First hitting Japan in 1983 and American markets later in 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) brought 8-bit gaming to players everywhere. It emerged victorious from the North American video game crash of 1983 and helped cement Nintendo as a household name.
During its twenty-year run, the NES sold over 34 million units in the Americas and over 61.91 units worldwide. Alongside, its games also sold astronomical amounts.Here are the top-ten selling NES games of all times and the legacies they left behind.
This sports-simulation game had players competing in a pixelated version of golf. The late Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s former CEO, was the sole programmer of the game.
Wii Sports' as well as the “Classic” mode of Wii Sports Resorts’ Frisbee golf feature courses that are 3-dimensional versions of the original Golf NES courses. This classic game was also featured as a fully playable item in Animal Crossing for the GameCube. Over four million copies have been swung into circulation.
This NES’s motocross racing game kicked off yet another iconic Nintendo franchise. Referred to as addictive, unique, and fun, the original game had players striving for the finish line against computers and alongside friends.
While not reaching the ranks of some series, Excitebike is still looked upon as a classic and has been referenced in many games after it. Most recently, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe featured an “Excitebike Arena” track and Super Mario Marker featured an Excitebike Mystery Mushroom costume. The game sold over four million units during its lifetime.
8 Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link
The Legend of Zelda got a popular second installment that followed Link on a side-scrolling quest to save Princess Zelda. The title introduced the Dark Link character and Link’s magic meter.
While the timeline of today’s 30 years' worth of Zelda games has gotten a little mixed up, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was a direct sequel to its predecessor. This helped emphasize the role-playing narrative and capture players with its magic. Over four million copies were ultimately sold.
7 Dr. Mario
This ‘90s action puzzle game had Mario taking on a medical profession as he tried to destroy viruses with capsules. Modified versions of this classic have been featured as minigames in later Nintendo games. A spin-off, Dr. Luigi, even saw its way to the Wii U in 2013.
Dr. Mario will be given another chance at the spotlight in July. It will be headed to mobile devices everywhere as the revamped Dr. Mario World. The original sold a sick four million copies.
While this colorful puzzle game first found success in 1984, it matched its way to a win on the NES a few years later. Its multi-platform style has allowed it to become one of the best-selling video games of all time, selling over 170 million copies in all.
Fresh versions of Tetris have been released on later Nintendo systems, including Tetris 99, which most recently found its way to the Nintendo Switch. The original version still managed to sell over 5 million copies on the NES.
5 The Legend Of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda series got its long-running start with this one. Like later games in the franchise, this action-filled adventure centered on Link’s quest through Hyrule in an attempt to save Princess Zelda from Ganon. Unlike its successors, the original version saw Link from a top-down perspective.
As one of Nintendo’s most adored games, The Legend of Zelda later saw its way to the GameCube and Game Boy Advance as well as the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, and Wii U via Virtual Console. It was the first NES game to hit the million-sales mark and managed to sell over 6 million units total in the end.
4 Super Mario Bros. 2
The sequel to Super Mario Bros. had Mario and Luigi returning to center stage. This time, Princess Toadstool and Toad also tagged along for the journey. In addition to the new playable characters, the second game in the series updated the graphics and added more adventure-filled levels.
This classic also introduced many popular characters into the Mario world. Shy Guys, Bob-ombs, Birdo, and Pokeys all got their first chance to combat Mario and his friends in this one. Over 7 million copies were ultimately sold and the game has continued to get nods in later Nintendo releases.
3 Super Mario Bros. 3
The final addition to the Super Mario Bros. series on the NES had Mario and friends chasing after Princess Toadstool and seven other kingdom rulers who had been abducted by Bowser. This game gave Mario new abilities including sliding down slopes and flying. It also introduced the Koopalings and a world map that contained new sets of levels.
The game received glowing reviews at the time of its release and continues to be one of the most praised NES games of all time. It sold over 18 million copies.
2 Duck Hunt
Duck Hunt shot itself into NES consoles everywhere in 1984. Players got to use the NES Zapper extension to shoot down ducks that flew across the screen. While the game might have been repetitive, its iconic status lives on.
Duck Hunt was featured as a playable team in the Super Smash Bros. games for the Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and Nintendo Switch. The “character” consists of a duck as well as the laughing dog that would appear after a round of the original game. The light gun shooter title sold over 28 million units.
1 Super Mario Bros.
Topping off the list is none other than Super Mario Bros. Released in 1985, this side-scrolling classic had players journeying through the Mushroom Kingdom as Mario or — if they were player two — Luigi.
While the game was first sold alone, it later came bundled with the New NES.Super Mario Bros. was the best-selling game of all time for over 20 years until it was surpassed by Wii Sports. Today, over 40 million units have been sold and it remains the second-best-selling Nintendo game of all time.