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Defining the Best Game of All Time?

Welcome to another ramble about gaming from myself, who knows how long this will go on for, but I aim to keep it short. Usually I try to plan out my articles a bit, but this is just off the cuff, in a rush to get it out before I go and collect the game that caused the initial thought that led to this…

In two hours I’ll be going to collect our new Nintendo Switch, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Earlier today the NDA/Embargo was lifted on the game, and those who were able to get review consoles and games were able to offer up their thoughts on the latest in the Zelda franchise.

I’ve not read anything in detail yet, because I like to form my own opinion before writing a review. However, while scrolling through social media, you do see a lot of the scores and “headline quotes” about the game being thrown around. And one of these quotes got me thinking.

“The best Zelda there’s ever been, and very possibly the best video game ever made.” – METRO.CO.UK

Obviously being the HUGE Zelda fan I am, heck I have the Triforce on my wedding ring, I am very excited to see the perfect 10/10 scores and initial quotes like that. But it did get me thinking, how does one try and “quantify” the best video game ever made? Could Breath of the Wild become the very best video game ever made?

There are so many aspects that go into video games, and it is probably fairly “easy” to select the “best” game in a specific area of the gaming spectrum. Best story, best multiplayer, best soundtrack, best cut scenes or whatever it might be. Or even the best game within a certain genre; best sports game, best RPG, best fighting game, best top down shooter etc.

But comparing games between those areas or genres becomes tricky, in part because different people tend to gravitate towards certain aspects, someone who loves their huge in depth open world story driven RPG games like Skyrim, or indeed the new Breath of the Wild, possibly won’t have quite the same affection for maybe arena shooters or sports games. So if trying to crown a “best game ever” how do you quantify across the spectrum?

Just haphazardly throwing titles around – If FIFA17 is the best ever sports game and Forza is the best ever racing game and Overwatch is the best ever FPS  – how do you compare them to decide which is best?

Other aspects can come into play, many older games are put up on a pedestal and chimed to be one of the best games ever. Some of these might come with tags such as “breakthrough graphics for the time it came out” or, perhaps more importantly, “revolutionary” – games that brought in features, or at least popularised them, that since became standard.

An often-cited example is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. One of, if not THE, first 3D 3rd person game, that used an analogue stick to control and a “lock on” targeting system. It’s not hard to find a 3rd person game, that isn’t a 3rd person shooter like Gears of War perhaps, that doesn’t use a similar system to this day.

Combined with the fact that its graphics were pretty impressive for its day, a great soundtrack and a solid story – Ocarina of Time is often up there on people’s lists of “Best Games Ever”. However, by today’s standards the graphics are very sub-par, the sound track isn’t fully orchestrated, the gameplay and story are both fairly basic and linear. So does that make most modern games better by default?

How much are old games tinted with those rose glasses? I remember being absolutely blown away by the graphics jump up from Mario Kart to Mario Kart 64. Or the first time I saw the Final Fantasy 7 cut scenes. But many of those games are borderline difficult to play due to how accustomed we are to 1080p HD graphics and much better games engines etc.

I’d possibly lean towards the best game ever title going to a big single player story driven title, largely because surely those are more likely to “tick more boxes”. It would be highly possible for said game to have many of the following:

  • Best Story
  • Best Cut Scenes
  • Best Sound Track
  • Best Graphics
  • Best Game Mechanics
  • Best Emotional Pull

You get the idea, if the hypothetical game ticked all the boxes it was capable of ticking, it would probably only really lack multiplayer tick boxes next to its name. Perhaps the latest Zelda title does exactly this, hence its 10/10 scores from most reviewers.

One of my favourite games from 2016 is Overwatch, Blizzard did a fantastic job releasing one of the hottest games of the year. But when it came out many people criticised it, saying they weren’t willing to pay AAA prices for a game that didn’t even have a single player story mode quotes like “I’m not paying AAA for half a game” were commonplace. But, call me biased, the online multiplayer was near flawless, Blizzard absolutely nailed it – a feat made more impressive by the fact it was a completely new genre to their studios.

But while, at least for me, Overwatch can tick loads of boxes for what it does well, you can easily see that it just doesn’t have as many boxes to tick as, say, Breath of the Wild will. Does that mean it can’t be brought into the discussion of best game ever, almost by default?

We could also look at Titanfall 2. While I don’t think it is necessarily the “best” in any area of critique, I do think it gets a “very good” in just about everything it does. It has a great story mode, the graphics are great and the online multiplayer is really good – you get the idea. Does the idea of Titanfall 2 getting high, but not perfect, scores in more areas make it “better” than a game that might get fewer perfect scores?

How much does the popular vote vs critics vote count? Just look at the Oscars, 90% of Oscar winning films are, in my eyes, utter tosh. It’s very safe to say that an Oscar critic is going to have a very different opinion on the best ever film to what I will. Most probably because they will look for the boxes to tick, where as I will just vote for my favourite ever film.

If you had a panel of games critics who had a set of criteria on which to judge the best game ever, and then also had a poll for every gamer in the world, which party is “correct”? The critics might proclaim that Breath of the Wild is the perfect game, and thus the best game ever made. But if the players instead all decide that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the winner by unanimous popular vote – who would be right and who wrong?

I don’t know the right answer as to how to define the best game of all time, partly because everyone has their own opinion, surely no game will make everyone agree?

Certainly the reviews for Breath of the Wild have me even more excited to pick it up in, now, one hours’ time. But I know plenty of, very foolish, people who don’t like the Zelda franchise – so they’re not going to agree it is the best game ever!

What are your thoughts? Can there be a winner of the best game ever? If so how is it defined, and who gets to define it?

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