So you fancy yourself a gamer? Then you probably know what the best-selling game of all time is without having to even think about it. If not, take a moment to mull it over. It’s colorful and probably helped you get better at cramming as many things into your closet as possible when your parents asked you to clean your room. Tetris has sold way more copies than any other game in history, but it’s done so across many platforms, as has Minecraft, the second best-selling game. However, the third entry on the list, and the best-selling game to only come out on one system, belongs to Nintendo.
Do you have any idea which game owns that honor? Maybe it’s one of the first three Super Mario Bros. games that you’ve all loved since your childhood. Or could it be everybody’s favorite go-karting party game, Mario Kart? Could it be a Zelda game, or are those a little too hardcore to find a mainstream audience?
Stay tuned to find out as we count down the top 15 best-selling Nintendo games of all time!
Who said that video games have to promote a lazy lifestyle consisting of eating junk food and slowly forcing your couch to conform to the shape of your butt? They certainly can, and there’s nothing wrong with that lifestyle choice if it’s your thing! But with Nintendo’s Wii Fit series, gamers turned a corner toward a healthier gaming experience and were forced up off the couch. Both Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus make this list, so read the next entry for more basics on the series. Wii Fit Plus took everything from Wii Fit and kept it exactly the same, but added a few extras. Anyone who uses workout equipment would have appreciated the addition of a counter for the total calories burnt, but perhaps most significant were the new activities. Wii Fit Plus added six strength and yoga activities and fifteen new balance/aerobics activities. Even so, we still don’t know if it got our heart rates up as much as The Last Of Us…
The original Wii Fit managed to just surpass Wii Fit Plus on the best-selling list. In order to use the game, owners needed the Will Balance so they could stand on it during all of the game’s activities. Interestingly, this is not the first Nintendo game to get players out of their seats and onto a peripheral. You might remember the Power Pad for the original NES getting you up off your couch and onto its colorful, Twister-esque pad to play games like Athletic World or World Class Track Meet. Of course, we’re not even sure we realized we were exercising back then. We were just happy to be hurdling logs and racing each other without having to deal with pesky things like fresh air and sunshine. The Wii Fit, however, was intended to satisfy the market of gamers who were looking for an exercise regime they could follow on their console. It was quite successful to the point where you could find Wii Fit classes at local gyms, which we suppose are still free of fresh air, unless breathing in the sweaty humidity of dozens of other people is your idea of freshness.
It’s definitely not at all surprising to find the Pokémon series on this list as it’s often been credited with being one of the main things to keep Nintendo’s profits looking so good despite the low sales of the Wii U and 3DS systems. However, you have to look quite a ways into the past to remember this one. Pokémon Gold and Silver were the second games to come out in the Pokémon series, all the way back around the turn of the millennium. They offered all the great Pokémon catching action of the first, but with around 100 more Pokémoni (yes, that’s seriously the plural) available in the Pokédex. This game also introduced one of the immersive features that Pokémon games still use today, which is the in-game time of day changing with the real-world clock so when you’re playing at night in your bedroom, you’re playing at night in the game. Gold and Silver sold very well, but do not make up the highest selling Pokémon installment on our list.
You have to go all the way back to the first installment in the Pokémon series to find the best-selling set of all time: Pokémon Red and Blue. You may have noticed our numbers have these two entries at almost the same sales copies, and that’s because it’s difficult to get an accurate number for their sales totals, worldwide, but all lists have Pokémon Red and Blue for the Game Boy selling just slightly better than its successor did on the Game Boy Color. What’s interesting about the series is that even the most recent installments maintain much of the framework of the original. It’s unusual to have made so much correctly on the first effort, but Game Freak knew they had a winner and haven’t felt the need to vary much from the formula, with the exception of the recent Pokémon Go, which has people hunting down Pokémon in all sorts of strange places, like outside (shudder).
