Videogames 101: Best-Selling Consoles & Games

This is the second installment of the “Videogames 101” series.  In the previous level, we entered the dangerous territory of defining why videogames appeal to the people who play them, and tried to explain what that meant for the players.  Deep, deep stuff I assure you.  Check out part one for yourself, if you like.

Level 2 is going to be a different sort of animal.  We’re going to throw some numbers around about which videogames and consoles are the best and worst according to sales.  I emphasize that last bit to try and avoid comments suggesting that one opinion is better than another.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like Tetris or think it’s a stupid game.  It’s still the best-selling videogame ever.  By a lot.  We’re working with cumulative statistics, taken from dozens of different sources (Guinness World Records, Game Informer, Gamepro, and IGN, to name a few).  Not many arguments are won against statistics.

And no, computers aren’t going to be taken into account for sales, as it’s pretty much impossible to determine how many computers were sold and eventually used for gaming.  If there are any numbers here that somehow represent PC gaming, it’s purely coincidental.  So to all of you under the banner of “PC Master Race,” I’m sorry.

Lastly, don’t expect this to be a supreme, exhaustive resource for the entire commercial history of the videogame industry.  These are popcorn highlights, gathered under one roof for quick, but wholesome, consumption.


Nice and easy.  The top 20 best-selling videogame consoles of all time.  This is in units sold, not money grossed.  Any guesses as to #1?

#20 – Sega Dreamcast – 10.6 Million
#19 – Sega Game Gear – 11 Million
#18 – Sega Master System – 13 to 14.8 Million
#17 – Nintendo Gamecube – 21.74 Million
#16 –Xbox – 24 Million
#15 – Atari 2600 – 30 Million
#14 – Nintendo 64 – 32.93 Million
#13 – Sega Genesis – 40 Million
#12 – Nintendo 3DS – 43.33 Million
#11 – Super Nintendo Entertainment System – 49.10 Million
#10 – Nintendo Entertainment System – 61.91 Million
#9 – Playstation Portable – 76.3 – 80 Million
#8 – Playstation 3 – 80 Million
#7 – Gameboy Advance – 81.51 Million
#6 – Xbox 360 – 83.7 Million
#5 – Wii – 101.06 Million
#4 – Playstation – 102.49 Million
#3 – Gameboy (Including Color model) – 118.69 Million
#2 – Nintendo DS – 153.99 Million
#1 – Playstation 2 – >155 Million

Despite the PS2 having (barely) beaten out the DS, Nintendo still dominates the top five.  Not surprising, considering one of Nintendo’s fortes lies in handheld devices, something that Sony’s seen limited success with.  Notice the PSP (Sony device) is in #9.  Not bad, but Nintendo has three separate handhelds all above that rank.  While they might go back and forth on their delivery of core consoles, Nintendo definitely has the formula down for their handhelds.


Okay, let’s begin our dive into the videogames, again according to sales.  This is accounting for all consoles, including mobile.  I feel this will earn some enmity.  Oh well.

#20 – Mario Kart DS – 23.56 Million
#19 – Pokemon Red/Blue/Green – 23.64 Million
#18 – Nintendogs – 23.92 Million
#17 – Kinect Adventures! – 24 Million
#16 – Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – 24.2 Million
#15 – Grand Theft Auto IV – 25 Million
#14 – Call of Duty: Black Ops – 26.2 Million
#13 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – 26.5 Million
#12 – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – 27.5 Million
#11 – New Super Mario Bros. Wii – 28.02 Million
#10 – Wii Play – 28.2 Million
#9 – Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – 28.5 Million
#8 – New Super Mario Bros. – 30.75 Million
#7 – Wii Sports Resort – 32.58 Million
#6 – Grand Theft Auto V – 32.7 Million
#5 – Mario Kart Wii – 35.53 Million
#4 – Super Mario Bros. – 40.24 Million
#3 – Minecraft – 54 Million
#2 – Wii Sports – 83.54 Million
#1 – Tetris – 143 Million

It should be noted that an insane amount of Tetris’s purchases come from the mobile app; thus, the large gap between #1 and #2. (Even then, Wii Sports is only so high because it came with the purchase of a Wii).  Aside from its generally easy learning curve and simple nature, Tetris is also a retro classic and it’s good to see that people didn’t just let it go off and die.  You’ll notice that there are a lot of recurring franchises—Mario, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto—all of whom hog the spotlight most of the time.  This, in itself, is not a bad thing.  Grand Theft Auto, despite all its vices and morally questionable elements, gave rise to a large spike in metropolis free-roaming.  Numerous Spider-Man games, Infamous, and Prototype come to mind as a few examples.  Each of these has contributed to the medium, and still continue to dominate in their respective fields.

