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The Problem With Trying to Pick the 500 Best Games Ever

STARTING SCREEN | Start your week with bad lists, Altered Carbon, and music from Animal Crossing.

Feature by Kat Bailey, USgamer Team, .

A couple years ago, I decided that 15 was a nice round number, so I embarked on a quest with the USgamer team to pick the 15 best games to be released since 2000.

When I started the process, I asked everyone to submit their lists. Immediately, I knew that I had my work cut out for me: There was virtually no overlap between the different selections. And this was from a comparatively limited pool of games, with a staff that had fairly similar tastes.

Last week, Polygon embarked on an even more difficult task in attempting to rank the 500 greatest games of all time. No small feat! Since a handful of researchers came together to develop Spacewar! at MIT in 1962, tens of thousands of games have been released on a variety of competing systems. In 2016, more than 4000 games were released on Steam alone.

Polygon mostly conducted their search in good faith, tapping the expertise of Retronauts creator and USG alum Jeremy Parish, Blake Hester, and others in their quest to pick the greatest games of all time. Their list contains a large number of games that are... shall we say... obscure (Habitat, anyone?).

In all honesty, it could be a lot worse. But is it definitive? Well...

The problem Polygon is facing in trying to put together this list is the same one that every outlet faces: games from 40 years ago don't have much in common with the games of today. Sure, they share some of the basic fundamentals, but can you really compare 1982's Adventure (#82 on Polygon's list) with 2003's Knights of the Old Republic (#81 on Polygon's list)? Are you really prepared to say that Pong (#64) has an advantage over Super Smash Bros. Melee (#71)?

Technical considerations also play a role. Older movies have primitive special effects, but those are easy to look past. With games, older tech fundamentally influences how you interact with the story and the mechanics. The older the game, the harder it is to separate out its natural technical limitations and argue its relative merits. Often, the best you can do is say, "Well, it was pretty revolutionary for its time."

You might argue that film critics have no problem putting Pulp Fiction in the same bucket as Wizard of Oz—two movies that were released nearly 50 years apart—but individual movies have far more in common with one another than individual games. Where every movie is out to tell some sort of story, games can vary wildly in their individual objectives. Some just want to tell an emotional story; others want to tease the brain, and still others are pure competition.

A person's understanding of gaming is also heavily influenced by their own tastes and what they played growing up. It is possible to watch every single movie on the AFI Top 100 within a reasonable amount of time. That's not the case with the greatest games, many of which take upwards of 60 to 100 hours to play, and many more to truly appreciate.

But seriously, how does Pong compare to Witcher 3? The world wants to know.

Yes, you can knock out Halo 2's campaign in the span of a weekend. But think about how many hours it takes to learn the ins and outs of the multiplayer and the community. Even the simplest games often take dozens of hours to yield hidden depths.

This is actually a problem we're facing here at USgamer as we try to put together our Game of the Year lists. We're all doing our best to keep up with 2017's best games; but for the most part, we have to defer to whoever the expert is on staff when they tell us that a game is worthy of consideration. There's simply no way to fully appreciate every one of 2017's amazing releases. It's a problem that makes me envious of film and TV critics.

Because it's impossible to play everything, historical "Best of" lists tend to skew toward the biases of whoever is creating them, with a handful of other choices thrown in to placate fans of various genres. Polygon's pick for #1 is Tetris, which is inoffensive, I suppose. The rest of the Top 10 is heavy with Nintendo games, with Mario 3, Zelda, Pokemon Red/Blue, and Super Metroid all making appearances. Meanwhile, Chrono Trigger—a true masterpiece that inarguably holds up in the present day—is mired way down in #62. If you're an RPG fan, I guess you're out of luck.

None of this is meant to trash Polygon, who did their best to put together a fair list (okay, I can fault them for the bizarre decision to put FIFA 12 in the Top 25... seriously, what the heck?). Historical "Best of" lists do great traffic because it's fun to argue the relative merits of classics like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Metroid. What's more, it's an opportunity for your outlet to put its stamp on gaming history. From now on, the Wikipedia entry for A Link Between Worlds will probably note that Polygon once ranked it #299 in its list of the 500 best games ever made (Note: That's way the hell too low).

Ultimately, the only way to keep a "Best Games Ever" list from becoming a fool's errand is to narrow the scope. You can limit it by genre, though you'll still probably run into the inevitable problem that literally no one has played the Best 100 RPGs ever made (seriously, you haven't). You can limit it to the best games of the past decade, though you'll still have to contend with the problem that different games have wildly different objectives. You can just try to pick the best games on a given platform, which is both fun to do and even potentially useful for those wanting to revisit the best games of the past.

