20 years of Metacritic scores shows a steady decline in 90 and above titles

Brodie Fogg 11 January 2017 NEWS

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Metacritic's scores over time signal a decrease in critical favour.

Whether you love or hate Metacritic (or review scores in general), it's hard to deny that the aggregator gives us the best possible overview of a game's global reception. Metacritic's Metascore is based on thousands of published critic reviews and not just any old armchair critic can have their score counted. You need to prove you consistently publish quality reviews before Metacritic will consider your opinion of value.

What surprises me about this graph is 2015, the year with the least titles with scores of 90 or above. This was a year that featured one of the most fleshed out video game universes ever created with The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, the same year that brought us the ground-breaking open-world stealth of Metal Gear Solid V. Yes, 2015. You know it well from the addictive madness of Rocket League and possibly the most beloved indie of all time, Undertale. It breaks my little heart to see 2015 perform so poorly in the eyes of the critics.

Make what you will of the obvious downwards trend in critical favour. Maybe critics are becoming more scrupulous in their scrutiny; maybe there's been a collective shift in what makes a game near-perfect; maybe the games being released really aren't cutting it. I'd argue for the former. 2001 was the year the PS2 and Gamecube blossomed with now-classic titles like Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Super Smash Bros. Melee. The Xbox introduced us to Halo, a game that would forever revolutionise the first-person shooter genre, while open-world games would never be the same after Rockstar dropped GTA III.

With that console generation now fully formed, 2001 introduced us to countless graphical marvels and never-seen-before gameplay mechanics. That still happens today. The jump is just not as blindingly obvious.

In 2016, game engine tweaks and leaps in physics, sound and gameplay don't go unnoticed, but they're not the sum of what makes a good game. These days, a game can have visual fidelity so clean you could eat off it, but it won't mean squat unless you've got an engrossing narrative or innovative gameplay mechanic to back it up.

Take a look at the Call of Duty series. Year on year, we get a new entry to the series. The latest CoD looked especially stunning and held on to the tight gunplay the franchise has become known for, but despite attempts to capture the magic of space combat games like Star Wars: TIE Fighter, its gameplay failed to push the needle in any significant way and the story was reduced to a tropey military tale with a nebulous backdrop.

Call of Duty cops a lot of flack for this but it's not the only franchise clinging to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra. With the exception of 2016's entry, the infinitely popular Pokémon series has lasted over 20 years without dramatically changing its core mechanics and has only just changed a few issues (like HMs) that gamers have had since day dot. Pokémon is one of Nintendo's biggest franchise and it's yet to have a title land in Metacritic's 90+ club. But hey, who needs top-shelf reviews when you're raking in over $2 billion a year?

To be fair to Nintendo, it has had a steady run over the last 20 years. 2016 was the first year since 1996 that Nintendo didn't have a title in Metacritic's 90+ club. Which is kind of telling considering the dire state of its neglected flagship console since the announcement of its successor, the Nintendo Switch. With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and a mystery Mario title around the corner, it's likely we'll see the beloved entertainment company back on top in 2017, but it's still sad to see it slip off the radar. All up Nintendo has had 75 entries in the 90+ club, with an average of 3.6 titles per year.

As for Nintendo's rivals, Sony has maintained the highest amount of entries in the 90+ club with 156 total entries in the 90+ club and an average of 7.4 entries per year. PC comes in second with 104 titles with 90 or above and an average of 4.9 titles per year. Third is Xbox with 90 games total and an average of 4.3 titles per year. For good measure, we also threw in the Sega Dreamcast, which had a strong (though shortlived) couple of years with 1 90+ title in 1999, an impressive 9 in 2000 and another 4 in 2001 before the console totally fizzled out.

What 2017 holds is anyone's guess. Could we turn this ship around with Arkane's take on Prey? Or will Mass Effect be rubbing shoulder with the 90+ club once again when Andromeda launches this March? It's even possible that Resident Evil 7 will claw its way back in (an honour the series hasn't received since the very the excellent Resident Evil 4) if our hands-on preview is a good indication of what's to come.

If 2017's lineup of exclusives is anything to go by, Xbox's 2017 is looking drab compared to Sony and we won't find out any more about the Nintendo Switch lineup until its global reveal this month.

Whatever's in store, it's bound to be nothing short of amazing, regardless of the review scores.

