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The Most Famous

GAME DESIGNERS from Japan

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This page contains a list of the greatest Japanese Game Designers. The pantheon dataset contains 56 Game Designers, 22 of which were born in Japan. This makes Japan the birth place of the 2nd most number of Game Designers.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Japanese Game Designers of all time. This list of famous Japanese Game Designers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Japanese Game Designers.

Photo of Shigeru Miyamoto

1. Shigeru Miyamoto (1952 - )

With an HPI of 61.53, Shigeru Miyamoto is the most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages on wikipedia.

Shigeru Miyamoto (Japanese: 宮本 茂, Hepburn: Miyamoto Shigeru, born November 16, 1952) is a Japanese video game designer, producer and game director at Nintendo, where he serves as one of its representative directors. Widely regarded as one of the most accomplished and influential designers in the history of video games, he is the creator of some of the most acclaimed and best-selling game franchises of all time, including Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, Star Fox and Pikmin. Born in Sonobe, Japan, Miyamoto graduated from Kanazawa Municipal College of Industrial Arts. He originally sought a career as a manga artist, until developing an interest in video games. With the help of his father, he joined Nintendo in 1977 after impressing then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi with his toys. He helped create art for the arcade game Sheriff, and was later tasked with designing a new arcade game, leading to the 1981 game Donkey Kong. Miyamoto's platform game Super Mario Bros. (1985) and the action-adventure game The Legend of Zelda (1986) helped the Nintendo Entertainment System dominate the console game market. His games have been flagships of every Nintendo video game console, from the arcade machines of the late 1970s to the present day. He managed Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis & Development software division, which developed many Nintendo games, and he played an important role in the creation of other influential games such as Pokémon Red and Blue and Metroid Prime. Following the death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in July 2015, Miyamoto became acting president alongside Genyo Takeda until he was formally appointed "Creative Fellow" a few months later.

Photo of Hideo Kojima

2. Hideo Kojima (1963 - )

With an HPI of 59.31, Hideo Kojima is the 2nd most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Hideo Kojima (小島 秀夫, Kojima Hideo, born August 24, 1963) is a Japanese video game designer, director, producer and writer. He is regarded as an auteur of video games. He developed a strong passion for action/adventure cinema and literature during his childhood and adolescence. In 1986, he was hired by Konami, for which he designed and wrote Metal Gear (1987) for the MSX2, a game that laid the foundations for stealth games and the Metal Gear series, his best known and most appreciated works. He is also known for producing the Zone of the Enders series, as well as writing and designing Snatcher (1988) and Policenauts (1994), graphic adventure games regarded for their cinematic presentation. Kojima founded Kojima Productions within Konami in 2005, and he was appointed vice president of Konami Digital Entertainment in 2011. Kojima Productions split from Konami in 2015, becoming an independent studio. His studio's first game without Konami, Death Stranding, was released in 2019.

Photo of Gunpei Yokoi

3. Gunpei Yokoi (1941 - 1997)

With an HPI of 56.41, Gunpei Yokoi is the 3rd most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Gunpei Yokoi (横井 軍平, Yokoi Gunpei, 10 September 1941 – 4 October 1997), sometimes transliterated Gumpei Yokoi, was a Japanese video game designer. He was a long-time Nintendo employee, best known as creator of the Game & Watch handheld system, inventor of the cross-shaped Control Pad, the original designer of the Game Boy, and producer of a few long-running and critically acclaimed video game franchises such as Metroid and Kid Icarus.

Photo of Satoru Iwata

4. Satoru Iwata (1959 - 2015)

With an HPI of 55.96, Satoru Iwata is the 4th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 39 different languages.

