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Best-Selling Video Game Franchises: Ranked List [2024]

17 Jan, 2024

Exploring the world of video game legacies reveals numerous remarkable franchises that have left a lasting impact on gaming history, establishing themselves as some of the highest selling video game series in the industry. These franchises vary in size, ranging from just a couple of games to a vast catalog spanning over a dozen titles, showcasing the boundless creativity of game developers. However, the enduring success of these franchises relies on the passionate support of dedicated players, ensuring their relevance across decades and the potential for new installments in their stories.

While debates about the greatest video game franchise continue based on personal preferences, there’s a clear and objective measure when it comes to the top 10 highest-grossing video game franchises. Revealing concrete figures, these rankings provide solid evidence of the commercial success achieved by select franchises that have undeniably left a significant mark in the history of gaming.

The Top 10 Highest-Grossing Video Game Franchises of All Time

Tetris

Tetris

Original release: 1984

Developer: Elorg

Sales: 495 Million

When discussing some of the most iconic video games ever created, Tetris undeniably stands out. Tetris has seen over 60 iterations throughout its existence, yet it remains a unique entity in the gaming world. It transcends being labeled as merely a videogame series or franchise; rather, it stands as a timeless classic comparable to chess. Despite the multitude of Tetris releases, each offers distinct rules, perspectives, and even shapes, making them slightly different experiences.

An impressive feat, Tetris holds a Guinness World Record for appearing on over 65 different platforms. Its widespread availability contributed to a staggering 495 million copies sold across these diverse platforms. Beyond its remarkable sales figures, Tetris made an appearance in the 2015 film “Pixels,” featuring notable actors Adam Sandler and Kevin James.

Pokémon

Pokémon

Original release: 1996

Developer: Game Freak

Sales: 480+ Million

While many of Pokémon releases comprise spinoffs, mobile adaptations, and singular experiments, the main series of lightweight RPGs has captivated players for more than two decades. A prominent tradition involves the simultaneous release of two analogous Pokémon games, differing mainly in their creature rosters. This dynamic might slightly favor Pikachu, yet the undeniable truth remains: these charming creatures hold monumental significance in the gaming world.

Recent years have witnessed a profound transformation in the core gameplay of Pokémon, embracing full 3D models, open-world dynamics, and more. Devotees of the series have longed for a comprehensive RPG set in the expansive Pokémon universe, and their aspirations are soon to be realized. An upcoming addition to the franchise, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, diverges from the traditional series in various aspects, notably adopting an open-world RPG format.

Call of Duty

Call of Duty

Original release: 2003

Developer: Infinity Ward

Sales: 400 Million

Regarded as one of the most influential first-person shooters ever, Call of Duty has maintained an iron grip on commercial success since its debut in 2003. Over nearly two decades, the series has amassed an astonishing 400 million units in sales, showcasing its unwavering dominance in the gaming sphere. Despite occasional criticisms of stagnation, the franchise shows no signs of losing momentum.

Call of Duty’s unparalleled success in the FPS market can be attributed to two primary factors: its accessibility (particularly seen in how Modern Warfare refined FPS controls on consoles) and its penchant for extravagance, both in narrative and action. This combination has continually resonated with gamers, fostering an enduring love for the series’ adrenaline-fueled gameplay and immersive storytelling.

Super Mario

Super Mario

Original release: 1985

Developer: Nintendo

Sales: 390 Million

Among the highest-selling video game series there is the beloved Italian plumber, Mario. Nintendo’s iconic mascot made his debut in 1981 under the simple moniker “Jump Man” before swiftly evolving into the star of his own game and subsequent series, Super Mario Bros. Across his illustrious journey, Mario has tirelessly thwarted Bowser’s attempts to seize control of the Mushroom Kingdom.

The enduring legacy of the classic Super Mario platformers solidifies its place as arguably one of the most consistently outstanding video game series in history. It comes as no surprise that its exceptional quality aligns with its commercial success. Through the Super Mario series, Nintendo has crafted a masterpiece—an entity with unparalleled longevity and a steadfast blend of both excellence and widespread popularity rarely witnessed in any form of media.

Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto

Original release: 1997

Developer: Rockstar North

Sales: 350 Million

Initially flying under the radar with its initial releases, the GTA series soared to fame with the groundbreaking Grand Theft Auto III in 2001. This installment not only shaped the third-person action genre but also played a pivotal role in normalizing the M rating for video games. GTA III transformed a quirky, niche series into a cutting-edge, cinematic narrative, propelling it to become the preeminent gaming franchise of the 21st century.

Interestingly, the cumulative sales of the Grand Theft Auto franchise continue to surge, primarily attributed to the same game: Grand Theft Auto 5. Originally launched on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013, the game has undergone multiple ports to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Furthermore, a next-generation console release in 2021 is slated, likely ensuring several million more copies sold as the game extends its reach to a wider audience.

FIFA

FIFA

Original release: 1993

Developer: EA Canada

Sales: 325 Million

FIFA is indeed a consistently top-selling franchise in the realm of sports video games. Its widespread popularity across various platforms and regions has contributed to its impressive sales figures. FIFA’s yearly releases and its availability on multiple gaming systems, including older consoles, have contributed to its longevity and overall sales. 

