If you haven’t been paying attention to DDJGames or to the front page of GameFAQs the past three months, I’ve been running a project to discern the Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs. I ran a poll across dozens of boards, collected over ten thousand votes from over two thousand users, and compiled them into one massive Top 100 list.
Many of the titles were unsurprising. Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are traditionally GameFAQs’ top three favorite games. The Legend of Zelda franchise, the Mario franchise, and the Final Fantasy franchise all were very well-represented. Other popular franchises, like Pokemon, The Elder Scrolls, and Metal Gear Solid, received their due as well. We also saw some of the well-recognized all-time classics games outside of major franchises, like Shadow of the Colossus and Deus Ex, as well as some more recent hits, like Dark Souls and The Last of Us.
However, with any list like this, there are bound to be snubs, oversights, and omissions. My Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs project is certainly no exception. There were several very significant snubs in this top 100, and to close the project, I wanted to take a list and run through what are in my opinion some of the most significant ones.
A few things to note before we get started: first, this is solely according to my opinion. The title should be read as “Top 10 Snubs in the (Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs)”, not “Top 10 Snubs in the (Top 100 Games of All Time), According to GameFAQs”. I’m not polling people for their ideas of the biggest snubs, but rather just basing this on my own analysis (although I did solicit opinions from the top 10 list board). If you disagree with my selections, by all means scroll down to the comments or come over to the Top 10 List board and give your opinion. Second, for the most part, these are not individual snubs, but rather general categories, groups, or sets of games that were left off. Third, I do not mean to suggest that any of these games should have made it, but rather simply that I find it somewhat surprising that they did not make it. Fourth and finally, this is strictly for games that did not appear in the top 100 at all, not for games that appeared but did not do as well as potentially expected.
#10: Arcade Games
A 2008 poll by the Davie-Brown Index found that Pac-Man is the most recognizable character in video game history. 94% of American consumers recognize Pac-Man, beating out Mario, Link, Sonic, and every other game character in the poll. To date, Pong also remains one of the most recognizable games in the history of the industry, in part due to its prominent place in pop culture. Space Invaders immediately rings a bell with gamers everywhere, and the story of Steve Jobs’ creation of Breakout has become relatively common knowledge. These were the games that formed the foundation of the video game industry, and yet, without exception not a single one of them is present in the GameFAQs top 100 as Tetris is the oldest game in the results.
These foundational arcade games are not merely absent from the top 100, but for the most part were not contenders at all. The original video game, Pong, received only four votes. Space Invaders performed worse with only one, the same as Galaxian and the original Donkey Kong. Pac-Man is only moderately more successful than these with six total votes. Other early hits like Breakout, Space Wars, Asteroids, and Frogger do not appear in the results at all. Only one game to appear in arcades at all is in the top 100, and that game – Street Fighter II – is almost certainly more recognized here for its release on the Super Nintendo. Although we are all very well aware of the early arcade games, so few of us would choose them as some of our personal top games that even combining the votes of every arcade exclusive would not be sufficient to thrust them into the top 100.
#9: PC Games
While arcades waned in popularity when consoles started to pick up, PC gaming has picked up over time. But despite this, the top 100 was surprisingly void of games that can’t be played on the TV in your living room. Although 29 PC games made the top 100, only eight of them were PC exclusives, putting it behind the SNES, PlayStation, and PlayStation 2 for number of exclusives despite a library spanning four times as many years. The ease of porting games to a PC platform accounts for the 29 PC games in the top 100, but few if any of us would initially think of the PC when reminded of games like BioShock, Dark Souls, and Mass Effect (although in fairness, several cross-platform releases are immediately recognized as PC games, such as The Elder Scrolls and Half-Life franchises).
