Top 200 Video Games of All Time According to Game Informer

Introduction

Oh yeah, I have a blog! Lots has been going on in the intervening months (see my Twitter feed for short attention span details), but I figured a video game post during NaBloPoMo would be a good way to get back on the wagon, even if I’m not actually posting every day during November.

While visiting my Little Brother this weekend, I noticed a rather unusual magazine cover… a (very pixelated) monster from the original Doom. This turned out to be the latest issue of Game Informer, specifically Volume XIX, Number 12, Issue 200. In honor of this decimalist anniversary, they published their Top 200 Video Games of All Time list, which unsurprisingly is linkbait for any video game fan who likes to rant about what should and should not be included in such a list. I ran through my opinions quickly with my Little, mostly fixating on why so many recent games were already on the list, but decided a deeper analysis was in order.

Instead of complaining about the contents of the list, I thought I’d use it to track my personal video game history (much as my father has in the past used the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time to guide his music purchases). I’ve also done some histogram breakdowns of what’s on the list. I would say that my guideline for inclusion on any such list would involve adjectives like “innovative” and “influential”, and explicitly avoid conditions like “critically acclaimed”, “popular”, or “best-selling”. This in turn means that inclusion must be viewed through a somewhat temporally distant lens, for sufficient perspective on a particular cultural artifact’s import.

How many of these have you played? Do you strongly agree/disagree with any of the rankings?

The columns are Game Informer rank, game title, platform(s), and year of publication from the original article; I believe using this data for commentary is covered by Fair Use. I added platforms in a few places to account for the particular port of a game that I played. I have also added columns for myself, for Played, Owned, and Completed. The full table and further analysis is below the cut.

Columns

A brief explanation before the table: I count a game as “Played” if I personally controlled the game for at least one significant play session (enough to see one full level, game, etc.); I count a game as “Owned” if I purchased the game or received it as a gift; and I count a game as “Completed” if I finished the primary plot levels for games with solo play, reached a reasonably high or maximum level in games with increasing difficulty level play, or played a simulation game to a goal threshold. Ownership and Completion are both subsets of Played, with some overlap, but not identical subsets.

