In their recent financial report, Nintendo revealed that the Nintendo Switch has shattered some incredible milestones. Not only did the Switch surpass the lifetime sales of the Nintendo Wii, but it is also the seventh video game console to cross 100 million units sold. It joins the illustrious group of the original PlayStation, the PlayStation 2, the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Game Boy, the Nintendo DS, and the aforementioned Nintendo Wii.
As we approach its five-year anniversary, the Switch’s monumental success serves as a reminder of Nintendo’s impact and reputation in the industry. For nearly 50 years, the company has been a leading figure in video games and its consoles are pillars in the lives of millions of gamers around the world.
10 GameCube – 21.74 million
In 2001, Nintendo released the GameCube in two of its largest markets: Japan in September and North America in November. Sold for $199.99, the Gamecube faced stiff competition from Sony’s Playstation 2 and Microsoft’s debut console, the Xbox. By the time Nintendo discontinued the console in 2007, the GameCube had been outsold by both of its competitors.
Although it ended the generation in last place, the GameCube still holds a special place in gaming history due to oddities like the usage of miniDVDs and its carrying handle. Audiences were first introduced to franchises like Pikmin and Animal Crossing but notable is the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee, a game that birthed a competitive fighting scene and is still popular today.
9 Nintendo 64 – 32.93 million
Nintendo entered the third dimension in 1996 with the release of the Nintendo 64 at $199.99. This generation, Nintendo flew past its old rival Sega, selling more than three times as many units as the Sega Saturn. However, neither company could hold a candle to the popularity of the new kid in the market, Sony’s PlayStation.
The Nintendo 64 is cherished by ’90s kids everywhere due to its library of party games. Unlike its competitors, the ability to play with four players made instant classics of Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros., GoldenEye 007, and Perfect Dark. On top of that, games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the launch title Super Mario 64 stand as masterpieces whose influence is still felt in video games released today.
8 SNES/Super Famicom – 49.1 million
Released in Japan as the Super Famicom, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System brought Nintendo to the 16-bit generation. The SNES is best remembered for the fiery competitive spirit of its gaming generation. This time around, Nintendo faced a tough challenger in the Sega Genesis. Sega put up a tough fight but in the end, Nintendo stood tall as the victor.
The SNES refined the greatness of its predecessor to create masterpieces. Titles like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid are consistently touted as some of the greatest and most popular games ever made and are often cited for their influences on the platforming, top-down action-adventure, and Metroidvania genres, respectively.
7 NES/Famicom – 61.91 million
Having made a name for themselves in arcade games, Nintendo entered the home game market in 1983 with the Family Computer aka the Famicom. Two years later, the console was redesigned and rebranded for its US launch as the Nintendo Entertainment System. Fresh off the video game crash of 1983, the NES rescued the home video game console market in the US.
In reintroducing the world to video games, the NES established many of the familiar faces that define the art form. From iconic one-offs like Ice Climbers, and Duck Hunt, to early entries in the Mario, Legend of Zelda, Punch-Out, and Metroid franchises, the NES set the bar for high-quality software from Nintendo.
6 Nintendo 3DS Family – 75.94 million
A steep MSRP of $249.99 and the rise of mobile gaming gave the Nintendo 3DS a rough launch. But after a price cut, the 3DS slowly built to a huge success. The stereoscopic 3D was initially the selling point Nintendo would later release cheaper models without the feature. The 3DS family includes the 3DS XL, the 2DS, the New 3DS, and the New Nintendo 2DS XL.
The Nintendo 3DS rode high on the success of iterating on Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. Standouts include Mario Kart 7, New Super Mario Bros. 2, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, remakes of the two N64 Zelda games, four pairs of mainline Pokémon games, and a renewed interest in Fire Emblem with Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates.
5 Game Boy Advanced Family – 81.51 million
The Game Boy Advanced advanced Nintendo’s handheld devices in 2001 by leveling up to a 32-bit system and switching to a landscape design. The console would receive two major redesigns. First, the Game Boy Advanced SP switched back to a portrait design and added a front-lit screen and a closing clamshell. This was followed by the Game Boy Micro, a more compact version of the original GBA.
The GBA introduced the world to many of Nintendo’s sub-franchises with WarioWare, Inc: Mega Microgames!, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team, and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Also notable are the ports of NES and SNES games with titles like Super Mario Advance and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
4 Nintendo Wii – 101.63 million
While the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 upgraded video games to high definition, Nintendo marched to the beat of its own drum. In 2006, Nintendo introduced the world to motion gaming with the release of the Wii. With the flashy gimmick of motion controls and the cheaper price point of $249.99, the Wii was a sensation unlike any other and eclipsed the success of its competitors.
The Nintendo Wii is best known for the phenomenon that is Wii Sports, Nintendo’s best-selling game of all time. The Wii branding of casual games started its own franchise including Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play, Wii Party, and Wii Fit. Both Mario and Zelda received multiple mainline entries this generation and long-dormant franchises like Punch-Out! and Donkey Kong Country were revived.
3 Nintendo Switch – 103.54 million
After decades of splitting its resources and audience, Nintendo finally merged its home and handheld markets with the Nintendo Switch. Released in 2017 and fulfilling its promise of console-level gaming on the go, the console reignited the cultural passion for Nintendo. The Switch’s herculean achievements include outselling every Nintendo home console and spending thirty-five nonconsecutive months as the best-selling console in the US (per GameInformer).
Many of the Switch’s best-selling games are ports or repackages of the largely ignored Wii U catalog: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Breath of the Wild, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, and Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury. Franchises reached new heights of popularity in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Super Mario Odyssey.
2 Game Boy Family – 118.69 million
In 1989, Nintendo released its follow-up to the handheld market. Unlike the Game & Watch, which was limited to a single game per device, the Nintendo Game Boy allowed players to swap between games through its game cartridges. The console would release many revisions including the Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light, and the Game Boy Color.
Game Boy owners can typically be categorized into two groups: those who were addicted to the pack-in game Tetris in 1989, and those who were addicted to the first-generation of pocket monsters in 1996’s Pokemon Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow. Nintendo regulars received their first portable iterations in Super Mario Land, Donkey Kong Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Kirby’s Dream Land.
1 Nintendo DS Family – 154.02 million
Released in 2004, the Nintendo DS innovated on the handheld system by adding several features now taken for granted including the ability to wirelessly connect with multiple systems, a built-in microphone, and playing with others over Wi-Fi. But the console is best remembered for its dual screens preserved by its clamshell design. With two screens, including the touch capabilities of the bottom, gamers were treated to a wealth of unique gaming experiences.
At the start of the DS’s life cycle, Nintendo focused on the casual market with titles like Nintendogs and Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!, and Big Brain Academy. The usual suspects are all here including Mario Kart DS, Animal Crossing: Wild World, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, New Super Mario Bros., and four sets of mainline Pokemon games.
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