Oh, Pokemon.  You so silly.

Oh, Pokemon. You so silly.

Time to get down to some more specific items.  I’m going to put a particular emphasis on more recent consoles rather than the retro of generations past, though I’ll toss in the top-selling games from older consoles, too.  Again, all of this is according to sales, and should not be taken as all-encompassing.  There are many consoles that will not be present, and only a maximum of five entries for each.

Atari 2600

Pac-Man – 7 million

Pac-Man was the best-selling videogame up to 1982, when it surpassed Asteroids.  I’d like to note that Space Invaders, also for the Atari 2600, was the first game to sell over a million copies.


Halo 2 – 8 million
Halo: Combat Evolved – 5 million
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – 3 million
Fable – 3 million
Project Gotham Racing – 2.5 million

It’s no mystery to gamers that the Xbox was dominated by Halo–the franchise that has now become Bungie’s flagship series.  We have the Xbox to thank for many IP’s (Intellectual Properties) that have persisted even into modern day consoles.  Aside from those, its biggest contribution to the industry was Xbox Live, which set a new standard for online gaming.

Xbox 360

Grand Theft Auto V – 24 Million
Kinect Adventures – 16.95 Million
Halo 3 – 14.5 Million
Call of Duty: Black Ops – 12 Million
Minecraft – 12 Million

If you look at this lineup, and the overarching one towards the beginning of the article, you’ll notice most of these are components of that ultimate list, so there’s nothing really new to talk about here.  It is worth noting the decline of Halo games though.  Halo 3 is there to represent the franchise, but there were many sequels that all came out afterwards and met with various levels of success (all of which are absent from this list).  You can also see the trend of videogames rising in our culture through this one statistic.  For the original Xbox, Halo 2 sold 8 million copies and hit the top of the chart, but Halo 3 only made it to third on almost twice as many sales.  This is called industrial progress.  *Cheers*

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

Super Mario Bros. – 40.24 Million
Super Mario Bros. 3 – 18 Million
Super Mario Bros. 2 – 10 Million

So yeah, that happened.  All three top places for this old system (released in 1983) belong to king of the pipe: Mario.  That 40 million is insanely impressive.  It beats out most game sales even today.  You also need to consider that it’s THE Super Mario Bros., a game of heralded fame and class.  It’s one of the cornerstones of videogame history.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

Super Mario World – 20.60 Million
Donkey Kong Country – 9 Million
Super Mario Kart – 8.67 Million
Street Fighter II: World Warrior – 6.3 Million
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – 4.6 Million

Despite its age, I still included five entries for the SNES, mostly because I wanted A Link to the Past on the list.  I’m selfish like that.  It’s my favorite Zelda game.  Nowadays, Street Fighter has dropped off the radar for most contemporary gamers, but otherwise all of these franchises are still relatively strong…Okay, not so much with Donkey Kong.  The big monkey doesn’t get much attention nowadays, at least not compared to his peer-characters.  Though I look forward to his appearance in the new, upcoming Super Smash Bros. this October.

Nintendo 64

Super Mario 64 – 11.62 Million
Mario Kart 64 – 9.87 Million
GoldenEye 007 – 8 Million
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 7.6 Million
Super Smash Bros. – 5 Million

I failed to find it again for this article, but I once read a large collection of top 10 videogame lists from sites and critics all across the internet.  There were upwards of fifty different opinions, and among them, one game that was consistently present was Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  Over half of all the lists had Ocarina of Time as the #1 entry, with the game present in every list except maybe five or six.  In addition to this, another source suggested that, among various communities polled, 7/10 gamers claimed OoT to be the best videogame ever.  All of this is just to inform that Ocarina of Time, if not the best videogame ever, has at least proven to be the most widely liked videogame of all time, despite its actual quality or sales.

