What are the top games of all time? Different projects have taken different routes to try to answer this simple question. Some compare critics’ review scores, leading to GameRankings.com’s conclusion that Super Mario Galaxy deserves the title of top game of all time. Others look at sales figures, suggesting that perhaps Tetris should wear the crown. Still others discern an answer through contests and competitions; GameFAQs’ Best. Game. Ever. contests in 2004 and 2009, for instance, gave the prize to Final Fantasy VII and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, respectively.
Each of these methodologies has its flaws, of course. After all, there is no objective way to measure greatness; greatness is in the eye of the beholder. Therefore, perhaps the best way to get a gauge for the greatest games is to ask the beholders themselves. Why not run a poll among a large body of people asking a simple question: what are, in your opinion, the top games of all time?
This list project asked the users of GameFAQs across dozens of boards to answer that simple question. Name your top five games of all time. No guidance was given as to the definition of ‘top’ in this context; its meaning is different to every user, and the objective of this series is to capture that diversity of meaning. Then, the results of this poll were compiled and tallied to provide a list of the Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs.
I’ve grouped the Top 100 games into a series of ten Top 10 lists to count down the results. Each week, we’ll count down ten more, inching closer and closer to the top ten. Along the way, I’ll attempt to liven up the results with some interesting charts and fact. Interested in knowing more? Over on the Top 10 List board, I’ll be responding to questions for each list and dropping additional interesting little tidbits. I’ll also be posting the raw voting results at the conclusion of this series for others to analyze and parse at will.
This week, we’ll be looking at games #10 through #1.
#10: 10th: Final Fantasy X (PS2) (119 votes)
If you’ve been paying attention to the charts at the conclusion of each list, you know what to expect from the final ten: a steady diet of Square and Nintendo. The two companies combine to develop nine of the top ten games, starting with the fifth Final Fantasy game in the top 100. Final Fantasy X did for the PlayStation 2 what Final Fantasy VII did for the PlayStation one; although the hardware jump here wasn’t as notable as the leap from 2D to 3D, Final Fantasy X nonetheless demonstrated the kind of beautiful, immersive experience that could be created in the new generation. Taking advantage of the new hardware, Final Fantasy X started to play around with some of the traditional mechanics of the Japanese RPG, laying the groundwork for the radical reinventions of later Final Fantasy games. The game was universally acclaimed, sold spectacularly, and became the first Final Fantasy game to receive a direct sequel in Final Fantasy X-2.
The GameFAQs Contests board was the biggest supporter of Final Fantasy X in the voting, with eighteen votes making up 15% of the games total and doubling the board’s vote share. The game was also the #1 selection of the PlayStation 2 board with eleven votes, beating out Metal Gear Solid 3 and Final Fantasy XII (Final Fantasy XII, for the curious, finished with twenty votes overall, putting it in 117th place). 29% of voters from the PlayStation 2 board chose Final Fantasy X as one of their selections. Beyond those two boards, the game received eleven votes from Faceball and seven from the United Kingdom board. Five votes from the That’s What She Said board made it that private board’s fifth-favorite game, tied with Fallout 3 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. And speaking of Super Smash Bros. Melee…
#9: 9th: Super Smash Bros. Melee (GC) (128 votes)
For me, the biggest surprise in the top 10 is the #9 entry, Super Smash Bros. Melee. The follow-up to the smash (no pun intended) hit Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, Super Smash Bros. Melee was more than just a successful follow-up to a hit game from the previous generation. For several years, fighting games had experienced a bit of a downturn, but like Super Mario 64 did for platformers, Super Smash Bros. Melee demonstrated how the genre could really succeed in the 3D medium even while remaining, fundamentally, a 2D game. Where the previous game was fun and entertaining, Melee was polished, balanced, and deliberate, in addition to remaining fun and entertaining. The game preserved Nintendo’s dominance of the same-room multiplayer experience, and paid remarkable attention to everything from the music to the level design. Super Smash Bros. Melee represented the perfect combination of game design and nostalgic fan service.
