Top 100 Games of All Time, According to GameFAQs: #50 to #41

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 #50 through #41.

#10: 50th: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) (50 votes)

We enter the top 50, the second half of the top 100, with some nice symmetry: the 50th place game is alone in 50th with 50 total votes. Megami Tensei is one of the largest franchises in gaming, spanning several sub-series and over fifty total titles, in addition to significant anime and manga series. The most popular of these series, however, is likely the Persona series, spanning four games. Persona 3 was originally released in Japan in 2006 and the United States in 2007, and its unique structure made it a hit. The game combines elements of Japanese RPGs with elements of simulation games; like Japanese visual novels and other similar games, the player is tasked with developing relationships with other characters. These relationships will later help their strength in battle. Positively received upon release, Persona 3’s reputation has grown over time with its rerelease as Persona 3 Portable.

Persona 3’s popularity on PlayStation consoles led to a significant vote total coming from the various PlayStation-oriented boards. Six different PlayStation-oriented boards voted for the game, combining for ten of the game’s votes. That barely outweighs the number of votes the game received from Faceball, however; Faceball cast nine votes for the game while GameFAQs Contests cast seven, each total outweighing those boards’ overall vote proportions. A significant portion of the game’s vote total came from votes for the remake for the PSP: of its 50 votes, nine were for the Portable version. More significantly, 25 votes were specifically for Persona 3 FES, an add-on expansion to the original game. Outside those two main boards and the PlayStation boards, the game drew 23 votes from 22 different boards.

#9: T-48th: Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) (52 votes)

The final 3DS game in the GameFAQs Top 100 is Fire Emblem: Awakening. While not quite a reboot, the game marked one of the most significant steps forward in the franchise’s history. Full 3D cinematics, a host of new mechanics, and iteratively more challenging and engaging strategies made the game a hit. The game also featured an incredible amount of character depth; not only did it include a very large cast of characters each with individual backgrounds, personalities, and subplots, but these characters also possessed an enormous amount of dynamic opportunity to develop in different ways. Male and female characters can marry, and several couples are possible for every character, with each relationship supported by a string of surprisingly enlightening short dialogue sequences.

Like the other 3DS games in the top 100, Fire Emblem: Awakening’s presence on this list is in large part due to its support from its console’s board. 25 of the game’s 52 votes came from the 3DS board, the second-largest total in the results. Fire Emblem: Awakening was the 3DS board’s favorite game, beating out A Link Between Worlds (20 votes), Pokemon X & Y (15 votes), Kid Icarus: Uprising (13 votes) Shin Megami Tensei IV (13 votes). Almost half of the board’s voters (25 of 55) chose Fire Emblem: Awakening. The game still would be in the top 100 without support from the 3DS board, however; 27 votes came from other boards, including seven from GameFAQs Contests and five from Warflame. Current Events also cast four votes for the game, and the remaining eleven votes came from ten different boards.

#8: T-48th: Tales of Symphonia (GC, PS2) (52 votes)

The second Tales game the GameFAQs Top 100 is the 2003 release Tales of Symphonia. Originally released exclusively for the GameCube, the game received a PlayStation 2 port in Japan a year later and more recently arrived on PlayStation 3 in the form of Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, bundled with its own direct sequel, Dawn of the New World. The Tales franchise as a whole has spanned two dozen games, but arguably the most well-received among them is Tales of Symphonia. Implementing a real-time battle system was still relatively unique at the time, and that combined with a unique cel-shaded artistic approach separated the game from the crowded JRPG genre. As mentioned above, the game spawned a direct sequel, Dawn of the New World, for the Nintendo Wii, but it did not receive nearly as positive a reception.

An enormous portion of the support for Tales of Symphonia came from the busy GameFAQs Contests board. Of the 52 votes cast for the game, sixteen came from the board, representing 9% of the board’s voters. 31% of Tales of Symphonia’s votes came from that board, a massive difference from the 9% of overall votes cast by the board. That made the game the board’s eighth-favorite game overall. Surprisingly, the game only received two votes from the Random Insanity board, which had previously selected Tales of Symphonia as its top game in its 2010 top 10 list. Outside the GameFAQs Contests board, Tales of Symphonia’s greatest support came from Faceball with five votes and Current Events with four votes; no other board cast more than three votes, and 20 boards combined for the game’s remaining 25 votes. Tales of the Abyss narrowly missed the top 100 with 23 votes, but no other Tales game received more than five votes.

#7: T-46th: Suikoden II (PS) (53 votes)

The original Suikoden was a modest commercial and critical success, and met decent reviews upon release. It was strong enough to prompt a sequel, which landed in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in the United States in the form of Suikoden II. The initial response to the sequel, however, was lukewarm, and thus the game was not pushed out further. A limited number of copies were ever released, but despite this, the game was still relatively well-received by the critical media. Despite its lackluster initial sales, however, the game has gone on to be received much better in retrospect than at the time of release. Overshadowed by other Japanese RPGs at the time (Final Fantasy VII, for example, came out a year earlier), time has shown that the game really was significantly different, featuring a massive cast, a non-traditional plot, and innovative gameplay. Though Suikoden II is the only game in the franchise in the top 100, the series has now spanned several releases, many only in Japan.

