Kyle Orland, Crispy Gamer

The Ultimate Game of the Decade Showdown - Statistics suggest that 'World of Warcraft' can be considered the top game of the past 10 years

There are a lot of ways you could go about determining the "Game of the Decade." You can just pick your own favorites, of course, but that's always going to come off as overly subjective and personal. You can choose some nominees and ask the public to weigh in, as we did with our epic Game of the Decade bracket, but that really just tells you what's popular with a certain subset of readers of one site. You can look at review or sales numbers, but those just tell you how well a game was received at the time of its release (by critics and the public, respectively).

What I wanted was a definitive Game of the Decade list -- a collection of choices that represented a wide range of professional, knowledgeable opinions about the last 10 years of games. I figured such a list wouldn't just pop into existence on its own, so I decided to build it myself. Here's how I went about it:


First I scoured the Internet for every Game of the Decade list I could find. I was looking for lists published by professional publications, so random posts from unknown bloggers or message-board discussions didn't count. The publication could be well known or obscure, new or old, mainstream or hardcore, as long as it had a history of covering videogames in some capacity. The lists could be themed "most influential," "most fun," "most important"; whatever, as long as all games released in the decade were eligible (so PC-only or RPG-only lists were out).

Every game choice on each list was assigned a point value -- 100 points for a first-place pick, 99 points for a second-place pick, all the way down to 1 point for a 100th-place pick (if the list went that far ... and a few did!) If a list was unranked, each game on the list was given the average number of points for a list of that length (so on an unranked list of 10 games, each pick would earn 95.5 points).

The points from all the lists were added up to create a composite list of the critical establishment's game of the decade.

In the end, this uber-Game of the Decade list comprises data from 36 distinct lists, containing 813 distinct picks for 220 different games. While the final top 10 doesn't contain many surprises, the way that each game ended up where it did tells a lot about the state of the last decade of games and how it was perceived by the gaming press. So, without further ado, let's start with:

10. "Wii Sports"

Points: 1,350.5

Total picks: 16

Avg. position: 16.59

First-place picks: 1

Top-10 picks: 11

Top-20 picks: 12

How it got here: A lot of Game of the Decade lists seemed to pick "Wii Sports" out of respect for what it represented to the games business rather than respect for the game itself. The title barely snuck onto VideoGamer's list of the top 100 games of the decade, earning a 99th-place spot even though "the novelty of playing games using motion has worn off slightly now." Still, the game earned a pick as the most important game of the decade from men's lifestyle site because, "quite simply, "Wii Sports" is that game that EVERYONE loves, whether they like to admit it or not."

9. "BioShock"

Points: 1,416.5

Total picks: 16

Avg. position: 12.47

First-place picks: 1

Top-10 picks: 7

Top-20 picks: 13

How it got here: Strong atmosphere, an engrossing story and a killer twist earned a lot of Game of the Decade nods for "BioShock." Even "Destructoid's" relatively low 33rd-place pick for the game lauded it as "easily one of the most memorable videogame experiences of the last 10 years." But it was such relatively low picks that prevented the game from making a run at the top spot that The A.V. Club said it so richly deserved for "us(ing) every tool of the medium to tell its story of extreme libertarianism gone awry: richly characterized dialogue, the gloom of a crumbling Atlantis, the limitations of the first-person viewpoint."

8. "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare"

Points: 1,429.5

Total picks: 16

Avg. position: 11.66

First-place picks: 1

Top-10 picks: 8

Top-20 picks: 14

How it got here: "Modern Warfare" barely edged out fellow 2007 release "BioShock" -- despite both games receiving the same number of appearances on Game of the Decade lists -- thanks partly to a first-place finish in MSN UK's reader vote battle. But MSN readers were far from the only Game of the Decade list makers to recognize what VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi called "a noisy game, full of intensity, (containing) a good story with mature themes that respected the intelligence of gamers who had grown up playing games and were well aware of how terrorism has made the world a dangerous place." The addictive multiplayer mode and recent release of the much-heralded sequel certainly didn't hurt this game's final position either.

7. "Guitar Hero"

Points: 1,546

Total picks: 17

Avg. position: 10.06

First-place picks: 0

Top-10 picks: 13

Top-20 picks: 13

How it got here: Despite receiving no picks as the No. 1 Game of the Decade, "Guitar Hero" made it to the aggregate top 10 by being many list makers' stand-in pick for the rhythm-game genre. But why pick the original "Guitar Hero" over more advanced games like "Rock Band," or even the "Guitar Hero" sequels (all of which got a fair share of votes themselves)? As Yahoo's list maker put it, "the original "Guitar Hero" might not boast the online modes, downloadable content or array of instruments that its myriad sequels and competitors would enjoy, but its basic gameplay -- press buttons and strum along in time with colored notes flying down the screen -- remains largely unchanged. And for good reason: it flat-out rocks."

6. "Resident Evil 4"

Points: 1,564.5

Total picks: 17

Avg. position: 8.97

First-place picks: 1

Top-10 picks: 15

Top-20 picks: 15

How it got here: The highest-placed survival-horror game on the aggregate list, "Resident Evil 4" didn't have as many picks as the top five, but those picks it had were disproportionately high, falling overwhelmingly into the top-10 area of the 17 lists it appeared on. Atmosphere was the key to the game's appeal, as GameZone noted when it named the game its favorite of the decade: "The care that was placed into creating a dazzling world to become a part of helped further the overall value of RE4. By the end of the game, there was a burning desire to jump back into the world and play through it all over again."

