The Scientifically Proven Top 100 Video Games of All Time

When it comes to deciding which video games qualify as the best of all time, everyone has an opinion. And sometimes those opinions result in a violent argument over the mental faculties (or lack thereof) of the listmaker. So we thought we’d add a little science to the equation to find out exactly which games can be considered the “100 Best Video Games of All Time” and which ones have been fighting above their weight class all these years.

Sources and Methodology

This “Meta Top 100” was compiled from six recent Top 100 lists and the 100 highest-rated games on GameRankings as of the the US release date of the most recent game selected by a source (April 30, 2012).

Each Top 100 list was chosen because it included titles from as many platforms as possible and stretched back multiple generations. As such, recent Top 100 lists from Nintendo Power and PC Gamer were excluded. No weighting of the sources was done as the “Meta Top 100” uses the average position of each title in each list as the overall ranking. If a game was unreleased at the time of a list’s creation, it was not included in the game’s overall average. If a game was released and was unranked by a source, it was given a ranking of 101 from that source for averaging purposes. In the case of remakes (i.e. Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Source, they were considered one game for averaging purposes.

So, without further adieu, here are the sources used for our “Meta Top 100”:

IGN – Top 100 Games of All Time (Cut-Off: December 31, 2006)

Edge – The 100 Best Games of All Time (Cut-Off: June 30, 2007)
Source Notes: The ranking for “The Bomberman Series” on this list was folded into Super Bomberman for averaging purposes.

Edge – 100 Best Games to Play Today (Cut-Off: January 31, 2009)
Source Notes: The ranking for “The Bomberman Series” on this list was folded into Super Bomberman for averaging purposes.

Game Informer – Top 200 Games of All Time (Cut-Off: December 31, 2009)

G4 – Top 100 Video Games Of All Time (Cut-Off: December 31, 2011)

Games Radar – 100 Best Games of All Time (Cut-Off: March 31, 2012)

GameRankings (Cut-Off: April 30, 2012)
Source Notes: Multiplatform titles were only listed once with their highest score. Any game released before 1991 is not included in GameRankings’ database and any game released before the aggregator’s creation in 2000 without 10 reviews was removed from consideration due to an incomplete record of critical response.

It should be noted that another Top 100 list is currently working its way to completion: 1UP’s Essential 100. The feature is being spread out over half a year and four parts (one, two, and three are currently available). Hopefully it can be added to a future update of the “Meta Top 100.”

Alright, with all the housekeeping out of the way, let’s get to the list.

The List: 1 – 25

As if there was any doubt, Alexey Pajitnov’s puzzle masterpiece, Tetris, is “The Scientifically Proven Best Game of All Time.” It was included on every list and its lowest ranking was #9 in the Edge Special. But as with all “Top 100” lists, it’s the exclusions that get all the hype. And in this case it’s the exclusion of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time from Games Radar’s list and Half-Life 2‘s exclusion from G4TV’s list. Both games have been battling it out as the presumptive “Best Game of All Time” for nearly a decade, but those exclusions pushed both a bit further down the list and allowed Tetris to sneak into the top spot.

However, it should be noted that this “Meta Top 100” isn’t solely the domain of dusty (and sometimes musty) old games. The two newest titles on the list, Batman: Arkham City and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are both less than a year old and ranked within the Top 13.

Overall, Nintendo reigned supreme in the first quarter of the list as four Mario games (Super Mario 64, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Super Mario World), Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, and the aforementioned Ocarina of Time all made it into the Top 25. And for good measure, Nintendo also published the Game Boy/NES version of Tetris (considered by many, myself included, to be the definitive version of the game).

If you’re interested in The Complete List (which includes 334 titles), you can find it in Google Docs.

