Something about 10/10s, Best and Favorite Games

*This post is something of a follow-up of another one I wrote several months ago on the subject of 10/10 games. That post was from when I still used a .5 rating system, but much of what I said then still applies, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.*

I have a weird interest in trying to guess the favorite games (and movies) of people I know based on how fondly and frequently they bring up certain games (and movies). I can tell you from experience that trying to list your own favorites isn’t always easy. As soon as you think you have it figured out, you remember a few others that creep in. This has sparked my aforementioned “weird interest,” as it seems like, based on what people praise the most regularly, that it may take someone else to acknowledge those works as a person’s favorites. Now, obviously this is no exact science (there is no exact science for favorites of anything). But I like to think that the inner indecisiveness can sometimes be filtered out when speaking to others, to some degree anyway (or, I could just be full of BS, which also seems likely).

Anyway, recently this got me talking to a couple of my friends about what our top 10 games are. One of my friends is a big Sonic fan, and naturally had multiple Sonic titles in his top 10: Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Colors and Sonic Mania. He also had his favorite Zelda game, Majora’s Mask, and a Phoenix Wright title included, as well as Tetris. My other friend’s list featured the likes of Super Mario World, Twilight Princess, Okami, Red Dead Redemption, and BloodBorne (that’s as far as I got with my guestimations on both their lists).

But then, we got around to talking about my favorites, and that brings us to this particular post. One of my friends guessed that Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 were on my list. I agreed that Super Mario World would have a spot, but I questioned that 64 would quite make it into my top 10, as I’d say the Super Mario Galaxy titles and Odyssey are better 3D platformers. But then I got to thinking, with how many times I’ve replayed Super Mario 64, and all the memories I have of it over the years, am I lying to myself by claiming it’s not among my top 10?

Naturally, this brought up the prospect of “favorites” versus “bests” when discussing one’s top 10 of anything. If I’m going by the warm and fuzzy memories, Super Mario 64 pretty much has to be in my top 10. And while it would still find a spot on my list somewhere, if we’re talking games I appreciate by their quality, 64 is bested by a number of titles.

Of course, with my OCD-riddled mind, making big deals about pretty much every thought that passes through my head just kind of happens. And in this case, it means this discussion lead me to thinking about how I score video games I review here on my site, primarily the big 10/10s.

As of this writing, I’ve awarded nine different games a perfect score: Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country 2, Super Mario RPG, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Dark Souls, Undertale, Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. I stand by my giving these games 10s on their own individual merits, but I also started to wonder if all of these games are necessarily my favorites. Like Super Mario 64, they all may rank somewhere on such a hypothetical list of mine, but I’m not sure if they’re all top 10 material.

For example, arguably the game I most regularly praise on this site is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which currently sits at a 9/10. Since it was originally released in 2014, I’ve beat it several times over (both in regular and hard mode) and can’t seem to praise it enough. To put it simply, it has as good of a chance at being in my personal top ten games as any game I’ve given a 10/10.

Point being, should that make it a 10/10? As I stated on my prior blog on this subject, one idea I’ve bounced around was to – at this point in time – award a total of ten 10s, to reflect my top 10 (as I stated in the past, I would of course add more 10s should one be released or I discover one from the past I missed out on. But the top 10 would set the precedent). Of course, if I were to go this route, I may have to alter some of my existing scores, if some of my current 10s don’t quite rank in my personal top 10 (should I actually manage to solidify it). I’m not a big fan of altering my scores (although I’ve done it in the past, but not with perfect scores), and again, I stand by my 10s in terms of their quality.

Of course you want to be objective when reviewing anything, but seeing as video games are a creative art form, should my personal taste have a little more influence than I’m giving it? Again, Tropical Freeze (along with Bloodborne, for that matter) is basically a 10 in my heart, so should I really deny it of that because it may not match up to what I’ve designated as a 10 in my head?

Basically, if my top 10 were to be ranked by personal sentiment/enjoyment, there’s no doubt that Super Mario 64, Banjo-Tooie, one of the Super Smash Bros. titles and Tropical Freeze would make my top ten. If I were to go by what I think are the best of the best, my top ten would simply include games I’d award a 10/10. And if I tried to find some middle ground, I could potentially place some 9s in with some 10s. A combination of quality and personal experience, meaning that Tropical Freeze could sneak its way in anyway, seeing as I see it as my ‘uncrowned 10’ (again, along with Bloodborne).

The weird thing is, I don’t feel this same indecisiveness with the films I’ve given 10/10. My perfect scored movies currently sit at only four: Inside Out, Frozen, My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away (yes, all animated so far). I would easily say all four of those films are among my favorites, so there’s no second guessing from me there. But when it comes to my game reviews, I’m pondering if my 10/10s consistently reflect my ‘favorites.’

