The Scientifically Proven Best Video Games of All Time: An Introduction and The Top 100

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.

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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.

  Title Average
Ranking
Selection
Percentage
SCIENTIFICALLY
PROVEN
SCORE
1 Tetris 15.70 93.18%
(41/44)
22.52
2 Half-Life 2 19.34 87.50%
(28/32)
31.84
3 Super Mario 64 21.33 88.37%
(38/43)
32.95
4 Resident Evil 4 30.72 90.63%
(29/32)
40.09
5 The Legend of Zelda:
A Link to the Past
24.39 84.09%
(37/44)
40.30
6 BioShock 32.93 92.59%
(25/27)
40.33
7 The Legend of Zelda:
Ocarina of Time
24.36 80.95%
(34/42)
43.40
8 Super Metroid 31.36 84.09%
(37/44)
47.27
9 World of Warcraft 34.09 84.38%
(27/32)
49.72
10 Call of Duty 4:
Modern Warfare
37.33 85.19%
(23/27)
52.15
11 GoldenEye 007 35.02 78.57%
(33/42)
56.45
12 Red Dead Redemption 39.36 81.82%
(18/22)
57.55
13 Portal 37.00 77.78%
(21/27)
59.22
14 Street Fighter II:
The World Warrior
35.05 75.00%
(33/44)
60.05
15 Shadow of the Colossus 41.10 79.31%
(23/29)
61.79
16 Halo: Combat Evolved 37.76 75.68%
(28/37)
62.08
17 Final Fantasy VII 39.19 76.19%
(32/42)
63.00
18 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 43.83 78.26%
(18/23)
65.57
19 Mass Effect 2 42.73 72.73%
(16/22)
70.00
20 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 47.38 75.00%
(12/16)
72.38
21 Super Mario World 38.75 65.91%
(29/44)
72.84
22 Super Mario Kart 42.50 68.18%
(30/44)
74.32
23 Rock Band (Series) 49.00 74.07%
(20/27)
74.93
24 Doom 41.55 65.91%
(29/44)
75.64
25 Castlevania:
Symphony of the Night
45.55 69.05%
(29/42)
76.50
26 Journey 49.79 71.43%
(10/14)
78.36
27 Chrono Trigger 44.72 65.12%
(28/43)
79.60
28 Metal Gear Solid 48.24 64.29%
(27/42)
83.95
29 StarCraft 50.40 61.90%
(26/42)
88.50
30 Deus Ex 53.21 64.10%
(25/39)
89.10
31 The Walking Dead 60.67 66.67%
(8/12)
94.00
32 Ico 57.14 62.16%
(23/37)
94.97
33 Grand Theft Auto III 52.05 54.05%
(20/37)
98.00
34 Super Mario Bros. 3 50.55 52.27%
(23/44)
98.27
35 Metroid Prime 59.74 60.00%
(21/35)
99.74
36 Sonic the Hedgehog 56.70 56.82%
(25/44)
99.89
37 Star Wars:
Knights of the Old Republic
64.64 63.64%
(21/33)
101.00
38 Tomb Raider 64.10 59.52%
(25/42)
104.57
39 Half-Life 55.90 50.00%
(21/42)
105.90
40 Super Mario Bros. 53.09 45.45%
(20/44)
107.64
41 Counter-Strike 67.05 58.54%
(24/41)
108.51
42 Pokemon Blue / Red / Yellow 61.60 52.38%
(22/42)
109.21
43 Braid 75.04 65.38%
(17/26)
109.65
44 Batman: Arkham City 59.81 50.00%
(8/16)
109.81
45 Fallout 3 65.96 53.85%
(14/26)
112.12
46 Minecraft 73.30 60.87%
(14/23)
112.43
47 Portal 2 62.44 50.00%
