‘The Best Game of All Time’ is one of those descriptors that almost always lead to a fistfight and several lawsuits. Despite the volatile nature of the phrase though, it’s one that gamsters have used and continue since the days of bumper ball and...geeze, I dunno, darts? Of course with this, my goal is to talk about the best video games of all time but even with that parameter, my first and greatest challenge would be choosing my source. It seems like every website and magazine even tangentially related to entertainment has their own top 10 or even top 100 list of the greatest video games of all time. I could have also asked a bunch of gamsters their opinion but I’ve never been the kind of person who could gather any amount of people for any given reason so instead I’ve taken from five sources to gather a list of the best games of all time. What I did was, I checked out the top 10 games of all time lists from five sources (IGN, Metacritic, Game Informer/Giant Bomb, Plygon and, Time, yes the magazine) and assigned each of their top 10 games a ‘score’ based on where they fall in their own respective top 10s. By doing this, I’ve come up with a top 16 list made up of 31 games...yes, there’s a lot of overlap but the top 5 don’t and in the end, that’s all that matters, right? I’ll leave sources to the top 10’s I used at the end.
16: Perfect Dark - The Metacritic list was really, really annoying because technically Perfect Dark wasn’t on the bottom of that list, it was number 14. You see, Metacritic has multiple games listed more than once but counts ports as their own separate entry. Maybe Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 on the Playstation has some key differences from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 on the Dreamcast but at the end of the day the core of those games are the same exact thing: doing sick kick-flips as Darth Maul. I’ve gone on this tangent about Metacritic for a reason though: despite being an N64 kid, I never actually played Perfect Dark until I was nearing the end of my 20’s and frankly, I didn’t care for it at all. Like most Nintendo 64 games, it aged really poorly and around the same time I had just figured out how to mod Doom on my PC to make it Brutal so I had other things to occupy me. I like Perfect Dark from a conceptual point of view but it’s not a game I see myself going back to. Perhaps more controversially, I spent a pretty huge chunk of time on the Perfect Dark sequel since I thought it was pretty fun.
15: Red Dead Redemption, The Oregon Trail, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 & Street Fighter 2 - It’s a 4-way tie, and it’s not the only one! I’ll break down my scoring at the end too so you can see the mess that was my train wreck of thought. Anyway, these are all games which I’ve put significantly more time into than Perfect Dark. Base Street Fighter 2 was a game I would play when I was bored of everything else on the SNES. The Oregon Trail was a game that I played at school on class computers during that time between the end of the day and my walk home from school. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was one of many Tony Hawk games that have merged into a legion of confused memories of an excellent and satisfying series. Finally, there’s Red Dead Redemption: a game that I played with for less than 10 hours and gave up on once I made it to Mexico because of how bored I was with it. Out of the games lumped into this space, Tony Hawk is definitely the one that I prefer but again, my memories of the series are confused and jumbled. It was deeply satisfying to play with moon gravity and as a Sith apprentice though and finding the perfect part of any given stage to break the score, earning billions of points in the process.
14: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild & Final Fantasy VI - Tied in 14th place are a pair of games that I absolutely love. Breath of the Wild is the first fully open 3D Legend of Zelda, featuring a beautifully crafted variation of Hyrule that it’s easy to get lost in for hours at a time. Final Fantasy VI is a game that many would argue is the best in the entire series. It’s a plot-heavy, linear game following the fall of an empire, the ride of a rouge general into a perverse God and even the destruction of an entire world. Final Fantasy VI launched on the Super Nintendo but has since been ported to the Game Boy Advance, mobile platforms and, Steam. There’s a lot that can be said about both games and since they’re not even in the top 10 here, I’ll just reiterate that I deeply love both games, and hope that I can play both of them on the Switch sooner rather than later.
13: Grand Theft Auto V & Metroid - This is kind of a strange pairing and I don’t know how much overlap there would be between fans of one or the other. Personally, I’ve probably put more time into Grand Theft Auto V over all but I’ve played through Metroid from beginning to end multiple times. Grand Theft Auto V isn’t a game I can say that I love: it’s kind of fun to drive around and cause chaos for a half hour but the plot didn’t grab me like those of Grand Theft Auto IV or Vice City. As for Metroid, the first time I played through it I absolutely used a map and exploited save states (I played it on the 3DS, I’m not a space pirate). Once I got more comfortable with the game itself and its controls though I was more receptive to just going in without reference material. Metroid is a really atmospheric experience and while it’s definitely not the best in the franchise I’d rather boot that up again than Grand Theft Auto V.
12: World of Warcraft & Super Mario Galaxy 2 - I played WoW when it went free-to-play, always favoring Hoard because I’m a human in real life and Hoard had the more interesting races at the time. I leveled up an Undread, a Tauren and a Goblin until level 20 but when I paid to level them up further, I immediately regretted it and haven’t looked back. I play games on my own so the social aspect of WoW is completely lost on me and the game part of the game just felt repetitive and kinda boring to me. I liked the visuals and locales sure but it wasn’t enough to keep me playing. I’ve never played Super Mario Galaxy 2 at all so I guess WoW wins by default.
