5. Call of Duty
Now, don’t act surprised. You knew Activision’s “kill-absolutely-everything-that-moves” shooter franchise had to be on this list somewhere.
The ridiculous mobs of people that congregate around GameStop for the release of a new Call of Duty game have been well documented.
While some folks may tire of the clockwork annual release of CoD games, this practice has gone a long way in cementing Call of Duty‘s status as the best-selling first-person-shooter franchise in gaming history, with over 175 million total copies sold.
Best selling game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, 26.5 million copies sold
4. Grand Theft Auto
Surprise! Grand Theft Auto is on a list about profitable game franchises!
Rockstar’s irreverent, controversial, open-world franchise has shattered more records than the law should allow and it’s hard to find anyone these days that hasn’t played at least one of the games in the franchise.
Each GTA game that comes out seeks to push the limits of decency and morality further and with that comes more and more money. Grand Theft Auto V is currently the best selling individual game of all time in the U.K. and sold 1 million copies the day that it launched, earning $800 million the first day and topping $1 billion just three days after launch.
That’s roughly 41,666 copies sold per hour on launch day. (And Rockstar probably cackles at the irony of that number).
Overall, the GTA series has sold 195 million total copies with no signs of slowing down.
Best selling game: Grand Theft Auto V, 45 million copies sold
You knew it would take something substantial to top the Grand Theft Auto franchise, right?
Well, let’s clarify something first. When I say “Wii”, I don’t mean the console. That would be apples and oranges, comparing a console’s sales figures to a game’s.
Rather, I’m talking about the “Wii” franchise of games, which begins and ends with Wii Sports.
Wii Sports in particular took what made the Tetris franchise so ridiculously profitable and brought it to the next generation. Along with being a game that any kid’s parents could pick up and play, Wii Sports is designed to be played with your family in a multiplayer setting.
Overall, the Wii games franchise was successful in redefining family games for its generation, with over 200 million total copies sold.
Best selling game: Wii Sports, 82.54 million copies sold
Does it get much better than Pokémon? Judging by this list, it’s pretty hard to. Pokémon is an absolute juggernaut, and the phenomenon continues to this day with games like Pokémon X and Y and Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. In addition to the critically acclaimed games, Pokémon has also spawned 17 season (over 800 episodes) of its animated series and 17 full-length animated feature films.
Most people that have played a Pokémon game will agree that it’s an addicting experience. “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” is the longstanding slogan of the franchise, a goal that’s far loftier than it was in 1996 when the original games released and there were only 150 pocket monsters to collect.
Totalling over 700 now, catching all of the Pokémon now requires a herculean effort involving lots of luck, trading with a crapton of people that you probably have never met before and maybe just a little bit of cheating. (Since America doesn’t seem to get a lot of the special events that Japan does.)
Pokémon‘s power of the purse can be measured by just how far ahead it is of the previous entry on this list, with a staggering 270.8 million total copies sold.
Best selling game: Pokémon Red/Blue/Green, 28.64 million copies sold
Nintendo’s poster boy isn’t just the most recognizable video game character of all time, he’s also the best selling.
To this day, nothing can touch the unbridled power of the Mario franchise, due in large part to his longevity (he goes all the way back to the Atari 2600 days) and ability to evolve and keep with the times.
In addition to the legendary Super Mario Bros. series of games, Mario has starred or taken part in numerous highly successful spin-off games, with the three most successful being Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and Mario Party.
At the end of the day, factoring in sales from all of his games, the Mario franchise totals a number that may never be surpassed with 509.4922 million total copies sold.
Best selling game: Super Mario series, 297.88 million copies sold
So, let’s finish this off with some more fuzzy math.
509 million times $50 a game = $25,450,000,000. Or, enough money to completely pay off the US deficit with enough left over to buy a couple hundred mansions encased in gold.
Mario, we salute you!