Video Games

'Call of Duty' rules list of top selling video games

Share
Krisztian Bocsi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Every year, Activision Blizzard faces criticism from hard core gamers for its insistence on cranking out a new "Call of Duty" game. But take a look at the continuing sales strength of the franchise and it's easy to see why it ignores those critics.

The series claims four of the top 10 best selling console video games since 1995, according to The NPD Group. And it holds nine of the top 20.

The list, calculated by the NPD Group, uses data that is not inflation adjusted (NPD looks at gross sales) and does not have hard dollar or unit sale figures (NPD stopped releasing those years ago). It also is limited to data from brick and mortar retailers — meaning online sales and digitally downloadable add-ons aren't factored in either. But despite those limitations, it still shines some light on the biggest individual titles the industry has put out in the past 26 years.

Here's a look at the 10 biggest.

—By Chris Morris

Posted 10 June, 2016.

10. "Guitar Hero World Tour"

Source: Activision-Blizzard

Following the lead of "Rock Band," the "Guitar Hero" franchise became a full band game with this release. The music genre was just beginning to lose popularity at that time, but good reviews and a loyal player base, who had already heavily invested in their "Guitar Hero" song catalog couldn't resist the chance to expand to new instruments. The sales have held up, too. The game has fallen just three spots on NPD's list in five years.

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

9. "Wii Play w/ Remote"

Source: Nintendo

Like "Wii Sports" this collection of mini-games landed right in the sweet spot for the target demographic of Nintendo's most popular system. But it was the extra controller that really made this a popular purchase. The Wii initially shipped with one "Wiimote," so players had the choice to buy a standalone one or pick up "Wii Play" and get another game for the system. It wasn't a hard choice.

Publisher: Nintendo

8. "Rock Band"

Source: Viacom | MTV Games

Players were already jamming with "Guitar Hero's" plastic guitars when MTV came out with "Rock Band". What made this game stand out, though, was the addition of drums and the ability to have someone play as a lead singer. Made by the developer who initially created "Guitar Hero," this game once again changed the music genre. It spawned a number of sequels focusing on bands including The Beatles and Aerosmith, but none ever quite lived up to the debut title's performance. And last year's revival of the franchise failed to attract a significant audience.

Publisher: Viacom/MTV Games

7. "Wii Fit"

Source: Nintendo

Plenty of people wondered if Nintendo had lost its mind when it announced Wii Fit in 2007. A game about exercise – that cost nearly $100? The public would never go for it! In fact, retailers couldn't keep it on shelves – and it became the best selling game for the Wii.

Publisher: Nintendo

6. "Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2"

Source: Activision-Blizzard

Call of Duty games were big before "Modern Warfare 2," but this is the one that really sent the series over the top. The cinematic nature of the game was captivating from a single-player perspective and this was the installment that redefined the multiplayer experience. It would prove to be the last "Call of Duty" title made under the eyes of series creators Vince Zampella and Jason West, who were dismissed soon after its release due to allegations of breach of contract. (They've since founded Respawn games and found success with "Titanfall," the sequel to which is expected out later this year.)

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

5. "Guitar Hero III Legends Of Rock"

Source: Activision-Blizzard

Five years ago, this was the top selling game of all time. "Guitar Hero III" was the peak for the music genre, earning life-to-date sales of $830.9 million (not counting additional income from digital add-on sales). With Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash gracing the cover, this was the first game in the franchise to feature online multiplayer. Ironically, that was the same year the franchise was cancelled. An attempt to revive it last year fell flat.

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

4. "Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3"

Source: Activision-Blizzard

In its first 24 hours, 2011's "Modern Warfare 3" sold 6.5 million copies — a record launch for any entertainment property. With its familiar characters in the game's campaign mode and a new cooperative mode, letting players work as allies, the "CoD" faithful couldn't buy it fast enough. And the simultaneous launch of "Call of Duty: Elite," an online service for fans that integrated a social network feature and lifetime in-game statistics proved a notable draw as well.

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

3. "Call of Duty: Black Ops II"

Source: Activision-Blizzard

Like its predecessor, 2012's "Black Ops II" was an event. A sequel to the series' best selling title, it prompted Activision's retail partners to host midnight launch events at 16,000 stores. The game's campaign had multiple endings, encouraging players to play it several times. And the multiplayer mode let players better customize their weapons and perks. This was also the first time a "Call of Duty" game featured a competitive mode, making it a part of the then-burgeoning eSports industry.

Publisher: Activision Blizzard

2. "Grand Theft Auto V"

"Grand Theft Auto V" from Take-Two Interactive Software.
Source: Take-Two Interactive Software

The current record holder for biggest entertainment launch, "GTA V" took in $800 million in the first 24 hours — and $1 billion in three days. It was the first game in the series to feature a detailed multiplayer mode and, despite its 2013 release date, still remains one of the most popular games around, exceeding the company's expectations in every quarter since its release, according to CEO Strauss Zelnick. It has sold more than 65 million units worldwide. And it was the largest contributor to Take-Two's Q4 2016 earnings in May.

Publisher: Take-Two Interactive Software

1. "Call of Duty: Black Ops"

Source: Activision-Blizzard

At its release, this was one of the most controversial "Call of Duty" games to ever come out. Activision had recently dismissed the heads of the Infinity Ward studio, the creators of the "CoD" franchise, outraging fans. The gameplay was too compelling to resist, though. And within a year, the game had sold 26.2 million copies and set a new standard for what "Call of Duty" games should be moving forward.

Publisher: Activision Blizzard