Revealed: Top 15 games franchises of all time

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From the simplicity of Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris to the vivid realms of Pokémon and Lego, every gamer has a franchise they will always be loyal to. Chris Price takes a look at some the biggest and best gaming franchises to date. 

Whether it’s a first-person shooter, a platform series or a sports game, the development of video games has produced some truly epic franchises over the years with new instalments and expansions keep fans hooked, and improvements in console technology only increasing demand. 

NetEntStalker.com has carried out a study that ranks the Top 15 all-time greatest franchises in history by number of sales. It reveals, perhaps not surprisingly, that 5 of the top 15 franchises for video games relate to fighting or war in some capacity. Call of Duty and Tom Clancy’s games are leaders in First-Person Shooters while Assassin’s Creed and the Grand Theft Auto franchises lead the way in terms of visceral combat.

It also appears that longevity is an invaluable asset for any gaming franchise, with a third of this list born in the 1980s! For example, Nintendo’s Mario, Alexey Pajitnov’s Tetris and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy all have a lifespan greater than most gamers! You can see the findings of NetEntStalker’s research below. 

1. Mario

Total Copy/Products sold: 528,534 million

Best Selling Game: Super Mario Bros – 47.58 million copies 

Gaming’s very own ‘Jumpman’ came into our lives in 1981 and has since created a franchise empire that places it at no.1 on our list. The heroic Italian plumber led Nintendo to domination in the gaming world, with over 250 game assets to date, with Super Mario Bros the most successful instalment at over 47 million units sold.

Since its inception, the gaming world’s favourite Italian plumber has topped virtually every chart going. With over 250 different assets released, it’s deservedly at top-spot with 528,534 million units sold.

2. Tetris 

Total Copy/Products sold: 495 million

Best Selling Game:  Tetris – 43 million copies 

When Alexey Pajitnov designed the tile-matching puzzle in the 80s, he may not have predicted its long-standing, international popularity. It’s proved so popular that many players in the past have reported as suffering from the ’Tetris Effect’ where you can see falling images after closing your eyes! 


3. Pokémon 

Total Copy/Products sold: 290 million

Best Selling Game: Pokémon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow – 59.52 million copies 

The Japanese franchise became a craze for GameBoy users from its release in 1995.  Creator Satoshi Tajiri summed up the joyful innocence of the games, saying that they were ‘everything I did as a kid kind of rolled into one’. The franchise saw a return to popularity recently with the launch of the Pokémon Go! App.

4. Grand Theft Auto 

Total Copy/Products sold: 250 million

Best Selling Game: Grand Theft Auto V – 52 million copies 

The series produced by the team at Rockstar games created several fictional universes which gamers have been immersed in for years. While the franchise is often shrouded in controversy due to its violent content, its instalments are always works of meticulous perfection, which has garnered its incredible success.

5. Call of Duty 

Total Copy/Products sold: 250 million

Best Selling Game: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – 26.5 million copies 

The highest ranked first-person shooter on NetEntStalker’s study is so popular that the all-time gross of Avatar, Titanic and the Avengers combined works out less than Call of Duty by the time Modern Warfare 3 came out. The franchise is one of the youngest on the list, maintaining its status through recreations of the military combat of WWII all the way through to the present day and beyond.

6. The Sims 

Total Copy/Products sold: 200 million

Best Selling Game: The Sims 2 – 20 million copies

Initially released solely for the PC platform, The Sims is a life-simulation game which gives users ultimate control over the life and existence of their own ‘Sims’. Much of its popularity undoubtedly comes from the open-ended nature of the initial game as well as the multiple expansions produced by the Maxis team.

 7. Need for Speed

Total Copy/Products sold: 150 million

Best Selling Game: Need for Speed Underground – 7.2 million copies 

The only racing game in our rankings is described by its Creative Director as an ‘action driving game’, surpassing the format of a traditional game of this genre. Its vast success saw it move from the realm of video gaming to the silver screen with its 2014 film release starring Aaron Paul.

8. Final Fantasy 

Total Copy/Products sold: 130 million

Best Selling Game: Final Fantasy VII – 9.72 million copies 

Throughout the existence of the science fiction/fantasy franchise, the games have varied in genre with gamers enjoying tactical role-playing, MMORPG, racing and many more. The games have enjoyed incredible commercial and critical success as well as being famed for their soundtrack and photo-realistic graphics.

9. FIFA 

Total Copy/Products sold: 100 million

Best Selling Game: FIFA 17 – 10.86 million copies

Every football season since 1993 has seen fans around the world anticipating the next release of the FIFA game franchise. The global popularity of the sport is reflected by the EA multi-platform production of the game made available in over 18 languages and 51 countries.

10. Lego 

Total Copy/Products sold: 100 million

Best Selling Game: Lego StarWars: The Complete Saga – 13.3 million copies

In 1997, the famous Danish toy company branched out into the gaming world and has since released 65 instalments, earning it 10th spot in our list. The film licensing of Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and more have all been produced under the umbrella of the LEGO game franchise.

And the best of the rest….

11. Assassin’s Creed 

Total Copy/Products sold: 100 million

Best Selling Game: Assassin’s Creed 3 – 6.46 million copies

The youngest of the 15 franchises on our list is an action-adventure series, which depicts a mix of historical events and fiction. A mission featured on the game is named ‘The Spy who Shunned Me’ in reference to James Bond, one of many Easter Eggs featured throughout the franchise.

 12. Madden NFL 

Total Copy/Products sold: 99 million

Best Selling Game: Madden NFL 2004 – 5.23 million copies 

The second sports game on the list is the NFL game Madden, named after former broadcaster and in-game commentator John Madden. The game has been used to simulate Super Bowls, with 8 of the last 11 winners predicted correctly.

13. Sonic the Hedgehog

Total Copy/Products sold: 87.82 million

Best Selling Game: Sonic the Hedgehog – 15 million copies

In 1991 the Japanese franchise Sega gave the gaming world another famous character in the form of a blue hedgehog, which sees it unsurprisingly place in our chart. The rolling animal concept was initially designed as being a rabbit, but creator Yuji Naka decided otherwise. It has since gone on to become part of gaming history.

14. Pro Evolution Soccer

Total Copy/Products sold: 87.8 million

Best Selling Game: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 – 4.39 million copies

The 3rd and final sports game on our list was produced with the aim of providing a realistic sporting experience with ‘true ball motion’ and ‘collision physics’. While it has often fallen behind its competitor FIFA, the franchise has hardly slumped with 87.8 million sales since 2001.

15. Tom Clancy’s

Total Copy/Products sold: 82 million

Best Selling Game – Tom Clancy’s The Division: – 4.33 million copies

The Ubisoft stealth game is considered, alongside Assassin’s Creed, as one of the flagship franchises. Named after the war/military science author, whose work helped to produce the games, the Tom Clancy franchise has had over 51 releases across several different series’.

NetEntStalker.com have also produced an infographic showing how all 15 franchises have performed since their inception. Click here to see the rankings.

Chris Price