The three best-selling games of all time are all 100 million-plus sellers.
The list spans nearly four decades of video games, starting in 1984 and ending in 2013. It crosses every major game console released since the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and a wide variety of game genres.
The most recent entrant to the 100 million-plus club – “Grand Theft Auto 5” – is the newest of the top three, and it’s available on the fewest platforms: Just Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Having passed 100 million copies sold in the past few months, it’s the youngest of the three games.
Here’s the full list:
3. “Grand Theft Auto 5”
The “Grand Theft Auto” series is a juggernaut, but “Grand Theft Auto 5” is an especially big deal.
The game was bold from the start: It launched on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2013 – the same year that the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched. Instead of embracing those new consoles, Rockstar stuck with the previous generation. The game subsequently arrived on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Of note: It’s the only game on this list that is primarily a narrative-driven single-player experience. That said, a major part of “Grand Theft Auto 5” continuing to sell is the massive “GTA Online” component – an online version of the game that’s wildly popular.
It’s no surprise that “Minecraft” is on this list, with over 150 million copies sold – the game is on nearly every platform. Better still: It’s essentially virtual Legos.
You can play it alone, or with friends, and the concept is simple: Mine materials, then craft them into more useful materials. Maybe you build a house, maybe you go exploring, or maybe you do one of the many other things you can do in “Minecraft.”
It’s a friendly, open experience that’s accessible to nearly anyone. It can be played online, and it can even be played across competing game platforms. With over 90 million people still playing the game every month, “Minecraft” continues to be one of the most popular games in the world – that’s in addition to those astronomic sales numbers.
It’s hard to overstate how big of a deal “Tetris” is. From its humble origins in Russia to a worldwide phenomenon that’s spanned decades, “Tetris” is one of the most important games ever made.
It’s also so, so good.
The concept is immediately clear to anyone playing “Tetris”: Clear the board by creating lines using the randomised pieces that are falling from the top. Its raw puzzle nature is more akin to Sudoku or crosswords than most other video games. That simplicity lends itself well to accessibility – “Tetris” will run on nearly any computer or game console. It was just as good on the original NES as it is on a modern game console. And since it’s a puzzle game above all else, it stands the test of time.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how many copies have been sold of “Tetris.”
It’s been available on so many platforms across so many years that simply keeping track is difficult. A representative from The Tetris Company – the group that oversees “Tetris” on an ongoing basis – told us the following via email: “Billions of ‘Tetris’ games are played online every year, and over 500 million ‘Tetris’ mobile games have been downloaded to date.”
“Tetris” is famous for being the best-selling mobile game of all time – a record it achieved way back in 2010, before smartphones were ubiquitous – having sold more than 100 million digital copies at that point already. Our best guess puts the game’s lifetime sales somewhere north of 200 million copies sold, but the truth is that it’s hard to know for sure.
Wait, where’s “Super Mario Bros.”? What about “Call of Duty”?
Sorry, Mario fans: No games starring Nintendo’s iconic character have – alone – sold over 100 million copies. Even the Super Mario games on Nintendo’s best-selling console of all time, the Nintendo DS, didn’t come close.
The same thing can be said for “Call of Duty” – a series that continues to dominate sales charts year after year. The franchise sells incredibly well every year, often topping the charts as the best selling game in its particular year of release. But no one game in the series has achieved such lofty heights as “Grand Theft Auto 5,” “Minecraft,” and “Tetris.”