Fool's errand or not, though, outlets will go right on publishing "Best Games" lists, because people want to read them, even if they ultimately make no sense. We'll probably even make one ourselves someday.

But if you're planning on making a Top 500 list of your own, I have only one request: Please, for the love of god, do the right thing and put Final Fantasy Tactics in the Top 100. Seriously.

Looking Ahead to the Rest of the Week

This is it folks! December has begun and we're rounding the final corner on 2017. It's time for us to start talking about our Games of the Year, which means a lot of heated discussion, some outright fights, and some tearful reconciliations. You can expect a ton from the USgamer team this season, so look forward to that. This week though, here's what's on the docket.

The Game Awards: On December 7 at 8:30PM ET/5:30PM PT, the Game Awards will kick off, honoring the best games in our industry. Unlike some awards, these are all voted on by you, the fans, so you have to own any results. Likewise, you can expect to see some reveals and trailers at the event.

The PlayStation Experience 2017: This weekend marks Sony's celebration of all things PlayStation in Anaheim, California. The event takes place on December 9-10, but the part that everyone around the world cares about, the keynote presentation, happens on Friday, December 8 at 8 PM PT/11PM ET. Sony has already cautioned folks about getting their hopes up for megatons, since E3 2017 and Paris Games Week took most of the thunder. Still, expect a bit of magic at the show.

Destiny 2: Curse of Osiris: Most of the attention has been on Destiny 2's issues with XP throttling, but Bungie is also putting out a full-blown expansion this week, which goes live on December 5. Here's hoping it makes the endgame a little richer.

Hearthstone: Kobolds and Caverns: Hearthstone takes to dungeon diving in its latest major expansion. With new solo content, this one might be worth picking up even if you've been away for a while. It'll be out December 7.

The Best of the Rest: Not a ton of major releases this week, but there's some good stuff on the horizon. Dead Rising 4: Frank's Big Package brings the latest Dead Rising to the PlayStation 4 on December 5. A Hat in Time makes the jump to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on December 6. Finally, cult franchise Spellforce 3 is coming to PC on December 7.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: 4 A.M. from Animal Crossing: New Leaf

I'm a night person. Always have been. Even as a little girl, I remember being forced to go to bed at the same time each night and staring up at the ceiling because I was helpless to drift off until the wee hours. I once had a job where I started at 5 a.m. every morning. I never felt so miserable in my life.

So when I play a time-oriented game like Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS, you can bet I become very familiar with the evening / night time environments and the fellow night hawks who populate them. 4 A.M. is a peaceful but particularly lonely hour that hangs in the limbo between midnight and dawn, and I think 4 A.M. in New Leaf perfectly captures that chill loneliness.

Kazumi Totaka's choice of gentle piano laid atop a steady, marching beat is a good audio representation for this mysterious time of night: Though the world around you feels like it's come to a dead stop, be assured the new day is heading inexorably towards you. Like a train gliding along a track. A sunshine train.

Mike's Media Minute

I usually talk about the big screen, but this week I'm moving over to the small screen for a bit. Netflix recently released the first trailer for its adaptation of Altered Carbon. The 10-episode series is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Richard K. Morgan.

The core idea of the series is people have conquered death; technology has allowed people to download their consciousness into new bodies called sleeves. The bodies still age, so most folks only live a few lives, but the rich save their minds in storage stacks and upload to new bodies all the time. When one rich person commits suicide and destroys his stack, including the memory of the last 48 hours, that person hires ex-soldier Takeshi Kovacs to figure out if that suicide was actually a murder.

Altered Carbon looks... pretty good! This is Netflix aiming hard as prestige television and it's clear that the series is not coming cheap. Altered Carbon is very much the kind of thoughtful hard science fiction that has a solid niche.

The problem has been, up until now, that the niche doesn't seem to be capable of further box office success. Blade Runner 2049 is straight up hard scifi in the best way. The budget was $150-185 million, and every dollar is up there onscreen, care of veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins. Director Denis Villeneuve did the project right: it's a film that takes its time and hopes the audience comes along for the ride. Despite everything coming out right, Blade Runner 2049 is going to lose money at the box office.

