Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs: #30 to #21

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 #30 through #21.

#10: 30th: Fallout 3 (PS3, X360, PC) (68 votes)

Despite their success in developing the original two Fallout games, Black Isle Studios was closed down in 2003 when Interplay Entertainment faced bankruptcy. As part of a plan to pay the company’s debts, Interplay sold the rights to develop Fallout 3 to Bethesda, despite Black Isle Studios having already begun work (which would go on to become the foundation of Fallout: New Vegas). Although many franchises fail when they switch developers, Fallout 3 landed in the lands of a seasoned maker of western RPGs; Bethesda had previously made the Elder Scrolls series, which we have seen throughout the top 100. Their experience with the genre paid off, and Fallout 3 became one of the most popular games of the seventh console generation. In size and scope, the game was rivaled at the time only by Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls properties. That size extended not just to the geography of the game, but also into its depth, as the dynamic conversations and quests helped make the world one of gaming’s deepest.

Of Fallout 3’s 68 votes, the biggest portion came from the United Kingdom board: the game drew ten votes from the board, tripling the board’s overall vote share. Those ten votes were enough to tie it as the board’s fifth-favorite game. The game also drew significant support from its consoles’ boards, with fifteen votes coming from the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC boards put together. The independent board Relax also devoted a surprising amount of support to the game; five votes came from Relax from the board’s fourteen total voters, making it the board’s favorite game. Overall, 27 boards voted for Fallout 3 (including those mentioned here), with eleven casting more than one vote in its favor.

#9: 29th: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC, XBOX) (70 votes)

Staying with Bethesda, 2002’s The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind was the game that largely put Bethesda on the map as one of the leading developers of western RPGs. Although the franchise had two previous installments, Daggerfall and Arena, Morrowind was the series’ and company’s breakout hit. At the time of release, the game was entirely unparalleled in terms of scope, visual appeal, and openness. Few games before it had attempted to give players such a vast game world in which to play, and fewer still attempted to give the player completely free-reign to explore it at will. The character equipment system mirrored that freedom, providing for an abundance of customization options and play styles. The openness and vastness of the game is speculated by some to be the forerunner to the modern MMORPG, as most hit MMORPGs are similar in many ways. That potential development makes it ironic that it took over ten years before The Elder Scrolls received a MMORPG of its own.

Although it was released for the Xbox only a month after its PC release, The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind is largely remembered as a PC game, and that is reflected in the voting: fourteen of the game’s votes came from the PC board, comprising 20% of its total and tripling the PC board’s overall vote proportion. Those fourteen votes were enough to make it the PC board’s fifth-favorite game. Following that major chunk, the remaining votes for Morrowind were divided amongst several different boards. Curent Events led the way with six votes, followed by Life, the Universe, and Everything with four. Six different boards each cast three votes for the game, and the remaining 28 votes came from 22 different boards.

#8: 28th: Pokemon Gold Version (GBC) (71 votes)

We’ve already talked about two Pokemon games in the top 100, but the third might come as something of a surprise. Although the presence of Pokemon GSC in the top 100 is not shocking, I would not have predicted that it would beat out the original game in the franchise. Released in the United States in 2000 and marketed for the Game Boy Color, Pokemon Gold and Silver were the follow-ups to the hit Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow; an expanded version, Pokemon Crystal, followed later. Pokemon GSC was marvelously well-received, and one could argue that it set Pokemon up as a dominant video game franchise rather than just a one-hit wonder.

Pokemon GSC’s high ranking in this list is due in part to my arguably controversial decision to include the remakes, HeartGold and SoulSilver, in the tally, as well as Pokemon Crystal. Of Pokemon GSC’s 71 votes, 25 were specifically for one of the remakes, and additional thirteen were specifically for Pokemon Crystal. This follows from my general approach thusfar of including remakes, ports, and rereleases all in one voting tally, but few remakes were as successful as HeartGold and SoulSilver. Still, even without these inclusions, Pokemon GSC would still be solidly in the top 100. Its biggest supporter was the GameFAQs Contests board, casting twelve votes in the game’s favor and doubling the board’s vote proportion. The game received six votes from the Warflame board, tying it for the board’s third-favorite game (with Pokemon XY). Aside from seven votes from Current Events and five from Faceball, no other board cast more than three votes for the game as the remaining 41 votes came from 32 different boards.