Essentially, I guess the point of this entire post is to once again display my indecisiveness when trying to concoct my concrete list of favorite games. Perhaps I simply need someone else to point out what games I’ve leaned towards over time. The other point of this post is that it got me to thinking if I should re-evaluate my 10s. Again, I don’t like to change my scores – and on one hand, the idea of altering my 10s makes me cringe – as changing scores seems fickle, and risks devaluing my rating system. At the same time, I’m kind of intrigued at the idea of pulling a Thanos, snapping my fingers and altering the landscape of my 10s.

Now, I don’t want to appear pretentious, and be one of those people who thinks they need to have as minimal perfect scores as humanly possible just because. But at the same time, I don’t want to feel overly generous with my scoring, either. I mentioned how DKC: Tropical Freeze and Bloodborne are akin to my “uncrowned 10s,” and while I have thought about upping their scores to give them perfect grades, the idea that I can award some of my all-time favorites with 9s, I feel, makes my 9s mean something as well as my 10s. I also don’t want to be one of those critics who holds 10s on some pedestal, yet every other score seems interchangeable.

I remember the days when Edge Magazine was pretty conservative when dishing out perfect scores (they still are relative to other magazines, but you can still pretty much guess when they’ll award them these days). Or the (sadly) recently discontinued GamesTM Magazine, which also only awarded so many 10/10s. Again, I don’t want to be stingy for the sake of it, but when those publications give/gave 10s, it meant something (or, at the very least, it tried to). I’ve always kind of wanted to achieve something similar to that. And while I think I have succeeded to some extent, I have to wonder if my flip-flopping of my favorite games should alter my list of 10s.

Yikes, I’m really going off on another tangent, aren’t I? Basically, I guess my point is how difficult it really can be to categorize your favorites of anything in any “official” capacity. Although my taste has remained surprisingly consistent throughout my life, things do fluctuate. Who knows, this entire post may end up being entirely pointless and I won’t change a thing. I already hit a soft reboot when I swapped my ‘.5’ rating system for one consisting of whole numbers, so I’m not sure if tinkering with things at this point alters my site too much. Again, I don’t want my scores to end up feeling pointless and finicky. But at the same time, the benefit of running an independent site is that I can change things to reflect my changing tastes when necessary.

If any of my kind readers have any feedback for how I should approach things going forward, feel free to share.

Author: themancalledscott

Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining, the man called Scott is an ancient sorcerer from a long-forgotten realm. He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil. Or, you know, he could just be some guy who loves video games, animations and cinema who just wanted to write about such things.

6 thoughts on “Something about 10/10s, Best and Favorite Games”

  1. It is perfectly logical to award an imperfect game a rank on your list of favorites because just like our favorite people: these games may very well have serious flaws in their “personalities.” I happen to be a Metal Gear Solid fan with some degree of obsession and no matter how expertly some of the games in the series were executed, I still return time and time again to Metal Gear Rising: Revengence.
    Now, if you know that game: you’re well aware of its lack of story and completely unimaginative level design. It does succeed however, in delivering the MGS ninja experience I had been craving since I first saw Grey Fox winter the story of MGS1. There was a secret 3 missions at the end of one add-on game… but nothing compared to the hack and slash I desired. I wouldn’t give that game a ten out of ten but it remains to be one of my favorites.
    There are several (difficult to quantify) points that can be considered that don’t point to quality at all but do satisfy a potentially unrealized desire within the gamer themselves. I loved LoZ: Link’s Awakening but it doesn’t rank well amongst the robust experiences of other LoZ games. Link Between Worlds was INCREDIBLE 10/10 but I’ll most likely never pick it up again… does replay ability mean it’s my favorite? Not necessarily!
    So what brings you joy or nostalgia or wonder?
    It doesn’t have to be perfect…
    Because it is yours 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

      Yeah, it’s a difficult balancing act. I’m just always flip-flopping about what constitutes one of my favorites. The 10s I award tend to go to the best of the best, either by being a game that’s as close to perfect as possible (basically the Mario ones and DKC2 in my book), or have created some kind of monumental achievement (such as Breath of the Wild, Dark Souls or Undertale). But then, does that make my 10s inconsistent themselves?

      On one hand, I can understand differentiating favorites from bests (Tropical Freeze is an easy favorite, even if I gave it a 9/10 and there are games I’ve rated higher). But then that makes me wonder if the game’s I’ve awarded 10s to add up.