The truth is the "general audience" doesn't want to pay $15 for 3 hours of using science fiction concepts to explore ethics, morality, and humanity. And that's fine. Money is finite, folks want pure entertainment. That's why I think projects like Blade Runner 2049, Westworld, and Altered Carbon can find homes on Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO, Hulu, and other streaming services. Folks are more apt to give a show a shot when the cost is sunk in the subscription fee they pay each month. Black Mirror found a solid fanbase in that way and I think Altered Carbon might as well.

Fingers crossed, because I like scifi, so I want it to succeed.

Caty’s AltGame Corner

In order to have a good day, it's essential to have a healthy breakfast. Or at least, that's what I was told while growing up. The new surreal game from developers Team Boogie Knights, Healthy Breakfast, kinda-sorta-but-not-really explores that message. Except it captures the topsy-turvy search for a donut, which typically isn't the first thing on your mind when you see the words "healthy" and "breakfast" sandwiched together.

It's a short game, lasting ten minutes or less depending on how fast you move through its neon-colored world. As the year winds down, weirder bite-sized games are what I'm turning to more and more. Healthy Breakfast, with all its weird floating heads and dizzying platforming, was well worth the time. You can play Healthy Breakfast from itch.io, available for PC and Mac for free.

This Week's News and Notes

  • Capcom surprised the world by actually remembering that Mega Man exists. In a livestream earlier today, Capcom announced that Mega Man 11 is coming in 2018 to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. That's right, Switch folk, you haven't been forgotten. In addition, Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 and 2 will be making the transition over to Switch as well! Finally, the Mega Man X franchise is getting a new collection, releasing on all of the usual suspects: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Capcom came to Mega Man's 30th Anniversary prepared, and we're glad they did.
  • Our erudite freelancer Doc Burford wrote a lengthy piece about why The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is so damned good, despite doing a number of things wrong in terms of design. If you want to understand the mechanics of games, Doc's work is always a great place to start and this piece is no different.
  • The PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X are both out and about, meaning developers are going to start having launch support for both platforms. This means their games have to be ready with 4K resolution support, high dynamic range (HDR) color, and other improvements to justify the horsepower in those consoles. Mike talked with the developers of Gears of War 4, Assassin's Creed: Origins, and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War to see if they were ready for our 4K future.
  • Nadia has some words for everyone. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is the focal point of a community discussion about revealing costumes and female character designs, but folks should know that there's more to one of the game's primary characters, Pyra, and the game itself.
  • Caty dives into the newest update for Splatoon 2, which she feels is starting to actually feel like a real sequel.
  • The death of Marvel Heroes came too quickly. Matt talks to those left behind when a free-to-play game is shuttered.
  • UFC 3 might bring the goods next year, offering a deeper, more strategic experience to digital MMA. Fans are feeling good about the feel of striking and timing has become key to the game this year. People are still coming to terms with the dramatic changes in the controls, but the community is positive ahead of the game's February 2, 2018 launch.
  • And if you're enjoying Xenoblade Chronicles 2, here's a warning, the game is better in Docked Mode!

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Comments 38

  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 12 days ago
    I wouldn't mind so much the fact that The Game Awards are just a marketing tool if they were at least honest about it. Just call it Christmas E3 and stop pretending it's an award show.
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  • Avatar for chaoticBeat #2 chaoticBeat 12 days ago
    Black Mirror is so good. I really enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 too, maybe I will check out Altered Carbon. I guess Dark on netflix is supposed to be good?
    I want to come back to Splatoon 2 at some point to check out the new content, I've been on a bit of a break from it. I will need to tear myself away from raid more in resident evil rev. 2 first. That game is a black hole of fun and some frustration (with the annoying invisible enemies with one hit kill animations), but overall it's extremely addictive.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #3 Kuni-Nino 11 days ago
    Regarding Blade Runner, it's failure to generate any money should be the death nail to the dumb argument people make when they're trashing producers and studios for playing it safe: "Just make a good movie."

    Yeah, Blade Runner was pretty damn good. Where was the audience? It goes to show you just how hard the entertainment industry really is.Edited 2 weeks ago by Kuni-Nino
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #4 MHWilliams 11 days ago
    @Kuni-Nino Even just the idea of "make a good movie" is some guff. Making good movies is damned hard folks. It's an immense machine and all of the pieces have to line up.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #5 yuberus 11 days ago
    I feel the fundamental flaw in Blade Runner 2049 is that 1: Blade Runner stands on its own, never suggesting any need for a sequel or revisitation of that setting, and 2: didn't do so hot in theaters its first go-round.

