Like everything else — best bands, best songs, best movies — deciding on the best video games of all time is a tough task. You could take a number of approaches and personal preference always comes into play — someone who grew up on the original “Super Mario Bros.” may not quite get the appeal of “Grand Theft Auto.”
To make ranking them a little easier, we’ve turned to the review aggregation site Metacritic — which averages all published reviews of games into one score — to create a list of the 25 highest-rated games of all time. To include as many different games as possible, we’ve restricted inclusion to the highest-ranked version of each game (the Metacritic ranking includes multiple versions of the same game on multiple platforms).
25. ‘Mass Effect 2’ (2010)
First available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, “Mass Effect 2” is the second installment in a sci-fi adventure series developed by BioWare and published by Electronic Arts. The player takes the role of an outstanding 22nd-century soldier named Commander Shepard — which can be made into a man or woman depending on the player’s preference — who must assemble a team to help them defeat the enemy: an insectoid species known as the Collectors.
“Mass Effect 2” received several awards in 2011, including Game of the Year at the 14th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards and Best Game at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards (BAFTAs).
24. ‘Tekken 3’ (1997)
Fighting game “Tekken 3” was first released in arcades in 1997, for the PlayStation the following year and re-released in 2018 as part of Sony’s PlayStation Classic line. Like the other games in the Tekken series, it follows the events of the King of Iron Fist Tournament, where players control a range of characters to try to win the fighting tournament. “Tekken 3” introduced new characters to the beloved series, including Jin Kazama, Ling Xiaoyu, Eddy Gordo and Hwoarang.
It earned universal acclaim from critics, earning an impressive 96/100 rating at Metacritic, being marked as a “Metacritic Must-Play” title. The game sold 1.11 million copies and earned $48.5 million in revenue in 1998, making it the third-best-selling PlayStation release of the year.
23. ‘Batman: Arkham City’ (2011)
The action-adventure game “Batman: Arkham City,” released in 2011, is the sequel to the 2009 game “Batman: Arkham Asylum” and the second installment in the acclaimed Batman: Arkham series. The main storyline focuses on Batman’s incarceration in the “super-prison” Arkham City and his quest to unravel the truth behind the facility’s warden Hugo Strange’s sinister “Protocol 10” scheme. The game features many of Batman’s most iconic foes, including the Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze and Two-Face.
The game was met with universal acclaim upon its original release for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and has since been re-released onto PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Wii U.
22. ‘The Orange Box’ (2007)
“The Orange Box” is actually a compilation of five games on a single disc: “Half-Life 2: Episode One,” “Half-Life 2: Episode Two,” “Portal” and “Team Fortress 2.” First released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 in 2007, it’s also available for PlayStation 3, Linux and Mac. The biggest favorite of the collection may have been “Portal,” which went on to get its own sequel in 2011, which was also very highly acclaimed.
It won a plethora of awards, including Computer Game of the Year at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ 11th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards and the Breakthrough Technology Award and Best PC Game Award at the 2007 Spike Video Game Awards. It was named the second-best video game of 2007 by Time Magazine.
21. ‘Resident Evil 4’ (2005)
Third-person shooter survival horror game “Resident Evil 4” was the sixth major installment in the beloved Resident Evil series, and was first released in 2005 for the GameCube. After becoming a major hit, it has also become available for PlayStation 2, PC, Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. That’s some serious staying power that spans nearly 15 years of consoles!
The game, which received multiple Game of the Year awards in 2005, gives players control of U.S. government special agent Leon S. Kennedy on his mission to rescue the president’s daughter from an evil cult. It was acclaimed for changing the slow and methodical style of play used in the Resident Evil series into something more frantic and action-packed.
20. ‘Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ (2009)
Naughty Dog’s third-person action-adventure game “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” sees the return of fortune hunter Nathan Drake. This time, his quest is to find the legendary Himalayan valley of Shambhala, but he gets sidetracked by a mercenary group of fugitive war criminals. The game was full of the intense combat and breathtaking set pieces the acclaimed Uncharted series is known for.
