Coming in 10th place with 117 appearance is the flagship game of the popular Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 is largely credited with revolutionizing its genre, appearing on lists such as "Games that Redefined the Gaming Market", "Most Influential Games of All Time", "Most Revolutionary Games of the 90s", "Genre-Defining Games" and "Most Important Games in the History of the Gaming Industry", among several others. It also is largely recognized as one of top Nintendo games of all time, and is to many the pinnacle of the Mario series. It garners recognition for several other aspects as well, including its soundtrack ("Game Soundtracks", "Best Boss Fight Themes", "Most Memorable Nintendo Songs"), its villains ("Most Antagonizing Game Villains", "Video Game Villains"), its environment ("Most Impressive Console Worlds Traversed", "Most Immersive Games", "Islands", "Most Captivating Settings") and its gameplay ("Gaming Innovations", "Transitions from 2D to 3D", "Most Creative Health and Death Systems"). But perhaps none said it better than GameGuy7, who listed Super Mario 64 at #3 on his list of Top 10 "Perfect" Games.
Up next on the list was a surprise to me - Final Fantasy III for the SNES, also known as Final Fantasy VI for the PlayStation in America. The original Final Fantasy III made 118 Top 10 lists (with its PSX release hitting an additional 16), making it the second-oldest game to appear in this Top 10, and is widely appreciated as one of the best RPGs of all time by those who have played it - though as time goes on, a smaller and smaller proportion of gamers have a chance to experience this gem. A substantial portion of the appreciation Final Fantasy III garners comes from those that understand what a breakthrough it was at the time; it is honored on lists such as "RPGs on the SNES", "SNES Games", and "Best RPGs Before the Year 2000". Final Fantasy III isn't relegated to being a relic of a bygone era, though, as it receives plenty of adoration even alongside modern games, appearing on lists such as "Greatest Role-Playing Games", "RPG's of All Time", "Greatest Games of All-Time" and "Must-Play Games for Genre Fans". The game also receives hefty recognition from those that appreciate the inclusion of a strong female protagonist, appearing in no less than five lists aimed at recognizing such characters. Also receiving substantial adoration are the game's music ("Memorable Game Themes", "Game Soundtracks", "Battle Themes", "SNES Soundtracks"), its plotline ("RPG Stories in Gaming History", "All Time Best Stories in Any Video Game") and its poignant moments ("Moments in Role-Playing Games", "Memorable Moments").
Resident Evil 4 for GameCube comes in at 8th on our list, surprising me again - if for no other reason that I didn't expect a second GameCube game to make the list after the more obvious one that came in 5th. Resident Evil 4 made 122 Top 10 lists total, the second-most among GameCube games. The cross-section of Top 10 lists that Resident Evil 4 appears on is rather interesting: it is notably absent from most lists that tabulate the best all-time games overall or within a specific genre (though it appears on some), but makes very frequent appearances on more focused lists. It gains lots of recognition for its status as an improved sequel ("Sequels" (two lists), "Sequels that Redeemed Franchises", "Franchise Revivals", "Sequels that Fixed Problems", "Video Game Series Revivals") and its Capcom backing ("Best Games by Capcom", "Capcom Games", "Capcom And SNK Games", "Capcom Games", "Capcom Games For The PS2, Gamecube, And Xbox"), but even more of its support comes from people that appreciated the game's graphic style ("Graphically Spectacular Games Of All Time", "Most Amazing Looking Gamecube Games") and rather disturbing overall atmosphere ("Games That Just Plain Freak You Out", "Most Disturbing Enemies In A Horror Game", "Places In Games That Really Shouldn't Be This Creepy"). Resident Evil also makes several appearances on surprisingly specific lists, like "Projectile Sidearms", "Videogame Currencies", "Bald Video Game Characters", and a personal favorite, "Best Videogame Cows".
With 128 appearances, the original Metal Gear Solid is the #7 game on our list. Metal Gear Solid is widely recognized as one of the first games of its kind, appearing on such lists as "Memorable Genre-Defying Games", "Most Influential Games of All Time", and "Games That Were Ahead Of Their Time". A hefty portion of the appreciation for Metal Gear Solid also comes from those that recognize and respect its cinematic nature, including it on lists of "Video Games That Need Movies", "Original Game Series Inspired By Hollywood", and "Most Cinematic Games Of All Time". And of course, Solid Snake is indisputably one of the most badass characters in video game history, making it onto three lists of "Video Game Badasses" (his comrade, Gray Fox, also appears on three). Metal Gear Solid also garners recognition for a wide variety of other achievements, from its excellent villains ("Villains You Have To Respect", "Villains That Aren't From RPGs", "PS1/2 Badass Villains"), to its boss fights ("Recurring Boss Fights", "Bosses That Put The Fear Of God Into You"), to its quotes ("Most Quotable Games", "Most Memorable Lines In A Video Game").