We’ll actually see this trend away from PC games weaving its way through several of the other snubs on this list. The foundational first-person shooters that several were shocked to see absent were all PC games (at least initially). Online-exclusive games like MMORPGs and MOBAs are similarly more prominent on PCs, and only one in that category makes the list. Some of the most surprising franchises to remain completely absent from the top 100 are PC-exclusive series like Civilization, Age of Empires, and Ultima. And while it’s true that there are eight PC exclusives in the top 100, more than most other consoles, it is also worth noting that that number is inflated largely by the work of one company: Blizzard. Half the PC exclusives in the top 100 come from Blizzard. Maybe this site should changes its name to ConsoleFAQs after all.
#8: Online Games
In the past several years, the video game industry has gone through several major transitions, with one of them being the rising domination of online-exclusive games. Many games in the top 100, such as Starcraft, Halo, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, feature online play, but they are not exclusively online games. Many popular modern games, however, are exclusively constructed to be played online. This started with the MMORPG, of which World of Warcraft is the sole representative in the top 100. Prior to World of Warcraft, titles like Ultima Online, The Realm, EverQuest, and Neverwinter Nights were popular. The MMORPG genre has many other popular current installments as well, including free-to-play MMORPGs like MapleStory and RuneScape and more traditional models like Guild Wars. More recently, the online-exclusive area has expanded with the influx of other free-to-play genres, led by what is arguably the most popular game in the world today, League of Legends.
Despite the growing popularity of the genre, these online-exclusive games did not make much of a dent in the results outside World of Warcraft. League of Legends, despite its popularity, received only fifteen votes to tie it for 142nd place. The other early MMORPGs did not fare any better; EverQuest, Neverwinter Nights, and Ultima Online received seven votes combined. Modern MMORPGs MapleStory, Runescape, Final Fantasy XI, EverQuest, and Guild Wars combine for sixteen total votes. Personally, I find this particularly surprising given that the polling audience was a web site; it would be reasonable to infer that if one is polling an audience online, there may be a bias towards online games, but that does not seem to be the case.
#7: Sports and Racing
The general sports and racing genres are far and away two of the most popular genres in video game history. On the sports side of things, the FIFA soccer series is arguably the most popular series in the world internationally, and domestically the franchises surrounding the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and College Football are reliably sellers year-in and year-out. Although I wouldn’t call professional wrestling itself a sport, the games based around it are not that much different either. On the racing side, from simulation racing games like Need for Speed and Gran Turismo to lighter racing games like Mario Kart, racing games are massively popular. According to the Wikipedia list of best-selling franchises, sports and racing franchises make up eight of the twenty best-selling series of all time (if we include Wii Sports and WWE).
Sports and racing games have never been favorites around GameFAQs, though, so I would not have expected a major presence of the genres in the top 100; a total shut-out, however, certainly surprised me. There weren’t even any real near-misses in the results: the highest-finishing racing games were F-Zero GX and Mario Kart 64, each with fifteen votes. Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing comes next with fourteen votes, meaning that the highest-finishing racing games were barely able to surpass a troll pick in the final results. The highest-rated sports game were Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! And Tecmo Super Bowl, each also drawing fourteen votes. The Madden franchise received two votes altogether, the FIFA franchise was completely shut out, and only NHL ’94 received multiple votes among any release for any other sport. The highest-finishing Need for Speed game (Most Wanted) received three votes, while the original Gran Turismo received eight (the rest of the franchise received fourteen altogether).
#6: The Number 3
The top 100 certainly isn’t void of third installments; A Link to the Past, the fifth place finisher, is the third Legend of Zelda game, and we also saw the third Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario Bros., Super Smash Bros., Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Persona, Sonic, Warcraft, and Devil May Cry games. What is interesting, however, is the number of third installments that did not make the list despite a prior installment of that same franchise making the list. Among the franchises listed above, only Metal Gear Solid, Super Smash Bros., and Sonic the Hedgehog saw both the third installment and an earlier installment make the top 100. Several franchises, however, saw the third installment fail to repeat the performance of the earlier games. Halo 3 is conspicuously absent, despite the original two games coming in 54th and 81st. The original two Mass Effect games came in 22nd and 64th, but the third is not found. The same can be said for Uncharted 3 and BioShock Infinite, although only one of their franchises’ earlier games made the top 100.