First released in 2009 for PlayStation 3, it’s also now available for PlayStation 4 as part of “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection.” Millions of copies of “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves” have been sold worldwide and it boasts numerous Game of the Year accolades.
19. ‘GoldenEye 007’ (1997)
The landmark first-person shooter, “GoldenEye 007,” was released for Nintendo 64 in 1997 and its storyline was based on the 1995 James Bond film, “GoldenEye.” It gave players the chance to be the world’s most famous spy, fighting to stop a criminal gang using a satellite weapon to wreak financial havoc on London.
The split-screen multiplayer mode let up to four players compete in deathmatches, which was considered one of its most groundbreaking — and flat-out fun — elements. “GoldenEye 007” won Best Game at the inaugural BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Games Awards in 1998.
18. ‘BioShock’ (2007)
Set in 1960, “BioShock” begins in the aftermath of a plane crash in the ocean, near the underwater city of Rapture. The player assumes the role of a man who has to try to escape from the city by defeating its powerful, genetically mutated citizens. The game featured beautiful, creepy atmospheres, a great storyline and some tough moral choices for the player to make along the way.
“BioShock” was first released for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 in 2007, and later became available for PlayStation 3, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It was awarded Game of the Year by numerous media outlets, including BAFTA, Game Informer and Spike TV. It spawned two sequels, both of which were also highly acclaimed.
17. ‘Half-Life 2’ (2004)
Several years after the events of 1998’s blockbuster “Half-Life,” the first-person shooter “Half-Life 2” saw protagonist Gordon Freeman awakened by the mysterious G-Man to discover the world is under the control of the alien Combine. Freeman assembles a team — and a vast arsenal of weapons — to help him overpower Combine.
“Half-Life 2” won several Game of the Year awards and was named Game of the Decade at the 2012 Spike Video Game Awards. By 2017, sales of the game had reached 10 million on PC alone. It’s also become available on Xbox, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, among other platforms. It spawned two episodic sequels that were included in “The Orange Box.”
16. ‘NFL 2K1’ (2000)
In response to EA Sports’ decision not to publish its popular Madden games for the Dreamcast console, Sega introduced its own NFL 2K series of football games in 1999. It featured all the NFL teams of the day, plus alumni teams and All-Pro teams for the AFC, NFC and NFL.
As the bigger and better sequel to “NFL 2K,” 2000’s “NFL 2K1” was praised for various enhancements, including improved AI, a greater amount of new player animations, superior commentary, larger selection of plays and the introduction of online play and a multi-season franchise mode. Sega’s NBA 2K series also ended up being popular and acclaimed for similar reasons.
15. ‘Halo: Combat Evolved’ (2001)
The military sci-fi shooter game “Halo: Combat Evolved,” which is played in the first-person, was released as a launch title for the Xbox in 2001. The player acts as the 26th-century super-soldier Master Chief to battle a range of aliens to unearth the secrets of the ring-shaped artificial world, Halo. The game was revered for its smooth combat but its online multiplayer mode was the true groundbreaker, turning that into a must-have feature for all shooters to follow it.
A high-definition remake, “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary,” was released for Xbox 360 on the 10th anniversary of the original game’s launch and re-released for Xbox One as part of “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” in 2014. The collection will be released for Windows later in 2019, showing the continued popularity of this series.
14. ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ (2017)
One of the newer games on the list, “Super Mario Odyssey” was introduced for the Switch in 2017. Part of the long-running — and almost always acclaimed — Super Mario series, it follows Mario and his ally Cappy as they try to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser. “Super Mario Odyssey” was revered for its originality and for letting players use their own creativity to explore and solve the game’s puzzling situations. With sales of 14.4 million since its release, it’s the Switch’s second bestselling game so far.
13. ‘Grand Theft Auto III’ (2001)
The fifth title in the Grand Theft Auto series, “Grand Theft Auto III” is an action-adventure game that was initially released for the Playstation 2 and attracted as much controversy as acclaim for its frank depictions of sex and violence. Nonetheless, it was the best-selling video game of 2001, with over 2 million units sold.
