Tastes may differ and times may change, but some games have stood out from the pack with glowing reviews--and a critical consensus--over the years. We've rounded up the best games of all time, according to the numbers gathered by GameSpot's sister site Metacritic. We aimed to highlight the 10 best games of all time from a critical consensus, but unsurprisingly there are plenty of ties. So we wound up with 17 games on the list, all of which hold a 97 Metascore or higher.
Before diving in, there are a few details that are worth mentioning. Games released over the past 10 to 15 years tend to have Metascorees based on a higher number of reviews than older games. Unsurprisingly, the reach of video games and the number of outlets writing about them has grown exponentially over the years, which leads to the discrepancy. Also, games often have varying Metascores on different platforms; we chose to include the highest rated edition of each particular game, but we noted those platform specific details for games that aren't exclusives. Lastly, we got the idea of this because of Elden Ring, which had held a 97 Metascore near launch. Unfortunately, it has since fell to 96 (a very crowded Metascore), so you won't find it on this list.
Best games of all time, according to Metacritic
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of TimeThe Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Metascore: 99 | Based on 22 reviews
The mid- to late-1990s--or the final years of the 1900s if you want to feel really old--marked a paradigm shift for video games. Blockbuster titles were coming out every month, but few games could hold a candle to what has long been considered one of the milestones in gaming, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. An expansive world, fascinating gameplay mechanics, and then-revolutionary 3D visuals earned it rave reviews across the board. Decades later, it's still one of the best Zelda games out there, and has become the gold standard that every Zelda is measured against.
Though it doesn't have as many reviews as some other games on this list, it really isn't much of a surprise to Ocarina of Time alone in the top spot.
Read our The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time review.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Metascore: 98 | Based on 19 reviews
The original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was the end result of a skateboarding dream that beat impossible odds to land a gnarly trick, but its first sequel felt like a more fully-realized product. Everything here is simply better, from handling to level design, while the additional challenges on offer made THPS2 feel endlessly replayable and best enjoyed with friends who gathered around for some split-screen fun.
THPS2's PlayStation version has a 98 Metascore and while it doesn't have dozens of reviews, it's worth noting that the Dreamcast edition holds a 97. So yeah, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 being up here makes sense.
Read our Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 review.
Grand Theft Auto IVGrand Theft Auto IV
Metascore: 98 | Based on 64 reviews
An annoying cousin obsessed with bowling might have docked some points from the game, but everything else about GTA IV was a masterclass in game design. A blueprint for Rockstar's patented mix of seriousness and cinematic action, GTA IV's dark tale of vengeance played out across a city that was one of the most impressive sandboxes of its time. Liberty City wasn't just a terrific city to cause some mayhem inside of; it was a living metropolis that players could call home when they weren't stirring up trouble, and it was further fleshed out in a series of superb DLC episodes after launch.
Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Grand Theft Auto IV earned a 98 Metascore. Based on the plethora of reviews (far more than OoT or THPS2), you could make an argument that Grand Theft Auto IV might just be the most critically acclaimed game of all time.
Read our Grand Theft Auto IV review.
Metascore: 98 | Based on 24 reviews
3D fighting games had been around for years before SoulCalibur hit the scene, but Namco's weapon-based fighter stepped into the ring to show everyone how to get it right in 1998. In a year that had no shortage of excellent games, SoulCalibur captured the essence of wielding swords, staffs, and ludicrously-sized hunks of iron like no other game had before it, while the strategy of moving around the arena to avoid a deadly strike felt like a revelation to fighting game fans. The console ports were magnificent, the cinematic quality of each fight was unparalleled, and the game was fun no matter your skill level.
Read our SoulCalibur review.
