This post originally ran in January 2018. It has been updated to include Super Bowl LII.
What makes a great Super Bowl? Obviously a dramatic ending helps, but that doesn’t alway mean a great game. On football’s biggest stage we want games featuring memorable teams, star players, plays that we’ll never forget and compelling storylines. With that criteria in mind, we’ve ranked every Super Bowl ever played from worst to first…
52. Super Bowl XXXV: Ravens 34, Giants 7
This game did feature one of the best defenses in NFL history, but watching it dismantle a Kerry Collins-led offense wasn’t all that exciting. Throw in Trent Dilfer leading the other offense and a game that was never competitive, and this is easily the worst Super Bowl of all-time.
51. Super Bowl VIII: Dolphins 24, Vikings 7
The Dolphins won their second consecutive Super Bowl in a game that was over well before the fourth quarter. A fullback — even if it was Hall of Famer Larry Csonka — winning MVP tells you just how entertaining this one was.
50. Super Bowl IV: Chiefs 23, Vikings 7
This game might’ve been higher on the list if the Jets hadn’t pulled off the AFL-NFL upset the prior season. The most interesting thing about this Super Bowl remains Hank Stram’s mic’d up footage.
49. Super Bowl VI: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3
The Cowboys’ first Super Bowl win was a snooze-fest. Miami’s three points is still the fewest points scored in a Super Bowl.
48. Super Bowl II: Packers 33, Raiders 14
The game was expected to be a blowout — Green Bay was favored by 13.5 points — and it was. Bart Starr won MVP with only 13 completions.
47. Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8
This should have been a great game. Denver came in with a historically good offense. Seattle came in with the league’s best defense. It was never even close as the Seahawks dominated from the opening snap. Kam Chancellor should have been MVP.
46. Super Bowl XXXVII: Buccaneers 48, Raiders 21
Two good-but-not-great teams playing an uncompetitive game with an unforgettable MVP? Yeah, this one wasn’t compelling for neutral viewers.
45. Super Bowl I: Packers 35, Chiefs 10
One of the bigger mismatches in Super Bowl history, this one gets bonus points for being the first one and the Chiefs actually keeping things interesting for 30 minutes after going into the half trailing by only four points.
44. Super Bowl XII: Cowboys 27, Broncos 10
The Doomsday Defense vs. the Orange Crush ended up being a forgettable, one-sided affair. The Broncos could muster only 35 net passing yards. Dallas got out to an early 10-point lead and never looked back.
43. Super Bowl XV: Raiders 27, Eagles 10
With a hostage crisis in Iran taking attention away from the game, the Raiders and Eagles made sure Americans too concerned to tune into a football game didn’t miss much. Philly was actually favored before the game, but Oakland made the betting line look silly early on, getting out to a 21-3 lead.
42. Super Bowl XXI: Giants 39, Broncos 20
The least memorable of the Giants’ four Super Bowl wins also happened to be their most dominant. Phil Simms set the record for completion percentage after finishing 22-of-25 in an MVP effort.
41. Super Bowl XXII: Redskins 42, Broncos 10
Another Broncos blowout. This one was actually pretty entertaining for the first 30 minutes. Denver got out to a 10-0 lead before Washington dropped a Super Bowl-record 35 points in the second quarter on the Broncos defense.
40. Super Bowl XXVII: Cowboys 52, Bills 17
This was the first of the Cowboys’ three Super Bowl wins in the 90s. The game was a blowout but did give us one of the most iconic moments in Super Bowl history: Don Beebe chasing down a prematurely celebrating Leon Lett.
39. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Cowboys 30, Bills 13
Both Cowboys-Bills Super Bowl were blowouts, but this one was at least competitive into the third quarter. Buffalo actually led going into halftime before being outscored 21-0 in the second half.
38. Super Bowl 50: Broncos 24, Panthers 10
This is the first game on this list that was actually competitive going into the fourth quarter, but it was a sloppy affair featuring seven fumbles and a pair of interceptions. Peyton Manning winning his second ring bumps this one up a few spots.
37. Super Bowl XIX: 49ers 38, Dolphins 16
What should have been a great quarterback matchup — Marino vs. Montana — turned into a blowout as the Dolphins’ gunslinger couldn’t keep up with the 49ers’ surgeon.
