Polygon top 500 games of all time

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Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Nassim » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:36 pm

Polygon just finished publishing their list of the top 500 games of all time.
As always, you can argue for hours, but it's a very decent list, neither forgetting oldies and pioneers (Rogue, Zorg and Quest for Glory are in the top 50 for instance) nor passing over more recent games (though games from 2017 were cut out, so no Breath of the Wild)

Top 20 :
20. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST (1992, Super Nintendo, others)
19. CIVILIZATION 2 (1996, PC, others)
18. CASTLEVANIA: SYMPHONY OF THE NIGHT (1997, PlayStation, others)
17. PORTAL (2007, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, others)
16. SUPER MARIO 64 (1996, Nintendo 64, others)
15. SIMCITY (1989, Mac, others)
14. HALF-LIFE 2 (2004, PC, others)
13. STARCRAFT (1998, PC, others)
12. GRAND THEFT AUTO 3 (2001, PlayStation 2, others)
11. FINAL FANTASY 6 (1994, Super Nintendo, others)
10. SUPER METROID (1994, Super Nintendo, others)
9. STREET FIGHTER 2 (1991, Arcade, others)
8. MINECRAFT (2011, Mac, PC, others)
7. WORLD OF WARCRAFT (2004, Mac, PC)
6. MS. PAC-MAN (1982, Arcade, others) : strangely the description mentions Pac-Man, not Ms. Pac-Man.
5. POKEMON RED AND BLUE (1998, Game Boy)
4. DOOM (1993, PC, others)
3. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (1987, Nintendo Entertainment System, others)
2. SUPER MARIO BROS. 3 (1990, Nintendo Entertainment System, others)
1. TETRIS (1984, Electronika 60, others)

There was an article today in the web version of Le Monde, pointing out that there is still an issue similar as the ones with music : great games from outside the US and Japan never got the spotlight they deserved, so fail to appear on most lists.

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Pierre » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:56 am

I'll have to explore it, but it sure looks much more decent than the one from JV.com. SMB3 at #2 is legit.

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby BleuPanda » Wed Dec 06, 2017 2:24 pm

One game from the last ten years in the top 20 and it's Minecraft...

Why even bother making games any more if we apparently can't top the original freaking Zelda? I'm tired of these lists that favor 'innovation' over quality; it's like reading a list of the best films and 90% are from the silent era. These games laid the foundation, but so what if that foundation didn't lead anywhere?

Like, they've clearly played both the original Zelda and Link to the Past since they're both in the top 20. What objective quality does the original have that LTTP doesn't do better in pretty much every way?
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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Jirin » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:15 pm

I'll give this list a lot of credit for much better niche representation than most lists of this stuff, but a lot of notable major omissions from RPG world in niche area, like Xenogears, the entire Star Ocean and Tales series, or any Megaten game other than Persona.

But, it also has Final Fantasy Tactics right outside the top 100, Suikoden 2 in the top 100, Valkryia Chronicles on the list.

I don't know if this list came out before or after Persona 5, but if it was after, having Persona 4 in the top 50 and Persona 5 not even making the list is criminal.

I don't think games should necessarily get credit for doing something first if they didn't do it best, but I think that 'lasting appeal' is a factor, and I'm not super-enamored with most modern games. Games are sold incomplete so they can gouge you with microtransactions, instead of having the perfect simple goal 'beat the game', it's all about trophies and accomplishments and keeping annoying checklists of every little thing you do throughout the game. They build the core gameplay around having you do a series of little minor chores instead of just having a simple goal to reach the goal with levels progressively moving from easy to hard.

Just like arcade games were punishingly hard because they wanted to make you spend the next quarter. New video games are trivially easy because they're designed around triggering the reward system in order to make you spend the next microtransaction, and it has terribly impacting the quality of games.

I do not care about whether I've killed 35/50 enemy types, collected 735/900 ultracoins, or swung my sword 53260 times. I care that I played level 5, got my ass handed to me the first few times, got better at the game, then finally beat it. That's all I want from you game developers. Give that back to me please.

