Game consoles: 25 most popular models of all time

Historically, the most popular gaming platform in Ukraine has always been the computer by a wide margin, but the rest of the world has always played and is playing on dozens of different gaming consoles. Of course, most of them were represented in Ukraine in one way or another, but their popularity and gaming market share cannot even be compared to the global prevalence.

But how popular are different consoles and how do they compare to each other? Perhaps the most objective criterion for evaluation is their circulation, i.e. the size of the user base – this indicator is also convenient for comparing the “classics” of past decades with modern systems. We have compiled the Top 25 best-selling game consoles in the world, regardless of the year of release and whether they are TV or portable.

It should be noted that for a large number of consoles, the numbers are based on experts’ estimates and other indirect data rather than officially published print runs, so in fact, some consoles may be slightly different in this “top” depending on whose version is considered more realistic.

 

25. Wii U (13.56 million)

The successor to the super-successful Nintendo Wii, the Wii U has become the company’s worst-selling console in terms of the number of units sold. The console was released from 2012 to 2017, simultaneously with another Nintendo system, the 3DS handheld. The Wii U “lasted” only 5 years, which is very short for the company’s consoles, and according to the former president of Nintendo of America, this experience helped them create the Switch. The games on this platform include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario 3D World.

 

24. PlayStation Vita (14-15 million)

The successor to the popular PSP, Sony’s second handheld console was released in 2011 and failed to repeat the success of its predecessor. The manufacturer quickly stopped reporting Vita sales data, so we have to rely on indirect data: Gamesindustry.biz once reported that it estimated Vita sales at less than 15 million and slightly ahead of the Wii U. PS Vita support was discontinued in 2019, and popular games include Persona 4 Golden.

 

23. Master System (up to 20 million)

Sega’s 8-bit home system, which belonged to the third generation of consoles, was first released in 1985 under the name Mark III. The Master System competed with the legendary NES and lost out to the Nintendo system due to the smaller number of games. Interestingly, the Master System gained great popularity in Brazil, where the console was released in 1989… and is still sold today! Its circulation there is 8 million, which is almost half of all Master Systems sold in the world, according to various estimates. Among the most famous games on this platform are Phantasy Star and Sonic the Hedgehog.

 

22. Xbox (~21 million)

Microsoft’s first attempt at the gaming console market was quite successful – the Xbox was released in 2001, and although it “lived” for only 5 years, it managed to sell a little more than 20 million units. Again, there is no final official data, but in 2006 Microsoft stated “over 24 million Xbox consoles” – and this is the number listed in the Wikipedia article about Xbox. But in fact, this number also included the successor, the Xbox 360, with 3.3 million units at the time, so the real circulation of the first Xbox should still be in the region of 20-21 million. Some of the most famous Xbox games are the first two installments in the Halo franchise.

 

21. GameCube (21.74 million)

Another Nintendo system with low sales, as for this company. The GameCube life cycle was 6 years – from 2001 to 2007. Interestingly, more than 200 million games were sold during this time, which is almost 10 games per console, and this is the best indicator among all Nintendo systems at the moment. Among the games that received the highest ratings on this platform are Metroid Prime, Resident Evil 4, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

 

20. Xbox Series X|S (21+…27 million)

Since 2015, Microsoft has not disclosed the circulation of its consoles, so it is impossible to accurately estimate the number of consoles of the current generation sold. The Xbox Series is a line of two consoles, the more powerful Xbox Series X and the weaker and cheaper Xbox Series S (a kind of analog of a powerful and budget gaming PC). The line was released in 2020, and according to some sources (a slide from the company’s official presentation in Brazil in the summer of 2023), it has sold more than 21 million units, and according to others (Take-Two’s earnings report at the end of 2023) – 27 million. In any case, the console’s life cycle has not yet come to an end, so its circulation will only grow in the future, and it will definitely not fall below the 20th place. Typical games of the platform include Gears 5, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo Infinite.

 

19. Atari 2600 (30 million)

One of the first game consoles in the world from a company that had previously specialized in arcade games. The Atari 2600 was released in 1977, popularized the format of replaceable cartridges, and lasted until the early 90s. In total, according to the official press release, 30 million consoles were sold during this time. Among the most successful games of this platform are Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong – each of these games had millions of copies.

 

18. Mega Drive (up to 31 million)

Another console from Sega, the 16-bit Mega Drive (known in the US as the Genesis), released in 1988, lasted until 1997 and again competed with Nintendo’s platform, the legendary SNES. But this time, although the “battle” was lost in Japan, Sega’s console did very well outside of Japan. There is no exact data on its circulation: it is believed that the original console was sold in up to 31 million copies. But if we add in third-party variations (Sega licensed the system to various companies around the world), we can easily assume that the total circulation will be significantly higher – for example, various experts estimate the total number of Mega Drive and its variants at 35-40 million (for example, in Brazil, Tectoy sold it until 2023 and sold 3 million copies in total). In this case, it can be assumed that the Mega Drive and the next console should change places.