Complete list of 90+ club games

Score Title User score Year
93 Uncharted 4: A Thief's End 7.9 2016
92 INSIDE 7.9 2016
92 Out of the Park Baseball 17 3.5 2016
91 Overwatch 6.8 2016
91 Forza Horizon 3 7.4 2016
90 Stephen's Sausage Roll 5.6 2016
90 NBA 2K17 5.9 2016
90 Kentucky Route Zero - Act IV 6.3 2016
95 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain 7.2 2015
93 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt 9.3 2015
92 Bloodborne 8.6 2015
92 Undertale 7.9 2015
90 Tales From The Borderlands: Episode 5 - The Vault of the Traveler 8.2 2015
92 Super Smash Bros. for Wii U 8.5 2014
91 Dark Souls II 7.9 2014
91 Bayonetta 2 8.2 2014
91 Kentucky Route Zero - Act III 6.6 2014
90 Velocity 2X 7.2 2014
90 Shovel Knight 8.2 2014
90 Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition 7.5 2014
97 Grand Theft Auto V 8.2 2013
95 The Last of Us 9.1 2013
94 BioShock Infinite 8.5 2013
93 Super Mario 3D World 9 2013
92 Fire Emblem: Awakening 9.1 2013
92 Rayman Legends 8.7 2013
91 Fez 6.5 2013
91 The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 8.9 2013
90 Spelunky 7.2 2013
90 Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons 8.5 2013
90 Dota 2 6.2 2013
93 Mass Effect 3 5.8 2012
92 The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series 8.5 2012
92 Journey 8.8 2012
92 Xenoblade Chronicles 8.9 2012
91 Dishonored 8.4 2012
91 Borderlands 2 8.2 2012
91 Mark of the Ninja 8 2012
91 Far Cry 3 8.6 2012
90 Trials Evolution 8 2012
90 XCOM: Enemy Unknown 8.3 2012
90 Guild Wars 2 7.9 2012
90 FIFA 13 6.1 2012
90 NBA 2K13 8 2012
96 Batman: Arkham City 8.6 2011
96 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 8.4 2011
95 Portal 2 8.8 2011
93 The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword 8 2011
92 Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception 8.3 2011
92 Rayman Origins 8.3 2011
91 Forza Motorsport 4 8.2 2011
91 Gears of War 3 7.8 2011
90 NBA 2K12 6.2 2011
90 FIFA 12 7.2 2011
90 MLB 11: The Show 7.8 2011
90 Dead Space 2 8.6 2011
90 Super Mario 3D Land 8.4 2011
90 Deus Ex: Human Revolution 8.5 2011
90 Pushmo 8.5 2011
90 Total War: Shogun 2 8.3 2011
97 Super Mario Galaxy 2 9.1 2010
94 Mass Effect 2 8.9 2010
95 Red Dead Redemption 8.8 2010
93 Pac-Man Championship Edition DX 8.2 2010
93 Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty 8.2 2010
93 Rock Band 3 8.2 2010
92 God of War III 8.7 2010
92 Super Street Fighter IV 7.7 2010
91 MLB 10: The Show 8.3 2010
91 Halo: Reach 7.9 2010
90 World of Warcraft: Cataclysm 5.6 2010
90 Bayonetta 8 2010
90 Braid 8.6 2010
90 LIMBO 8.4 2010
90 Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood 8.2 2010
90 Super Meat Boy 8 2010
90 Sid Meier's Civilization V 7.9 2010
96 Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 8.8 2009
94 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 6.3 2009
94 Street Fighter IV 7.3 2009
93 Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars 8.3 2009
93 Minecraft 7.4 2009
93 Braid 7.8 2009
93 Flipnote Studio 8.5 2009
92 Forza Motorsport 3 8 2009
92 Batman: Arkham Asylum 8.7 2009
91 FIFA Soccer 10 7.5 2009
91 Assassin's Creed II 8.6 2009
91 Peggle 7.3 2009
91 Batman: Arkham Asylum 8.7 2009
91 God of War Collection 8.7 2009
91 Killzone 2 8.1 2009
91 Dragon Age: Origins 8.6 2009
90 Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story 8.7 2009
90 Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned 8 2009
90 MLB 09: The Show 8.1 2009
90 Empire: Total War 6.9 2009
98 Grand Theft Auto IV 7.5 2008
95 LittleBigPlanet 6.8 2008
94 World of Goo 8.8 2008
94 BioShock 8.7 2008
94 Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots 8.7 2008
93 Super Smash Bros. Brawl 8.9 2008
93 Braid 8.5 2008
93 Fallout 3 8.5 2008
93 Gears of War 2 7.7 2008
92 Rock Band 2 7.7 2008
92 Team Fortress 2 9.1 2008
92 Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor 8.4 2008
91 World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King 7.5 2008
91 God of War: Chains of Olympus 8.6 2008
90 Portal 9.3 2008
90 Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 8.9 2008