36. Super Bowl XI: Raiders 32, Vikings 14
The universe wont let the Vikings back in the Super Bowl because all of the ones they made in the ‘70s ended up being unwatchable. Including the next one…
35. Super Bowl IX: Steelers 16, Vikings 6
Seriously, the Vikings are never allowed to make another Super Bowl. This was actually the closest one they played.
34. Super Bowl XXIX: 49ers 49, Chargers 26
Sure the game was over by the end of the second quarter, but watching Steve Young (six touchdown passes) and Jerry Rice (three touchdown receptions) tear up the Chargers was a joy to watch.
33. Super Bowl XXIV: 49ers 55, Broncos 10
OK, so this game was never in doubt, this was Bill Walsh’s 49ers dynasty at its apex. That’s NFL history.
32. Super Bowl XX: Bears 46, Patriots 10
Same goes for this one. The Bears’ defensive dominance made a 36-point laugher worth watching.
31. Super Bowl XVIII: Raiders 38, Redskins 9
We’re on a run of blowouts now. The game itself may not be memorable but Marcus Allen’s 191-yard performance, which included the greatest run in Super Bowl history, pushes it into the top-30.
30. Super Bowl VII: Dolphins 14, Redskins 7
The game may have been bad, but this is NFL history. The Dolphins capped off the only perfect season ever, despite Garo Yepremian give us an all-time blooper.
29. Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos 34, Falcons 19
The Dirty Bird Falcons weren’t a match for the best team John Elway played on. The game lacked memorable moments but is significant because it was Elway’s last.
28. Super Bowl XXVI: Redskins 37, Bills 24
The 1991 Redskins might be the greatest team in NFL history, which bumps this game up a few spots. The game wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates, though. Washington led 24-3 at one point.
27. Super Bowl XLI: Colts 29, Bears 17
We can’t put a Super Bowl featuring Rex Grossman too high on the list, but Peyton Manning winning his first ring salvages this one. It was all downhill for Chicago after Devin Hester returned the opening kick for a touchdown.
26. Super Bowl XXXI: Packers 35, Patriots 21
This Super Bowl gave us a bunch of memorable performances. Brett Favre was brilliant in his only Super Bowl win. Reggie White was downright unblockable. And yet it was Desmond Howard who took home the MVP award thanks to his game-clinching kickoff return.
25. Super Bowl XL: Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
It was a sloppy game that was marred by questionable refereeing, but Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis finally winning a Lombardi Trophy thanks to Willie Parker’s record-setting touchdown run and Hines Ward throwing for a score made this a memorable Super Bowl.
24. Super Bowl XXX: Cowboys 27, Steelers 17
This would have been yet another classic Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowl if Neil O’Donnell didn’t throw the game away. O’Donnell set Larry Brown’s family up for life with his dreadful performance.
23. Super Bowl XVII: Redskins 27, Dolphins 17
This game gave us one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history: John Riggins taking a 4th-and-one run to the house to help seal Joe Gibbs’ first Super Bowl win.
22. Super Bowl XXIX: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
Brady and Belichick established the Patriots as a dynasty with their third Lombardi in four years. Andy Reid’s never-ending two-minute drill robbed us of what could have been an exciting ending.
21. Super Bowl V: Colts 16, Cowboys 13
If not for the dramatic ending, this game may have finished last on this list. It was easily the sloppiest Super Bowl of all-time. The teams combined for 11 turnovers. ELEVEN! Just how goofy was this game? It’s the only Super Bowl where a member of the losing team won MVP.
20. Super Bowl XIV: Steelers 31, Rams 19
The 1970s Steelers gave us one last entertaining Super Bowl before its dynasty ended. Los Angeles was a heavy underdog but actually took a lead into the fourth quarter. Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris took over the game from there.
19. Super Bowl XLV: Packers 31, Steelers 25
Aaron Rodgers capped off a brilliant playoff run with a masterful performance against one of the league’s best defenses. Green Bay looked as if it would blow the Steelers out but Ben Roethlisberger led a rally that cut the lead from 18 to three before Mason Crosby put the game away with a field goal.
18. Super Bowl XLIV: Saints 31, Colts 17
The one Peyton let get away. This game will be remembered for two plays: The surprise onside kick to start the second half and Tracy Porter’s game-sealing pick-6 of Manning. Despite the memorable moments, this game was a bit of a letdown with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks not putting on the offensive show we expected.
