- The most popular video games generate billions of dollars each year, out-earning the highest-grossing movies and albums.
- We’ve listed the 10 best-selling games in the US according to the NPD Group, which began tracking video game sales data in 1995.
- The list includes hits like “WiiFit” and “Guitar Hero 3.”
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s no longer a secret that popular video games frequently out-gross the top-earning movies, bringing in billions from the ever-growing audience of gamers around the world. But what turns a regular video game into an all-time best-seller? Franchises like “Call of Duty” recruit a dedicated following with yearly releases. Popular studios like Rockstar Games earn the appreciation of millions of fans with incredible detailed and immersive games like “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption.” Other games, like “Guitar Hero,” can create a cultural phenomenon with unique gameplay and curious hardware.
Below, we’ve listed the 10 best-selling games in the US according to NPD Group, which began tracking video game sales data in 1995.
10. “Call of Duty: Ghosts” — November 2013
Despite being one of the most disliked entries in the “Call of Duty” franchise, “Ghosts” benefitted from the series’ massive reach and reputation. “Ghosts” was a departure from the more popular “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” series and bridged the gap between console generations.
“Ghosts” was released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii weeks before the launch of the more powerful PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. Releasing the game across so many different consoles helped generate sales, but likely impacted the overall quality of “Call of Duty: Ghosts.”
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
9. “Rock Band” — November 2007
Developed by the same company as “Guitar Hero,” “Rock Band” expanded the gameplay offerings to include drum tracks, vocals, and separate bass lines. The new ways to play also meant the inclusion of a new drum-set controller and a microphone for singing. Supporting four band members at once and an upgradeable song list via downloadable content, “Rock Band” was a logical step up from “Guitar Hero,” and fans welcomed the new series.
Consoles: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, iOS
8. “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” — November 2015
Though “Call of Duty: Black Ops 3” was the best-selling game of 2015, it failed to reach the sales markers set by its predecessors and reflected a slightly dwindling interest in the franchise. While the game wasn’t particularly flawed, fans and critics alike suggested that the “Call of Duty” formula had grown stale over the years, leading to some major changes to the franchise.
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
7. “WiiFit” — May 2008
The Wii was a cultural phenomenon, reaching millions of casual gamers who were interested in the console’s unique motion controls. “WiiFit” offered an even more involved experience with a balance board peripheral that could help guide players through exercises by tracking their weigh and posture.
Of course, the balance board made the game a bit more expensive, and led to a higher sales total, but Nintendo reports that 22 million copies of WiiFit have been sold worldwide, and the follow-up, WiiFit Plus, sold 21 million as well.
6. “Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2” — November 2009
“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” is considered one of the best first-person shooting games ever, and it represented a turning point for the long-running “Call of Duty” series. Its follow-up, “Modern Warfare 2,” continued the game’s storyline and made common-sense improvements to the game’s mechanics.
The game garnered some controversy because of a story mission called “No Russian,” which has the player take part in a terrorist attack in a Russian airport, providing the option to kill civilians.
Consoles: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC
5. “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” — October 2007
The “Guitar Hero” franchise helped lead a boom in music games, but before 2007, the series was exclusive to the PlayStation 2, limiting the game’s reach. “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” was the first in the series to launch across all platforms, including PC and macOS, giving many the chance to play for the first time.
Though “Guitar Hero” can be played with a standard controller, the guitar controller became synonymous with the game. “Guitar Hero III” included a wireless guitar controller for the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo Wii, a big upgrade from the wired controllers that came with the previous PlayStation 2 games.
Consoles: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Wii, Microsoft Windows, macOS X
4. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” — November 2011
Like the previous two “Modern Warfare” games, “Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3” was developed by Infinity Ward. The game set records for the biggest video game launch at the time and represents a high point for the “Call of Duty” franchise.
This was the last new “Modern Warfare” series until this year – Infinity Ward rebooted the series with plainly named “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.”
Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
3. “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” — November 2012
The “Black Ops” series is developed by Treyarch, which started working on the “Call of Duty” franchise with 2008’s “World at War.” “Black Ops” is set during the 1960s, sending players on secret CIA missions set at different points during the decade.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops II” broke the sales record set by “Modern Warfare 3” the previous year with more than $US500 million in sales on its first day of release and more than 7 million copies sold within the first month.
Consoles: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC
2. “Call of Duty: Black Ops” — November 2010
The success of “Modern Warfare” created a die-hard fan base for the “Call of Duty” games and left Activision looking for ways to keep the series from going stale with yearly releases. The publisher settled on using different development teams to keep up with release schedule and establish different series within the franchise, like “Modern Warfare” and “Black Ops.”
Consoles: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PC, Nintendo DS, macOS
1. “Grand Theft Auto V” — September 2013
Beyond being the best-selling game of 2013, “Grand Theft Auto V” is the top-earning game in US history with more than 100 million copies sold. The game features three playable characters and returns to the faux California of “San Andreas.” “Grand Theft Auto V” was also the first game in the series to feature online multiplayer, adding to its longevity.
“Grand Theft Auto V” launched on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2013, was updated for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 the following year, and eventually released on PC. The game has gotten consistent updates for the last six years and continues to bring in tons of money from players who pay for in-game cash, cosmetics, and game modes.
Consoles: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3