Gaming was considered just a fad for a long time. However, that changed in recent years. Today, it’s a $300+ billion industry worth more than movies and music combined. With PCs, consoles, smartphones, tablets, streaming platforms, and esports, there’s never been a better time to be a gamer.
But did you ever wonder which video games earned the most money? As National Pokémon Day (February 27th) is here, we figured we’d take a little trip down memory lane with the highest-grossing games of all time. Enjoy!
Coming in at number 10 is Terraria, a 2D open-world game where you can explore, build structures from gathered resources, fight monsters, and more. The game was released in 2011 and has sold over 44,5 million copies as of mid-2021 across all supported platforms.
Many people don’t know that the entire game was created by a single developer, Andrew Spinks. Since its release, Terraria has won quite a few awards. More importantly, the game is still getting updates, without paid DLC or microtransactions, and it still costs just $10!
9. Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow
The ninth entry in our list is Pokémon RGBY, with over 47,5 million copies sold. The game originally came out in Japan way back in 1996 for the legendary Game Boy. It introduced 151 different species of Pokémon, each with unique stats, moves, and abilities.
Satoshi Tajiri, the game’s creator, spent a good part of his youth collecting bugs, which inspired him to create Pokémon. It was a true cultural phenomenon and a truly groundbreaking game. Pokémon popularized the RPG monster-collecting type of video games, which are still going strong today.
8. Red Dead Redemption 2
What is left to say about one of the most expensive ($100 million) video games ever made? Well, Red Dead Redemption 2 came out in 2018, won numerous awards, including TGA’s Game of the Year, and it still has an active community of gamers who are restlessly unlocking its secrets.
Even though it’s significantly “younger” than the previous two games, RDR2 sold over 50 million copies. It’s also the only game on our list that allows you to meet historical figures like Butch Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, and other notable Americans from the turn of the century.
7. Super Mario Bros.
Ever heard of Jumpman? That was the original title of Super Mario Bros. Who knew? Nintendo released this legendary video game in 1985, and it has sold over 58 million copies. That doesn’t include countless sequels and spinoffs starring the most famous Italian plumber.
The most popular side-scrolling game ever was developed by only five people. Mario’s legendary red cap and blue overalls were designed to make him stand out from the game’s colorful backgrounds. Also, Super Mario Bros. was the first game to feature Luigi and introduce iconic power-ups like the mushroom, star, and fire flower.
6. Mario Kart 8
And we’re back to Mario, just nearly 30 years later! The eighth installment in the Mario Kart series managed to sell more in a significantly shorter period with 60,5 million copies. It was released for Wii U in 2014 and quickly won the hearts of fans worldwide, getting re-released for Switch in 2017 as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
The game features 48 old and new tracks, familiar faces, and some new crossover characters. Apparently, that was the winning combination for both long-time fans and new players. The best confirmation of this is the TGA’s Best Family Game Award (2014) and BAFTA’s Children’s Award for Best Game (2015).
5. PUBG: Battlegrounds
What came before Fortnite, Warzone, Apex Legends, and Fall Guys? PUBG! What Pokémon did for monster-collecting RPGs, PUBG did for the battle royale genre. Created by Brendan Greene, PUBG started its journey as an early-access title in 2017. After the full release in December of the same year, it became an instant hit.
Although it’s been a while, and there are countless similar games out there, PUBG is still going strong. Selling over 75 million copies is no joke, after all. The game still gets new content, including maps, weapons, and even entire game modes. Although the genre is getting a bit stale, PUBG’s constant updates keep it fresh and exciting for millions of gamers worldwide.
4. Wii Sports
At number four is the fourth Nintendo entry on this list, Wii Sports, with 83 million copies sold. The game was one of the launch titles for the revolutionary Wii console way back in 2006. Although the whole thing looks and feels pretty janky today, the motion-sensing gameplay was nothing short of revolutionary back then.
We broke vases and traumatized our pets. The really unlucky ones crashed a TV or two with a stray controller. But we had fun! More importantly, Wii Sports was one of the first video games people recognized as a legit form of exercise. How many other games can claim that? Wii Sports is still the best-selling single-platform video game of all time, and it’s highly unlikely any game will take it off that throne anytime soon.
Picture it. The year is 1989. MTV still played music. Back to the Future 2 was killing it in theaters. Madonna was the world’s most popular singer and not just a crazy Instagram lady. Game Boy was out. The first “serious” gaming system that fits in your pocket. What a time to be alive! And then there was Tetris – the perfect video game. You played it, we played it, everyone and their grandma played it.
After Game Boy, over 70 other platforms saw at least one version of Tetris in its lifetime. There’s no record of how many copies of Tetris were sold altogether, but EA’s version from 2006 holds the record with over 100 million, which earned it a place on our list of highest-grossing games ever. If you want to learn more about this incredible piece of gaming history and how it came to be, catch the Tetris movie on Apple TV+ starting March 31st!
2. Grand Theft Auto V
At number two, we have the only game that made $800 million on release day. GTA already had a massive fanbase at the time. However, the first trailer that showed off the multiplayer component just made everyone go nuts. GTA V was certainly one of the most anticipated video games of all time. It’s also one of the best, still holding a Metacritic score of 97 (out of 100).
The game sold over 175 million copies to date on three generations of Sony and Microsoft consoles, as well as PC. The online mode is still as popular as ever, and it certainly played an important part in the game’s success. Although it was released way back in 2013, Rockstar still updates GTA Online every couple of weeks with new vehicles, modes, clothing items, and more.
With 238 million copies sold, Minecraft is the champion of the highest-grossing games of all time. Yes, 238 million. What is there to say about Minecraft that hasn’t been said already? Did you know someone made a 1:1 replica of Denmark in the game? Are you surprised? Of course not.
Despite the simple block-based graphics, Minecraft has a passionate global fanbase with players of all ages and backgrounds. Being able to create whatever you want (including a replica of Denmark, apparently) and share it with other players is what made Minecraft so popular.
Although we’ve seen countless imitations and parodies since Minecraft’s 2011 release, no other game has come close in terms of popularity. The game is so impactful that certain educational institutions use it to teach subjects like programming and geography. It has also inspired architects and designers, and offered a fantastic virtual environment for studying and developing artificial intelligence.
The gaming industry has come a long way since Pong. But more importantly, it’s not slowing down. We’re expecting to see it evolve even further in the coming years. Who’s not excited about GTA6, Starfield, Alan Wake 2, or the 57th version of Resident Evil 4?
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