Thousands of video games are published every year on all platforms. On Steam alone, you can find 30,000 titles. We enjoy great games almost every month, and many of them become reference titles, or start a saga. But what are the 20 most popular games in history ?
We are not talking about the best-selling games, or the best rated, or the ones that have caused the most talk. It’s a bit of a mix of all of these.
The most popular games in history must logically be among the best sellers or the most downloaded (yes, some are free), otherwise they would not be known. But we have also appreciated that they are famous even by people who have not played them, or who do not regularly play video games. That they transcend the platform on which they were published, and even that they transcend the world of video games.
We have also assessed that they have stood the test of time, and today they are perfectly playable.
You may be surprised to see titles like League of Legends, Fortnite or PUGB off the list, undoubtedly two of the most popular and most played games in recent years. But to get into the top 20 most popular games ever , they need to linger a bit longer. How will we value these titles in 5 or 10 years? As a passing fad, or as authentic classics that gave rise to new subgenres? Time and perspective will put everyone in their place…
These are, in our opinion, the 20 most popular games of all time , ordered by release date. They are still a subjective choice, so if you miss one, do not hesitate to name it in the comments. Are your favorite games on the list?
We begin our tour with what is possibly the first video game that achieved universal fame, with the permission of Space Invaders or Pong.
Pac-Man, the Pacifier, as he was known here in Spain, broke with the stereotype of video games where you always had to shoot someone. In fact, its creator, the Japanese Toru Iwatani, designed it with the aim of creating a game that everyone could play, especially women, who at that time did not have games that suited their tastes, since, as we say, everything was games to shoot ships or invading aliens.
Pac-Man became an icon of video games, and today it is known even by those who have never played them.
Games sold: 170 million
Little did Alexei Leonidovich Pazhitnov imagine in 1984 that his mathematical and mental entertainment, Tetris , would end up becoming one of the best-known games in the world. And in the best seller in history.
Tetris triumphed in the 80s on the arcade machine that came to be installed in thousands of bars and arcades around the world, and in the 90s, on the Nintendo Gameboy console. But in all these years, new versions and reinventions have not stopped appearing, which have maintained the popularity of the game among the youngest. The most recent, the fun Puyo Puyo Tetris and the great Tetris Effect, which can even be played in Virtual Reality (on the other hand, the best way to play it…).
Super Mario Bros.
Games sold: 40 million
What can we say about what is possibly the most beloved video game in history ? Legend has it that he saved video games in the United States, when the industry was in chaos after the Atari disaster.
It became Nintendo’s first philosopher’s stone (the other is the Zelda saga) on which the Kyoto company built its empire.
Every Nintendo console has had its own Mario game for history (the latest being Super Mario Odyssey), but none is as beloved as the first, which is still endlessly playable and fun.
Games sold: 15.1 million
As today happens with Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, in the 90s Sonic and Mario competed one on one and maintained a rivalry that went beyond games. The sales of their respective consoles, Megadrive and Super Nintendo, depended on them.
We all know what happened next. Sega abandoned the hardware market and Sonic was orphaned on consoles. He has now become a great friend of Mario, and together they star in some games.
The first Sonic was a technical revolution and a genius for SEGA, which dared to create a platform, the Mario genre, endowed with never-before-seen scrolling speed, which gave Sonic a modern and agile look, compared to the classic tone. from Mario. He just came out on Switch in the Sega Ages line.
Curiously, the best-selling Sonic game is not this, but Sonic & Sega All-Star Racing, which is close to 17 million copies. Of course, adding mobile sales. Soon we will enjoy a continuation.
Street Fighter II
The most famous fighting game of all time, Street Fighter II, was a hit in arcades and on the Super Nintendo back in the ’90s. But it’s been a bestseller on every platform it’s released on.
Like other titles on this list, Street Fighter II defined the genre to which it belonged, carving in stone countless aspects that became the norm: characters with different blows and movements, precise control without lag , combos that demand skill and strategy, and much more. .