With 133 Top 10 list appearances, Final Fantasy X comes in 6th, the second Final Fantasy game to make the list. Like Resident Evil 4, though, Final Fantasy X is surprisingly absent from lists that attempt to simply list the best games ever. Instead, though, Final Fantasy X receives praise for a huge number of characteristics, including its music ("Memorable Game Themes", "Best and Most Original Video Game Soundtracks"), its FMVs ("Video Game FMVs", "Most Entertaining Games to Watch"), its boss battles ("Hardest Bosses in Video Game History", "Secret/Extra Bosses", "Most Memorable Boss Fights", "Games with the Best Bosses", "Most Epic Final Boss Fights") and its characters ("Females in a RPG", "Most Badass Characters", "Most Suave Characters Ever", "Most Underrated RPG Heroes", "Most Recognizable Characters"). Final Fantasy X is also among the most popular within its specific subsets - RPGs ("Best RPGs", "RPG's In The Last 10 Years", "RPGs Of The New Millennium") and PlayStation 2 games ("PS2 Games So Far...", "Best PS2 Games", "PS2 Games").
The more obvious GameCube entry on this list is also the only game of its kind to appear. The other games all fall into a relatively similar broad category, featuring a main playable character, some semblance of a plot and little or no multiplayer. Super Smash Bros. Melee possesses none of that. It appears on 138 Top 10 lists, good for 5th place, and the types of lists reflect the different nature of the game. While we've seen other games frequent lists of strong characters, plots and graphics, here we see lots of praise for Super Smash Bros. Melee's addictiveness ("Most Addicting Games Ever", "Most Addicting Games Of All Time", "Games You Can't Stop Playing") and its multiplayer ("Games That Temporarily Turn Best Friends Into Arch-Enemies", "Multiplayer Games", "4-Player Games", "Same-Room Multi-player Experiences", "Best Multiplayer Games Ever"). But the most notable chunk of Super Smash Bros. Top 10 lists come from simple general praise as one of the greatest games ever - it makes appearances lists of the Top 10 "Nintendo Games", "Games On Nintendo Platforms", "Video Games Period", "Games Ever Made", and "Best Games Of All Time". By many accounts, it is one of those rare games that gives you reason enough on its own to actually buy its system ("System Sellers", "Reasons To Own A Gamecube").
The Top 4 most-often appearing games likely won't come as any surprise. Starting them off is one of the most important games in video game history and the oldest game on this list, the original Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System, with 140 lists. Not surprisingly, Super Mario Bros. gets a lot of credit for its role in changing the market, making lists for the Top 10 "Games that Redefined the Gaming Market", "Games That First Defined Their Genres", "Reasons Gaming Exists As It Does Today", "Most Important Games In The History Of The Gaming Industry", "Most Revolutionary Games" and "Most Influential Games In Gaming History". In fact, the vast majority of Top 10 lists featuring Super Mario Bros. focus either on its overall quality or its position in the history of video games, while the few others largely focus on characters ("Characters Who Have NEVER Been In a GameFAQs Contest", "Characters You Wish You Could Be", "Coolest Characters") and the random tidbits it's contributed to video game popular culture ("Health Pickups", "Game Over Screens", "Most Memorable Lines In A Video Game", "Characters Who Happen To Be Clad In Green".