    There's also 3, wherein I found it to be not very good - particularly after reading the novella it is ostensibly based on, but even before I'd touched Electric Sheep I was underwhelmed. I am one person, but I didn't bother seeing 2049 because Blade Runner never has grabbed me, and why would I see the sequel to something I didn't like? Wouldn't be shocked if that played a role too - BR seems to have die hard fans and pretty limited interest beyond them.

    That all said, I did love Altered Carbon and love hard scifi, so I'm hoping this comes out well.

    Regarding top game lists, I do agree with Kat that you need to narrow the scope. Otherwise I feel like you'd see people fall back on the zeitgeist and reputation of games simply because there's too much to play and you're going to have personal blind spots.Edited 2 weeks ago by yuberus
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #6 MetManMas 11 days ago
    I get that they bring traffic, but personally I find it folly to even consider making a "Best Games of All Time" list. Time is never-ending, and even moreso than movies, video games can definitely show their age.

    Adventure was important and all but practically any adventure game from 1986 onward (or 1984 on computers) is going to offer a much more robust and generally better experience. Space Invaders feels obsolete next to Galaga's more dynamic enemy formations. Nobody's gonna play Pong when they have Wii Sports or a Mario Tennis game available.

    Not to say you can't enjoy old games for what they are, of course. Space Invaders may feel quaint compared to the thousands of shooters that followed in its footsteps, but I like its simplicity. Most of the best Pac-Man follow-ups don't stray far from the blueprints set in stone in 1980. Heck, I still enjoy a good round of Super Mario Bros. 'cuz the game's layout really embraces the "Gotta go fast" mentality and there's no stage selection maps, mini games, or item screens slowing things down.

    And often, limitations on technology can make for better games, too. For me, the jRPG genre in general comes to mind. jRPGs have always been talkier than other games of their time (save adventure games), but the cartridge limitations of the day meant they couldn't be too talky. Cutscenes in the Super Nintendo era were chatty but they still had to rein that shit in 'cuz more dialogue meant less space for other things, like magic effects and cool places to visit.

    I think that modern jRPG and retraux RPG designers could learn a lot about the importance of brevity by seriously analyzing the old games.
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  • Avatar for notimportant #7 notimportant 11 days ago
    Everything you say about the flaws of “best games” lists is clearly right.....but I’d still love to read Jeremy’s ballot.

    I enjoy those lists more when you can compare a few submissions by people whose opinion you value. It’s a nice way to get to know their tastes better, and sometimes, you find some hIdden gems. I probably never would have played Earthbound if I hadn’t seen it in several of those lists
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #8 Funny_Colour_Blue 11 days ago
    @yuberus Yeah, no I agree with. I am a huge fan of Bladerunner. picked up the "ultimate collector's back in 2007 which has every single cut of the movie that you would want.

    I also read "do android's dream of electric sheep?" which I enjoyed immensely.

    But,

    I did not like BladeRunner2049.

    It's misogynistic overtones and that strangling underwater scene made it unwatchable for me. I have two female cousins, who are currently attending university, who love the original film immensely as well - I cannot recommend this film to them, based on what was shown in the movie.

    It had nothing to do with general audiences not wanting to pay $15 for 3 hours of using science fiction concepts to explore ethics morality, and humanity. (Sorry Mike :( )

    It's just, BladeRunner2049 was not a good movie - Sure, it was neat how, this new film kind touched upon parts in the original book and scenes outside of the original movie, it was a good follow up; there was probably a better film in there could that Denis Villeneuve could've salvaged, with the same themes, of family and such - but this definitely wasn't it.

    BladeRunner2049 Is just not a good movie. It's too uncomfortable to watch.

    EDIT:Speaking of the top 500 - what happened to 1up.com's top 100?

    https://web.archive.org/web/20140326210428/http://www.1up.com/features/cover-essential-100-part-four

    This was a pretty great list that everyone agreed upon - this should be a good 100 games to start that list with.Edited 3 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by Funny_Colour_Blue
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  • Avatar for JinjoHayabusa #9 JinjoHayabusa 11 days ago
    Polygon forgot about Okami.Edited 2 weeks ago by JinjoHayabusa
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #10 Flipsider99 11 days ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue What are you talking about, what "misogynistic overtones"? I liked the movie, even if it doesn't quite have the same impact as the original. The acting is great and it does nail the feeling of the original movie. It does a better job than many recent follow-ups, certainly Alien Covenant, Ghostbusters, and the newer Star Wars movies. Not quite as good as the new Mad Max, but pretty close.
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  • Avatar for DrCorndog #11 DrCorndog 11 days ago
    Ah best games list, eh? Better head over there and see what they got wrong.
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  • Avatar for link6616 #12 link6616 11 days ago
    Skimming through the list.

