Why TIME’s “All-TIME 100 Video Games” List is Inherently Flawed
TIME has just released their “All-TIME 100 Video Games” List (link to original article/list here). Many “Top 100” lists end up trying to capture both the highest quality games alongside some of the most innovative, and in this process become a jumbled mess of high-quality games next to games that have no reason to be remembered outside of sales numbers or some radical gameplay mechanic. Now, I know that due to the nature of every person having his/her own opinion that everyone will find parts of each list to disagree with (nostalgia for one’s favorite titles often blinds them to the idea that the title may not be as great as they remember). That being said, there are times that lists are clearly off in some way. Where does TIME’s list fall? Does it capture the best gaming has to offer, or does it miss its mark and leave the reader doubting its credibility?
I have to say that TIME has managed to capture some truly great moments in gaming history, here – games that nearly every gamer could agree should be on this type of list (i.e. Chrono Trigger, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda). As I scrolled through, I noticed many of these classics, and was also happy to see the inclusion of some more artistic games that I would say are more than deserving of their spots – Flower, Shadow of the Colossus, ICO. In all, TIME’s list captured 3 of my top 10 games (Final Fantasy VII, Bioshock, and the aforementioned Shadow of the Colossus). However, where the list breaks down and misses its mark, in my opinion, is in the inclusion of inferior games in their respective series, some unusual choices to represent landmarks in gaming history, and some entries that still left me scratching my head as to how they got in there.
As far as game series choices go, I will start with mentioning the inclusion of Half-Life 2. The game was a phenomenal experience, however, you can’t deny the quality of the original title, nor it place in video game history in revolutionizing the way stories are told in first-person shooters. Further, how does the original Silent Hill make the list, when clearly Silent Hill 2 is the unanimously agreed upon peak of the series. Lastly, Mass Effect 3 is present on the list. I would be fine with the first entry, which was a great sci-fi/RPG epic, but the third game was clearly a letdown to the masses, with player choices that were key in the series having little impact on the story conclusion. I will not say that these games were not good games (especially Half-Life 2), but I feel that the other entries in these series deserve the recognition more than the others.
Outside of some of those more minor nitpicks, I noticed some games that seemed odd on such a list. Games like Wii Sports, Cave Story, and Angry Birds, whose sole purpose is to show movements/innovation in gaming history (with these games representing motion control, indie development, and casual gaming, respectively). This is where I think a lot of lists go wrong – trying to capture “landmark” titles in gaming history that aren’t really landmarks. Sales numbers don’t make a game one of the best of all time. I don’t care how many people have downloaded Angry Birds, or that it “popularized” casual gaming. It is certainly not one of the best games ever, nor is it a true landmark – casual gaming does not represent quality or game immersion, it represents a little distraction from work or waiting for an appointment. The same goes for Wii Sports. Motion control is great and all, but Wii Sports is certainly not a “high-quality” title. Cave Story is mentioned by TIME as being the foundation of indie gaming, even going so far as to say that without Cave Story, there would be no Braid or Limbo. This is its sole purpose on the list, and I can only say that I am highly skeptical of their assumptions there.
Finally, TIME decided to also include some games that are just clearly not cut out for a top 100 games list. Rez may have had some stunning visuals, but the game itself wasn’t anything special, Paperboy is laughable alongside other classics of the time, and I nearly gave up reading when I saw Desktop Tower Defense on there (in all seriousness, where does this fit in at all). There are others as well, but I will let you make those discoveries and not ruin the laughs.
TIME’s attempt at putting together a top 100 video games list misses its mark nearly as often as it mentions a truly great title. There are the usual classics on there, and a few nice additions, but many of the entries will leave many gamers confused at their inclusion. That being said, check out the list, see if some of your favorite games are on there, and have a few laughs at the random inclusions.