For those of us who spent many soda-sipping hours in front of our Nintendo 64s, playing Mario Kart 64 and feeling particularly psychedelic as we raced around Rainbow Road, it may be somewhat surprising to see the DS version on here instead. Nonetheless, Mario Kart DS was great fun and it was great for multiplayer on-the-go if you had some friends who also owned a DS. The format is the same as we’ve come to expect from Mario Kart games, but it gave us twice the number of courses to play on. That alone made the DS version better than the Wii version for us, even if we got to hold an actual wheel peripheral with the Wii (and believe us, it was fun feeling like we were steering the go-kart instead of just hitting some buttons!). And, as an added bonus, the DS game maintained all the realism of its predecessors, such as vehicles sliding out of control when they run over bananas.
To be honest, this is the only game on this list that we aren’t really familiar with. We know how the game plays, but we’ve never really looked into it much. We prefer our real life dogs, like the curly-haired, disheveled monster sitting beside use right now. But we do understand the appeal of the game, since our love of dogs is powerful and we can imagine how playing a game that focuses on these cute little critters could be fun. nintendogs came out on the Nintendo DS and was instantly popular. Owners get to raise their dogs and do things for them such as pet them on the touchscreen or play with them. The game also uses the microphone in a clever way that allows users to teach their digital pets tricks by speaking commands such as “lie down” or “sit,” resulting in the pups responding as if they were the real, flesh and fur things.
The appearance of Wii Play on this list genuinely surprised us. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the game, because we did, but it’s nothing particularly special. It’s seldom talked about and it didn’t receive very good reviews. However, the game was available at the Wii’s launch and made great use of the new motion control system that had buyers so excited, so we conjecture that it may have benefited from those circumstances. Wii Play is made up of nine different games that are co-op. Some of the highlights from the available options are the Shooting Range (where you shoot various targets, like cans and balloons, by pointing your Wii Remote at the screen), Table Tennis (where you, well, play ping pong), Laser Hockey (where you can play a lasery version of air hockey) and Billiards (which allowed you to play pool in your house, using your Wii Remote like a pool cue, even if you couldn’t afford or had no room for a pool table).
This is the only game on the best-selling list to make use of the Nintendo Light Gun. The premise is very simple and involves pointing the gun at the screen to shoot the ducks before the time limit passes and they are able to fly away. The ducks get quicker and you get less shots and less room for error as you advance through the levels. It’s not the most complex game, but we have quite a few fond memories of getting pretty competitive while playing this NES game with friends and family. Of course, we also have some memories, that are a bit less pleasant, of the occasional jerky friend cheating when we left the room by going right up to the television and shooting ducks with the light gun pressed against the screen. Our only regret with the game, though, which we’re sure you completely understand, is that we could never shoot that infuriating, smirking dog.
We’ve previously touted the merits of New Super Mario Bros. Wii on here, so it comes as no surprise to us that it’s so high on the all-time bestsellers list. This Wii version of Super Mario looks incredible on our televisions, with its bright, vivid colors and cute character animations. But by far the best part of this game’s arrival was that we could finally (finally!) play Super Mario in local co-op with four players. It was great playing in an overly crowded, chaotic screen with our nearest and dearest while progressing through the levels. Of course, shaming our friends with our Mario skills was an added perk. We may have been those jerks in the group who liked to sneak up behind you, jerk the controller upward to pick you up, and then walk to the nearest edge and throw you downward toward your doom. But we were Mario and you were probably Toad, so you totally deserved it.
Would you look at that: another Super Mario Bros. game on the list. Who would have thought? New Super Mario Bros. came out on the Nintendo DS and took the handheld gaming world by storm. Remember the first time you found that mushroom that made you GIGANTIC and you walked through the level destroying everything in your path? The game had finally become a full-blown adventure through the looking glass. And the great thing was that you could finally take Mario portably with you again and this time in color! Plus, the game had a lot of different levels and actually took quite a while to beat, if you took the time to play all the worlds, because certain worlds required special actions to unlock them. We can’t speak highly enough of New Super Mario Bros. and it is one of our favorite DS games that was not a JRPG. Let’s just say we goomba-stomped our way through many sleepless nights with this little DS game loaded up.
