The seventh console generation provided a noble share of new intellectual properties, not least of which is the Uncharted series. Starting with the original Uncharted, the franchise has filled the demand for games that look as good as movies, both in their graphical quality and their scope and style. While all three games in the franchise (in addition to the PSP Vita game Golden Abyss) have been critically acclaimed and commercially successful, there is little disagreement that the franchise's high point is the middle installment, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The winner of dozens of Game of the Year awards upon release, Uncharted 2 was a masterpiece in nearly every dimension, featuring gorgeous visuals, magnificent and enormous set pieces, free improvisational gameplay, and a decent plot to boot. The game quickly became a cornerstone of the PlayStation 3's marketing campaign, and the franchise's upcoming sequel is one of the most hotly anticipated games for the PlayStation 4.
Unlike Portal 2, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves drew its support from a more concentrated base of boards. Its 36 votes came from only fifteen boards, led by its home console. The PlayStation 3 board cast six votes in its favor, representing 17% of the game's total (the board itself cast 1% of the total votes, to give an idea of the significance this number).That also represented 17% of the voters from the PlayStation 3 board, making Uncharted 2 the second-most popular game for the board. Unlike some of the 3DS games, however, Uncharted 2 still drew lots of support from other boards as well: Faceball and the GameFAQs Contests board each cast five votes for it, followed by four from the United Kingdom and three each from Poll of the Day and the Top 10 Lists board.
Released in 2000, Skies of Arcadia belongs to a somewhat elite group in the GameFAQs Top 100: it is one of only six standalone games (that is, original games that have not yet received a sequel). We've already talked about two of those games, The World Ends With You and Perfect Dark, but those games (as well as two of the three remaining games in that group) had a significant developer behind them. Overworks, the developer of Skies of Arcadia, had no such significant titles. Skies of Arcadia was a unexpected sleeper hit, a somewhat traditional Japanese-style RPG that bet on a colorful style, a fascinating world, and an uplifting group of characters. Where Japanese RPGs are often dark, brooding, and complex, Skies of Arcadia instead favored color and brightness in its style, its themes, and its cast. That bet paid dividends, and Skies of Arcadia remains a cult classic. A rerelease for the GameCube helped bring the game to a larger audience as well, breaking away from the limited audience available on the DreamCast.
Skies of Arcadia was a favorite of a couple of the bigger boards: Faceball cast six votes for it and GameFAQs Contests cast five, representing 17% and 14% of the game's votes; each of those totals surpassed the expected ratio considering the number of total votes cast by those boards. Nine other different boards each cast multiple votes for the game, including the Top 10 Lists board, home to my own ballot that included Skies of Arcadia as one of its five selections (as well as Uncharted 2, actually). As with other games in the top 100, remarkes, ports, and rereleases are grouped under the original game, and half of the votes for Skies of Arcadia were cast for its GameCube port.
Released in 2005, Kingdom Hearts II was the follow-up to Square Enix's 2002 hit Kingdom Hearts. One of the strangest original concepts to come along in video gaming in recent memory, Kingdom Hearts had proposed uniting the protagonists of Disney's greatest franchises with those of Square's greatest games. The game was a surprise success, spurring the 2005 follow-up that lived up to its predecessor's praise. The graphics and voice acting received their share of praise as the game knit together exactly the kind of cohesive, engaging experience that had been missing in many of Square Enix's other titles after the merger. Some people suggest as well that it was Kingdom Hearts II that elevated the franchise from a light, silly concept to an earnest, esteemed stand-alone franchise. Indeed, many of the plot elements that have made the game's story deep and compelling can be traced back to the series' second installment.
Initially, I miscounted the votes for Kingdom Hearts II: my counting program inadvertently considered Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts 2 separately, dropping it out of the top 100. I fixed the problem, but if you see references throughout this series to there being only one Kingdom Hearts or Square Enix game in the top 100, those portions were written before I realized this mistake. Kingdom Hearts II ultimately drew its appeal from a diverse set of boards, led by Poll of the Day and Faceball with five votes each. Its console's home board contributed three votes, its dedicated social board placed two votes, and the Square Enix board submitted one vote.
I just mentioned that Skies of Arcadia is one of only two standalone games in the top 100 that wasn't developed by a big-name developer. The other? The very next game on the list, Minecraft. Minecraft is a game unlike any other. Initially developed just as a personal project by now-famous developer Notch Markus "Notch" Persson, Minecraft was a hit before it even left the beta phase. It had no advertising, no marketing, no publisher, and no promotion outside of simple word-of-mouth. Despite no traditional expenses, the game made millions of dollars in revenue before ever being officially released. This success is due, in my opinion, to the incredibly unconventional style and structure of the game. The creative mode of the game is essentially Legos on a screen, allowing players to make absolutely anything they can imagine. Minecraft has been universally praised and presented numerous awards, even spawning its own convention. Its popularity and simplicity has led to numerous ports to other consoles and systems, including versions for Android, iPhone, iPad, and the Xbox 360.