Top 200 Video Games Table

Rank Game Platform(s) Year Played Owned Completed
1 The Legend of Zelda NES 1987
2 Super Mario Bros. NES 1985 X
3 Tetris PC 1984 X X
4 Grand Theft Auto III PS2 2001 X
5 Half-Life 2 PC 2004 X X
6 Doom PC, iPhone 1993 X
7 Metroid NES 1986
8 Final Fantasy III SNES 1994 X X
9 Super Mario Bros. 3 NES 1990 X
10 Ms. Pac-Man Arcade 1981 X
11 World of Warcraft PC 2004 X X X
12 The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past SNES 1992 X
13 Super Mario 64 N64 1996 X X
14 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare PS3, 360, PC 2007
15 Final Fantasy VII PS 1997 X X X
16 Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! NES 1987
17 Chrono Trigger SNES 1995 X X
18 Resident Evil 4 GameCube 2005
19 Metal Gear Solid PS 1998
20 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time N64 1998
21 Super Metroid SNES 1994 X
22 Contra NES 1988 X
23 Galaga Arcade 1981
24 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night PS 1997
25 Street Fighter II Arcade, SNES 1991 X
26 God of War PS2 2005
27 BioShock 360, PC 2007
28 Diablo II PC 2000 X X
29 Half-Life PC 1998 X X
30 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 360, PC 2006
31 Tecmo Super Bowl NES 1991
32 GoldenEye 007 N64 1997 X X
33 Super Mario Kart SNES 1992 X X
34 Sonic the Hedgehog Genesis 1991 X X
35 Starcraft PC 1998 X X X
36 Civilization PC 1991 X X
37 SimCity PC 1989 X
38 Mega Man 2 NES 1988
39 Halo: Combat Evolved Xbox 2001 X X
40 Gran Turismo PS 1998
41 Resident Evil 2 PS 1998
42 Pokemon Red and Blue GB 1996 X X
43 Final Fantasy X PS2 2001
44 EverQuest PC 1999
45 Final Fantasy Tactics PS 1998
46 Grand Theft Auto IV PS3, 360 2008
47 Super Mario World SNES 1991 X X
48 Deus Ex PC 2000
49 Guitar Hero PS2 2005
50 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty PS2 2001
51 Super Mario Galaxy Wii 2007 X X
52 Pac-Man Arcade 1980 X
53 Battlefield 2 PC 2005
54 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Xbox 2003 X X X
55 Ico PS2 2001
56 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves PS3 2009
57 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 PS 2000
58 Mass Effect 360, PC 2007 X X
59 Adventure 2600 1980
60 Arkanoid Arcade 1986
61 The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening GB 1993
62 Star Wars: X-Wing PC 1993 X X
63 The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask N64 2000
64 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas PS2 2004 X
65 Fallout 3 PS3, 360, PC 2008
66 Zork PC 1980 X X
67 Soul Calibur DC 1999
68 Double Dragon Arcade, NES 1987 X
69 Dr. Mario NES 1990 X
70 The Sims PC 2000 X X
71 Age of Empires PC 1997
72 Mortal Kombat II Arcade, SNES 1993 X
73 Rock Band 2 PS3, 360 2008
74 Tomb Raider PS 1996
75 Super Bomberman SNES 1993 X
76 Mario’s Picross GB 1995
77 Ninja Gaiden NES 1989
78 Command & Conquer PC 1995 X X X
79 Kingdom Hearts PS2 2002
80 Final Fantasy II SNES 1991 X
81 Super Mario Bros. 2 NES 1988 X
82 Left 4 Dead PC 2008
83 Okami PS2 2006
84 Shadow of the Colossus PS2 2005
85 Metroid Prime GameCube 2002 X
86 Super Smash Bros. Melee GameCube 2001 X
87 Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness PC 1995 X
88 Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn PC 2000 X
89 God of War II PS2 2007
90 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess Wii 2006 X X
91 Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal PS2 2004 X X
92 Medal of Honor: Allied Assault PC 2002
93 Skies of Arcadia DC 2000
94 The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker GameCube 2003
95 Silent Hill 2 PS2 2001
96 Counter-Strike PC 1999 X
97 Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Genesis 1992 X
98 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City PS2, Xbox, PC 2002 X
99 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time PS2, Xbox, GameCube, PC 2003
100 Portal PC, 360 2007 X X X
101 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind PC 2002
102 Heroes of Might & Magic III PC 1999 X
103 Donkey Kong Arcade 1981
104 Batman: Arkham Asylum PS3, 360 2009 X
105 System Shock 2 PC 1999
106 Resident Evil PS 1996
107 Gears of War 360 2006 X
108 Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots PS3 2008
109 Crash Bandicoot: Warped PS 1998
110 Halo 2 Xbox 2004 X X
111 Tetris Attack SNES 1996
112 Final Fantasy XII PS2 2006
113 Earthbound SNES 1995
114 Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri PC 1998 X X X
115 Command & Conquer: Red Alert PC 1996 X
116 Advance Wars GBA 2001
117 Fallout PC 1997 X
118 Team Fortress 2 PS3, 360, PC 2007 X X
119 Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory Xbox 2005
120 Mega Man X SNES 1994
121 Lemmings PC 1991 X
122 Panzer Dragoon Saga Saturn 1998
123 NHL ’94 Genesis, SNES 1993
124 Warlords Arcade 1980
125 Shadowrun SNES 1993
126 Twisted Metal 2 PS 1996 X X
127 Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee PS 1997
128 Metroid Fusion GBA 2002
129 Homeworld PC 1999
130 Kingdom Hearts II PS2 2006
131 Pilotwings SNES 1991
132 Quake II PC 1997 X X
133 Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II PC 1997 X
134 Borderlands PS3, 360, PC 2009 X X
135 Final Fight Arcade 1989
136 Star Fox SNES 1993 X
137 Madden NFL ’99 PS, N64, PC 1999
138 Call of Duty 2 360, PC 2005
139 Wolfenstein 3D PC 1992 X X
140 Diablo PC 1996 X X X
141 Civilization IV PC 2005 X X X
142 Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle PC 1993 X
143 Assassin’s Creed PS3, 360 2007
144 Burnout 3: Takedown PS2, Xbox 2004
145 Unreal Tournament 2004 PC 2004 X
146 Power Stone 2 DC 2000
147 Super Castlevania IV SNES 1991
148 Super Mario RPG SNES 1996 X X
149 Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos PC 2002 X X X
150 ActRaiser SNES 1991
151 Fable Xbox 2004
152 Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht PS2 2003
153 Asteroids Arcade 1979
154 LittleBigPlanet PS3 2008
155 Crackdown 360 2007
156 Gauntlet Arcade 1985
157 Devil May Cry PS2 2001
158 Pong Arcade 1972 X
159 Battlefield 1942 PC 2002 X
160 Thief PC 1998 X
161 Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 360 2005
162 Far Cry PC 2004
163 Robotron: 2084 Arcade 1982
164 X-COM: UFO Defense PC 1993
165 Peggle PC, iPhone 2007 X X X
166 King’s Quest VI PC 1992 X
167 Doom II PC 1994 X
168 Tempest 2000 Jaguar 1994
169 Braid 360, PC 2008 X X
170 Ridge Racer PS 1995
171 Bully PS2, Wii 2006 X
172 Ikaruga GameCube 2006
173 Lode Runner Apple II 1983 X
174 Gunstar Heroes Genesis 1993
175 Dig Dug Arcade 1982
176 Castlevania NES 1988
177 Tekken 3 Arcade, PS 1997 X
178 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney DS 2005
179 NBA Jam: Tournament Edition Arcade 1993 X
180 Max Payne PC 2001 X
181 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 PS3, 360, PC 2009
182 Samurai Shodown Neo Geo, SNES 1993 X
183 NFL 2K5 PS2, Xbox 2004
184 Vagrant Story PS 2000
185 Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island SNES 1995 X
186 Marble Madness Arcade 1984
187 Infamous PS3 2009
188 Planescape: Torment PC 1999 X
189 Kid Icarus NES 1986
190 The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay Xbox 2004
191 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater PS2 2004
192 Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem GameCube 2002
193 Jak 3 PS2 2004
194 Marvel vs. Capcom 2 DC 2002
195 Ultima PC 1981
196 Call of Duty PC 2003
197 NHL 09 PS3, 360 2008
198 Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow Xbox 2004 X
199 Tactics Ogre PS 1997
200 Beyond Good and Evil PS2, Xbox, GameCube 2003

