Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs: #40 to #31

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 #40 through #31.

#10: T-38th: World of Warcraft (PC) (57 votes)

I sometimes think of gaming history in terms of a series of rising and falling genres: first-person shooters, Japanese RPGs, platformers, and other genres have each had times when they were the dominant franchise in the industry. For a period of time in the 2000s, MMORPGs were the dominant genre, spearheaded by one of the best-selling and most-played games of all time, World of Warcraft. The prevalence of the MMO genre is largely because of the success of Blizzard’s sequel to their real-time strategy franchise: for years, new MMORPGs have been discussed in terms of their ability to be a “World of Warcraft killer”. Ultimately, the only thing that has dampened World of Warcaft’s dominance is the passage of time: no game can peak forever. World of Warcraft is so dominant, in fact, that it is the only MMORPG in the GameFAQs Top 100.

As a PC exclusive, it is perhaps unsurprising that a decent chunk of World of Warcraft’s support comes from the PC board. Sixteen of its votes are cast by the board, for 28%; for comparison, the board itself cast 6% of all votes in the results. The game is the board’s third-favorite game, and 11% of voters from the board chose it as one of their five games. No other board cast more than five votes for it, but it did draw support from several other boards. 26 different boards cast at least one vote for the game, led by Faceball, GameFAQs Contests, and the Top 10 Lists board, casting five, five, and three votes respectively.

#9: T-38th: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, XBOX, PC) (57 votes)

Released in 2004 for the PlayStation 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the third game to run on the Grand Theft Auto III engine, and is a direct sequel to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The game features an even bigger world than the previous two, as well as far-reaching improvements in other areas as well. It was wildly praised as the greatest Grand Theft Auto game at the time, despite its similarities to the previous games. Reviews for the game were universally strong as the game capitalized on the growing popularity of the sandbox genre that its own franchise essentially created. The game also remains one of the best-selling games of all time, and continues to sell today in the form of ports and rereleases to several consoles and devices, including iPad and Android.

As mentioned several times, the United Kingdom board generally appears to adore the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and Rockstar (or perhaps sandbox games) more generally. That trend shows here again: fifteen of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’s 57 votes come from the United Kingdom board. That represents 26% of the game’s votes, a massive total given that the board cast 5% of the overall votes. The game is the board’s second-favorite game overall, and 15% of the board’s voters voted for it. The remaining votes came from 27 different boards, but no other board cast more than five votes for the game. Faceball cast five, and the game’s console’s board cast an additional four. The game’s dedicated social board cast three votes for it, representing all three voters from that board.

#8: T-38th: Final Fantasy VIII (PS) (57 votes)

With Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy VII, Square scored two of the biggest hits in video game history. After those successes, Final Fantasy VIII had unreasonably high expectations to meet, and popular opinion is that it did not quite measure up. My opinion, personally, is that it never could have, but the game remains very solid in its own right. At times, the game seemed to intentionally set out to be different from its predecessors, reimagining the role of summon spells and magic, but the game’s true high points were in its graphics and story. Despite coming out only two years after Final Fantasy VIII for the same console, Final Fantasy VIII was an enormous step forward graphically. Its story, though convoluted at times, thrives on the strength of its characters, who are some of the most rounded and varied in the Final Fantasy franchise.

The biggest voter for Final Fantasy VIII was the GameFAQs Contests board, which overall has a significant bias toward Japanese RPGs: three of the board’s top five games come from the genre, as well as six of its top ten and nine of its top fifteen (eleven if you include tactical RPGs). 16% of the game’s votes came from the Contests board. The next-biggest was the United Kingdom board, with six votes, followed by Poll of the Day with four. No other board submitted more than three votes for the game, and the remaining 38 votes came from 26 different boards. The game received relatively little love from its home console’s board, drawing three votes from the PlayStation board.