11: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Galaxy & Pokemon Red/Blue - This is another tied group and it’s a trio of games that I’ve played and quite enjoyed. I played Super Mario Galaxy once, got motion sick, put it down for a year and a half then, went back and beat it with as few stars as possible. It’s a fun game once I got past my motion sickness but it’s not my favorite 3D Mario title. Link to the Past was a huge part of my early childhood and the second game I’ve actually beaten. It’s got a solid place in my top 5 Zelda games of all time and a game that I love going back to. Pokemon Red is another game that was a huge part of my childhood but it’s a game that’s held together with scotch tape and prayers. Despite being a buggy mess though, the first generation of Pokemon is very nostalgic and I just can’t bring myself to feel any pessimism about it. Link to the Past wins this one for me but just barely as these are all solid games...except maybe Mario Galaxy (controversial opinion).
10: Grand Theft Auto III & Soul Calibur - There’s no denying that Grand Theft Auto III is likely the most influential game of the past 2 decades. It wasn’t the first open world sandbox or even the first game where you could drive basically wherever you want to but it blew up in a huge way and inspired a generations worth of copycats. I spent hundreds of hours playing this game but I never beat it and since it hasn’t aged particularly well, I doubt I ever will. Despite being an extra special game that every other game seeks to emulate, I’m giving my number 10 to Soul Calibur. It was a really fun arcade and Dreamcast fighting game set in a 3D arena that you could be knocked out of for a potentially easy KO. Every combatant uses a weapon and the system is really easy to get into. What got me was how satisfying the game is to play: each impact has a really solid feel and sound associated with it. I always played as Killik and the sound of whacking an opponent with his staff was enough to keep me glued to my screen for hours. Soul Calibur 2 felt off and I never really gave future games in the series much of a thought either but that first (technically second or maybe even third) was just fantastic.
9: Super Metroid, Minecraft, Portal & Grand Theft Auto IV - I was satisfied to see Grand Theft Auto IV beat out the other 2 numbered entries because on reflection, I think that one is my favorite. I liked Niko Bellic as a character and his story was pretty compelling to me. The physics system was also a lot of fun to play with: I loved pushing people down stairs. Minecraft is an interesting entry here too and I’m not surprised to have seen it on the top 10 lists I checked out. I’ve played it enough to have built a couple of underwater, glass houses. Portal was a phenomenon back when it launched on the Orange Box and it breathed more life into my 360 than I expected it would. I’m still reluctant to talk about cakes though because of it. Then there’s Super Metroid: A game that was better than its NES counterpoint in every single way. I first played it on the Wii U virtual console so while I did utilize save states sometimes, I didn’t feel the need to look up maps and other reference materials. Since I laid off of the reference material, things like the fight against Phantoon and Crocomire were incredibly pleasant surprises for me. This bracket was surprisingly tough for me but I’ve settled on Super Metroid as my personal number 9.
8: Half-Life 2 & Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 - Half-Life 2 is a game I first played on the 360 thanks to the Orange Box and upon reflection, it might just be my favorite shooter on that platform which is kind of sad. The shooting itself is solid and fun and it’s a game made before Halo popularized the stupid idea of limiting players to 2 weapons at a time. In fact, the gravity gun in Half-Life 2 can turn just about anything into a weapon, especially during the memorable and fun end game. As for Tony Hawk 2, this is the one where you can play as Spider-Man. So obviously, Spider-Man beats gravity guns because even sewer levels are fun when they’re in a Tony Hawk game.
7:Super Mario World & Super Mario 64 - Which is better, the launch Mario game on the Super Nintendo or the launch Super Mario game on the Nintendo 64? This is going to get me beaten up in the parking lot but I had a lot more fun with Super Mario World. I didn’t play much of Mario 64 as a kid, strongly preferring to play Ocarina of Time and Tony Hawk when I was on my N64 and when I tried playing it years later, I found that the DS version was better but still not a game that I liked playing in general. I think I got as far as one of the underwater levels before I put the game down and stepped away for good. As for Super Mario World, this is the first game I’ve actually beaten and a game that I’ve always had fun playing in general. Super Mario World is my number 7.
6: Ms. Pac-Man & Super Mario Bros. - I know I’ve played Ms. Pac-Man but my memories of that game are muddled thanks to the fact that I also played Mr. Pac-Man a lot at pizza places when I was a kid too. It’s a fun game of course and I don’t think many people would admit to disliking it but it’s also a game that I would pass over if the arcade machine hosting it also had Galaga on it. As for Super Mario Bros. there’s a good chance that it was the first home video game I’ve ever played. It’s just not a game that I like to play in general. Really, these are both games that I don’t play very often so it’s hard to give a real preference for one or the other. I think I’d give it to Super Mario Bros. though if only because when I do sit down and play these two games, I spend more time playing Mario than Ms. Pac-Man.