Given its unique style and structure, it is perhaps unsurprising that Minecraft also draws a somewhat unique voting audience. Its biggest supporters are the PC board and the independent Warflame board, casting three votes each, as well as the generally active Faceball and United Kingdom boards. Four other boards cast a pair of votes each, including the board for Minecraft's other console, the Xbox 360, and its remaining votes come from seventeen other boards giving it one vote each.
Released only six months ago, Grand Theft Auto is the latest title in one of gaming's most successful franchises, and the third-most recent game in the top 100. While its predecessors helped create the sandbox genre, however, Grand Theft Auto V is released into a genre that has now been well-defined and well-trodden. The game sets itself apart with a more compelling narrative, a dynamic and varied cast of characters, and one of the biggest and fullest game worlds that the industry has ever seen. The size of the game world matches that of many major cities, like San Francisco, and while it doesn't rival Skyrim in pure acreage, every corner of the world is active and important. The game also came with Grand Theft Auto Online, a standalone massively multiplayer game. The game was universally critically acclaimed upon release, winning awards for everything from its audio to its multiplayer to gameplay, as well as several Game of the Year awards.
Unsurprisingly, a significant portion of Grand Theft Auto V's vote total comes from the boards for its consoles: the Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 boards combine to give the game 14 of its 38 votes. The United Kingdom follows with three votes, an expected total given the board's general love of the entire Grand Theft Auto Franchise. The game drew lots of support from a variety of other boards as well, making its appearance here far more than console bias: sixteen other boards cast at least one vote for the game, with six casting two.
Spanning almost twenty games (depending on how you count them), seven movies, a book series, a comic book series, and other kinds of media, the Resident Evil series is one of gaming's greatest franchises. There is little disagreement that the best game in the franchise is the fourth installment, Resident Evil 4, but we'll get to that later. Resident Evil 2, released seven years earlier, was the series' breakout hit (although the original was popular, too), and played a major role in creating the survival horror genre and defining it for the new 3D console generation. It was also one of gaming's most significant commercial successes at the time, selling almost 400,000 copies in its opening weekend. The combination of a spooky atmosphere, excellent audio, and overall production values helped the game to universal acclaim and a place in video game history. I might argue it would be even higher on this list if its own successor, Resident Evil 4, had not surpassed it – but we'll talk about that in a few weeks.
With the exception of three votes from its console's home board (representing 10% of the users that voted from the PlayStation board), Resident Evil 2's votes came from the biggest boards in the voting process. Poll of the Day and Faceball each sent four votes its way, followed by three votes each from the United Kingdom board and the GameFAQs Contests board. Additional votes from the Top 10 Lists board, Current Events, and the PC board mean that almost half of the game's votes come from the results' eight busiest boards. Despite the franchise's overall success, however, don't expect to see it again until we eventually get to Resident Evil 4.
Uncharted is not the only successful new franchise to debut with the seventh console generation: rivaling it in popularity and blowing it (and almost every other game) out of the water in scope, the 2007 release Mass Effect is easily one of the most significant debuts of the last ten years and among the most compelling franchises in gaming. Seasoned developer BioWare, of prior Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic fame developed the new property. If one word could describe the original Mass Effect, it would be massive: the game is massive in the size of the game universe, massive in the scope of the storyline, and massive in the depth of character customization. The morality and conversation system is one the game's truly remarkable characteristics, providing unbelievable ongoing control of the character's actions and tone. The script writing to allow a variety of player characters to make sense is impressive on its own right as well. Mass Effect was later ported to the PlayStation3 to meet rampant fan demand.
The Mass Effect franchise was a universal hit for the seventh console generation, and as a result it is unsurprising that it draws support from all over the map. Its biggest supporters are the Current Events board and the PC board, each contributing five votes to combine for 25% of the game's total (while themselves combining for 11% of the total votes). A pair of Xbox boards, for the 360 and the One, each contribute two votes as well, along with four votes each from the Faceball and United Kingdom boards. Fifteen other boards cast at least one vote for the game, with the independent Demolition Zone casting two.
We've now seen four Valve games in the top 100, the most so far for any company except Nintendo. We've also already seen an appearance by one game in the Orange Box compilation, Portal, but now we're taking a look at another. Team Fortress 2 was also released in the Orange Box, and like Portal, received widespread critical acclaim. I conceptualize the game as something of a merger of Half-Life's gameplay quality with Portal's humor and tone; the game continues to demonstrate Valve's command of the first-person shooter genre, but with a more light-hearted and colorful feel. Like Portal, the game uses subtle ways of developing the personalities of the individual classes of characters in a genre that often is content to let its protagonists be bland silent faces. The level design is strong as well, and the game does a marvelous job of incentivizing teamwork positively.
