With Game Revolution's transition from our notorious letter grades to the five-star system for reviews, we were fated to crash into one unfinished matter of business: What would we have given an A+?
Anyone who has referenced our grading system at the bottom of the site knows what we call an A+ title: "The Holy Grail of Gaming. The Perfect Game. We have never given one." Indeed, Game Revolution has never given an A+, which would coincide with the philosophy that there is truly no such thing as absolute perfection—somewhat depressing but certainly realistic.
But with this notable cloud over our heads, we posed the inevitable question and realized immediately that, in fact, we're just writing a feature on what we think is the greatest game of all-time. We've never written that feature, either. So why not kill two birds with one… you know what, that's mean…. how about killing two congressional bills with one Internet? Is that idiom worth an A+? (Maybe.) ~ Nick Tan
Anthony Severino – Final Fantasy III
There isn’t a perfect game, and there never will be. But there are a few games that do come close. Josh and Dave’s picks were among my three-way tie for what I’d consider as close to perfection as possible. The SNES seemed to be a breeding ground for greatness. The third title, and the one they didn’t already picked, edged out the rest as my one A+ game.
There’s a special place in my heart for Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan). It’s my childhood video game equivalent of the N64 kid. And to this day, I don’t think any game has pulled me in so deeply into the story or built as strong a bond as I did with Terra, Locke, Edgar, and the rest of the crew.
I cherish the hours I spent dungeon-crawling in search of Esper-filled Magicite. I’ll never forget the shock I felt when (*spoilers*, but yeah, this game's quite old already) Kefka killed Gestahl and brought the world to ruin. The entire game is filled with moments that not only shaped me as a gamer, but will also stay with me forever. And nothing yet has ever touched me the same way.
Nick Tan – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
This is neither the first nor the last time that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will grace "best of" video game lists. Nearly every game reviewer gave Ocarina of Time their highest accolades in 1998, and according to GameRankings, for games with 20 or more reviews, it still has the highest average score of all-time.
Objectively, I could dissect the reasons for its timelessness: mythical structure, intricate yet whimsical level design, the innovative use of music, the Z-targeting system, and the 3D graphics that were a powerhouse in 1998. Ocarina of Time laid the groundwork for future 3D "open-world" titles, more immediately Majora's Mask but also Batman: Arkham City.
It's one of the rare games I've played to full completion, let alone three times through. It has an elegant sense of balance that escapes even today's best titles, whose designs can be just a bit too gimmicky, too overdone, or too instantly gratifying. It's, purely and simple, video game magic.
Daniel Bischoff – The Simpsons Arcade
I don't think any game deserves an A+ or whatever…. "The Perfect Score". It's elusive for a reason. Even 5 out of 5 stars doesn't mean "perfect" in my critical mind. Regardless, I think it's okay to call a game perfect based purely on how much fun you had. That's why I'm basing my decision purely on nostalgia.
You wouldn't think The Simpsons Arcade would be a "perfect" game, and it wasn't, but it was perfect for a 10-year-old with a little brother and a pocket full of quarters. Popping coin after coin in the machine to progress through each level as Bart and Homer never got old. As we neared the end of the game, other kids joined in. With four players in all, we powered through to the finale and defeated the boss to rescue Maggie.
Our parents were so pissed that we had them waiting at the pizza place for so long.
Jessica Vazquez – Bioshock
In order to explain why I would give Bioshock a perfect score, I have to first explain why I wouldn't give one to my favorite video game series, Mass Effect. The one thing Mass Effect lacks that Bioshock doesn't can be summed up in one word: consistency. Both games implement incredible storytelling, but Bioshock has been able to preserve core shooting mechanics. Mass Effect's drastic change in RPG elements and overall style between the original and the sequel were too stark.
Bioshock's ambiance carries over from one incarnation to the next. Its nightmarish underwater world stayed with me weeks after I had finished the game. Just the thought of lurking in the shadows trying to figure out how to evade a group of splicers as they engaged each other in morbid conversation was enough to make my skin crawl.
Kevin Schaller – Super Mario Bros. 3
An argument could be made for why Super Mario World is a better game—both for the graphics and vastly expanded world—but to date I have not found anything as satisfying as SMB3. It was hard to tell just what the limits of the NES were. Controlling Mario and Luigi were a cinch, the music was great, every stage was as beautiful as a Saturday morning cartoon, and each stage/world was interesting and unique. I still rank it not only as one of the best games of all time, but as one of the prettiest games ever created for any generation.
