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Here are the best selling video games of the past 25 years

January 17, 2020, 5:30 PM UTC

Tastes seem to shift regularly in the video game industry, but a look at the top selling games of the last 25 years shows just how loyal players have remained to some of the industry’s biggest franchises.

The NPD Group, which tracks video game sales, has released data showing the top selling games of every year from 1995 forward as part of its year end review of 2019. And, to be clear, 2019 was not a banner year for game companies.

December spending was down 15% to $3 billion, with no major franchise releases during the holiday season, aside from those with annual installments. For the year, overall sales were down 13%, falling from $16.7 billion in 2018 to $14.6 billion in 2019. Many consumers appeared to be waiting for the release of new console hardware, due later this year.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019 was the top selling game of 2019, the fifth time that franchise has held the top spot at the end of the year. Compare that to three Grand Theft Auto titles and three installments of EA’s Madden NFL franchise.

The top selling games show the evolution of the industry. In the mid- to late-90s, Nintendo titles ruled the charts, with Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong taking the top spot. As the new century got going, Madden hit its stride, dominating the charts through the middle of the decade, unless a new GTA game happened to come out.

There was a brief detour into music games toward the end of the first decade of the 21st century, then Call of Duty began its run, only taking breaks for new releases from Rockstar Games, the developer of GTA and Red Dead Redemption.

Here’s a look at the best selling games of each year:

1995Mortal Kombat III

1996Super Mario 64

1997Mario Kart 64

1998Zelda: Ocarina Time

1999Donkey Kong

2000Pokemon Stadium

2001Madden NFL 2002

2002Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

2003Madden NFL 2004

2004Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

2005Madden NFL 06

2006Madden NFL 07

2007Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock

2008Rock Band

2009Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II

2010Halo Reach

2011Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

2012Call of Duty: Black Ops II

2013Grand Theft Auto V

2014Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

2015Call of Duty: Black Ops III

2016Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

2017Call of Duty: WW II

2018Red Dead Redemption

2019Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019

The top selling games by year tell one story, specifically what was hot at that time, but the numbers don’t necessarily tell the full sales story.

A separate look at the best selling games of the decade show the staying power of some of those games. From 2000-2009, no game sold more than Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock. And Wii Fit, which was never a top seller by year was the second best selling game of that decade.

Grand Theft Auto V was the biggest seller of the past 10 years (and the game continues to be a cash generator for Take-Two Interactive Software). Various Call of Duty games occupy the 2-5 slots.

And while the Madden franchise is one of the top selling games every year since 1995, none of the games was among the top 20 best sellers of the past decade.

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