GameFAQs just finished with their "Best. Game. Ever." contest, and I'm really not surprised by the results (click to enlarge):
Final Fantasy, Zelda, Mario, Resident Evil, Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid, and Super Smash Bros. Not surprised.
Each one of these has an entire series behind it, with numerous popular games included. Taking into consideration how long each series has been around and actively producing games, how many games are in some of the more prolific series, and the kind of publicity some of the games have gotten for being a console's launch title or for having one or more of Nintendo's mascots in them, it's no wonder that gamers and non-gamers alike will at least recognize all of these games, even if they haven't played them.
The final matchup was Final Fantasy VII vs. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the result being about 47% of voters favoring the former and about 53% favoring the latter.
You'll note that none of those games require incredibly precise aiming or overly intense puzzle-solving skills or the memorization of hugely complicated button combos. Sure, Zelda has puzzles and Smash Bros. has button combos, but they're generally milder than what you'd find in, say, Braid or Space Quest or Street Fighter.
Let's pretend for a moment that every gamer is at least capable of beating (or coming close to beating) every video game that exists. While we're at it, let's also pretend that every gamer has played every video game that exists, or is at least familiar with every single game. Essentially, we're pretending that marketing, cost, availability, and accessibility to non-hardcore-gamers don't factor into the final decision of Best. Game. Ever.
While it'll always be an overwhelmingly subjective contest, it won't be so much of a popularity contest. Based on its own merits, which game is the best ever in the eyes of the public? And which ones come close?
I won't begin to speculate, but I have this suspicion that there are a lot of cult classics out there that would jump way ahead of Final Fantasy and Zelda, and I'd bet that more than a few games that don't have throngs of sequels might come out of the woodwork to claim the crown.
If not, then I need someone to explain to me why Chrono Trigger is not better than Final Fantasy Anything. For starters.