90 Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 8.2 2008
97 Super Mario Galaxy 8.9 2007
96 BioShock 8.9 2007
94 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 8.4 2007
94 Halo 3 7.8 2007
93 God of War II 8.9 2007
92 Rock Band 8.2 2007
92 Final Fantasy VI Advance 8.4 2007
91 Crysis 8 2007
91 World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade 7.9 2007
91 Galactic Civilizations II: Dark Avatar 8.7 2007
91 Mass Effect 8.7 2007
90 The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass 8 2007
90 Half-Life 2: Episode Two 9.2 2007
90 Metroid Prime 3: Corruption 8.9 2007
90 Forza Motorsport 2 8.3 2007
95 The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess 9 2006
94 Gears of War 8.3 2006
94 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 8.7 2006
93 Company of Heroes 8.8 2006
93 Okami 9.3 2006
92 Final Fantasy XII 7.6 2006
92 Guitar Hero II 8.5 2006
90 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 8 2006
90 GTR 2 8.7 2006
96 Resident Evil 4 8.9 2005
94 Ninja Gaiden Black 8.7 2005
94 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory 9 2005
94 God of War 8.9 2005
94 Sid Meier's Civilization IV 8.3 2005
92 Forza Motorsport 7.6 2005
91 Guitar Hero 8.7 2005
91 Shadow of the Colossus 9.1 2005
91 Battlefield 2 8.4 2005
91 World Soccer Winning Eleven 8 International 9.1 2005
91 Mario Kart DS 8.6 2005
90 Advance Wars: Dual Strike 9 2005
90 Burnout Revenge 8.8 2005
90 Silent Hunter III 7.9 2005
90 Falcon 4.0: Allied Force 8.6 2005
96 Half-Life 2 9.1 2004
95 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 9 2004
95 Halo 2 8.2 2004
94 Burnout 3: Takedown 7.2 2004
93 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow 8.6 2004
93 Unreal Tournament 2004 8.9 2004
93 World of Warcraft 7.3 2004
93 World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 International 9 2004
92 ESPN NFL 2K5 9.1 2004
92 Rome: Total War 9.1 2004
92 Metroid Prime 2: Echoes 8.8 2004
91 Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal 9.4 2004
91 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 9.3 2004
91 Ninja Gaiden 8.8 2004
91 Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005 4.5 2004
91 Madden NFL 2005 7.9 2004
90 The Sims 2 8.8 2004
90 MVP Baseball 2004 8.6 2004
90 The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay - Developer's Cut 8.7 2004
90 Pikmin 2 9.1 2004
96 The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker 8.9 2003
94 Madden NFL 2004 8.5 2003
94 NCAA Football 2004 8.8 2003
94 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 9.2 2003
93 SSX 3 9.1 2003
93 SoulCalibur II 9.1 2003
93 World Soccer Winning Eleven 6 International 9.1 2003
93 Viewtiful Joe 8.3 2003
93 Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution 9 2003
92 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time 7.8 2003
92 SoulCalibur II 8.9 2003
91 ESPN NFL Football 8.5 2003
91 F1 Challenge '99-'02 8.2 2003
91 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 8.5 2003
91 Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 9.1 2003
91 Call of Duty 8.5 2003
90 Project Gotham Racing 2 8.8 2003
90 Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga 9.3 2003
90 Tony Hawk's Underground 8.7 2003
90 Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando 9.1 2003
90 NBA Street Vol. 2 8.8 2003
90 Panzer Dragoon Orta 8.5 2003
90 ESPN NHL Hockey 7 2003
97 Metroid Prime 9.3 2002
95 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 8.7 2002
95 Madden NFL 2003 7.7 2002
94 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 8.5 2002
94 Virtua Fighter 4 8 2002
93 Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 8.5 2002
93 Grand Theft Auto III 8.4 2002
93 NFL 2K3 7.4 2002
92 Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem 8.7 2002
92 Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos 9.1 2002
92 Super Mario Sunshine 8.6 2002
92 Metroid Fusion 9.1 2002
92 Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 5.6 2002
91 Medal of Honor: Allied Assault 8.6 2002
91 NCAA Football 2003 8.6 2002
91 Neverwinter Nights 8.2 2002
