Since the Magnavox Odyssey became the first commercially available home gaming console back in 1972, the gaming industry has grown and flourished. Despite a brief lull in the early-to-mid ’80s, the industry has grown exponentially, and the world is now experiencing the dawn of the Ninth Generation of consoles with the release of the PS5 and Xbox X/S.
Throughout the decades, some companies have thrived, and others have failed. While Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft dominate the console market today, numerous companies have fallen by the wayside like SEGA, Atari, Phillips, Coleco, and more.
Updated on August 4th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: In spite of continued component shortages and a seemingly inevitable all-digital future in which streaming services become the de facto way to play video games, the ninth generation of home consoles has surged ahead. The Nintendo Switch, in particular, has sold incredibly well and is on track to be one of Nintendo’s most successful releases of all time.
That said, not all super-successful consoles are brand new. In fact, a majority of them aren’t even from the previous decade. From the classic NES that more or less started it all to the motion-control marvel that was the Nintendo Wii, gamers may be surprised by the current lineup of all-time highest-selling home consoles.
15 Super Nintendo Entertainment System
49 Million Units
Nintendo almost singlehandedly rebooted the American gaming market in the ’80s with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Naturally, after reigniting the industry, Nintendo began seeing competition from companies like SEGA. Nintendo’s solution was to build an even more powerful machine that would remain on top. Thus, the SNES was born.
It was a critical and commercial success, launching beloved franchises—some of the best of which are even now available on the Nintendo Switch—including Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox, Mario Kart, and more. The console also had a hefty lifespan of over a decade, eventually selling just over 49 million units.
14 Xbox One
51 Million Units
Industry insiders speculate that roughly 51 million Xbox One units have been sold since the console’s debut in 2013. However, since the Xbox One is still for sale, the number may continue to gradually climb until the new generation really takes hold of the market.
Despite being the tenth bestselling console ever, the Xbox One failed to compete with Sony’s PS4. This is partly due to the fact that the console had a lackluster game library. In fact, almost every best-selling game wasn’t even an Xbox exclusive. However, the console did see some praise with titles like Halo 5, Titanfall, and Sunset Overdrive.
13 Nintendo Entertainment System
61 Million Units
While the SNES was a massive hit, competition from the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive ended up limiting sales numbers compared to its predecessor, the Nintendo Entertainment System—often referred to as the NES, or the Famicom in Japan.
It was the NES that really took gaming into a new era with smash hits like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and more. Many gamers might be surprised to learn that the console also had a considerably long lifespan, remaining in production in Japan until 2003. Throughout its twenty-year run, the NES sold almost 62 million units worldwide.
12 Nintendo 3DS
75 Million Units
Nintendo had a hit on its hands with the Nintendo DS, but, when its successor launched in 2011, sales were relatively sluggish. Fortunately, a price cut and the release of several must-have games like Mario Kart 7 and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds helped the handheld to rebound, and it went on to sell in excess of 75 million units.
The Nintendo 3Ds would first be marketed as a revolutionary new system that spotted glasses-free 3D effects, but later iterations ditched that feature entirely. With more than a few major revisions in the form of the Nintendo 2DS and 2DS XL, it became a ubiquitous and uniquely approachable system.
11 PlayStation Portable
80 Million Units
Nintendo had traditionally dominated the handheld gaming market with its successful line of GameBoy consoles, but Sony made an effort to challenge that trend with the release of the PlayStation portable. Offering what were at the time almost home console-quality graphics, the PlayStation Portable was an excellent system that sported must-have titles in the God of War, Uncharted, and Killzone franchises.
While the PS Vita, the system’s successor, wouldn’t be nearly as popular in North America, the PlayStation Portable is still recognized as an all-time great, and it’s estimated to have sold around 80 million units during its lifecycle.
10 GameBoy Advance
81 Million Units
The original GameBoy was an incredibly successful system, but, by the late 90s, the aging hardware was really struggling to keep up with the trends of the era. Though Nintendo had released a pseudo-upgrade in the form of the GameBoy Color, the GameBoy wouldn’t receive a true successor until the release of the GameBoy Advance in 2001.
Boasting power roughly equal to the SNES, the GameBoy Advance was a haven for sidescrolling action titles, and it became the home of more than a few landmark Mario & Luigi, Castlevania, and Pokémon titles. The system also saw a few important revisions, the best of which included a backlight and a convenient clamshell design.
9 Xbox 360
84 Million Units
The Xbox 360 has been Microsoft’s bestselling game console to date, selling 84 million units. Microsoft recognized Halo‘s important role in making the original Xbox a success and had Bungie get to work on a whole lineup of Halo titles for their new console, including Halo 3, 4, Reach, and ODST, all of which sold millions of copies and helped turn the 360 into a success.
