NFL Super Bowl flag with Lombardi Trophy on it

NFL Super Bowl flag with Lombardi Trophy on it (Photo by rarrarorro on Shutterstock)

There’s nothing quite like Super Bowl Sunday. Whether you’re into watching the game or enjoying the bounty of food and snacks with your friends and family, most sports fans will agree that the Super Bowl is the best sports day of the year. Sure, we get a bad game from time to time, but for the most part, the Super Bowl features the two best and most deserving football teams in the National Football League (NFL) battling it out for a world championship. The first Super Bowl was played in 1967 at the famed Los Angeles Memorial Stadium as the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in a fairly one-sided affair. Over 55 Super Bowls have been played since, but only a few can be considered the best Super Bowls of all time. 

No game is as big and popular as the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is one of the most-watched sporting events in the entire world. Households nationwide gather around the TV every February as the NFL looks to crown a new champion, and we, as football fans, love every second of it. The Super Bowl pits the best team in the National Football Conference (NFC) against the best team in the American Football Conference (AFC). The winner is crowned champion and forever enshrined in the history books as a great team. However, most of the popularity surrounding the big game is centered around parties and not the game itself. Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial holiday in America and that has as much to do with Super Bowl parties as it does football. 

A recent survey of 2,000 Americans found that the majority of people who attend Super Bowl parties year after year are more interested in the food or hanging out with their family and friends than the actual game. Less than half of respondents claim the football game itself was their main interest come Super Bowl Sunday while over 40 percent say they’re just happy to get some family time with loved ones. More than one-third of those surveyed claim they’re too busy enjoying the great food and snacks to even pay attention to what’s happening in the game. Sounds like Super Bowl Sunday is sort of like an unofficial Thanksgiving for most of us. 

So, which Super Bowl games do fans think go down in history as the most legendary? StudyFinds visited 10 sports and pop culture websites to put together a consensus list of the best Super Bowls of all time. Our list comprises the seven most frequently listed Super Bowl games from across these sites. Think our experts missed one of your favorite Super Bowl games ever? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 

➡️ How Our “Best Of The Best” Lists Are Created

StudyFinds’ “Best of the Best” articles are put together with the idea of taking the work out of common consumer research. Ever find yourself searching for a product or service on Google and reading multiple reviews to find items listed across many of them? Our Best of the Best lists are created with that process in mind, with each item ranked by how frequently it appears on expert reviews or lists. With Best of the Best, you are getting consensus picks — making them truly the best of the best!

Super Bowl Glow at Paul Brown Stadium in 2022
Super Bowl Glow at Paul Brown Stadium in 2022 (Photo by Craig Burke on Shutterstock)

The List: Top 7 Best Super Bowls of All Time, According to Critics

1. Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants (17) vs. New England Patriots (14)

The top spot on the list of the best Super Bowls of all time belongs to Super Bowl XLII featuring the New York Giants against the New England Patriots. The Patriots came into this game undefeated on the season, seeking to become the first team to go undefeated through the season and the Super Bowl since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. What ensued was one of the best football games of all time. 

As Fox Sports explains, the sheer drama was hard to beat with the upstart Giants, who entered the 2007 playoffs with little to no expectations of reaching the Super Bowl as they squared off against the 18-0 Patriots team trying to complete the NFL’s second undefeated season ever. New England was seeking its fourth Super Bowl championship over the course of seven years, a feat that most NFL fans had never witnessed before.  

The game was a low-scoring affair. As Men’s Journal situates, the Patriots were within two minutes of completing a perfect season, but the Giants simply wouldn’t go away without a fight. On third-and-five with the Giants’ season hanging in the balance, Eli Manning took the snap and immediately found himself surrounded in the pocket by several Patriots defenders. Jarvis Green and Richard Seymour each had a hand on Manning’s jersey, but he somehow broke free of the sack and hurled a deep ball toward the middle of the field for his wide receiver, David Tyree. Tyree made an unbelievable catch in what many call the greatest play in Super Bowl history. 

The catch was only good for a fresh set of downs, but it swayed the momentum of the game in the Giants’ favor. As Yardbarker describes, the Giants kept Tom Brady in check all night and kept the game tight. Brady had set the single-season touchdowns record that year and his Patriots were destroying every team that stood in their way. Tyree’s circus catch saw him pin the ball against his helmet with defenders draped all around him. Although this was the pivotal play on a game-winning drive, the Giants finally sealed the victory when Manning hit his star wide receiver, Plaxico Burress, for a late game-winning touchdown. The outcome still stands for many as the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.  