      When I first started this site in 2014, there were only two games released in this decade that I would have given a 10/10 (Galaxy 2 and one other I haven’t reviewed yet). BotW and Odyssey came along and I definitely feel those warranted 10s, and then I re-evaluated Undertale and Dark Souls and gave them top honors as well. But is that being too liberal with my 10s? It’s a constant conundrum…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very thoughtful post man! Although I can’t tell you one way or the other how you should award scores, I think a good rule of thumb is that a 10/10 should be one of your favorites. I think that’s what separates a 10/10 from a 9/10 or anything in-between. A game that’s 9/10 is excellent. A game that is 10/10 is excellent, but goes above and beyond in such a way over regular 9/10s that makes it one of your favorites. It’s a standout that you will always remember and possibly even go back to over and over. That score is reserved for the very best in your eyes. At least, that’s what I think with 10s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your input! Great to see another comment from you here again.

      I definitely see your point. But then, how many of my favorites constitute “my favorites?” Like I said, one idea I had was to make my top ten favorite games my 10/10s, and then if I play a game (new or old) that matches that level of quality, they can also join the 10s club.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think about the difference between a 10 and a favorite game a lot, and tonight I Googled ‘which games are 10s’ and found this post, so I’m commenting on a 4 year old post. You expressed a lot of my thoughts on the matter, and it’s good to know somebody in games journalism is thinking about this stuff because 10 vs. favorite is actually a really important distinction in my mind. Personally, I’ve resolved the cognitive dissonance between a 10 and an imperfect favorite by being a lot more generous with my 10s and making it about pure quality and leaving nostalgia out of it. A 10 for me is now a game that I wouldn’t change, or I have no idea how it could be better. Games like the Forza Horizon games, Bloodborne, Doom Eternal, Rayman Origins, Spiderman PS4, and Celeste. None of those are in my personal top 10. Super Mario 64 is a game that’s close to my heart too, but it’s not a 10 because there are better Mario games now, but it might be in my personal top 10.

    One thing you didn’t touch on is what seems like the unspoken agreement among a lot of games journalists that the only games that are deserving of 10s are the ones that push the medium forward. I think sometimes a game can be totally unoriginal but pull if off perfectly and be a 10. Again, I now think a game is a 10 if it doesn’t do anything really wrong. Spiderman PS4 was basically an Arkham game reskinned, but they did it perfectly. The open world, writing, performances, traversal and combat were all top notch. I just got the Platinum in that game and I don’t see myself ever revisiting it and it’s definitely not going into my personal top 10, but that was a fantastic, high quality game experience. I’d give it a 10. Mega Man 10 is one of my favorite games, and it was completely unoriginal. I might even give it a 10. It couldn’t be much better than it is.

    Film critics don’t have the same idea that only films that push the medium forward are worth 5/5 stars or two thumbs way up, and I don’t really know why. It’s obviously got something to do with the interactivity of games, but I also think it’s got something to do with film critics being more secure than game critics in their belief that their medium is a great medium. I think maybe a lot of games critics are insecure. Film critics don’t have a problem with Paddington 2 being one of the most well-reviewed films ever, but if Paddington 2 were a video game, games journalists would probably give it an 8 or 9, in my estimation.

    And sometimes 10s become 9s or 8s or 7s. Ocarina of Time is an example of a game that was a 10 because it pushed the medium forward massively in 1998. Now it might be the worst 3D Zelda.

    One thing that prevents a lot of modern games that I might consider 10s from being one of my favorites is their length and emphasis on story. I remember when I finished Red Dead Redemption a decade or so ago thinking that was probably the most extraordinary gaming experience I’d ever had, but I had no desire to play it again, and I still haven’t. After 30 or so hours of it, I was done with that world and had no desire to go back to it. I didn’t want to go through the whole story again, didn’t want to do all the video gamey busy work, and I didn’t even want to ride around and shoot people or tie random people to the railroad tracks. I was simply done with being in that world. It was a great experience and I was full, didn’t want any more.

    When considering what my favorite games are, it’s hard for me to go back to 2011 in my mind and remember what it was like to be a cowboy in Red Dead Redemption. Maybe if I could hold on to that feeling, that game might be in my top 10, but it’s nowhere near it, really. The games that are in my top 10 are the games that I’ve played the most. How could it be anything else? The games I’ve played the most happen to be gameplay-centric and don’t rely on story or world to keep me engaged. My top 10 is sketchy, but my top 3 is set in stone. It’s Ninja Gaiden Black, Bayonetta, and Mega Man 10. How can the 30 hours I spent in RDR compare to the thousands I’ve spent on those three games alone? But RDR was a special experience. I was enthralled, then after the credits rolled, I realized I didn’t want to ever touch the game again.

    I guess the moral of the story is the usual “it’s subjective,” but I commend you for even thinking about the difference between a 10 and an imperfect favorite, as most people conflate the two. It’s an important distinction, especially for someone writing about games.

    Liked by 1 person

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