Paradox: The Best Developer You’ve Never Heard Of

When most people think of their favorite video game developers of all time, a few come to mind, such as Rockstar, a company that maintains multiple open-world Triple A titles such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, or maybe Blizzard, who is known for their MMORPG World of Warcraft, and their multiple eSports titles such as Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm.

But when I think of my favorite video game developer of all time, I think of Paradox Interactive – a strategy game publisher that operates out of Stockholm, Sweden.

For a little background, Paradox Interactive is a video game company that has existed since the early era of the PC in 1999. It originated with the Swedish tabletop gaming company Target Games (no relation to the retail chain Target) which put out a few titles under the brand name of Äventyrsspel.

Target Games also notably handled the Swedish translations for Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game and the Middle Earth Roleplaying Game, and also held the rights to the Conan the Barbarian franchise.

Target Games operated from 1980 to 1999, but eventually went bankrupt. Their video game division was spun off into a new company – the new Paradox Games that exists today.

It would be after forming Paradox that many iconic franchises would begin to be created. Many of their iconic strategy game series, such as Crusader Kings, Victoria, Europa Universalis, and Hearts of Iron would be released.

Paradox also releases genres other than strategy, such as the city-building game Cities: Skylines. But Paradox would become most famous for their “grand strategy” genre of games, which they still produce.

I personally started playing Paradox-published games in 2016 with the release of Hearts of Iron IV, the newest title in their series of strategy wargames.

Hearts of Iron IV was an amazing experience, letting you play as any nation in existence at either of two start dates: 1936 and 1939. The game allowed for limitless customization with modifications downloaded from the Steam Workshop so players could take part in the First World War, the Cold War, and even some alternate history scenarios such as “Kaiser Reich,” which shows what the world might have looked like if the Central Powers won WWI.

This title acted as a stepping stone into some of their other titles such as the game Crusader Kings II, which allows you to play as any medieval ruler in existence from the year 769 to 1453, providing a relatively accurate simulation of medieval life. Or if that isn’t your fancy, the game Stellaris, which is a science fiction oriented title that allows customizable play as a space-capable nation.

Even some of Paradox’s older titles remain popular, such as Victoria II, which initially released in 2010 but has stayed alive thanks to a community of modders who have released two major overhaul mods for the game (The Historical Flavour Mod and the Historical Project Mod).

Paradox’s games also act as a way of educating some of their players as well.

For example, Crusader Kings contains a link on every ruler to their corresponding Wikipedia page. Hearts of Iron IV allows for the player to turn on Historical Focuses, adding a relatively accurate playable WWII.

Victoria II gives players a chance to play as the colonial empires of the 19th century, which can be seen as an educational experience. Paradox’s titles can also spawn some interesting alternate history scenarios.

Every single one of Paradox’s titles would be enough to popularize the company if published on its own, but Paradox maintains five of these games—each with its own merits. 

Crusader Kings II is a great sim of medieval rulership, and one of few character-based strategy games out there. Europa Universalis IV is a 4X game on the caliber of Civilization that features a rich history spanning from 1444 to 1821, which can be extended from 50 BC to 9999 AD with mods.

Victoria II is an entertaining and educational title that focuses on the Victorian era from 1836 to 1936 (3 years before WWII), Hearts of Iron IV is a more war-focused title letting players command an army of any nation of their choice during WWII (and even more with mods) and Stellaris is a great sci-fi title with limitless customization and fun gameplay.

Paradox is a developer definitely worth a look, as their games can appeal to a wide variety of video game players from the casual player for fun to the armchair historian or strategist.