200th Game Review Special Finale: Masterpieces on Parade

When I started this site, I wanted to make it clear that creators have to work to achieve every single point. While certain critics hand out 10/10s out like penny candy, you won’t see me use the grade very often. Indeed, my 150-review milestone was notable in that I hadn’t actually awarded any 10/10s. This milestone is strange because it’s the first time in which I actually awarded more 10/10s than 9/10s. Regardless, the reason I tend to be sparing with these grades is because I want to make it clear that when I award them, the recipients are true masterpieces. Here are the games that went the extra mile to achieve that distinction.


(9/10)


3. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2

Originally reviewed on: September 29, 2019

If Black and White were the games that brought me back into the Pokémon series, Black 2 and White 2 were the games that ensured I was here to stay. When it comes to its story, Black 2 and White 2 had a head start in that the games they followed up featured some of the most beloved plots in the franchise’s history. Based off of that, I can imagine some people dismissing these games as more of the same. Anyone who does that isn’t giving the writers enough credit. One could reasonably argue they lack the impact of their predecessors, but these games stand as excellent sequels that continue to explore the nuanced themes already put in place.

Now, because this is the only 9/10 I’ve awarded between milestones, it’s a little difficult to tell where it resides on the master list (or at least without scrolling down). As of now, I feel this is the Pokémon game that finally managed to surpass Dragon Quest V. Due to relying less on level grinding and having a much greater variety of monsters at your disposal, it manages to edge out that series’ own pinnacle, though it too is an undeniable masterpiece. These games weren’t quite good enough to beat out Peace Walker, but at this point, there are no losers.


(10/10)


2. Super Mario Galaxy 2

Originally reviewed on: March 31, 2019

New Super Mario Bros. may have helped certain independent critics form the narrative that Nintendo relies too heavily on nostalgia. Along with the success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was met with an undue amount of cynicism. I feel bad for anyone who passed it up because they took the words of Yahtzee Croshaw and his ilk at face value because Super Mario Galaxy 2 is easily the greatest game in the franchise. Yes, on the surface, it looks like a token sequel, but actually giving it the time of day reveals that is absolutely not the case. Whereas the original had a few terrible gimmicks holding it back Super Mario Galaxy 2 has much more of a filter, allowing the great ideas to shine while downplaying the bad ideas to the point where they are non-issues. Sure, its story beats aren’t as good, but considering gameplay has always been the series’ bread and butter, this is of minimal concern.

That said, I have to admit I struggled when I came to awarding Super Mario Galaxy 2 a 10/10. Mostly, this boiled down to whether or not I consider it a better game than Breath of the Wild. I didn’t initially think it was, but I ultimately decided to place it ahead of Breath of the Wild because that game can be trivialized. It takes a lot of work, but it can be done. This isn’t the case with Super Mario Galaxy 2; from beginning to end, it will push your platforming skills to their absolute limits, and if you can get all of the 242 Power Stars, give yourself a pat on the back. I still consider that one of my greatest gaming accomplishments.


1. Persona 4

Originally reviewed on: October 27, 2019

Thanks to the various tags I completed, I ended up tipping my hand several times. This is because in many of them, I mentioned that Persona 4 is my favorite game of all time, which is an assertion I still stand by. Indeed, with my review of Persona 4, it is the end of an era; Majora’s Mask is no longer at the top of the master list, after remaining there for nearly two years. I’m also glad that my longest review to date (18,000+ words) ended up being of one of my 10/10s. Indeed, it’s hard to believe there was a long period of time in which my longest review was of The Last of Us. While it remains my longest negative review, my longest positive review changed quite a number of times within the last year-and-a-half. This is because I generally find it easier to write glowing reviews than disparaging ones.

It’s interesting because, unlike most of the other games I’ve awarded 9/10s or 10/10s, the flaws of Persona 4 are far more obvious. This goes beyond its long length and occasionally unintuitive nature. In a game that has such an emphasis on story, the development that kicks off the endgame is just plain dumb. It comes across as something that resulted from the writers radically changing the story, but forgetting to change the details to reflect it.

