From Animal Crossing To Virtua Fighter: 45 Games That Raked In The Big Bucks
Now is arguably the best time to be a gamer. With so many platforms to choose from, the proliferation of independent games, and every genre you can imagine, there seems to be no end to the video games available today. There are even ways to experience gameplay without even picking up a controller (via Let’s Players).
Everyone has their own opinion of what is the best game, and though there are games that rank high in certain areas (graphics, storyline, gameplay) or will always make the top ten lists, there are really only two ways to measure how successful a game is — profit and players. From long-time favorites to mobile sensations, here are some of the top-grossing video games of all time.
Pac-Man is among the most popular video games of all time. The eponymous character’s appearance was designed by Japanese artist Toru Iwatani, who took inspiration from… pizza! Seriously, a pizza pie (missing a slice) gave Iwatani an idea that changed the gaming industry.
He imagined the food item as “a live pizza dashing around a labyrinth, consuming everything.” In order to cater to ladies and young gamers, in particular, the persona was designed to have a pleasant and vibrant appearance. Clearly, it worked as it’s one of the most successful video games ever.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)
In New Horizons, the player’s character buys a vacation package from Tom Nook. On the remote island, the protagonist journeys to a remote island and completes duties, and makes decisions for the island’s development. Critics lauded the playability and customizability features of New Horizons.
It is frequently hailed as the greatest game in the Animal Crossing franchise. The game was a candidate for Game of the Year and received nominations for more than a dozen categories. Over 40 million units have been sold globally, making it a significant commercial success.
Mario Kart DS (2005)
The fifth major installment in the Mario Kart video game franchise, Mario Kart DS, was the first one to support online multiplayer through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection feature. This became the best-selling video game in both its initial and subsequent months of availability.
When it comes to crunching the numbers, Mario Kart DS has sold 23.6 million units worldwide and is the seventh most popular Mario game of all time. We wonder how many of those 23+ million players still tilt their Game Boy when turning in the game.
Tetris has been made available for practically every major electronic gadget ever made. It started off as a computer game before appearing on gaming systems such as the NES and Genesis/Mega Drive. It was so popular on Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld that it actually became an arcade game.
Eventually, it was made available on all the main consoles, phones, and iPods. Even social media sites like Facebook and webpages have browser editions of this. Simply put, we bet everyone reading this has tried Tetris at least once in their lives.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was first hinted at during the Nintendo Direct event in March 2018 before being properly unveiled at E3 that same June. All reviewers praised the title, with a few claiming it to be among the greatest iterations in the franchise.
What particularly caught their interest was the quantity of content as well as the polishing of the Smash gameplay. However, they panned the online option. With over 28 million units sold as of June 2022, Ultimate seems to be the best-selling fighting game ever created.
The idea behind Minecraft is straightforward; it’s almost akin to a virtual, albeit more complicated, version of Legos. Players use blocks to build whatever they want — sound familiar? The main difference between the two is the versatility of Minecraft.
Players don’t just construct buildings; they can build whole worlds! The simplistic visuals and soothing music only added to the appeal, and when paired with the sandbox-style gameplay, it’s no wonder why it’s one of the top-grossing video games of all time.
Sims 2 (2004)
Sims 2 received favorable reviews upon its release, and fans clearly agreed with the professional viewpoint. A whopping one million copies were sold in the first ten days, setting a milestone at the time, and becoming an uncontested economic success.
According to Sims 2‘s official website, in April 2018, 100 million units of the franchise were sold. It’s also one of the most popular PC games ever, with over six million copies sold. Although the Sims series is still growing today, Sims 2 was the last one the series creator was involved in.
GTA V (2013)
Grand Theft Auto offers the ideal balance of action, conflict, expansive open-world adventure, and narrative that users can’t seem to get enough of. It has set the benchmark of what a fantastic game can be, as seen by the franchises’ staggering sales figures.
The top video game sequels of all time include GTA III, Vice City, and GTA IV, all of which have received high accolades. But GTA V has outclassed them all and is still selling units today. The game has reportedly sold around 150 million copies.
Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Sega’s flagship franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog, is among the most popular video game franchises ever. It sold over 1.5 billion units sold and over $6 billion in revenue as of 2020. Unsurprisingly, this game has been described as emblematic of 1990s culture.
