People have played games of one kind or another for millennia. The early games mainly involved physical prowess, but some others required the use of brainpower to beat an opponent. An example is the game of chess that is thought to date back some 1500 years. Another is poker; that is younger at just 1000 years. Games of all kinds gradually evolved and became more sophisticated as the centuries passed.
Then along came the age of technology, and a whole new world was created regarding game playing and entertainment. The internet changed everything, and you can now play games online wherever you are in the world. If you live in the US, you might be using the casino apps in New Jersey, or you could be playing a multi-player game with participants located in various corners of the world.
The advances in technology during the 20th century gave developers the tools to create highly entertaining games with astonishing graphics and smooth gameplay. Some of the titles have fallen by the wayside, but others are still with us and are played by millions. Let’s take a look at the best.
Top Best-Selling Longest Running Video Game Franchises of All Time
The Oregon Trail
The longest-running video game in history is this simple educational game. First developed in 1971 by student-teacher Don Rawitsch, he tried it out on his class that December. A revised, updated version was produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium in 1974 and was shared with the schools on its time-sharing network the following year, under the new name OREGON.
Rawitsch published the source code in 1978, and the game was adapted for the Apple II computer. The first sequel, Oregon Trail 2, was released the same year, and OREGON was re-released as a standalone game with improved graphics in 1985. Oregon Trail Deluxe followed in 1992, and there were 18 editions released in total between 1971 and 2011, plus a card game in 2016 and a board game in 2018, keeping the franchise alive.
Aimed at eighth-grade school children, the game lets you play a wagon leader in 1848 Oregon, traveling from Independence, Missouri to the Willamette Valley through treacherous conditions and often deadly obstacles. You must buy supplies, manage your inventory, and occasionally hunt for food. The game has entered into popular culture, with numerous parodies adding to the official titles. It has sold over 65 million copies.
The greedy gobbler is now over 40 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. First introduced as an arcade game in July 1980, Pac-Man debuted on the Atari console in 1982 and has sold over 43 million copies in its various incarnations. These include Ms Pac-Man, Super Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man, Professor Pac-Man, and Junior Pac-Man. Recent entries have included the Pac-Man Championship Edition, Pac-Man And The Ghostly Adventures (adapted from the cartoon series), and 2019’s Pac-Man Party Royale.
Galaxian and Space Invaders
These iconic shoot-em-up franchises predate Pac-Man, first appearing in arcade form in October 1979 and June 1978, respectively. Galaxian was released a dozen times in different formats between 1979 and 2009, and the sequel, Galaga, first appeared in 1981 and has since gone through 14 various iterations. In 2016, it was released for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC. There are also numerous sequels and spin-offs of varying quality and originality.
Space Invaders currently exists in over 100 incarnations. As of 2016, these were estimated to have grossed over $13bn. In 2020, the Space Invaders Invincible Collection was released for Nintendo Switch, compiling eight games in the standard edition and 12 in the deluxe version.
This is the big one. Everyone’s favorite mustachioed plumber debuted in Donkey Kong in July 1981 and has been jumping from one platform to another ever since. Formerly known as “Jumpman,” he was renamed Mario after Mario Segale, Nintendo’s American landlord. Brother Luigi arrived in 1983’s Mario Bros, and the first Super Mario Bros game appeared in 1985.
The core franchise numbers over 200 titles and, including remakes, re-releases and spin-offs like Yoshi’s Island, it’s estimated that there are over 450 games in the Mario universe. Above 639 million sales can be attributed to the franchise, with the main Super Mario series selling over 368 million copies alone. Mario Kart, which debuted in 1992, has sold over 150 million copies, and there are also the various Mario sports games, RPGs, puzzle games, Mario Party, and more. With estimated revenue of over $36bn, Mario is the most successful video game franchise ever, as well as one of the longest-running.
Other Big Names
Tetris, which was created in 1984, has sold over 495 million copies in its various incarnations over the past 36 years. The Legend of Zelda and Castlevania first appeared in 1986, and both franchises are still going strong. Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Metal Gear debuted the following year, while Sonic the Hedgehog first reared his spiky head in 1991. The early ‘90s saw enduring titles like Mortal Kombat (1992), Doom (1993), and The Elder Scrolls (1994) appear for the first time as well.
Amazingly, so many of the best-selling video game franchises are now over 25 years old, with some even predating home computers and consoles, having started life in the arcades. Will relative newcomers like Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty achieve the same longevity? That remains to be seen.