We definitely played Wii Sports more than we played its sequel, Wii Sports Resort, but there were a few events in this game that made it a regular in our game-playing arsenal. It came bundled with the Wii MotionPlus because it required a new level of sensitivity for the events, and the new sensors made quite a difference. Now, there were definitely a few games we didn’t enjoy that much, such as cycling (we get enough of that joy on our exercise bikes, thank you very much!) and Wakeboarding. But we absolutely loved Golf (which we managed to suck more at than in real life), Archery (which was strangely relaxing and addicting), Table Tennis (which we could enjoy without the threat of a wooden paddle flying over the net in our direction) and Swordplay (where we certainly didn’t dress up like D’Artagnan and pretend we were on a swashbuckling adventure with the Three Musketeers).
We realize that we mentioned Tetris is the most popular game of all time, according to sales records, but it’s only managed to get to 4th on Nintendo’s best-selling list, which it did thanks to its availability on the Nintendo DS. There’s just something about Tetris that makes it the perfect game for when you’re out and about. Slotting those pieces together is strangely addicting and the fact that you can play it without having to get involved in a story makes it great for playing in quick bursts. We would be surprised if any of you reading this article have managed to go through your lives without playing this game at least once (but feel free to prove us wrong in the comment section!). Now, we may be grasping here, but we feel like there must be something good about the pattern recognition of the game that benefits our brains. Yeah, that’s undoubtedly true. We should probably go play more Tetris right now. For our health.
And everybody’s favorite red-capped hero makes another appearance on our list, with the second entry from the Mario Kart series. What made this game so excellent was that it came bundled with the Wii Wheel and made excellent use of the Wii Remote’s motion sensor. You could slot your Wii Remote into the middle of the plastic wheel and then hold it up like you were really driving a go-kart around. The gameplay itself may have been the same as most Mario Kart games, but the experience felt completely fresh and new when you used the Wheel. Of course, while most of us had multiple Wii Remotes, there weren’t many of us that had extra Wii Wheels, so that inevitably led to arguments with friends over who got to use the wheel. Luckily, we were able to take it out on each other by slinging banana peels and turtle shells at each other. Err, in the game, of course. Don’t send PETA after us.
It’s an extremely strong testament to how good this game is that it is the second best-selling Nintendo game of all time, especially considering the large increase in size of the video game audience. Most of the games on this list are Wii games for a reason. But the original Super Mario Bros. game from all the way back in 1986 has managed to stand up to the test of time extremely well. We love this game so much that we still occasionally find ourselves humming or whistling various songs from the game. In fact, when we close our eyes, we can picture almost all of the hidden items in this game. We know exactly which blocks to bash out of the way to get at the hidden coins or the 1ups. We can find all the beanstalks and know exactly where they lead. Of course, even though we know where they are, we don’t take the portals to skip levels because we’re such honest people.
Wow. This race wasn’t even close. Wii Sports absolutely crushed the sales of any other game, more than doubling the second best-selling Nintendo game. Much like with Wii Play, this had a lot to do with the fact that people were really amazed by the creativity of the Wii console and wanted to have a fun game they could pick up and play that made good use of the new controls. Wii Sports was perfect because it could be played for hours, used the new motion sensors, but also catered perfectly to casual members of the gamer community. But what really helped its sales was that it was bundled with the Wii console and the Wii sold very well. Still, it’s quite a fun game. We don’t love playing Baseball on it, but we really like flailing our fists around like crazy people while playing Boxing. We also enjoy Bowling quite a bit (with the added benefit of not being subjected to sticky used shoes!). But we have to say that we have an absolute blast playing Wii Sports Tennis, even if we occasionally go a little John McEnroe on our opponents.