What’s truly astounding about the FIFA franchise is its unparalleled consistency in game sales. With an estimated total of 325 million copies sold across all iterations, FIFA’s success is highlighted by the fact that its best-selling game of the series accounts for merely about 5.5 percent of the total copies sold, showcasing an incredible level of sustained popularity and sales throughout its expansive history.

Minecraft

Minecraft

Original release: 2009

Developer: Mojang

Sales: 238 Million

Minecraft stands tall as the highest-selling video game in history, captivating an entire generation of players and sparking a myriad of merchandise and tie-ins. This unprecedented obsession prompted Microsoft to acquire the game for a staggering $2.5 billion in 2014. While some trends fade away, Minecraft continues to thrive and show no signs of slowing down. Its expansive worlds and open-ended nature redefine it as more than just a game; rather, it serves as a versatile toolset and a boundless playground for creativity.

Since its debut during the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era, Minecraft has graced nearly every console, accumulating an impressive lifetime sales figure of around 238 million copies sold. This ubiquity across gaming platforms speaks volumes about the game’s enduring popularity and widespread appeal.

The Sims

The Sims

Original release: 2000

Developer: Maxis

Sales: 200 Million

The Sims has remained a distinctive phenomenon from its inception, and despite criticisms from some long-time fans regarding the latest version, the series appears to have an enduring future.Will Wright’s life simulation game has witnessed numerous expansions and spinoffs, becoming available on virtually every gaming platform imaginable. Surprisingly, despite its extensive presence, the series has only seen four main installments in nearly 20 years, resulting in exceptionally high per-game sales that rank among the best in the gaming industry.

In recent times, the developer of the best-selling video games series has made dedicated efforts towards achieving comprehensive inclusion and representation within The Sims 4. The studio has implemented updates to include a diverse range of skin tones and gender-neutral clothing options.

Lego

Lego

Original release: 1995

Developer: Traveller’s Tales

Sales: 200 Million

Since 1962, parents have undoubtedly experienced the agony of stepping on stray Lego pieces scattered across their homes. In 1995, the renowned company ventured into the realm of video games by developing titles based on their internal properties such as Bionicle and Ninjago. However, it wasn’t until 2005, with the release of Lego Star Wars, that the concept of Lego games reached new heights. Following the success of Star Wars, The Lego Group continued to transform beloved pop culture franchises like Harry Potter, Marvel, and even Indiana Jones into endearing blocky platformers.

The Lego game series has received widespread acclaim for its gameplay mechanics and unexpected depth, showcasing a surprising level of sophistication. Over time, the studio has amassed an impressive sales figure of around 200 million copies sold, solidifying its position as a formidable force in the gaming industry.

Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy

Original release: 1987

Developer: Square Enix

Sales: 180 Million

The Final Fantasy series has expanded significantly since its inception in 1987, leading to a diverse collection of games, spinoffs, sequels, remakes, and various adaptations across multiple platforms. Over the past three decades, Final Fantasy has undeniably reigned as the paramount role-playing game series, leaving an indelible mark on the genre in Japan and being among the pioneering JRPGs to introduce the genre to Western audiences. Its profound impact on gaming is further reinforced by its exceptionally dedicated fanbase, arguably one of the most fervent across all gaming franchises.

Throughout its journey, Final Fantasy has garnered remarkable sales figures, solidifying its place as one of the highest-grossing video game franchises in the industry’s history.

Legacy in Pixels: Chronicles of the Highest Selling Video Game Series

In conclusion, the world of gaming has witnessed an extraordinary evolution marked by a myriad of iconic franchises that have not only shaped the industry but also captured the hearts of millions worldwide. From the enduring legacy of Mario to the expansive creativity of Minecraft, and the immersive storytelling of Final Fantasy, these franchises stand tall among the gaming elite. As the gaming industry evolves, these series continue to set benchmarks for innovation, quality, and longevity, earning their places among the highest selling video game series of all time. Their profound impact, devoted fanbases, and staggering sales figures solidify their positions as stalwarts within the realm of best-selling video game franchises, leaving an enduring legacy that transcends mere entertainment and cements their status in gaming history.

FAQ

What factors contribute to a video game franchise becoming one of the highest-selling series?

Video game franchises that become highest-selling often exhibit several key attributes. These include compelling gameplay mechanics, innovative storytelling, a dedicated fanbase, diverse platforms for accessibility, consistent quality across installments, and adept adaptation to evolving gaming trends. Additionally, successful marketing, strategic release timing, and the franchise’s ability to resonate with a broad spectrum of players significantly impact its sales figures.

How do franchises like Mario, Minecraft, and Final Fantasy maintain their longevity and popularity over decades?

Longevity and sustained popularity among franchises like Mario, Minecraft, and Final Fantasy stem from a combination of factors. These franchises continually evolve by embracing new technologies, introducing innovative gameplay mechanics, and adapting to changing audience preferences. They maintain a high standard of quality, often releasing titles that resonate with both nostalgic fans and new generations.

What role do fanbases play in the success of these best-selling video game series?

Fanbases play a pivotal role in the success of highest-selling video game series. They serve as ambassadors for the franchise, driving excitement through word-of-mouth promotion, actively participating in online communities, and generating ongoing interest through fan-generated content. Dedicated fanbases provide valuable feedback, influencing the direction of future installments and contributing to the overall longevity and sustainability of the franchise.

Vladislav Osadchiy
by Vladislav Osadchiy
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