With fourteen installments, the Tales franchise is one of the longest-running and best-selling RPG series of all time. In the GameFAQs Top 100, however, it receives relatively little recognition. One of the two games in the franchise to make the top 100 is the 2008 release Tales of Vesperia, the tenth game in the franchise. Tales of Vesperia's inclusion on this list is unsurprising as to date it remains one of the franchise's best-selling and most-acclaimed titles. The game was originally released on the Xbox 360, which may make its success even more impressive: the game appeals strongly to Japanese audiences, yet the Xbox 360 did not perform strongly in Japan, nor did it have a major library of RPGs to appeal to Western audiences. A PlayStation 3 port a year later helped bring it to a broader Japanese audience, and an animated prequel filled out the story.
Tales of Vesperia took a notable chunk of its votes from the GameFAQs Contests boards, with one-third of its 24 votes contributed by Board 8. Although the Contests board was the second-most active board in the voting, these eight votes still represented an above-average proportion given the total number of votes the game received. In fact, almost 1% of all votes cast by the Contests board were for Tales of Vesperia, suggesting that as many as 5% of voters on the board voted for the game (given that each voter can vote for five unique games). Three of its remaining votes came from the Xbox 360 board, where it enjoyed console appeal, and the remainder came from a mixture of console boards, social boards, private boards, and the RPG-specific Everything Else board.
It is worth noting that sharing in the tie for 98th were Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Trials and Tribulations, which each also received 24 votes. Ties were broken arbitrarily in this list series, and those two games were listed at 101st and 102nd in the results print-outs based on chance.
Mario's first nemesis, Sonic, burst onto the scene with the release of 1991's Sonic the Hedgehog. Any company can have one strong release, though: it takes more than one to make a competitive franchise. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 provided that additional game. Hailed as a worthy successor and praised by some as the reason why Sega posed a real threat to Nintendo, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 met nearly universal acclaim and outstanding sales upon release. Many of the features that would go on to define the franchise were introduced in that generation, including the character Tails and various areas and levels remixed in later releases. Another game by the same title was also released for the Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear, and accounts for the presence of those consoles in some charts later in this series: there is no way to distinguish the two games by name, so I inferred that at least some votes were for this alternate version. Only one vote specified it was for the Master System release, however.
As one might expect, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 received a significant chunk of its votes from the Sega Genesis board. More surprising, however, is that it received five votes from the United Kingdom board. The United Kingdom board was the fifth most active board in the voting, which explains half of this significant total, but the number is still notable. 99 different users voted from the United Kingdom board, so the five votes given to Sonic the Hedgehog 2 suggests over 5% of the board's voters voted for it. The remaining votes were scattered amongst several boards roughly according to the boards' activity.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Legend of Zelda franchise will appear quite frequently as we count down the GameFAQs Top 100. This starts here with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the 2006 release spanning both the Nintendo GameCube and the Nintendo Wii. The game also remains arguably the franchise's most modern-looking title as the titles released since then have either been handheld games (Phantom Hourglass, Spirit Tracks, and A Link Between Worlds) or featured a more colorful and simplistic artistic style (Skyward Sword). Upon release, it became one of the most acclaimed games of 2006, and stands as one of the best games ever released for either the GameCube or the Nintendo Wii. Given the level of acclaim that it received, it is perhaps surprising that the game is all the way down here at 97th. I predict that fans of the game are also fans of the series, and their votes were more commonly spent on some of the franchise's older titles.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess exhibited virtually no notable trends in the voting. One-fifth of its 25 votes came from the Faceball board, but the Faceball board was responsible for one-tenth of all votes cast (and 217 total voters), so this number may be a bit high but not shockingly so. Aside from Faceball, its votes were spread across fifteen different boards, with only five contributing more than one. Nintendo boards went for Twilight Princess quite frequently, with the GameCube, Wii U, and Nintendo 3DS boards voting for it, as well as the social board associated with Paper Mario.
The original Borderlands met positive reviews and praise for its interesting blend of RPG and shooter elements, but it remained somewhat raw and experimental. With Borderlands 2, though, Gearbox perfected the formula and provided one of the most acclaimed first-person shooters ever released. While the core gameplay remains a relatively pure first-person shooter, the RPG elements and artistic style set the game far apart from the rest of the genre. The game was one of the best-reviewed games of 2012, as well as one of the best-selling. Unlike many popular games, Borderlands 2 has also not slowed down over time. It remains a top seller, and an upcoming re-release on the PlayStation Vita will only cement its popularity even further. An abundance of DLC has kept the game fresh for the couple years since its original release as well.
Given its recent release, it is perhaps unsurprising that a decent portion of Borderlands 2's popularity in the voting came from boards dedicated to recent consoles. The Xbox 360 gave the game five of its votes, while the PC board followed up with four. 8% of the Xbox 360 board's voters voted for Borderlands 2. This wasn't just a topicality bias at play, however, as the remainder of the game's votes came from an assortment of boards, including the biggest social and private boards. Several smaller boards contributed a vote as well.
Another of the more recent games in this latter portion of the top 100, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was originally released in 2007 for the major seventh-generation consoles and the PC. The Call of Duty franchise originated in 2003 and had gathered a significant fanbase through its first three installments, but it was Modern Warfare that put the series over the top. Breaking away from the World War II setting that had been used for the previous three games, the story instead takes place in the near-future (at the time of release). The game takes the player around several locales, such as Azerbaijan, Russia, and Ukraine, in what is perhaps a surprisingly prophetic instance of reality mimicking art. Although the Call of Duty franchise has been criticized of late for its iterative improvements and yearly releases, we must remember that Call of Duty 4: Modern Ware was truly a game-changer in the industry, and arguably ushered in the era of modern first-person shooters.
The most significant contributor to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare's placement on this list was the United Kingdom board, which contributed four votes. Roughly 4% of voters from the board chose Modern Warfare as one of their five votes. The PlayStation 3 board contributed its console support in the form of three votes (8% of the board's voters). Final Fantasy XII's social board also contributed a surprising amount of support, with three of the board's nine voters choosing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare as one of their five games. The remaining sixteen votes were split between fourteen different contributing boards.
Although it never matched the kind of acclaim bestowed on its predecessor, Chrono Cross has nonetheless garnered its own popularity over the years since its release. Like the Final Fantasy and Tales franchises, Chrono Cross bares no direct relationship to its predecessor, but rather instead shares general themes and tone of Chrono Trigger. The graphics more closely resemble Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears than Chrono Trigger, and together with those games it demonstrated Square's continued mastery of the RPG genre in the new console generation. The game received significant critical acclaim upon release, but it did not resonate quite as strongly with fans. The reaction was positive, but following the incredibly high bar set by Chrono Trigger, one might argue that Chrono Cross could never truly had a fair shake to stand on its own merit. Chrono Cross marked the last release in the franchise even as other similar franchises continued, but many fans still thirst for another sequel.
Chrono Cross's votes largely came, in my opinion, from boards with slightly older user bases. Its two most supportive boards were Life, the Universe, and Everything and the Top 10 Lists board, both of which have a reputation for a somewhat older age and mature discourse. Each board contributed three votes to Chrono Cross, which represented approximately 5% of the voters on each board. The game also received support from its console's home board, with two of the PlayStation board's 29 voters voting for it. While most games received the majority of their votes very early in the voting period, Chrono Cross was unique in receiving half of its votes after the initial three days of voting. Needless to say, this is not the last we'll see of the Chrono franchise in the top 100, but we won't see its predecessor for a very long time.
We already saw Twilight Princess in this list, and the second appearance of the Legend of Zelda takes us back much closer to the franchise's genesis. Link's Awakening was the fourth installment in the series, and the first on a handheld console; The Legend of Zelda and The Adventure of Link both came on the NES, while the acclaimed Link to the Past was released for the SNES. Link's Awakening took very similar gameplay from its most recent console predecessor and implemented it on a handheld console, a major feat at the time. At the time of release, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was arguably the most advanced handheld game yet released, and went on to be one of the console's all-time most-popular games. A remake was released several years later for the Game Boy Color, featuring new content and full-color visuals. This remake was subsequently released for the Virtual Console on the Nintendo 3DS, making it accessible to you, right now.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening drew the majority of its votes from the big social boards involved in the voting. Five boards gave it multiple votes: Poll of the Day (four votes), GameFAQs Contests (three votes), Nonstop Gaming (two votes), United Kingdom (two votes), and Life, the Universe, and Everything (two votes). These were also among the most active boards in the polling process, ranking sixth, second, twelfth, fifth, and seventh respectively. Interestingly, Link's Awakening drew only one vote from Faceball, despite the board being responsible for the most votes of any board. The remainder of the game's votes were split amongst twelve other boards, one vote from each.
Only ten companies are responsible for more than four games on this list. We've already seen a couple of them, but none of them were surprising; however, Blizzard's presence in this elite group might come as more of a surprise. Although the company has had many great games, it also has far fewer releases than many of its contemporaries. Warcraft III, the real-time strategy sequel to the previous two Warcraft games, is the first we'll encounter. Released in 2002, Warcraft III came after Blizzard's breakout hit Starcraft and proved once and for all their complete mastery of the real-time strategy genre. The game came at a time when real-time strategy games were starting to die out, largely due to EA's acquisition of Westwood Studios, one of Blizzard's main competitors. Today, many new gamers might not even realize that World of Warcraft has its roots in a real-time strategy franchise, but Warcraft III remains one of the all-time greats of the genre.
Warcraft III drew a significant amount of its support from the two busiest boards in the series, GameFAQs Contests and Faceball. Each contributed four votes, representing negligible portions of the boards' voters but a significant count for games toward the bottom of the top 100. The PC board chipped with three votes as well, meaning that almost half of Warcraft III's votes came from the three busiest voting boards. The remainder of the votes came from a split of twelve different boards. Like Chrono Cross, Warcraft III drew significant support late in voting. The game was not even in the top 100 until it drew nine votes in the last five days.
Released in 1995, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was the second Mario platformer on the SNES and the ninth Mario game overall, if we count the American and Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 games separately. The game thrust Yoshi, a new character from the previous game, into the spotlight alongside a baby version of Mario. The game was highly acclaimed upon release, praised as Yoshi has since gone on to be one of the franchise's most popular and recognizable figures, appearing in almost every game since then as well as receiving his own spin-off series. The game was later re-released for the Game Boy Advance as Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, as well as later for the Nintendo 3DS in its original form. Yoshi's most recent appearance was actually last week, as Yoshi's New Island was released for the Nintendo 3DS, a direct sequel to the original Yoshi's Island featuring similar gameplay and the same Baby Mario mechanic.
Nineteen different boards submitted at least one vote for Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, but only one – Faceball – submitted as many as three. The game's home board, the SNES board, contributed two votes, which represented 15% of the users who voted from the SNES board (two out of the thirteen users). Its remaining votes came from several social boards, including three regional boards: United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Asia. Although it was re-released for the Game Boy Advance, none of its votes were explicitly for the Game Boy Advance re-release, but rather all were for the original game. A four-way tie at 88th spans this list and the next one, but random chance lands Yoshi's Island here.
Rounding out the first ten in this list series is another one of the top 100's most recent games, Dragon Age: Origins. A new intellectual property produced by experienced developer BioWare (another in the exclusive group of companies contributing four or more games to the top 100), Dragon Age: Origins was praised as one of the most ambitious and original properties to come along in years. Although the setting and concepts of the game are grounded strongly in a long history of high fantasy, the game's open nature, incredible graphics, and engaging story set it apart as one of the best games of the seventh console generation. Like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Dragon Age: Origins helped mark a turning point in the development of the Western RPG, demonstrating that nearly all technical limitations had been passed and quality was now determined more purely by design.
Like many of the other games in this initial top ten, Dragon Age: Origins drew its appeal across a wide variety of boards. These board-by-board statistics will get far more interesting as we ascend the top 100, but for these games near the bottom, a bit of broad appeal is enough to thrust them into the final tally. Dragon Age: Origins received multiple votes from four of the five most active boards in the voting: Faceball (four votes), United Kingdom (four votes), PC (two votes), and GameFAQs Contests (two votes). Interestingly, it received no votes from the PlayStation 3 board and only one vote from the Xbox 360 board, despite the console appeal there. Dragon Age: Origins landed in a four-way tie with three other games for the 88th slot, but random chance bumped it down to this first top ten list.
DDJ's Brief Analysis: The first list in the series has sequels in several popular franchises. This certainly won't be the last we'll see of Mario, Tales, Sonic, The Legend of Zelda, Chrono, or even Warcraft. There's also a major recency effect down here at the end of the top 100, with five games at least appearing on seventh-generation consoles. Dragon Age: Origins is actually in a four-way tie for 88th place with the bottom three games from next week's list. We'll find more and more separation as this series goes on: three and four votes separate the games within the first few lists, but the #1 and #10 games are separated by almost 100 votes.
Chart of the Week: Top 100 Games by Genre -- drop by the Top 10 List board to see it!
This week, we're looking at the games in the Top 100 according to their genres. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japanese RPGs dominate the list, with almost one-fourth of the series' games coming from the genre. The other three types of RPGs -- Action RPGs, Western RPGs, and MMORPGs -- account for another 16%. Several games in these genres could likely have been classified differently as well, under Real-Time Strategy, Third-Person Shooter, or Action-Adventure in different instances. The prevalence of the Action-Adventure genre might be surprising to some, but several games do not fit any genre better than this overarching category. The entire Legend of Zelda and Metal Gear Solid franchises are included under this umbrella, as well as a few games that could be considered visual novels or shooters instead.
Factoid of the Week: Although 237 boards had voting topics, only 168 actually received votes. Two boards received only a single vote: e and Ouya.
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.
List by DDJGames (04/16/2014)
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