Generations of Gaming: The 8 Best-Selling Consoles of All Time

a Playstation 4

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The battle for gaming supremacy has raged for nearly three decades as console fans have long debated which machines are better. Whether you’re on team Xbox or PlayStation, the best way to settle the score is by looking at the data. Numbers hardly lie, so let’s look at the best-selling consoles of all time. Gamers have been hitting the D-pad for over 40 years, so there are plenty of sales figures.

8 Best-Selling Consoles of All Time

Americans love their gaming consoles, with millions buying a new system each year. Let’s dive right into the eight best-selling consoles of all time. How many of them have you played?

8. Nintendo Entertainment System

It’s only fitting one of the oldest consoles makes the list. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) wasn’t the first gaming console but it made a significant mark on the industry. Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt and the Legend of Zelda were only three major titles debuting in the mid-to-late 1980s for the NES. You’ll even find games like Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune and Tecmo Bowl for endless family fun. 

The NES didn’t sell as well as future Nintendo consoles but held its own over the years. Data acquired from the Japanese video game company shows the NES sold about 62 million units over its duration — the best out of any console in this early era. 

7. Xbox 360

If you’re a Millennial or older Generation Z, you might remember the Xbox 360 as integral to your childhood. This system sold about 84 million units in just over a decade of production, making it seventh on the list of best-selling consoles.  

You may know Xbox 360 through its exclusives like Halo, Forza and other fun titles. We even got to mod Grand Theft Auto 5 briefly before the next generation of consoles debuted in 2013. However, the 360 was famous for revolutionizing online play through Xbox Live. Thanks to this innovative feature, you could play games with your friends and stream music.   

6. PlayStation 3

The 360’s counterpart in this mid-to-late 2000s era was the PlayStation 3. Sony’s third iteration of the PlayStation was slightly more successful than Microsoft’s, selling over 87 million units between 2006 and 2016. 

The PS3 was successful because it combined numerous services gamers like to see. Watching Blu-ray movies on the system was a significant success, letting you have an all-in-one device for gaming and movies. The PS3 was also controllable through your PlayStation Portable (PSP), integrating two popular systems. One interesting tactic from Sony was making the PS3 slimmer with its re-releases in 2009 and 2012.

5. Nintendo Wii

Some consoles were just built differently in our childhoods. The Nintendo Wii might be the most influential console ever, even though it lands fifth on the list with 101 million units sold.

Some people associate video games with sedentary lifestyles, but the Wii got us up and moving with physical activity and fun games. Wii Sports was a prime example of the exercise you could get with video games because you could play tennis, boxing, baseball and other fun sports. After a seven-year run, Nintendo discontinued the Wii as it looked toward the Wii U as its successor.

4. PlayStation

Before a PS3 or PS5 existed, we had the original PlayStation. Sony released the console in the United States in 1995, creating millions of PlayStation loyalists through the machine. In the mid-1990s, you hopped on the original PlayStation for Gran Turismo, Resident Evil, Metal Gear and other franchises that still go strong today. 

Many gamers are unaware Sony collaborated with Nintendo to create the first PlayStation. A Sony Entertainment executive wanted to create a gaming system using CD-ROMs instead of floppy disks. The PlayStation was among the first to use circular disks to reduce the bulky size and make production more efficient.

3. PlayStation 4

Time has flown by fast enough to call the PlayStation 4 an old console. Despite being one of the newer systems on the list, the PlayStation 4 is third among best-selling consoles. Sony has sold 117 million units since 2013 and is still going strong. The PS4 is still available despite many gamers moving onto the PS5, so these numbers could still go up. 

The PS3 and the Xbox 360 had fierce competition in the mid-2000s, but Sony pulled away from Microsoft with the PS4. Sony distinguished itself from its primary competition by promoting indie games and not being restrictive with digital rights. Microsoft couldn’t say the same, lending to poor Xbox One numbers compared to the PS4. 

2. Nintendo Switch

Nintendo may have missed the mark with the Wii U, but the company more than made up for its woes by releasing the Switch. This console was released in 2017 and was the first major system to act as a hybrid console. You could play with it while relaxing in bed or connect it to the TV to play with your friends. The flexibility made it an excellent console for any use. Why do you think it has competed in two generations of gaming systems?

The 139 million units sold also come from the excellent titles released in the last decade. Animal Crossing: New Horizons exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic as people wanted a fun and relaxing game to play alone and with friends. However, you also got Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. There’s not much you could ask for from a family-centric gaming system. 

1. PlayStation 2

Imagine it’s 2005, and you just got home from school to start winter break. What’s the first thing you do? Turn on the PlayStation 2 to play WWE! Smackdown vs. Raw 2006. Gamers of all ages shared similar experiences from 2000 until 2013 as the PS2 defined a generation of gamers. There’s a reason why the PS2 sold over 155 million copies in its decade-plus run —- it’s simply the greatest console ever. 

The PS2 was popular because of its affordability and family-friendly services. Like its successor, the PS2 could play movies and video games, rendering the DVD player useless if you wanted to do both. The days of the PS2 saw popular franchises — Grand Theft Auto, Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy — cement their place in the video game world with excellent titles throughout the 2000s. 

What Are the Best-Selling Consoles in the Current Gen?

Will the Nintendo Switch pass the PS2 in units sold? Time will tell over the next couple of years, but let’s check on the other best-selling consoles of the current generation. These systems have some work to do before they enter this list. 

Last holiday season, the PlayStation 5 surpassed 50 million units sold in just over three years. If not for supply chain disruptions, we could’ve seen that number go even higher! Regardless, the PS5 has far surpassed the Xbox Series X, with the Financial Times reporting Sony’s newest system has outpaced Microsoft’s by a factor of three. The numbers don’t lie — 22.5 million is much higher than the 7.6 million consoles sold. 

Ranking the Best-Selling Gaming Consoles of All Time

Video game enthusiasts are among the luckiest cats in the world. We’ve gotten many great systems and titles over the years, so there’s hardly an excuse for boredom. Subjectively ranking every system is challenging, so we used the cold, hard facts. Will we see a new entry on the next list?

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