#7: 27th: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC, XBOX) (72 votes)

Long before there was Mass Effect, BioWare made its name known with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Like BioWare’s previous hit Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic was rooted in a tabletop role-playing game developed by Wizards of the Coast, the masterminds behind Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. Star Wars had long been somewhat immune to the tendency of movie franchises to have terrible games, but Knights of the Old Republic was in a league of its own. The game was an enormous success both critically and commercially, sweeping many Game of the Year awards for both computers and consoles. A sequel followed a year later, developed instead by Obsidian Entertainment (founded from the remnants of Black Isle Studios), but was not as well-received. The Star Wars MMORPG, The Old Republic, is considered to be in the vein of Knights of the Old Republic as well, and is also developed by BioWare.

Like The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is perhaps most often remembered as a PC game due to its genre and tabletop RPG roots, despite being released for the Xbox first. Thirteen votes for the game came from the PC board, tripling the board’s overall vote proportion. Faceball also contributed an above-average number of votes with nine, followed by the United Kingdom and Current Events with six votes each. The game’s console, Xbox, received three votes for the game on its home board, as did the Xbox 360 despite the topicality restriction. The remaining 32 votes came from 24 different boards, including one from the social board dedicated to the game’s sequel.

#6: 26th: Diablo II (PC) (73 votes)

Blizzard has four total games in the top 100, and the top-ranking of them is the 2000 release Diablo II. The game follows the original Diablo, released in 1996 after Blizzard’s success with Warcraft II. The original game was a major success, but its sequel has gone on to be remembered even more fondly. An early and defining entry in the action RPG genre, Diablo II was a critical hit immediately upon release, becoming the fastest-selling PC game of all time (a record since broken by several of Blizzard’s later games). The game very nearly swept the awards for PC games in the year of its release, and the sequel, Diablo III, was one of gaming’s most hotly anticipated releases for several years. While received positively, that follow-up did not quite reach the massive acclaim showered on Diablo II.

Diablo II was the top overall game on the PC board, receiving nineteen total votes. The game beat out The Elder Scrolls V, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and The Elder Scrolls III to be the board’s top overall game as over 13% of the board’s voters selected it as one of their five games. That total represented 26% of Diablo II’s overall votes. However, it certainly did not make the top 100 solely on the strength of the PC board’s votes: even without that board, the game received 54 votes, putting it squarely in the top half overall. The remaining 54 votes were split across numerous boards: Current Events led the way with six, followed by Poll of the Day with five. Three boards (Life, the Universe, and Everything, United Kingdom, and GameFAQs Contests) registered four votes each, and the remaining 31 votes came from twenty different boards.

#5: 25th: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS) (74 votes)

When Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was released, you would be forgiven for thinking it appeared a bit outdated. Released after Final Fantasy VII, Super Mario 64, and Resident Evil ushered in the age of 3D gaming, Symphony of the Night was still using 2D sprites with visible pixels and 2D platforming conventions. The game certainly looked behind the times, but it would go on to be the franchise’s most successful installment and introduce the gaming industry to the idea that there still exists demand for the types of games designed with yesterday’s hardware. Publishers at the time had not yet learned this lesson, however, and the game received only a limited initial North American release. However, with time, the popularity of the game showed through, and has since been rated as one of the best PlayStation games ever released as well as one of the best games of all time.

The biggest share of Symphony of the Night’s votes came from the Faceball board; eleven votes, for 15% of the game’s total, came from the board. Beyond Faceball, no other board placed more than six votes for the game, and its remaining 63 votes came from 32 boards. The game tied for fourth-favorite on the PlayStation board, alongside Metal Gear Solid and Suikoden II. Interestingly, the game did not receive a single vote from the WOT board, which previously had selected the game as its top game of all time in its dedicated top 10 list. Symphony of the Night is the only Castlevania game in the top 100; ten other games in the series totaled 22 votes altogether, led by six for Aria of Sorrow.