As well as PlayStation 2, it became available for PC, Xbox and several other platforms. The Grand Theft Auto series is now well known for its third-person perspective but this was the first entry to use that view, setting the table for future sequels. The game follows strong, silent killer Claude on the three islands within the fictional Liberty City (based on New York) as he tries to outsmart gangs of rivals.
12. ‘Metroid Prime’ (2002)
First released for the GameCube in 2002 and eventually the Wii in 2009, “Metroid Prime” is a first-person action-adventure sci-fi game. It was the fifth main installment in Nintendo’s acclaimed Metroid series and the first to use 3D-computer graphics.
The player controls the bounty hunter Samus Aran as she travels through the world of Tallon IV, solving puzzles and fighting the Space Pirates. In 2003, it won the Game Developers Choice Award for Best Game and the Golden Satellite Award for Outstanding Execution of a Gaming Concept – Game of the Year. It launched the Metroid Prime trilogy, which became a blockbuster series for Nintendo in the 2000s.
11. ‘Perfect Dark’ (2000)
Set in 2023, first-person shooter game “Perfect Dark” follows special agent Joanna Dark in her quest to stop an extraterrestrial conspiracy. Made by Rare, the same company behind the beloved “GoldenEye 007,” it was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and featured both single-player and multiplayer options.
“Perfect Dark” was remastered with enhanced graphics and online multiplayer for the Xbox 360 in 2010 — showing how great its legacy was. The game received the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Moving Images Award for 2000 and the Golden Satellite Award for Best Interactive Product in 2001.
10. ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3’ (2001)
An installment in the hugely successful Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game series, “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3” was first published for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation, Game Boy Color and GameCube in 2001 and was an instant smash. Like the others in the franchise, it was acclaimed for its smooth controls and the sheer fun way it handled skateboarding across a ton of detailed environments.
The following year, it was published for the Xbox, Game Boy Advance and PC, and was the last game to be released on the Nintendo 64. The PS2 version earned a rare perfect score from GameSpot.
9. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’ (2017)
Another fairly recent entry, released for the Switch and Wii U in 2017, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is set at the end of Nintendo’s long-running, massively acclaimed Legend of Zelda series timeline. The player assumes the role of Link, who awakens from a 100-year sleep to stop Calamity Ganon from eradicating the kingdom of Hyrule.
Like the original “Legend of Zelda” from 1986, the game provides little instruction and gives players the freedom to explore its massive, open world without restrictions. By early 2018, “Breath of the Wild” had sold nearly 10.3 million copies, making it the best-selling Zelda game, and a direct sequel for the Switch is already in development.
8. ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ (2013)
The latest, much-anticipated installment in the Grand Theft Auto series, “Grand Theft Auto V” arrived in 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and was subsequently released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. This time, the story follows three criminals as they try to commit heists in the fictional state of San Andreas, based on Southern California.
The game was lauded by critics for its massive and highly detailed open world, allowing players to spend hours doing pretty much anything they want. The storyline and voice acting was also praised for being movie quality. “Grand Theft Auto V” is the most financially successful media title in history, selling 90 million units and making around $6 billion by early 2018. It continues to make money thanks to its constantly updated online features.
7. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ (2018)
Made by Rockstar, the same company behind the Grand Theft Auto series, the Western-themed “Red Dead Redemption 2,” the third installment in the Red Dead series, was released in 2018 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It takes place in 1899 in a fictionalized version of the Western, Midwestern and Southern United States, with outlaw Arthur Morgan’s fight for survival against numerous opponents at the heart of the story.
It was praised for having an epic storyline, a massive world for players to enjoy and memorable characters and voice acting. “Red Dead Redemption 2” had the second-biggest launch in entertainment history (behind “Grand Theft Auto V”), generated $725 million in sales in its first weekend and broke multiple sales records. Among many awards, it won the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2018 Golden Joystick Awards and best narrative and best score/music at The Game Awards 2018.
