The 7 Top-Selling Video Game Franchises in History

By John Ballard Markets Fool.com

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES

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The video game industry is one of the largest forms of entertainment in the world, with annual revenue of $100 billion and growing. People spend as much time playing video games as they do on Netflixor social media.

Among the top-selling games in history, you will find all the major game publishers represented -- Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA), and Take-Two Interactive (NASDAQ: TTWO).

Here are the top seven best-selling franchises of all-time:

IMAGE SOURCE: ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.

7. Need for Speed

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Electronic Arts' action racing franchise Need for Speed has had its ups and downs over the years. While the most recent version released in 2015 marked one of the lower points, longtime fans of the Fast and Furious-style racing game more likely savor Hot Pursuit in 2010 or High Stakesin 1999 as their favorite installment in the series.

Despite most versions of the game receiving mediocre reviews, the franchise has still managed to sell 150 million units since its first release in 1994. Look for EA's next entry in the series by early 2018.

IMAGE SOURCE: ELECTRONIC ARTS INC.

6. The Sims

Also published by Electronic Arts, the classic social simulation game The Sims has sold 175 million copies since 2000. Recent releases seem to have taken a downhill slide, which caused EA to shut down the studio responsible for creating the franchise. However, development of The Sims will continue. EA recently hinted that the next installment -- The Sims 5 -- will include virtual reality capabilities, which could create a new level of interest in the popular franchise.

IMAGE SOURCE: TAKE TWO INTERACTIVE INC.

5. Grand Theft Auto

Take-Two Interactive has struck gold with the massively popular Grand Theft Auto franchise. It is very difficult across the entertainment industry to produce sequels that earn great reviews, whether it's a video game or a movie sequel.

However, developer Rockstar Games has proven to have an uncanny ability to produce new versions of Grand Theft Auto that consistently draw high praise from critics. Each new version ends up as one of the best games for each console generation.

Grand Theft Auto Vhas sold 75 million copies since its 2013 release, and still ranks as one of the top-selling console games after four years, which is phenomenal. Since the first Grand Theft Auto game releasedin 1997, all versions of the franchise combined have sold an impressive 240 million copies.

IMAGE SOURCE: ACTIVISION BLIZZARD INC.

4. Call of Duty

Given the popularity of the first-person shooter genre, it's not surprising to seeCall of Duty rank somewhere on this list.

First released in 2003, the Call of Duty series has sold 250 million units. The latest installment's science-fiction setting disappointed fans of the franchise, but it still managed to outsell competitor Battlefield 1 from EA, which means even when Call of Duty is off its game, gamers still buy it.

Pokemon GO drove people into a frenzy in summer 2016. IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY

3. Pokemon

The Pokemon Company was started in 1998 by a joint investment of three companies, one of which was Nintendo(NASDAQOTH: NTDOY). The Pokemon brand originated as a video game, but today it spans comics, animated movies, TV shows, merchandise, events, and official shops. The video game series has sold 280 million units life-to-date.

Tetris mobile games are published by Electronic Arts. IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES

2. Tetris

The classic puzzle game Tetris was designed by Alexey Pajitnov while working for the Computer Center of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1984. The name Tetris comes from the Greek word "tetra" (meaning "four") and "tennis," Pajitnov's favorite sport. The game was immediately popular in the Soviet Union and took off globally in the late 1980s, after the game was showcased at the 1988 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. After 495 million units sold, the game comes in as the second-best-selling video game of all time.

IMAGE SOURCE: PIXABAY

1. Mario

Many of today's adult gamers were likely introduced to video games with the classic Mario game on the original Nintendoconsole in the late 1980s. Chances are if you missed Froggeron the Atari, you found Mario on Nintendo as one of your earliest and best gaming memories. Since the introduction of the Mario character in 1981, the franchise has sold 528.5 million copies.

And Mario is not done. With the new Nintendo Switch expected to sell up to 20 million units in its first year after launch, there will be plenty of pent-up demand for the next generation of gamers to be introduced to Mario in the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey this holiday shopping season.

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John Ballard owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Activision Blizzard, Netflix, and Take-Two Interactive. The Motley Fool recommends Electronic Arts. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.