#7: 37th: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest (SNES) (60 votes)

The Donkey Kong series has long lived in the shadow of Nintendo’s cash cow; while both originated from the same game, the original Donkey Kong, Mario quickly spun up into his own franchise, but after a handful of arcade games (in which he typically played the villain), Donkey Kong lay dormant until 1994. At that time, two platformers marked his resurgence, Donkey Kong GB for Game Boy and Donkey Kong Country for SNES. While both were successful, it was the sequel, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, that went on to be a major hit. Successful upon release, Donkey Kong Country 2 is largely responsible for Donkey Kong remaining a major player in Nintendo’s stable until today. The game helped spark Donkey Kong into a long-running series that has now spanned over a dozen games, most recently the well-reviewed Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Nintendo Wii U.

No board cast more than 5% of the votes collected for Donkey Kong Country 2, and in fact, a couple of the biggest boards turned in vote proportions equal or lower than their overall proportions: Faceball and GameFAQs Contests each submitted five votes, for 8% of the game’s total, while those boards submitted 10% and 8% of the overall votes. Instead, Donkey Kong Country 2’s appearance here is on the back of significant support from lots of smaller boards. The Survivor board, which had only six votes, turned in four for the game. The Legends, Netherlands, and Brazil boards combined for an additional seven votes. Those votes, combined with a little support from boards like Current Events, Random Insanity, and the United Kingdom, thrust Donkey Kong Country 2 into the top 40.

#6: 36th: Starcraft (PC) (61 votes)

Blizzard is easily one of the most successful game companies of all time, and one thing that makes them truly remarkable is that they have achieved that success on the backs of relatively few intellectual properties. Since the release of Warcraft in 1994, Blizzard has staked its success and reputation primarily on only three properties: Warcraft, Diablo, and the 1998 release StarCraft. Blizzard had already achieved success in real-time strategy games with its Warcraft series, and StarCraft took that success from medieval earth to the stars. The game was more than just another real-time strategy game in a different setting, however; it would go on to become arguably the most definitive real-time strategy game of all time. Perfectly balanced, graphically cutting-edge, and with a surprisingly excellent plot to boot, StarCraft remains popular to this day. Even now, professional gaming tournaments largely use StarCraft, and the strategic depth players have developed in the game is without equal.

As a PC exclusive (until a Nintendo 64 port two years later), it is not surprising to find that StarCraft’s first big body of support is the PC board. The board cast fifteen votes for the game, representing 25% of StarCraft’s total for a board that cast 6% of all votes. 10% of voters from the PC board chose StarCraft as one of their five games, and the game ranked as the board’s fourth-favorite title, behind two other Blizzard games and beating out several games that have yet to be discussed. The game drew relatively proportional vote shares from the GameFAQs Contests, Current Events, and Life, the Universe, and Everything board, as well as three votes from the Working Title board’s seventeen voters.

#5: T-34th: Pokemon RBY (GB) (63 votes)

The history of gaming is filled with game-changers, games that fundamentally changed the industry, their companies, their consoles, and their genres forever. The original Pokemon is one such game. Released at a time when consoles were starting to really distance themselves from portable games (compare, for example, Pokemon Red with the Nintendo 64 games at the time), Pokemon restored faith in the Game Boy and in portable consoles more generally; I would venture to say that without Pokemon, we might never have seen many of today’s successful handheld consoles, justifying the franchise’s claim to the top-ranked game on a portable console. Although it is not a traditional RPG, it helped further popularize the genre for Western audiences, and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling RPG ever. Pokemon essentially started the monster collection subgenre of RPGs, which has spawned hits like Digimon, Monster Hunter, and Spectrobes. Most recently, the original games made headlines again through the viral hit Twitch Plays Pokemon.

Given that the generations of Pokemon are popularly grouped, voted for Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow were all counted together. Most votes explicitly mentioned multiple games, including nineteen for both Red and Blue, and fifteen for all three. Pokemon Red, Blue, & Yellow were one of the darlings of the GameFAQs Contests board. The board, which cast 8% of all votes, provided 24% of Pokemon’s votes. The game received 15 votes from the board, making it the board’s ninth-favorite game (tied with Fire Emblem and two games we have yet to cover). Aside from that and the nine votes received from Faceball, however, no board cast more than four votes for the game. Instead, the remaining 39 votes came from 26 different boards.

