I just received a press release announcing that Activision’s (ATVI) Skylanders video game franchise had surpassed $2 billion in revenue.
The franchise’s appeal to younger children means it tends to sell a lot of copies to Nintendo (NTDOY) Wii and DS owners — although Activision is already offering Skylanders games for the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox One and Sony (SNE) Playstation 4.
With that demographic, the Skylanders series doesn’t quite generate the line-ups that a new Call of Duty does. Still, considering Skylanders games have only been around since 2011, the milestone is pretty impressive.
But that $2 billion includes the sales of 175 million Skylanders toys. And when it comes to best-selling franchises, Skylanders is nowhere near placing in the top video games of all time. At least not yet.
These 10 video game franchises are the highest grossing of all time. And the list contains many blockbuster releases that make Skylanders pale in comparison.
Top Video Games of All Time: Mario Video Games
If you want one big reason why NTDOY may just survive its Wii U problem, look no further than the Mario video games that have long been Nintendo exclusives.
Whether he’s storming Bowser’s castle, racing go-karts or playing a leisurely game of golf, Mario sure knows how to sell a video game.
In a franchise spanning decades, Mario video games (including multiple versions of Mario Brothers, Super Mario, Mario Kart, and various sports titles) have sold nearly half a billion copies, making Mario video games No. 1 on the list of top video games of all time.
Top Video Games of All Time: Pokemon Video Games
Another Nintendo exclusive, Pokemon video games are also a massive hit when it comes to best-selling video franchises. The series started in ’96 in Japan, and has been an international hit ever since.
The Pokemon games allow players to take on the life of a Pokemon trainer, catching and battling Pokemon to become the Champion.
I look around my house and between our three kids, we have at least a dozen Pokemon video games (including Pokemon X for 3DS, which I bought last night), meaning NTDOY has roughly $480 of my money — did I mention Pokemon video games almost never go on sale?
With nearly 250 million copies sold, Pokemon video games place an easy second on the list of top video games of all time.
Top Video Games of All Time: EA Sports Video Games
One of the things that Electronics Arts (EA) does best is sports. EA Sports titles are always top-sellers, and franchises like Madden NFL (which celebrated 25 years with 2013’s Madden NFL 25 release), FIFA and NBA Live have combined to sell well more than 235 million copies.
With new players entering the professional leagues every year, EA is able to count on hardcore sports gamers buying the latest EA Sports video games every year just to keep their team rosters up to date.
Top Video Games of All Time: Wii Games
Nintendo’s Wii has sold 100 million units, the most of any console in its generation. And a big part of those sales were the Wii games made by Nintendo specifically to take advantage of the console’s unique motion controller.
Each title was a series of mini games (like bowling, boxing, tennis and skiing) and packages like Wii Sports, Wii Play and Wii Fit have combined to sell nearly 193 million copies. That’s enough to put the Wii games in fourth place on our top video games of all time.
But like the Wii itself, Nintendo has no hit replacement for these Wii games, so don’t expect this video game franchise to grow much further.
Top Video Games of All Time: The Sims
Electronic Arts has a hit with The Sims, a long-running PC video game franchise. EA released console versions of The Sims video games, but the PC versions really rack up the sales. As a best-selling franchise, The Sims currently stands at 175 million copies sold.
The Sims franchise lets players create characters and direct them through their lives. Players also get to build and furnish homes for their characters, and recent versions have put the Sims in various fantasy settings to spice up the gameplay.
The Sims has also found new life as a mobile game released for smartphones and tablets.
Top Video Games of All Time: Grand Theft Auto
No other video game franchise has generated the kind of backlash from parents than Take-Two Interactive’s (TTWO) Grand Theft Auto video games.
The Grand Theft Auto games let players raise every kind of hell imaginable — including gunning down police, torturing enemies and (of course) stealing cars.
Despite what parents think, gamers can’t seem to get enough GTA, and they lined up for the 2013 Grand Theft Auto V release, earning $1 billion in the first three days. That contributed to the estimated 157 million Grand Theft Auto video games sold to date.
Top Video Games of All Time: Need For Speed
Need For Speed isn’t just a hotly anticipated 2014 movie release, the EA franchise is also the best-selling car racing video game series of all time with 150 million units sold since Need For Speed first hit shelves in 1994.
The Need for Speed games let players customize and race cars, with recent entries focusing on underground and street racing.
Based on sales numbers, Need For Speed is the most popular racing franchise out there, and the various entries are certainly some of the top video games of all time.
Top Video Games of All Time: Tetris
No role playing, driving, missions or shooting in this old-school puzzler entry on our top video games of all time.
The Tetris franchise started on the PC in 1989, was released for virtually every game console and hand-held video game system, then went on to being a successful mobile release for Electronic Arts.
As a franchise, the dozens of different Tetris video games have combined for sales of 140 million.
Top Video Games of All Time: Call of Duty
Activision says Call of Duty: Ghosts, the latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise, was the best-selling launch title for both the new Xbox One and Playstation 4 game consoles. In the U.S., it was the top selling video game during December for the PC and virtually every available video game console — last generation and next generation.
The Call of Duty games are first-person shooters that put players in various wartime scenarios. Some titles span as far back a World War II, while others are set in modern times and an alternate history involving World War III.
Call of Duty has been the top selling video game franchise in the U.S. for five straight years, adding to the 120 million units sold since its 2003 launch.
Top Video Games of All Time: Final Fantasy
One of the longest-running video game franchises, the Final Fantasy series started in 1987 as a Nintendo NES release. Publisher Square Enix then expanded to the PlayStation platform and eventually the Xbox, as well as venturing into multimedia with Final Fantasy movies.
Including sequels and spinoffs, the Final Fantasy series has more than twenty entries, spanning every console generation from the NES to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 — and soon to be the PS4 and Xbox One. The core entries are all role-playing games that feature a band of heroes fighting to save the world from a powerful evil force.
In a testament to its enduring popularity, Square Enix has not only re-released Final Fantasy games for Apple’s (AAPL) iOS platform, it has been able to convince iPhone and iPad owners to pay way above the average going rate for a game — the latest mobile release, Final Fantasy V, is priced at $15.99 on iTunes.
The Final Fantasy series has sold more than 100 million games in the past seventeen years. And with this week’s release of the latest title — Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII — the series continues to climb the list of top video games of all time.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.