“How could such a game possibly get a 10/10?” you may ask. It’s because there is so much goodwill generated from the entire rest of the game that its missteps are ultimately rendered negligible. If you’re tired of the various AAA stories in which its creators laugh at players for having hope, Persona 4 comes across as a refreshing, ahead-of-its-time rebuttal to that zeitgeist with its unapologetic, yet down-to-earth idealism. With its unforgettable cast of characters, intriguing plot, challenging gameplay, and one of the greatest soundtracks in the medium, Persona 4 has a lot to offer anyone willing to see it through to the end.


And that’s the end of that! Now that I’ve discussed all 50 games I’ve reviewed since the last milestone, here is where they rank on the master list. New entries are bolded.

  1. Persona 4
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  3. Undertale
  4. Planescape: Torment
  5. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
  6. Super Mario Galaxy 2
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  8. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth – Prosecutor’s Path
  9. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  10. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
  11. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  12. OneShot
  13. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
  14. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2
  15. Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
  16. Metroid Prime
  17. Chrono Trigger
  18. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
  19. Treasure of the Rudras
  20. Super Mario Odyssey
  21. Marvel’s Spider-Man
  22. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
  23. Super Mario Galaxy
  24. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
  25. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
  26. Pokémon Black and White
  27. Resident Evil 4
  28. Super Metroid
  29. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  30. Earthbound
  31. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
  32. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
  33. Final Fantasy V
  34. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  35. Super Mario World
  36. Super Mario Bros. 3
  37. Super Mario 64
  38. Shadow of the Colossus
  39. Bravely Default
  40. Papers, Please
  41. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  42. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies
  43. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
  44. BioShock Infinite
  45. King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
  46. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations
  47. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
  48. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
  49. Final Fantasy VI
  50. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
  51. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
  52. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  53. Live A Live
  54. Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3
  55. Far Cry 3
  56. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
  57. Metroid Fusion
  58. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
  59. Metal Gear Solid
  60. Rakuen
  61. Final Fantasy IV
  62. Kirby’s Adventure
  63. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
  64. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
  65. Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap
  66. Monster World IV
  67. ActRaiser
  68. Police Quest: In Pursuit of the Death Angel
  69. Super Mario Sunshine
  70. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
  71. Metroid: Samus Returns
  72. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
  73. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
  74. The Legend of Zelda
  75. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
  76. BioShock
  77. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
  78. Breath of Fire II
  79. Luigi’s Mansion
  80. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice for All
  81. Ico
  82. Metroid: Zero Mission
  83. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  84. Pokémon Gold and Silver
  85. Blast Corps
  86. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
  87. Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter
  88. Pilotwings 64
  89. Super Widget
  90. Super Mario Bros. 2
  91. VVVVVV
  92. Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
  93. Wonder Boy in Monster World
  94. King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella
  95. Pokémon Red and Blue
  96. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
  97. New Super Mario Bros.
  98. Jumper Two
  99. Jumper
  100. BioShock 2
  101. Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels
  102. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
  103. Super Mario Bros.
  104. System Shock 2
  105. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
  106. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  107. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
  108. Braid
  109. Breath of Fire
  110. Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation
  111. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
  112. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
  113. Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished – Omen
  114. Far Cry 4
  115. Final Fantasy
  116. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  117. King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human
  118. The Witness
  119. Metal Gear
  120. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
  121. Pilotwings
  122. Wonder Boy in Monster Land
  123. Earthbound Beginnings
  124. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
  125. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
  126. Laura Bow: The Colonel’s Bequest
  127. Mother 3
  128. Sin and Punishment
  129. King’s Quest: Quest for the Crown
  130. Ys IV: Mask of the Sun
  131. Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
  132. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  133. Super Mario Land
  134. Final Fantasy III
  135. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
  136. Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar
  137. Eversion
  138. Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair
  139. X
  140. Metroid
  141. Metroid II: Return of Samus
  142. Wonder Boy
  143. Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line
  144. Dragon Quest
  145. Final Fantasy II
  146. The Stanley Parable
  147. Spec Ops: The Line
  148. The Last of Us
  149. King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride
  150. Kirby’s Dream Land
  151. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
  152. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
  153. Pokémon Stadium 2
  154. Beyond: Two Souls
  155. Yoshi’s Story
  156. Adventures in the Magic Kingdom
  157. Limbo
  158. Pokémon Stadium
  159. Pokémon Snap
  160. King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne
  161. Ys V: Kefin, Lost Kingdom of Sand
  162. Gone Home
  163. King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!
  164. Sonic Heroes
  165. Shadowgate
  166. Aegis Wing
  167. The Beginner’s Guide
  168. Call of Duty: Ghosts
  169. Metroid: Other M
  170. Snake’s Revenge
  171. Godzilla: Monster of Monsters
  172. Sonic the Fighters
  173. Sonic R
  174. Haze
  175. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
  176. Lester the Unlikely
  177. Widget
  178. Bokosuka Wars
  179. Bubsy II
  180. Friday the 13th (NES)
  181. Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind
  182. Zombie Nation
  183. Quest for Camelot
  184. Takeshi’s Challenge
  185. Deadly Towers
  186. Rise of the Robots
  187. Where’s Waldo?
  188. Ride to Hell: Retribution
  189. Transformers: Mystery of Convoy
  190. Anubis II
  191. Ninjabread Man
  192. Isle of the Dead
  193. Super Pitfall
  194. Bubsy 3D
  195. King’s Knight
  196. Ballz
  197. Nerves of Steel
  198. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  199. Metal Morph
  200. Dragon’s Lair (NES)