1. Tetris (1986)
Average Ranking: 4.7

2. Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Average Ranking: 12.3

3. Super Mario 64 (1996)
Average Ranking: 14.9

4. Super Metroid (1994)
Average Ranking: 16.8

5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
Average Ranking: 17.6

6. BioShock (2007)
Average Ranking: 19.2

7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
Average Ranking: 19.9

8. Half-Life 2 (2004)
Average Ranking: 20

9. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)
Average Ranking: 21.8

10. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Average Ranking: 22.2

11. Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
Average Ranking: 22.4

12. Batman: Arkham City (2011)
Average Ranking: 23.7

13. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Average Ranking: 26.3

14. Chrono Trigger (1995)
Average Ranking: 29.3

15. Red Dead Redemption (2010)
Average Ranking: 29.7

16. Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990)
Average Ranking: 30

17. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Average Ranking: 33.1

18. Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Average Ranking: 37

19. World of Warcraft (2004)
Average Ranking: 37.3

20. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)
Average Ranking: 40

21. StarCraft (1998)
Average Ranking: 44.3

22. Shadow of the Colossus (2005)
Average Ranking: 45

23. Halo 3 (2007)
Average Ranking: 45.6

43 (tie). Ms. Pac-Man (1981)
Average Ranking: 46.2

24 (tie). Super Mario World (1991)
Average Ranking: 46.2

The List: 26 – 50

The second quarter of the “Meta Top 100” has a bit of a split personality between more modern fare and some of the classics of the Atari/NES/Super NES eras. Four more Mario games (Super Mario Kart, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island) cracked the top 50 alongside The Legend of Zelda and Street Fighter II. This section of the “Meta Top 100” is also home to both Portal games, the first “modern” JRPG (Final Fantasy VII), three groundbreaking first person shooters (Halo: Combat Evolved, GoldenEye 007, and Half-Life), and the granddaddy of the open world genre (Grand Theft Auto III).

26. Metal Gear Solid (1998)
Average Ranking: 47.6

27. Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
Average Ranking: 47.6

28. Street Fighter IV / Super Street Fighter IV (2008)
Average Ranking: 48

29. Ico (2001)
Average Ranking: 48.4

30. Final Fantasy VII (1997)
Average Ranking: 48.5

31. Portal 2 (2011)
Average Ranking: 48.7

32. Street Fighter II / Super Street Fighter II Turbo / Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (1991)
Average Ranking: 49.5

33. Deus Ex (2000)
Average Ranking: 49.9

34. Super Mario Kart (1992)
Average Ranking: 50

35. Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Average Ranking: 51.2

36. Portal (2007)
Average Ranking: 51.6

37. GoldenEye 007 (1997)
Average Ranking: 51.9

38. Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
Average Ranking: 52.6

39. Final Fantasy VI (1995)
Average Ranking: 52.9

40. Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
Average Ranking: 54.9

41. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995)
Average Ranking: 56.7

42. Half-Life (1998)
Average Ranking: 58.6

43. The Legend of Zelda (1987)
Average Ranking: 58.7

44. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006)
Average Ranking: 63.3

45 (tie). Metroid Prime (2002)
Average Ranking: 64

45 (tie). Rock Band 3 (2010)
Average Ranking: 64

47. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
Average Ranking: 64.1

48. God of War (2005)
Average Ranking: 64.3

49. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Average Ranking: 64.8

50. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2003)
Average Ranking: 65.4

51-100

Titles in the bottom half of the list often made their way into the “Meta Top 100” on the back of a particularly passionate source. For example, id’s seminal first person shooter Doom was given a #9 ranking by Game Informer, but barely scratched the surface of any other list. However, that was enough for a spot in the “Meta Top 100.” But the most amazing statistic is that Nintendo-published games account for more than 20% of the “Meta Top 100.” Say what you will about their business philosophy, but their game design philosophy is one of almost universal acclaim.

On a personal note, I am thrilled that both Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 and Secret of Mana both made the “Meta Top 100.” Geometry Wars 2 is my favorite game of the current generation and Secret of Mana, which squeaked in at #100, is probably my favorite from the days of 16-bits.