Originally released for the PC and the Xbox 360, the game draws most of its support (both commercially and in the voting) from the PC crowd. Five of its 39 votes are from the popular PC board, and while that is nowhere near the top for the board itself (whose top game received 19 votes from that board alone), it is still a notable total given the overall numbers. It also drew significant support from some of the biggest boards, including four votes from Faceball, three from Random Insanity, three from the GameFAQs Contests board, and three from the Top 10 Lists board. The game's other release console, the Xbox 360, sent a vote its way as well, although none were received from the PlayStation 3 board.
BioWare's third game in the GameFAQs Top 100 is also its oldest on the list, dating back to 2000, when the studio was still relatively small. Based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game franchise, Baldur's Gate II was one of the largest games in scope released at the time. The main sidequest ran over 60 hours, putting most other games of the era to shame, and the game had several times more overall content in the form of sidequests and optional tasks. Baldur's Gate II is one of the most highly acclaimed games of all time, named to several lists of top games and in the running for greatest PC game ever. The game was also largely responsible for putting BioWare on the map as well, making it partially responsible for later hits like Mass Effect, Dragon Age: Origins, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
Baldur's Gate II, however, was a PC exclusive, and GameFAQs is largely known to be a site for console games first. That shows in the voting: Baldur's Gate II drew 12 of its 39 votes from the PC board, for 31% of its total, one of the largest sums we've seen so far. 146 users voted from the PC board, meaning Baldur's Gate II drew 8% of the voters from the board. It ranks as the board's seventh-favorite game, tying it with Half-Life 2. The game was also supported by WOT and Life, the Universe, and Everything, drawing four votes each. WOT previously chose Baldur's Gate II as its third-favorite game in its own top ten list, and it similarly ties for third in these results. The game also placed eighth on the Netherlands board's list, but drew none of the board's eight votes this time.
Given its overall success, it's perhaps surprising that we've seen only two Square games so far (three if we include Square-Enix, but for the sake of the charts I separated the two). We'll see a lot more going forward, starting now with Super Mario RPG. Super Mario RPG was a dream collaboration: it combined the most successful franchise at the time, Mario, with the masters of gaming's newest dominant genre, the Japanese RPG. Nintendo rarely allows another company to develop a game involving its featured protagonist, but Square received the opportunity and took advantage of it marvelously. The game is a critical hit, selling millions of copies and becoming a mainstay on other lists of the greatest games ever made. Super Mario RPG would spawn two spiritual successors in the form of Mario's new RPG franchises, Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi. Both of those have had hits as well, and this won't be the last Mario RPG we see in the top 100.
Like most classic games we've seen, Super Mario RPG's appeal comes from all over the place. Life, the Universe, and Everything, Poll of the Day, and Current Events each vote for it four times, as does the independent board Sports-A-Roni. For that last board, it represented votes from four of the board's fourteen users, a significant total making it the board's favorite game. Super Mario RPG's voting total was somewhat backloaded as well: while it drew half of its votes in the first three days, an additional 10% came in the last four days.
DDJ's Brief Analysis: In case you haven't noticed, there's a bit of a pattern starting to emerge. It's by no means absolute, but generally, older classics, like Super Mario RPG and Resident Evil 2, draw support from a broad cross-section of boards. Meanwhile, newer games, like Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto V, and Minecraft, tend to draw their votes from a narrower body of boards, often focusing on the boards for consoles that hold the game. Going forward, we'll see this trend continue in some ways, but disappear in others: having support from your console's board might be enough to get a game into these early lists, but to rise higher, it takes much more general appeal.
Chart of the Week: Top 100 Games by Release Year -- drop by the Top 10 List board to see it!
This week, we'll look at the number of games in the Top 100 from each year. Every single year from 1980 to 2013 had at least one game in the Top 100, with no gaps and no years outside that range. There are two general major spikes in the count. 21 games were released in the three-year period from 1998 to 2000, meaning 20% of the games came from that 12% of the years. Significant spikes are also seen in 2004 and 2007, adding fuel to the ongoing debate about the best single year in gaming history. An impressive five games are in the Top 100 from 2013 along. With 24 years and 100 games, though, we would expect an average of 4 games per year, so only 1998, 2000, 2004, and 2007 truly deviate upwards from the average, suggesting that any suspicions of a recency bias are overblown.
Factoid of the Week: Among the busiest boards, the console boards largely had the greatest agreement on their top game of all time. 8% of voters on the PlayStation 3 board voted for its favorite game and 7% of PlayStation 2 voters for its favorite, compared to 3% and 4% for most other busy boards. The greatest agreements came from the Nintendo 3DS board, where 10% of the users voted for its favorite game, and the PlayStation board, where 12% voted for its favorite.
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 DDJ (05/12/2014)
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