Unlike last time, there are no major scoring changes to speak of, though I did switch a few games around when I looked over the list before posting it. I’m not sure why I considered Lester the Unlikely better than Pac-Man 2, for example.

When I reviewed 100 films, I revealed the spreadsheet I had been maintaining this entire time. And yes, I did make one for the games I’ve discussed as well. The following sheet details the number of times I’ve awarded each grade along with the decades in which each game originated.

Since then, I wanted to see exactly what the grade distribution was for each decade. I’m generally under the impression that the 2010s is the best decade in gaming thus far, so I wanted to see if that reflected in my reviews. The results were interesting, to say the least.

I wasn’t surprised by how infrequently games from the 1980s passed. As mentioned before, many pioneering games haven’t aged terribly well. When I finally got around to reviewing Super Mario Bros. 3 (the sole 8/10 from that decade thus far), I realized it was the first time since Police Quest that I had actually given a game from the 1980s a positive review.

What I was surprised by was the sheer number of failing grades the 1990s had accumulated. I have reviewed far more 1990s games than 1980s games, yet even if you doubled the number of red-score titles from the 1980s, that decade would still have two fewer fails. Meanwhile, the 1990s may have had far more passing grades, yet this chart indicates that the number of mid-tier experiences decreased between decades. This actually makes sense to me because the 1990s was a time in which developers started taking more chances, yet didn’t have a firm grasp on what does and doesn’t work in this medium. I can therefore believe that the inordinate number of failing grades from the 1990s was the result of experiments blowing up in the creators’ faces.

I have to admit I was also taken aback by the high number of failing grades from the 2010s. Yes, old-school enthusiasts insist we live in a dark age for gaming, yet I was under the impression it was better than the 2000s. Then again, it doesn’t help that one of the years in that decade happened to be 2013. Between Ride to Hell: Retribution and Beyond: Two Souls, it truly was one of the single weakest years in gaming since 1983. Indeed, nearly half of the 2010s’ failing grades spawned from that year alone (including the sole 1/10 so far). For that matter, the period between 2012 and 2014 was a real rough patch for the medium with an inordinate number of heavily promoted games failing to live up to the hype, meeting widespread backlashes, or both.