51. Pokemon Red / Blue / Yellow (1998)
Average Ranking: 65.5

52. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)
Average Ranking: 66.6

53. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002)
Average Ranking: 67.1

54. SimCity 2000 (1993)
Average Ranking: 67.8

55. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (1987)
Average Ranking: 68.2

56. LittleBigPlanet (2008)
Average Ranking: 68.2

57. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
Average Ranking: 68.3

58. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)
Average Ranking: 69.1

59. Advance Wars (2001)
Average Ranking: 69.3

60. Mega Man II (1988)
Average Ranking: 69.7

61. Diablo II (2000)
Average Ranking: 70

62. Fallout 3 (2008)
Average Ranking: 70.4

63. Doom (1993)
Average Ranking: 71.5

64. Counter-Strike / Counter-Strike: Source (2000)
Average Ranking: 71.6

65. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty (2010)
Average Ranking: 72

66. Civilization IV (2005)
Average Ranking: 72.3

67. Doom II (1994)
Average Ranking: 72.7

68. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater / Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (2004)
Average Ranking: 72.9

69 (tie). Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Average Ranking: 73

69 (tie). Gears of War 2 (2008)
Average Ranking: 73

71. Contra (1988)
Average Ranking: 73.2

72. Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)
Average Ranking: 73.3

73. Okami (2006)
Average Ranking: 74

74. Company of Heroes (2006)
Average Ranking: 74.9

75. Super Bomberman / “Bomberman Series” (1993)
Average Ranking: 75.3

76. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
Average Ranking: 75.7

77. Civilization V (2010)
Average Ranking: 76

78. Soul Calibur (1999)
Average Ranking: 76.1

79. Pokemon Black / White (2011)
Average Ranking: 76.7

80. Final Fantasy XII (2006)
Average Ranking: 76.9

81. Quake III Arena (1999)
Average Ranking: 77.2

82 (tie). Left 4 Dead (2008)
Average Ranking: 77.2

82 (tie). Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (2008)
Average Ranking: 77.2

84. Virtua Fighter 5 (2007)
Average Ranking: 77.7

85. Team Fortress 2 (2007)
Average Ranking: 77.8

86. Civilization II (1996)
Average Ranking: 78.2

87. Rock Band 2 (2008)
Average Ranking: 78.2

88. Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998)
Average Ranking: 78.3

89 (tie). Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (2001)
Average Ranking: 79

89 (tie). Minecraft (2011)
Average Ranking: 79

91. Assassin’s Creed II (2009)
Average Ranking: 79.25

92. Perfect Dark (2000)
Average Ranking: 79.4

93. Burnout Paradise (2008)
Average Ranking: 79.6

94. Gran Turismo (1998)
Average Ranking: 80.7

95. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)
Average Ranking: 80.9

96. Rez / Rez HD (2002)
Average Ranking: 81

97. Grim Fandango (1998)
Average Ranking: 81.3

98. System Shock 2 (1999)
Average Ranking: 81.7

99. Final Fantasy X (2001)
Average Ranking: 81.7

100. Secret of Mana (1993)
Average Ranking: 81.8

Beyond the Top 100

An additional 233 titles were included on at least one Top 100 list, but they weren’t able to gather enough points to crack the “Meta Top 100.” Some of these also-rans include classics from the early days of arcades including Galaga (#125), Donkey Kong (#127), Space Invaders (#132), Pac-Man (#190), and Pong (#332). But others are more recent titles that are sure to rise as new Top 100 lists are produced, including Angry Birds (#135) and the newest game on the list, Mass Effect 3 (#323).

Most of the games that you would expect to see on your average Top 100 list were selected by at least one source, but I was most surprised by the exclusion of Midway’s twin-stick shooter Smash TV. Not a single publication picked it, likely because that spot was taken by the forefather of the genre, Robotron 2084 (#168). I guess we all have our favorites that have been forgotten by the critical community at large.

Once again, The Complete List can be viewed on Google Docs

This entry was posted in DS, Features, Mobile, PC, PS2, PS3, Retro, Tabletop Games, Top Story, Wii, Xbox 360 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
John Scalzo is Warp Zoned's Editor-In-Chief and resident retro gaming expert. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at john AT warpzoned DOT com.

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