The Nintendo Switch’s success raises many questions from dedicated Nintendo fans and video game experts. Nintendo is best known for its innovative controller designs and iconic intellectual properties like Mario and The Legend of Zelda. These aspects, and more, have earned Nintendo countless accolades and revenue-breaking technologies. So, what is the best-selling Nintendo console, and how does it compare to its biggest competitors?
The Top 5 Best-Selling Nintendo Consoles
Nintendo has the portable and home console gaming market to dominate. It gives them multiple avenues to sneak their way into top-selling consoles, but which endeavors were most successful?
1. Nintendo DS — 154.02 million copies sold
Though it may shock Switch fans, the Nintendo DS catapulted Nintendo into the console-selling stratosphere. It has countless features Nintendo has experimented with over the years, perfected in a portable console with a great release lineup within a year of coming out, some including:
- Animal Crossing: Wild World
- Pokémon Diamond and Pearl
- Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
The microphone, dual screens and stylus touch controls intrigued gamers as the new gaming age was rolling in. The DS’ sister release, the Nintendo 3DS, sold around half as many copies. The only competitor for Nintendo during this time was Sony’s PlayStation Portable, which only sold approximately 80 million copies.
2. Game Boy & Game Boy Color — 118.69 million copies sold combined
Again, Nintendo shines in the portable gaming market. Their early releases of the now-primitive Game Boys featured nostalgic game cartridges, carrying some of gaming’s most popular titles, including Super Mario Land and Kirby’s Dream Land, among the console’s Zelda and Pokémon titles.
Its success allowed Nintendo to experiment with releasing different flavors of the same console with additional technological enhancements, including the Game Boy Light and Pocket. They weren’t as popular, but it was a signal this trend would continue into future console makes.
3. Nintendo Switch & Switch Lite — 114.33 million copies sold
Everyone is familiar with the Switch’s signature clicking sound, the noise of the Joy-Con controllers sliding neatly into place. The Switch revolutionized modern gaming, creating a home and portable console with an impressive stack of release titles in its first year. Nintendo’s strategic release schedule kept the console relevant, as Animal Crossing: New Horizons powered quarantined players at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild brought in a new age of gamers to the classic franchise.
The Switch continues to sell copies consistently. Six years after its initial release, Nintendo will release another flagship Legend of Zelda title — Tears of the Kingdom — in May 2023. It’s a strategic move from Nintendo, bringing new life back into a now-senior console. The Switch’s generational counterparts, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S can’t compare — but the PlayStation 4 still outsells the Switch by a hair.
4. Wii — 101.63 million copies sold
Who could ever forget the glimmer in everyone’s eyes, playing with the Wii Remote and Nunchuck controllers with their copy of Wii Sports? The Wii took the world by storm, as Nintendo brought one of the most accessible motion-control experiences to homes. It encouraged parents to embrace gaming as movement became more integral to the gaming experience.
The Wii is also known for launching one of Nintendo’s most popular characters — the Mii. The user-made avatars became a staple to Nintendo’s repertoire as creative gamers saw themselves in gaming worlds.
5. Game Boy Advanced (GBA) — 81.51 million copies sold
The GBA is a perfect demonstration of Nintendo’s ability to have its consoles collaborate. Because of backward compatibility, gamers could still play Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles while experimenting with the GameCube with the Advance link cable.
It was integral to some gaming experiences, like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, and offered bonus content for others, like the Sonic Adventure games. The success of the GBA lived on in the Nintendo DS, because it also allowed for backward compatibility.
The Worst-Selling Nintendo Console
Nintendo hasn’t always been the star of the console show. Nintendo’s grown from a few market flops, including their biggest disappointment — the Color TV-Game. It’s unlike what most would expect from modern Nintendo, because it’s a dedicated console gaming experience.
Some people dismiss it as their most significant failure, because it was Nintendo’s first proper console, selling a meager three million copies in its 1970-1980s life span. There were a few model variants of the Color TV-Game, and some game options included variations of classic Pong, Breakout and Racing 112.
However, if video game console analysts aren’t looking at numbers, they might consider the Wii U Nintendo’s most considerable console failure. After the success of the Wii, it was an enormous ask to top its numbers. However, it only sold 13.56 million copies due to a poor release lineup and a strange balance of hardware — fine graphics capabilities but a lower-quality CPU.
At a time when online multiplayer was on the rise, consoles had to meet the demand for intense online play. Unfortunately, because the Wii U couldn’t match the requirements, third parties weren’t as interested in ports.
However, with the success of the Switch, as it balances a great game catalog with decent hardware, it’s impossible to dismiss Nintendo as a contender for the best console developer of all time.
Continuing Nintendo’s Top-Selling Legacy
Nintendo has enough experience in every gaming market to create the dream console that could outsell anything prior. The Switch may not have outsold Nintendo’s portable consoles yet. Still, the Switch’s innovation in gaming, with its versatility as a mobile and home console, will surely inspire Nintendo’s next major console release.
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