Satoru Iwata (Japanese: 岩田 聡, Hepburn: Iwata Satoru, December 6, 1959 – July 11, 2015) was a Japanese businessman, video game programmer, video game designer, and producer. He was the fourth president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Nintendo from 2002 until his death in 2015. He was a major contributor in broadening the appeal of video games by focusing on novel and entertaining games rather than top-of-the-line hardware. Born in Sapporo, Iwata expressed interest in video games from an early age and created his first simple game while in high school. He majored in computer science at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. In 1980, he joined the game developer HAL Laboratory while attending the university. At HAL, he worked as a programmer and closely collaborated with Nintendo, producing his first commercial game in 1983. Games to which he contributed include EarthBound and many games in the Kirby series. Following a downturn and near-bankruptcy, Iwata became the president of HAL in 1993 at the insistence of Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi and brought financial stability. In the following years, he worked in the development of the Pokémon and Super Smash Bros. series. Iwata joined Nintendo as the head of its corporate planning division in 2000. Nintendo saw growth under Iwata and, when Yamauchi retired, he became the company's president in May 2002. Under Iwata's direction, Nintendo developed the Nintendo DS and Wii game consoles, helping the company achieve financial success. As a self-declared gamer, he focused on expanding the appeal of video games across demographics through a "blue ocean" business strategy. Nintendo attained record profits by 2009, and Barron's placed Iwata among the top 30 CEOs worldwide. Iwata expanded his strategy by defining a quality-of-life product line for the Wii that evolved into a ten-year strategy to create standalone products. Later hardware such as the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U proved far less profitable than the Wii, and Nintendo's net sales fell by two thirds from 2009 to 2012; the company saw its first operating losses in 30 years during this time. Iwata voluntarily halved his salary in 2011 and 2014. In 2015, after several years of refusal, Iwata put a portion of Nintendo's focus into the rapidly growing mobile game market; a landmark partnership with mobile provider DeNA was established that March. Throughout his career, Iwata built a relationship with Nintendo fans through social media and his regular appearances in Iwata Asks and Nintendo Direct, becoming the public face of the company. In June 2014, a tumor in Iwata's bile duct was discovered during a routine physical exam. It was removed, and Iwata returned to work in October of that year. The problem resurfaced in 2015, and Iwata died at the age of 55 from its complications on July 11. Members of the gaming industry and fans alike offered tributes through public announcements and social media, and fans worldwide established temporary memorials. Iwata was posthumously awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Golden Joystick Awards and the 2016 D.I.C.E. Awards.

Photo of Masayuki Uemura

5. Masayuki Uemura (1943 - 2021)

With an HPI of 54.63, Masayuki Uemura is the 5th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Masayuki Uemura (上村雅之, Uemura Masayuki, 20 June 1943 – 6 December 2021) was a Japanese engineer, video game producer, and professor. He was known for his work as an employee of Nintendo from 1971 to 2004, most notably for serving as a key factor in the development of the Nintendo Entertainment System. A former employee of Sharp Corporation, Uemura joined Nintendo in 1971 working with Gunpei Yokoi and Genyo Takeda on solar cell technology for the Laser Clay Shooting System arcade game. After becoming General Manager of Nintendo R&D2, Uemura served as the lead architect for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super NES game consoles. He retired from Nintendo in 2004 and became director for the Center for Game Studies at Ritsumeikan University.

Photo of Satoshi Tajiri

6. Satoshi Tajiri (1965 - )

With an HPI of 54.47, Satoshi Tajiri is the 6th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Satoshi Tajiri (Japanese: 田尻 智, Hepburn: Tajiri Satoshi, born August 28, 1965) is a Japanese video game designer and director best known for being the creator of the Pokémon franchise and one of the founders, and President of video game developer Game Freak. A fan of arcade games, Tajiri wrote for and edited his own video gaming fanzine Game Freak with Ken Sugimori, before evolving it into a development company of the same name. Tajiri claims that the joining of two Game Boys via a link cable inspired him to create a game which embodied the collection and companionship of his childhood hobby, insect collecting. The game, which became Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green, took six years to complete and went on to spark a multibillion-dollar franchise which reinvigorated Nintendo's handheld gaming scene. Tajiri continued to work as director for the Pokémon series until the development of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, when he changed his role to executive producer, which he holds to this day. Tajiri has also worked for other Game Freak projects. He was also an executive producer on the live-action film Detective Pikachu.