Looking back on it now, I can still say it feels as fresh and playable today as it did over 20 years ago. Sitting in PJs in front of the tube TV as a kid, holding that controller in my hand, I was hooked on the game and I've held it as a personal benchmark ever since. Diverse, colorful, sharp and engrossing… it doesn't get much better than this, if at all.
Josh Laddin – Super Metroid
For those of us with that Lewis and Clark-esque love of exploration—especially those of us that didn’t even know it yet, like myself—Super Metroid was a revelation. To this day, I don’t think any other game captures the thrill of being lost, vulnerable, surrounded on all sides, and overwhelmed by massive environments better. But at the same time, you still felt like a badass intergalactic walking arsenal, and you were a hot chick to boot.
Super Metroid was a logical evolution of the original Metroid’s gameplay, but it also perfected it in every way possible. The best feature was the addition of an honest-to-goodness in-game map so you finally didn’t have to stumble through your own poorly hand-drawn maps that were made with a six-year-old’s sense of direction and spatial reasoning. Add to that the multitude of suit upgrades and jaw-dropping bosses and you had a truly epic adventure (back before everyone and their mom adopted the word “epic” to describe everything). The thrill of finally finding a new path to travel after rabidly bombing and shooting every block in sight for days still trumps any over-the-top blockbuster special effects you’ll find in today’s games.
Kuulei Naipo – Grand Theft Auto IV
One of the best things about playing video games is the freedom: the freedom to do whatever you please without facing the real consequences. What a better example of this than Grand Theft Auto IV. Want to drive down the wrong side of the road? Not a problem. Want a soda to feel better from gunshot wounds? You got it. Want to play chicken using helicopters with your best buddy online? Yes, please.
GTAIV is the epitome of video games. It features hand-to-hand combat, gore, gunplay, exploration, a variety of vehicles, humor, morality choices, groovy music, a storyline, free-roam multiplayer, and high replay value. The multiplayer is what made this particular title stand out from the series. Sharing the violence and the corruption with other players means great memories and it doesn’t only consist of free-roam. There are 15 modes available which includes cooperative, PvP and racing. GTAIV is an all-around great and fun game, as it really does feature everything a player could look for in a video game.
Eddy Fettig – Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy epitomizes everything I love about video games. It combines varied levels with effectively simple controls to ensure that design is what pulls players. It's a joy to look at and listen to despite being on "inferior" hardware. It's at once brimming with new ideas while building off of 20 years of history. It's a shining example of how less can be more. Super Mario Galaxy reminds us that video games were built from taking imagination itself and giving it form.
Its myriad of planetoids create an occasionally bizarre, sometimes elegant, always imaginative experience that uses creativity through modest mechanics to awaken a sense of interactive play with candor. In an age where people shooting guns is what sells, it's a damned relief to see that some still know how to inspire awe through elegant design and play rather than rely on violence and gritty realism.
Blake Peterson – Half-Life 2
Picking an “A+”game is damn hard; the games I enjoy the most have major problems. My favorite games are Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and Xenogears. Snake Eater has a ridiculously complicated control scheme—it’s like the Thrustmaster Cougar F-16 joysticks. Xenogears spends its second disc on scrolling text over sprite-animated backgrounds, and it stops being a game and becomes a visual novel.
A problem I have with reviews is that I believe new games get progressively better. Few games age well, and I refuse to adjust my standards for them; I recently played the original Super Mario Bros. without warping. I found control frustrating and had lost all my lives before reaching level 4: B-.
I need a game that’s the best of today or better than current games. My answer: Half-Life 2. I’d pick the whole Orange Box, but I don’t play Team Fortress 2, and Portal is so short it’s basically frosting on an orange cake. Half-Life 2, including the episodes or not, is consistently more fun than 99% of new games I pick up to play.
And if Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 2: Episode 3, whatever it’s called) is anywhere close to as big a jump between Half-Life and Half-Life 2, I’ll wait seven more years for it.
(Bonus!) David Carlon – Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger is a game that shaped what the epitome of RPGs should be. The story was epic, a tale of people, robots, and frogs stretching across different times and dimensions coming together to destroy a parasite deeply seeded within the earth with the power of their friendship. It had unforgettable music that would echo in your eardrum even days after you put it down. Its battle sytem was simple as it was genius, especially dual and even triple techs.
And don't leave out the multiple endings? When I was a kid, this blew my fucking mind. Most games then had a singular ending, so when I played Chrono Trigger for the first time, I felt liberated, like I was playing a game that was breaking the rules. Chrono Trigger deserves an A+ for being life-altering, mind-melting, and tear-shedding. Besides, how many other RPGs have you seen spanning across almost four different decades of consoles? (Including the iPhone?!)