Visit our “Best Games” Hub Page every week to find original essays discussing each title from “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” and their place in gaming history.
You can also help support the completion of this project through Patreon.
Is it even possible to select the greatest video games of all time in a scientific way? Do you just throw the question to so-called experts and let them hash it out in a no-holds-barred debate? Or is there some way to create a “Video Game Canon” that the wide-ranging community of developers, critics, and players can all agree on?
Probably not. But we can try.
Since gaming’s earliest days, dozens of publications have tried to sort through the noise and compile their own list of “The Best Video Games of All Time.” By analyzing all of these attempts at ranking the greatest games and combining them into a single list, we can figure out which games can rightly be called “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time.”
Before we go any further, let me just say… no matter how we try to justify it, it’s impossible to prove, by “Science” or otherwise, that one game is definitively better than another. Saying that a game is “Scientifically Proven” to be better or worse than others is just an attempt to add some zing to the numerical formula doing all the work behind the scenes.
Ideally, this project will give us the chance to look back at the history of video games reflected through some the medium’s greatest titles. The list itself will serve as something of a road map to help us learn how the best games of all time are connected to each other, to better appreciate how players interacted with video games in the past, and to explore what video games might become in the future.
“The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” is a statistical meta-analysis of 44 “Best Video Games of All Time” lists that were published between 1995 and 2016. To qualify for inclusion, each list had to include at least 50 games, include some form of editorial oversight in the process (lists made up solely of reader polls or fan voting were excluded), and have no restrictions on release dates or platforms.
The rank order for “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” was compiled using a formula (the “Scientifically Proven Score”) that measured each game’s Average Ranking across every list, as well as the Selection Percentage of how many lists it was included on. Combining these two factors allows us to create a list of games that have universal appeal across a long period of time without punishing any game for being “too old” or “too new.”
The lower the Scientifically Proven Score, the higher a game is ranked on “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time”:
For example… Super Mario Bros. has an Average Ranking across all lists of 53.09 and a Selection Percentage of 45.45%, meaning that its Scientifically Proven Score is calculated like this:
If a game was released at the time of a list’s creation and didn’t make the cut, it was given a ranking of one beyond the bottom of the list from that publication for averaging purposes (i.e., any games not included in a Top 100 list would be entered into the Average Ranking formula as a 101). However, if a game was unreleased at the time of a list’s creation, it was not included in the game’s Average Ranking or its Selection Percentage. And all games included on lists that chose not to rank their selections were given a ranking of 1 for averaging purposes.
Additional rules used to sort “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” can be found below.
With a project of this size, it was inevitable that the same titles would pop up again and again. A total of 890 games were selected by at least one publication, and more than a third received just a single mention. But one game stood out above all the rest…
Tetris, Alexey Pajitnov’s masterpiece, was ranked by 93% (41 of 44) of all publications, including an amazing 22 “Top 10” rankings. Tetris was far and away the consensus choice for “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Game of All Time,” with strong support from critics and other game writers over two decades.
The remainder of the Top 100 includes a wide range of titles that represent the global reach of the gaming community. Titles developed in Japan, the United States, and across Europe can be found on the list, as well as games both old and new that have been released on every conceivable platform.
|3||Super Mario 64||21.33||88.37%
|4||Resident Evil 4||30.72||90.63%
|5||The Legend of Zelda:
A Link to the Past
|7||The Legend of Zelda:
Ocarina of Time
|9||World of Warcraft||34.09||84.38%
|10||Call of Duty 4:
|12||Red Dead Redemption||39.36||81.82%
|14||Street Fighter II:
The World Warrior
|15||Shadow of the Colossus||41.10||79.31%
|16||Halo: Combat Evolved||37.76||75.68%
|17||Final Fantasy VII||39.19||76.19%
|18||Uncharted 2: Among Thieves||43.83||78.26%
|19||Mass Effect 2||42.73||72.73%
|20||The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim||47.38||75.00%
|21||Super Mario World||38.75||65.91%
|22||Super Mario Kart||42.50||68.18%
|23||Rock Band (Series)||49.00||74.07%
Symphony of the Night
|28||Metal Gear Solid||48.24||64.29%
|31||The Walking Dead||60.67||66.67%
|33||Grand Theft Auto III||52.05||54.05%
|34||Super Mario Bros. 3||50.55||52.27%
|36||Sonic the Hedgehog||56.70||56.82%
Knights of the Old Republic
|40||Super Mario Bros.||53.09||45.45%
|42||Pokemon Blue / Red / Yellow||61.60||52.38%
|44||Batman: Arkham City||59.81||50.00%
|49||Final Fantasy VI||63.16||47.73%
|50||Grand Theft Auto IV||63.96||46.15%
|51||Prince of Persia:
The Sands of Time
|55||Silent Hill 2||73.73||51.35%
|59||Metal Gear Solid 3:
|60||The Legend of Zelda:
The Wind Waker
|63||God of War||75.31||43.75%
|65||Super Mario World 2:
|66||Mega Man II||71.32||38.64%
|67||Secret of Mana||75.95||43.18%
|70||Star Wars: TIE Fighter||70.02||36.36%
|71||Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!||70.05||36.36%
|72||The Legend of Zelda||68.00||34.09%
|74||X-COM: UFO Defense||76.00||40.91%
|76||The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion||74.34||37.93%
|77||Super Mario Galaxy||70.81||33.33%
|78||The Secret of Monkey Island||76.39||38.64%
|79||Guitar Hero (Series)||79.14||41.38%
|80||Batman: Arkham Asylum||77.87||39.13%
|81||Final Fantasy Tactics||72.24||33.33%
|83||XCOM: Enemy Unknown||81.00||41.67%
|84||Team Fortress 2||80.15||40.74%
|86||Street Fighter IV||74.12||34.62%
|87||Baldur’s Gate II:
Shadows of Amn
|88||Super Mario Galaxy 2||72.27||31.82%
|91||Madden NFL Football (Series)||72.82||29.55%
|93||System Shock 2||77.73||34.15%
|99||Final Fantasy X||78.57||32.43%
Games with multiple remakes or revisions (i.e. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior, Street Fighter II Turbo, and Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers) were consolidated into a single title for ranking purposes. Rankings for yearly sports franchises and peripheral-based music franchises were also consolidated into their core “Series” as most publications treated all entries in the franchise as a single game (i.e. Rock Band (Series) includes rankings from Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Rock Band 3).
If a publication ranked a complete “Series” or “Franchise” in lieu of an individual game, all games from the “Series” or “Franchise” would receive credit for the ranking.
Games released between 2013 and 2016 were ineligible for “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” because only a quarter of all lists include games published after January 1, 2013.
The 44 “Best Video Games of All Time” lists that comprise “The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time” were pulled from a mixture of US-based and international publications. Most point their editorial focus solely on the game industry, but some are considered to be general interest publications.
Yahoo! Games UK
Hyper/PC and Tech Authority