What are the 10 best video games ever made? We'll never know, but damn it, we can try to find out. Our favoured method for this is Canon Fodder, a game concocted by myself and video game consultant N'Gai Croal.
All we do is take a list of the 10 best games and put it in front of game developers. We each let them make one move. Then we present them in front of a live audience, a live audience that cheers and boos a lot.
We did our most recent "season" of Canon Fodder at PAX East in Boston. This time, we shot it on video. Read the results. Watch them. Find out why Doom is no longer at the top of the list, and how in the world Dune II got in there.
This was our starter list, pulled from the top 10 best-reviewed games on GameRankings.com in early 2010.
Canon Fodder Starter List
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 2. Super Mario Galaxy 3. Grand Theft Auto IV 4. Super Mario World 5. Metroid Prime 6. SoulCalibur 7. The Orange Box 8. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 9. Super Metroid 10. Metal Gear Solid (Game Boy Color)
At PAX East 2010, 13 game developers each made a single change to that list.
Six months later, at PAX Prime 2010, 12 more game developers made their moves.
Heading into 2011, this was the list:
Canon Fodder Season 3 Premiere List
1. Doom 2. Super Mario 64 3. Dance Dance Revolution 4. Civilization 5. Tetris 6. Half-Life Counter-Strike 7. World of Warcraft 8. Mega Man 2 9. Street Fighter II 10. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
N'Gai and I took that list to 10 game developers and had them each make a move, one after the other. We presented those 10 moves at PAX East 2011, and then allowed three game creators to make moves live on stage. That lucky trio was Eitan Glinert, lead designer of PlayStation 3 downloadable game Slam Bolt Scrapper, Greg Kasavin, one of the main people behind summer downloadable game Bastion, and Tim Gerritsen, one of the top guys at Irrational Games, the studio toiling on BioShock Infinite.
Each game developer was allowed to either 1) remove a game, replacing it with something new or 2) swap the position of any two games on the list. Everyone was also required to explain their moves. You can hear all the explanations and the intense crowd reaction, in the four clips in this story.
First we did the "pre-recorded" moves...
Move 26: Donald Mustard (one of makers of Infinity Blade) removed Doom, added Super Metroid Move 27: Geremy Mustard (one of the makers of Infinity Blade) removed DDR, added The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past Move 28: Josh Bear (lead designer on Ms. Splosion Man) removed Super Metroid, added Super Mario World Move 29: Greg Zeschuk (co-founder of BioWare) removed GTA, added BioShock Move 30: Notch (he made Minecraft!) removed Tetris, added Dungeon Master 2 Move 31: Jakob Porser (he works with Notch on their next game) removed Super Mario 64, added Dune 2 Move 32: Christian Allen (making a mystery game at Warner Bros.) removed Mega Man 2, added Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Move 33: Antti Ilvessuo (from Trials HD studio Red Lynx) removed Civilization, added Master of Orion Move 34: Jamie Cheng (the main man behind Shank) swapped Master of Orion and Street Fighter II Move 35: Phil Harrison (a game creator before he was a honcho at PlayStation or Atari) removed Dune 2, added Tetris
Then we did the live moves...
Move 36: Greg Kasavin (Bastion) removed Dungeon Master 2 and added Ultima IV. Move 37: Tim Gerritsen (BioShock Infinite) removed Rainbow Six and added X-Com Move 38: Eitan Glinert (Slam Bolt Scrappers) removed World of Warcraft and added Rock Band.
Canon Fodder Season 3 Finale List
1. Super Mario World 2. Tetris 3. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past 4. Street Fighter II 5. Ultima IV 6. Half-Life Counter-Strike 7. Rock Band 8. X-Com 9. Master of Orion 10. BioShock
Watch The Full Canon Fodder Season 3
(Find out why each move was made, hear how the crowd reacted, listen to the pleas from the audience for changes on this list, and rejoice in all my great jokes — I'm the guy who you can't see all the way to the right of the table; clipped by the camera. This video was recorded at PAX East in Boston, on March 11. We went up against the PAX East keynote. Apologies for the imperfect shooting. This was our first attempt, but we did want you to be able to experience the debate.)
Season 3 video, part 1 of 4
Season 3 video, part 2 of 4
Season 3 video, part 3 of 4
Season 3 video, part 4 of 4
Thanks for watching. And thanks to all those at PAX East who attended. We'll be back in six months or so with Season 4. The list will keep changing. The debate will continue. But will Pac-Man ever get on this list? Unbelievable!