Sonic is prominent in the video game business and is regularly mentioned in popular culture. One of the biggest testaments to its success is the film adaptation. Not many games have been made into films, much less with a sequel.
Wii Sports (2006)
Wii Sports changed the world of gaming. Before 2006, sports in video games involved players sitting in front of a console, using keypads or joysticks to move their players. But suddenly, video games became an active event. Thanks to its success, Wii sales went up, regaining Nintendo’s supremacy.
As per Nintendo’s own statistics, the game’s successor, Wii Sports Resorts, sold over 33 million copies after selling close to 83 million in total. Though the game was popular with kids, parents weren’t so thrilled. There were more than a few dented walls courtesy of flying Wii remotes.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)
Super Mario Bros. was deemed by Nintendo of America to be too identical to its forerunner and too challenging for the still-developing American market. This led to the development of a second Super Mario Bros. installment to appeal to the profitable US market.
It was based on Nintendo’s 1987 Family Computer Disk System game Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic. Super Mario Bros. 2 garnered positive reviews from critics for its design features and for setting the Mario franchise apart. It was a huge success, ranking as the fifth best-selling NES game.
Space Invaders (1978)
Space Invaders made its debut during the heyday of arcade gaming and easily cemented itself in gaming history. It’s been adapted and re-released on other platforms, which shows just how popular the gameplay is, but what really stands out is the music.
In the late ’70s, video game music wasn’t grand or filled with elaborate orchestral scores, which just goes to show how well composed the music was since it was able to make such a long-lasting impact using only “simple” tones.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (2017)
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) reportedly generated over 70 million downloads despite being published only five years ago. And because the video game is still on the market, that figure keeps increasing. What appeals to fans is the battle royale-style arena shooter gameplay.
As per the battle royale style, players compete to become the last man standing. According to rumors, the game was inspired by The Hunger Games and the 2000 Japanese film Battle Royale. Well over 1 billion people have downloaded the Battlegrounds mobile app!
Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl (2006)
Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl managed to garner a significant amount of positive feedback. The majority of reviewers liked the Wi-Fi functionality and visual additions and thought the gameplay was still entertaining despite not having seen much change from earlier versions.
Diamond and Pearl reportedly sold almost 2 million units more than their Game Boy Advance forebears, enjoying more commercial success. Approximately 18 million units have been sold globally. The games rank among some of the best Pokémon titles ever made.
Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Over 58 million copies of Super Mario Bros. have been sold, but even that number is significantly understated when compared to the actual sales figures. It’s crucial to keep in mind that the game was included with Super Mario All-Stars for the SNES, and it sold millions of copies on its own.
Additionally, anyone who has a Nintendo Switch Online account can currently enjoy it for free — another way the sales value underestimates its popularity. Nevertheless, it’s incredible that Super Mario Bros. remains one of the best-selling video games in history almost four decades after its original debut.
Nintendogs was well-received by critics and was honored with numerous prizes. These include the 2006 Innovation Award by PC World and also the Associated Press’s Best Handheld Game. Nintendogs has sold 23.96 million copies worldwide. The game’s popularity led to the release of additional products.
These include toys and a collection of trading cards. For the Nintendo 3DS, a follow-up called Nintendogs Plus Cats was made available in 2011. We’re sure many of the games were bought by parents looking for a cheaper version of a pet for their child.
Pokémon Red, Pokémon Blue, and Pocket Monsters Green (1996) Pokémon Yellow (1998)
When it comes to video game franchises, it’s hard to beat Pokémon. It’s estimated that worldwide, over 440 million copies have been sold. Pokémon’s debut was a turning point in Nintendo’s history because it showed the business could still create unique and beloved hits in a constantly shifting industry.
The variety and adaptability of the series have allowed for a seemingly flawless transition between the constantly evolving handheld gaming devices. From the Game Boy Color to the latest iPhones, there’s a Pokémon game fans can enjoy. The series has achieved one of the highest sales totals of all time and is still well-liked today.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988)
Many features that were first featured in Super Mario Bros. 3 later became recurring themes in the series. These include the Koopalings (Bowser’s offspring), and a globe map to guide players across levels. Super Mario Bros. 3 is regarded as one of the best video games ever made.
