The Best-Selling Video Games on 21 Systems

These are the games that swallowed consoles whole.

Andrew Johnston
ILLUMINATION Gaming
6 min readSep 1, 2023

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Video games are big business, and we‘re always interested to know exactly how big. Major releases now sell well into the eight-figure range, and the baseline for what constitutes a best-seller just keeps getting higher.

That growth is mainly because the industry itself is much larger than it once was. Modern games dominate best-seller lists because there are more consumers to buy those games. But what about the games that were breaking records back when that was a lot harder to do?

There are a few approaches to this, but for this article I’m going with a simple metric. Each game on this list is the best-selling video game on a major console or handheld system. I have them ranked not by overall sales, but by the percentage of people who owned that system who also bought a copy of that game. After all, a game (especially a platform exclusive) is a lot more impressive if it sells big on a system with a smaller installed base.

So before you scroll down, take a moment to log your guesses. Proportionately speaking, what are the big winners?

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PSP — Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Rockstar’s mammoth franchise makes a few appearances on this list, starting with Sony’s portable system. About 9.2% of PSP owners also had a copy of the PSP Grand Theft Auto exclusive title.

PlayStation — Gran Turismo

For all the legendary titles to land on the original PlayStation, it was Sony’s flagship racing series that dominated the platform. 10.5% of PlayStation owners had a copy of the very first entry.

PS2 — Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

But on the best selling console ever, Gran Turismo couldn’t quite overcome the growing power of the GTA series. The last title in the GTA 3 trilogy was owned by 11% of PS2 owners.

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Xbox One — Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

It speaks to the popularity of this essential battle royale that it completely eclipsed Microsoft’s other signature games. 15.5% of Xbox One owners had a copy of PUBG to go along with it.

PS4 — Marvel’s Spider-Man

The platform-exclusive superhero title narrowly edged out the God of War reboot to land at the top of the PS4 food chain. Spider-Man swung onto around 17.1% of PS4 systems.

Nintendo DS — New Super Mario Bros.

You probably won’t be surprised to see Mario show up on this list a lot. He had the best-selling title on the best-selling handheld of all time, with 19.4% of DS owners having a copy.

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Nintendo 3DS — Mario Kart 7

Mario is a big franchise, and Mario Kart is a huge part of that. 24.9% of 3DS owners had a copy of Mario Kart 7, an ownership rate that put it ahead of three generations of Pokemon titles.

Atari 2600 — Pac-Man

It was a notoriously broken and buggy game, but it was still Pac-Man and Pac-Man was still a phenomenon. 26.6% of 2600 owners had a copy of the arcade port to go along with it.

Dreamcast — Sonic Adventure

Fans of the Blue Blur had been waiting a full console generation for a new Sonic game, which might explain why 27.4% of people who owned Sega’s finale system also had a copy of Sonic Adventure.

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Xbox 360 — Kinect Adventures!

For all of the popular and well-regarded games that landed on the Xbox 360, the most popular title of them all was the Kinect pack-in. Some 28.5% of 360 owners had this one.

Game Boy — Tetris

Tetris is one of the best selling video games of all time, something helped along by Nintendo’s decision to bundle their first handheld with a copy. The Game Boy was a Tetris machine for 29.4% of owners.

Gamecube — Super Smash Bros. Melee

The Smash Bros. games are consistent best-sellers for Nintendo, but only one game in the series was a platform topper. 32.2% of Gamecube owners — almost a third — owned a copy of the second game in the series.

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Xbox — Halo 2

The original Xbox was defined by Halo, with the second game in particular being the stand-out title for the short-lived system. Some 35% of Xbox owners had a well-used copy of Halo 2 on their shelves.

N64 — Mario 64

Mario 64 was a genre-defining game, setting standards for 3D platformers that would go unchallenged for many years thereafter. 35.2% of N64 owners christened their systems with Mario’s first 3D outing.

PS3 — Grand Theft Auto V

GTA V is a dominant force in the video game world, and nowhere was this more true than on the PS3. Some 39% of PS3 owners bought a copy, putting this game on two-in-five systems.

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SNES — Super Mario World

The fourth game in the Mario series was the first glimpse at the fourth console generation. A whopping 42% of SNES owners also had a copy of the classic platformer in their collections.

Nintendo Switch — Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 is widely considered the best in the Mario Kart series, and the sales figures reflect that. 42.4% of Switch owners have had the opportunity to play the enhanced version of the kart racer.

Sega Genesis — Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic is perhaps the only mascot who really had a chance at defeating Mario, as proved with his very first outing. At least 50% of Genesis owners had a copy — the first game on the list owned by a majority of system owners.

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Wii U — Mario Kart 8

While the Switch version is better known, Mario Kart 8 had an even more impressive showing on the underperforming Wii U. With an ownership rate of 63%, it was the big winner on the console.

NES — Super Mario Bros.

Given the size of the industry at the time, the first Mario game was easily one of the most successful games of all time. It was eventually owned by 64.5% of NES owners, nearly two-thirds.

Wii — Wii Sports

This last title probably isn’t too much of a surprise, as it was the essential Wii title for the system’s large casual audience. 81.6% of Wii owners also had a copy of the arcade-style sports game to go along with it, a number far higher than that of the Mario or Mario Kart games on the platform.

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Andrew Johnston
ILLUMINATION Gaming

Writer of fiction, documentarian, currently stranded in Asia. Learn more at www.findthefabulist.com.