    I have lots of minor gripes, but seriously,

    337. THREES.

    ... 33 .... 7!

    What could be 333... it must be something clever... Must be...

    333. HOT SHOTS GOLF.

    ... How do you not give 333 to THREES?

    3/10 list for sure.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #13 NiceGuyNeon 11 days ago
    This is serious business. I unfollowed Polygon on Twitter over that list.

    Flower was ranked higher than about 150 games. At no point should anyone be able to name 150 games worse than Flower. I stopped reading when I saw Flower, and I don't know where anything else ranks because Flower is not better than the 150 games that preceded it.

    If you rank Flower higher than 150 other games at any point in your life I will unfollow you as well. If I don't follow you, I will block you on account of you being a terrible human being who has offended my basic right to exist peacefully in a world where Flower isn't praised.

    DO. NOT. PUT. FLOWER. ON. ANY. TOP. LISTS.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #14 LBD_Nytetrayn 11 days ago
    Is Balloon Fight on that list? If it isn't, then I don't care about it.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #15 NiceGuyNeon 11 days ago
    Speaking of Blade Runner 2049, it might be my favorite movie of the year so far. It's a tough call between BR and Dunkirk though, Dunkirk was freaking brilliant.

    But I don't want Blade Runner to be on streaming. I mean, if I have no choice than it's fine, but I'm a guy who prefers the big screen. Prior to law school I was a film student with an emphasis on sound design. I spent years of school analyzing film as literature, criticisms of cinema and television art under various theories (auteur, etc), and history of American cinema among others. Obviously we did the shitty art thing of exploring existentialism like everyone else.

    But you know what? I've always loved film, and if I'm not seeing a movie as brilliant as Blade Runner on the best screen in Los Angeles than I'm not a happy camper. Blu-ray, home entertainment, streaming, those are distractions, they aren't prestige.

    I expect Blade Runner to make some noise at the Academy Awards at least. I don't think they've ever given the award for Best Picture to a sci-fi film and I doubt that'll change with Blade Runner, but this movie deserves nominations in nearly every category. Smartly written and directed, beautiful shot and edited, and the sound design was killer. It's what I want out of a sci-fi film.

    Arrival was fantastic, but Villenueve knocked it out of the park with Blade Runner 2049. Ryan Gosling was on point. Jared Leto was once again just killer. I'm such a fan of this movie.

    And yet, Dunkirk might be better. It's been a pretty good year for movies and games!
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  • Avatar for docexe #16 docexe 11 days ago
    Given how all these “top whatever” lists always boil down to the subjective criteria and personal preference of whoever is writing the list, I frankly tend to take them more as personal recommendations for something I might enjoy if I get to play it, rather than as definite statements on whether or not some games are truly better than others.
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  • Avatar for mganai #17 mganai 11 days ago
    Top 10 for Pokemon is waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy too high, influence be damned. It's basically Dragon Quest with collectible monsters. (Kind of exaggerating, but still.)

    ETA: Worse, neither Baldur's Gate II nor Planescape: Torment are not even in the top 100 even though they should be top 20 by all rights? Totally braindead. Seriously, screw Elder Scrolls, Witcher 3 and their bloated open-world ilk.Edited 2 weeks ago by mganai
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  • Avatar for moochan #18 moochan 11 days ago
    This is why I even give Game of the Year more or less a passing glance. I use it more on seeing what games I haven't played that I should check out. Trying to say one game is better than other while they being completely different games never works. It doesn't really work with movies either where depending on your love/hate of certain genres you might hate a persons list of best movies of the year/decade/century. I personally am more of a fan of "games of this year you might not have tried out" over best of lists (that's how I discover Disgaea way back in the PS2 era).