It also received praise from critics for its difficult gameplay. With more than 17 million units sold globally, it ranks as the third-best-selling NES game. There was even a 1990 cartoon series titled The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.
Wii Fit (2007)
Shortly after the success of Wii Sports, Nintendo released a similar game, Wii Fit. Whereas Wii Sports was a video game pretending to be a workout, Wii Fit was actually trying to fill in the gap as a video game that had some sort of health benefit.
The game appealed to adults just as much as it did kids. In fact, the game’s developer shared that he intended to make a family-oriented game that everyone could do together. In 2022, Nintendo said that the Wii Fit had sold 22.67 million units.
In MapleStory, players explore the “Maple World,” battling enemies and honing the abilities and powers of their avatars as is customary in role-playing video games. Conversation and trade are just two of the various ways that gamers can communicate with one another.
Gamers can establish groups to go on monster hunts and split prizes, as well as fellowships to facilitate easier communication. There are an estimated 5 million players as of 2022, and as of 2020, the game generated over $3 billion in cumulative revenue.
Mario Kart Wii
Wii’s motion controls, which helped make gaming into a fully physical activity, were the main factor behind its success. By transforming the Wii remote into a steering wheel, Nintendo exploited these kinetic controllers to alter their already well-known Mario Kart series.
Although it could be played without the additional plastic wheel, players felt at a disadvantage if they were simply using the Wii controller. The wheel extension gave players the feeling of actually driving a car in a way the DS or other iterations couldn’t replicate.
Pokémon Gold and Silver (1999)
Following their debut, Pokémon Gold and Silver received critical acclaim. Many people believe to this day that they are among the biggest hits in the entire franchise. They are among some of the most important titles released for the fifth-generation console.
They maintained the spectacular growth of Pokémon Red and Blue as the brand grew to be worth billions of dollars. Gold and Silver almost exactly mirrored Red and Blue’s revenues, and there were reportedly over 23 million copies sold, making them the third-best-selling games in the franchise.
Dungeon Fighter Online (2005)
This beat-’em-up video game was created by the South Korean firm Neople. It might not be the biggest name worldwide, but its popularity in Eastern Asia is exceptionally strong. Out of the estimated 1.8 million players, an average of 8.4 thousand log in daily.
The stats in the US, however, imply that the game is a complete flop. According to Steam, there’s been a steady decrease in average active players, with recent numbers as low as just over 200 players online at any given time.
Virtua Fighter (1993)
The original Virtua Fighter title became known as the first arcade fighting game with completely 3D polygon graphics. Whereas the Saturn versions of the title generated over 1 million copies, the arcade version of the title sold over 40,000 units.
This made it among Sega’s best-selling arcade games ever. Virtua Fighter was praised for its intricate 3D combat engine and realistic combat strategies. It transformed the genre and had a significant impact on the development of video games as a whole.
Street Fighter II (1991)
If one needed to name a single game as the most significant and influential fighting game ever created, it’d have to be Street Fighter II. Its debut is regarded as a pivotal moment in the genre as it established the fighting subgenre in the 1990s.
It spurred other creators to develop their own fighting franchises. It had a huge effect on competitive gaming, broader pop culture, like movies and music, as well as the arcade video game sector’s resurgence. Three years after its release, it was estimated that 25 million people in the US alone had played the game.
Super Mario 64 (1996)
Super Mario 64‘s fluid camera setup and 360-degree analog controls established a new pattern for the genre. In fact, most developers have credited it as having influenced the 3D platform games that followed it. It’s fitting that the “64” was in reference to the console — Nintendo 64…
…since it was the top-selling game on the console with almost 12 million copies sold. The success led to a DS adaptation, too. The game has garnered cult status, giving rise to numerous fangames, a sizable speedrunning community, and persistent speculations about the game’s capabilities.
Honor of Kings (2015)
Just like Dungeon Fighter, Honor of Kings is popular mostly in East Asia (particularly in China). In just seven years, the game raked in around $13 billion! For years, international markets have only known its adaptation, titled Arena of Valor.
In the summer of 2022, the game’s publisher announced that Honor of Kings would be making its rounds worldwide with a global release. Players might feel at home in the game as it is obviously heavily influenced by League of Legends.
