, most popular video games are churned out quickly as the next-in-line for a franchise. However, though Triple-A games from major publishers are frequently hit-or-miss, this tiny studio exclusively brings us “hits.”