Persona 5, Tales of Berseria and Super Mario Odyssey are amazing games that came out this year, but in my opinion there hadn't been new great games, at least ones that I'd played, for the last few years before that, for the reasons I just described.
Last edited by Jirin on Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Jirin » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:28 pm

BleuPanda wrote:One game from the last ten years in the top 20 and it's Minecraft...

Why even bother making games any more if we apparently can't top the original freaking Zelda? I'm tired of these lists that favor 'innovation' over quality; it's like reading a list of the best films and 90% are from the silent era. These games laid the foundation, but so what if that foundation didn't lead anywhere?

Like, they've clearly played both the original Zelda and Link to the Past since they're both in the top 20. What objective quality does the original have that LTTP doesn't do better in pretty much every way?


You're posting on a board with an all time music list where the 18 of the top 20 are from before video games were a thing. :)

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby BleuPanda » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:52 pm

Jirin wrote:
BleuPanda wrote:One game from the last ten years in the top 20 and it's Minecraft...

Why even bother making games any more if we apparently can't top the original freaking Zelda? I'm tired of these lists that favor 'innovation' over quality; it's like reading a list of the best films and 90% are from the silent era. These games laid the foundation, but so what if that foundation didn't lead anywhere?

Like, they've clearly played both the original Zelda and Link to the Past since they're both in the top 20. What objective quality does the original have that LTTP doesn't do better in pretty much every way?


You're posting on a board with an all time music list where the 18 of the top 20 are from before video games were a thing. :)



Yes...and music is also thousands of years old. It doesn't make sense for a medium that has been around for only 40ish years to be treated like its golden age was right at the beginning.

Most all-time video game lists look like they're made by people who think they 'grew out' of video games in the late 90s.
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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Mulholland » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:07 am

BleuPanda wrote:Most all-time video game lists look like they're made by people who think they 'grew out' of video games in the late 90s.


I think it's just that when you think of an old video game you remember how you felt when playing it rather than weighing it up compared to modern releases.

I mean if you asked me what I think the best GTA game is my answer would be San Andreas. If I'm brutally honest with myself then, yes, GTA V is probably the 'best' out there.

Video games lists, more than any other medium, seems specifically nostalgia focused. Probably because of that rush we get playing games as kids/teens.

Still, it's nice to see games like Gone Home and Dwarf Fortress get high rankings on this list. :D

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Jirin » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:55 am

I think that's part of it, but I don't think it's the whole thing. When I played Catherine I got the same rush I did when I was a kid, same with Super Mario Galaxy. I immediately identified Persona 5 as one of the greatest RPGs of all time.

Also, I've met a lot of people who didn't 'grow out' of video games, people who are in their upper 30s or early 40s with good jobs, wives and kids. So many of them that games have started having darker and darker and more mature storylines.

Video games have improved in a lot of ways. Graphics, cinematography, ironing out the kinks in game mechanics and flow, (In some ways) storytelling. Having objectively better technical specs and controls that have benefited from 40 years of trial and error and user feedback doesn't make something an objectively better game.

When I fondly remember games from my childhood, I remember treasuring the ones I had because I couldn't just buy them whenever I want, I remember being frustrated trying to get past a hard level, working hard to learn how to play it and then feeling so amazing the time I finally beat it. I remember being dumbfounded by the story twists in games like Final Fantasy Tactics and Xenogears, getting emotionally wrapped up in the drama of RPGs while I figured out the perfect strategy to beat the hard boss without having to level up any more.

Games just aren't challenging anymore. The companies don't want them to be because, well, working hard to get better at the game doesn't make you want to spend the next dollar on microtransactions. If that were an option when I was a kid I'm sure those games wouldn't have been hard either and I wouldn't have cared about them as much. Instead of a challenging process to get major rewards, you have a painless easy process to get a series of small rewards. Great for distracting you on a long plane ride, but profoundly unmemorable.

Some modern games have great stories. The standard is higher now to seem original just because of the previous games that exist, but that's not the only thing. The same small reward system removes the urgency. THE GIRL WAS CAPTURED BY THE BAD GUY! LET'S SAVE HER.....err.....after I advance this side quest line. And this one. And get this trophy. Maybe put it off some more.