Pole Position (1982)
Among the most popular motorsport games of the golden era, Pole Position inspired numerous ports, sequels, and even a Saturday morning cartoon! The cartoon was virtually unrelated to the game, though. As for its legacy, the game set the rules for the car racing genre.
In 1983, it earned the spot as the number one coin-operated game worldwide, and with 21,000 machines sold in the US in 1983, that number makes sense. As usual, its popularity encouraged many copycats. Pole Position is often named as the most influential racing games of all time.
Gran Turismo 5 (2010)
This is the first game in the series to feature online races that can accommodate up to 16 participants. Like many racing games, there is a damage system with different damage levels based on the vehicle. The game was well-liked by critics and a huge success, selling approximately 12 million copies.
It became the second most successful PlayStation 3 game, the best-selling PlayStation 3 exclusive, as well as the second best-selling game in the franchise. The game also received numerous accolades, and the GT Academy contest helped some gamers break into the real-world racing industry as professional drivers.
Three different game mode variations of Fortnite are currently available; all of them use the same basic gameplay and gaming engine, making it easy for fans to transition to new versions of the game. In Fortnite Battle Royale, up to 100 people can compete in the free-to-play last-man-standing style game.
In less than a year, Fortnite Battle Royale attracted well over 125 million players and became a worldwide phenomenon. It rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars each month, and the number continues to grow. Fortnite generated $9 billion within two years of its release.
God of War (2005)
God of War is the fourteenth-best-selling PlayStation 2 game ever released with over 4.6 million units sold globally. It received numerous “Game of the Year” honors and is considered among the best action-adventure games released for the system. Since its debut, the game has expanded into a full franchise.
It has been hailed as being one of the best video games ever created and has received high accolades for its aesthetics, audio, plot, and playability. The most recent addition to the series’ ever-growing universe is God of War Ragnarök.
Puzzle & Dragons (2012)
In Puzzle & Dragons, gamers must move and match colored spheres that are placed on a grid. Which of the six monsters on the player’s squad engages the hordes of hostile monsters, and the amount of damage they deal depends on the quantity and kind of battles.
In Japan, an estimated 80 million people downloaded the game in 2021, with only a mere fraction (13 million) downloads in 2019. As of 2021, the game generated $5.6 billion. Most notably, Puzzle & Dragons is the first mobile game to ever earn $1 billion in sales.
The Last of Us Remastered (2013)
The Last of Us has become a cult classic, with many fans and critics praising its deep and intricate storyline. The voice acting and extensive player mechanics have earned its top spot among popular video games. A staggering 1.3 million copies were sold in the first week!
Since then, the game has had an expansion as well as a sequel. Unlike the other video game adaptations we mentioned so far, this one is arguably the most serious, as the upcoming TV show is being produced by HBO.
Candy Crush Saga (2012)
At one point, basically everyone over 30 had Candy Crush downloaded on their phone. The saga can be completed entirely without paying any money. But players can purchase additional moves to aid in clearing out far more challenging boards. That’s how King generates its income.
Candy Crush Saga is regarded as the first and most successful example of a freemium model. More than 93 million people played Candy Crush Saga in 2014. The Candy Crush Saga series has been downloaded over 2.7 billion times in the five years since its mobile launch.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
Although it got some slight critique owing to technical difficulties, The Witcher 3 garnered positive reviews from critics. They praised its gameplay, story, setting architecture, fighting, and aesthetics. Among the best video games ever created, it has won upwards of 200 Game of the Year accolades.
In August 2016, a Game of the Year edition that contained the basic game, all expansion packs, as well as all downloadable content was made available. Being one of the best-selling games of all time, the game sold over 40 million copies globally.
Fantasy Westward Journey (2001)
As of May 2007, this game has 1.5 million peak concurrent users, making it the most-played online game in China. During that period, it was regarded as the Chinese online game with the fastest growth, despite employing the same architecture as Westward Journey II.
But the game’s graphics are clearly distinct. The Chinese novel Journey to the West served as an inspiration for both video games. It is among the top video games of all time, along with Westward Journey II, with approximate lifetime earnings of $6.5 billion.