 

17. Nintendo 64 (32.93 million)

Nintendo’s third home console (and the last “big” system to use cartridges, if you don’t count the Switch) was released in 1996 and competed with the Sony PlayStation. The console got its name due to the use of a 64-bit processor (the main competitor had a 32-bit processor). According to official information, the Nintendo 64 sold 32.93 million copies in 6 years of its existence and is still considered one of the most famous consoles. The system’s iconic games include Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 007, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Perfect Dark.

 

16. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (49.1 million)

The good thing about Nintendo consoles is that they have official sales data, so even in the case of the incredibly popular SNES, we know the exact number of systems sold. The SNES was released in 1990 and, like the Sega Genesis, was produced in different regions by other companies under license. The SNES’s life cycle ended in 2005; it was the best-selling system in the era of 16-bit consoles and remained popular even after that. Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Dragon Quest VI, and Street Fighter II are considered to be classic games of the platform.

 

15. PlayStation 5 (50+ million)

Sony’s current-generation gaming system was released at the end of 2020. Despite a serious shortage at the beginning and the company’s inability to increase its production in sufficient quantities for quite a long period, PlayStation 5 has sold more than 50 million copies (according to official data as of the end of 2023), which is at least twice as many as its main competitor, the Xbox Series X|S. The platform’s most famous games include God of War, Gran Turismo 7, and Spider-Man.

 

14. Xbox One (~58 million)

The third console in the Xbox series was released in 2013, received a couple of updated versions – One S and One X – during its life cycle, which ended in 2020, and sold a total of approximately 58 million units – again, this was revealed by the aforementioned slide from Microsoft’s presentation in Brazil last year. Some of the best games on Xbox One were Forza Horizon 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, Grand Theft Auto V.

 

13. Nintendo Entertainment System (61.91 million)

Nintendo’s first home console, which the company decided to develop in the early 80s, after the success of arcade video games. In Japan, the console was released in 1983 under the name Famicom (from Family Computer), while American players had to wait two years – in the US, it was released with an updated design and the name NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). The life cycle of the NES was as long as 12 years, during which time, according to official data, almost 62 million consoles were sold. It is believed that it was the NES that saved the video game market after the great crisis of 1983 related to the collapse of Atari. The most famous games of the system include The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Contra, and Duck Hunt.

 

12. Nintendo 3DS (75.94 million)

Nintendo’s latest exclusively portable gaming system, the 3DS, was the successor to the very popular Nintendo DS and in many ways looked like its improved and updated version. The main feature of the console was the top screen with a 3D image that did not require additional glasses. However, although the console was a great success, it failed to repeat the DS phenomenon – the 3DS was produced from 2011 to 2020, had many different versions and modifications (2DS, 3DS XL, New 3DS, etc.) and sold a total of more than 75 million copies. The platform’s iconic games included Mario Kart 7, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Fire Emblem Awakening, and Monster Hunter 4.

 

11. Game Boy Advance (81.51 million)

32-bit portable Nintendo game console, the successor to the legendary Game Boy. The GBA received the familiar today “landscape” design with buttons on both sides of the screen (GB/GBC were “portrait”, with buttons under the screen). The GBA was sold from 2001 to 2010 and received several redesigns, including the folding Game Boy Advance SP, whose design idea was later used in the Nintendo DS. Thanks to its game base, backward compatibility with the GBC, and almost no competition in the market, the GBA became a very successful console. Among the most popular games on the platform are a large number of different Pokémon games, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Super Mario Advance.

 

10. PlayStation Portable (82.5 million)

Sony has not officially disclosed information about the final circulation of its first portable console, but the former president of Sony Interactive Entertainment America tweeted in 2023 that the total sales of the PSP over the entire period of the console’s existence (from 2004 to 2014) amounted to 82.5 million copies. It was a remarkable success for the company, which it tried to repeat with the release of the PlayStation Vita (but despite the PSP’s rather large fanbase, the second time around, the miracle did not happen). The most famous PSP games were Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Monster Hunter Portable 3rd, Gran Turismo, God of War: Chains of Olympus.

 

9. Xbox 360 (over 84 million)

The second console in the Xbox series, produced between 2005 and 2016 (i.e., a few years after the launch of its successor, the Xbox One). The Xbox 360 is Microsoft’s best-selling console, and the company hasn’t been able to repeat this success with its successor; apparently, it won’t be able to do so in the current generation either. There is no exact number of Xbox 360s sold – the last time the company reported in 2014 that it had shipped 84 million boxes to retailers, and then stopped publishing such data in 2015. Given that although the console was sold for two more years after that, the next model was already on the market, we can assume that further sales of the Xbox 360 were small. Among the platform’s iconic games are Grand Theft Auto V, Halo 3, and Red Dead Redemption.

 

8. PlayStation 3 (over 87.4 million)

Sony’s third home console was on the market for 11 years, from 2006 to 2017. During this time, its main competitors were Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, it became the first gaming system with a Blu-ray drive and the first PlayStation with online social functions. There is no final data on its sales – in March 2017, Sony reported 87.4 million consoles sold, but after that, PlayStation 3 was still in production for 2 months, so experts believe that its final circulation should be 87.5-88 million. Some of the best PS3 games are The Last of Us Part 1, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Dark Souls, LittleBigPlanet 2.