An essential classic, and one of the 20 most popular video games, on its own merits.
Is there a more influential video game than Doom ? It was the first successful first-person shooter worldwide, the first to offer online play over the Internet, and one of the first games to officially support MODS.
A myth that is still being played in its original version today, and new levels from the original creators will even be released shortly.
Games sold: 24 million (FIFA 18)
It is not the most playable, and today it has many limitations, but it was the first and that is why it caused a great impact at the time. FIFA 94 was released on Christmas 1993 and was received with great expectation, because it was the first to have a FIFA license, with real teams. But this first title only had 30 national teams. There were no clubs from the leagues of each country, and all the players had invented names.
As a soccer game, it stood out for its isometric perspective, more televised, and for details such as the presence of the referee on the field, or the real chants of the public. In countries like the United Kingdom and Spain it was number one in sales for more than six months.
A success that has been maintained for 25 years, appearing year after year in the Top 10 most popular games. FIFA 18 sold 24 million copies last year. Almost nothing!
Pokemon Red / Blue / Yellow
Games sold: 45 million
Few titles are better suited to handheld devices than Pokemon Saga . They are classics that require hundreds of hours to collect all the Pokemon, and are well suited to the concept of playing while lying in bed, or while going to class or work on the subway. That is why they have been a success both on Nintendo portable consoles and on mobile phones, with Pokemon GO.
The 10 oldest video games in history
One of the keys to the success of the first Pokemon, called Pokemon Red / Blue , or the special version Yellow, was the possibility of exchanging Pokemon between players , something never seen at that time. The genius Shigeru Miyamoto (it occurred to him) decided to create two versions of the game with different Pokemon, to force players to exchange.
Pokemon is one of the most popular video games in history . It continues to sell millions in 2019, with titles like Pokemon Let’s Go Pikatchu! /Eevee
Final Fantasy VII
Games sold: 9.7 million
Final Fantasy VII caused a real worldwide commotion when it was published, in 1997. It was a unique moment in the history of video games, the perfect storm. Legendary sagas were going from 2D to 3D, Square added stunning, movie-quality cutscenes that could only be stored on a disc (versus Nintendo cartridges), and for the first time the saga was translated into Spanish and other languages. outside of English (although it seems that PlayStation Classic has not heard…
If we add to that some unforgettable characters (the bad ones , even more than the good ones …) and an epic staging, it is not surprising that this is the most beloved FF.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Games sold: 8 million
Zelda games have never been top sellers compared to other titles on this list. In fact, they sell much more outside of Japan than in their home country. But they are highly valued by critics, and by gamers .
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the first in 3D, has for years been considered the best video game of all time in numerous online lists and publications.
And they are right. Ocarina is a practically perfect video game. It has it all: an interesting and tense plot, charismatic characters, sublime enemies, impeccable dungeon design, and game mechanics based on the use of weapons and abilities that were ahead of their time, copied in countless modern games.
Metal Gear Solid
Games sold: 6 million
Military games are always well received by video game players. Metal Gear Solid is a kind of Japanese version of Rambo, but with such a convoluted and hilarious plot, as only Hideo Kojima could come up with.
There were other games in the series before this PlayStation title, but like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on Nintendo 64, it was the first with 3D graphics, launching a series of new stealth and concealment mechanics that set the foundation. of the genre.
Year 2000, first decade
Games sold: 16 million
Will Wright has always been passionate about simulators, and for this reason he created a simulator for cities (the long-awaited SimCity), farms, golf… and even an anthill.
Curiously, The Sims was born from a peculiar idea: what would you see in a dollhouse if you lifted the roof to peek?
Good Will Wright’s colleagues laughed in his face when he explained his idea, but he did not give up and carried out his dollhouse simulator , which was actually a complex life simulator, which millions of players fell in love with. . With more than 100 million copies sold adding all the games and expansions, for years it has been the best-selling saga in the history of PC, until Minecraft surpassed it.