6. ‘Super Mario Galaxy 2’ (2010)
Released for the Wii in 2010, “Super Mario Galaxy 2” was originally conceived as just an updated version of 2007’s hugely successful “Super Mario Galaxy,” but developed into a sequel with numerous new ideas, including new power-ups, dynamic environments and the option to ride Mario’s dinosaur pal, Yoshi. It was praised for its unique controls, including the way players had to navigate gravitational pulls while exploring the game’s levels.
As Mario, players have to travel through a series of galaxies to reclaim power stars from his long-time nemesis, Bowser, reach the center of the universe and rescue Princess Peach. “Super Mario Galaxy 2,” the first Mario sequel in over 15 years to appear on the same console as its predecessor, was one of the Wii’s best-selling games ever.
5. ‘Super Mario Galaxy’ (2007)
Speaking of Mario, the third 3D game in Nintendo’s massively popular series was “Super Mario Galaxy,” which lets the player assume the role of Mario or Luigi to try to rescue Princess Peach (as always). Set in various galaxies in outer space, another object of the game was to collect power stars by completing quests or defeating enemies.
It’s the highest rated game of all time on the review-aggregating site GameRankings, and has won multiple awards, including being the first Nintendo title to win the BAFTA for best game. It was also a huge commercials success, moving more than 12 million copies and being listed as one of the top-selling Wii games ever made.
4. ‘Soulcalibur’ (1998)
The Soulcalibur series of historical fantasy, weapon-based fighting games set in the late 16th and early 17th centuries has seven installments so far. “Soulcalibur” was the second in the series and most acclaimed yet. Named after the “Soul Calibur” sword used to fight the evil “Soul Edge,” the game was first available in arcades in the late ’90s before porting to Dreamcast in 1999 and thereafter to iOS, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Despite being one of the most popular and successful franchises in the fighting game genre, the future of Soulcalibur is undecided. In August 2018 it was reported that “Soulcalibur VI” (released in October 2018) could be the last in the series if it underperforms financially. No matter what, 1998’s “Soulcalibur” will be remembered fondly as one of the best fighting games ever and the spawn point for some great sequels.
3. ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ (2008)
The 11th title overall in the Grand Theft Auto series, “Grand Theft Auto IV,” was released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2008 and instantly became a classic. Set in the fictional Liberty City, the protagonist is war veteran Niko Bellic, who is on a mission to escape his past and dodge loan sharks and mob bosses. The storyline was epic and like something out of a great crime film and the cast was full of colorful, memorable characters, as the Grand Theft Auto games typically are.
Unsurprisingly, “Grand Theft Auto IV” broke industry sales records at the time, becoming the fastest-selling entertainment product to date in several countries. As is a tradition with the Grand Theft Auto series, with success came controversy, in this case, surrounding the usual violence and players’ ability to drive while drunk.
2. ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2’ (2000)
The year 2000 saw the release of “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2” for the PlayStation, with subsequent ports to PC, Game Boy Color, Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64 and Xbox. Set in a 3D urban environment, against a banging soundtrack of rock and hip-hop, “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2” required players to perform skateboarding tricks and collect a range of objects (although in free-play mode, the player could simply skate around the many levels without any particular objective).
To this day, the game is consistently rated the best sports video game ever, as well as one of the best games across all genres, earning a mind-blowing 98/100 score at Metacritic.
1. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ (1998)
“The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” was the fifth game in the Legend of Zelda series and is widely considered to be not only the best of that beloved series but also the greatest video game ever made. As Link, players travel through Hyrule (and through time) to stop Ganondorf from getting his evil hands on the Triforce, a sacred golden artifact that grants wishes.
Music plays a big role in the game as players have to learn how to play various songs on an ocarina (a small wind instrument with holes for the fingers) to move on and the soundtrack for the game itself is unforgettable, with its tunes staying stuck in gamers’ heads for more than 20 years now. “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” was first available on Nintendo 64, and has stayed relevant through re-releases on Nintendo DS and various online platforms. It maintains an unmatched 99/100 grade at Metacritic.