However, one of the biggest things that helped the 360 was the release of the Kinect motion sensor halfway through the console’s decade-long life. Not only did Kinect Adventures! become the console’s bestselling title, but, for a brief period, the Kinect became a cultural phenomenon, even serving a prominent role in Paranormal Activity 4.
8 PlayStation 3
87 Million Units
While it would later recuperate, the PlayStation 3 began as a retail disaster for Sony, and the lower sales make sense considering that it was up against stiff competition in the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. In fact, all three major seventh-gen consoles are among the top 10 bestselling consoles ever.
Luckily, PS-exclusives like LittleBigPlanet, Gran Turismo 5, and the Uncharted franchise helped keep the console competitive. It also had massive late-in-life success with top-selling titles like Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us being released in 2013, the same year as the PS4’s debut. In total, the PS3 sold almost 87 million units.
7 Nintendo Wii
101 Million Units
When it was first announced, some gamers scoffed at the idea of a game console using motion controls. Some felt it was a cheap gimmick or that Nintendo was simply desperate after the lackluster performance of the GameCube which only sold 21.7 million units. However, critics were soon proven wrong, as the console was launched to rave reviews and went on to sell 101.53 million units.
Motion-focused games like Wii Fit, Wii Sports, and Just Dance dominated the sales charts, selling tens of millions of copies each. Aside from the motion games, the Wii also had some underrated games and under-the-radar hits including Donkey Kong Country Returns, WarioWare Smooth Moves, and more.
102 Million Units
Sony’s first foray into the console market ended up changing gaming forever. Compared to other systems of the time like the SEGA Saturn and N64, the PlayStation was a high-powered console that seemed to release hit game after hit game.
From Resident Evil to Spyro, Crash Bandicoot, Gran Turismo, Final Fantasy, Tekken, and Metal Gear Solid, the console was completely unstoppable. The PlayStation pushed gaming into the 3D era, forcing every other company to play catch-up. In total, the PS1 went on to sell over 104 million units.
5 Nintendo Switch
107 Million Units
Despite only having been on the market for just over five years, the Nintendo Switch has sold more than 100 million units and seems to be on track to become the highest-selling system of all time. The console was just released in 2017, so it still has a few good years left. Plus, with hallmark entries in the Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Metroid series, the Switch is a must-have for every Nintendo fan.
Aside from the Switch being famous for its versatility, it’s also gained popularity for focusing on co-op gameplay, allowing friends and families to play together. Plus, with all sorts of variants and collectors editions—not to mention the all-new Switch OLED model—the system seems destined to break some all-time sales records in the coming years.
4 PlayStation 4
117 Million Units
The PS4 is the second bestselling home console ever, clobbering its competition, the Xbox One and the Wii U. In fact, the console can likely thank the Wii U’s failure for driving sales, as consumers were basically left to choose between only PlayStation and Xbox.
The console also had a steady line of heavily praised exclusive titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, and the continuation of the Uncharted franchise, which helped continue to give PlayStation the reputation for being the go-to gaming hub. So far, the PS4 has sold more than 117 million units, and it’s currently still for sale, so that number will continue to grow, though it will likely be phased out in the near future.
3 Nintendo GameBoy/GameBoy Color
118 Million Units
While there were technically portable gaming devices available before the GameBoy, Nintendo’s first handheld system that accommodated interchangeable cartridges was a massive success that helped to expand a market Nintendo themselves had helped to pioneer with their Game & Watch series.
Selling well in excess of 110 million units and only technically being discontinued in 2003, the GameBoy ruled the handheld market thanks in part to all-time great games like Super Mario Land and Tetris. Its lifespan would be prolonged by the GameBoy Color, and Nintendo wouldn’t release a true successor until 2001, a full twelve years after the system first debuted.
2 Nintendo DS
154 Million Units
The highest-selling handheld console of all time, the Nintendo DS worked as something of an homage to the classic dual-screen approach of certain Game & Watch models and took Nintendo’s line of handheld systems to new heights. Selling more than 150 units in its lifetime, its two-screen setup and emphasis on touch controls connected with consumers in ways no other console could.
The Nintendo DS saw more than a few revisions over its seven-year lifecycle. While the initial model wasn’t particularly well-received, the DS lite and DS XL models would dominate the market and pave the way for the Nintendo 3DS in 2011.
1 PlayStation 2
157.68 Million Units
The PlayStation destroyed the SEGA Saturn, and its successor, the PS2, completely annihilated SEGA’s attempt at a rebirth with the Dreamcast, causing the company to exit the console world permanently. It was more powerful than any console that came before it and even included a built-in DVD player.
Plus, the PS2 came out with an endless line of hit exclusive titles. The console revamped the Final Fantasy series with Final Fantasy X and X-2. Square Enix even managed to get Disney involved for the crossover games Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2. In total, 157.68 million PS2 consoles were sold during the system’s lifespan.
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