Super Mario GalaxySuper Mario Galaxy
Metascore: 97 | Based on 73 reviews
Ask any fan what the best Mario game is, and chances are high that Super Mario Galaxy will at least be considered. After Super Mario 64 took the world by storm, the benchmark for Mario may have been raised to an atmospheric level, and it'd be several years before a new game could reach that level and surpass it. Super Mario Galaxy blasted off on the Wii, using the console's groundbreaking motion-sensing hardware to tie its spinning and planetoid gameplay elements together perfectly. Super Mario Galaxy raised the bar once again for the franchise, one that would be shortly surpassed by its incredible sequel.
Read our Super Mario Galaxy review.
Super Mario Galaxy 2Super Mario Galaxy 2
Metascore: 97 | Based on 87 reviews
And what a sequel Super Mario Galaxy 2 was! Any rough edges from the first game had been polished over, the concept of planet-hopping was more creative than ever before, and the sheer variety on offer was nothing short of astounding. It's the level design department where Super Mario Galaxy 2 really shines though, each stage being a vibrant playground that you'd explore all night long if you could. Then there's the Wii hook, as the game found fantastic new ways to use the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to deliver exciting boss fights and moment-to-moment gameplay. True Mario sequels are a rarity, but this 2010 game proved how good they could be and helped elevate the appeal of the Wii. Though Super Mario Galaxy 2 has the same Metascore as its predecessor, we all know the sequel is better. Right? But seriously, the fact both of these games sit at a 97 is wildly impressive.
Read our Super Mario Galaxy 2 review.
Red Dead Redemption 2Red Dead Redemption 2
Metascore: 97 | Based on 109 reviews
Slower and more methodically paced than 2010's Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar's cowboy prequel was a game that was best enjoyed slowly and with patience. With those suggestions in place, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a masterpiece of wild west sandbox design, a thrilling adventure in a forgotten era that provided plenty of time for introspection and mystery that was all held together by an incredible cast of actors, polished gameplay design, and hauntingly beautiful landscapes. Both the Xbox and PlayStation versions of Red Dead Redemption 2 hold a 97 on Metacritic.
Read our Red Dead Redemption 2 review.
Grand Theft Auto VGTA V
Metascore: 97 | Based on 50 reviews
Almost a decade after it first landed on PC and console, and GTA V's legacy is one of groundbreaking sandbox design and edge-of-your-seat storytelling. The game might feel like it's everywhere thanks to it being ported to two console generations, but the impact of Rockstar's sandbox magnum opus cannot be understated. Combined with GTA Online, it's one of the best packages on the market today for thrill-seeking fun and a narrative that will leave you emotionally drained by the time that its story wraps up in explosive style. That's a benchmark that few games have been able to equal over the years, let alone surpass. GTA V holds a 97 on Metacritic on four different platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PS4.
Read our Grand Theft Auto V review.
Disco Elysium: The Final CutDisco Elysium: The Final Cut
Metascore: 97 | Based on 11 reviews
For fans of thought-provoking writing, flawed characters, and an atmospheric soundtrack, Disco Elysium is a must-play game. It's a neo-noir detective story with an entire library of dialogue to sift through, but one that remains captivating with its cast of damaged heroes and unique gameplay systems where your chosen flaws shape the story around you. Every character has a story to tell, and by the time you get to the bottom of this murder mystery, the absurd adventure will leave a lasting impression on you. Only the Final Cut version of Disco Elysium qualifies for this list. Admittedly, its score isn't based on a ton of reviews, but many praised the game's writing as some of the best ever in a game, so it still feels like it earns its spot here.
Read our Disco Elysium: The Final Cut review.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Metascore: 97 | Based on 117 reviews
It's fitting that Nintendo would send one Zelda to topple another Zelda from its perch of "best video game of all time." That's the approach it took with Breath of the Wild, the game that helped launch the company's new Switch console into the stratosphere. A celebration of Zelda's history and a brave new direction for the series, the key selling point of Breath of the Wild is its sandbox that gave players unfettered access to its gorgeous environments within mere minutes of starting. Five years later, and fans are still discovering new secrets, as this award-winning entry in the series continues to be a rewarding world to explore. Yes, based on the number of reviews, you could argue that Breath of the Wild is the better reviewed game versus Ocarina of Time.