17. Super Bowl XVI: 49ers 26, Bengals 21
Joe Montana’s first Super Bowl win was nearly squandered after the 49ers let the Bengals nearly erase a 20-point deficit. Cincinnati’s late onside kick attempt failed and deprived us of what could have been a classic ending.
16. Super Bowl III: Jets 16, Colts 7
You may have been expecting one of the more famous Super Bowl results to land a little higher on the list. Sure, it was a massive upset and Joe Namath’s guarantee adds to the lore, but the game itself was a bore. I did not mean to rhyme there.
15. Super Bowl XLVI: Giants 21, Patriots 17
Eli Manning did it to the Patriots again. This time, he didn’t need a miracle catch to beat New England thanks to his sublime pass to Mario Manningham on the game-winning drive.
14. Super Bowl X: Steelers 21, Cowboys
The first of the Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowls gave us those beautiful NFL Films shots of Lynn Swann’s acrobatic catch. That alone earned the game a spot this high on the list.
13. Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens 34, 49ers 31
The game that confirmed Joe Flacco was elite. Kind of. It did earn him a bunch of money. It also gave us the first and only Super Bowl blackout. After power was restored, the 49ers turned what looked to be another big game blowout into a nail-biter that Baltimore won thanks to a goal line stand — and some questionable San Francisco play-calling.
12. Super Bowl XXXII: Broncos 31, Packers 24
John Elway finally won his ring in a well-played game that featured one of the best performances by a running back in Super Bowl history. Terrell Davis’ three-touchdown game won him MVP honors. But Elway’s scramble which ended with him being helicoptered in the air remains the most memorable visual from the game.
11. Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
Both halves of this one were capped off by remarkable plays. The first half ended with James Harrison’s lung-busting interception return. The game was won with Ben Roethlisberger’s perfect pass to Santonio Holmes, who somehow got two feet down in the back of the end zone.
10. Super Bowl XXIII: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
A crummy game turned into an instant classic thanks to a brilliant game-winning drive authored by Joe Montana.
9. Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Two words: Helmet. Catch.
8. Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17
The Patriots dynasty started with a massive upset that ended with a Tom Brady game-winning drive and clutch kick by Adam Vinatieri. NFL fans would have to get used that kind of ending.
7. Super Bowl XXXIV: Rams 23, Titans 16
This was a great Super Bowl, but can we stop saying the Titans were one yard short of winning it? Even if Kevin Dyson had pulled a Michael Jordan in Space Jam and reached the ball over the goal line, the game would have gone to overtime.
6. Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
The game did not feature nearly as dramatic an ending as the rest of the top-10, but it was a game full of Hall of Famers all playing at a high level. Forget about Super Bowl history, this was one of the best games in the history of American sports.
5. Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
The Panthers and Patriots gave us the most exciting fourth quarter in Super Bowl history, combining for five scores, including an 85-yard pass by Jake Delhomme, which remains a Super Bowl record, and Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning kick as time expired.
4. Super Bowl XXV: Giants 20, Bills 19
Some may argue this should be higher than third, but, before Scott Norwood’s infamous miss, the Giants and Bills did not give us a very exciting game. That was by design. New York didn’t want Buffalo’s explosive offense on the field, so it grinded out the clock on the ground and ended up winning the time of possession battle by about 20 minutes. A smart strategy? Sure, but it did not make for an entertaining game up until the end.
3. Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception remains the best ending in Super Bowl history. It was not only totally unexpected but it was made possible by a play-call that will be debated for years to come.
2. Super Bowl LII: Eagles 41, Patriots 33
This Super Bowl had it all: An underdog story (Nick Foles), a memorable play (Philly Special), a controversial coaching decision (Belichick benching Malcolm Butler), a ton of points (a record 74 points combined!) and a dramatic finish. But even with all that, it’s not even the best Super Bowl of the last two years…
1. Super Bowl LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28
The game that gave us all of those 28-3 jokes. It featured the great comeback, the only overtime in Super Bowl history, not one but two spectacular catches and a fascinating chess match between the Falcons and Patriots coaching staffs. There are no arguments to be made: This is the greatest Super Bowl of all-time.
What is the best Super Bowl of all-time? Spoiler alert: It involves the Patriots.