The majority of Suikoden II’s votes came from a combination of some of the biggest boards in the results: Faceball, GameFAQs Contests, Life, the Universe, and Everything, and the Top 10 Lists board combined for over half the game’s votes (27 total votes from the boards put together, led by 9 from Faceball and 8 from GameFAQs Contests). The game’s console’s board, the PlayStation board, followed with four votes, and the game drew three votes from the board dedicated to non-Square RPGs. That made the game the third-favorite game for that board and represented 17% of users voting from the RPGs – Everything Else board. The rest of the Suikoden series received a combined 20 votes, led by nine for Suikoden V.

#6: T-46th: Xenogears (PS) (53 votes)

The third-straight Japanese RPG on this list, Xenogears is one of Square’s non-Final Fantasy games in the GameFAQs top 100. Released in 1998 after the hit Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears was both a critical and a commercial success. It sold millions of copies across multiple runs, and has since been well-recognized on list of the best games ever. Although the gameplay, characters, and story all received their due praise, arguably the most notable element of Xenogears was the deep themes it tapped into. Drawing heavily from the anime tradition, the game leverages the themes of several prominent philosophers, religions, and psychologists to tell an expansive, occasionally bizarre, ultimately satisfying story that stands as one of the greats in video game history. The team responsible for the game ultimately moved on to form Monolith Soft, and the Xenosaga and Xenoblade franchises are spiritual successors to Xenogears.

Like Suikoden II before, Xenogears drew nine votes from the Faceball board, a disproportionate number of votes given the overall vote share for which Faceball is responsible. The game’s second-highest tally, however, came from the PlayStation board itself. 24% of the board’s 26 voters voted for Xenogears, and those seven votes made it the board’s second-favorite game after a game much higher in the top 100. Outside those two boards, the game drew 37 votes from 24 different boards, with GameFAQs Contests and Life, the Universe, and Everything submitting four and no other board submitting more than three. The game also had an interesting voting pattern: it received no votes the last week of voting until the final two days, when it received seven votes to vault it up in the final rankings.

#5: T-44th: Mega Man X (SNES) (54 votes)

Mega Man may be one of the biggest franchises in gaming, but it is somewhat conspicuously absent from the GameFAQs Top 100 for the most part. The franchise began in 1987 with the original Mega Man, and six games in the main series followed in the next seven years (complemented by another four games in a handheld series in the same time frame). In 1993, the developers initiated a pseudo-reboot of the franchise: although the original Mega Man series would continue, a new spin-off franchise, Mega Man X, would take the series onto the new more advanced consoles. The game represented a significant graphical and gameplay update for the series, featuring new abilities, new weapons, new armor, and fundamental changes to the gameplay. The game was well-received, and the spin-off series ran for several years, culminating in the 2004 release Mega Man X8. Although the original Mega Man series was revived in 2008 for virtual consoles, Mega Man X continues hanging in limbo.

Mega Man X draws its support from the busiest boards in the voting process: GameFAQs Contests submits seven votes, Faceball submits six, and Current Events submits six. The remainder of the Mega Man series received 56 votes all together, barely beating out Mega Man X alone. The top games were Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3, each receiving sixteen votes total, tying for 133nd with six other games. The remaining 35 votes come from 25 different boards, led by four each from the Top 10 List board and Life, the Universe, and Everything board, and no more than two from any one other board.

#4: T-44th: Red Dead Redemption (PS3, X360) (54 votes)

The spiritual successor to Rockstar’s 2004 release Red Dead Revolver (which itself met lukewarm reviews), Red Dead Redemption landed after Rockstar San Diego had made a name for itself as the architects of the Midnight Club franchise, as well as after Rockstar as a whole had cultivated a reputation as the masters of the sandbox genre through the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Red Dead Redemption, therefore, was released to significant hype, a sandbox game set in the Old West released by the dominant force in the genre. The game lived up to the hype: Red Dead Redemption was a massive, breathtaking instantiation of the sandbox genre in a new, complicated setting. The gameplay and game world were incredibly, but in my opinion, the game’s most striking feature was its story. Story-telling in sandbox games is incredibly difficult given the need to provide tension and freedom simultaneously, but Red Dead Redemption pulled off one of the greatest stories in video game history.

Red Dead Redemption drew its voting support from 28 different boards, averaging out to less than two votes per board and demonstrating the game’s widespread appeal. Over half the boards that voted for it cast only a single vote. Interestingly, some of the busiest boards were not among the game’s biggest supports: Faceball and the Top 10 Lists Board cast only one vote for it each. Instead, the game drew its support first from the United Kingdom board, whose love of the Grand Theft Auto franchise seemed to carry over. The game also drew significant support from its consoles’ boards, with the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC boards combining for 12 votes.