Nintendo Wii

Wii Sports – 82.5 Million
Mario Kart Wii – 35.5 Million
Wii Sports Resort – 32.5 Million
New Super Mario Bros. Wii – 28.6 Million
Wii Play – 28 Million

No, your eyes don’t deceive you.  “Wii” is definitely in the title of every single one of these games.  Nintendo has a habit of doing that with whichever console they’re presently working on.  That aside, there is a brilliant reason for the high numbers on these games: Nintendo bundled them with Wii consoles.  Wii Sports came with the very first edition of the Wii, which was sold out for weeks on end because of the high demand.  Lots of Wii consoles sold, lots of Wii Sports sold.  Viola!  Market magic.

Wii U (Current Generation)

New Super Mario Bros. U – 4.2 Million
Nintendo Land – 3 Million
Mario Kart 8 – 2.8 Million
Super Mario 3D World – 2.2 Million
New Super Luigi U – 1.7 Million

Oh, look.  More Mario.  And ‘U’s, just like ‘Wii’s.”  Told you Nintendo likes to do that.  If you aren’t very familiar with videogames, Luigi is Mario’s brother, so yes, that 5th place entry is also a Mario game.  That’s 4/5 entries.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Because of how recent a console the Wii U is, it barely made this list.  These numbers are sure to grow much more over the next couple years.

Gameboy (And Gameboy Color)

Tetris – 35 Million
Pokemon Red/Blue – 23.6 Million
Pokemon Gold/Silver – 23 Million
Super Mario Land – 18.1 Million
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins – 11.09 Million

Here’s a piece of Tetris’s sales monopoly, followed swiftly by Pokemon, Nintendo’s handheld powerhouse.  While Pokemon has made its way to consoles, everybody knows that their home is on handheld devices.  Always has been, always will be.

gameboy-this-isnt-even-my-final-formGameboy Advance

Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire – 16.2 Million
Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen – 11.8 Million
Pokemon Emerald – 6.8 Million
Mario Kart: Super Circuit – 5.9 Million
Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 – 4.2 Million

Told you, Pokemon is the king of the Nintendo handheld, and for good reason.  Pokemon games are consistently high-quality products, which deliver both simplicity and complexity, depending on what you’re looking for.  Mario–the shining star of Nintendo–is right up there with them, too.

Nintendo DS

New Super Mario Bros. – 30.78 Million
Nintendogs – 23.9 Million
Mario Kart DS – 23.5 Million
Brain Age – 19 Million
Pokemon Diamond and Pearl – 17.6 Million

I’m actually surprised Brain Age came in such a high placement.  This is a game that focuses on fostering intelligence through numerous gameplay activities meant to train various parts of the brain, such as problem-solving and memory.  Aside from that, there’s nothing terribly surprising in this lineup.  Mario and Pokemon.  And Nintendogs, which was a bigger hit than I thought it was.

Nintendo 3DS

Pokemon X/Y – 12.3 Million
Mario Kart 7 – 9.6 Million
Super Mario 3D Land – 9.3 Million
New Super Mario Bros. 2 – 7.8 Million
Animal Crossing: New Leaf – 7.6 Million

Animal Crossing doesn’t usually see the top of the charts, so it’s nice to see the playful life-simulation game making an entry on the 3DS lineup.  You know, change things up a little.

Sega Genesis

Sonic the Hedgehog – 15 Million
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – 6 Million
Disney’s Aladdin – 4 Million

Mario is to Nintendo as Sonic is to Sega.  The speedy, blue hedgehog made his debut on the Genesis by claiming both #1 and #2 spots on the best-selling charts… and the hearts of many fans.  Sonic still circulates through newer consoles, but transferred companies when Nintendo bought out Sega awhile back.  Now the Mario and Sonic rivalry continues on a more civil scale.

Sega Dreamcast

Sonic Adventure – 2.5 Million
Soulcaliber – 1.3 Million
Crazy Taxi – 1.2 Million

The Dreamcast was Sega’s last major attempt not to fall into the red, and, unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way they wanted.  Sonic led the charge, but his success wasn’t what they were hoping for.  Ultimately, the console, while loved by many, was a flop.

Playstation Portable

Monster Hunter Portable 3rd – 4.8 Million
Gran Turismo – 4.2 Million
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite – 3.6 Million

Sony’s PSP was the only noteworthy handheld the company was able to produce, but even though it surpassed the PS Vita, there were still not many hits to be accounted for.  It’s hard to compete against Nintendo in handheld territory.