In third place on our list is a gem from the SNES age and (clearly) one of the most popular games ever, Chrono Trigger. Chrono Trigger makes an appearance on 164 Top 10 lists, including basically every list of great RPGs: it's on the lists of Top 10 "RPGs", "Role-Playing Games Of All Time", "RPGs NOT called Final Fantasy", "Greatest Role-Playing Games", "Science Fiction RPGs", "Greatest Super Nintendo RPGs", "RPGs For The SNES", "SNES RPGs", "RPGs Ever", "RPG's Of All Time", and several more. It's also a mainstay on lists of top games for its console, including the Top 10 "Super Nintendo Games", "SNES games", "Super Nintendo Games", "SNES Games", "Greatest Games On SNES", and "MUST Have SNES Titles", among several others. Interestingly, though, Chrono Trigger appears on relatively few lists that focus on more specific criteria. Chrono gets a fair amount of attention ("Kid Protagonists in Gaming History", "Silent RPG Protagonists", "Heroes In Squaresoft RPG's", "Silent Protagonists"), as do the ladies in the game ("Females in a RPG", "Female Characters On The SNES", "Female Characters In RPGs"), while the music and plot get a bit of attention too - but overall, the appreciation for Chrono Trigger is for the game as a whole rather than individual details.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time may have won the most recent Best. Game. Ever. contest, but it comes in second on our list. Ocarina of Time is mentioned on 210 of GameFAQs' 1884 lists, and draws heavy consideration from a wide variety of list authors. It consistently ranks high among games on its console ("N64 Games", "Nintendo 64 Games", "Games for the Nintendo 64", "Most Worthwhile N64 Games", "Nintendo 64 Games") and by its publisher ("Nintendo Games", "Nintendo Games Ever Made", "Best Nintendo-Published Games Ever", "Greatest Nintendo Games Of All Time"), but perhaps more impressive is the way Ocarina of Time draws praise for an incredibly wide variety of its features. It's impressive enough for a game to be ranked one of the Top 10 ever in any one respect, but Ocarina of Time draws praise for being among the best all-time in features like its characters ("Nintendo Characters", "Most Badass Characters", "Coolest Characters"), its music ("Best Video Game Soundtracks", "Game Soundtracks", "Nintendo Jingles", "Musical Themes In Gaming", "RPG Musical Pieces"), its weapons and battle system ("RPG Battle Systems", "Best Weapons In Game", "Video Game Weapons"), its villains ("Bad Guys", "Video Game Villains", "Nintendo Villains"), its boss fights ("Most Memorable Boss Fights", "Epic Boss Battles", "Best Final Boss Fights") and its immersive world ("Most Atmospheric Games", "Best Interactive Worlds", "Most Impressive Console Worlds Traversed", "Most Immersive Games"). When a game does so many different things so incredibly well, it has to be considered one of the greatest games ever ("Games of All Time", "Video Games Period", "Perfect Games", "Greatest Games Of All-Time", "Games Ever Made").
Finally, the number one game shouldn't come as any surprise. Final Fantasy VII is included on a whopping 241 different Top 10 lists, 31 more than its closest competitor and 1 out of every 8 lists all-time. Final Fantasy VII, like Ocarina of Time, receives hefty praise for its console ("Greatest PSX Games", "PSX Games") and its publisher ("Games Developed By Square", "Best Games From Square/Soft/Enix", "Squaresoft (Not Square-Enix!) Games Ever Made"), and also receives a pretty hefty boost from the proliferation of RPG-oriented lists ("RPGs", "Best RPGs", "PS1 & PS2 RPG's", "Best RPGs For The Playstation", "RPGs Ever!", "RPG's Of All Time", "Most Influential RPGs. Ever.", "Best RPG's"). And like Ocarina of Time, Final Fantasy VII executes several individual aspects to near-perfection, garnering praise for its graphics ("Graphically Innovative Games", "Video Game FMVs"), characters ("Casts in a Video Game", "RPG Heroes", "Sword Wielding Characters Ever", "Badass RPG Characters"), plot ("Greatest Moments", "Tear Jerking Moments In RPG History", "Best Video Game Stories", "Best Storylines In Video Games", "Best Game Storylines"), and music ("Best And Most Original Video Game Soundtracks", "Video Game Soundtracks", "Video Game Music Tracks", "Best Video Game Soundtracks"). But what puts Final Fantasy VII over the top was the way that it single-handedly revolutionized the RPG genre, bringing it to 3D and introducing the genre to a whole new audience of fans ("Games that Redefined the Gaming Market", "Most Influential Games of All Time", "Most Revolutionary Games Of The 90s", "Most Influential RPGs. Ever.", "Gaming Innovations", "Video Game Firsts", "Defining Moments In Video Game History And The Games That Best Represent Them", "Transitions From 2D To 3D"). When a game does that much right and simultaneously has that big an impact on the gaming industry, it deserves to be ranked as one of the greatest games ever ("Video Games Period.", "Perfect Games", "Games Of All Time").
A couple little notes on the methods used in this tabulation: games were counted based on their URL (parsing by name would've been ridiculous), so in cases where a game is commonly listed under different titles (well, different GameFAQs URLs), those different listings weren't combined. I've looked through a bit and haven't noticed anything too significant (Pokemon Red/Blue, the most obvious one, would've come in 11th place if combined), but if you'd like me to look at other specific pairs of games, let me know. Other than that, the method should be pretty straightforward. Notice anything interesting? No games from the latest generation. In fact, the highest-ranked latest-generation game comes in a distant 38th place - Twilight Princess with 57 listings. I plan to use this list to compile some other new Top 10s as well, like which consoles appear the most and which titles unexpectedly appear pretty often. If you'd like to see the list, let me know and I'd be more than happy to send it to you for your own usage.
List by DDJ (06/16/2009)
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