    Also as someone that works overnight I really get you with having a great night time setting in a game world. Going from bustling town to a nice cool calming world with little people around is always something I want in a game with a clock in it and having control over that clock at any time in the Xenoblade series is something most games should have.
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #19 Toelkki 11 days ago
    Here's my tip on how to make a top-500 list with necessary caveats: call it 500 of the 1000 best games ever in alphabetic order.
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  • Avatar for neilhood #20 neilhood 11 days ago
    I realize this run counter to the entire point of your article, but I would love to read a USG list of the top 20 games of every genre or every major console. You all would do it well.
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  • Avatar for dard410 #21 dard410 11 days ago
    I seem to be in the minority here, but I thought Blade Runner 2049 was just... ok. The original is one of my favorites and I love heady sci-fi like Black Mirror, Ex Machina, etc. that use "science fiction concepts to explore ethics, morality, and humanity." The problem is I felt like everything 2049 had done, I'd already seen done better in other films. Her tackled love between a man and an AI, Ex Machina was a better exploration of rebellious robots, the original Blade Runner had a more convincing cyberpunk dystopia, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot showed a human and android mating and producing an offspring. I just felt like I'd seen all of these themes explored in better works of sci-fi. It didn't help that 2049 was too long and unfocused. A better editor could easily have cut 20 minutes from the film and had a tighter story. Far from a horrible film, but I certainly understand why it didn't do better in the box office.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #22 donkeyintheforest 11 days ago
    "Older movies have primitive special effects, but those are easy to look past. With games, older tech fundamentally influences how you interact with the story and the mechanics. "

    Yeah, totally agree... but sometimes those old games work amazingly well! I beat Zelda 2 for the first time earlier this year and the jumping and sword moves and stuff feel better than most "retro" style games that come out these days! I don't know how they did it!!!!!!!?!?!!

    edit: oh great, apparently 90+% of games on the list are better than it... including multiple mobile tower defense games! come on!Edited 2 weeks ago by donkeyintheforest
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #23 SuperShinobi 11 days ago
    When the top 100 contains 20 Nintendo games and 0 Sega games, you know the list is by people who grew up playing the NES and SNES, never owned a Dreamcast and only played the Genesis at a friend's house. Without great games, the Genesis wouldn't have stood a chance against the SNES. But the reality is Sega did have many great games, so many that they were able to bring Nintendo's market dominance in the West to an end. And Sega dominated the arcades from the mid-80's until the early 2000s with a long run of hits. So to me a list like Polygon's is like a rewriting of gaming history from an unbalanced and strange perspective.

    Another big problem is that it reads like a list of the 100 most influential games, instead of the 100 best games. Games like Tetris, the original Zelda, Adventure, M.U.L.E, Ms. Pacman, Space Invaders, Pong, Pokemon Red and Doom have all undoubtedly been very influential, but just how enjoyable are they to actually play today? I don't think any of them are particularly enjoyable and they are all so basic, even primitive by modern standards.

    I have og Zelda installed on my 3DS and I've been trying to play it, but it's just so bad compared to something like Breath of the Wild. Seriously, BotW is 10X or 100X better than og Zelda. I have no desire to start playing Tetris again and I haven't touched it since 1989. Ms. Pacman is okay, but for sure I'd rather play Pacman DX. Pong is just bad in every way. M.U.L.E is so basic and janky compared to a modern strategy classic like Xcom or Valkyria Chronicles. Space Invaders to me felt mediocre and limited even back in the early 80's when I started playing video games. I remember when in 1987 R-Type came and absolutely blew away old shooter relics like Space Invaders. And no way is it better than modern classics like Ikaruga or Resogun, just no way. I'd rather play nearly any modern FPS over Doom. Give me a Battlefield, Bioshock, Far Cry, Borderlands even a Call of Duty, even Overwatch, one of the new Wolfensteins, Doom 2016... just not plain old Doom from 25 years ago.

    If I made a list of the 100 best games ever, I'd include only a few games from the entire '80s: Mega Man 2, Revenge of Shinobi and R-Type, and maybe Mario 3 and the arcade version of Outrun. Those would be the only games guaranteed a place and everything else I'd have to replay thoroughly to check if they actually hold up against more modern games, because so many games from the early days don't, when you remove the rose-tinted glasses.

    The final problem with making a list of the best games ever is that no one has played all the best games out there and everyone has significant blind spots when it comes to gaming history. I have them too - I've never properly played a MOBA or an MMO. I tried to play a bit of SWTOR, but it didn't hold my interest for long. The Polygon guys don't seem to play racing games, as they only had Burnout 3 and og Mario Kart - hardly a match for something like Forza Horizon 3 by the way.

