For reference, this page will describe what my lettered rankings denote. Please note that these letters are NOT the same as academic grades (i.e. an “A” does not indicate a range from 90% to 100%; a “F” does not indicate a range from 0% to 59%).
The tiers and what they mean
F tier = Unsalvageable, horrendous games which fail on a fundamental level. Avoid these games like the plague.
D tier = Bad games which may have a redeeming aspect or two. You should probably avoid these games.
C tier = Decent games which are enjoyable, but not incredibly memorable. Play them or don’t; you typically aren’t missing out on much either way.
B tier = Good games held back by one or more flaws. You should probably play these games unless you’re short of time/money.
A tier = Great games. Classics of the genre. You definitely want to play these games if you’re a SRPG fan. Many (but not all) of these have broader appeal for other gamers as well.
S tier = Fantastic games enshrined in the highest echelons of the genre. These games are either so refined or so innovative (or both) that I consider them must-plays for every gamer.
SS tier = The holiest of holies. The crème de la crème. These are some of the greatest and most important games I’ve ever played. Everything I said of S tier also applies here.
Why letter grades instead of numbers?
I favor a letter grade system over a numerical system (e.g. “7.8/10, too much water”) because letter grades allow for more flexibility.
Video games are not science. They are more than mere collections of statistics, numbers, and figures. I say it’s time we stopped treating them as such.
What would “7.8/10” even mean? When I see the number “7.8/10,” my mind automatically thinks fractions: “7.8/10 translates to 78/100, which means that the game does 22 out of 100 things wrong.” And that’s very specific. Too specific. How would you even quantify 100 criteria for reviewing a game? How would you quantify how much weight to give each criterion? Obviously, you can’t: yet, that’s what every reviewer – either knowingly or not – is doing when they assign a numerical “x out of 10” rating.
I don’t want to fall into that trap. It’s both inaccurate and reductive to use specific numerical ratings when assessing subjects which are incredibly complex and vague.
Lettered tiers, by comparison, are more flexible: several games can be in the B tier, but for different reasons. When I say a game is B tier, I’m not saying “on a scale of 1/100, it does 80 things right and 20 things wrong.” Rather, I’m saying “it’s a good game worth recommending, although it does have some flaws.” Even this is still a bit reductive, but at least I’m providing a general assessment of quality which still allows for wiggle room. That’s the sort of flexibility that I believe we need to have when evaluating games.
On that note, let me also mention that no two games in B tier will look exactly alike. This is another failing of the numerical grading system when applied to games.
A number – 7.5 for instance – remains static and unchanging no matter where it’s found. That’s just how numbers work. Thus, the logical implication is that every “7.5” game will look exactly alike. But that’s not how games work. Games are beautiful in how varied and dynamic they are. A lettered system is able to more capture this variance by adding in a degree of generality. Numbers are specific and precise; letters are not.
My aim is not to obsessively qualify an exact metric for every game; my aim is to provide a brief, general overview of how games stack up with one another. Generalized letter tiers allow for this in a way that rigid numbers would not.