The video game industry went from relative obscurity in the early 80s and 90s to dwarfing that of the movie and music industry in terms of revenue; and what are some of the biggest contributors of that financial success? We took a look at the best-selling video games of all time to see which titles have made the biggest splash over the years!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (Multiplatform) – 26.5 million copies
When you think of modern first-person shooter (FPS) games, the first title that comes to mind is the Call of Duty franchise. Starting out as single-player campaign based games on early consoles, it eventually developed into an online juggernaut that became a household name. The Modern Warfare set of games within the franchise have had the best reputation, so it’s no surprise to see MW3 as the reigning champ of CoD games.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Multi-platform) – 27.5 million copies
This one is a little older, but seasoned gamers will be familiar with the original PS2 title that has now found its way onto other platforms due to sheer popularity. The open-world approach was already well-developed by the time GTA: San Andreas came out, but the combination of hilarity-filled storyline and some of the best designed mini-games has made it a fan-favourite and definitely one of the best GTA titles available.
Duckhunt (NES) – 28.3 million copies
Duckhunt is definitely a game that will reveal someone’s age if they fondly remember it – it was released way back in 1984 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It’s main appeal wasn’t simply imitating an arcade hunting game, but the fact that it was paired with a peripheral gun that would be used while playing. Not using a conventional controller gave it a novelty that set it apart from other games at the time, and was probably a huge driver of its impressive sales.
Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal (Gameboy Colour) – 29.5 million copies
Anyone that was growing up in the heyday of mobile games will remember the time when having a Gameboy made you one of the coolest kids around. The game that provided the best value for money game, because you could sink a mind-blowing number of hours into it, was definitely the Pokemon franchise. The Gold/Silver/Crystal series was the first time that an additional set of Pokemon beyond the initial 151 first generation was explored, and with improved graphics and mechanics, it’s no surprise it’s this far up the list.
Diablo III (Multiplatform) – 30 million copies
Although Diablo is a multi-platform game now, it’s really known for being a stalwart of the PC gaming community and one of the best dungeon-based action RPGs titles out there. The first two titles were massive hits and the third was a long-awaited addition since Diablo II was released in 2000, 12 years before the third instalment hit shelves. The huge following and extreme gap between the games meant that diehard fans were only too ready to invest their weekends into dungeon-clearing shenanigans when Diablo III arrived.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Multiplatform) – 30 million copies
The Elder Scrolls franchise has quite a number of hits throughout its lifespan, but it’s Skyrim that takes the cake in terms of popularity and pure sales. While its progress graphically and in terms of game mechanics over its predecessor were notable, it’s really the scope of the game world and expansiveness that sets it apart from other releases in the genre. The overall quality of the game is exceptional, and it doesn’t hurt that countless memes were created from people’s exploits in the game and its accompanying mods created by the community. As far as RPG games go, this is definitely an iconic title.
Wii Sports (Wii) – 83 million copies
Having over 80 million copies sold is a pretty massive target to hit, but the number will be slightly inflated by the fact that Wii Sports was packaged with each Wii console – so effectively each machine that Nintendo sold would automatically count as a sale of Wii Sports. That being said, in order to sell the idea of the movement-based controls of the Wii console, there had to be a ‘guinea pig’ game to let players familiarise themselves with the concept – and Wii Sports was a pretty epic way to do it. Whether you were beating friends up in Wii Boxing game or putting your driving and putting skills to the test in Wii Golf, it’s definitely a party game with very few rivals.
Grand Theft Auto V (Multiplatform) – 110 million copies
Now, breaking the 100 million sales barrier is quite an astounding feat, and it’s not the only impressive achievement that GTA V holds: the hype for the game was so immense that within 24 hours of its release, it had already generated $800 million in revenue – which equated to roughly 11 million copies of the game being sold within a single day. The fact that the PS3/Xbox360 consoles had provided a serious upgrade on their predecessors meant that GTA V leapt forward in all aspects, so there was a perfect storm to drive these insane sales figures, not to mention the game being re-released on Xbox One and PS4.
Tetris (Multiplatform) – 170 million copies
The original brick-smashing game that tested reflexes and your ability to plan ahead, Tetris is a game almost ever gamer has played at some stage. It shouldn’t surprise too many gaming purists, its massive tally of over 150 million copies is a testament to a couple of things; the first is that the game has shown amazing longevity and relevance since being released all the way back in 1984. The other thing it benefits from is that it has jumped from originally being an arcade game to making an appearance on almost every console or operating system imaginable. One might even say it is the quintessential video game and the game that most people would recognise, whether they’re young or old.
MineCraft (Multiplatform) – 176 million copies
Minecraft, sitting at over 175 million copies and downloads, is unequivocally the reigning champ of video game sales. Combining an engaging builder-gameplay style that can be enjoyed in a variety of modes (Survival, Adventure, Spectator, Creative, and Multiplayer) has broadened its appeal to a host of gamers and helped it climb to the top of this ladder in only eight short years. Although it’s possible to play solo, it’s the multiplayer component that has really rocketed its popularity and made it a mainstay for streamers and YouTube to create content around.
Which game on this list surprised you most? It’s clear by the presence of Tetris and Duckhunt that old school games still carry quite a bit of clout – but the newer tech available these days has obviously pushed gaming to dizzying heights and elevated it from just being a casual hobby! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and tweet us @MenStuffZA!