In a recent poll conducted by Edge Magazine, readers were asked to pick their favorite video games of all time. And while it didn't surprise me that Nintendo games dominated the top 10, I was appalled at what I learned: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time finished first.
As an avid video game purist, I consider some of the games from my storied youth to be the best ever. And while Ocarina of Time warrants a 9.5 out of 10 on my made-up scale, I can think of at least three games that warrant a 10 rating. But first, let me tell you why Ocarina of Time should not be called the greatest game of all time.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of the most important games to ever impact the video game industry. Released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64, it was the first Zelda game in 3D. A small boy with dreams of becoming a hero was summoned to the Great Deku Tree to be told of the problems plaguing the land. From there an epic adventure takes place that guides young Link through the perils of evil and helps adult Link save Hyrule and sweet Princess Zelda once again. According to analysts, Ocarina of Time sold 7.6 million copies in all. Not bad.
While the story was truly a masterpiece and the gameplay wonderful, Ocarina of Time is not the best game ever. I found the gameplay mechanics a but sluggish at times and like most Zelda games, the side quests you need to complete in order to get where you're going became a bit of a nuisance after a while. That said, Ocarina of Time is still one of the finest games ever created.
So now the question is, which game is actually the best ever? Well, I don't just judge video games on how well they played or if the storyline was better than another. The best video games are those that shape an entire industry and help make the video game business progress from its periodic years of no growth. So, with that framework in mind, I think Super Mario Bros. is the greatest game of all time.
Super Mario Bros.
Released in late 1985, Super Mario Bros. was the first game that put the Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System) on the map, and it was the first game to leave an indelible mark on the entire video game industry.
For a frame of reference, Super Mario Bros.--according to the Guiness book of world records--is the best-selling video game of all time. Period.
In order to understand the impact this game had on the video game industry, you must first understand the state of the industry before the game was released. In 1983, the American video game industry crashed. With a boatload of companies going out of business and others filing bankruptcy, the second generation of video games quickly came to an end. During this time, retailers were both scared and unwilling to sell video game consoles, and a slew of video game titles already in production prior to the crash were shipped out and relegated to bargain bins.
There are a number of reasons attributed to the crash, but none are more convincing than the success of the video game industry prior to it. For a while, companies and start-ups were enjoying success and venture capitalists were willing to take a chance on a group of people who wanted to make it big in the booming video game industry. So as the market became flooded with young people creating (mostly crappy) games and consoles, consumers were left with far too many choices. With so many choices and the impending U.S. computer pricing war, consumers were forced to spread their money around. In just a few short years, the crash that so many had been fearing finally happened, and video game dominance shifted from the U.S. to Japan.
During the years between the crash and the release of Super Mario Bros., people still played their games, but sales were dropping each month. Then, a young man named Shigeru Miyamoto created the game that, for all intents and purposes, saved the United States gaming industry: Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros. ushered in a new era for video games. The days of stick figures running around on the screen while they shot at another illegible object had finally given way to an Italian plumber named Mario and his twin brother Luigi. The Super Mario Bros. gameplay was truly second to none, and if you were to pick up the game today, you would still consider it the most rock-solid gameplay experience of your life. The story was, well, Mario-ish, but we didn't play that game for the story; we played it for the experience. In one fell swoop, one video game (one!) raised up a crippled video game market, and set the stage for an entirely new experience playing video games.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is truly a masterpiece that should be thought of as one of the greatest games ever created. But to call it the greatest game of all time is a serious misstatement. Unlike Super Mario Bros., Ocarina of Time was released in an era where video games were booming and sales were on the rise. Simply put, everyone was playing video games, and the game was the best of its time. But no other game in history--Ocarina of Time included--was able to save an entire industry from almost guaranteed destruction the way Super Mario Bros. did, and it is for this reason that we should all give ol' Mario and Luigi credit where it's due.
(oh and by the way, Super Mario Bros. isn't even in the top 10. Sheesh.)