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.
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
|1||The Legend of Zelda||NES||1987|
|2||Super Mario Bros.||NES||1985||X|
|4||Grand Theft Auto III||PS2||2001||X|
|8||Final Fantasy III||SNES||1994||X||X|
|9||Super Mario Bros. 3||NES||1990||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|
|18||Resident Evil 4||GameCube||2005|
|19||Metal Gear Solid||PS||1998|
|20||The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time||N64||1998|
|24||Castlevania: Symphony of the Night||PS||1997|
|25||Street Fighter II||Arcade, SNES||1991||X|
|26||God of War||PS2||2005|
|30||The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion||360, PC||2006|
|31||Tecmo Super Bowl||NES||1991|
|33||Super Mario Kart||SNES||1992||X||X|
|34||Sonic the Hedgehog||Genesis||1991||X||X|
|38||Mega Man 2||NES||1988|
|39||Halo: Combat Evolved||Xbox||2001||X||X|
|41||Resident Evil 2||PS||1998|
|42||Pokemon Red and Blue||GB||1996||X||X|
|43||Final Fantasy X||PS2||2001|
|45||Final Fantasy Tactics||PS||1998|
|46||Grand Theft Auto IV||PS3, 360||2008|
|47||Super Mario World||SNES||1991||X||X|
|50||Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty||PS2||2001|
|51||Super Mario Galaxy||Wii||2007||X||X|
|54||Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic||Xbox||2003||X||X||X|
|56||Uncharted 2: Among Thieves||PS3||2009|
|57||Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2||PS||2000|
|58||Mass Effect||360, PC||2007||X||X|
|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|
|68||Double Dragon||Arcade, NES||1987||X|
|71||Age of Empires||PC||1997|
|72||Mortal Kombat II||Arcade, SNES||1993||X|
|73||Rock Band 2||PS3, 360||2008|
|78||Command & Conquer||PC||1995||X||X||X|
|80||Final Fantasy II||SNES||1991||X|
|81||Super Mario Bros. 2||NES||1988||X|
|82||Left 4 Dead||PC||2008|
|84||Shadow of the Colossus||PS2||2005|
|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|
|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|
|101||The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind||PC||2002|
|102||Heroes of Might & Magic III||PC||1999||X|
|104||Batman: Arkham Asylum||PS3, 360||2009||X|
|105||System Shock 2||PC||1999|
|107||Gears of War||360||2006||X|
|108||Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots||PS3||2008|
|109||Crash Bandicoot: Warped||PS||1998|
|112||Final Fantasy XII||PS2||2006|
|114||Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri||PC||1998||X||X||X|
|115||Command & Conquer: Red Alert||PC||1996||X|
|118||Team Fortress 2||PS3, 360, PC||2007||X||X|
|119||Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory||Xbox||2005|
|120||Mega Man X||SNES||1994|
|122||Panzer Dragoon Saga||Saturn||1998|
|123||NHL ’94||Genesis, SNES||1993|
|126||Twisted Metal 2||PS||1996||X||X|
|127||Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee||PS||1997|
|130||Kingdom Hearts II||PS2||2006|
|133||Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II||PC||1997||X|
|134||Borderlands||PS3, 360, PC||2009||X||X|
|137||Madden NFL ’99||PS, N64, PC||1999|
|138||Call of Duty 2||360, PC||2005|
|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|
|152||Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht||PS2||2003|
|157||Devil May Cry||PS2||2001|
|161||Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved||360||2005|
|164||X-COM: UFO Defense||PC||1993|
|166||King’s Quest VI||PC||1992||X|
|173||Lode Runner||Apple II||1983||X|
|177||Tekken 3||Arcade, PS||1997||X|
|178||Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney||DS||2005|
|179||NBA Jam: Tournament Edition||Arcade||1993||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|
|185||Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island||SNES||1995||X|
|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|
|194||Marvel vs. Capcom 2||DC||2002|
|196||Call of Duty||PC||2003|
|197||NHL 09||PS3, 360||2008|
|198||Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow||Xbox||2004||X|
|200||Beyond Good and Evil||PS2, Xbox, GameCube||2003|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?