Which number is the best number?

Yet another win for four! Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies isn’t miles ahead of its cohorts, but it is still the most critically praised. The higher reviews may have been influenced by the move from the PlayStation to the PlayStation 2, as anytime a more powerful system is utilized there is at least a bit of built-in excitement.

Above: Ace Combat 6 looked beautiful, but was only the third highest reviewed game in the series

But that isn’t necessarily the case. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, is the first game to appear on a current gen system, but its average score is four points less than Ace Combat 5 on the PS2.

Winner: FOUR

The Street Fighter series is a tough one to get a clear reading on. There have been so many non-numbered games that pulling out only the original four numbered iterations seems meaningless. Again, four is the winner, but it’s a bit of an unfair comparison. The SNES version of Street Fighter II has a lower average score, but this was not necessarily a game meant for the SNES – this was the game that revolutionized 2D fighters and was largely responsible for the popularity of arcades in the early ‘90s.

Above: The winner may have won only because we have a poor dataset, but it’s still a damn good game

Our trepidation doesn’t mean that Street Fighter IV isn’t a great game, well deserving of its average score of 94 (compared to SFII’s score of 88). And by our criteria, we have to award it the win.

Winner: FOUR

Dynasty Warriors is another impressively long running series with a lot of consistency. The scores start to drop off after Dynasty Warriors 4, with the latest iteration, Dynasty Warriors 6, receiving the worst critical response. From one to four, however, there is little variation.

The result is a tie between Dynasty Warriors, Dynasty Warriors 3 and Dynasty Warriors 4, which all received average scores of 78. Way to keep it mediocre!


Based on the series we chose, the best number is… FOUR! Congratulations, you’re our new favorite number!

Now, given the presence of many unaccounted for variables, and the limited scope of our test (many of the series we tested haven’t even made it past four games), it’s hard for us to say definitively that the fourth game in a series tends to be the best, and any explanation for the trend is mere speculation. Perhaps it takes three games to find the perfect formula - one to introduce the concept and two to hone it.

Consider a series like Gears of War. The first game was great, and the second equally so, but pretty similar. We can probably assume that the not-yet-announced third game will deviate from the first two to some extent, in order to keep the series fresh, but not so much as to alienate anyone. If a fourth game comes along, however, there’s a chance that it will appear on the next generation of consoles. With new technology and three existing games, no one would be surprised if the creative direction were readdressed and the gameplay radically changed – possibly for the better.

Of course, that’s just speculation based on a tenuous set of results. Maybe there is no correlation between a game’s number and its quality, but it was a fun idea to entertain, wasn’t it?

May 15, 2009

Games as graphs (and charts!)
The visual display of quantitative information is much more fun than it sounds

Gaming’s biggest price drops
8 games forced to undercut the competition


Which version of Mario is the best version of Mario?
If you could only play as one Mario forever, which would it be?


  • mauiboy808 - March 6, 2010 1:35 a.m.

    4 is is my favorite 1&3 sucks but 2 is my 2 favorite
  • cheezyphil - September 6, 2009 5:46 p.m.

    completely unrealistic comparison - considering the inflation in scores because of the "OMG NEXT GEN". Plus, like said, most games haven't gotten past 4 yet. still a good article though.
  • GamesRadarLizzieCuevas - May 21, 2009 11:33 p.m.

    That must mean there's still hope for Halo 4.
  • stuzimuzipuzi - May 20, 2009 3:32 p.m.

    win :|
  • stuzimuzipuzi - May 20, 2009 3:32 p.m.

    four for the wine
  • Spybreak8 - May 20, 2009 10:05 a.m.

    I just realized this today! Four is also the new trend for number of letters for Titles. FEAR, DiRT, GRID, PURE, FUEL, I'm probably missing a few but there are more.
  • YoshiFtJ - May 19, 2009 7:45 p.m.

    I seem to enjoy the second entry in a series the most. Suikoden 2, Mother 2, Resident Evil 2, Star Ocean 2, Silent Hill 2,...
  • SlinkyDink - May 18, 2009 11:52 p.m.

  • breener96 - May 18, 2009 1:20 p.m.

  • Seabread - May 18, 2009 12:25 p.m.

    just wait til they reach 7th iteration in game engines/releases. 7 will be the best number. eg: it's 77.7% certain that track #7 on any album you pick at random will be a stellar track. not necessarily the best but certainly note-worthy.
  • Picnic1 - May 18, 2009 12:05 p.m.

    I think that there is a good case for the number 2 or 3: Monkey Island 2 is many fan fan’s favourites but I adore part 3 (‘Curse of ‘) for its animation and sound whereas 4 had obscure solutions to puzzles and 3D animation that wasn't quite as pleasing as part 3. Sonic 2 and 3 are both good- I prefer Sonic 2 though. I got the feeling that Devil May Cry 3 was now regarded as regarded as the best by many? Silent Hill 3 is more highly regarded by 4 but I suppose that most people regard part 2 as the best- I’m not sure why- all that fog is annoying. I prefer the Gamecube Resident Evil remake (technically still Resident Evil 1) than RE4.
  • RedOutlive10 - May 17, 2009 11:57 p.m.

    It's good to know metacritic scores do not mean jack. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the worst entry of the series, it couldn't give an inch of the excitement the first was able to provide.
  • mishmoigon - May 17, 2009 9:46 p.m.

    I also like fours the best
  • silvereye - May 17, 2009 7:38 p.m.

    If 4 is so great and many franchises have a 4th entry, does this mean were all screwed when a fifth game comes out or another number like 6 or 7 will become the greatsest number?
  • Demonflare - May 17, 2009 5:37 p.m.

    4 should be the limit of games, really...
  • IceManYEA - May 17, 2009 4:27 p.m.

    Street fighter4 does not suck. You Suck.
  • GrantG - May 17, 2009 3:49 p.m.

    street fighter 4 sucked,, because of ggod damn seth.
  • Tasty_Pasta - May 17, 2009 5:36 a.m.

    Before I even started reading, I figured it would be four.
  • dland - May 17, 2009 1:17 a.m.

    That's interesting. I wonder why the 4th edition to a series is the best in many cases? Does it take 4 games for the developers to get a good grip on what makes the series great? Good article! I enjoyed it.
  • adertysohck - May 16, 2009 11:02 p.m.

    I know this is not a series but you should have mentioned Left 4 Dead.

Showing 1-20 of 94 comments

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