    The one bright spot of Polygon's list was that it had sports games, a genre that games writers tend to ignore. They even had the great NHL 94 near the top. What a great game. I played it just recently and I still prefer it to modern NHL. NHL '17 was really decent though and the series seems to be finally improving and going in the right direction. Polygon had NBA Jam up there as well. That's another true sports game classic, although I feel the 2010 sequel and the modern NBA 2K series do offer a superior game of basketball. They had Fifa '12 also, which was a bit of a weird pick, although I remember Fifa starting to get better and catch up to PES at the time. PES 17 is the best modern soccer game though, if you ask me. I've been trying to sell my Xbox 360 copy of Fifa '12 for like two years for $1 + shipping, but no one's buying, even though Polygon claims it's so great. Maybe the boost from the Polygon article will finally help me get rid of it :D.Edited 7 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #24 mattcom26 11 days ago
    @Kat.Bailey How about a counterpoint series called "Best Games NEVER made". Scrapped projects, unreleased sequels, wishlist items, etc. I think that would be interesting.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #25 NiceGuyNeon 11 days ago
    @SuperShinobi This is why I like PCGamer's list. They update it annually and just present it as "the top 100 PC games you should play today" and stuff fluctuates each year. Like I think at one point Half-Life 2 was number 1 or 2 or something and it's shifted to 11 now with the new Doom above it. I wouldn't say new Doom is a better game in 2017 than Half-Life 2 was in 2004, but I would say the new Doom is probably a game you should play today before any other FPS if you're curious about the genre.

    Rock Paper Shotgun does similarly with its top lists, focusing on what's fun to play. I think for their top 50 shooters list they said the first 40 were unranked and only the top 10 were a countdown which also helps avoid the sting of "why is this all-time classic ranked below a free to play mobile game?"
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #26 VotesForCows 11 days ago
    @chaoticBeat I'm literally watching Dark right now and its so fucked up. Check it out - in German preferably, if you can.

    @NiceGuyNeon I don't mind Flower, but by god I'm utterly indifferent to Journey.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #27 SatelliteOfLove 11 days ago
    *reads top 500 list*

    Oh, we are missing some THINGS here.
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  • Avatar for pdubb #28 pdubb 11 days ago
    I'm just going on record as saying that for Tactics Ogre to not have made it on even the top 500 is a travesty.

    Also, apparently my taste in gaming is crappy cause I think from 400 to 300 has the largest amount of my personal favorite games (which also happen to be PC games, go fig).
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #29 riderkicker 11 days ago
    The period around the year 2000 is what I call the Silver Age of video gaming and I would say most of my slots for the top 15 games have been filled by games released between 2000 and 2002. It's a good period to work with, but it's gonna be a rather tight list as I would say in no particular order:

    Pokemon Gold/Silver
    Super Robot Wars Alpha
    Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
    Final Fantasy IX
    Metal Gear Solid II: Sons of Liberty
    Tony Hawk's Pro-Skater 2
    Super Smash Bros Melee

    and I could name quite a few more! However, I cannot name a damn game between 2002 and 2009 that I truly liked, even if a contributing factor was my teenage years, and how the Western Market finally unseated the Japanese market (at a cost). From then on, I guess my pessimism about video games continued for quite a while, but at least now I can actually pick something unique.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #30 MetManMas 10 days ago
    @VotesForCows I liked both Flower and Journey, and I think both are worth experiencing at least once. But that said, they're not really the kinda titles I'd put on a Best Games Ever list. They're a wild ride while they last, but neither one has much in the way of longevity.

    Personally though, I preferred ABZÛ. I know it follows the same general template, progress through multiple stages and late in the game there's a bleak bit followed by a sad bit and then a triumphant bit for the finale.

    But that said, I enjoyed it a lot more because I adore underwater set pieces with loads and loads of colorful sea life. For me at least, ABZÛ's undersea world felt much more alive.
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  • Avatar for Cynalus #31 Cynalus 10 days ago
    Narrow the scope. Concur. It is always enjoyable to read those lists. Clearly, broader the scope, more disagreement, and some random striking are-they-serious-did-they-put-that-game-so-high-in-the-rankings-seriously moments. Nearly nonsensical at times. I've been enjoying the PCGamer little (old) mag that had a listing of RPGs and another of "best games to play in 2017" etc. Love the lists for the sake of lists. But I'd also note that sometimes I judge the few comments given per game as well --- sometimes I wonder, if folks have so few words to use to talk about a given game, why possibly squander them? What would I write for Chrono Trigger? Or Final Fantasy 3? Or Planescape: Torment. A tough task. There will always be lists, we'll always love/hate/like/kinda-like them and love to disagree with them, but overall, I think the most valid point is to, yeah, narrow the scope, and really hit the high points of "why" each game had such impact/has such impact, and deserves the rank given.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #32 VotesForCows 10 days ago
    @MetManMas I keep meaning to play Abzu - I've been a sucker for underwater games since Ecco all those years ago!
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  • Avatar for jrralls77 #33 jrralls77 10 days ago
    Does anyone know which site makes a "Top 100 Games To Play Right Now" or something like that and a "Top 100 Most Influential Games" because I think that's the better way to go about this instead of "best."