Will Wright shut up, gave his colleagues a lesson on what it means to design a video game that breaks all the rules… and after a couple of sequels, he abandoned video games. We miss you Will…
Halo: Combat Evolved
Games sold: 6.5 million
The first Halo is by no means the best. It has been surpassed by most of its sequels, polishing its flaws and limitations.
But Halo: Combat Evolved was a milestone for many reasons. It was key to Microsoft (and Xbox) gaining a foothold in gaming, and became one of the first first-person shooters to hit home on consoles, proving that gaming was possible outside of PC.
Soon we will enjoy a new title in the saga for Xbox One and PC, Halo Infinite.
Counter-Strike is the most popular free online multiplayer game series in the world. The first title was a Half-Life MOD, and the second, this Counter-Strike: Source , uses the Half-Life 2 engine.
Although there are more modern versions, this is the most popular, and it is still being played.
Counter-Strike has set the course for almost all multiplayer games, perfecting the team fighting mechanics to the limit.
World of Warcraft
14 years have passed since the release of World of Warcraft. And there it is, as fresh as a daisy. That is thanks to the constant improvements that Blizzard has been introducing, and to the new expansions.
No one would give a buck for a massively multiplayer online game that charges a monthly fee, but here it is. At its best, it had 8 million paying players. One last!
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Games sold: 15.7 million
The Call of Duty saga was released in 2003, and from the very beginning it became a reference franchise in multiplayer shooters , defining many of the modern mechanics of shooters played on the Internet.
The saga is divided into several families set in different times and settings: World War II, Modern Warfare, Black Ops, etc.
It’s hard to pick the most popular title, but for most fans it’s definitely Call for Duty 4: Modern Warfare. It dazzled in the design of maps, online game modes, unlockables, etc. It also has possibly the best single player campaign. It is not strange that Activision released a remaster in 2016. It is one of the 20 most popular games in history.
With over 2 billion downloads on mobile devices, the popularity of Angry Birds cannot be denied . It has also been released for PC and consoles, so it deserves to make the list.
Angry Birds is a game of its time, and perhaps it hasn’t aged too well, because its gameplay was already very limited from the start. But it’s fun at its core, and it’s hard to resist playing a game with it in front of you. Someone has to put an end to all those pesky piggies…
Mario Kart (Wii)
Games sold: 37.1 million
8. Mario Kart Wii – Wii
The Mario Kart saga has been, since the first title on SNES, a benchmark for multiplayer games on consoles. A thousand times imitated, no one has succeeded in cloning the great and challenging control mode of Karts.
Although the best game in the series is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch, the Wii version is the best seller, thanks to the massive sales success of the console.
And it released some novelties, such as motorcycles or control through the peripheral in the shape of a steering wheel, which works surprisingly well.
2010 and beyond
Games sold: 154 million copies
The Minecraft phenomenon has taken the whole world by surprise. Who could have imagined in 2011 that a construction game made of grid blocks would end up becoming the second best-selling game in history, behind Tetris. It won’t take long to get over it…
Minecraft is a success because Mojang knew how to understand what many gamers like. Like Will Wright did with The Sims, Minecraft puts players in a sandbox where they can build whatever they want, and share it with other players.
The cooperative online mode is another of the keys that explain the more than 150 million copies sold.
Gran Theft Auto V
Games sold: 100 million copies
The success of Gran Theft Auto V is incomprehensible. 100 million copies sold! It’s actually easy to understand. GTA V has something for everyone. A spectacular single player campaign, long, deep, fun and with a brutal narrative. And numerous multiplayer modes that add content all the time, so people don’t get tired. I wish all games were like this…
Five years after its launch it continues in the Top 10 best sellers worldwide.
We have seen the 20 most popular video games in history . But many others could have entered the list. Here are some of them:
- League of Legends
- Fortnite / PUGB
- Candy Crush
- Diablo III
- Grand Touring
- Space Invaders
- Resident Evil 2
- Wii Sports
- Super Smash Bros.
- The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim