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 #20 through #11.

The early days of gaming were much like the early days in history, with vast swaths of unexplored territory waiting to be developed. The games that succeeded in conquering new ground would go on to be among the standard-bearers of the industry, and the top 20 in the top 100 is filled with such classic games. First among them is 1994's Super Metroid, the follow-up to two hit games on the NES. Super Metroid largely coalesced and formalized the brand of platformer game characterized by it and the Castlevania series, differentiating platformers focused on exploration and power-ups from those focused on standalone levels and simple mechanics (Mario, Sonic). For its role in doing so, Super Metroid has remained one of the most well-acclaimed of all time. Although the series did not make the jump to 3D until six years after Mario, its reputation carried it into the next generations as well. For that reason, this isn't the last time we'll see Metroid today…

Far and away, the most significant jump in votes in the entire top 100 is between 20th and 21st. Super Mario 64 received 77 votes while Super Metroid received 94, a difference of seventeen votes. No other gaps it that high until the top four. For Super Metroid, no board was responsible for a significant chunk of its vote total: the leading board was Faceball with nine votes. The top six boards – Faceball, GameFAQs Contests, Current Events, Life, the Universe, and Everything, the Top 10 List board, and the Poll of the day board – each roughly matched their overall vote proportions, each casting one fewer vote than the last. The SNES board cast four votes for the game, as did the Classic Gaming board, tying it four first and third on those boards respectively.

Our next stop in our parade through gaming's greatest franchises takes us to the original Metal Gear Solid. Released in 1998 for the PlayStation, Metal Gear Solid was one of the landmark games of the fifth generation, demonstrating as Super Mario 64 did what gaming in three dimensions could do. The game essentially pioneered the notion of stealth gameplay, and introduced early forms of many conventions that would go on to define third-person shooters. The gameplay was not the game's only notable element, however, as Metal Gear Solid was also one of the earliest games to attempt to tell a real, compelling story in the interactive medium. With now almost a dozen games in the franchise, Hideo Kojima has weaved one of gaming's most compelling, as well as complex, stories. Further proving that greatness breeds greatness, this won't be the last time we'll see Metal Gear Solid in the top 100, either.

Like Super Metroid, the presence of Metal Gear Solid this high on the list is due to its universally-recognized greatness: as we near 100 votes for each remaining game, the totals are far too high for a game to be buoyed by a single board. A total of 38 different boards are responsible for Metal Gear Solid's 96 votes, led by Faceball, GameFAQs Contests, and Life, the Universe, and Everything, which combine for 28 votes. That total ties the game for second-favorite on Life, the Universe, and Everything, although it does not even make the top twelve on the other two boards. With four votes, the game ties for the fourth-favorite game of the PlayStation board.

The follow-up to the hit Persona 3 (previously discussed at #50 in the top 100), Persona 4 hit all the same notes and reached an even more positive reception. The unique combination of RPG elements with visual novel simulation mechanics remained fresh even after Persona 3's excellence and helped differentiate the game from the crowded ranks of PlayStation 2 JRPGs. However, it is arguably the portable remake that pushed the game this high into the stratosphere of the top 100. The PlayStation Vita supplied sufficient resources to completely duplicate and even expand the game, and Persona 4 Golden became the biggest boon to PlayStation Vita sales. This success led to an additional direct sequel, Persona 4 Arena, as well as additional sequels coming up for the 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

As mentioned above, the vote totals are too high here for a game to make the top 20 on the strength of one board alone. For Persona 4, it took two: the PlayStation Vita and GameFAQs Contests boards combined for 39 of the game's 100 votes. The game would still sit comfortably in the top 40 without these two boards, but they together pushed it all the way to eighteenth. For GameFAQs Contests, this ties the game for the board's fourth-favorite. For PlayStation Vita, it is the board's runaway favorite, with twenty of the board's 28 voters voting for it. Of course, a great number of those votes came for the rerelease of the game for the Vita, Persona 4 Golden; in fact, 46 of the game's 100 votes were cast specifically for the Vita rerelease. Outside these two boards, the game received 61 votes from 33 boards, led by seven from Faceball and five from Current Events.

For every platform, there is a Mario game, and the SNES is certainly no exception. Looking back and forward, that remains true: every Nintendo platform, from the NES to the Wii, has had (or will have) a Mario game in the top 100. Released in 1990, Super Mario World debuted into exactly these lofty expectations: the original Super Mario Bros. had essentially saved the video game industry after the crash of 1983, and Super Mario Bros. 3 was released to near-universal acclaim as the greatest game ever at the time. Super Mario World kept the streak going, with universally positive reviews and incredible sales. Nintendo has long based its success on strong games, and Super Mario World is among the most quintessential examples; one could easily make the argument that the SNES would never have been as successful without Super Mario World selling its systems. Sure, the SNES had many great games, but how many developers would have developed for it if it had not already achieved such excellent sales thanks in part to Super Mario World?

By far Super Mario World's biggest proponent in voting was Faceball, registering seventeen votes for the game for 16% of its total. Beyond Faceball, 45 different boards participated to give the game 87 additional votes. The game tied for top overall on the Nintendo 64DD board, and tied for third on the Xbox One board despite the topicality guideline. Beyond all the Mario games we have already discussed (and the one yet to come), games in the Mario franchise (including spin-offs) that did not make the top 100 received a grand total of 149 votes, enough to tie the remainder of the franchise with the #5 game of all time.

Resident Evil was one of the most influential early franchises in the survival horror genre, as described with Resident Evil 2 back at #64. To a certain extent, then, it should come as no surprise that the franchise also gave us one of the greatest games ever, in that genre or any, in Resident Evil 4. While some purists raise ire at describing Resident Evil 4 as a survival horror game given the increased emphasis on shooter mechanics, there is no denying that it remains one of the greatest games ever created. The gameplay was years ahead of its time and suggested early versions of many conventions that would go on to become standard in the genre. Arguably more importantly, however, the game also supplied one of the best performances ever seen in gaming, with an excellent cast of voice actors supporting beautifully rendered scenes. In many ways, Resident Evil 4 is partially responsible for raising the bar for narrative production values in gaming.

The GameFAQs Contests board, the second most-active board in the voting, doubled its vote share by casting 16% of Resident Evil 4's total votes, for a total of seventeen. The next most-supportive boards were the Current Events and Faceball boards, followed by the GameCube board. Although Resident Evil 4 was released for the PlayStation 2 within a year of its GameCube released, it is still often thought of as a GameCube exclusive, and it does tie for the GameCube board's favorite game. The PlayStation 2 board follows with four votes for the game. Beyond Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 4, the rest of the Resident Evil series combines for 31 votes, led by ten for the original game.

I mentioned at #20 that Super Metroid isn't the last Metroid game we'd see today. The Metroid series makes two appearances in the top 100, and both are in the top 20. The two are also consecutive releases in the franchise, although separated by eight years. By the time Metroid Prime came out, several franchises had already successfully jumped to 3D (Mario, The Legend of Zelda) while others had faltered in the new medium (Sonic, Mega Man). Metroid Prime joined the ranks of the earlier ones, successfully carrying the series to the new medium despite skipping a generation. Metroid Prime was a first-person shooter, making Metroid one of the only franchises to transition from platformer to shooter. Upon release, it was immediately recognized as one of the greatest games of the generation. Likely the most remarkable element of the game was its success in transferring the same type of exploration and puzzle-solving appeal from the earlier Metroid games into both a new medium and a new genre.

The Faceball board cast 10% of all votes tallied in the top 100, but cast 22% of the votes Metroid Prime received, a massive vote proportion. The game ranked as Faceball's third-favorite with 23 votes; for comparison, 10 of the board's top 12 games have not yet been covered (Super Mario World is the only exception). GameFAQs Contests comes next with eleven votes, followed by Current Events with eight. The Metroid-themed private board Dark Aether cast five votes for the game, making it the board's favorite game and drawing 38% of the board's voters. No other Metroid game outside Metroid Prime and Super Metroid received more than six votes in the top 100, although the Metroid Prime Trilogy, a compilation release for the Wii, received four votes.

The chart two weeks ago showed that there are seven Final Fantasy games in the top 100. So far, we've covered two, so we'd better get started on the rest! The ninth main-series Final Fantasy game, and the third on the PlayStation, Final Fantasy IX took the franchise back to its medieval roots with yet another massive step forward in graphics; it is incredible to realize that Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX came on the same console with the same hardware. Historically, however, the game has been considered in some ways underrated as it was outsold by both its predecessors. Given the massive impact of Final Fantasy VII, however, it is unfair to compare any game to it on sales alone. Among fans of the series, Final Fantasy IX is mentioned often as one of the series' best, with one of the franchise's best cast of characters, a charming mix of old and new gameplay, and an absolutely incredible score.

Up until now, no game has received double-digit vote totals from more than two boards; in fact, only Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4, and Persona 4 even receive double-digit votes from more than one. Final Fantasy IX, however, received double-digits from four different boards: Faceball, GameFAQs Contests, United Kingdom, and Current Events. We won't see that again until the #6 game of all time. The eleven votes each from Current Events and the United Kingdom board make it the third- and fourth-favorite game of those boards, respectively. The game only draws two votes, however, from the PlayStation board, as well as one from the dedicated Final Fantasy IX social board's nine voters.

We've talked about The Elder Scrolls twice already in the top 100, but the fifth installment, Skyrim, ranks as far and away the franchise's most-loved iteration. With each subsequent Elder Scrolls game, Bethesda does not seem to do anything necessarily completely new, but rather executes the same general structure with greater and greater success. The worlds are bigger, the abilities are broader, the graphics are better, and the releases leave the competition in the dust with every subsequent game. Skyrim essentially swept the Game of the Year awards for its release year, drawing universal praise, and is considered by many to be the best game of the seventh console generation. An active modding community for the PC has kept the game fresh for years as well, with mods doing everything from subtly tweaking the graphics to completely reskinning Skyrim as Westeros from Game of Thrones.

Given the recency of the game, a significant chunk of Skyrim's votes come from its consoles: the PC board cast seventeen votes for it for 16% of its total, while the Xbox 360 board cast thirteen votes for 12% of its total. This represented triple the PC's vote share and six times that of the Xbox 360, and made Skyrim the second-favorite game for the PC board and the favorite of the Xbox 360 board. The PlayStation 3 board cast a relatively low four votes. Beyond its consoles, the remaining 75 votes for the game came from 36 different boards, led by six each from Faceball and the United Kingdom and five each from Poll of the Day and WOT. Only one Elder Scrolls game besides the three in top 100, Daggerfall, received any votes.

Although Skyrim might be the popular pick for the best game of the seventh generation, another game inched it out by one vote in the top 100: the 2011 release Dark Souls. An action RPG and the spiritual successor to Demon's Souls, Dark Souls provided a quintessential example of a game that is more than meets the eye. Similar to The Last of Us, every element of the game seemed to fit together perfectly, with the massive enemies flowing seamlessly from the fear-inducing settings which fit perfectly in a massive map. For those who haven't played the game, likely the first thing that comes to mind for Dark Souls is the difficulty, but difficulty is a misnomer: Dark Souls gives the player the right kind of difficulty, a flow-preserving system of trial and error that allows and encourages the player to fail numerous times before succeeding. The game is hard, without a doubt, but the difficulty is natural in the design rather than artificially added for the sake of padding or frustration.

Unlike Skyrim, the biggest sources of votes for Dark Souls are not its consoles' boards: the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC boards combine for a mere sixteen votes for the game, less than the PC alone gave to Skyrim. Instead, the biggest supporters of Dark Souls are the big social boards: Faceball, Current Events, Poll of the Day, GameFAQs Contests, and the United Kingdom board are the game's top five boards. The ten votes received from the Poll of the Day board tied it for the board's top game, but overall, Dark Souls rose to the twelve spot on the strength of broad support from several boards. Its direct sequel, Dark Souls II, received a single vote, while Demon's Souls narrowly missed the top 100 with 23.

My personal favorite game of all time comes in eleventh place in the top 100. Released in 1997 as the Final Fantasy franchise's first tactical RPG or turn-based strategy game, Tactics has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Square's excellence extends beyond just the traditional Japanese RPG. Almost every element of the game received widespread acclaim, with the mechanics demonstrating impressive polish and the graphics, while moderately outdated relative to some other recent releases, nonetheless retaining a certain charm. For me, however, the game's plot and characters are its greatest feature, and together provide the greatest narrative I have ever seen in gaming history. The plot bordered on Shakespearean in both its content and its quality, and the complex web of relationships behind the visible scenes paint a deep story that grows more compelling with each additional playthrough. Several re-releases across PlayStation Network and the PSP have helped keep the game in view for new audiences as well as old, solidifying its reputation.