Pokémon Go (2016)
Critics appreciated the idea of Pokémon Go but noted technical issues after its release, though that did little to stop the growing number of players. By the conclusion of the year, it had been installed more than 500 million times globally, making it among the most popular and lucrative mobile apps.
It encouraged physical exercise, and incorporated location-based and augmented reality technology. It even had effects on “real life” with some businesses cashing in on increased foot traffic…and some infamous arrests made by wandering players. By the beginning of 2019, there had been over a billion downloads worldwide.
Clash of Clans (2012)
Supercell’s CEO and founder, Ilkka Paananen, sought to create videogames that had a longer lifespan than just a few weeks — something he saw in one of his favorites, World of Warcraft. This was its main area of focus when the business started. From this, Clash of Clans was born.
It was among the few mobile games with more than 500 million installations on iOS and Android and more than $1 billion in yearly sales. Supercell has accomplished this without having a workforce of more than 1,000 individuals like the most well-known studios.
Donkey Kong (1981)
In the over 40 years since its release, Donkey Kong has firmly cemented itself in popular culture — perhaps it’s because there are no other scenarios that could be confused with the eponymous barrel-throwing ape. However, the most notable accomplishment of the game isn’t Donkey Kong himself…
…it’s everyone’s favorite plumber, Mario. Although the game’s poster looks like a knock-off Mario, that is in fact the original design for the now world-famous character. To say that Donkey Kong had a strong impact is an understatement, and the 80 million copies sold further support that.
League of Legends (2009)
League of Legends is frequently referred to as the biggest e-sport game — it has 12 leagues competing internationally. The League of Legends World Championship, held each year, is the culmination of such domestic leagues and it is watched by millions of people.
In the 2019 event, over 100 million people watched the players give it their all, with 44 million people watching concurrently at its peak during the finals. The League of Legends Championship is live-streamed on Twitch, YouTube, Bilibili, and even ESPN.
Monster Strike (2013)
Japanese mobile role-playing physics game Monster Strike combines cognitive, strategic, and cooperative multiplayer gameplay. Yoshiki Okamoto, a retired Capcom video game developer, created the game. The title can be described as a hybrid between Capcom’s Metal Walker as well as Nintendo’s Pokémon.
It adapts the former’s catapult battle techniques as well as the latter’s focus on creature collection. Its revenue has passed $8 billion, and in 2020, it was the second top-grossing mobile game, though it held the number one spot in 2016.
World of Warcraft (2004)
Ever since its launch, World of Warcraft had been a huge commercial and critical success. It swiftly rose to the top spot among MMORPGs, achieving a record of 12 million subscribers in 2010. It ranks as one of history’s highest-grossing video game franchises and has made around $9.23 billion in revenue.
Video game critics have hailed this title as the best MMORPG ever created. It has additionally been praised for its longevity, with nine expansion packs (the latest being released in 2022) and developer support still being provided more than 15 years after its original release.
Super Mario World (1990)
In Super Mario World, the player takes control of Mario as he sets out to defeat Bowser and his Koopaling henchmen. He does this in order to rescue Princess Peach as well as Dinosaur Land. Super Mario World is one of the greatest video games ever created.
It is also quite frequently regarded as being among the finest in the series. It was the best-selling SNES game with more than 20 million copies sold globally. Additionally, it spawned the same-named animated television show and has been re-released numerous times.
Super Mario Bros. Wii (2009)
Nintendo announced Super Mario Bros. Wii in the hopes that its launch might boost Wii purchases. The multiplayer component of New Super Mario Bros. Wii received great appreciation; however, some reviews were unhappy with the lack of creativity as opposed to other Super Mario games.
The game has been both critically and economically successful. The Wii version of New Super Mario Bros. was a tremendous financial hit. After a recent slowdown in system hardware purchases, the game’s release saw a 128% surge in Wii console sales.
Lineage II (2003)
The second installment in the Lineage series, Lineage II is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) for Microsoft Windows. It takes place 150 years prior to the setting of the original game, making it a prequel rather than a sequel, as we’ve mostly seen on this list.
Ever since its debut in South Korea on October 1, 2003, it has gained immense popularity. Within the month of March 2007, there were 1,000,918 unique users. Upwards of 14 million users have engaged in the game so far, the majority of whom are located in Asia.