BioShock Infinite fell only one vote short of the top 100. Mother 3, the sequel to the 41st place Earthbound, also fell only a vote shy, while Mass Effect 3 fell five votes shy. Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald, the third generation of Pokemon games, received 21 votes for 111th place, while Halo 3’s eighteen votes tie it with the highest-finishing Heroes of Might and Magic game, also a third installment. Uncharted 3 received a lowly five votes, while Arkham Origins, the third Batman: Arkham game, failed to receive a single vote despite Arkham City coming in 83rd. Resident Evil III, sandwiched in its franchise between the 16th and 64th place games, also received only five votes.
Previously, I referenced the sales figures of sports and racing games as justification for my surprise at the genres being shut out of the GameFAQs Top 100. However, the failure of best-sellers to make the top 100 is far from an isolated phenomenon. Going by the Wikipedia list of best-selling video games, only eleven of the top forty best-selling games of all time were present in the top 100. The most major offenders in that respect are some incredibly strong-selling franchises that failed to make a significant dent in the voting results. The casual power of the Wii console carried five Wii-branded games (Sports, Sports Resort, Fit, Fit Plus, and Play) into the top forty in sales, but altogether those games received a single vote. Although Mario was successful overall with eight games in the top 100, not one of his five top-selling games (Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart Wii, New Super Mario Bros., New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mario Kart DS) made the top 100. Call of Duty, however, is the most egregious offender here, as the franchise has seven of the top forty sellers but only one game in the GameFAQs Top 100.
Not only were so many of the best-sellers shut out of the top 100, but many of them did not even come close. Among the six best-selling Mario games outside the top 100, the closest to the top is the original game with only fourteen votes. The franchise’s third-best selling game, New Super Mario Bros., failed to receive a single vote. Outside of the original Modern Warfare at 93rd, the entire rest of the Call of Duty franchise received 24 votes, two fewer than Modern Warfare alone. The two best-selling Grand Theft Auto games outside the top 100 received 26 votes combined.
#4: Foundational First-Person Shooters
Every genre has a set of games that establish the gameplay and conventions for the genre going forward. First-person shooters are somewhat unique in that a relatively small number of early first-person shooters both established those conventions and popularized the genre. While the early days of RPGs drew from several different sources and styles, the early days of the first-person shooter are largely defined three franchises, all developed by one company: Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake. Id Software was responsible for all of these releases, and if you’d like to hear more about them, I’d suggest reading my own Top 10 Games Developed by Id Software. Despite the widespread success of these foundational games, however, not a single one appears in the GameFAQs Top 100.
The highest-finisher was a near-miss, as the original Doom received 23 votes, falling only one short of the top 100 (including a vote for The Ultimate Doom). Its own direct sequel received twelve votes, but none of the franchise’s other installments or spin-offs received a vote. Interestingly, no voter voted for both Doom and Doom II, suggesting (as Spoofer realized) that the two games may have split the franchise’s vote. Wolfenstein 3D, the precursor to Doom and the game credited with inventing the genre, is a sadder case; it received only a single vote. The three quake games received eight votes altogether, led by four votes for Quake III Arena. Despite the popularity of the engine underlying Quake, no games using the engine made the top 100 either (as far as I know). The eleven first-person shooters that made the top 100 owe a debt of gratitude to Id Software and these foundational shooters, despite their omission from the final results.
#3: Cult Classics
GameFAQs is a site for video game lovers. To that end, it’s not at all surprising that best-sellers like Call of Duty and the Wii Sports games don’t seem to register in the collective GameFAQs conscience. Instead, we’re more likely to appreciate the games that don’t get a lot of fanfare, but really resonate with those of us that really appreciate the design and development of games. Toward that end, among the most surprising snubs to me are some of the cult classics, the underrated hits, the sleepers that are often brought up in forum discussions about games that did not get the attention they deserved. Oftentimes, these are indie hits, low-budget releases, or games that were simply ahead of their time. I expected these to win with the GameFAQs audience, but many of the games in this grouping I expected to see were conspicuously absent.
