How do you define what makes a game ‘the best ever’? Is it determined by how much it was adored by critics, or by how many units it shifted at retail? The answer to that question will very much dictate which of the following lists means the most to you.
Firstly, here’s a look at the highest rated games released between January 1st 2000 and today according to review aggregation site Metacritic. Duplications where one title has appeared on multiple formats have been removed. The number after the name refers to a title’s average review score.
1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 – 98 (Activision)
2. Grand Theft Auto IV – 98 (Rockstar)
3. Perfect Dark – 97 (Nintendo)
4. NFL 2K1 – 97 (Sega)
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 – 97 (Activision)
6. Halo – 97 (Microsoft)
7. Metroid Prime – 97 (Nintendo)
8. Grand Theft Auto III – 97 (Rockstar)
9. Super Mario Galaxy – 97 (Nintendo)
10. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – 96 (Konami)
11. Half-Life 2 – 96 (Valve)
12. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – 96 (Nintendo)
13. Resident Evil 4 – 96 (Capcom)
14. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – 96 (Nintendo)
15. BioShock – 96 (2K Games)
16. The Orange Box – 96 (Valve)
17. Out of the Park Baseball 2007 – 96 (Sports Interactive)
18. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves – 96 (Sony)
19. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn – 95 (Interplay)
20. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past [GBA] – 95 (Nintendo)
Now, to view things from a commercial perspective we turn to the notoriously unreliable but undeniably helpful VGChartz to have a look at the 20 best selling games released since January 1st 2000. Total worldwide sales are shown after the name of the game.
1. Wii Sports (Nintendo) 51.25m
2. Wii Play (Nintendo) 24.83m
3. Pokemon Gold/Silver (Nintendo) 23.10m
4. Nintendogs (Nintendo) 22.99m
5. Wii Fit (Nintendo) 22.73m
6. New Super Mario Bros (Nintendo) 19.81m
7. Mario Kart Wii (Nintendo) 18.60m
8. Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training (Nintendo) 18.14m
9. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar) 18.08m
10. Pokemon Diamond/Pearl (Nintendo) 17.16m
11. Mario Kart DS (Nintendo) 16.26m
12. The Sims (EA) 16.08m
13. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire (Nintendo) 15.38m
14. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (Sony) 14.89m
15. Pokemon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition (Nintendo) 14.64m
16. More Brain Training with Dr Kawashima (Nintendo) 14.23m
17. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Rockstar) 14.20m
18. World of Warcraft (Blizzard) 11.84m
19. Grand Theft Auto III (Rockstar) 11.60m
20. Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo) 11.10m
The first thing to note when looking at both lists together is that there is just one duplication – Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto III. Other than that, none of the games considered to be the best in the eyes of critics have gone on to be rewarded proportionately at retail. Whether this says to you that reviewers know nothing or that consumers have no taste very much depends on your viewpoint.
The other thing to note is that there’s one name that stands out on both lists – Nintendo. The famed platform holder claims six of the top rated titles and an incredible 14 of the top twenty best sellers, occupying the top eight positions of that particular listing in the process.
The result is testament to Nintendo’s two great strengths – its games and its ability to innovate. Any publisher that can produce critical epics such as Metroid Prime, The Wind Waker and Super Mario galaxy on the one hand and commercial sensations such as Wii Sports, Nintendogs and Mario Kart Wii on the other demands to be celebrated.
It also brings into contrast another fact revealed by the tables – rival platform holders Microsoft and Sony manage only three entries between them in the form of Halo: Combat Evolved (the seventh highest rated), Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (the 18th highest rated) and Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (14th best seller).