10) Nioh – 1 Million Units Sold
There was a time when Nioh didn’t look as though it would ever see the light of day. Originally conceived 15 years before its release, Nioh was stuck in a development hell that few games ever recover from. But after a total rehaul by Team Ninja, the revamped version piqued the interest of the gaming community when a gameplay trailer exploded onto Sony’s E3 press conference. It wasn’t hard to see why, either: after the meteoric success of Bloodborne, the prospect of a Souls-like with distinctly Onimusha vibes had players giddy with anticipation.
That enthusiasm translated into some stunning sales figures — Nioh eclipsed 1 million sales just two weeks after launch. That early flurry of success was enough to see it join the ranks of the most popular RPGs of the generation. Although we don’t have hard data beyond those figures, after 4 months, we wouldn’t be surprised if Nioh was well on its way to achieving a second million.
9) Persona 5 – 1.5 Million Units Sold
The Persona franchise has been a big deal in Japan for some time, but has remained a somewhat niche Japanese role-playing game in the west. Even Persona 4 Golden, a remastered PS Vita game that was very well received hardly made much impression in the mainstream market. All that has changed, though, with Persona 5.
1.5 million copies sold since its worldwide release just two months ago following critical acclaim has seen a tremendous boom in Persona’s popularity. P5’s success is rather reminiscent of Final Fantasy VII’s equivalent impact — the entry that introduced the franchise to the west and took its popularity to global heights.
The word of Persona is finally out, and it’s taking off in a big way. Perhaps its biggest draw is the point of difference it offers from the familiar JRPG narrative. Half dungeon crawling, half ramen eating down at the local mall with friends, Persona straddles fantasy and reality. Add into the mix a wonderfully fresh iteration on traditional turn-based combat, and there’s little doubt this unorthodox and unique blend of Japanese culture is here to stay.
8) NieR Automata – 1.5 Million Units Sold
Even though we were confident NieR Automata looked utterly brilliant long before its release, there was equal trepidation about its potential commercial success. After all, Platinum Games hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders in recent years, compounded by the loss of Scalebound only weeks before NieR was scheduled to launch. More importantly, though, launching in March, NieR was sandwiched between heavy hitters such as Nioh and Horizon Zero Dawn — games that were certain to record big numbers.
However, we needn’t have worried, NieR didn’t need the breathing room. Thanks to a brilliant mashup of hack and slash action, side scrolling, and role playing, NieR was a complete breath of fresh air that totally reinvigorated the series. The narrative, too, with its case of flamboyant characters and the emotional resonance of its story was a particular highlight.
Even amid a torrent of popular games that dominated media coverage, NieR stood its ground and found a substantial following. Boosted by overwhelmingly positive review scores, NieR has rocketed to a combined digital and shipped-to-retail figure of over 1.5 million units.
7) Bloodborne – 2 Million Units Sold
The fact that we’ve got three Souls-like titles on a list of this generation’s best selling RPGs is a testament to just how popular this sub-genre of punishingly hard games has become. Quite honestly, though, it’s a fairly new revelation beyond the iconic Dark Souls series. Indeed, when Bloodborne first showed up back in 2014, nobody could quite have predicted such a fever pitch response from fans and subsequent commercial success.
Bloodbone was praised by critics for its fast-paced combat that felt arcadey in comparison to Dark Souls more measured, defensive gameplay. Its aesthetic, too, really caught the eye; the city of Yarnham was dripping with a brooding, gruesome atmosphere that felt totally original and unique.
Perhaps somewhat helped by its release date – launching at a time when the PS4 barely had any exclusive library to speak of – Bloodborne flew off the shelves. PS4 users bought copies in seriously impressive numbers, smashing past 1 million units in less than 2 weeks. Bloodborne has since gone on to sell over 2 million copies, and it remains one of PS4’s most beloved and highly rated games.
6) Dark Souls 3 – 3.4 Million Units Sold
FromSoftware’s hallmark IP essentially started a whole sub-genre adored by a passionate following of fans. Amid an environment in which “hand holding” in video games has seen difficulty largely muted for accessibility, the Dark Souls series has one foot in the old school. The games are brutally difficult, demanding finesse to overcome and requiring players to be patient in learning the nuances of its combat.
Frustrating as it can often be, Dark Souls fans find joy in this masochism. There is undeniably a wonderful sense of achievement in defeating the game’s toughest enemies, though nobody could ever call a Dark Souls game relaxing to play. The intensity, of course, is all part of the draw. In combination with foreboding fantasy locales, Souls games also delight with a special sort of lonesome, mysterious atmosphere.
The latest entry in the series has impressed commercially, recording over 3 million combined digital and retail units sold. The Souls series has now gone to move 13 million total units across the entire franchise.
5) Horizon Zero Dawn – 3.4 Million Units Sold
When we first saw the wonderfully weird combination of post-apocalyptic tribal society and robotic dinosaurs, Horizon Zero Dawn had the entire games industry dumbfounded. The bizarre science fiction premise was brilliant, as was its beautiful aesthetic and sumptuous-looking gameplay. Did Horizon deliver on that hype? You bet. Perfecting the best features of open world games gone-by and managing to streamline them amid a superbly inventive narrative setting, Horizon is one the best games of its genre.