Read our The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3
Metascore: 97 | Based on 34 reviews
The third game to bear the name of Tony Hawk may not have deviated drastically from the formula established by the previous games, but it was an absolute looker when it debuted on newer consoles. A visual makeover as extreme as the sport that it had helped bring into the mainstream spotlight, the added power of new console hardware helped this THPS experience feel smoother and more fluid than its predecessors. A banger of a soundtrack, tons of unlockable gear, and some brilliant level design helped seal the deal on this masterpiece. THPS 2's 97 Metascore comes on the PS2 version.
Read our Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 review.
Perfect DarkPerfect Dark
Metascore: 97 | Based on 30 reviews
Games being ahead of their time aren't uncommon, but Perfect Dark was playing 5D chess back when its contemporaries were still figuring out how to play a hand of Uno. Everything about the game shows just how far ahead of the curve it was at the time, from its cunning level design to impressive multiplayer customizations, open-ended exploration, and gunplay that had a blunt-force-trauma edge to it. A new game is in development, and when it comes out, it'll have quite the legacy to live up to.
Read our Perfect Dark review.
Metroid PrimeMetroid Prime
Metascore: 97 | Based on 70 reviews
The story of Metroid Prime is one of a game that almost never made it to market, almost robbing fans of what is considered to be the definitive Metroid. Shifting the perspective from 2D platforming to first-person action, Metroid Prime ran like a dream on the GameCube and looked like a million bucks when it launched. Clever gameplay elements, the inclusion of series staples, and kinetic action that would keep you on the edge of your seat made it an instant classic at the time, with two more sequels adding to the saga and creating one of the best trilogies in gaming today. A fourth game, long-delayed, is in the works.
Read our Metroid Prime review.
Grand Theft Auto IIIGTA 3
Metascore: 97 | Based on 56 reviews
Sandbox games were in their infancy by the time that Grand Theft Auto III rolled around, but this latest chapter in the series laid the foundation for the genre, creating a blueprint that hundreds of games would reference for decades to come. GTA 3 was weird, violent, and simply impossible to put down as you explored the rain-soaked streets and got into all kinds of mischief. A killer section of radio stations, actual consequences for your actions, and a dangerous underworld was unheard of at the time, but GTA 3 nailed all those elements and more on the first try, sticking its landing in the gaming history books.
Read our Grand Theft Auto III review.
Super Mario OdysseySuper Mario Odyssey
Metascore: 97 | Based on 123 reviews
The Nintendo Switch launched with a one-two punch of excellence in 2017. Just when it landed a right jab consisting of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a follow-up left hook in the form of Super Mario Odyssey would leave you down for the count. A package of vibrant color, rewarding gameplay when you ventured off the beaten path, and a fantastic hook involving hats, this was the best that Mario had ever been in the 3D space since the days of Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.
Read our Super Mario Odyssey review.
Halo: Combat EvolvedHalo: Combat Evolved
Metascore: 97 | Based on 68 reviews
Without the original Halo, Xbox might not have become one of the biggest gaming brands in the industry today. The importance of Halo can't be understated, as the first adventure starring Microsoft's favorite Spartan supersoldier was literally a system-seller for the console thanks to its action-packed gameplay, polished gunplay, and fascinating lore. A massive blockbuster for the modern age of gaming, revisiting the first Halo is still well worth the trip, especially if you're planning to do so via the anniversary edition in the Master Chief Collection.
Read our Halo: Combat Evolved review.
NFL 2K21NFL 2K1
Metascore: 97 | Based on 22 reviews
Two decades old and still one of the best football games of all time, NFL 2K1's refinement of what came before resulted in some top-shelf sports entertainment. A deeper dive into football packed with a vastly improved running game and faster action on the field, they just don't make sports games like this anymore. This Metascore is based on the Dreamcast version.
Read our NFL 2K1 review.
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