What is the best-selling video game of all time?

Video games have become some of the most successful entertainment products of all time, but what are the best of the best? Which video games have become so successful that none even come close to their might?

Call of Duty releases a new game every year, and they always sell like hot cakes.
Call of Duty releases a new game every year, and they always sell like hot cakes.  © Activision Blizzard/Microsoft

Is there anything better than settling down for a session of Mario Kart with your buddies, jumping into GTA Online, or perhaps enjoying a well-deserved couple of hours diving deep into the masterfully created world of Balder's Gate 3? It really is the perfect hobby and, finally, the stats are starting to reflect that fact – but there's always a bigger fish!

What is the best-selling video game of all time and, to make things even more interesting, what video game franchise has taken home the world record for being the most successful in history? Let's take a look!

What is the best-selling video game ever?

Is there any game more iconic and well-known than Tetris? Well, maybe apart from Minecraft? Ironically enough, these two juggernauts are not only huge in terms of cultural impact and significance in gaming history, but also in terms of sales. Indeed, they have been fighting for supremacy for some years now!

You see, if we're going purely off of official world records – registered, adjudicated, and awarded by Guinness World Records (GWR) - the best-selling video game of all time would be Minecraft, having sold more than 238 million copies. The award was presented by GWR in April 2021, in a post that also claimed approximately half of all children in North America and Europe play the game. The game just recently passed the 300 million copies sold milestone!

It's all down to what you define as a singular "game," though, as well as what you define as "best-selling." You see, if you are purely going off of eyeballs on screens or thumbs on joysticks, then Tetris, which boasts over 520 million units sold on its website, would surely take home the biscuit.

A simple Google search instantly confirms GWR as the outlier, with major gaming outlets unanimously agreeing that Tetris deserves the record. Still, it seems a bit unfair to award the game such a title. After all, it has been around since 1984 and has existed in so many different forms that you could hardly call it a single "game."

In comparison, in a little over a decade, Minecraft has managed to garner nearly half the sales – and they are real sales, confirmed by Mojang and Microsoft. It's arguably a more impressive feat, and while you cannot debate Tetris' multi-generational cultural impact, Minecraft isn't too bad in that department either.

While it isn't clear what criteria GWR used to administer the world record, we feel that it's only fair to agree with them – Minecraft is, in our opinion, the best-selling video game in history.

What is the best-selling video game franchise of all time?

Activision Blizzard has cemented the Call of Duty (CoD) franchise as the best-selling of all time. Originally given the award by GWR in April 2021, having sold more than 400 million copies at the time, CoD has continued to grow in popularity in the more than two years since.

Having spiked in popularity when Warzone dropped during lockdown in 2020, subsequent releases – while mixed in critical reception – have continued to feed the pool of money publisher Activision Blizzard is now swimming in. In 2022, Modern Warfare 2 set a record for the fastest time a Call of Duty game has earned $1 billion... and it only took ten days!

On November 2, 2023, having released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to less-than-stellar critical reception, GWR has allowed the franchise to cling on to its title of best-selling video game franchise – at least there's something that CoD fans can celebrate!

Video games are now more successful than movies!

Considering just how successful games like Minecraft and Call of Duty are, as well as the many other juggernauts that take up the space (think Grand Theft Auto, Mario, The Witcher, etc.), it's hardly a surprise that the video game industry is now worth more money than both the film industry and the music industry!

As reported in a complaint filed against Microsoft in 2022 by the Federal Trade Commission, the gaming industry is now worth more than $170 billion in yearly global revenue.

Cover photo: Activision Blizzard/Microsoft

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