#4: T-34th: Deus Ex (PC) (63 votes)

Released in the summer of 2000, Deus Ex starred JC Denton, an agent of a secretive coalition driven to stop terrorism. Among the most notable elements of the game is the extraordinary flexibility: the role-playing elements in the game allow the player to customize the character in a wide variety of ways, but yet every way can still lead to success in the game. Different tracks will require different solutions, but there is a solution no matter what way the player chooses to develop. The game also featured an early dynamic conversation system, a predecessor to those seen in games like Mass Effect. Upon release, the game received universal acclaim, and has gone on to be almost unanimously considered one of, if not the, best PC game of all time. A sequel followed soon after release in the form of Deus Ex: Invisible War, and more recently the game’s staying power has led to a more recent sequel as well, Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

One of the surprises during my series of board-specific top 10 lists was how frequently Deus Ex came up: it made the top ten for five different boards (Netherlands, United Kingdom, The Forum, Nonstop Gaming, and Classic Gaming), taking top overall honors for the last one. Given that, Deus Ex did not perform quite as well as I might have expected. It received heavy support from the PC board in the form of eleven votes, but that only made the game the board’s ninth-favorite. The Forum and Nonstop Gaming placed three votes for it (out of fifteen voters and 43 voters, respectively), while Classic Gaming contributed two and the Netherlands contributed one. The United Kingdom board placed seven votes for it, followed by six from the Life, the Universe, and Everything board.

#3: 33rd: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GC) (64 votes)

By the time 2004’s Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door rolled around, Mario had already found plenty of success in the RPG genre: 1996’s Super Mario RPG was popularly acclaimed, and 2000’s Paper Mario was a surprise breakout hit. 2004’s Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door continued this trend, and history has reviewed it even more favorably. At the time of the release, the game was successful in sales and achieved significant critical acclaim. The plot and gameplay continued the simple, yet engaging standards set by the previous game, and preserved the humor that has become a hallmark of Mario’s RPG exploits. The passage of time has popularized the game even more, as the game appears more loved today than it even was on release. The game helped spawn at least two more Paper Mario games, including 2012’s 3DS release Sticker Star.

In the voting, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door got a significant chunk of its votes from the independent Warflame board. Eight votes were cast by the board for 13% of the game’s total, while the board itself cast 2% of the total votes. 23% of the board’s voters chose the game as one of their votes, tying with super Smash Bros. Brawl for the board’s favorite game. The rest of the game’s votes roughly followed the percentages for each board, with Faceball casting seven votes for 11% of the game’s total, Current Events casting six, and both the United Kingdom and GameFAQs Contests placing five. The Dark Aether board saw a significant voting bloc for the game with three of the board’s twelve voters choosing it, and two votes also came from the GameCube board.

#2: 32nd: BioShock (PS3) (66 votes)

2007’s BioShock was one of the landmarks in video game history. Although exploration of games as an artistic narrative medium had been going on for several years, in few instances had such a deep, conceptual game as BioShock simultaneously achieved enormous mainstream success. The original BioShock combined interesting, satisfying gameplay with a magnificent subversion of traditional elements of gaming. In many ways, it is gaming’s version of a movie like Titanic or Return of the King: a production that simultaneously garnered enormous artistic praise (the game is featured in the Smithsonian and has been the target of rigorous academic analysis) and commercial success (selling over 4 million copies). Personally, my favorite element of the game is the way it paints an incredibly strong connection between the narrative and the gameplay: seemingly weird elements like ammunition vending machines and superpowers are explained by the plot, and in turn are actually symbolic of the themes that underlie the game’s entire thematic structure.

