I did some reading from the Christian Research Institute (this organization is respected, credible, and has been around for a long time) regarding Bible translations and found two articles that shed a lot of insight into this topic which you can read here and here.
Basically there are two goals in Bible translation…literal accuracy (word for word) and meaning accuracy (meaning for meaning) . Most mainstream and widely accepted versions of the Bible are within a range between the two. Generally speaking, if the translations committee is comprised of God-fearing, various denominational, Hebrew or Greek or Aramaic experts, then the translation should be “good”. Watch out for translations done by one person or one denomination or committees who don’t even believe in God because the resulting translation will be skewed towards the interpretation they want to convey. These types of translations are “bad” or “ugly” and the articles above will explain further.
Here is a list of translations from most literal to least:
KJV NKJV ASV NASB ESV NRSV HCSB NET NIV NLT CEV
The KJV is one of the most word-for-word literal translations from when it was translated into English in 1611. The problem with very literal translations is that the meaning behind the words could get confusing or lost considering the day and age of the current reader. Plus an English word from 400 years ago probably has a different context & connotation now. The NIV is more meaning-for-meaning focused but still follows the Greek/Hebrew form. The Message version isn’t a true translation but is one person’s paraphrase of the meaning of the original text…so it’s not included in the list. The problem with paraphrase versions is that it becomes one person’s interpretation which contains bias.
At the end of the day anyone claiming one version to be the “best” is not very credible or has an agenda. Many versions are good but have a slightly different focus when translating. The NIV version is probably middle of the road between literal and interpreted translation and more widely used. Most people prefer or are more comfortable or are more familiar using one particular version over another.
It is recommended that in Bible study you use Bible translations across the spectrum, from most literal focused to more meaning focused, in order to have a richer understanding of the scriptures.