Seeing the grade distribution for myself, I would actually posit the 2010s has a lot in common with the 1990s; both decades were experimental periods for the medium, and the results didn’t always turn out well. However, unlike the 1990s, I think the cause of the high number of failing grades can be attributed to creators seeking to elevate the medium. The 2010s may have seen creators successfully push the envelope in terms of storytelling with avant-garde works such as Undertale, Papers, Please, or OneShot, but the decade also saw the release of Beyond: Two Souls, Spec Ops: The Line, Limbo, and a treasure trove of walking simulators such as Gone Home and The Beginner’s Guide. Like many 1990s developers, the creators of these games tried to experiment with the medium, though their exact goal was slightly different. Whereas their predecessors usually attempted to experiment with new forms of gameplay, they themselves wanted to tap into the medium’s latent storytelling potential. While many of their peers were successful, their own attempts ended up backfiring though the results weren’t usually as disasterous as similar occurances from the 1990s.

Regardless, if what I’ve reviewed from the 2000s and 2010s is any indication, it reinforces what I’ve been proposing for a while. The 1990s may have had a larger volume of good games, yet the best games of the last two decades tend to outshine efforts of the medium’s supposed golden age. It’s worth noting that the sole 1990s 10/10, Planescape: Torment, came at the tail-end of the decade. The 2010s may have a lower average than the 2000s, but once it regained its footing, it has been solid.

It’ll be great to finally review games from the 2020s, but we have one-and-a-half months left in this year. Most of the reviews I promised in my last update post have actually been scheduled already, so you have those to look forward to. Once again, I thank you all for your continued support!

15 thoughts on “200th Game Review Special Finale: Masterpieces on Parade

  1. Impressive list. I find it funny that the most highest-rated game that I’ve played is Marvel’s Spider-Man. Yet I have to say that it wasn’t a flawless game and had its fair share of formulaic gameplay, which made reaching 100% quite easy. How come FF VII didn’t make the cut though? 😮

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And Marvel’s Spider-Man is currently at the top of the 8/10 tier, so I’d say you’re doing well for yourself so far. And I was a little more forgiving towards it because while one could argue it was formulaic, it still provided a different take on Western design choices than the standard, bland realistic model that the AAA adored around this time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Also, Final Fantasy VII isn’t on the list because I haven’t finished, let alone reviewed it. This is a list of all 200 games I had reviewed by this point, so the entries near the bottom got failing grades; it’s not a list of my top 200.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Congrats to Persona 4 for topping the chart. If I were to ever compile a list of games I have reviewed I think Persona 4 Golden would be a strong contender for first place. No surprise to see the shape of that graph. Most games are okay. It takes a lot of effort to make something special and a lot of incompetence to produce rubbish.

    I am not surprised to see that 2010 failed to get best the average score. Like many, I am in the camp that current day titles are suffering a slump. We get a lot of quality stuff, but there are also a lot of games that suffer from lack of originality or are spoiled by DLC greed. The 2000s may well have the right balance of creativity and modern day polish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’d say it deserved it, alright. I knew from the beginning that is exactly where it would end up. And yeah, supporters of Sturgeon’s Law would have you believe that 90% of everything is garbage, but I don’t think that’s quite true; I would be more likely to believe that 90% of most medium’s outputs are bland products that don’t stand out one way or the other.

      I can sort of see where you’re coming from. I mean, if the best the AAA industry can throw at us is stuff like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare or The Last of Us, it’s kind of hosed. Nonetheless, I still have to say that gaming is overall better now than it was in the 1990s because of one simple factor: the indie scene. While the Western AAA doesn’t have the same spark it had last decade, we have the indie scene to pick up the slack, and they have been innovating quite a lot. The stuff they come up with often leaves AAA efforts in the dust – even if the press isn’t willing to acknowledge it. The main advantage the 2000s had was that the AAA scene wasn’t as inconsistent, meaning we could potentially have great works come from both scenes, though I would argue the indie scene didn’t really take off until the mid-2010s or so.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice finishing touches. Not surprised at all to see Persona 4 at the top, since you’ve claimed it as your favorite game of all time in the past. I am a bit surprised you said you struggled to give Galaxy 2 a 10, however. It’s essentially the perfect video game (people can moan about Mario not having a story all they want, in regards to being a video game, he wins). True, I can understand the majesty of Breath of the Wild (which I scored a 10/10 myself), but again, if I’m comparing games, Galaxy 2 is the hands down winner. That’s not a knock of BotW, just an indicator of how great Galaxy 2 is. As much as I love Zelda, there are some tedious elements to the series that Mario’s best games (such as if not especially Galaxy 2) gleefully avoid. Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece, no doubt. But Galaxy 2 is one of the few games that just feels perfect. I guess you could say I’m a ‘purist’ when it comes to video game critiquing in that I like to emphasize their merits as games above all else (which isn’t to say I’m against stories and such in games. But if I’m going to compare games, I definitely put their “game-ness” at the forefront.