2. Super Bowl LI: New England Patriots (34) vs. Atlanta Falcons (28) 

The next matchup on the list of the best games in Super Bowl history once again features the New England Patriots. This time Brady and the Pats were facing off against the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) Matt Ryan and his Atlanta Falcons. Ryan finally led the Falcons to the big game, and after coming out to a dominating lead in the first half, Ryan and crew were poised to secure their first Super Bowl title in franchise history. Football fans learned an important lesson that day – don’t ever count out the great Tom Brady

As DAZN notes, the Falcons stormed out to a 21-3 lead at halftime and extended it to 28-3 in the third quarter. In most years, this would be a surefire Super Bowl victory, but Brady refused to go away quietly. The legendary quarterback guided the Patriots back to within eight points. The Falcons couldn’t sustain a drive and ended up giving the ball right back to the Patriots. New England running back James White scored his second touchdown of the half and the Patriots went for two with under a minute remaining and converted with a pass to Danny Amendola. The Patriots forced overtime, won the overtime coin toss, received the ball, and scored the Super Bowl-winning touchdown on a run by White. The Falcons blew the biggest lead in Super Bowl history as the Patriots secured a fifth Super Bowl by the score of 34-28. 

The story of this Super Bowl is the comeback by Brady and the Patriots. The Patriots’ defense played a critical role in the comeback and helped put Brady in position to score on a few occasions. However, as Men’s Journal also notes, Brady orchestrated the comeback by throwing for more than 400 yards. Julian Edelman made an impossible-looking catch in the fourth quarter when he barely got his hands under a contested ball and barely plucked it off the turf. Super Bowl LI saw Brady and coach Bill Belichick win their fifth Super Bowl ring, an NFL record for a coach and quarterback duo.  

The outrageous comeback elevated Brady to new heights in the NFL. He was now considered the greatest of all time, or the GOAT. As The Telegraph explains, this Super Bowl is one of the greatest because it was the first one to ever go into overtime. But, it’s the comeback by the legendary Brady that makes this game so special. Brady brought his team back from down 25 and it took him less than two quarters to tie the game. In overtime, Brady only needed one drive to clinch his fifth ring. 

3. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers (27) vs. Arizona Cardinals (23)

The next game on the list of the best Super Bowls in NFL history features another thrilling finish between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers were still fresh off of a Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks only a couple of years before this one while the Cardinals were playing in the big game for the first time in franchise history. This Super Bowl was a matchup of opposites as it pitted one of the winningest franchises in NFL history, the Steelers, against one of the league’s perennial losers, the Cardinals. Of course, we were all treated to an instant classic.  

Philly Sports Network feels this was undoubtedly the greatest Super Bowl ever played. The Steelers had the number-one-ranked defense as they went against the Arizona Cardinals, who caught fire at the right time of year – the playoffs. This game was full of big plays and exciting moments. Ben Roethlisberger escaped pressure in the first quarter and found Hines Ward for a big gain. James Harrison had a 100-yard interception for a touchdown to end the first half. Pittsburgh went on an incredible 14-play-eight-minute drive to go up 20-7 in the third quarter. And then, a fourth-quarter explosion from the Cardinals and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner put Arizona ahead with only a few minutes to go in the game. 

As Pro Football Network explains, this was a Super Bowl full of iconic moments. The Arizona Cardinals nearly pulled off an impossible comeback as they took the lead late in the fourth, going up 23-20. The 64-yard catch-and-run from Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the best catches and runs we’ve ever seen in a Super Bowl, and it was only one in a handful of incredible plays made in this unforgettable Super Bowl. 

In astounding fashion, Pittsburgh still managed to pull off the victory. As Betway notes, Pittsburgh rallied in the fourth quarter as Santonio Holmes came up with two remarkable catches on Pittsburgh’s final drive. Holmes eventually scored the game-winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone with one of the most unbelievable toe taps football fans have ever seen. Roethlisberger threw the perfect pass that only Holmes could catch, and he did. Pittsburgh won the title in the final minutes, the second of Roethlisberger’s career, by a score of 27-23.   

4. Super Bowl LII: Philadelphia Eagles (41) vs. New England Patriots (33)

Next up on the list of the top games in the history of the Super Bowl is the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII (52). This was one of the highest-scoring games in the history of the Super Bowl as the Eagles put up an astonishing 41 points on Bill Belichick and his vaunted Patriots defense. As 247 Sports comments, the Eagles were missing their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, who was injured earlier in the season during a showdown with the Los Angeles Rams. Wentz was replaced by one-time Eagles starter Nick Foles, a solid backup but seemingly no match for Brady and the Patriots. Perhaps just as important to note, the Eagles were also missing their Hall of Fame-level left tackle Jason Peters for this one. Philly’s offense definitely wasn’t at its best when they needed it most. It didn’t matter. Foles scored four touchdowns. 

Although Foles played better than anyone would have imagined, the Eagles were heavy underdogs coming into this one, Betway comments. The Patriots were five-time Super Bowl champs at this point, and only Eli Manning and the Giants had beaten them in the big game. It would take something “special” to beat the Patriots. That’s exactly what head coach Doug Peterson and the Eagles drew up – The Philly Special. It’s the trick play that will live in Super Bowl history and Philadelphia lore for generations to come. 