Overall Breakdown

From browsing the list, I was expecting it to be skewed towards more recent offerings. A few quick histograms to some extent confirm this for the full list, but disprove it when you consider only the Top 20 games on the list. Click to embiggen any of the graphs.

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 and Top 20 games by publication year

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 and Top 20 games by publication year

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 and Top 20 games by console platform (including PC)

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 and Top 20 games by console platform (including PC)

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 and Top 20 games by console generation.

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 and Top 20 games by console generation.

As you can see, the Top 200 list (in red) is skewed towards PC games, since that category is not further broken down by OS or era. It also seems to be skewed towards more recent consoles, particularly the Playstations 2 & 3 and both Xboxen.

However, if you consider only the Top 20 (in blue), a more historical perspective is available. Nintendo is more favored, and the breakdown is more even by by both year and generation. To me that implies that Game Informer recognizes Nintendo as an early innovator (particularly on the NES and SNES), but more lacking in recent offerings for the GameCube and Wii, especially compared to what’s available on the Xbox and Playstation.

My Breakdown

So, in total, of the 200 games, I’ve played 89 (44.5%), owned 25 (12.5%), and completed 26 (13%); however, I’ve only completed 11 of the games I’ve owned. There are three factors here: first, I’ve played games to completion on friends’ consoles/computers; second, I played several classic console games via emulation in high school, where I had downloaded the ROMs; third, I have purchased some newer games on the list that I’ve yet to finish.