(9/18)
112.44
48 Okami 68.07 55.17%
(16/29)
112.90
49 Final Fantasy VI 63.16 47.73%
(21/44)
115.43
50 Grand Theft Auto IV 63.96 46.15%
(12/26)
117.81
51 Prince of Persia:
The Sands of Time
75.38 56.25%
(18/32)
119.13
52 Dark Souls 63.50 43.75%
(7/16)
119.75
53 Advance Wars 69.51 48.65%
(18/37)
120.86
54 SimCity 2000 66.93 45.45%
(20/44)
121.48
55 Silent Hill 2 73.73 51.35%
(19/37)
122.38
56 Ms. Pac-Man 63.82 40.91%
(18/44)
122.91
57 Donkey Kong 68.36 43.18%
(19/44)
125.18
58 Diablo II 68.18 41.03%
(16/39)
127.15
59 Metal Gear Solid 3:
Snake Eater
70.97 43.75%
(14/32)
127.22
60 The Legend of Zelda:
The Wind Waker
69.18 39.39%
(13/33)
129.79
61 SimCity 69.14 38.64%
(17/44)
130.50
62 Grim Fandango 73.45 42.86%
(18/42)
130.60
63 God of War 75.31 43.75%
(14/32)
131.56
64 Pac-Man 68.43 36.36%
(16/44)
132.07
65 Super Mario World 2:
Yoshi’s Island
72.09 39.53%
(17/43)
132.56
66 Mega Man II 71.32 38.64%
(17/44)
132.68
67 Secret of Mana 75.95 43.18%
(19/44)
132.77
68 Resident Evil 72.49 39.53%
(17/43)
132.95
69 Lemmings 72.09 38.64%
(17/44)
133.45
70 Star Wars: TIE Fighter 70.02 36.36%
(16/44)
133.66
71 Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! 70.05 36.36%
(16/44)
133.68
72 The Legend of Zelda 68.00 34.09%
(15/44)
133.91
73 The Sims 72.54 38.46%
(15/39)
134.08
74 X-COM: UFO Defense 76.00 40.91%
(18/44)
135.09
75 Civilization 69.68 34.09%
(15/44)
135.59
76 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 74.34 37.93%
(11/29)
136.41
77 Super Mario Galaxy 70.81 33.33%
(9/27)
137.48
78 The Secret of Monkey Island 76.39 38.64%
(17/44)
137.75
79 Guitar Hero (Series) 79.14 41.38%
(12/29)
137.76
80 Batman: Arkham Asylum 77.87 39.13%
(9/23)
138.74
81 Final Fantasy Tactics 72.24 33.33%
(14/42)
138.90
82 Contra 73.18 34.09%
(15/44)
139.09
83 XCOM: Enemy Unknown 81.00 41.67%
(5/12)
139.33
84 Team Fortress 2 80.15 40.74%
(11/27)
139.41
85 Civilization II 71.98 32.56%
(14/43)
139.42
86 Street Fighter IV 74.12 34.62%
(9/26)
139.50
87 Baldur’s Gate II:
Shadows of Amn
76.15 35.90%
(14/39)
140.26
88 Super Mario Galaxy 2 72.27 31.82%
(7/22)
140.45
89 Limbo 82.82 40.91%
(9/22)
141.91
90 Space Invaders 74.98 31.82%
(14/44)
143.16
91 Madden NFL Football (Series) 72.82 29.55%
(13/44)
143.27
92 Soul Calibur 74.26 30.95%
(13/42)
143.31
93 System Shock 2 77.73 34.15%
(14/41)
143.59
94 Quake 74.21 30.23%
(13/43)
143.98
95 Gran Turismo 72.64 28.57%
(12/42)
144.07
96 Rez 79.80 34.29%
(12/35)
145.51
97 Shenmue 78.92 33.33%
(13/39)
145.59
98 Elite 72.93 27.27%
(12/44)
145.66
99 Final Fantasy X 78.57 32.43%
(12/37)
146.14
100 Pong 78.75 31.82%
(14/44)
146.93