    Also, the fact that Yahtzee so easily dismissed Galaxy 2 while later praising a middling, unpolished 3D platformer in A Hat in Time is a red flag to the man’s blatant contrarianism. I’m sorry, A Hat in Time wasn’t bad, and it had its charms. But there’s no way I can buy that someone would praise it over Galaxy 2 aside from a generic “this is indie therefore it’s great/art” mentality. God, that man is such a plight (I use the term ‘man’ loosely when talking about someone like Yahtzee, of course).

    I really am hoping to get into/back into Persona in 2020. I can’t guarantee when, exactly. But I do hope to get around to at least starting Persona 4 and restarting Persona 5. Again, I’ve been meaning to get to the former for a long time now, and I really enjoyed what I played of the latter, but just fell out of it due to its excessive length. But I really hope to rectify that. Which hopefully I can, considering my only game currently on pre-order is Animal Crossing. Sweet, sweet, unobtrusive, relaxed, carefree, accessible, understanding Animal Crossing. Seeing as that doesn’t come out for months (and is the kind of game that can easily be played while in the midst of a playthrough of another), I’m really hoping to catch up on games/reviews going forward here. Now that I’m more accustomed to my job, hopefully I can better work my time around everything.

    Anyway, what the heck am I rambling about?! Geeze, how does this always happen with my comments?!

    At any rate, congratulations again on the 200 games milestone, and excellent write-ups/retrospectives about said milestone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Again, I really ended up tipping my hand quite a few times leading up to the reveal, didn’t I? All I can say is that if you get into Persona 4, I hope you enjoy it! I recommend the Golden version if you can get it. I myself intend to give Persona 5 a whirl when Royal comes out.

      I wasn’t sure if Super Mario Galaxy 2 was 9/10 or 10/10 material, but I went with the latter because it really is the definitive Mario experience, and Yahtzee dismissing it so brazenly was a gigantic mistake. Indeed, I think that’s the biggest problem with Yahtzee and his ilk; they act too much on their preconceived notions all for the sake of shallow contrarianism. I may not like A24, but it would have been remiss of me to give the likes of Good Time, The Farewell, or Moonlight failing/middling grades like I did with the rest of their output. I like a good underdog story as much as anyone else, but the indie efforts don’t always win, and that’s not an inherently bad thing. Indeed, the indie scene didn’t become the tour de force it is now until they began stepping up their game and attempted to compete with the AAA industry’s best efforts. I still say Yahtzee isn’t as bad as Bob Chipman, however. The latter is the kind of person who would contradict himself if it meant sticking it to his audience.

      Glad you enjoyed this retrospective!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, Persona 4. The world is lucky they don’t let you marry inanimate objects, else I would be hitched with that game and unavailable to everyone else. It is a marvelous piece of work, and we’ve gone back and forth on reasons why plenty of times over the years.

    And yeah, it’s natural that as works get more creative, more experimental, there’s going to be a lot more misses and failures in there. That’s not really a bad thing, though. I’ll take a bad game that does something interesting over a mediocre one that plays it safe any day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed it is. I couldn’t think of any other game to top that chart, though Majora’s Mask would’ve been a worthy contender itself.

      That’s definitely why I think the 2010s is more similar to the 1990s than many old-school gamers realize. I myself do give more credit to someone who shot for the stars and got the moon than someone who settled for shooting for the moon. The ability to realize that a bad work can have a good idea is one I think more critics need to realize.

      Liked by 1 person

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