Smash Hit Success

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Smash Hit Success

It’s one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. So, what makes a successful video game?

The 50 best-selling titles of all time are in focus. Scroll down to see the list in full. Filter by 10 different metrics to get a few different looks at the data. Plus, check out our analysis below the numbers. Are there common threads that stitch top titles together?

0 Game Title Sales Release Date Platform Publisher Hours to complete Genre Country Protagonist Metacritic Score
1 Tetris 170m Jun 1984 Multi-platform Spectrum HoloByte[b] Puzzle Other None
2 Minecraft 154m Nov 2011 Multi-platform Mojang 88 - 180 (avg. 134) Action Adventure Other Unknown 93
3 Grand Theft Auto V 100m Sep 2013 Multi-platform Rockstar Games 31 Action Adventure USA Male 97
4 Wii Sports 82.86m Nov 2006 Wii Nintendo 11 Sports Japan Both 76
5 PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds 50m Dec 2017 Multi-platform PUBG Corporation 99 Action, Shooter Other Both 86
6 Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow 45m Feb 1996 Game Boy Nintendo 26 Role-playing Japan Both
7 Super Mario Bros. 40.24m Sep 1985 NES Nintendo 2 Action Adventure Japan Male 84
8 Mario Kart Wii 37.14m Apr 2008 Wii Nintendo 5.5 Driving, Racing Japan Both 82
9 Wii Sports Resort 33.09m Jun 2009 Wii Nintendo 6.5 Sports Japan Both 80
10 New Super Mario Bros. 30.8m May 2006 Nintendo DS Nintendo 7 Action Adventure Japan Male 89
11 New Super Mario Bros. Wii 30.22m Nov 2009 Wii Nintendo 9 Action Adventure Japan Male 87
12 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim 30m Nov 2011 Multi-platform Bethesda Softworks 32.5 Role-playing USA Both 94
13 Duck Hunt 28.3m Apr 1984 NES Nintendo 0.4 Action, Shooter Japan None
14 Wii Play 28.02m Dec 2006 Wii Nintendo 4 Miscellaneous Japan Both 58
15 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 27.5m Oct 2004 Multi-platform Rockstar Games 32 Action Adventure USA Male 95
16 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 26.5m Nov 2011 Multi-platform Activision 6 Action, Shooter USA Male 78
17 Call of Duty: Black Ops 26.2m Nov 2010 Multi-platform Activision 7 Action, Shooter USA Male 87
18 Grand Theft Auto IV 25m Apr 2008 Multi-platform Rockstar Games 28 Action Adventure USA Male 98
19 Terraria 25m May 2011 Multi-platform Re-Logic 43 - 157 (avg. 100) Action Adventure USA Both 83
20 Call of Duty: Black Ops II 24.2m Nov 2012 Multi-platform Activision 7 Action Shooter USA Male 83
21 FIFA 18 24m Sep 2017 Multi-platform Electronic Arts 15.5 - 45 Sports USA Both 84
22 Kinect Adventures! 24m Nov 2010 Xbox 360 Microsoft Studios 3.5 Miscellaneous USA Both 61
23 Nintendogs 23.96m Apr 2005 Nintendo DS Nintendo 25.5 Simulation, Virtual life Japan None 83
24 Mario Kart DS 23.6m Nov 2005 Nintendo DS Nintendo 4.5 Driving, Racing Japan Both 91
25 Pokémon Gold and Silver 23.1m Nov 1999 Game Boy Color Nintendo 30.5 Role-playing Japan Both
26 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 22.7m Nov 2009 Multi-platform Activision 6.5 Action, Shooter USA Male 94
27 Wii Fit 22.67m Dec 2007 Wii Nintendo 4 Sports Japan Both 80
28 Wii Fit Plus 21.13m Oct 2009 Wii Nintendo 5 Sports Japan Both 80
29 Super Mario World 20.61m Nov 1990 Super NES Nintendo 5.5 Action Adventure Japan Male
30 Mario Kart 8 20.13m May 2014 Multi-platform Nintendo 5.5 Driving, Racing Japan Both 88
31 Frogger 20m Jun 1981 Multi-platform Sega 8.5 Arcade Japan None
32 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 20m Oct 2002 Multi-platform Rockstar Games 20 Action Adventure USA Male 95
33 Lemmings 20m Feb 1991 Multi-platform Psygnosis 19.5 Puzzle UK None
34 Brain Age 19.01m May 2005 Nintendo DS Nintendo 1 Miscellaneous Japan None 77
35 Call of Duty: Ghosts 19m Nov 2013 Multi-platform Activision 6 Action, shooter USA Male 78
36 Super Mario Land 18.14m Apr 1989 Game Boy Nintendo 1 Action Adventure Japan Male
37 Pokémon Diamond and Pearl 17.67m Sep 2006 Nintendo DS Nintendo/The Pokémon Company 41.5 Role-playing Japan Both 85
38 Mario Kart 7 17.52m Dec 2011 Nintendo 3DS Nintendo 9 Driving, Racing Japan Both 85
39 Grand Theft Auto III 17.5m Oct 2001 Multi-platform Rockstar Games 17 Action Adventure USA Male 97
40 Super Mario Bros. 3 17.28m Oct 1988 NES Nintendo 5 Action Adventure Japan Male 94
41 The Last of Us 17m Jun 2013 Multi-platform Sony Computer Entertainment 15.5 Action Adventure USA Both 95
42 Red Dead Redemption 2 17m Oct 2018 Multi-platform Rockstar Games 43.5 Action Adventure USA Male 97
43 Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing 16.7m Jun 2011 iOS Sega 6 Miscellaneous UK Both 89
44 Pokémon X and Y 16.34m Oct 2013 Nintendo 3DS Nintendo/The Pokémon Company 32 Role-playing Japan Both 87
45 Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire 16.22m Nov 2002 Game Boy Advance Nintendo/The Pokémon Company 35.5 Role-playing Japan Both 82
46 Pokémon Sun and Moon 16.13m Nov 2016 Nintendo 3DS Nintendo/The Pokémon Company 32.5 Role-playing Japan Both 87
47 The Sims 16m Jan 2000 Multi-platform Electronic Arts 21 - 51 Simulation, Virtual Life USA Both 92
48 Need for Speed: Most Wanted 16m Nov 2005 Multi-platform Electronic Arts 20.5 Driving, Racing USA Unknown 83
49 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 15.7m Nov 2007 Multi-platform Activision 7 Action, Shooter USA Male 94
50 Call of Duty: World at War 15.7m Nov 2008 Multi-platform Activision 8 Action, Shooter USA Male 85