Until the Wii, I never owned a console myself (with the exception of the short-lived Virtual Game Station PlayStation emulator for Mac), so all the other games I owned are listed under PC (which I mean to include DOS, Windows, Mac OS 9, and Mac OS X versions of games). PC is nearly impossible to split into “generation”, and since it includes multiple hardware/software combinations, I can’t easily get good stats for it. In spite of all of this, I feel like I’ve experienced most of the key points in video game history from the Nintendo revolution on. In that regard I’m in a historical sweet spot, I suppose. Click to embiggen any of the graphs.

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 games broken down by my Played, Owned, and Completed lists organized by publication year

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 games broken down by my Played, Owned, and Completed lists organized by publication year

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 games broken down by my Played, Owned, and Completed lists organized by console platform (including PC)

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 games broken down by my Played, Owned, and Completed lists organized by console platform (including PC)

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 games broken down by my Played, Owned, and Completed lists organized by console generation

Bar graph histogram of the Top 200 games broken down by my Played, Owned, and Completed lists organized by console generation

As you can see, my own gameplay is heavily skewed towards the PC, although until recently that was almost exclusively games that were available on Mac. This makes sense, given that my mother didn’t allow game consoles in the house, but non-violent and arguably educational games my sister and I could sneak onto the computer.

There’s also a strong “bump” for games in the mid-’90s; this is when I would have been playing lots of console games at friends’ houses (for sleepovers and such), but it also includes the non-trivial number of SNES and Playstation games I played via emulation on my Mac in high school. (Incidentally, that very Mac is now functioning as the webserver displaying this blog entry.)

My ownership numbers have unsurprisingly gone up since 2005, given that I now have disposable income and can indulge my video game habits more easily than when I was living at home or in college. Additionally, I have added a Wii (my first console I can call my own!), a gaming-capable phone (first the original iPhone, and now a 3GS), and with the advent of Intel-based Macs, a drive booting into Windows 7 that I use to play various Windows-only games, such as Half Life 2 and Borderlands.

Conclusion

Overall, I’d say this list is skewed towards recent years, which I think is explainable largely by the target audience of the magazine: roughly, my age group (and a little younger) who probably started playing on SNES (4th-gen) consoles and are currently playing Xbox 360. The breakdowns for the Top 20 however makes me feel a little better, in that games that are more influential (or arguably started a genre) are reflected there.

There are definitely a few “classics” on here that I’d like to pick up and play for historical reasons, and a few I’d go back to for nostalgia, but most of the games I haven’t played aren’t in genres I particularly care about. A number are relatively obscure Japanese releases that only the hardest of hardcore video game fans would have seen in the US.

My biggest complaint about the list is a few items that had been out less than a week at the time of publication of this Game Informer issue! (I’m looking at you Modern Warfare 2…) I don’t care how good your opening sales weekend numbers are, or how good the previews are, you don’t deserve to be on this list yet if you came out in 2009. Give it time!

What do you think? How do you measure up?

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11 comments on “Top 200 Video Games of All Time According to Game Informer
  1. Donna says:

    I don’t want to check played…I might be afraid of the tally. I do play fewer games lately though, and am far more discerning of it.

  2. Brodie says:

    It’s an interesting list for sure, but honestly I think I project like this is pretty ill-conceived to begin with. First of all, it’s really hard to compare games cross generationally as gaming has changed so dramatically over the course of its history. Then there is the possibly even bigger problem of how you assign value to a game — do we compare games against all games overall or simply games of their time period? Furthermore, how much emphasis do you place on originality vs. polish? Then there are the myriad problems with comparing games across genres — how much credit do you give to a game that is clearly the best game in a narrow genre vs. merely excellent games in more played genres?

