Xbox Game Studios Spotlight: Tango Gameworks

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
This Xbox Game Studio Spotlight covers Bethesda Softworks' Tango Gameworks — The Evil Within developers led by Shinji Mikami. See how the dev ranks, its history, projects, and how many achievements you've unlocked!


This is the dev panel. It helps you keep track of all the games made by the developer, and exactly how many achievements you have unlocked in total. How many developers can you complete?

Tango Gameworks' overview

the evil within tango gameworks ranking ratings

Tango Gameworks has roots that weave deeply into the Japanese gaming scene. The all-star team is based in Tokyo and is led by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. In 2004, Mikami left publisher Capcom because he wanted to move away from creating horror titles. PlatinumGames offered the creative freedom for Mikami to direct crazy beat-'em-up God Hand, the all-time great action game Vanquish, and help Grasshopper Manufacture make Shadows of the Damned. That is to say, Mikami had firmly cemented himself as a fantastic creator, so the next chapter was to create a game studio that offered him the liberty to do exactly what he wanted. So, Tango was born in 2010.

A failed Dune game almost immediately caused financial issues for Tango, which gave Zenimax Media the opportunity to sweep up the talented group. Mikami went with Zenimax Media, the director said to gamesindustry.biz, because it "supports the development of blockbuster games and works to make it a collaborative effort." Along came the talent with the acquisition: Shigenori Nishikawa (director, MadWorld), Naoki Katakai (artist, Capcom), Shinichiro Ishikawa (programmer, Capcom), and Masafumi Takada (composer, Grasshopper Manufacture). Work began on a AAA project with around 100 members of staff, under the Bethesda Softworks label and sporting a new name: Tango Gameworks.

Vanquish ~ SuperHeroArt

Mikami went back to his survival-horror roots immediately and made The Evil Within, released in 2014. This is where all that industry history comes into play: all that talent, working towards Mikami's vision of creating a true survival-horror experience that wasn't weighed down by action — as he has claimed in an interview with The Telegraph. With that over-the-shoulder, third-person, scavenge and scrap gameplay woven into a bizarre and nightmarish story, the scariness of old Resident Evil titles returned. There were solid gunplay mechanics matched by some amazing environmental designs that oozed a freaky atmosphere. However, the game often struggled to untangle its own narrative threads, deliver varied combat scenarios, and create unique bosses. At launch, the game was also let down by technical issues. Amongst horror fans, though, this is regarded as a must-play cult classic.

The Evil Within proved to be Mikami's swansong as a director, but paved the way for the legendary creator to help produce and oversee the development of Tango Gameworks' next project — The Evil Within 2. Released in 2017, Tango Gameworks again produced a game with a fantastically disturbing vibe, with great action, and twisting, turning levels primed to make you break a cold sweat. Again, though, there were obvious technical issues and struggles with delivering on a more open world and well-rounded plot. The next project on the docket is the first-person psychic action-adventure GhostWire: Tokyo, a PlayStation 5 and PC only game set for 2022.

Tango Gameworks' previous project — The Evil Within 2

the evil within tango gameworks ranking ratings

The Evil Within 2 was a third-person survival horror and a sequel to The Evil Within. While it carried over the story, the crafting system, solid gunplay, and haunting environmental level design from the first game, the sequel opened up the world a bit more. It also leant heavily into the action-horror that producer Shinji Mikami had said he wanted to stay away from for the first game. When Lexley reviewed the game for TA, he gave the game an 8 and said that "The Evil Within 2 delivers an interesting and memorable horror experience that is challenging yet fair." The game reached a critical census, with the Metacritic rating at 82 and the User score at a very high 9.0.

Tango Gameworks' current projects — GhostWire: Tokyo

ghotwire tokyo

GhostWire: Tokyo is a first-person action-adventure with magic, kung-fu, and horror elements releasing in 2022. Bethesda Softworks agreed on a timed-exclusivity deal for the game prior to the Microsoft acquisition, so it is only releasing on PlayStation 5 and PC.

Tango Gameworks in 2021

tango gameworks the evil within

Tango Gameworks has been incredibly quiet in 2021, with most of the news regarding the team stemming from developments outside of the walls of the Tokyo office. With a timed-exclusivity deal in place for GhostWire: Tokyo, the Microsoft acquisition could have confused matters in 2020. Phil Spencer, in an interview with USGamer, confirmed that such deals would be honoured. Apparently, different projects are already in development at the studio and — according to Mikami in an interview with Phil Spencer at Tokyo Game Show (thanks, GamingBolt) — the team are trying to explore "different genres" than the survival-horror and action-adventure titles it has already produced. Indeed, The Evil Within 2 director, John Johanas, already seems to be busy making a new game (thanks, IGN).

How does Tango Gameworks rank?

Sitting down and deliberating over this is really tricky for us at TA, but we know that for many horror fans this will be an easier choice. We grade each studio independently of one another, so a C here is very specifically a C for Tango based upon our understanding of the team. That makes it a bit easier for us to suggest that The Evil Within series is good: but for our money, it didn't quite reach that magical peak of iconic survival horror. However, you would have to have your blinkers on not to recognise that the talent residing at Tango Gameworks is not only impressive, but has the potential for so much more. We are really excited to see how GhostWire: Tokyo shapes up to gauge how the team handle an action-orientated game. Even beyond that project, it feels like Tango Gameworks is about to shift form into an entirely different development beast by working on new genres. So, while we were erring over a C or B, we are going to plump for the lower grade for our (very) personal tiering of the team. It might sound silly given the veteran talent and well-regarded Evil Within games, but to us, the team still feels like an up-and-comer that hasn't quite matched its true potential. If it is any consolation to Tango fans, we do look at it as a glass-half-full situation — we are just so excited to see Tango Gameworks fully deliver on a truly great game and iron out a few of the kinks present in The Evil Within!

C Tier
C

An up-and-coming studio, or one struggling to realise its potential



Do you agree with our C grade for Tango Gameworks? Vote in the poll below to have your say, and who knows? Maybe you can change our minds with a wonderful comment!
How would you rank Tango Gameworks?
  • S — A world-class studio executing at an exceptional level
  • A — A studio with a fantastic portfolio, and the talent to impress further
  • B — A studio capable of greatness, but has more to offer
  • C — An up-and-coming studio, or one struggling to realise its potential
We've had 350 responses.
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Hey, I'm Kes! I'm a Staff Writer, and I've been here since 2021. What do I like? The Outer Wilds is top notch. The Witcher 3 blew my mind over the course of five years completing it. I want Burnout back — I really miss crunching mechanical wonders into walls to the sound of Guns N' Roses. Cool, now we are acquainted, I'll see you around.