Given the widespread praise received by the original BioShock upon release, it is unsurprising (to me, anyway) that the game receives its 66 votes from a wide range of audiences. No board placed more than six votes for the game (led by Faceball, followed by PlayStation 3, GameFAQs Contests, and Current Events with four each), but an incredible 43 different boards registered at least one vote for the game. 32 of those 43 votes placed only one vote. Its direct sequel, BioShock 2, received only two votes however, and the franchise’s third installment, BioShock Infinite, narrowly missed out on the top 100 with 23 votes.

#1: 31st: Shadow of the Colossus (PS2) (67 votes)

The 2005 hit Shadow of the Colossus is one of the only standalone games (no prequels or sequels) in the top 100; although it was the spiritual successor to Ico, it is not directly connected as a sequel. Though not the highest-rated standalone title in the top 100, it nonetheless stands out. Its high ranking here is a continuation of its performance in my previous series covering several individual boards’ favorite games: the game ranked on seven different boards’ list. Shadow of the Colossus was a very different kind of game than many releases around its time. It was a visual masterpiece that favored minimalistic visuals and gameplay; there was no HUD, little story, and a simplistic structure. Rather than working against the game, however, these elements helped differentiate it. The massive battles, the heartfelt plot, and the astounding visual immersion make the game, like BioShock, a rare example of both a commercial hit and an artistic masterpiece.

The similarities to BioShock carry over to the voting patterns as well: Shadow of the Colossus earned its spot on this list by receiving support from a wide range of boards, but no individual board (at least among the biggest ones) thrust it all the way to the top. The top voters were the GameFAQs Contests and Faceball boards, each casting 9%, but that barely differed from the overall vote proportion for either board. Instead, 35 different boards cast at least one vote for the game, including one each from 24 different boards. The game’s home console, the PlayStation 2, cast five votes for the game, representing 13% of the board’s voters.

Conclusion

DDJ’s Brief Analysis: Although MMORPGs have been one of the hottest genres of the last few years, World of Warcraft is the only game in the genre to make the top 100. This either reflects the dominance of World of Warcraft or the lack of popularity of MMORPGs on GameFAQs. It is also interesting to note that another massively popular online game, League of Legends, will not be seen in the top 100. League of Legends received fifteen votes, which puts it in a massive tie for 142nd place. This week we also saw Final Fantasy VIII, but don’t expect to see that franchise again for a while.

Chart of the Week: Top 100 Games by Franchise.

This week, we’ll look at which franchises contributed the most games to the Top 100. Only three franchises contributed more than three games, with Mario leading the way with 8 followed by Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, tied with 7. If I had split Mario up by genre into its subfranchises, its RPG franchise would have two entries while its platformer franchise would have six. Neither The Legend of Zelda nor Final Fantasy have a logical way of splitting them up into subfranchises, potentially excepting one Final Fantasy game that could be differentiated. Beyond those top three franchises, four others contribute three games apiece: Pokemon, The Elder Scrolls, Metal Gear Solid, and Grand Theft Auto. All other franchises contribute either one or two games, with fifteen franchises contributing two each and the remaining thirty-six franchises each only contributing one game. Sequels dominate the Top 100, with sixty-nine of the games being sequels in some form. Sixteen of the games started their own franchises, while eight of the games were original properties that never received a sequel. Four games are spin-offs of a previous franchise, and three games are sourced from some movie or tabletop material.

Factoid of the Week: We’re through 70 of the 100 games in the top 100, but a lot of consoles still have their best game yet to come. The first three PlayStation consoles, the first four Nintendo consoles, both Xbox consoles, and the PC all have games in the top 30. The same can be said for genres: most genres (Action RPG, Action-Adventure, Fighting, First-Person Shooter, Japanese RPG, Platformer, Survival Horror, Third-Person Shooter, Turn-Based Strategy, and Western RPG) have a game in the top 30. Only MMORPGs (World of Warcraft), Puzzle games (Portal 2), Real-Time Strategy games (Starcraft), and Sandbox games (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) have already had their top game go by.

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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