Unsurprisingly, Super Smash Bros. Melee was the top game on the GameCube board (tied with Resident Evil 4), but that only represented six of its votes. Nineteen votes came from the GameFAQs Contests board, tying it with Persona 4 for the board’s fourth-favorite game and ranking behind only the overall top three. Between those two boards, its three biggest supporters were the Faceball board with thirteen votes, Current Events with seven votes, and Poll of the Day with seven votes. Its sequel, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, finished with 44 votes for 52nd place, while the original Super Smash Bros. received only sixteen votes to tie for 134th place.
#8: 8th: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) (132 votes)
In my opinion, the single greatest snub of the top 100 is the original Super Mario Bros. Those who realized that only one Mario would be in the top ten could have found themselves legitimately confused as to whether it would be the original or Super Mario Bros. 3, but ultimately there was no contest. Released in the United States in 1990, Super Mario Bros. 3 arguably revolutionized the platformer genre just as much as the original, even though the original borderline created the genre. Super Mario Bros. 3 marked the inception of many elements that would go on to become mainstays both in the Mario series and in platformers in general, such as the world map. The graphics marked a massive leap forward even while remaining on the same system. The game went on to become one of the most highly-rated games of all time and is frequently named the best game ever.
22 votes from the Faceball board were enough to make Super Mario Bros. 3 the board’s fourth favorite game, barely losing to Metroid Prime for the third spot. The game was also the top selection from the independent Cosmic Causeway board with seven votes from the board’s thirteen voters. It also ranked fourth on the Top 10 Lists board (six votes), second on the Central & South America board (four votes), third on WOT (four votes), third on Classic Gaming (four votes), tied for first on Random Insanity (three votes), and first on the NES board (three votes). Total, the game received votes from 56 different boards. And the original Super Mario Bros.? Fourteen votes, 152nd place, tied with Big Rigs. Ouch.
#7: 7th: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (N64) (136 votes)
In almost every list or discussion I have seen of underrated games, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is usually at or near the top. Based on the results of this poll, “underrated” seems to be the wrong word. The follow-up to the legendary Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask had enormous shoes to fill, and arguably never stood a chance when compared to the game that defined 3D adventure games. On its own, however, Majora’s Mask was a spectacularly designed game. It sported a unique game mechanic, a three-day repeating cycle, that differentiated it enormously both from its predecessor and the entire rest of the franchise. The game also featured darker tones and themes than the rest of the series, and according to most critics, marked a significant improvement. The passage of time has worked both for and against the game: it has deeply appreciated, as evidenced by its victory in 2010’s “Game of the Decade” contest, but often forgotten, as evidenced by a dismal 47th in 2005’s “Top 100 Games” contest.
Majora’s Mask’s biggest booster in the voting was Faceball, but it contributed a relatively low thirteen votes; by comparison, every other game in the top 10 received at least eighteen votes from its biggest supporter. Instead, Majora’s Mask strives to these heights through strong support across a few boards and sufficient appeal across many. 45 different boards cast a vote for the game, with eleven casting seven or more. Those eleven included Working Title (eight votes from seventeen users), Nonstop Gaming General (eight votes from 43 users), Zelda Games Social (six votes from sixteen users), and WOT (five votes from 40 users), making it the top game for each of those four boards.
#6: 6th place: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2) (138 votes)
The last of Metal Gear Solid’s three games in the top 100 is Metal Gear Solid 3, released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2. The game marked arguably a high point for the franchise as the subsequent games have not yet captured quite the same level of acclaim as the first three. Metal Gear Solid 3 took a big gamble for the franchise in opting for a jungle setting, marking a massive contrast from the urban and industrial settings of the earlier games. The gamble paid off, however, as critics praised the game’s willingness to take risks and its ability to execute the spirit of the franchise in a very different setting. By all accounts, Metal Gear Solid 3 was the best release in the series, marking a high point in storytelling, game design, and cinematic quality.
The top four voters for Metal Gear Solid 3 were also four of the top five most active boards overall: Faceball, Current Events, the United Kingdom board, and GameFAQs Contests. Each also placed double-digit votes for Metal Gear Solid 3 with eighteen, sixteen, twelve, and ten respectively. Sixteen votes from Current Events made it the board’s top overall game, as well as the third-favorite for the United Kingdom board. After those four, the next biggest supporter of the game was its own console’s board; nine votes came from the PlayStation 2 board, making it the board’s second-favorite game after Final Fantasy X. It also ranked fourth on the private board That’s What She Said with six votes and first on the independent board Relax with four votes. The rest of the Metal Gear Solid franchise combines for 33 votes, led by sixteen for Metal Gear Solid 4.