    Anyway, all those complaints aside it’s still a fun endeavor. There are a few things that jump out to me as not making sense:

    1. Overrated games: Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Half-Life 2 all jump out at me as games that don’t belong nearly as high on this list as they do. Half-Life is arguably better than Half-Life 2, especially if you give points for originality. Oblivion was just a dramatically overrated game, and I’m saying that as both a fan of the game and of the series in general. The same goes with Fallout 3, which I liked better than Oblivion… but it just doesn’t compete with Fallout or Fallout 2 (which somehow didn’t even make the list). There are other games on there that I also hear are overrated (like Bioshock) but haven’t had the chance to play them enough to judge.

    2. Sequel Problems: See above with Fallout 3 and Oblivion, but several other games as well. The ordering of the GTA games makes no sense to me other than Vice City. Granted I haven’t played GTA 4, so I can’t really place that one properly, but San Andreas was way better than GTA. So they must be giving GTA a ton of points for being the first game of it’s type… but then they use very different criteria in other parts of the list (for example, Fallout vs. Fallout 3). I have absolutely no idea how they let Age of Empires on the list but left Age of Kings off it. AoE was an allright game, but nowhere even remotely close to Age of Kings.

    3. Symphony of the Night – I love, love, love this game. But it’s not the 24th best game of all time.

    4. Accessibility – I think this is my biggest problem with the list. I think it dramatically overemphasizes accessibility over depth. One thing that is very consistent throughout the list is that they rate dumbed-down but polished games well above high learning curve games with incredible depth. This even applies to whole genres of games, such as the flight sim genre. Flight sim games (and I’m including space combat sims in this) are notoriously tough to pick up. Yet even accessible games that also happen to be ridiculously good (*cough* Descent Freespace II) are left off largely because the genre in general is so niche. A lot of old school RPGs (like the Might and Magic series, for example) also fit into this category.

    Anyway, it’s a fun exercise and I should probably take some more time to consider the list later!

  3. stormwynd says:

    I’m surprised you never played Everquest, given your fondness for WoW. Or am I revealing my ignorance of the genre by thinking the two are similar?

    And I when I got to the graphs in your post, I couldn’t help but think of the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall goes chart-crazy.

  4. arnapcay says:

    I’m pleased to see that favorites like Legend of Zelda/Link to the Past, Final Fantasy 6, Super Mario Bros. 1/3, Metroid, and Chrono Trigger all made it near the top. I’m confused by some of the rankings though–why is the original Zelda above the (vastly better) Link to the Past? And why is Ms. Pac-Man (10) so much higher-ranked than the original Pac-Man (52)?

    Reading the list, I get the sense that the criteria are a confused mix of historical importance, popularity-at-the-time, and the personal preferences of the GameInformer staff. What kind of criteria put Legend of Zelda at the top of the list but leave Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior entirely unranked? Objectively they were suckier than Legend of Zelda, but if LoZ gets to be on the list due entirely to historical interest how do you justify leaving them out?

  5. Nicolas Ward says:

    @Stormwynd I probably would have played Everquest had I been a working adult at the time :oD

    @Brodie @arnapcay I agree that the criteria they used varies over the course of the list. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt by interpreting their goal as targeting originality and/or historical influence, but calling them on games that are far too recent additions.

  6. Andrew says:

    I’m surprised some of those arcade games are up there, but I’m glad they are. I remember playing Gauntlet at our local rec center. I would save up my quarters for like a month and then go and play for hours on end. If you get the chance, I believe they did release a version of it for PS2.
    And you need to play the origional dig dug. Classic.

    • Andrew says:

      nevermind I thought this was the new list that was just released…

      • Nicolas Ward says:

        I keep wondering if Game Informer will nail me for copyright, even though I think commenting on their list is Fair Use. Sorry about the confusion – I’ll add a year header or something.

  7. You says:

    Did you ever heard about Shenmue ?

  8. Torsten Weidenhorn says:

    excuse me…. where the F*CK IS Xenogears !!???

Nurd Up!

Nicolas Ward

Software engineer in Natural Language Processing research by day; gamer, reader, and aspiring UltraNurd by night. Husband to Andrle
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