#3: 43rd: Okami (PS2) (55 votes)

I noted earlier in this list that there are few games on this list that came from relatively unknown companies: the 43rd place game is one of those games. Developed by Clover Studio, a Capcom subsidiary, the company had a short history: prior to Okami, their only products were a handful of Viewtiful Joe games, and after Okami, their only release was the fighting game God Hand. The studio closed in 2007, only a year after Okami was released. Despite this, Okami was an enormous success, drawing favorable comparisons to The Legend of Zelda series for its overall structure, but setting itself apart substantially with its innovative gameplay mechanics and beautiful, Japanese visual style. Those acclaimed, the game did not receive the sales figures that Capcom had desired, and so the game did not spawn a franchise as Capcom had hoped. A sequel did follow several years later for the Nintendo DS, titled Okamiden.

Okami had grown in its reputation as the years have gone by, and that change is reflected by its widespread popularity in the voting results. Its biggest supporters were the big boards, although only GameFAQs Contests gave the game significantly more than the board’s voting share (eight votes, for 15% of the game’s votes compared to 6% of the votes cast overall). The game also was appreciated by its console’s board, drawing four votes from the PlayStation 2 board representing over 10% of the board’s voters. Overall, the game’s 55 votes were spread across 27 boards, again reflecting a broad appeal across multiple audiences and demographics.

#2: T-41st: Kingdom Hearts (PS2) (56 votes)

Released in 2002 just before the merger between Square and Enix, Kingdom Hearts was one of the most bizarre game concepts to come along in years. It intended to unite the biggest names from Disney’s franchises, like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, with characters from Square’s Final Fantasy series, like Sephiroth, Tidus, and the Moogles. The result was a new Japanese RPG franchise, and surprisingly, one of the most refreshing takes on the genre to come along in years. The initial bizarre concept evolved over time to create a fascinating and unique game universe with a compelling, light cast of characters. What is perhaps most remarkable about the franchise is that despite its somewhat silly premise, it actually manages to have significant depth in plot and character development. The series has spawned several sequels, and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts III is one of the most hotly-anticipated titles of the eighth console generation.

The game drew a significant amount of its support from the GameFAQs Contests board, which case 16% of the game’s votes compared to 8% of the votes overall. Faceball is its next biggest support with a near-proportional 13% of its vote, and its remaining 40 votes come from 28 different boards. Unsurprisingly, the dedicated social board for Kingdom Hearts II cast a couple of votes for the game, representing 17% of the board’s voters, and social boards affiliated with other Square properties cast a couple additional votes as well. Twenty of the boards casting votes for the game cast only a single vote in its favor.

#1: T-41st: Half-Life 2 (PC, XBOX) (56 votes)

Originally released ten years ago in 2004, Half-Life 2 remains today one of the greatest first-person shooters and greatest overall games ever created. Upon its release, it received a universally positive reception, winning a host of Game of the Year awards and drawing favorable comparisons with every other first-person shooter franchise active at the time. It was selected by multiple groups as the greatest game of the decade as well. The game has aged marvelously, with its impressive physics and timeless gameplay mechanics continuing to draw fans. Its popularity with the modding community makes it an ongoing hit as well, with mods like Garry’s Mod and Black Mesa driving the game’s ongoing continued presence in the industry. The game spawned two miniature sequels in the form of Episodes 1 and 2, but the long-awaited sequel, Half-Life 3, remains elusive.

Although Half-Life 2 was later released for consoles, its initial medium was the PC, and that is where it still receives most of its support. 21% of the game’s votes came from the PC board, and those twelve voters represented 8% of the large board’s voters. The game came in as the PC board’s seventh-most popular game, behind six games in the top 40 on this list. The game is not popular only on its consoles, however. Faceball and GameFAQs Contests combine for an additional thirteen votes, and even without votes from any console on which the game appeared, Half-Life 2 would still rank in the top 60. Its remaining 31 votes came from 23 different boards, with eighteen of those boards registering only one vote apiece for the game.

Conclusion

DDJ’s Brief Analysis: As we get higher and higher in the top 100 (or lower and lower, depending on your point of view), we start to see more and more separation. Although there were several ties in this list, we won’t be seeing many ties from here on out: after a three-way tie with 57 votes, there are only two more ties in the rest of the GameFAQs Top 100, at 63 votes and 75 votes. We’ll see a steep growth curve as well: while six votes separate #50 from #41, ten separate #40 from #31.

Chart of the Week: Top 100 Games by Developer.

This week, we’re looking at the developers responsible for the Top 100 games. Nintendo is far and away the top contributor, developing 18 of the Top 100 games. Square is a close second with 12 of the Top 100 games, and it’s useful to know that I differentiate Square and Square-Enix: Square by itself developed twelve of the Top 100 games before its merger with Enix, but Square-Enix only developed two of the Top 100 games. Individual franchises were enough to carry certain companies into this ranking, with Bethesda riding The Elder Scrolls, Game Freak riding Pokemon, Bungie riding Halo, and Rockstar riding Grand Theft Auto into the listing. Fourteen companies each developed only one game that made the list.

Factoid of the Week: The 20 busiest boards in the results cast 6,662 of the 10,504 votes. Looking at those boards individually, they chose 18 different games as their #1 (with three ties). The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VII, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask are the only games to be voted #1 by more than one board. The seven busiest boards, in fact, each selected a different game as their #1 overall.

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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