#5: 5th: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES) (149 votes)
We’re at the top five, and for those following along at home, we still have two Legend of Zelda games and two Final Fantasy games to cover. The #5 game is The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, the third game in the Legend of Zelda franchise and the first on the SNES. To a large extent, A Link to the Past is the origin of many of the most recognized Legend of Zelda tropes, such as the Master Sword, the Hookshot, and the spin attack, as well as the separate heart containers. The game also put the franchise on the map; the original was successful, but Link to the Past was the full actualization of the ideas proposed by the original. The positive reception led to the game receiving multiple rereleases, first on the Game Boy Advance and later on the Virtual Console, as well as a direct sequel, A Link Between Worlds, released in 2013.
A Link to the Past was the top overall game for multiple boards, most notably the Life, the Universe, and Everything board with fifteen votes. It also ranked highly on Faceball (sixth, nineteen votes), Classic Gaming (second, six votes), Poll of the Day (seventh, five votes), Xbox One (third, four votes), and Cosmic Causeway (second, five votes). GameFAQs Contests also cast ten votes for the game, although that put it much further down the board’s ranking. A total of 55 different boards cast at least one vote for the game to provide its 149 total votes. This is not the last Legend of Zelda game we’ll see, but the rest of the Legend of Zelda franchise drew 49 total votes, led by the original Legend of Zelda with 21 votes for 111th place.
#4: 4th: Final Fantasy VI (SNES) (160 votes)
Final Fantasy VII receives much of the praise as Square’s best RPG, but it might have never existed in such a strong form without Final Fantasy VI testing out many of its ideas. Initially released as Final Fantasy III in the United States, Final Fantasy VI was among the first games to demonstrate the depth of narrative quality possible in the gaming medium. The cast of characters remains one of the best in gaming history, a diverse and complex set of personalities somehow beautifully personified despite the technical limitations of the time. The plot broke every convention of the RPG genre, from the nature of the villain to the dynamic world map. In every way, Final Fantasy VI set the stage for Final Fantasy VII.
I feared that Final Fantasy VI would be problematic in the voting given that it was originally released as Final Fantasy III in the United States; fortunately, only four votes named ‘Final Fantasy III’, making it insignificant to the results. Final Fantasy VI was the top overall game for several smaller boards (Anime and Manga, Mexico, the Final Fantasy XII social board, and Dice de Chocobo), but unlike many of the top 10 games it did not win any major boards on its own. Instead, it reaches this high on the strength of strong support from several boards, including 21 votes from Faceball (fifth place on the board) and fifteen from GameFAQs Contests (ninth place on the board). The PC, Poll of the Day, Life, the Universe, and Everything, Current Events, and Top 10 Lists board each cast over six votes for the game as well, and it additionally ranked second on Cosmic Causeway with five votes. Even still, it remains in Final Fantasy VII’s shadow in recognizability, and speaking of which…
#3: 3rd: Final Fantasy VII (PS) (182 votes)
The highest-ranked Final Fantasy game of all time should come as no surprise; in fact, the only surprise surrounding Final Fantasy VII may be that it finished as low as 3rd. The game is quite often named as the best game of all time, such as in the original Best. Game. Ever. GameFAQs contest. Final Fantasy VII did for RPGs what Super Mario 64 did for platformers by demonstrating precisely how the new medium could enhance the old genre. The game was more than just a technological step forward, however; everything from the characters to the gameplay mechanics to the storyline to the game world to the soundtrack resonated with fans, and every individual element is commonly praised and emulated. The success of the game eventually led to a variety of spin-offs, and a full HD remake of the game remains one of the most hotly-anticipated potential developments in the entire gaming industry.