The play started with a direct snap to the running back out of the shotgun, who then pitched the ball to the tight end, who finally threw a pass to none other than the quarterback, wide open in the corner of the endzone. Yes, Foles also caught a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl! The play helped solidify the Eagles’ victory over the Patriots. Throughout the game, the Eagles were creative with their plays, aggressive on fourth down, and as Pro Football Network notes, it was all a great example of how excellent Doug Peterson is at drawing up gameplans and coaching football.  

5. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants (20) vs. Buffalo Bills (19)

The fifth game on the list of the top games in Super Bowl history belongs to Super Bowl XXV (25) and the matchup between the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. This was also the year that Whitney Houston sang her iconic national anthem performance. Unfortunately, this was the first in a string of four consecutive Super Bowl losses by the Bills. Still, Buffalo’s best chance to win a title came in this game. Yardbarker notes that Buffalo’s K-Gun offense was nearly unstoppable that season, and the Giants didn’t have an answer for the Bills’ innovative offensive attack, either. 

Nonetheless, this game went back and forth as the legendary coach of the Giants, Bill Parcells, faced off against another legendary leader, Marv Levy. The Giants controlled the ball for most of the game, but whenever Buffalo got an opportunity, they moved the ball freely. Buffalo scored a staggering 51 points in the AFC Championship game, but as Men’s Journal explains, the offense was mostly bottled up by the Giants’ defensive coordinator – a young and innovative coach by the name of Bill Belichick. The Bills were still able to score 19 points, despite only having the ball for around 20 minutes total throughout the game. Down by one point, the Bills got the ball back and went on a drive. 

With the scoreboard reading 20-19, the Bills offense, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, drove down the field and put themselves in a position to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl. As ESPN explains, the Bills’ chances rested on a field goal attempt by kicker Scott Norwood. Norwood missed the kick “wide right,” and the Giants secured their second Super Bowl title in five years. Norwood’s miss cost the Bills a championship and it was the first of four consecutive losses by the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl. 

6. Super Bowl III: New York Jets (16) vs. Baltimore Colts (7)

Super Bowl III was the first game to actually be called the “Super Bowl” and this game certainly lived up to the billing. The matchup featured Broadway Joe Namath and the underdog New York Jets squaring off against the Baltimore Colts, explains Men’s Journal. The Jets were considered the underdogs because they represented the American Football League (AFL), which would eventually become the AFC. The AFL had lost the first two Super Bowl matchups with the Chiefs and the Raiders getting beaten by the Green Bay Packers, soundly. Broadway Joe didn’t care. 

When football fans think about upsets in the Super Bowl, this game is one of the first that comes to mind. The Colts were favored to win by an astonishing 19.5 points, notes DAZN. Today, a point spread this large is almost unheard of in professional football, but back then, the Colts were expected to destroy the Jets. To this day, the Jets’ victory over the Colts is considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of professional sports, not just football. 

Days before the big game in Miami, Namath was chilling poolside when reporters came up to him, asking questions about the matchup and how he felt his underdog Jets would fare against the mighty Colts. The Telegraph notes that Namath might have been a little tipsy when he answered questions by guaranteeing victory against the Colts in the upcoming Super Bowl. Namath’s infamous guarantee worked out and he’s an NFL legend as a result of the huge upset. Without a doubt, Super Bowl III helped pave the way for the success of future Super Bowl games and the NFL in general. 

7. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers (35) vs. Dallas Cowboys (31)

Rounding out the list of the best games in Super Bowl history is Super Bowl XIII (13) and the matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. This game was everything you’d expect from a big game between these two legendary franchises. Super Bowl XIII featured a first half full of exciting plays and lots of scoring with the Steelers taking a 21-14 lead into halftime.  

As Fox Sports explains, this game featured over 20 future Hall of Fame players and coaches. The fourth quarter was one of the most exciting quarters in Super Bowl history as both the Steelers and the Cowboys opened up their respective offenses and began scoring at will. The Steelers led 21-17 going into the fourth and grew that lead to 35-17 with a little more than seven minutes remaining. The Steelers players were already celebrating on the sidelines as their victory seemed well in hand. But this game should have been even closer than it was. 

DAZN notes that the Cowboys had to settle for three points in the third quarter when they should’ve had a touchdown. Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith dropped what would have been a touchdown in the third quarter, and Dallas had to settle for a field goal as a result of the missed opportunity. Still, Dallas trimmed Pittsburgh’s lead to 21-17 in the third. 

The fourth quarter saw lots of action. The Steelers jumped out to a 35-17 lead in the fourth quarter, but Dallas eventually came storming back. As Philly Sports Network describes, Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach wouldn’t go away quietly. Staubach led a scoring barrage in the fourth quarter, driving his Cowboys to two touchdowns in the final seven minutes. However, Staubach’s efforts were too little too late as the Steelers hung on to a 35-31 lead to win Super Bowl XIII. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw was named Super Bowl MVP and Pittsburgh closed out the decade as champs. 


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About Matthew Sherdan

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