BioWare has made a lot of big announcements in the last few months. Not only are they making a new Dragon Age and a new Mass Effect, but they’re also delighting fans with an upcoming remaster of the original Mass Effect trilogy. It seemed like a great time to revisit the Mass Effect series and attempt to write a Mass Effect games ranked from worst to best list.
The remaster is slated to come out in Spring 2021, but it remains to be seen exactly how much will be changed. BioWare’s official blog has this to say:
“For many months now, our team at BioWare has been hard at work updating the textures, shaders, models, effects, and technical features of three enormous games. Our goal was not to remake or reimagine the original games, but to modernize the experience so that fans and new players can experience the original work in its best possible form.”
In any case, fans of the series are eager to go back to the year 2183, though not everyone is familiar with the epic space saga. With all of the media buzz, we know some of you have been asking — what is the best Mass Effect game? Now is the perfect time to take a look back at the series as a whole and rank the Mass Effect games!
Mass Effect Games Ranked From Worst to Best
Gather your crew, ready your weapons, and charge your biotics — it’s time to list the Mass Effect games ranked from worst to best!
4. Mass Effect: Andromeda
First up on our list of Mass Effect games ranked? Andromeda.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is the most recent entry in the series, and it came out to reviews that were less than sparkling. Your protagonist is one of the Ryder twins (you get to choose whether you play the male or female sibling). It’s set decades after the Reaper Invasion from the end of Mass Effect 3 and doesn’t feature any of the characters from the original trilogy. This game is much more focused on exploration and diplomacy than uniting a galaxy against an all-consuming foe.
It begins with your ship arriving in the uncharted Andromeda Galaxy. You wake up from cryogenic sleep to find that your ship was badly damaged in transit, and you have no idea where the other ships in your convoy are. Not only that, but you’re cut off from the Milky Way galaxy and entirely on your own! But given time to gather your bearings, you eventually become the Pathfinder. Your job is to scout new planets for resources and viable settlement locations, make first contact with alien species, and negotiate deals between settlements.
A lot of the criticisms levied against Andromeda are fully warranted. Some of the missions weren’t up to BioWare’s usual standard, and it had a lot of downright game-breaking bugs at launch. Broken facial animations and game crashes can sour anyone’s experience. Fans were also expecting a notable improvement in graphics since this is the first and only Mass Effect game of the PS4/Xbox One era.
A lot of people’s disappointment comes down to the loss of established characters as well. This isn’t any fault of Andromeda’s, but part of the original trilogy’s appeal was its cast. It was hard to face a game that looked and felt like Mass Effect but lacked any familiar faces.
Unfortunately, the negative reviews that resulted from all of these problems culminated in the cancelation of several planned DLC packs and the series’s long-term hiatus. Until recently, fans weren’t sure if they’d ever see a Mass Effect game again.
For all that, though, I still personally think Andromeda is a really fun game. It introduced interesting new alien species, fun new characters, and a jet pack that allowed you to hop and boost around the battlefield. I enjoyed exploring the Andromeda Galaxy. Both Ryders were great characters, and frontier-style storytelling is always a win in my book. Sadly, it has too many problems to rank any higher than this.
3. Mass Effect
Next up on our list of Mass Effect games ranked, we have the one that started it all. Mass Effect is the first game in the series. It introduces Commander Shepard — N7 trained operative, first human Specter, and Commander of the Normandy. As Shepard, you assemble a crew from across the galaxy to fight a rogue Specter named Saren and an army of artificially intelligent robots known as the Geth.
The first game gets a lot of points for establishing the Mass Effect universe. Interspecies relations are complicated — humans are the new kids on the galactic block, and aliens don’t trust us yet. You get more context as you progress through the story, as Citadel residents, holograms, and occasional passing characters will drop interesting tidbits about the rich history of the galaxy. It’s not a stretch to say that Mass Effect has some of the best worldbuilding in video games, and it all started here.
It introduces Liara T’Soni, Garrus Vakarian, Tali Zorah, and several other characters who eventually have recurring roles in the rest of the games. Your relationships with these characters are what separates Mass Effect from other sci-fi shooters. You can have conversations with them, learn about what lead them to join your crew, and help them with personal side quests.
It also establishes the series’ reputation for important choices. Several decisions impact the rest of the game, changing the story and potentially costing you beloved crew members if you’re not careful.
This one is the best Mass Effect game to start with if you’re the least bit interested in the story. The first three games cover one long, detailed narrative arc, and you’ll be missing information if you skip ahead. Mass Effect 2 and 3 allow you to import previous save files (provided you remain on the same platform), meaning the decisions you make in the first Mass Effect game can go on to have greater implications in the rest of the trilogy.
There are two reasons this game only comes in third, though. The first is simply its age. Mass Effect was released back in 2007 — that’s the same year as Halo 3 and the first Assassin’s Creed! Naturally, there’s some graphical fidelity that simply wasn’t available in the early days of the PS3 and Xbox 360. It also means the game had some pretty egregious loading times. We all remember those long elevator rides.