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.

Hyper
Top 100 Video Games of All Time
Published: February 1995
Cut-Off: December 31, 1994

Next Generation
Top 100 Games of All Time
Published: September 1996
Cut-Off: September 30, 1996

Next Generation
The 50 Best Games of All Time
Published: February 1999
Cut-Off: December 31, 1998

Edge
Top 100 Games to Play Now
Published: 2000
Cut-Off: December 31, 1999

IGN
Videogame Hall of Fame

Published: April 2007 – October 2009
Cut-Off: December 31, 1999

Game Informer
Top 100 Games of All Time

Published: August 2001
Cut-Off: December 31, 2000

GameSpy
Top 50 Games of All Time

Published: July 2001
Cut-Off: December 31, 2000

1UP
The Essential 50

Published: Throughout 2004
Cut-Off: December 31, 2001

GameSpot
The Greatest Games of All Time

Published: June 20, 2003 – June 1, 2007
Cut-Off: December 31, 2001

Entertainment Weekly/G4TV
The 100 Greatest Videogames

Published: May 13, 2003
Cut-Off: December 31, 2002

IGN
Top 100 Games

Published: 2003
Cut-Off: December 31, 2002

Edge
Ten Top Tens
Published: October 2003
Cut-Off: October 31, 2003

IGN
Top 100 Games

Published: 2005
Cut-Off: March 31, 2005

Yahoo! Games UK
The 100 Greatest
Computer Games of All Time

Published: 2005
Cut-Off: March 31, 2005

The Age
The 50 Best Games

Published: October 6, 2005
Cut-Off: September 30, 2005

IGN
Top 100 Games of All Time

Published: 2007
Cut-Off: December 31, 2006

Edge
The 100 Best Games of All Time

Published: July 2, 2007
Cut-Off: June 30, 2007

Stuff UK
100 Greatest Games
Published: September 2008
Cut-Off: February 29, 2008

Empire Online
The 100 Greatest Games

Published: 2009
Cut-Off: December 31, 2008

Edge
100 Best Games to Play Today

Published: March 9, 2009
Cut-Off: January 31, 2009

FHM
100 Greatest Games of All Time

Published: January 11, 2010
Cut-Off: March 31, 2009

Game Informer
Top 200 Games of All Time

Published: December 2009
Cut-Off: December 31, 2009

The Phoenix
Top 50 Games of All Time

Published: December 2010
Cut-Off: September 30, 2010

GamesTM
100 Greatest Games Of All Time

Published: September 2, 2010
Cut-Off: October 31, 2010

GamesMaster
100 Games That Shook the World
Published: February 2016
Cut-Off: December 31, 2010

Games Radar
100 Best Games of All Time

Published: 2011
Cut-Off: March 31, 2011

Gamereactor
Top 100 All Time Best Games

Published: August 31, 2011
Cut-Off: April 30, 2011

Stuff UK
100 Best Games Ever

Published: October 2011
Cut-Off: May 31, 2011

G4TV
Top 100 Video Games Of All Time

Published: 2012
Cut-Off: December 31, 2011

1UP
The Essential 100

Published: 2012
Cut-Off: December 31, 2011

Games Radar
100 Best Games of All Time

Published: 2012
Cut-Off: March 31, 2012

Time
All-Time 100 Video Games

Published: November 15, 2012
Cut-Off: March 31, 2012

Games Radar
100 Best Games of All Time

Published: February 15, 2013
Cut-Off: December 31, 2012

Gaming Bolt
Top 100 Greatest Video Game Ever Made

Published: April 19, 2013
Cut-Off: March 31, 2013

Electric Playground
Top 100 Games

Published: August 2013 – December 2013
Cut-Off: June 30, 2013

Hyper/PC and Tech Authority
100 Games to Play Before You Die

Published: November 1, 2013
Cut-Off: September 30, 2013

Games Radar
100 Best Games of All Time

Published: March 7, 2014
Cut-Off: December 31, 2013

Popular Mechanics
The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

Published: June 18, 2014
Cut-Off: December 31, 2013

Slant Magazine
100 Greatest Video Games of All Time

Published: June 9, 2014
Cut-Off: December 31, 2013

Stuff UK
Best Games Ever
Published: February 2014
Cut-Off: December 31, 2013

Games Radar+
The 100 Best Games Ever

Published: February 25, 2015
Cut-Off: December 31, 2014

Edge
The 100 Greatest Videogames
Published: September 24, 2015
Cut-Off: September 30, 2015

IGN
The Top 100 Video Games of All Time

Published: October 20, 2015
Cut-Off: June 1, 2015

Time
The 50 Best Video Games of All Time

Published: August 24, 2016
Cut-Off: December 31, 2015

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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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