Final Fantasy VII ranked highly on big boards and small boards alike. Among the big boards, it performed well on GameFAQs Contests (24 votes, second place), the United Kingdom board (nineteen votes, first place), Current Events (twelve votes, second place), the Top 10 Lists board (ten votes, first place), and its console’s board (ten votes, first place). It was also the top overall game for the Final Fantasy IX social board and the First Samurai independent board, although surprisingly it did not receive a single vote on its own dedicated social board (where only three users voted). Overall, seven Final Fantasy games made the top 100, but several others received votes; altogether, the Final Fantasy series received 857 votes, including 80 for games that did not make the top 100 (led by Final Fantasy XII with twenty and the original Final Fantasy with eight).
#2: 2nd: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) (214 votes)
As voting progressed, it became immediately obvious that the race for #1 was a two-game race; the top two traded spots several times throughout voting, but when the dust settled, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time sat in second place, beating Final Fantasy VII by 32 votes but missing the top spot by three. The Legend of Zelda is likely the most common pick for greatest game of all time, ranking at the top of nearly every compilation of review ratings and winning more awards and accolades than a James Cameron movie. It even holds the world record for highest-rated game ever. Rereleases for the GameCube, the Virtual Console, and the 3DS have demonstrated just how timeless the game remains. The only surprising element about Ocarina of Time’s placement at second place overall is that it falls in second place rather than first.
Ocarina of Time performed remarkably well across all the boards in the voting, drawing at least one vote from 66 different boards. It placed first overall on Faceball (34 votes), That’s What She Said (eleven votes), the Nintendo 64 board (five votes), and the Xbox One board (five votes), and performed well on most of the busiest boards well. It came up second on GameFAQs Contests with 23 votes (behind Final Fantasy VII and our first-place game), fifth on the United Kingdom board with ten votes, and third on Nonstop Gaming General with five votes. During the fifteen days of voting, Ocarina of Time held first place overall for twelve days, but the lead slipped away on that final day. Tied for first going into the final day of voting, Ocarina of Time drew ten votes in the last day, while the other game drew thirteen…
#1: 1st: Chrono Trigger (SNES) (217 votes)
The top game is a Square game, but it is not a Final Fantasy. It was originally for a Nintendo console, but it isn’t a Legend of Zelda or Mario. In this iteration of a poll to determine the top game ever made, the winner is Chrono Trigger, beating Ocarina of Time by three votes on the final day of voting. Released in 1995, Chrono Trigger did not redefine the Japanese RPG genre: Final Fantasy VI had already done that. It did not mark a major transition to a new medium. It did not spawn a dozen sequels, a movie, a television series, or a breakfast cereal. Instead, Chrono Trigger was simply a damn good game developed by a dream team of developers. It combined the producer of Final Fantasy, the director of Dragon Quest, the artist behind Dragon Ball, and a veritable all-star team of other artists and developers that would go on to make an indelible mark on the industry both with Chrono Trigger and beyond.
Chrono Trigger received an enormous number of votes from the Faceball and GameFAQs Contests boards. If only the votes from those two boards were counted, Chrono Trigger would still have placed in the top 40; if from only one board, it would still land in the top 80. 31 votes from Faceball placed it only behind Ocarina of Time, and 30 votes from GameFAQs Contests made it that board’s top game overall. No other board placed more than ten votes for the game, with 59 boards supplying the remaining 156 votes. Despite this, it still took top honors on Classic Gaming, The Couch, the Central & South America board, the Square Enix board, and the SNES board. It also placed high on Life, the Universe, and Everything (tied for second), the Top 10 List board (second), That’s What She Said (second), Working Title (second), Anime and Manga (tied for third), Current Events (tied for fourth), and Cosmic Causeway (tied for fourth).
DDJ’s Brief Analysis: While Sony owned the games from #11 to #20, Nintendo is the most major player in the top ten. Seven of the top ten came on Nintendo consoles, and all are console exclusives. For developers, the top ten is all about Nintendo and Square: the two combine for eight of the top ten, which grows to nine when you consider that HAL Laboratory, the developer of Super Smash Bros. Melee, is a Nintendo subsidiary. Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 3 is the lone exception to this dominance at the top. What is especially remarkable here is that because voters were limited to five total votes, individuals who were heavily biased toward Nintendo or Square could only have so much impact; these results likely come from a much closer resonance with popular opinion than a cohesive minority. It is worth noting, however, that with 2,148 total voters, only Chrono Trigger tops 10% of all voters.