 

7. Wii (101.63 million)

After the relatively unsuccessful GameCube, Nintendo decided to do “something completely different,” refused to compete directly with Sony and Microsoft, and created the Wii, a casual gaming system with revolutionary controls at the time: its controller had a motion sensor and allowed gesture control. The company did not pursue high performance, which made the console relatively inexpensive, and the Wii was the first Nintendo home system with an Internet connection and a digital online store. Due to its focus on the mass casual player, spectacular controls, and lower price than its competitors, the Wii was a great success, with more than 100 million consoles sold and 920 million software downloads. Among the most famous games of the platform are Wii Sports, Super Mario Galaxy, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Xenoblade Chronicles.

 

6. PlayStation (102.49 million)

Sony released its first home console in 1994, after an unsuccessful attempt to cooperate with Nintendo, for which Sony was trying to develop a Super NES CD-ROM peripheral drive. The PlayStation became a very successful console due to the use of 3D polygonal graphics in games, which were spectacular at the time, relatively low cost, aggressive advertising that promoted the console among the older audience, and, of course, due to its huge library of games. In total, more than 3 thousand games were released for PlayStation, selling a total of almost 1 billion copies. It was the first PlayStation that launched such classic game series as Gran Turismo, Resident Evil, and Tekken. The console’s lifecycle was 12 years – the PlayStation was produced until 2006 (and this is despite the fact that its successor, the PlayStation 2, had already been on sale for 6 years).

 

5. PlayStation 4 (117.2 million)

The PlayStation 4 dominated the home console market in its eighth generation: it was released in 2013 and is still relevant today. It is PS4 that holds the title of “fastest console to reach 100 million sales” – even the leader of this top is inferior to it in this indicator (although only by 2 months). The main competitor, the Xbox One, sold half as many copies as the PS4, which is still on sale (according to official data, Sony sold 1 million copies in fiscal year 2022 alone). The total number of games sold on the PS4 exceeds 1 billion, with the bestsellers including Marvel’s Spider-Man, Grand Theft Auto V, and God of War, each with 20 million copies.

 

4. Game Boy / Game Boy Color (118.69 million)

Despite the fact that Game Boy Color, an updated version of the Game Boy portable console with a color screen, was released 9 years later (GB was released in 1989, GBC in 1998), it is still considered not the next generation, but only an updated revision of the original (both are based on the same processor). Nintendo discontinued both consoles in 2003, which means that their combined life cycle is 14 years. According to official data, both systems have sold almost 120 million copies, and more than 500 million games have been sold. The most popular game on the Game Boy was Tetris (~35 million copies), and Pokémon Gold and Silver (~23 million) on the Game Boy Color.

 

3. Nintendo Switch (139.36 million)

After the virtual failure of the Wii U, Nintendo realized that the Wii scheme no longer worked and that it had to come up with something new again. The result was the Switch, a hybrid console that can be used both as a portable system and as a full-fledged home console connected to a TV. It was released in 2017 and still remains relevant, although rumors about its successor have been going on for a long time – it is believed that Switch 2 may be released in early 2025 or even late 2024. 2 years later, Nintendo released a “lightweight” revision of Switch Lite – exclusively portable, with non-removable controllers, and 2 years later – an improved version of the original with an OLED screen. With the Switch, Nintendo has “guessed right” again – the console was going to be a huge success, and given that the first two places in the top best-selling systems are already occupied by “dead” consoles, the Switch has every chance to lead it in the future. The game with the highest sales on Switch is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – as of the end of 2023, it was purchased by 60.58 million players, which is almost every second console owner.

 

2. Nintendo DS (154.02 million)

Another super-popular Nintendo console, this time purely portable. “The NDS featured two screens (Dual Screen, hence the DS in the name), one of which was touch-sensitive, which allowed creating games with unusual game mechanics at the time. As with other consoles, during its life cycle (2004-2013), Nintendo released several updated revisions (DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL), with a total circulation of over 150 million units, making the Nintendo DS the best-selling handheld console and the best-selling game system (regardless of type) in Nintendo. The NDS is also the company’s most successful console in terms of the number of games sold – 950 million (New Super Mario Bros. had the largest number of copies – 30.8 million).

 

1. PlayStation 2 (over 155 million)

And the leader in terms of the number of consoles sold is the PlayStation 2. It replaced the first PlayStation in 2000 and not only repeated its success, but eclipsed it. The PS2 was much more powerful, making games look much better than its predecessor, plus it had a DVD drive, so it could also be used as a home DVD player (Sony would repeat this solution with the PlayStation 3 and Blu-ray drive in the future). The PlayStation 2 was the undisputed leader in its generation – suffice it to say that the combined sales of all its competitors, the Dreamcast, GameCube, and Xbox, were almost three times lower. Currently, the exact number of PS2s sold is unknown – there is only information that as of March 2012, its circulation was 155 million, but after that the console was sold for almost a year. As with the first PlayStation, the PS2 had a huge library of games – more than 4 thousand, which sold a total of more than 1.5 billion copies. Among the platform’s hits are Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Final Fantasy X, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and God of War.

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