#4: T-22nd: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GC) (75 votes)

The top 25 is full of surprises, and for me, one of the first is the high rankings afforded to The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The Legend of Zelda franchise is arguably the most well-acclaimed series ever, and we are barely halfway through seeing all the games in the series that we’ll see. Prior to its release, though, The Wind Waker did not look like it would be the next in the franchise’s long line of contenders for best game of all time. The cel-shaded graphics were criticized, the cartoon-like look took significant getting used to, and even apart from that, the standard set by Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask was arguably too high to ever reach. Upon release, however, The Wind Waker became an enormous success with both critics and fans. The cel-shaded graphics that were initially criticized actually changed the style and mood of the game for the better, providing much needed contrast from the earlier entries. That, along with new mechanics and the same strong puzzle design, made The Wind Waker a hit. An HD release followed a decade later for the Wii U, and is arguably the console’s best game.

The Wind Waker as universally praised by a wide variety of different boards. The leading voters for the game, Faceball and GameFAQs Contests, cast eleven and nine votes for the game respectively. Those totals, however, did not drastically deviate from the proportion of votes those boards cast altogether. Rather, The Wind Waker found its place this high in the top 100 largely on the strength of its broad appeal, and a push from Nintendo-oriented boards like GameCube, Nintendo 64DD, the Super Smash Bros. Brawl social board, and the Wii U board.

#3: T-22nd: Mass Effect 2 (PS3) (75 votes)

The original Mass Effect was a massive breakout hit in 2007, and at the time was regarded as almost flawless, with the minor issues completely blown away by the major accomplishments. Sequels often have the problem of having to measure up to their predecessors, games which had no measuring stick and thus were allowed to thrive on their own. Mass Effect 2, instead, made the original game look almost quaint by comparison. All of the positives of the original game were preserved and enhanced, and the game managed to find and fix negatives in the original release that fans never noticed until confronted with the alternative. The original game broke new ground, but it was the follow-up that built a mansion on that foundation, preserving the series’ appeal right up to the last five minutes of the third game.

Like the original Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 drew a large chunk of its vote total from the systems on which it was released, and the rest were supplied by a broad cross-section of boards. The Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 boards combined for sixteen votes for the game. The game tied for third-favorite on the Xbox 360 board alone, alongside four other games (three that we have already covered, one that we will later). Beyond those votes, the game won 59 votes from 25 different boards, with GameFAQs Contests, the United Kingdom board, and Current Events leading the way with seven votes each. The third game in the series, Mass Effect 3, earned nineteen votes, placing it in a tie for 119th. It, took, drew much of its support (seven votes) from the consoles on which it was released.

#2: T-22nd: The Last of Us (PS3) (75 votes)

The last of the five 2013 games to make the top 100, The Last of Us was one of the most hotly anticipated games of all time prior to its release. Through its earlier work on Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted, Naughty Dog had become one of those rare companies, along with Valve, Blizzard, and Bethesda, for whom every release seems to be a hit, but somehow, The Last of Us managed to even surpass expectations. The game was one of the most singular experiences not just of the console generation, but of all time, a beautiful mesh of gameplay and story, plot and environment, mechanics and characters. Every element of the game grew organically from a core set of underlying axioms. The stealth gameplay was incentivized by item scarcity, item scarcity was justified by the post-apocalyptic setting, the post-apocalyptic setting dictated the level design, and so on; every single element fit perfectly with every other piece, creating a unified masterpiece.

A PlayStation 3 exclusive, unsurprisingly The Last of Us drew significant support from the PlayStation 3 board with twelve votes. That made The Last of Us the runaway favorite game of the PlayStation 3 board, easily beating out Assassin’s Creed II (six votes), Uncharted 2 (six votes), Dark Souls (five votes), and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (four votes). At the same time, however, the board didn’t even account for a sixth of the total votes the game earned, with 63 votes pouring in from other boards. The busiest boards led the way, with the United Kingdom, Faceball, Current Events, Poll of the Day, and GameFAQs Contests combining for 33 votes. The remaining 30, however, came from 27 different boards, reflecting massively widespread appeal for the recent release.

