On ‘S’ Ranks (Day 28)

Many games feature ranking systems for the players performance – play well, receive a high rank (like A) or perform badly and receive a D rank, which is tragic and you should feel terrible about yourself.

That’s fine, and it makes sense. It encourages players to improve and is an easy way to track progress. What I’ve never quite understood is the idea of the coveted ‘S’ Rank.


S Ranks are reserved for the absolute best of the best – if an A rank is a score of 90%+, S ranks would be reserved for perfect 100% plays (or even higher, if that’s somehow permitted). This isn’t always the case – the screenshot above shows some damage taken and still awards an S rank, for example, but it’s still an extremely small amount of damage to take (and it’s very easy to take damage in Devil May Cry 3).

I do “understand” S Ranks in the sense that I know why they exist. There’s something special about unlocking a rank beyond the normal maximum – A – even if it’s arbitrary. I know that I’ve played games that cap at an ‘A’ rank, and it’s always disappointed me, for some reason.

What I’m more confused about is the origin of the S Rank, and in my 12 minutes of googling I couldn’t find much (so, naturally, I gave up). I don’t even know if the S is meant to stand for something (Special? Super?).


According to this Giant Bomb article, S Ranks were developed in Japan because anything below ‘C’ is considered a failing grade, and they wanted a broader range of grades to work with. I haven’t been able to find any kind of proof (or really any form of evidence at all) that this is true, but it’s a better explanation than “I dunno, just because?” which is what I’ve been working with until now.

Do you have any idea? Theories? Evidence? Wild guesses? If you think you might know the origin of the S Rank, please let me know in the comments!


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One response to “On ‘S’ Ranks (Day 28)”

  1. Robert McPherson says :

    I would back up that it’s mainly a Japanese game thing, also note that it often goes up to SS and even SSS in some games. It’s mainly a cultural thing, just different ways of ranking performances.

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