In total, 25 of the 50 are Japanese games; 20 are American…

…The remaining five herald from Russia (Tetris), Sweden (Minecraft), Ireland (PUBG) and the UK (Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing and Lemmings). Yet, nine of the ten best-reviewed games are American. Is there a pro-American bias at work?

One way or another, reviews mean more and more. Games on the list released in 2010 and later have an average Metascore of 86 out of 100 - well above normal. The advent of review aggregators has made a positive critical consensus matter more than ever.

Multi-platform is king

Games that sell well are typically available on many different systems. FIFA 18 still props up the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 all these years on and extraordinary indie fare like Terraria, PUBG and Minecraft are available on everything from mobile phones to PCs. The fantasy epic Skyrim is another game that keeps on giving, arriving on the Nintendo Switch in late 2017, six years on from its original launch.

Representation and gender

Gaming’s most famous heroine, Lara Croft, is conspicuous by her absence. You’d think at least one of the Tomb Raider games would have cracked the top 50. But no game in the series quite made it. Not the 1996 original (sales of 7 million) or the 1997 sequel (6 million) or the the 2013 reboot (11 million).1 The upshot is that not a single one of the 50 games on the list features a female-only lead.

The Last of Us (41) does have you in Ellie’s shoes midway through the dystopian epic, but still focuses mostly on Joel. Will The Last of Us Part II, with Ellie now the lead, crack the top 50 and redress this imbalance?

In total, 25 of the 50 are Japanese games; 20 are American…

"A lot has changed. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2 show how far we’ve come, and the technological pace of change is one reason gaming is now a 100-billion-dollar behemoth.2 But on the other hand, a lot hasn’t. The fundamentals of how we play are mostly as they were in the 1980s with the release of Tetris and Mario. It means gamers worldwide – an estimated 2.34 billion people3 – can get down to the business of playing without fuss. As it was then, all you need is a good controller and a good pair of headphones to enjoy a game in full.

Those controllers and those headsets are, of course, getting better all the time. Logitech’s bass-laden headphones and responsive mice draw you deeper into the action, and with a history of quality dating back to 1981, the company predates even the oldest game on the list. Shop Logitech wireless headsets or get yourself a Logitech gaming mouse to experience the artform as it was intended.

1 http://vgsales.wikia.com/wiki/Tomb_Raider#cite_note - :0 – 1, 2 https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/global-games-market-reaches-137-9-billion-in-2018-mobile-games-take-half/, 3 https://www.statista.com/statistics/748044/number-video-gamers-world/

Data sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/, https://howlongtobeat.com/, https://www.metacritic.com/", https://www.imdb.com/, https://gta.fandom.com, https://www.rockstargames.com, http://callofduty.wikia.com/, https://www.fandom.com/, https://www.youtube.com/