#1: 21st: Super Mario 64 (N64) (77 votes)

Proving that newer does not always mean better, the 1996 release Super Mario 64 inches out the trio of youngsters tied at 75 votes. Super Mario 64 can be thought of in two ways. First, it will always be fondly remembered as a great game in and of itself. The level design, always one of Nintendo’s hallmarks, remains among the best ever seen in a Mario game, while the mechanics, power-ups, and enemies have gone on to become nothing short of iconic. However, even more notable than its internal accomplishments, Super Mario 64 is remarkable for what it did for the gaming industry as a whole. Each franchise in gaming faced a defining moment with the advent of 3D graphics, and the fundamentals of gameplay design needed to be redefined. Super Mario 64 marked arguably the most incredibly successful transition, solidifying the series’ and protagonist’s roles as gaming’s most iconic names at a time when they easily could have fallen away.

GameFAQs Contests, which placed 8% of all votes cast, doubled its vote share by supplying Super Mario 64 with 16% of its total votes. Those twelve votes actually placed Super Mario 64 nowhere near the top of GameFAQs Contests’ list, beaten out by long-since covered games like Tales of Symphonia and Xenoblade Chronicles, but nonetheless proved to be a major boon for the game. No other board cast more than seven votes for the game, with its console’s board casting three (representing almost half of the board’s voters). 36 total other boards cast at least one vote for the game. Although an enhanced remake, Super Mario 64 DS, was released for the Nintendo DS in 2004, the game received no votes under that console or name.

Conclusion

DDJ’s Brief Analysis: Bethesda and BioWare own the list for this week, with each chipping in two games along with Nintendo (although Nintendo has so many overall games in the top 100 that it is no surprise to see two here as well). Diablo II, covered this week, is the top-ranking PC exclusive in the top 100, although two of the top 20 games were cross-platform releases including a PC installment. Perhaps most notably, we’re going to see the biggest jump in the voting between this week and next: the #21 game, Super Mario 64, received 77 votes, while the #20 game received 94. That’s the biggest jump outside the top four.

Chart of the Week: Games in the Top 100 by Genre over Time.

This week, we’ll look at changes to genre popularity over time. In the chart below, each genre is given a row, and each year is given a column. Green cells indicate years in which that genre had at least one game. Blue cells indicate years between the genre’s first and last game, but wherein it did not have a game. Orange indicates years either before the genre’s first year or after the genre’s last year. Thus, orange represents “idle” time while blue represents “active” time. Although it’s not terribly scientific, we can think of this as years of each genre’s prominence. The results here give some interesting insight into the heights of various genre’s popularity. Puzzle games, for instance, have been around for ages, but are still somewhat popular with releases like Portal and Portal 2. Platformers, similarly, remain popular despite their long history, thanks in large part to the Mario franchise (although they’ve dropped off in recent years). Arguably the most consistent genres, however, are the Japanese RPG and the Action-Adventure genres, bolstered by Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda respectively. Japanese RPGs, however, have relied more on the Tales and Persona franchises in recent years. Several genres had more short-lived heydays as well. Survival Horror games are still common, but their popularity was largely limited to last decade. Similarly, real-time strategy games enjoyed Blizzard’s popularity, but haven’t fared well since then. New genres have taken the mantle instead, with sandbox games and third-person shooters representing some of the most popular recent games, along with Japanese RPGs, Action-Adventure games, and the occasional turn-based strategy game.

Factoid of the Week: In 2005, GameFAQs ran a contest to name the ten best games ever. The methodology was similar to this top 100, with a much larger audience. The next three weeks’ factoids will compare these results to those. Those results were announced in 2005, meaning that no game that has come out since then would have been eligible. 36 games in the top 100 were released since then. Many of those 36 games, however, have already been mentioned: for those who aren’t counting at home, there are only six games left in the top 100 released since 2005, meaning 24 of the top 30 games are from 2005 or sooner while 30 of the bottom 70 games are from 2006 or later.

That’s all for this week! Next week’s list will be posted Monday on DDJGames.com, and somewhere around then on GameFAQs as well. 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.

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