    I think most of the hard data about backwards compatible systems show that feature is used around 1% of the time and the other 99% is spent on new stuff. In terms of playing, most gamers greatly prefer a "C-" level game from the current year than an A+ game from 15 years ago.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #34 secularsage 10 days ago
    I think the problem is that lists are easy to read, but really, really arbitrary to construct. Even when there's a rubric in play, it's just a bunch of meaningless scores that don't account for any sort of margin of error or tilt.

    I've always found cohort groups much more interesting: "If you like this excellent game, here are several more you might not know about that are like it in some way" or "Here are five games with a strange attribute in common." Those are not only more informative, but also more fun to read.

    Everyone has their personal favorites and guilty pleasure games, and there are plenty of games that are objectively great. But ranking lists are a silly way to discuss game quality, and they're far too prone to giving equal weight to the really popular and really obscure games because of a desire to please many constituents of readers.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #35 secularsage 10 days ago
    @SuperShinobi You make a good point, and one thing about these lists is they tend to have HUGE blind spots for platforms that were less popular in the writers' country of origin. For example, it's rare to see these lists include the Sega Master System, PC Engine, ZX Spectrum or Amiga unless they're citing something really obvious like Shadow of the Beast or Defender of the Crown or Jetpac. Further, many of the 80s PC games get entirely ignored in favor of console games, as do coin-op games that aren't part of a popular franchise.

    There's also a problem of historical context. Some games were considered killer apps or game of the year material when released and are looked down upon today because they're aged poorly. Others flew completely under the radar upon release and either became cult classics or are now recognized for their technical chops. Many more never caught on well enough to be explored completely, and critics overlook them simply because there aren't enough voices championing them.

    One further problem I observe is critical bias. Enthusiast press critics often love games that make them feel like gaming is important because it helps justify their interest in games as something more than entertainment. This is why games that are definitely aimed at a certain type of hobbyist gamer (think Her Story, Undertale, Flower, Soma, Dear Esther, To the Moon, Home, Papers, Please and Everyone's Gone to the Rapture, among many others) tend to wind up on critics' lists and in their discussions despite being only moderately known outside the hobbyist gamer community.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #36 secularsage 10 days ago
    @jrralls77 You're probably best off with a recommendation engine like Games Finder rather than lists for that purpose.

    Another alternative is to use an aggregator like Game Rankings, Metacritic or Open Critic and look at the best-reviewed games in genres or year ranges.

    Kotaku has their "The Bests" recommendations that they periodically update, but I often find those recommendations to be too shallow and obvious.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #37 yuberus 10 days ago
    @SuperShinobi Well it comes down to tastes, doesn't it? There are a lot of games from the 80s and 90s that I think are better than stuff that's come out the past 10 years. If you're going to talk about the best of whatever of all time, that's going to come up. I've readily picked up Super Mario Bros, or Ms. Pac-Man, or Choplifter (and so on) over Modern Warfare, or Uncharted, and their ilk. And that's fine too - my tastes aren't going to be the same as someone else's. I find the technological limitations made for games that are just more fun for me to play.

    And yes, so would historical context. Pong is a simple game by any measure, but it had a massive impact, and it is legitimately still fun to play today if you've got a second player willing to throw down on it. It belongs on any sort of "canonized" list of games as much as early silent films belong on a list of the 500 best/most important movies. Like yeah, I'm probably not going to be interested in going back and playing Ultima IV or Wasteland, but they do some really cool, influential stuff. Gotta account for that.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #38 Flipsider99 9 days ago
    @yuberus Yeah I'm with you, generally I tend to prefer games of the 80s or 90s. On my top list there'd be a pretty even spread between 8-bit, 16-bit, PS1 and PS2 games. With a few modern games here and there... Dark Souls would be my #1, and Mario 64 would be my #2!

    Everyone's different, and it's all subjective. So no list will ever be "official." But it's fun to make these lists and talk about them, and when a magazine comes out with a new list it's fun to argue about why it's stupid!
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