Gaming companies don't want you to struggle to get better at the game, obsess over it and treasure it forever. They want to distract you, trigger your endorphins with small rewards just enough to make you pay a bit for the next small reward, then move on to the next game.
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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Jirin » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:58 am

In short if you don't want to read that long block of text.

Yes, nostalgia is a factor, and yes games have technically improved greatly. But the microtransaction model has encouraged a slew of pretty, forgettable games.

Though I'll never understand why Tetris seems to always show up at #1. Yeah it's a great game, but really, this is the pinnacle of gaming?

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Mulholland » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:43 pm

Jirin wrote:In short if you don't want to read that long block of text.

Yes, nostalgia is a factor, and yes games have technically improved greatly. But the microtransaction model has encouraged a slew of pretty, forgettable games.

Though I'll never understand why Tetris seems to always show up at #1. Yeah it's a great game, but really, this is the pinnacle of gaming?


You know what, I take what you're saying and, yes, maybe I was too sweeping about nostalgia. I think one thing that doesn't help for newer entries on the list is that we have so many avenues for our gaming experience that the vote gets split so many ways.

I think what also did not help is that the remit for this list wasn't just personal faves, but also looking at innovation. So how can anything conceivably beat Super Mario Bros 3, GTA III and Tetris when that is a side-factor.


Also this is a list where the editor completely missed out on Railroad Tycoon appearing twice, so there's also that.

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby BleuPanda » Sat Dec 09, 2017 4:41 pm

Like, I don't want to come off as classic-bashing; just, there are some games that clearly benefit. And note that this is coming from someone who was born in 1992, so a lot of these classics I have approached from the perspective of having to go back; some of these games really do hold up, but some I can only imagine are considered relevant by the people who grew up with them.

I think when making a list like this, you also have to consider: does this list mean anything to someone who hasn't played all these games?

Like, Tetris, as long as it's really representing all versions and not solely the original, is pretty much a flawless game. It really comes down to whether you like puzzle games, and if you do, it is held on a pedestal for a reason. It works as well as it does today as it did back then.

SMB3 is also a perfect option; 2D platformers were already at their height in their era. Same with things like Final Fantasy 6; the gameplay itself in those genres hasn't evolved much, simply the presentation. Thus, games from any era can play as well today.

It's choices like the original Zelda or Pokemon that bother me. If you surveyed people on the best Zelda, I doubt the original would place in the top 5. If we want to discuss innovation, the evolution into 3D that Ocarina of Time pulled off is just as noteworthy, and it's a much better game. And then Pokemon; Red and Blue are just awful compared to any future game in the series. It makes Bethesda look like a competent company in regards to finding bugs, in ways that were constantly present. Literally any other game in the series is a better choice; even the remakes for the GBA.

And, why GTA 3 over San Andreas? I don't care how innovative it is; it's a sandbox game without a proper map!

A lot of these had to be experienced in their era to see what they did; I see no reason to celebrate those when later games made the genre what it is today. Doom is a FPS with no aiming; it deserves a placement, but over the original Half-Life?

There's too much celebration for laying down the framework, and never enough for the works that changed the genre up into what it is today.
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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Pierre » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:17 pm

BleuPanda wrote:Like, I don't want to come off as classic-bashing; just, there are some games that clearly benefit. And note that this is coming from someone who was born in 1992, so a lot of these classics I have approached from the perspective of having to go back; some of these games really do hold up, but some I can only imagine are considered relevant by the people who grew up with them.

I think when making a list like this, you also have to consider: does this list mean anything to someone who hasn't played all these games?

Like, Tetris, as long as it's really representing all versions and not solely the original, is pretty much a flawless game. It really comes down to whether you like puzzle games, and if you do, it is held on a pedestal for a reason. It works as well as it does today as it did back then.

SMB3 is also a perfect option; 2D platformers were already at their height in their era. Same with things like Final Fantasy 6; the gameplay itself in those genres hasn't evolved much, simply the presentation. Thus, games from any era can play as well today.

