Ranking the best and worst of the Mass Effect games

Mass Effect

Mass Effect is beloved, it's lauded, it's three video games people have strong opinions about. I'm not sure I've ever totally agreed with anyone on which is the best and why, so to find out just how wrong I am, I asked 1,256 people to tell me which Mass Effect is the best Mass Effect. I also asked which is the worst, and all kinds of other things—who you romanced, paragon or renegade, and so on. These are the results. Because math.

Before we start, it's important to note the demographics of the survey. I promoted it here, on Twitter, and elsewhere around the internet, but it's definitely not a perfect snapshot of Mass Effect fandom: the majority of the respondents were men ages 18-34, which has certainly affected the results.

Which Mass Effect is the best?

the results

Click the icon in the upper-right to enlarge. Based on 1,256 responses.

According to my survey, Mass Effect 2 is the best by far. It received 56% of the vote, while Mass Effect 3 received 22.9%, and the original Mass Effect received 21.1%.

Those who favored the original Mass Effect cited the story and the sense of adventure. "It was rough around the edges, but the world was amazingly detailed," said one survey taker. "It was high-concept Proper Science Fiction, amazingly non-human-centric, with a real (if occasionally annoying) sense of scale to the zones. Shep was competent and dedicated, but basically just the right (hu)man in the wrong place, not The Chosen One. It was really, really refreshing and different and interesting."

I felt that way, too, though I think I would rather go back and play the less-aged ME2, and that probably contributed to its success. Those who voted for Mass Effect 2 cited the characters (Mordin and Miranda, especially) and improvements to the combat and mission design. The general consensus is that Mass Effect's story might have been great, but Mass Effect 2 was more fun to play. "Best balance of story and combat," said one voter. "Satisfying the whole way through."

Mass Effect 2's suicide mission ending is also praised as the best in the series, and several people said they appreciated that it was less gloomy than ME3. "I eat that squad shit up."

As for Mass Effect 3, its 22.9% came from those who liked the ending (I'm among them, but I consider the last hour or so the ending, not just the Final Choice), the drama, and the multiplayer. But it seems that the best mix of game design and storytelling sits in the middle, and that's a pretty inoffensive thing to agree with.

Which Mass Effect is the worst?

the results

Click the icon in the upper-right to enlarge. Based on 1,256 responses.

According to the survey, the worst Mass Effect is the original Mass Effect. It received the fewest "best" votes and the most "worst" votes, though it was very close to ME3 in the worst department. I disagree, but it turns out I'm wrong. The survey doesn't lie. My opinion is bad.

People who didn't like Mass Effect 1 often cited the Mako (more on that below) and the elevators. It's "clunky" said one survey taker, and another complained about "boring planetary exploration." Generally speaking, Mass Effect's age did it in. A few said that it still has the best story, but the inventory system and other design issues dump it to the bottom anyway.

Given how grumpy just the mention of Mass Effect 3 can make people, I expected it to lose here, but it just barely managed to become the middlest Mass Effect. The comments are as expected: bad ending, bad story, contradictory plot points, too much combat, day one DLC. Not everyone said all of those things, of course (and several people defended it), but they came up the most. As mentioned above, it's the "gloomy" Mass Effect, which some expressed as a positive ("the feels" etc.), but many didn't like when compared to the camaraderie of Mass Effect 2.

Who did you romance?


Liara, by far, is someone you would totally date: 67.3% of respondents romanced Liara. The next most popular romantic partner was Miranda at 44.1%, followed by Tali at 42.4%, and Ashley Williams (blah) at 41.6%. Garrus was popular, too, which I expected, but I thought he'd manage more than 25.1%. This is all very dependent on the demographics of the survey, of course.

The least popular partner was Javik, but that doesn't really count, as he was bound to the From Ashes DLC and is an ancient four-eyed fish monster. James Vega, Steve Cortex, Jacob Taylor, Morinth, and Samara didn't do much better, though. Maybe they can just hook up with each other.

Mass Effect romances

Who's your favorite character?

Garrus, y'all

As for your favorite characters, independent of whether you could or did get romantic, Garrus was the clear favorite with 382 mentions. I let survey takers write in anything for this, so just about everyone gets a mention and there are plenty of multi-entries from the indecisive (so it's not perfect data, but it still gives us a good idea of who's the most loved). Here are the top five, in order from most popular to least:

  1. Garrus (382)
  2. Tali'Zorah (129)
  3. Mordin (88)
  4. Liara (75)
  5. Shepard (69)

The rest go: Urdnot Wrex, Thane, Legion, Jack, Joker, Kaidan, Grunt, Javik, The Illusive Man, EDI, Ashley Williams, James Vega.

Characters not on this list, like Captain Anderson, received fewer than 5 mentions. Sorry, Anderson, but people would rather hang out with an ancient four-eyed fish monster than you, apparently. At least you beat Saren, though, who was only two people's favorite character (plus one other who spelled his name wrong).

Other results

The most popular ending is the red ending (31.5%). In second place is the Extended Cut's 'None of the Above' ending (30.6%), followed by the Green ending (24.9%) and the unpopular Blue ending (13%).

18.3% of respondents believe Shepard was actually indoctrinated. 55.2% do not, and 26.5% haven't made up their minds.

30.8% of you have read Mass Effect fanfiction.

62.4% punched the reporter. Interestingly, a very close 66% agreed not to punch me. It's good to know that punching fictional reporters is about as popular as not punching me.

Paragon is greatly preferred over Renegade, with 82.4% of the vote.

Most of you (60.3%) played as male Shepard, also known as the wrong Shepard. Jennifer Hale owns all.

The most preferred class is the Soldier (30.3%), followed by the Vanguard (26%), Infiltrator (17%), Adept (11.7%), and Sentinel (9%). The Engineer did pathetically, bringing in only 6% of the vote.

21.8% of respondents have modified a save file. I am among them, because I totally botched the end of ME2.

And finally, it turns out that the Mako is actually good. Only 31.4% of people didn't like it.

On the next page, read some of the comments survey takers left behind...


As Executive Editor, Tyler spends a lot of time editing reviews and looking at spreadsheets, and whatever time is left over writing reviews. People joke that he doesn't like 90 percent of the games he plays, but he'll tell you he just has very discerning tastes.
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