Chart of the Week: Games in the Top 100.
This week, to go along with the final list in the series, I present a visual depiction of the GameFAQs Top 100. You already know all of the numbers here, but this gives you a visual depiction of the voting distribution. In my opinion, the most interesting element of this chart are the inflection points, the points where a significant drop marked the difference between one point and the next. The top two finishers, Chrono Trigger and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, were far and away the top two, beating the third-place finisher, Final Fantasy VII, but 30 votes. Final Fantasy VII is itself on a bit of an island, far behind the top two but far ahead the third-place Final Fantasy VI, itself somewhat isolated. From there, the next significant drop-off is between 9th and 10th, with Super Smash Bros. Melee defeating Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy Tactics by a fair margin. The most significant drop-off in the entire result summary, however, occurs between 20th and 21st place. Super Metroid beats Super Mario 64 by 17 votes, a margin not otherwise seen until the top four. After that, the results are significantly more muddled, with the only significant drops of three votes or more occurring between #37 and #38, #50 and #51, and #51 and #52. No ties are observed until fairly far down in the list (a three-way tie for 22nd), but they become commonplace by the end of the list (ties for 83rd, 85th, 89th, 92nd, 96th, and 98th, each separated by only a single vote).
Bonus Chart: Chrono Trigger vs. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
To go along with the final list in this series, here’s a bonus chart: the cumulative and day-by-day votes of Chrono Trigger and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The two staged an impressive back-and-forth battle: aside from the first day, neither game ever had more than a five-vote lead over the other. Ocarina of Time was the leader out of the gate, but Chrono Trigger gradually lowered the gap, taking the lead on January 31st. Ocarina of Time retook the lead two days later and held it until the two games tied on February 7th, and Chrono Trigger brought home the win with a 3-vote advantage on February 8th, the last day of voting.
Factoid of the Week: The top 10 of this top 100 is actually very similar to the top 10 from 2005’s GameFAQs contest. Seven of the games are the same, with Metal Gear Solid 3, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy X replacing GoldenEye 007, Metal Gear Solid, and Halo. Interestingly, all three of these additions came out before 2005 as well. In 2005’s contest, these three games ranked 21st, 46th, and 12th respectively. Amongst those seven games, the order is flipped at the top: 2005’s list picked Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time, and Chrono Trigger, while this list reverses that order. Final Fantasy VI is the big mover up to fourth, while two of the new inclusions drop Super Mario Bros. 3 from fifth to eighth.
Raw Data: Lots of people have expressed interest in getting the raw data from this process and analyzing it themselves. So, I’ve decided to make it available. You can find the raw data here.
That marks the end of my unofficial GameFAQs Top 100 list series. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting it together, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. More importantly, I hope you’ll keep an eye out next February when I’m planning to run the follow-up: the Top 100 Game Characters of All Time, According to GameFAQs. See you then!
Methodology: From January 25th to January 26th, voting topics were posted on 237 different boards. The majority of these boards had no topicality; however, some boards corresponded to certain systems, genres, or companies. On these boards, users were asked to only vote for games that fit the board’s topic and were linked to an alternate board to vote for games that did not fit that board’s topic. However, votes on those boards that did not match the board’s topic were not excluded. These topics remained open until February 8th. Each topic asked users to vote for their five top games of all time using a structured form. Voters were only permitted to vote for five games total. Users who attempted to vote for more than five games were PMed three times during the voting period to change their vote to only include votes for five games. Each day throughout the project, votes were compiled, and an update on the progress was posted on DDJGames.com. Vote compilation involved multiple routines, including downloading the latest votes, filtering out users who had voted more than five times, changing the names of games to a single accepted name, and filtering out multiple votes for the same game from the same user. All topics were kept alive for the duration of the two weeks, and topics on busier boards were bumped back to the front page regularly. At the conclusion of the voting period, all votes were compiled one final time, and the games were ranked by the total number of votes received. Ties were broken arbitrarily. For the purpose of console listings, games are listed by any consoles on which they were released within one year of their original North American release date; any subsequent console releases are treated separately.