5: Super Mario Bros. 3 - I played this game as a kid but it’s not a game that I’ve actually beaten until I downloaded a version for it on the Wii U. I’m really not good at 2D platfoming so while I have had fun with Super Mario Bros 3, it’s a game that ends up frustrating me the longer I play and farther I get into it. I don’t dislike this game of course, it’s just a game that I don’t revere like most other gamesters.
(We're Super, thanks for askin'!)
4: Doom - Now this is a game that I can put up on a pedestal. I feel like I played this as a kid but most of my time spent playing this has been from the past decade. I’ve put a lot of time into Brutal Doom but this is a game that I can still play and enjoy without mods. At its core, it’s a simple series of mazes populated with a variety of monsters who can kill you relatively easily. Luckily, you play as a marine who can kill anything around you just as easily. Add in a rocking heavy metal soundtrack and demons and you’ve got a game that I can really get behind and just enjoy.
(Damn, that's one doomed space marine)
3: The Legend of Zelda - The original NES classic, Legend of Zelda is a top-down open world adventure which is really easy to get lost in and really difficult to complete without either a guide or lots and, lots of time. I played this game a little bit as a kid but I never owned this, I was a little too young to have grown up with it, and I didn’t actually beat it until I was able to download it on the 3DS. Even when I played this game as a kid, I found this game a little more frustrating than fun: without a map I have a lot of trouble in the open world and it feels like there’s just enough of an input delay that hitting enemies constantly was more difficult than it feels like it should be. Once I’m in a dungeon though, things are a bit better and I do like fighting the bosses in this game. It’s just not a Zelda game that I like going back to very often.
(FAQ game, the game (Fantasy Edition))
2: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - I knew this was going to be in the top 3 but I’m kind of surprised that it wasn’t number one. Ocarina of Time was the main reason I wanted a Nintendo 64 and it’s a game that I played religiously for all of the time I had the N64 with me. As an adult though, I prefer the streamlined and cleaned up 3DS version. Ocarina of Time is a good game but it borrows heavily from Link to the Past’s structure but without the ability to choose which temples you go to after the first three. It’s not my favorite in the series but it’s an undeniably solid game overall.
(That one game everybody loves unconditionally)
1: Tetris - Tetris is the bejeweled of the 80’s. You couldn’t get away from Tetris as ports and variations of it were on basically everything that had a computer chip in it. Tetris is the puzzle game that launched the Game Boy, Tetris is the game that broke down the Berlin Wall (don’t fact check me, shut up), Tetris was a phenomenon. It’s a very easy game to understand, pick up and, play: tetrominos fall to the bottom of a grid and lining them up makes them disappear, thus giving you points. The game ends if the tetrominos stack up too high. It’s very simple, it’s satisfying to play, the music in all of the ports are universally catchy. Tetris has been copied time and time again but there is only one and I can understand why it would make the top-spot in a ‘best games of all time’ list.
(Such a fun puzzle game)
So, here’s my breakdown:
1 - Tetris (32p)
2 - Ocarina of Time (27p)
3 - Legend of Zelda (22p)
4 - Doom (19p)
5 - Super Mario Bros. 3 (16p)
6 - Ms. Pac-Man , Super Mario Bros.(12p)
7 - Super Mario, World Super Mario 64 (10p)
8 - Half-Life 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (9p)
9 - Super Metroid, Portal, Grand Theft Auto IV, Minecraft (8p)
10 - Grand Theft Auto III, Soul Calibur (7p)
11 - Link to the Past, Super Mario Galaxy, Pokemon Red/Blue (6p)
12 - World of Warcraft, Super Mario Galaxy 2 (5p)
13 - Grand Theft Auto V, Metroid (4p)
14 - Breath of the Wild, Final Fantasy VI (3p)
15 - Red Dead Redemption, The Oregon Trail, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, Street Fighter II (2p)
16 - Perfect Dark (1p)
Point values (listed as #p) were generated based on where these games ranked in the various top X lists linked below. Perfect Dark was number 10 in one list, thus earning it one point (1p) over all. Tetris was number 1 in 2 lists (10p + 10p), number 3 in 1 list (8p) and, number 7 in a fourth list (4p), thus earning it a total of 32p.
The lists I used were these:
https://www.giantbomb.com/profile/dantebk/lists/game-informers-top-200-games-of-all-time/32009/ (Giant Bomb/Game Informer)
Some of these links require you to scroll down to get to their top-10, which is the only section I used to make this. Metacritic is the odd one out since, to reiterate, they list the same game in multiple brackets so you’ll see that Perfect Dark is number 14 and I didn’t want to give any game extra credit for appearing on the same list more than once.
Top 10 lists are really a dime a dozen online and rather than throw my own hat into the ring, I thought it would be a more fun idea to take five hats, butcher them, sew them together into one strangely proportioned hat and just make fun of that. What are your thoughts on my horribly tailored metaphor? What are you thoughts on the best games of all time? What is YOUR favorite game of all time? I’m done talking about the best games of all time now and, I hope you have a great day.