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Best-Selling Video Games of All Time

by Dan Steckenberg

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The home version of Atari's Pong hit the market in 1975. In the 34 years since, gaming has gone from a niche market to a multibillion dollar industry that employs thousands of people around the globe. In fact, 2008 total video game sales in America topped $21 billion. Listed below are the top selling video games of all time, as of January 2009.

1. Wii Sports

Wii SportsDeveloper: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Year of Release: 2006
Copies Sold: 41.65 million

In every country except Japan, when you buy a Nintendo Wii you get Wii Sports. This accounts for most of the game's now-historic success. Still, if the game (and its platform) weren't good, perhaps some of its 40-million-plus sales might have gone to a rival. Wii Sports includes five separate sports games: tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing. As is characteristic to the Wii, the games are simple to learn and make use of the Wii "remote." Players use the remote to mimic the real life actions required to play the sports.

2. Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year of Release: 1985
Copies Sold: 40.24 million

Super Mario Bros. is a classic in every sense of the word. Its story has been turned into TV shows, a film, comic books, and more. Even its theme music—composed by Koji Kondo—is familiar to non-gamers and has lately been performed by symphonies around the world. While Super Mario Bros.'s original platform, the Nintendo Entertainment System, has long been obsolete, Nintendo has kept the game fresh by releasing sequels, special editions, and spin-offs that span all of Nintendo's subsequent platforms, from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, to the Game Boy, to the Wii.

3. Pokémon Red, Green, and Blue

Pokemon Red, Green and Blue Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Game Boy
Year of Release: 1996
Copies Sold: 31.38 million

Before it made the leap to the big and small screen and an endless array of consumer products, Pokémon was a role-playing video game for Nintendo Game Boy. The three versions listed here are the first three—and best-selling—entries in the Pokémon franchise. At the time of its release, Nintendo didn't have many expectations for Pokémon, as it was coming out on the Game Boy, a platform that was quickly losing popularity. But Pokémon caught on, and managed to extend the life of Game Boy and give Nintendo another money-making franchise.

4. Tetris

TetrisDevelopers: Alexey Pajitnov, Dmitry Pavlovsky and Vadim Gerasimov
Platform: Game Boy
Year of Release: 1989
Copies Sold: 30.26 million

So simple it's hard to believe it hasn't been around since the dawn of time (or at least the invention of the wheel), Tetris was actually developed in Russia and then purchased by Nintendo. It debuted on Game Boy and has since appeared on pretty much every platform imaginable, including cell phones and graphing calculators. For those living in a cave for the last 20 years, Tetris is a geometric puzzle game in which the player has to arrange falling shapes in the right manner, or else the shapes will begin to pile up. If the pile reaches the top of the screen, the game is over.

5. Duck Hunt

Duck Hunt Developer: Nintendo Research and Development 1
Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Year of Release: 1984
Copies Sold: 28.31 million

Any kid who grew up around the Nintendo Entertainment System probably remembers the bright orange "gun" used to play Duck Hunt. That gun set Duck Hunt apart, because you used it—instead of a more traditional controller—to play the game. If you aimed the gun correctly, you could hit one of the digital ducks flying across the TV screen. In the 1980s, this was miraculous. Although Duck Hunt wasn't immediately praised, it was bundled with Nintendo so every gamer got a chance to play it. Now, there are literally hundreds of games that offer a much more advanced (and more violent) "shooting" experience, but Duck Hunt helped bring the hairtrigger to the masses.

6. Pokémon Gold and Silver

Pokemon Gold Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Game Boy
Year of Release: 1999
Copies Sold: 23.11 million

We've already covered the first Pokémon—the Red, Green, and Blue editions sitting at No. 3 on the list of all-time top-selling video games. The Gold and Silver versions are extensions of their forebears with some new wrinkles, including an internal clock that tweaked the game play enough to keep it fresh.

7. Nintendogs

Nintendogs DalmatianDeveloper: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2005
Copies Sold: 21.60 million

Developed for the Nintendo DS handheld platform, Nintendogs takes advantage of the DS's touch screen capability. Gamers can pet, feed, and play with their virtual dogs. The game was originally released in three versions: Dachshund & Friends, Lab & Friends, and Chihuahua & Friends. Due to its popularity, Nintendogs has been re-released twice since '05, and has been spun-off into two sequels.

8. Super Mario World

Super Mario WorldDeveloper: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development
Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Year of Release: 1990
Copies Sold: 20.61 million

When Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as an upgrade for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, the company needed a game to bundle with the new system to drive sales. What better way to do that than to update the original Super Mario Bros.? Super Mario World is, as you might expect, a lot like Super Mario Bros., but with all-new levels, improved graphics and game play, and some new moves for Mario. The game also introduced new characters to the Mario universe, including Yoshi, a dinosaur that Mario can hop on and ride.

9. Wii Play

Wii PlayDeveloper: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Year of Release: 2006
Copies Sold: 20.30 million

The counterpart to Wii Sports, Wii Play includes nine more stand-alone games such as "Table Tennis," "Shooting Range" (a Duck Hunt update), and "Fishing." The games are simple—some say too simple. But Nintendo has always claimed that part of the purpose of Wii Play was to help gamers train themselves on the Wii remote, and sales of the game have justafied that strategy.

10. New Super Mario Bros.

New Super Mario Bros. Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development
Platform: Nintendo DS
Year of Release: 2006
Copies Sold: 18.43 million

Remember No. 8, in which Nintendo took advantage of the popularity of the Mario franchise to launch a new platform? Similar story here. New Super Mario Bros. was built for the handheld DS system, and promised to showcase the new platform's capabilities as well as provide a lure for fans of Mario who might not otherwise have bought a DS. The biggest innovations for this version of Mario were improved 3D renderings of Mario and his cohorts, as well as a better physics engine. In New Super Mario Bros., when Mario swings on a rope it bends.

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Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
The worst U.S. air disaster was the crash of an American Airlines DC-10 on May 25, 1979.

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