Since their creation in the early 70s, video games have had a tremendous impact on our lives and our culture. And, excluding the year the entire video game industry almost collapsed, they seem to only grow in popularity. Year after year, huge video game franchises (as well as consoles and peripherals) sell in astronomical numbers, with the industry making a whopping $23.5 billion in the U.S. alone last year!
While there are hundreds, if not thousands, of video game franchises out there vying for consumers’ attention, only a select few have managed to claim record sales numbers. Spanning several decades and the three largest console manufacturers (Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft), here are the top five highest selling video game franchises of all time.
5) Grand Theft Auto: 240 million units sold
The popular video game franchise has had as much controversy as it has success. Due to the game’s graphic violence and sexual situations and themes, parents across the nation have boycotted the franchise and attempted to keep it off of the shelves. Apparently, negative press is great marketing, seeing as how Rockstar Games (the video game’s developer) paid to have negative press surround the game in an effort to boost sales. That gamble paid off, with the franchise’s latest entry, Grand Theft Auto 5, earning a whopping $1 billion dollars in its first three days on the market. It is the fastest-selling entertainment product of all time to reach that mark.
4) Call of Duty: 250 million units sold
The annually released, first-person shooter has constantly smashed sales records for the past 7 years or so. The game has become incredibly popular due to its fast-paced online multiplayer mode, which pits players from around the world against one another in a variety of different game modes ranging from team deathmatch to capture the flag. Over 100 million people have played the the massive war shooter, and over 32 quadrillion shots have been fired since Modern Warfare 2, which was released in 2009. With so many fans of the franchise, it may seem like CoD can do no wrong. Recent sales numbers indicate otherwise. Apparently, the franchise’s latest entry, Infinite Warfare, has seen a sharp decline in sales (an almost 50% decline to be exact) compared to last year’s Black Ops III. Regardless, the series’ previous sales have earned it a spot on this list.
3) Pokemon: 280 million units sold
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few months, you should be very familiar with Pokemon, or at least have an idea of what it is.
Since its creation in 1996, Pokemon has taken over the world, planting itself inside the homes of millions. The franchise deals not only in video games, but also in apparel, television shows, manga, and various other merchandise.
One of the franchise’s most recent entries, Pokemon GO, took the world by storm, grossing a massive $600 million dollars in revenue. Millions of users around the world walked all over their respective neighborhoods to catch Pokemon for their digital and personal collections. As far as traditional console video games, the franchise has sold an incredible 280 million copies, which makes sense given the franchise’s 20 year history and its multiple video game releases on various different platforms.
2) Tetris: 495 million units sold
This might actually surprise some readers, but it’s true. Tetris is one of the highest selling video games of all time. Originally created by Alexey Pajitnov in Russia (then the Soviet Union) in 1984, Tetris was wildly popular. And after Dutch video game designer Henk Rogers brought the video game to the Western market, it became an instant classic. To this day, it has sold a resounding 495 million copies. What gave Tetris the ability to reach these numbers is the sheer amount of platforms that it is available on. Tetris is available on virtually every video game platform imaginable, even mobile phones. The incredibly simplistic game is so popular that it even has a movie that is currently in the early stages of production.
1) Mario: 528 million units sold
If you keep up with video games in any capacity, it should come as no surprise that the Super Mario franchise is the highest selling of all time. Introduced in 1981 in the popular Donkey Kong video game, The Italian plumber in overalls was originally called “Jumpman.” It wasn’t until 1985 that he was given the popular name we all know and love today. Spanning an impressive 30 year career, the Super Mario franchise has seen a release on every Nintendo console, both home and mobile. What makes these sales numbers truly impressive is, although there are multiple Mario games on several Nintendo platforms, they are exclusive to Nintendo. Imagine the amount of sales were Nintendo to sell the character’s rights to Sony and Microsoft!