Photo of Toru Iwatani

7. Toru Iwatani (1955 - )

With an HPI of 50.25, Toru Iwatani is the 7th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Toru Iwatani (岩谷 徹, Iwatani Tōru, born January 25, 1955) is a Japanese video game designer who spent much of his career working for Namco. He is best known as the creator of the arcade game Pac-Man (1980).

Photo of Shigesato Itoi

8. Shigesato Itoi (1948 - )

With an HPI of 50.09, Shigesato Itoi is the 8th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Shigesato Itoi (糸井 重里, Itoi Shigesato, born November 10, 1948) is a Japanese copywriter, essayist, lyricist, game designer, and actor. Itoi is the editor-in-chief of his website and company Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun ("Almost Daily Itoi Newspaper"). He is best known outside Japan for his work on Nintendo's Mother/EarthBound series of games, as well as his self-titled bass fishing video game.

Photo of Shinji Mikami

9. Shinji Mikami (1965 - )

With an HPI of 49.95, Shinji Mikami is the 9th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  Her biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Shinji Mikami (三上 真司, Mikami Shinji, born August 11, 1965) is a Japanese video game designer, director, and producer. Starting his career at Capcom in 1990, he has worked on many of the company's most successful games. He directed the first installment of the Resident Evil series in 1996 and the first installment of the Dino Crisis series in 1999, both survival horror games. He returned to Resident Evil to direct the remake of the first game in 2002 and the third-person shooter Resident Evil 4 in 2005. In 2006, he directed his final Capcom game God Hand, a beat 'em up action game. Mikami worked at PlatinumGames to direct the third-person shooter Vanquish in 2010. The same year, he founded his own studio Tango Gameworks which has since been acquired by the American company ZeniMax Media. Under his studio, he directed the third-person horror game The Evil Within in 2014. He has also served the roles of producer and executive producer for many games.

Photo of Hironobu Sakaguchi

10. Hironobu Sakaguchi (1962 - )

With an HPI of 49.35, Hironobu Sakaguchi is the 10th most famous Japanese Game Designer.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Hironobu Sakaguchi (坂口 博信, Sakaguchi Hironobu, born November 25, 1962) is a Japanese game designer, director, producer, and writer. Originally working for Square (later Square Enix) from 1983 to 2003, he departed the company and founded independent studio Mistwalker in 2004. He is known as the creator of the Final Fantasy franchise, in addition to other titles during his time at Square. At Mistwalker, he is known for creating the Blue Dragon and Terra Battle series among several standalone titles, moving away from home consoles and creating titles for mobile platforms. Originally intending to become a musician, he briefly studied electronics and programming, joining Square as a part-time employee, then later a full-time employee when Square became an independent company in 1986. He led the development of several titles before helping to create the original Final Fantasy, which proved highly successful and cemented his status within the company. Following the financial failure of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, his debut as a film director, Sakaguchi withdrew from Square's management and eventually resigned in 2003. He continued his game career through Mistwalker, first co-developing projects through external partners and then smaller in-studio mobile projects. Born in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, Sakaguchi now lives in Hawaii where one of Mistwalker's offices is based. Several of his projects after Final Fantasy III, including Final Fantasy VII and The Spirits Within, were influenced by his thoughts on what happened after death following the loss of his mother in an accident at that time. He has also influenced the creation of several other Square Enix projects, such as Kingdom Hearts. Sakaguchi has received several industry awards.

Pantheon has 22 people classified as game designers born between 1941 and 1974. Of these 22, 18 (81.82%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living game designers include Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, and Satoshi Tajiri. The most famous deceased game designers include Gunpei Yokoi, Satoru Iwata, and Masayuki Uemura. As of April 2022, 2 new game designers have been added to Pantheon including Masayuki Uemura and Shigesato Itoi.

Living Game Designers

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Deceased Game Designers

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Newly Added Game Designers (2022)

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Which Game Designers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 3 most globally memorable Game Designers since 1700.