Decades-spanning list goes all the way back to classics from the 8-bit era.

Video games have a special place in Japan’s heart. Not everyone in the country is a hard-core gamer themselves, but they’re widely seen as an emanator of Japanese artistry to the world, and the large number of influential made-in-Japan video game companies and titles that shaped modern gaming are a point of pride for the nation. Plus, they’re just really, really fun.

So broadcaster TV Asahi wanted to know, what does Japan think are the greatest games of all time? To find out, they collected votes from over 50,000 respondents, then revealed the results as part of a multi-hour TV special last Sunday titled Video Game General Election.

Let’s take a look at the top 100 results.

100. Persona 3
99. Pokémon Platinum
98. Persona 4
97. Super Mario World
96. Romance of the Three Kingdoms
95. Mother
94. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
93. Persona 5 The Royal
92. Monster Hunter Ultimate
91. Street Fighter II
90. Final Fantasy VIII

Right off the bat, we see appearances by several landmark series, including the original Famicom/SNES Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Mother, best known to gamers outside Japan as the precursor to Earthbound (which was titled Mother 2 in the Japanese market). Also worth note is Street Fighter II at number 91, which is the one and only one-on-one fighting game on the list.

89. Super Mario Galaxy 2
88. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
87. Monster Hunter XX
86. Monster Hunter
85. Dragon Quest VI
84. Final Fantasy XI
83. Dragon Quest VII
82. Legend of Mana
81. Dragon Quest Builders 2
80. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

This won’t be the last we see of Dragon Quest, as nine of the 11 mainline titles in Japan’s console RPG first love are represented in the top 100.

79. Metal Gear Solid
78. Nobunaga’s Ambition
77. Mario Kart Wii
76. Kirby Air Ride
75. Animal Crossing: Wild World
74. Super Smash Bros. Brawl
73. Gran Turismo 4
72. Kirby Super Star
71. Doctor Mario
70. Monster Hunter World

Director Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid checks in for the first of the franchise’s two entries on the list, and speaking of famous creators, the soundtrack for the NES Nobunaga’s Ambition was the major debut work of Yoko Kanno, composer for Cowboy Bebop and a host of other aurally awesome anime. This group is also where fan favorite of the series Gran Turismo 4 ends up.

69. Super Mario RPG
68. Pokémon X and Y
67. Bloodborne
66. Ghost of Tsushima
65. Suikoden
64. Pokémon Hard Gold and Soul Silver
63. Final Fantasy III
62. Xevious
61. Super Smash Bros.
60. Pokémon Black 2 and White 2

There obviously a lot of nostalgia at play in how people voted, but the presence of relatively recent PlayStation exclusives Bloodborne and Ghost of Tsushima (the first non-Japanese-developed game on the list) show there’s room in the rankings for modern classics too.

59. Dead by Daylight
58. Animal Crossing
57. Donkey Kong Country
56. Super Mario Galaxy
55. Yo-kai Watch 2
54. Dragon Quest VIII
53. Tales of the Abyss
52. The Legend of Zelda
51. Final Fantasy IV
50. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire

The original Legend of Zelda narrowly misses out on cracking the top 50, but still winds up in a place of honor here along with the 2001 start of the Animal Crossing franchise and Final Fantasy IV, which was actually the second game in the series that developer Square offered to international audiences.

49. Kingdom Hearts
48. Nier: Automata
47. Final Fantasy XIV
46. Dragon Quest II
45. Kirby’s Return to Dream Land
44. Dragon Quest X
43. Xenoblade Chronicles
42. Persona 5
41. Momotaro Dentetsu Showa, Heisei, Reiwa Mo Teiban
40. Xenogears

Speaking of Final Fantasy. here’s where we see comeback king Final Fantasy XIV, which is enjoying such a surge in popularity that new accounts for the MMORPG had to be temporarily suspended this month to ease overcrowding. It’s accompanied by the original Kingdom Hearts, which respectively proved that mixing Disney and Final Fantasy characters could make for an awesome combination, and Nier: Automata, which did the same for the equally implausible idea that turning a game’s end credits into a final boss fight can also be emotionally powerful enough to move players to tears.

