Which platforms have better games?

By: Patrick W. Zimmerman

The question

Which platforms tend to have higher-rated games?

While it’s not always under the direct control of the manufacturer, the hardware is part of how games produced for it are rated and, more importantly for you, gamer peeps, the experience of gaming on a particular platform. So, here we are to help you out before you go out and drop $200-300 on the new hotness and make it easy for you to see how the software + hardware has been received, on average.


All game ratings since the beginning of time (or 1996)

Or, all games that got a minimum of 7 ratings to be included in Metacritic’s database. Search for a game or a platform in the fields at the top of the dashboard. And lose an hour of your time to gathering evidence to support an internet flame war over whether OG Mario was the Best Mario and if he’s sold out.

Note: Nintendo platforms and games red and pink (each platform with a particular shade). Microsoft platforms are shades of green. Sony’s PlayStations are blues. PC games are black. The long-lost Sega Dreamcast is purple.

Scroll or pinch to zoom, hover (desktop) or click (mobile) for details. Type or scroll in search to highlight individual games and platforms.

Quick takes –

  • I just lost an hour searching for different game series. Try searching for “Civilization”, “Zelda”, “Mass Effect”, “Halo”, “Leisure Suit Larry”, and “Madden.” See if you can stop there.
  • Series’ ratings tend to decay over time, though there are some notable exceptions who improved (Tomb Raider, Portal), stayed pretty consistent (Civilization, Grand Theft Auto), or are kind of so all over the place as to not really display much of a pattern (Pokémon).
  • All hail Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade! It’s really hard to be that bad. It’s the worst-rated game in the entire 21-year dataset by a full 5 points with an 11/100 (2003’s Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing got an 8, but failed to meet the minimum 7-review qualifier). 13,707 games spread out over a 100-point scale should really not produce a 5% outlier. If you’re going to bomb, do so with distinction. D3 Publisher and your dev team, we salute you!

Sony v. Nintendo v. Microsoft

We already found out that Sony is King of Sales, but are the games made for PlayStation [insert number here] actually any good? Should you just stick with your good ol’ Windows machine?

Scroll or pinch to zoom, hover (desktop) or click (mobile) for details or to highlight consoles.

Quick takes –

  • PC games really did used to be consistently the best-rated games. They have since been overtaken by Nintendo consoles, although still above average.
  • Games made for Sony consoles have taken a dip in quality relative to their competition in the last few years.
  • Handheld games are usually (though not 100% of the time) rated lower than games for full-sized platforms.
  • Critics got a lot tougher, really quickly in the early 2000s, and then have gradually lightened up. Or, maybe, the critics have been the same and the quality of games has gotten better. But I doubt it.

Quality control

So, you’re convinced and going to put down several hundred bucks on your newest toy. But, how hit-or-imss are the games? What’s the variance like? Glad you asked! Here’s the standard deviation (population) for each manufacturer over the entire span of the dataset.

Scroll or pinch to zoom, hover (desktop) or click (mobile) for details.

Quick takes –

  • Sony has significantly more consistent games than either Microsoft or Nintendo. Recently, consistently worse.
  • Handheld games and PC games are more consistent than console games, which I find a bit surprising, actually.

Platform by platform

Sure, not all PlayStations are created equal. And you, personally, are offended that I would group the DS games together with the 3DS games. Here ya go.

Scroll or pinch to zoom, hover (desktop) or click (mobile) for details. Type or scroll in search to highlight individual platforms.

Quick takes –

  • Sony consoles have several years of generational overlap (i.e. games being made for both the PS2 and PS3), but Nintendo turns over its generations really quickly, usually in a year. Microsoft is middle of the road.
  • The tails of each platform tend to suffer from small-sample-size shenanigans. As consoles are introduced and fade out, fewer games get made for them and weirdness with medians shows up. See PlayStation in 2003 (2 games) vs. in 2001 (45 games).

About The Author

Architeuthis Rex, a man of (little) wealth and (questionable) taste. Historian and anthropologist interested in identity, regionalism / nationalism, mass culture, and the social and political contexts in which they exist. Earned Ph.D. in social and cultural History with a concentration in anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University and then (mostly) fled academia to write things that more than 10 other people will actually read. Driven to pursue a doctorate to try and answer the question, "Why do they all hate each other?" — still working on it. Plays beer-league hockey, softball, and soccer. Professional toddler wrangler. Likes dogs, good booze, food, and horribly awesome kung-fu movies.

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