It's choices like the original Zelda or Pokemon that bother me. If you surveyed people on the best Zelda, I doubt the original would place in the top 5. If we want to discuss innovation, the evolution into 3D that Ocarina of Time pulled off is just as noteworthy, and it's a much better game. And then Pokemon; Red and Blue are just awful compared to any future game in the series. It makes Bethesda look like a competent company in regards to finding bugs, in ways that were constantly present. Literally any other game in the series is a better choice; even the remakes for the GBA.

And, why GTA 3 over San Andreas? I don't care how innovative it is; it's a sandbox game without a proper map!

A lot of these had to be experienced in their era to see what they did; I see no reason to celebrate those when later games made the genre what it is today. Doom is a FPS with no aiming; it deserves a placement, but over the original Half-Life?

There's too much celebration for laying down the framework, and never enough for the works that changed the genre up into what it is today.


You'll note that it's a debate that is ongoing in pretty much every art form ever, including (recorded) popular music: even if I don't like that album, I'll admit blindly that OK Computer is an infinitely more satisfying and accomplished piece of art than Please Please Me or Elvis Presley. However, I do think these records still deserve special mention at the top of lists of the best music ever for what they created (or the quality of a specific genre-testimony work they happened to be, which could be more exact in the case of Elvis). No way ahead of OK Computer, though, the same way I probably wouldn't put the first Zelda ahead of any of its sequels except perhaps for the second (I'll pretend the CDi games never existed) which was probably a flawed approach to developing the gameplay of the series.

Aside from that, from this debate also arise two questions that would probably be best suited for a high school philosophy class than the fluid discussions and debates of a forum:

- The role played by context in the appreciation of art. It's possible in my opinion that for someone who was not exposed to the evolution of rock music and who wouldn't understand the English language, Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted would sound like a piece of garbage, or anything punk rock-related would appear way too basic to be considered great. I think the same is possible for someone who would be exposed to Super Marios Bros. and then to, let's say, GTA: San Andreas or a Final Fantasy game.

- Are flawlessness and perfection equivalent? Tetris is flawless, but is it perfect (variations on the gameplay have been proven to be possible, though successful is something else)? A contrario, a game like Final Fantasy VII is far from flawless, from the ugliness of the characters in-play to some bugs and lack of polish, but would you argue that it isn't a perfect game, when you consider it by its enjoying and engaging aspects? (I know some people would, so maybe as an example it isn't perfect. But in my opinion, it's a perfect game).

All things considered, though, is Tetris the best game ever? I'll mention an anecdote: my grandfather who was born in 1930 and lived half his life (so far, he's still around and I hope he'll stay as long as possible) in a France nearly entirely devoid of video games, has played some of them (or watched people play), generally at the pressure of us grandkids. The only video game he ever enjoyed and returned to was Tetris. This of course proves nothing, but in my opinion, it still tells us something.

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Re: Polygon top 500 games of all time

Postby Jirin » Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:40 am

FWIW, my all time top 20 would be this:

Super Mario Bros 2 (Japan version, not American reskin of Doki Doki Panic, known in US as Lost Levels) (1986)
Super Mario Bros 3 (1988)
Zelda: A Link To The Past (1991)
Final Fantasy V (1992)
Super Metroid (1994)
Final Fantasy VI (1994)
Mario 64 (1996)
Final Fantasy Tactics (1997)
Star Ocean 2 (1998)
Xenogears (1998)
Valkyrie Profile (1999)
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (2003)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (2004)
Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
Mass Effect 2 (2010)
Mario Kart 7 (2011)
Catherine (2011)
Tales of Berseria (2017)
Persona 5 (2017)

Yeah, it's all RPGs and action/platformers pretty much. Those are the genres I play. But I've got pretty uniform distribution. I suspect if you ask any individual they will have uniform distribution for the entire time they've been playing games. But, their older games will all be the same, and their newer games will be more varied.

Tetris is a flawless, simple, elegant idea. Just given the whole variety of the video game universe I wouldn't bestow title of 'Best ever' on something so simple and basic.


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