I think that “Top X” lists work more as critical thought exercises than “which are the best ones, and which is the best best one” articles.
This is the first year that I’ve been A) engaging with the Waypoint forums and B) actually attempting to build my own Top 10 Games of the Year list (still need to… write that…) and it’s a really valuable thought exercise for me personally to try to define which games were most significant to me and, more importantly, why they were significant.
That said, I don’t think that site-wide top 10s are particularly valuable or even entertaining. I really enjoyed the format of Waypoint’s podcast content this holiday season because it did a good job reflecting individual experiences with games as well as shared and/or corroborated ones.
Ultimately, I think making a Top 10 list is a more valuable exercise for the list-maker than the average reader, but that’s okay. It’s great to try to justify why you liked things, and it’s especially cool if the things you liked include underappreciated or neglected titles. For example, Wandersong’s gonna be on my list and I’m excited to write at least a little blurb about why it meant something to me.
I guess what I mean to say is that Top Whatever lists are valuable because they make list-makers think about what was important to them and why. I don’t think they’re valuable for entire sites, though I like that Polygon made a Top 50 video that just like… pointed out a whole bunch of interesting games. And as a reader, these lists are more about entertainment and finding people making cases for games I missed or neglected. I think game journalism outlets can be responsible about how they influence games’ legacies if they just focus on their individual contributors’ Top Whatever lists rather than doing site-wide ones that demand consensus or favor already-popular games.