Gran Turismo – 10.8 Million
Final Fantasy VII – 9.7 Million
Gran Turismo 2 – 9.3 Million

Others of note: Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear Solid, Spyro, Resident Evil and numerous other Final Fantasy’s.  I always find it strange that Gran Turismo does so well on Sony’s charts, considering that I personally don’t know anybody who plays those games.

Playstation 2

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – 17.3 Million
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – 14.9 Million
Gran Turismo 4 – 11.7 Million
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – 9.6 Million
Grand Theft Auto III – 7.9 Million

The Playstation 2 is where GTA started picking up speed, as evidenced by three separate entries on the console.  The rest of the space is filled by Gran Turismo, which has only continued to grow in popularity since its PS1 debut.

Playstation 3

Gran Turismo 5 -10.6 Million
The Last of Us – 6 Million
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – 6 Million
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue – 5.3 Million
God of War III – 5.2 Million

Two Gran Turismo installments, the original wrap-ups to two other strong franchises, and The Last of Us, a game heralded by many as perfect.  Regardless of whether you prefer Microsoft or Sony, the numbers at least suggest that people much less preferred the PS3 to the Xbox 360.  The 360 had exponentially more sales, with their lowest entry earning more than the PS3’s highest entry.  A large piece of this is probably due to the PS3’s price, especially at release.  Not many people can float six-hundred dollars for recreation.

Playstation 4 & Xbox One

These systems are still too recent to satisfy any decent standards for these lists.  The Wii U hardly had enough to talk about, and these two just don’t make the cut.


“Someday, brother.”

To be honest, this process could go on for a long, long time.  There are many consoles, more games, and yet more words that could be said about all of them.  We are talking about an entire strain of history, after all.  I frown to admit that not all of the information can be available in this one spot, as this is not meant to be an end-all-be-all, exhaustive list.  These are just some of the absolute, most notable titles and the numbers that go with them.  I’m considering a future installment in which I cover videogame developers and which games they have contributed to the videogame archives, but that will be for another day.  Before concluding, I’d like to make a brief mention of notably bad games to contrast all of these best-sellers.  The list will be short, as I don’t care much to speak of the worst of anything and don’t feel like researching it.  Besides, it’s easy to empirically judge how good something is, and a little more difficult to judge how bad it is.  Not quite so many statistics for stuff like that.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Superman 64
Sonic The Hedgehog 2006
The War Z
Custer’s Revenge
Final Fantasy All the Bravest
Ride to Hell: Retribution

Mostly, all of these were named off the top of my head.  And, of course, there are far higher numbers of hideous videogames than these seven, but–again–I don’t want to emphasize that too much.  These are just some titles to be familiar with should you have friends that enjoy videogames.  These are often the butt of jokes.  It is as they say: every light casts a shadow.

Thank you for reading.  God bless, breakdance on your kitchen floor, and always remember to smile.

VERSE OF THE DAY – Isaiah 26:3
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

SONG OF THE DAY – “Pitiful” by Blindside

Cooper D Barham

Aspiring author, marriage and family therapist, and active behavioral health technician, Cooper fills his world with God, music, videogames, anime/manga, drawing, reading, writing, and some physical stuff in between. If you ever want to talk about the big or little things of life, fire him a message. Helping others through tough times is both his passion and way of living. 'Got it memorized?'


  1. Michael M. on September 2, 2014 at 1:29 am

    I don’t think I will be breakdancing on my kitchen floor…..BUT I will smile 🙂

    Great article, and wow, I think I read Mario like 20 times. He’s pretty popular for a plumber. There should be a real plumber out there who will cosplay as Mario and do toilets. I would hire him…

  2. Jeremiah Jackson on September 1, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Nintendo never bought SEGA. A deal was made for 3 Games to be developed by them exclusively for Nintendo Consoles (Wii U / 3DS) and the new Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is the last of those three.

  3. Casey Covel on September 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Great compilation of games and sales. I find the trends here fascinating, but it’s no surprise that Mario has dominated the Nintendo market. I’m sure he’ll continue to do so in the future 🙂 I expect big sales in the future of the Wii U, as well.

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