There was once a cold, barren and gray era of mankind. There was no moment of joy as you completed that incredibly difficult level that had haunted you for months; no whoop of exultation as you realized that it was L, R, L, U, D, X, X that would send the fireball straight into the final boss’ belly and rid the kingdom of its evil overlord once and for all. No, this was the 1960s and gamers had to settle for ball in a cup and water pistols before Pong came along to enrich our lives.
It wasn’t long before arcade classics such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man were available in our living rooms thanks to consoles such as the Atari 2600 and the ColecoVision. We couldn’t believe our eyes as pixelated dots were consumed and the Earth was repeatedly saved from one-dimensional occupation. Video games had arrived, and they enchanted us with their wares. But almost as soon as they had arrived on our doorsteps, they basically disappeared, thanks to the Video Game Crash of 1983. Home computers jumped into the gaping hole left by video game consoles and that seemed to be the end of that, until…
In 1994, Sony released the PlayStation and the world welcomed video game consoles back with open arms. There’s been no turning back since then; generation upon generation of consoles blur the lines between gaming and PC hardware, and the video game industry is now worth over $90 billion globally.
The games on this list are acclaimed as the biggest-selling video games (across all formats) of all time and while 21st century titles dominate they share spaces with a couple of outright classics. What they all have in common, though, is that these most popular games have been some of the most formative influences on the way we game today.
10. New Super Mario Bros. Wii: 27.88 million
Wii software dominates the most popular games ever sold – which is no surprise, as the console is one of the best selling gaming devices ever made with over 100 million units shipped. This 2009 game featuring the world’s most famous plumber was universally acclaimed upon its release; it allowed long-time fans of the Super Mario world to immerse themselves in the well-worn set up in an unprecedented way. Unsurprisingly, the iconic overall-wearing, mustachioed hero makes quite a few appearances in this top 10 list.
9. Wii Play: 28.02 million
This 2006 product featured a range of different games to encourage a wide a range as possible of players; mum and dad could challenge each other at Table Tennis, grandpa could go Fishing and the kids could indulge in some toy block explosions in Tanks! As fun as that might sound, the game received middling reviews. But as is often the case, the public ignored the high-minded critics and decided to buy the game in its millions, thus proving once more that Nintendo, not religion, is the opium of the people.
8. New Super Mario Bros, Nintendo DS.: 30.38 million
Originally released in 2006, this game was further proof that the game-buying public cannot get enough of chubby mushroom-eating Italians jumping on goombas in the never-ending pursuit of gold and princesses. Parents who complain about their children playing carjacking-themed games or first-person shooters should have a closer look at the true nature of Mario games. What does he do with all those gold coins anyway? This version of the game, originally made for the enormously popular handheld gaming device the Nintendo DS, was more popular than many of Mario’s outings and received critical acclaim.
7. Wii Sports Resort: 31.89 million
Released in 2009, Nintendo made Wii Sports Resort to appeal to sports lovers of a wide variety. It was possible to play golf, test your skills on the basketball court, go cycling or even try your hand at archery. The game was received well by critics and the public alike; it sold over half a million copies in its first week of release in North America alone. A favourite aspect of this game was its social nature; it was generally recognized that this game was much more fun when played with others.
6. Grand Theft Auto V: 32.5 million
The most recent and most controversial game on this list, this was the most highly-anticipated game of 2013 and was the best-selling game that year. People just love to go on crime waves and shooting sprees – in the gaming world, at least. This game managed to clock up $1 billion worth of sales within three days of its release. Beloved by critics, lauded by players, it seems Rockstar Games can’t go wrong with its GTA titles. 2013’s GTA V went broke records with its sales and gave Hollywood a wake-up call; in comparison it took The Avengers, one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing movies ever, a whole 19 days to make $1 billion.
5. Mario Kart Wii: 35.26 million
Mario is back, and this time he is driving…recklessly. This 2008 fun-packed game enjoyed huge sales on the back of its addictive gameplay, cute characters and the fact it was bundled with the Wii Wheel. The title also sold pretty well on Nintendo’s handheld console, the DS. Tens of millions of people around the world are still enjoying adopting the personage of a small dragon-like creature to speed around a castle in a single-seater without wearing a seatbelt,while jumping over lava pits…
4. Super Mario Bros.: 40.24 million
A golden oldie from 1985, this was the first of the Super Mario games. In 1985, falling down pipes, collecting stars and desperately seeking power-up mushrooms was a startling novelty; gamers snapped it up. The platform game had been introduced by Nintendo with Donkey Kong in the early 80s, and from here the Mario character was born. This ’85 game is so influential it has even been called the greatest game ever made in various polls. The series itself is still going strong, with Super Mario 3D World the latest incarnation, wowing owners of Nintendo’s oddly-named Wii U.
3. Minecraft: 41.7 million
Minecraft is one of those games that seem to capture a definitive moment in video game history. This 2011 game which originated in Sweden is available for any device: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, smartphone (no doubt microwave and refrigerator versions are in the works…) The world is becoming Minecraft-saturated, and it’s basically an open source game which allows enthusiasts the world over to introduce their own mods for the game and make them available to the public. Minecraft was first introduced to the public around 2009 as an alpha version and gained huge popularity; it was then officially released in 2011, and has proven continually popular ever since.
2. Wii Sports: 81.99 million
Nintendo wanted to bring people together when playing games, to have gaming as more of a social event rather than the cliché of a teenager in the basement shooting aliens whilst ancient discarded moldy pizza boxes evolved and formed their own colonies in darkened corners. It was time to come out of the basement and find a friend to play with, through a few rounds of boxing or a couple of innings of baseball. In 2006 Nintendo’s master-plan included releasing Wii Sports onto the world, and the world bought it. Only one game is believed to have sold more copies than this sporty epic…
1. Tetris: 170 million
There is some discussion of exactly how many copies this 1984 Russian classic has sold, but with over 100 million copies downloaded on cell phones for starters, it is safely the No. 1 best-selling video game of all time… take that, Lara Croft. Developed by computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov and his pals, the game was originally made available for the USSR’s Elektronika 60 (with its massive 8KB of RAM) and was then made available for the decadent Western equivalent that was the IBM PC. American companies had already started licensing the game and clearly the Russians wanted a piece of the action, so who knows? At a stretch, this game could’ve been a factor in uniting the two superpowers and ending the Cold War…!