I think it comes down to subjective (most popular) vs. objective (all time best) judgement.
I can objectively say that Uncharted 3 is a great game...but I don't like it more than most other games because it doesn't hit on the notes that I personally like most. Objectively it's a 9 or 10. Subjectively it's a 7. Same with the Gears of War games - though at least I've played all 3 of the Uncharted games through to the end; I only played GoW for about 2 hours or so.
User reviews are not typically objective because those that write reviews incorrectly believe that all gamers must have the same tastes as them (some professional reviewers fall prey to this as well). And they overreact and blow everything out of proportion; every big release nowadays is either the best (EPIC!) or the worst (EPIC FAIL!) ever according to stupid kids, who write those reviews.
As far as professional reviews are concerned, when I see someone with an admitted dislike for fighting games review a fighting game...it just doesn't make sense at all to have them do that and the reader needs to be made aware.
Similar to user reviews, sales (what I think qualifies a game as most popular) are subjective. That is, they are subject to what the consumer likes as opposed to what the industry defines as well made. A niche game on the DS could be the best game ever made from a technical standpoint but it will never outsell or be more popular than the next Super Mario Bros. game (replace with Call of Duty on consoles).
Example: Chrono Trigger is widely considered to be one of the best games of all time. It shows up on 'best game' lists all over. Sales of the SNES version in America must have been huge since it was so good, right? Only if you consider less than 300k to be 'huge.'
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