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?


  • KHfan - May 15, 2009 9:48 p.m.

    i actually thought hat DMC 4 was much bettr than 1 or was just disapointing :P and its on 360 AND PS3 lol
  • jabba1st - May 15, 2009 9:51 p.m.

    2 is the best:)
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - May 15, 2009 9:57 p.m.

    @KHfan: I only chose the average score for one release of each game. In the case of DMC 4 I used the 360 version. Sometimes the scores were the same between platforms, but if they weren't, I chose the one with the higher score.
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - May 15, 2009 10:01 p.m.

    @devinejoh: Remembered Ace Combat 0, but I decided only to include numbers 1 or greater. That was mainly because so few series (Resident Evil also comes to mind...) have a "zero" entry. And also, I think it's really silly. Anyway, the score for AC 0 doesn't affect the outcome.
  • GoldenMe - May 15, 2009 10:31 p.m.

    Tyler, you math sorcerer.
  • GamesRadarCharlieBarratt - May 15, 2009 10:57 p.m.

    King's Quest VI is definitely the best King's Quest. You know why? Jane Jensen was involved. "Girl in the Tower" didn't hurt.
  • GamesRadarHankMotherFuckingGilbert - May 15, 2009 11:10 p.m.

    I like how the graphs go to 120. I wonder what game would get that kind of average?
  • jar-head - May 15, 2009 11:13 p.m.

    7 is Bungies number lucas
  • Luigi49 - May 15, 2009 11:30 p.m.

    You didnt do the Final Fantasy games. Is it because their are so many. I like the series.
  • GamesRadarTylerWilde - May 15, 2009 11:43 p.m.

    Course, one of the biggest problems with this is... American developers hate going past the number 4. It is actually mentioned on the podcast this week. Whereas Japanese developers tend to continually number new games in a series, American developers tend to stop numbering at around four. For example: CoD 4 to... CoD: World at War, then Modern Warfare 2 (can't go past 4, so we reset to 2!).
  • DBAX47 - May 16, 2009 12:35 a.m.

    you forgot the elder scrolls tyler. GOOD JOB! =[
  • Ravenbom - May 16, 2009 12:43 a.m.

    Hmm... so by this logic, there's a good chance that if they ever make a Super Mario Bros 4 and a Sonic 4, they would be the definitive game of their respective series. Maybe this explains why Tetris was so damn good. It's a whole game based on the number 4 and it's named for the greek word for 4.
  • ian edgar - May 16, 2009 1:03 a.m.

    What about Phantasy Star? There were four of those.
  • NelosAngelos - May 16, 2009 1:17 a.m.

    MGS3 I think was the best personally. And I liked Devil May Cry 1 as well, even though it didn't have Virgil in it (In a sense). But Yeah, I noticed a lot of 4s coming out that have been pretty damn awesome. Next is Sly Cooper 4!!
  • Koouunn - May 16, 2009 2:19 a.m.

    the reason 4 is winning most of the battles is because there are more reviews and plp who have acess to the internet to state their opinion and raating which puts previous gaames like street fighter 2 at a disadvantage. but most of them r really good like gta , street fighter 4, cod4, etc
  • EffinChrys - May 16, 2009 3:34 a.m.

    i prefer to go number 2.
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 16, 2009 3:38 a.m.

    I believe that, since it's the highest number, 24 is best number. Just ask the TDar.
  • ssj4raditz - May 16, 2009 5:30 a.m.

    What are some more series that would work? Mega Man X? Persona? Ratchet & Clank? Elder Scrolls? Soul Calibur? Star Ocean? Suikoden? Gran Turismo? PGR? I could go on and on. Anyway, great article Tyler! Thumbs up!
  • garnsr - May 16, 2009 6:10 a.m.

    Ratchet and Clank never really got numbered. There are a number of choices for the next iteration of this article, though. Tyler just didn't want to shoot his whole wad all at once. ReCaptcha: sorry normal. Yeah, the ReCaptchas have been getting very odd lately, with punctuation even. Looks like they've seen the error of their ways, and are ready to turn things around.
  • revrock - May 16, 2009 6:25 a.m.

    Too bad Favre is doing his best to ruin cuatro... Mortal Kombat would have lowered the 4 curve a bit too.

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