91 No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.'s Way 8.7 2002
90 NBA 2K2 8 2002
90 TimeSplitters 2 8.8 2002
90 Freedom Force 8.1 2002
97 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 7.5 2001
97 Grand Theft Auto III 8.5 2001
97 Halo: Combat Evolved 8.6 2001
96 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty 8.7 2001
95 Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec 8.4 2001
94 Devil May Cry 8.5 2001
94 Madden NFL 2002 7.9 2001
93 Mario Kart Super Circuit 8.3 2001
93 Paper Mario 9.2 2001
93 NBA 2K2 7.7 2001
92 SSX Tricky 8.9 2001
92 NHL 2002 8.5 2001
92 Advance Wars 9 2001
92 Super Smash Bros. Melee 9.1 2001
92 Final Fantasy X 8.7 2001
92 Conker's Bad Fur Day 9.2 2001
91 Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil 9.1 2001
91 IL-2 Sturmovik 8.8 2001
91 Twisted Metal: Black 8.4 2001
91 Golden Sun 9.3 2001
91 Castlevania: Circle of the Moon 8.5 2001
90 ICO 8.8 2001
90 Tennis 2K2 8 2001
90 Black & White 7.7 2001
90 Dance Dance Revolution 8.8 2001
90 Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy 8.7 2001
90 Star Wars Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II 8.6 2001
90 NCAA Football 2002 8.7 2001
90 Unreal Tournament 8.6 2001
90 Sid Meier's Civilization III 8.4 2001
90 NFL 2K2 8 2001
90 Flight Simulator 2002 8.4 2001
98 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 7.7 2000
97 Perfect Dark 8.9 2000
97 NFL 2K1 6 2000
95 Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn 9.2 2000
95 The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 9.2 2000
94 Final Fantasy IX 8.9 2000
94 Chrono Cross 8.1 2000
94 Jet Grind Radio 8.1 2000
93 SSX 8.3 2000
93 Skies of Arcadia 9.4 2000
94 Test Drive Le Mans 7.9 2000
93 NBA 2K1 7.3 2000
92 The Sims 7.9 2000
92 Vagrant Story 8.3 2000
91 Madden NFL 2001 7.7 2000
91 Mario Tennis 8.9 2000
91 Spyro: Year of the Dragon 8.8 2000
91 DOA2: Hardcore 8.1 2000
91 The Longest Journey 8.9 2000
91 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 8.5 2000
91 The Operative: No One Lives Forever 9 2000
90 Marvel vs. Capcom 2 9.1 2000
90 NHL 2001 6.8 2000
90 Deus Ex 9.3 2000
90 WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role 8.5 2000
90 Grandia II 8.8 2000
90 Banjo-Tooie 8.9 2000
90 Colin McRae Rally 2.0 8.7 2000
98 SoulCalibur 8.8 1999
93 Gran Turismo 2 9 1999
93 Street Fighter Alpha 3 8.5 1999
93 Homeworld 9 1999
92 System Shock 2 9.1 1999
92 Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 9.2 1999
92 Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings 9 1999
92 Unreal Tournament (1999) 9.1 1999
92 Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri 9.1 1999
92 Medal of Honor 8.6 1999
91 FreeSpace 2 8.9 1999
91 Planescape: Torment 9.2 1999
91 Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 9 1999
91 Mario Golf 7.9 1999
90 Rayman 2: The Great Escape 9 1999
90 Ape Escape 8.8 1999
90 Syphon Filter 8.7 1999
90 Donkey Kong 64 8.6 1999
90 Final Fantasy VIII 8.6 1999
90 Beetle Adventure Racing 7.6 1999
99 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 9.1 1998
96 Tekken 3 9.1 1998
96 Half-Life 9.1 1998
96 Gran Turismo 8.8 1998
94 Metal Gear Solid 9.4 1998
94 Grim Fandango 9.1 1998
92 Banjo-Kazooie 9.2 1998
92 Thief: The Dark Project 9.1 1998
91 Baldur's Gate 9 1998
91 Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped 8.9 1998
96 GoldenEye 007 9.2 1997
93 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 9.4 1997
92 Sid Meier's Gettysburg! 7.6 1997
92 Final Fantasy VII 9.2 1997
92 PaRappa the Rapper 7.4 1997
91 Myth: The Fallen Lords 8.8 1997
91 Colony Wars 7.8 1997
91 Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II 8.6 1997
90 Blast Corps 8.7 1997
94 Civilization II 9 1996
94 Quake 8.8 1996
94 Diablo 8.7 1996
94 Super Mario 64 9.2 1996
93 Wipeout XL 8.7 1996
92 Wave Race 64 8.1 1996
91 Tomb Raider 8.6 1996
91 Resident Evil 9 1996
90 Command & Conquer: Red Alert 8.8 1996
92 Wave Race 64 8.1 1996
91 Tomb Raider 8.6 1996
91 Resident Evil 9 1996
90 Command & Conquer: Red Alert 8.8 1996

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