The most significant among these is Psychonauts, in my opinion the most oft-cited example of an underrated game besides Majora’s Mask (which, as the Top 100 suggested, may not be underrated after all). Psychonauts earned only twelve votes to finish in a tie for distant 166th place. While Shadow of the Colossus registered at 31st, its spiritual predecessor Ico often gets just as much love in discussions, yet it received only eleven votes for 180th place. For a more recent example of this phenomenon, the recent hit Journey received only thirteen votes, placing it in 161st place in a tie with troll ballots for Superman 64. In fact, the highest-finishing cult classic in the entire project is likely Mother 3, missing the top 100 by a single vote. Two other notable cult hits, Grim Fandango and Conker’s Bad Fur Day, also received eleven votes each, tying them with relative unknowns like Ys: Memories of Celceta and Bravely Default.
#2: Major Franchises
Even more surprising than the absence of certain individual games, however, is the absence of certain entire franchises. With 100 games in the top 100, most notable franchises got their representation in, from Kingdom Hearts to Devil May Cry to Silent Hill. However, certain franchises are astonishingly absent, including some that I might have anticipated seeing in the upper echelons of the final results. For me, leading in this category is one of the greatest franchises of all time, Civilization. This, of course, ties back to the console focus mentioned previously, but it deserves closer attention: despite providing some of the best and most addictive games of all time, no Civilization game received more than sixteen votes. The latest two installments received sixteen votes each, while the previous three combined for fourteen.
Civilization is the most notable example, but there are several more. Assassin’s Creed’s highest finisher was II with 21 votes. God of War II was its franchise’s most successful game with a mere six votes. Gears of War was only moderately more successful as its third installment earned eight votes. Doom was conspicuously absent, as mentioned previously, as was Age of Empires and Phantasy Star. One could make a case for other absent franchises deserving more attention as well, including PC hit Heroes of Might and Magic (led by III with eighteen votes), Disgaea (led by Hour of Darkness with seventeen votes), and the original Mega Man franchise (led by 2 and 3 with sixteen votes each). Mario Kart, too, could have been expected to finish higher than Mario Kart 64’s fifteen-vote showing, as could Kirby (fourteen votes for Super Star), Shenmue (fourteen votes for II), SoulCalibur (twelve votes for II), Star Fox (twelve votes for 64), and Xenosaga (eleven votes for III).
#1: Franchise Starters
But while the absence of those major franchises is notable, my personal greatest surprise is at the absence of the initial installments of some of the best and most popular franchises in the results. The three most obvious examples of this are the three top franchises in the top 100: Mario, Final Fantasy, and The Legend of Zelda. Each of these franchises had initial installments that were loved and acclaimed at the time of release, but each franchise’s initial installment failed to make the top 100. The original Legend of Zelda leads the way with 21 votes, narrowly missing the top 100, while the original Super Mario Bros. – arguably the most recognizable game of all time – finishes with only fourteen. The original Final Fantasy is further behind with eight. Other prominent franchises similarly see their initial release fail to contest for a slot, such as sixteen votes for the original Super Smash Bros., ten for the original Resident Evil, five for the original Sonic the Hedgehog, and three for the original Metroid.
I would venture to guess that these results tell us something about what voters were thinking as they cast their votes. When asked to choose your top five games, your mind does not go to the five games you think are most historically important or most universally acclaimed, but rather to the games that you, personally, most enjoyed. No one doubts the historical importance of Super Mario Bros., but would many of us claim it is one of our personal top games compared to the later games in the series? This approach, this methodology, captures individuals’ personal favorite games rather than general objective consensus, and it is for that reason that these results give us something very interesting to analyze compared to aggregated ratings or review scores.
With thousands of games released in video game history, it is no surprise that a list of the top 100 according to any methodology is going to have some notable snubs. What games do you think belonged in the top 100? Drop by the comments below or the Top 10 list board and make the case for your favorite games.