We sure love writing about topics that are in no way going to be divisive and controversial, which is why we decided to rank the titles in the Mass Effect series from least good to best - even the spin offs! We're certain this list won't rile up any strong opinions. Considering the upcoming release of the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition remaster, as well as the announcement of the next, untitled Mass Effect game, this is a perfect time to tear open some old wounds, isn't it?
We're activated our holographic armor, so let's get right into the thick of it, shall we?
6. Mass Effect Galaxy
Oh, you were expecting Andromeda, were you? We'll get to that in a bit - even though after sufficient patching, the game that managed to be more controversial than the closing chapter of the main trilogy certainly is much better than the negative rep would have you believe - our inclusion of the spin off games have spared Andromeda this fate. No, dear readers, the worst game in the Mass Effect series is the iOS exclusive mobile spin-off title Mass Effect Galaxy.
We're frankly amazed that, when deciding what the subject matter of the game spanning the 5 year gap between Mass Effect and Mass Effect should be about, actual living humans came to the conclusion of "Jacob Taylor fighting pirates on a cruise". We have a span of time during which the galaxy's greatest hero is dead - spoilers? - and their followers start drifting apart and beginning new lives, getting tangled up in all sorts of plot-threads that will later feed into the main story, but we need to see Mass Effect 2's least interesting companion on vacation. Sure, he was a meme on the BioWare Social Network for a while, but really?
The fact that nothing about Mass Effect Galaxy feels like Mass Effect doesn't help its case. It is a top-down shooter with an overly cartoonish art style, a very thin veneer of a plot (in a Mass Effect game!) and the loosest interpretation of a dialogue system ever put to screen. As far as mobile games go, it is technically competent though - and with all the bloatware and junk on the mobile gaming scene, this is praise in and of itself. An essential piece of Mass Effect media, however, Galaxy is not.
5. Mass Effect Infiltrator
Another mobile spin-off - there's a pattern here, but we don't expect anyone to be surprised really. That said, being placed next to one other doesn't rightly contextualize just how much better Infiltrator is than Galaxy. The choice of plot is, once again, suspect - we play a new character with zero personality who's initially on the Cerberus payroll and gets betrayed. That's it, the entire game simply serves to teach the player that "Cerberus bad" in case they missed the ending of Mass Effect 2.
In terms of visuals and gameplay, however, we are much closer to the main games here. There still isn't any roleplaying to be had, but the combat system aptly translates the cover based shooting we've come to expect from a Mass Effect game to the touch screen. The visual direction also gels with that of the main game, though appropriately downgraded for the hardware mobile devices were equipped with back in 2012.
The location and enemy design also carries the Mass Effect DNA, and the game is short enough not to outstay its welcome. While it doesn't fill any gaps in the story, nor is it loaded with any interesting lore a superfan might appreciate, it's a competent game that might be worth a spin if you are aching for Mass Effect and have already put triple digit hours into all the others. Except Galaxy.
4. Mass Effect Andromeda
Yeah, you probably knew this one was coming. We're not edgy enough to knock one of the Big Three down a peg just for outrage-traffic - though in its patched, functional state, we legitimately had to have a big old think about the placement of Andromeda and the next title in our ranking. The controversy and criticisms around the game were, at launch, greatly blown out of proportion because that's simply how the gaming community does stuff. While the game was in poor shape on release, it was never as bad as the hate would make you think.
Though a bug ridden mess, Andromeda was still very much a Mass Effect game, even though it temporally and locationally distanced itself from the main trilogy. This was a new beginning, with a new crew and galaxy. The gameplay changed accordingly, adopting the semi-open world of Dragon Age: Inquisition. We place Andromeda in fourth position because even though it is no longer buggy and definitely a fun game, the cast just isn't as memorable or iconic as the characters of the originals; the story doesn't hold as much weight, despite the potential it held; the villains aren't as threatening or mysterious as the Reapers and everyone has some really uncanny faces.
It is worth pointing out, however, that Andromeda turned out the way it did because of corporate meddling. EA infamously pulled almost all of the veteran BioWare developers from the project and had them work on Anthem instead - how's that going, EA? - and Mass Effect Andromeda was completed by actual interns. We ought to cut the game a bit of slack, right?
3. Mass Effect
This is where things might get a bit controversial. All three games in Shepard's trilogy have their die-hard fans who swear by one or the other being the best. Mass Effect is a fantastic game that began this amazing journey and introduced us to the characters we've come to love. In gameplay terms, it's also the purest RPG of the lot, with many older fans decrying the shift to a more actiony gameplay style from 2 onward.
We're ready to sing praises of Mass Effect to anyone willing to listen, but there is no use in denying that the title shows its age. This is a game from 2007 and absolutely looks like it. Characters have a much worse case of the "BioWare face" in between lines than in any other title, some ancient bugs were never fixed, each weapon type had a total of two models between them, the inventory system was clunkier than a Krogan wearing a space suit and as iconic as the OG crew is, some of the best characters of the trilogy didn't appear yet.
A lot of the patina the first game has today, over a decade later, comes from what it facilitated later on rather than the actual things it accomplished alone. With a lot of the praise equally attributable to the subsequent titles combined with the shortcoming of its age, we were seriously considering switching its position and Andromeda's, but we also don't feel like getting death threats.
2. Mass Effect 3
The next two positions were also a tough call partially because I'm one of the, like, 4 people who didn't hate the ending. It was certainly a blatantly linear way to conclude an otherwise branching story, but this was one of those times when the build-up was too huge - so much was riding on the end of this award-winning, record-breaking, genre-defining trilogy that pulling off an ending people would have loved is practically impossible. That, and we strongly believe that an imperfect ending does not sour the fantastic journey before it.
Mass Effect 3 is by far the most technically impressive entry in Shepard's trilogy, with the gameplay model from Mass Effect 2 refined to perfection and some great visuals going on. It succinctly wrapped up a number of on-going plot points, brought back some of our favorite characters and letting us visit new, exciting locations. It was also the first game to actually depict a full-on intergalactic war. No matter what you think of the eventual explanation for the Reapers and their motivations, those set pieces where they devastate various planets are jaw-dropping to this day.
Mass Effect 3 has some other stuff going for it too. Many rightfully criticized how Galactic Readiness was tied to the multiplayer, but aside of this the multiplayer itself was immense amounts of fun, and let you play as non-human species for the first time. There's also the incredibly cheesy and fanservice-y Citadel DLC which we can't help but utterly love.
1. Mass Effect 2
This might be a controversial choice since some consider Mass Effect 2 the point where things went wrong with the more action-oriented gameplay. Instead, we view it as a much needed streamlining to the core mechanics. Many of the features that got stripped didn't do anything to "deepen the roleplay experience" and amounted to more busy work - and I say this as a long-time CRPG fan who's been optimizing class builds since long before Mass Effect was a thing.
Nothing can beat the team-building the story of Mass Effect 2 focuses on, which places the spotlight on what's most important in the series - not the epic space opera plot, but the character interactions. Shepard and his crew - the biggest in the series - feel the most like actual, complex people in this installment.
The way it handles reunions with those companions that don't return as squaddies was also interesting, and hey, it gave us Legion, so obviously this is the best one.
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