End Of An Era: By The Numbers

by Matt Helgeson on Aug 02, 2014 at 06:00 AM

After spending the last month publishing our best-of lists of the last generation, we decided to break down the numbers and see which of the past nine years were the best for gamers, which console had the most exclusive titles appear on our lists, and which publishers delivered the largest amount of great games. Here are our findings.

The Rise and Fall

To gather this data, we created a spreadsheet document with all the games, systems, and years for every game that made one of our overall console best-of lists and the various genre best-of lists (like Best Shooters of the Generation, etc.).

We sorted by year to look at how the best games of this generation were dispersed throughout the years. A couple of things to note: One, obviously 2014 is not over yet, and there could be more games added during the busy holiday season. Two, some games were released for Wii but are not counted on our best-of lists. For example, sports titles that were released for Wii but were not comparable in terms of graphics, features, and online play with the PS3 and Xbox 360 version are excluded for being inferior products.

As you can see by the graph above, the numbers tell a familiar tale – that of a console generation's rise and fall. As you might expect, the generation started out slow, then gathered steam through the middle years, gradually petering out as publishers and developers started planning for new consoles. As it turns out, 2008 through 2010 were the salad days filled with amazing titles like BioShock, Left 4 Dead, Borderlands, and Red Dead Redemption. Below is the complete list of games that made our End of an Era best-of lists, sorted by year. It's a nice walk down memory lane.

2006: Four Games 

Burnout Revenge - Xbox 360
Rainbow Six Vegas - PS3, Xbox 360
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess - Wii
Wii Sports - Wii

2007: Nine Games

All Pro Football 2K8 - PS3, Xbox 360
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - PS3, Xbox 360
College Hoops 2K8 - PS3, Xbox 360
Halo 3 - Xbox 360
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Wii
Portal - PS3, Xbox 360
Super Mario Galaxy - Wii
Super Paper Mario - Wii
Zack & Wiki: Quest For Barbaros' Treasure - Wii

2008: 14 Games

BioShock - PS3, Xbox 360
Burnout Paradise - PS3, Xbox 360
Dead Space - PS3, Xbox 360
Fallout 3 - PS3, Xbox 360
Gears of War 2 - Xbox 360
Grid - PS3, Xbox 360
Left 4 Dead - Xbox 360
Mario Kart Wii - Wii
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots - PS3
NHL 09 - PS3, Xbox 360
Rock Band 2 - PS3, Xbox 360
Super Smash Bros. Brawl - Wii
Valkyria Chronicles - PS3
World of Goo - Wii

2009: 13 Games

A Boy and His Blob - Wii
Batman: Arkham Asylum - PS3, Xbox 360
Boom Blox Bash Party - Wii
Borderlands - PS3, Xbox 360
Braid - PS3, Xbox 360
Dragon Age: Origins - PS3, Xbox 360
Excitebots - Wii
House of the Dead: Overkill - Wii
Little King's Story - Wii
MadWorld - Wii
New Super Mario Bros. Wii - Wii
Punch-Out!! - Wii
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - PS3

2010: 14 Games

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - PS3, Xbox 360
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 - PS3, Xbox 360
Cave Story - Wii
Donkey Kong Country Returns - Wii
Final Fantasy XIII - PS3, Xbox 360
God of War III - PS3
Gran Turismo 5 - PS3
Kirby's Epic Yarn - Wii
NBA 2K11- PS3, Xbox 360
NCAA Football 11 - PS3, Xbox 360
Red Dead Redemption - PS3, Xbox 360
Sin & Punishment: Star Successor - Wii
Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Wii
Super Meat Boy - Xbox 360

2011: 11 Games

Bulletstorm - PS3, Xbox 360
Dirt 3 - PS3, Xbox 360
Fight Night Champion - PS3, Xbox 360
Forza Motorsport 4 - Xbox 360
LittleBigPlanet 2 - PS3
Mass Effect 2 - PS3, Xbox 360
MLB 11: The Show - PS3
Test Drive Unlimited 2 - PS3, Xbox 360
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - PS3, Xbox 360
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Wii
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters - PS3, Xbox 360

2012: 10 Games

Dishonored - PS3, Xbox 360
Far Cry 3 - PS3, Xbox 360
Journey - PS3
Madden NFL 13 - PS3, Xbox 360
Rhythm Heaven Fever - Wii
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed - PS3, Xbox 360
The Walking Dead: Season 1 - PS3, Xbox 360
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition - Xbox 360
XCOM: Enemy Unknown - PS3, Xbox 360
Xenoblade Chronicles - Wii

2013: 6 Games

Diablo III - PS3, Xbox 360
FIFA 14 - PS3, Xbox 360
Grand Theft Auto V - PS3, Xbox 360
Need for Speed: Rivals - PS3, Xbox 360
The Last of Us - PS3
Tomb Raider - PS3, Xbox 360

2014: 1 Game

Dark Souls II - PS3, Xbox 360

>>>>Next Page: Console Exclusives, Peak Years, Breakdown By Publishers

The Exclusives

Systems are often defined by their big exclusive games - franchises like Mario, Halo, and God of War traditionally serve as mascots for their respective makers. We wanted to see which system had the most exclusives on our lists, and at first blush, the results were surprising. As you can see by the graph above, Nintendo outpaced Sony and Microsoft by a drastic margin, with a whopping 25 exclusive-to-Wii games on our list. This is a testament to the company's highly internal development studios.

However, it's worth noting that the Wii had very little – especially later in the generation – third-party support. Therefore, when we compiled our best of Wii list, it was much more heavily weighted with Nintendo-developed games. That said, there's no question that its studios made more and better exclusives than either Sony or Microsoft, and this chart reflects that fact.

The High Point

Finally, we counted each system's representation by year (including multi-platform games that released for both PS3 and Xbox 360), to see when each system "peaked." Again, the numbers seem to bear out the generation arc of the generation. Xbox, the first of the consoles to be released, peaks the earliest. Wii, which was next and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, has its best year in 2009. Finally, the PlayStation 3, which started slow due to being crippled by a $599 price point and uneven online services, eventually gathers steam and doesn't have its best year until 2011.

Best Year by System (including multi-platform games)

Xbox 360 - 9 - 2008
Wii - 8 - 2009
PS3 - 9 - 2011


Which Publishers Ruled The Generation?

When you sort our best games of the generation list by publishers, you get some interesting results. Given that the company posted by far the most exclusives on our list, it's no surprise that Nintendo is also the reigning publisher, with 18 Nintendo-published games on our list.

Gamers who generally have a lot of animus toward Electronic Arts might be surprised to see that company is hot on the heels of Nintendo, with 15 games on our lists. After Take-Two (nine games) and Sony (seven games), it peters out to a handful per publisher. Nine publishers had only one game on the list.

Again, it's important to note couple of things. EA and Take Two's totals are boosted by our list of best sports games – a market sector that is essentially a two-horse race. That said, quality games are quality games and both companies have made some great sports games. Secondly, we only had one game per franchise on our top 25 console lists. That means if Grand Theft Auto V made the list then Grand Theft Auto IV was ineligble. If sequels had been included, companies who produce high quality sequels like Activision, EA, Bethesda, and Ubisoft would have likely had higher totals.

All data was culled from our End of an Era best games lists, which you can read here.