The second reason is the shooting. I’ll be honest, firing a gun in the first Mass Effect game doesn’t feel particularly good. There’s no feedback to the weapons and ammo recharges, rather than needing to be reloaded. It’s neat in theory and fits the sci-fi flavor, but it’s annoying in practice.
Of course, both of these problems would be easy for BioWare to fix in the remaster, so fingers crossed!
2. Mass Effect 3
Coming in second on our list of Mass Effect games ranked is Mass Effect 3. The final game in the original trilogy is the most epic in the series by far — everything you did in the first two games, every decision and heart-wrenching loss leads to this point. The Reapers have invaded, and the entire galaxy is at war. Earth is lost. You play Commander Shepard one last time as they scour the galaxy in search of allies against the Reaper threat, forcing old enemies to put aside past grievances for the sake of facing the overwhelming might of the invaders.
There is so much to love about Mass Effect 3. The combat has never felt better, with new commando, biotic, and tech abilities making you and your allies the super-soldiers you need to be to survive the impossible task ahead of you. There’s a wide variety of enemies for you to face and different locals and terrains in which to fight them. ME3 built on all the best mechanics from 2 and polished them to a mirror shine.
The story is fairly straightforward. There is an overwhelming threat to all life in the galaxy, and everyone needs to work together if they want to survive. The only hope is completing an ancient alien super-weapon called the Crucible. It lacks the nuance and intrigue of previous storylines, but it works as a vehicle for concluding the story.
All of your surviving past comrades return to fight the Reapers alongside you. Some return as crew members, while others are merely secondary NPCs who will assist from the sidelines. Seeing all the old faces one last time makes for some pretty hard-hitting nostalgia.
The biggest criticism levied against Mass Effect 3 is its original ending. Without getting into spoiler territory, there were three different endings that, honestly, weren’t all that different. Considering that Mass Effect is a series where (up to this point) your choices do matter, fans felt cheated by the fact that all of their hard work ultimately led to one ending painted to look like three.
In response to the backlash, BioWare released a free “Extended Cut DLC” that expanded on the endings with new cinematics and epilogue scenes that better reflected the impact of the players’ other choices, even if the endings themselves remained unchanged. The DLC was released just two months after the main game, but the game’s reputation had already suffered.
With luck, perhaps the new remaster will expand the ending even further.
1. Mass Effect 2
Mass Effect 2 is the game that went and wrecked the bell curve for all the games that followed. Every moment, from its iconic opening cinematic of Shepard space-walking through the damaged Normandy to the epic final battle against the Collectors, is a sight to behold. That’s why it’s our choice for the best Mass Effect game.
Shepard is badly hurt at the beginning of the game, and their body is reconstructed by a shady private organization known as Cerberus. Their leader is an enigmatic figure called the Illusive Man. He wants to bankroll Shepard to put together a team tasked with taking on a group of technologically advanced aliens called Collectors, who have been raiding human settlements and kidnapping all of their residents.
It’s the best story in the series, combining mystery, interpersonal stories, and epic battles into one neat package. The mission isn’t as straightforward as it is in the other two games. You don’t always know that you can trust the Illusive Man — you discover pretty early that Cerberus is a xenophobic organization with questionable methods for achieving their ends. It makes things tense for Shepard, who needs their resources to stop the Collectors.
One of the other great things about this installment is its large cast — it’s got ten potential crew members (twelve with DLC), each with their own major sidequest that must be completed to earn their loyalty. Loyalty is important for improving the character’s abilities and increasing their chances of survival in the infamously brutal final mission. That’s not even to mention side characters like the Illusive Man and Aria T’Loak, the Pirate Queen of Omega (voiced by none other than Carrie-Anne Moss!).
Mass Effect 2 also completely overhauled the game’s combat system. Guns now have clips, and there’s some tactile feedback to firing them. Abilities become more fun to use, the enemies are more diverse, and the maps are more interesting.
Another great addition is the Paragon/Renegade reactions. You always have the option to choose dialogue options or actions that influence your Paragon or Renegade scores, but ME2 adds quick-time events during dialogue that allow Shepard to make spur-of-the-moment, decisive actions in response to other characters. Are you a hero through and through, or a ruthless commander who believes the ends always justify the means? (It’s actually more fun to be a bit of both.)
Mass Effect 2 was ahead of its time. It set the tone for ME3 and Andromeda, refining all the best parts of the original game while revamping the parts that weren’t working. It has the best story and some of the best characters. I honestly can’t think of a single criticism. No video game is perfect, but Mass Effect 2 comes pretty close.
Final Codex Entry
Thank you for reading our list of Mass Effect games ranked from worst to best! We hope you enjoyed it and that you’re as excited as we are for the remaster and the new game. Be sure to follow High Ground Gaming for more news and updates.