39. Dark Souls 3
38. Puyo Puyo
37. Final Fantasy IX
36. Pokémon Gold and Silver
35. Xenoblade Chronicles 2
34. Final Fantasy V
33. Final Fantasy VI
32. Resident Evil
31. Tactics Ogre
30. Apex Legends

Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi’s personal favorite installment Final Fantasy, IX, arrives, as does VI, the high-water mark of its 16-bit era. And for anyone who felt like Final Fantasy Tactics was a pretty but watered-down version of the merciless-in-both-gameplay-and-story Tactics Ogre, you’ll be happy to see that Tactics Ogre is the one that made the list.

29. Okami
28. Earthbound
27. Dragon Quest XI
26. Pokémon Black and White
25. Tetris
24. Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue
23. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
22. Animal Crossing: New Leaf
21. Splatoon
20. Minecraft

This block starts off with two games, Okami and Earthbound, that may not have been huge sales successes, but nonetheless ooze personal charm. On the other hand, Tetris and Minecraft show that even games with very humble beginning can go on to win the hearts of fans all over the world.

19. Suikoden II
18. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
17. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
16. Kingdom Hearts II
15. Dragon Quest IV
14. Pokémon Sword and Shield
13. Undertale
12. Super Mario Kart
11. Pokémon Diamon and Pearl

Now we come to the highest-ranked installments of long-running series Suikoden, Metal Gear, Kingdom Hearts, Pokémon, and Mario Kart. Surprisingly, despite the Switch’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe being the franchise’s biggest seller of all time and still one of the most popular games for Nintendo’s current console, it’s the original SNES Super Mario Kart that voters had the strongest fondness for.

10. Super Mario Bros. 3
9. Final Fantasy X
8. Chrono Trigger
7. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
6. Dragon Quest III
5. Splatoon 2
4. Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Speaking of old school loyalty, it’s Super Mario Bros. 3 that represents the franchise’s highest point on the list. It’s a different story with Animal Crossing: New Horizons, though, as its release during the early phase of the pandemic gave people a way to connect with others and vicariously travel while living the stay-home lifestyle and has propelled the series to previously unimagined levels of popularity (and its star fragments to real-life and edible status).

3. Final Fantasy VII
2. Dragon Quest V

Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are Japan’s clear favorites in the RPG genre, and within those series, it’s these two that really resonated with voters. Final Fantasy VII’s focus on story and characters in an RPG that also boasted such deep and polished gameplay was unprecedented at the time of its release, and so captured fans’ imaginations that decades later they still want more. As for Dragon Quest V, fans in Japan have a pillowy soft spot for it thanks in no small part to its play mechanic that gives you the option of two characters for the hero to marry part-way through the game, and “Did you choose Bianca or Nera?” is a common litmus test for Japanese DQ fans to start off with when discussing the game

And finally, at the top of the list is…

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo took some very big risks with the most recent chapter in the Zelda franchise. Rather than waiting for the Switch to build up an established user base, Nintendo released it on launch day for the Switch. The bigger gamble, though, was in committing completely to the open-world design philosophy. Sure, even the original Zelda allowed for a certain amount of non-linearity, but Breath of the Wild took things to the absolute limit, basically letting you make a beeline for the final boss as soon as you’re out of the tutorial area, or spend a hundred hours wandering and exploring without ever clearing a single main quest objective, if that’s what you’d prefer to do.

Taking Breath of the Wild’s gameplay entirely off rails could have catastrophically derailed the title, but ultimately that liberating sense of freedom allowed fans to find exactly what they were looking for on their own terms, and from that perspective, it’s understandable that it was the winner of the Video Game General Election.

Wrapping things up, it’s worth noting that the results don’t mention how TV Asahi found the survey’s participants, and the lack of any Mega Drive/Genesis or Neo Geo titles (or, even more eyebrow-raising, the absence of any games from the Valkyrie Profile series) suggest it wasn’t hardcore gamers exclusively who voted. Still, it’s hard to deny that this is a list full of incredible games that are definitely worth a play.

Source: Twitter/@sousenkyo6 via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where yes, he does hate Breath of the Wild’s eggshell-fragile weapon durability system.