Although many people have recently started hearing of WayForward thanks to games like Contra 4 and Aliens Infestation, the company was actually founded in 1990, with the primary goal of developing games for the Super Nintendo and Genesis. Soon after starting the company, they began to branch out into educational games for the PC as well. This side of their business quickly took off, and soon they had signed a deal with American Education Publishing to produce more of these games, largely focusing on licensed properties that children would recognize. The company was recognized with awards for innovation at CES, and because of this success they were able to continue down the same path, focusing on properties such as The Muppets for their educational games and more mature properties such as The Scorpion King for their core games.
By hiring their services out to other publishers and developers, WayForward were able to keep up a steady workflow even when they didn't have any projects that they were working on internally. Finally, in 2002, WayForward released their own IP for the Game Boy Color called Shantae. The platformer received all round critical acclaim but the Game Boy Color was at the end of its life and was being replaced at stores in favor of the newer Game Boy Advance, which resulted in poor sales for the title. WayForward continued to work on licensed games for the following few years, using the income generated to compensate for the lack of consumer interest in Shantae.
Years later, when Nintendo announced their new DS handheld, WayForward began to think about revisiting Shantae. They created numerous assets for the game, but couldn't secure a publisher. All of the assets created for the new game were rendered useless; they can often be seen in the test builds of many of WayForward's other games from the time, used as placeholder art until the final artwork is done. Again, recuperating from the rejection of their IP, the company continued to take on licensed titles. THQ contacted them in 2004 to make a chat-based game for the DS called Ping Pals, which would function much like the DS's built-in Pictochat but with new features and avatars. WayForward accepted, if only to aquire some DS dev kits, and rushed the "game" out to a harsh critical reception.
After this initial blunder, WayForward went on to create some surprisingly well-received licensed games. They first developed and produced Justice League Heroes: The Flash for the GBA in 2006 as the platform began to die out. The game was met with mostly positive reviews. Following that came Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck for the DS, which was met with average review scores. Their big break came in the form of Contra 4 for the DS, though. Seeing the studio's success on handheld platforms, Konami hired them to create a new 2D Contra game for Nintendo's successful new platform. Upon its release it 2007, Contra 4 was showered with positive reviews and WayForward was thrust into the spotlight.
Since then, they've become famous amongst fans of 2D gaming, particularly platformers, for their gorgeous 2D animations and smooth gameplay. They continued to take on licensed properties, developing handheld versions of games such as Where The Wild Things Are and Batman: The Brave And The Bold, but their work began to take on a more consistant level of quality. WayForward games are almost exclusively in 2D, and are renowned for their crisp and fluid animations. In 2009 they were hired to revamp A Boy and His Blob, which was then released for the Nintendo Wii. The game was praised for its fantastic artwork, reminiscent of a weekend cartoon. Giant Bomb's Ryan Davis said that it was 'a charming all-ages affair that one ups the game it's based on in virtually every conceivable way.' In his review and awarded it 4/5 stars.
Since then, they've developed Bloodrayne Betrayal for XBLA and PSN, and Aliens Infestation for the DS. The former, like A Boy and His Blob, garnered much of its attention for its stunning 2D graphics, while the latter, still impressive looking on the DS, has received praised for its resemblance to Nintendo's beloved Metroid franchise, as well as its stringent use of lives. Between Bloodrayne, Contra 4, and Aliens Infestation, many have said WayForward has begun to garner a reputation for crafting difficult games in the style of older NES or SNES games. This would be a fair comparison, as clearly the company has a certain fondness for the era in which they started working with games.
Thanks to the advent of downloadable games, and marketplaces such as Nintendo's DSiWare, WayForward was finally able to give their original IP Shantae new life. In 2010, WayForward finally released the Shantae game they had been dreaming of making since the DS was announced: Shantae: Risky's Revenge. The low cost of publishing on DSiWare allowed the company to put the game out without worrying about low sales figures or unreceptive publishers. Like it predecessor, the game was released to widespread critical acclaim, continuing the developer's trend of highly regarded platformers. In 2011, the company later went on to release Shantae: Risky's Revenge on the iOS market. The interface and controls were updated to work better with apple devices.
In March 2012, Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time, announced he would be working with WayForward to develop a Nintendo DS game based on the show.