One director dominates the top 10, which looks very different from the casual poll, except in one way.

As 2021 wound down, Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi announced the results of its Video Game General Election, a poll to pick Japan’s favorite video game of all time. But while the top 100 list was full of games that were both popular and commercial successes, many online commenters wondered if the rankings were compiled from votes not from the general public, as TV Asahi’s ostensibly were, and instead exclusively from hardcore gamers.

So Japanese video game website Game Spark decided to hold its own survey, called the Hardcore Gamer General Election, asking respondents to vote for their “favorite game.” The criteria to qualify as a “hardcore gamer” doesn’t appear to have been anything beyond having heard about the survey and participating, but it stands to reason that votes collected from people who self-identify as hardcore gamers and visit a dedicated gaming site should make for less input from “casual” gamers.

In total, 2,836 votes were cast in the Hardcore election, representing a whopping 887 different titles, and some of the higher-ranking games are indeed ones that the average non-hardcore gamer likely hasn’t heard of or doesn’t remember. Valkyrie Profile and Grandia for example, both members of the “way-more-people-need-to-play-this” club, tied at number 29, and Live A Live finished at 25, Tactics Ogre at 23, Armored Core 4 Answer at 17, and Tengai Makyo II at 16.

▼ Though personally, I still think 29 is too low for Valkyrie Profile.

However, the Hardcore Gamer General Election is still a “one person, one vote” deal, meaning that the highest ranks still represent games that a lot of people know about and played. That said, there are some pretty significant differences from the non-hardcore survey, so let’s take a look at the Hardcore election’s top 10.

10. Ghost of Tsushima (ranked 66 in Video Game General Election)
9. Fallout 3
8. Dark Souls
7. Dark Souls III (39 in Video Game General Election)
6. Final Fantasy XIV (47 in Video Game General Election)

▼ A small sampling of the many things that can (and will) kill you in Dark Souls III

We start off with a pair of non-Japanese-made open-world titles, the first and last entries in the Dark Souls trilogy, and the phenomenally popular Final Fantasy XIV, the highest-rated member of the long-running franchise. All five ended up in much higher spots in the Hardcore Gamer General Election than the Video Game General Election (where Fallout 3 and Dark Souls failed to crack the top 100). This is a group of big games, with lots of content such as multiple endings, optional questlines, and complex, even hidden, play mechanics, which explains why they resonated more strongly with hardcore gamers.

5. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
4. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

▼ It’s an unfair oversimplification to call it “Dark Souls in feudal Japan,” but here is a small sampling of the many things that can (and will) kill you in Sekiro.

All three of these titles, despite their critical acclaim, were completely absent from the Video Game General Election’s top 100 list. Witcher 3 and Skyrim are once again massive, non-linear games that shine brightest once you really get a sense of their gigantic scale, but Sekiro is the shortest, most straightforward of Hardcore Gamer General Election’s top 10 so far. That said, it still has a wealth of play mechanics to experiment with and secrets to uncover, and its extremely high difficulty, while superbly rewarding for those who appreciate a challenge, likely hurts its popularity among more casual gamers.

2. Bloodborne (67 in Video Game General Election)

A lot of the description of Sekiro applies to Bloodborne as well, though Bloodborne is the less difficult of the two (but makes up for that with a tremendous amount of optional dungeons for those looking for extra challenges). Bloodborne’s number-two ranking also means that 40 percent of the Hardcore Gamer General Election’s top 10 is made up of games directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, who was also the director for Dark Souls, Dark Souls III, and Sekiro (Dark Souls II, which had a different director and is widely considered the weakest installment in the series, did not finish in the Hardcore Gamer General Election’s top 100).

And at the top of the list, we find…

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

…the very same game that finished in first place in the Video Game General Election.

At first, this might seem weird. To recap, out of the top 10 titles in the Hardcore Gamer General Election, five of them didn’t make the Video Game General Election’s top 100 at all, and for those that did (excluding Breath of the Wild), the smallest gap was for Dark Souls III, which was ranked a whopping 32 slots lower in the non-hardcore poll. All those figures make it sound like the games that captivate hardcore and casual gamers are totally different, so how does Breath of the Wild earn the top spot in both polls?

Probably because it’s a game that’s immensely enjoyable for both quick and marathon play sessions. It has a massive map filled with things to discover, with side quests that will take you all across its fantasy realm and reward you with shiny treasures and new abilities. At the same time, its world is so dense with things to interact with in multiple ways that you never actually have to go very far at all to find something fun to do. Spend hours scouring its countryside for every last hidden wonder, and it’s an unforgettable experience, but play it for 15 minutes at a time only once every couple of days, and it’s a nearly endless source of an entirely different kind of fun.

“It has a little something for everyone” has become something of a cliché in games journalism, but the secret to Breath of the Wild’s success is that it has a lot for everyone, and with that in mind, it’s not so shocking that in popularity contests among gamers both hardcore and casual, it gets more votes than any other title both times.

Source: Game Spark via Jin
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he desperately wants Valkyrie Profile and Armored Core sequels.