In particular, Horizon succeeds by pacing its story well within a large scale open world. It can be played as a somewhat linear, story driven blockbuster experience, but it also provides a massive sandbox to explore and engage with, too. This accessibility makes it part pick-up-and-play action game, part dense role-playing game.
Horizon is arguably PS4’s definitive exclusive game; a must-own PlayStation exclusive that is satisfying to play as it is pretty to behold. That sentiment is compounded by some astonishing commercial success. Horizon has already passed 3.4 million copies sold just 3 months after release, making it the console’s second best selling exclusive.
4) Final Fantasy XV – 6 Million Units Shipped
The big return of one of video gaming’s most iconic and cherished franchises, Final Fantasy XV unsurprisingly had the industry chomping at the bit for its release. After all, this was a project 10 years in the making that had seen countless delays, even after Square Enix made firm its date at a spectacular launch event. Not only that, the promise of a large-scale open world – a first for the series – looked set to deliver a truly epic vision of Final Fantasy.
Unfortunately, what we got was a slightly mixed bag. As wonderful as it was to cruise around the impressively large open world in the Regalia, the game’s later linear sections felt stifling and lacking in polish (particularly, the notorious Chapter 13). Actually, the whole game felt a little jumbled, which perhaps isn’t surprising given its lengthy development time. That isn’t to say Final Fantasy XV isn’t a good RPG because there’s certainly a lot to like about its quirky nature. It just perhaps wasn’t quite the ultimate Final Fantasy experience that we had all hoped for.
Would any of those reservations make one iota of difference to its commercial performance, though? Not in the slightest. Final Fantasy XV absolutely crushed it, recording the series strongest sales to date. It has shipped in excess of 6 million units since launch.
3) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – 12 Million Units Shipped
Although The Witcher series enjoyed successful releases on PC and Xbox 360 prior to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’s release, it was far from an established brand in the mainstream. CD Projekt Red had the ambition to change all of that with its third entry, though, and boy did they deliver.
When Wild Hunt was first teased, its scale and ambition almost seemed too vast to be true. The sheer density and vastness of its world were treble the size of anything the studio had ever attempted before. But execute it they most certainly did, and with such incredible competency that the game went on to win multiple Game- of-the-Year accolades. In fact, it has taken its place as one of the best role-playing games of the decade, if not all time. It utterly redefined expectations in open world gaming.
One of its standout features was its gorgeous open world that felt organic and reactive to player decisions. The environment of The Witcher 3 lives and breathes, immersing the player with some of the best world-building ever created. Quite apart from its aesthetic, the volume of narrative really jibed with players, with all of its quests – from short contracts to branching main missions – told genuinely interesting stories through stellar writing.
None of these nuances were lost on gamers, and The Witcher 3 has become one of the best-selling franchises of the generation. CD Projekt Red recently reported that the series has now sold over 25 million copies across all three games, with Wild Hunt accounting for nearly half that figure.
2) Fallout 4 – 12 Million Units Shipped + 1.8 Digital Downloads
Few games have generated the sort of hysteria and excitement that surrounded Fallout 4 when it was teased by Bethesda At E3 2015. A sequel 7 years in the making, Fallout 4’s announcement sent the industry into shockwaves of anticipation. When it launched, Fallout 4 was a bigger and better version of any game in the series. As it turned out, that was both a good and bad thing.
On the one hand, Fallout 4’s familiar look and feel, including its infamous VATS combat had our nostalgia tingling. On the other, its aging game engine wasn’t especially pretty and was ladened with the typically buggy performance that Bethesda has forged an unwanted reputation for. But that should have been a non-issue in a modern Fallout game. As a result of this familiar feel, Fallout 4 rather felt like an iteration rather than a true generation leap; a safe play.
That being said, there was plenty to love about New Massachusetts post-apocalyptic setting, and Fallout 4 did enjoy critical acclaim. Fallout 4 commands an enormous community of players, spanning console gamers and PC — the modding scene for Fallout has always been terrific, and its emergence on console for Fallout 4 was a particular boon.
To meet the enormity of demand, Bethesda shipped 12 million copies to retailers. While that doesn’t actually translate to sold copies to consumers directly, the game’s digital sales give us some indication of just how well it did at launch. In just 3 days, digital sales that were absolutely flying, with 1.8 million copies downloaded via online networks.
1) Pokemon Sun and Moon – 14 Million Sold
Pokemon-fever has officially returned! It started with Pokemon GO, a mobile version that worked its way into every corner of pop culture upon release. It has since been followed up by the fastest-selling game in the entire mainline franchise, Sun and Moon. The two new titles have combined to sell over 14 million copies in 3 months, half of which were recorded in just 7 days. Those astounding figures begged belief.
The Pokemon franchise is anything but done and dusted. It somehow continues to attract a greater audience with each iteration. Now, with a mainline Switch game confirmed to be in production by Nintendo, who would bet against that next title setting even grander records? More importantly, it bodes extremely well for Nintendo moving forward with its hybrid console. And that speaks volumes about the magnitude of the Pokemon IP — it commands such immense popularity that it might just see Nintendo Switch sales explode when it arrives in the next couple of years.