Final Fantasy Tactics has its own social board on GameFAQs, and unsurprisingly it is the runaway top choice for that board with eight votes from the board's twelve users. That is not its biggest supporter, however, as GameFAQs Contests sends fifteen votes to the game representing 13% of its total. Poll of the Day follows with ten votes, and Life, the Universe, and Everything ties with the dedicated social board with eight votes. The PlayStation board sends seven votes its way as well, tying Final Fantasy Tactics with Xenogears as the board's second-favorite game. Final Fantasy Tactics' two pseudo-sequels, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Final Fantasy Tactics A2, received a combined seven votes as well.

DDJ's Brief Analysis: As mentioned last week, the top 20 sees a major jump in votes from 77 for Super Mario 64 to 94 for Super Metroid. I would venture to guess that the top 20 would remain relatively consistent even if this was run again. If I run this again as planned in a few years, I might anticipate some of the more recent games (Persona 4, Dark Souls, Skyrim) to drop, but I think the rest of the games would stay up here. Sony is the major player in this portion of the top 100, as seven of the ten games were released for Sony consoles (including four PlayStation exclusives). That's going to change when we hit the top ten, though.

Chart of the Week: Games in the Top 100 by Company over Time -- drop by the Top 10 List board to see it!
This week, we'll look at changes to company popularity over time, similar to last week. In the chart below, each company is given a row, and each year is given a column. Green cells indicate years in which that company had at least one game. Blue cells indicate years between the company's first and last game, but wherein it did not have a game. Orange indicates years either before the genre's first year or after the genre's last year. Thus, orange represents "idle" time while blue represents "active" time. Although it's not terribly scientific, we can think of this as years of each company's prominence. The first and most obvious takeaway here is Nintendo's dominance. We saw a couple weeks ago that Nintendo has by far the most games in this list with 18, but we see in this graph that its dominance is spread out over time rather than contained within one area. They possess the first game on this list (Tetris, although one could argue over whether it is truly a Nintendo game) and the most recent one (The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds). Square is still around, of course, with the recent release of Final Fantasy XIII-3: Lightning Returns, but its heyday is long past it: the company's popularity dropped off in 2002. I did separate out Square-Enix for this list, but the latter company has had only one game in the Top 100 -- 2008's The World Ends With You. Through these rows, we also see the rise and fall of some of gaming's biggest powerhouses: Nintendo's former nemesis, Sega, has not had a Top 100 game since 1994, and Nintendo's old friend Rare did not have one after 2000's Perfect Dark. Rockstar, Naughty Dog, and Game Freak join Nintendo as the dominant developers nowadays, although Valve makes a respectable appearance as well. Several companies are bolstered in this chart by a single franchise as well. Game Freak, for example, subsists entirely on the Pokemon franchise. Konami has some variety, but the majority of its entries are Metal Gear Solid games (joined by Suikoden, Castlevania, and Silent Hill). Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption is its only entry outside the Grand Theft Auto franchise, just as Bethesda's Fallout 3 is its only entry outside the Elder Scrolls franchise. Almost the entirety of Nintendo's dominance is contained in the Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises, with only four of its 18 games coming from completely outside those two franchises. Other companies, however, have impressive variety: Square enters games from five different franchises, Valve from three, Rare from three, Capcom from five, and BioWare from four.

Factoid of the Week: The 2005 top 100 list contained an enormous number of recent releases that have since fallen way off the charts. Some of the highest-ranked games in 2005 to fail to make this top 100 include Doom (#33), Devil May Cry (#40), God of War (#48), Final Fantasy II (#50), and Soul Calibur (#50). One game ranked even higher and failed to make this top 100, but I'm not going to spoil what it is because some people might have even expected it in the top 10. Speaking of the top 10, though, three games from that top 10 have already been covered – GoldenEye 007 fell from #7 to #81, Metal Gear Solid fell from #8 to #19, and Halo fell from #9 to #54.

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 (06/10/2014)

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