5. "Half-Life 2"

Points: 1,709

Total picks: 18

Avg. position: 6.06

First-place picks: 3

Top-10 picks: 16

Top-20 picks: 17

How it got here: Despite having received only one more vote than "Resident Evil 4," "Half-Life 2K made to fifth place by a good margin thanks to one of the lowest average placements on the list. Put another way: The many list makers that liked Half-Life 2 really liked it, and Guardian's Gamesblog helped explain why in its write-up of the game's No. 1 slot on its list: "Half-Life 2" is the game of the decade, not just because it's good, but because it encapsulates so much of what mainstream gaming has been trying to do for the last 10 years; the aspiration to create believable, physically accurate worlds, then to make us a part of them."

4. "The Sims"

Points: 1,729

Total picks: 21

Avg. position: 18.67

First-place picks: 3

Top-10 picks: 15

Top-20 picks: 18

How it got here: Even with three more list appearances than the fifth-place "Half-Life 2," "The Sims" still had trouble sneaking across the line to fourth place, thanks to low placements like the 99th-place finish in's list ("We still aren't so sure that it's good to play anything described as a 'strategic life-simulation,' but hey, living a real life can be scary.") Still, there were some that realized the magic of that "strategic life simulation, including Wired, which named it the decade's most influential game because "'The Sims,' to a greater extent than anything else released this decade, broadened the definition of what a game could be."


Points: 2,042

Total picks: 22

Avg. position: 8.18

First-place picks: 1

Top-10 picks: 17

Top-20 picks: 20

How it got here: Despite beating out "The Sims" on our aggregate list by a large margin, this revolutionary console first-person shooter actually suffered a bit thanks to a few votes splitting off for its two sequels from the past decade. Even without their help, though, plenty of people recognized the importance and staying power of Bungie's excellent, fast-paced competitive FPS design. But it wasn't just the combat in Halo -- as VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi noted: "The game was put together like an opera. It had a haunting musical score that sounded like chanting Gregorian monks. The sound of the assault gun's fire and the clinking of bullet casings was immersive. The story line was deep and imaginative. And there was the wonder of "Halo," a ring-like planet with vast beautiful areas where you had to fight for your life against overwhelming numbers of Covenant aliens."

2. "Grand Theft Auto III"

Points: 2,242

Total picks: 24

Avg. position: 7.58

First-place picks: 7

Top-10 picks: 22

Top-20 picks: 22

How it got here: With the most No. 1 picks of any game on this list, it was obvious "Grand Theft Auto III" was going to be a contender for aggregate Game of the Decade. But "Grand Theft Auto III's" biggest opponent in this regard were its sequels: Many lists picked "Vice City," "San Andreas" or "Grand Theft Auto IV" to represent the series, meaning that lead vote-getter "GTA3" was just edged out for the top spot. (Incidentally, there was only a single list of five or more picks that didn't include at least one "GTA" game.) Regardless of the voting vagaries, the near-unanimous praise for "Grand Theft Auto III" was perhaps best summed up by Eurogamer's Kristan Reed, who said the game "felt like 10 games in one, all better than its individual inspiration." High praise, indeed.

1. "World of Warcraft"

Points: 2,291

Total picks: 24

Avg. position: 5.54

First-place picks: 6

Top-10 picks: 20

Top-20 picks: 22

How it got here: Statistics suggest that 'World of Warcraft' can be considered the top game of the past 10 years. In a way, it's a bit unfair for "World of Warcraft" to be at the top of this list. Both the "Halo" and "Grand Theft Auto" series garnered more votes and more points if taken together rather than split up among a motley assortment of individual games (The same can be said of the somewhat broader "Half-Life/Orange Box" and "Guitar Hero"/"Rock Band" series). Still, it's a testament to the design of "World of Warcraft" that the only other massively-multiplayer online game on the list is "Everquest", which finished back in 106th place. "World of Warcraft" has not only dominated this most addictive of genres, but also the decade in games and the definition of what a game can be for an entire generation of gamers. As one contributor to Gamasutra's "Game of the Decade" list put it, "It is the biggest game changer of the decade. It's not necessarily the best game, nor my personal favorite, but it is certainly the one by which I will remember the aughts. Its cultural, economic, and industry impact are unsurpassed, and it's the only single game to have that kind of clout, across platforms and genres."


Edge Magazine had its finger on the pulse of the Game of the Decade zeitgeist better than any other outlet. All five of the games that made its Game of the Decade list ended up in the top six of the aggregate results.

"Guitar Hero" finished in seventh place in the aggregate list despite not receiving a single first-place vote. "Shadow of the Colossus" finished in 13th place despite receiving three first-place votes.

That said, readers and critics at The Toronto Star said "Guitar Hero" was the most important entertainment work of the decade in any medium.

The highest-scoring 2009 release was "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves at 26th, followed by Modern Warfare 2 at 41st. Fallout 3, in 12th, was the highest 2008 release.


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