Nintendo has been a big part of the gaming industry since the early 80s. While most other companies rely on third-party games as much as they do their own offerings, Nintendo has always been a little different. They’ve used their own first-party properties to maintain their popularity, offering innovative gameplay and iconic characters fans can’t get anywhere else.
While they may not always be the most important company, they are always one of the most interesting, having sold hundreds of millions of consoles over several generations. Their affordable prices and fantastic games are just part of why they managed to survive the console wars of the 1990s
12/12 Color TV gaming was Nintendo’s first attempt at a home console
3 million units sold
Nintendo released its first console, the Color TV-Game, back in 1977. The system was only released in Japan, but was still the most successful of the first generation of game consoles. Over time, Nintendo released five different variations of the color TV game, all of which sold incredible numbers.
Looking back, much of Nintendo’s gaming philosophy can be seen here, as the TV-Game was the cheapest console on the market. The low price point led to Nintendo getting more people to try their consoles, but they were also able to make money on each system sold. Although three million consoles sold may not seem like a lot, this was a huge success for the time.
11/12 The Nintendo Wii U was a misstep after Nintendo’s huge successes
13.5 million units sold
After the incredible success of the Nintendo Wii, all eyes turned to Nintendo to see what they had planned next. Unfortunately, the Wii U was a disappointment in many ways. The system was released just a year before Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles, and while it was a leap over the Wii, it wasn’t nearly as powerful as the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
With a lack of third-party support, the console was forced to rely on Nintendo’s first-party games to gain fans. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s first-party games took too long to release, causing the system to fall off the map. Within Nintendo’s bigger titles like Super Mario and Super Smash Bros were ready, the system was already finished, and ended up selling only 13.5 million consoles.
10/12 The Nintendo GameCube was loved Stateside, but struggled overall
21.7 million units sold
In the 2000s, Sony’s PlayStation 2 dominated the console market. The PlayStation 2’s success was enough to take Sega completely out of the console developer game. With games like Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy X, Sony felt they had games for all kinds of fans. It was all Nintendo could do to stay relevant, but they still had some amazing first and third party games.
For third-party games, the GameCube was the home of Resident Evil 4, a title many still consider one of the best games of all time. As for the first party, the Metroid Prime trilogy, Super Mario Sunshineand the fan favorite Super Smash Bros. Melee still made this the console of choice for over 21 million players.
9/12 The Nintendo 64 offered some fantastic titles to rival the PlayStation
32.9 million units sold
Nintendo made some big mistakes in this generation. Deciding to stay with the expensive cartridges rather than switch to a CD format meant that many developers moved on to the PlayStation. Fans also preferred PlayStation’s cheaper games, which meant they could get more for their dollar. Still, Nintendo was no slouch in this era, moving over 32 million consoles
Super Mario 64 is a groundbreaking game thanks to the implementation of 3D, which made developers rethink the way games could work. They also had key titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64, games that will make audiences fall in love for the next decade. It’s just a shame that there are so many N64 games that may never make it to Nintendo Switch Online.
8/12 The SNES was the follow-up to Nintendo’s most successful project
49.1 million units sold
After enjoying such great success with the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo decided to go bigger with its next console. The Super NES was twice as powerful, but fans still flocked to the NES. If the 8-bit years were about figuring out what would be the genres of the industry going forward, the 16-bit genre helped refine those genres into what fans play today.
Nintendo made better versions of every franchise they had in the past and introduced new games like Mario Kart and Star Fox which fans are still in love with today. With “only” 49 million units sold, the Super NES was not as successful as the original Nintendo, but that’s probably because the Sega Genesis had caused a veritable war among gaming fans.
7/12 The NES was Nintendo’s first major console hit
61.9 million units sold
Whatever success Nintendo thought they were seeing with the Color TV game was nothing compared to what happened with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course, the Color TV game was a necessary first step that gave Nintendo the confidence they needed to go bigger.
Moving nearly 62 million units, their next console became a global pop culture phenomenon responsible for saving the gaming industry as a whole. The system had groundbreaking titles such as Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda in additionto third-party titles such as Castlevania and Final Fantasy that would define a generation.
6/12 The Nintendo 3DS was a respectable follow-up to Nintendo’s biggest success ever
75.9 million units sold
The Nintendo 3DS had great expectations to live up to. The original Nintendo DS was the most successful system Nintendo had ever released. When it launched in 2011, Nintendo hoped the 3D gimmick would bring people to their new console to try it out. Unfortunately, the console’s $249 price tag plus a weak selection of games left people cold.
Within six months, Nintendo dropped the price of the console by $80, and fans rushed to check out the system. As the Wii U faltered, Nintendo threw even more support behind the 3DS, as it was their primary money maker in that era. Although it only sold half of what the Nintendo DS sold, nearly 76 million units is nothing to laugh at.
5/12 The Game Boy Advance brought the Game Boy into the present
81.5 million units sold
Thanks to several revisions, the original Game Boy remained on the market for over a decade. When the Game Boy Advance launched, it felt like it was necessary. At a launch price of just $99, it was perfect to invite both young and old gamers in to check the system out. As usual with Nintendo, gamers would quickly find a number of fantastic games for the console.
Everyone was rushing to make games for the Game Boy Advance, wanting to cash in on what felt like an untapped market. That brought the series’ sales to around 81.5 million in just under a decade – a huge success for a small powerhouse.
4/12 The Nintendo Wii was a huge accidental success
101.6 million units sold
The Nintendo Wii represented a change in how Nintendo approached consoles. After having a more powerful console than Sony during the sixth generation, the company chose not to try power at all in the next one. While Sony and Microsoft made overly expensive HD consoles, the Wii went for casual appeal. At $249, the Wii was cheaper than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by quite a bit.
The Wii’s price point plus the innovative motion controls and the Wiimote that looked like people’s remotes opened Nintendo up to a whole new fan base. This new casual fanbase got to experience gaming for the first time, leading Nintendo to a new era of success and having its first home console sell over 100 million units.
3/12 The Nintendo Switch combined Nintendo’s home and portable consoles
111 million units sold
Nintendo was in a bad position after the failure of the Wii U despite the Wii U having some of the best first party games ever released. Although it had only been a few years, Nintendo decided to launch its next system in March 2017. This new console, the Nintendo Switch, acted as a dual system that was both a handheld and a home console.
With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild As a launch day game, the Switch sold out immediately. In 2021, the Switch even outsold the PlayStation 5 and Xbox series, both because it was more accessible and because it had such an amazing lineup of games. It’s no surprise that this system is still moving units, even after selling 111 million so far.
2/12 The Game Boy lasted an entire decade
118.7 million units
Nintendo launched a portable version of their NES console in 1989, and it was the best decision they could have made. Although the system could not be compared to other handheld consoles that were released a few years later, the Game Boy dominated and outlasted them all. It was a cheaper system with a much longer battery life, which made a difference to children and parents.
While the Game Boy lacked the ability to display color, fans still bought it in droves, carrying it to over 118 million units sold. Nintendo’s success with this system led them to create newer versions such as the Game Boy Pocket and Game Boy Color, which led to the console lasting an astonishing fourteen years before being discontinued.
1/12 The Nintendo DS is the most successful handheld of all time
154 million units sold
The Nintendo DS is the second best-selling console of all time, with only the great PlayStation 2 edging it out. Everything seemed to work for the Nintendo DS. It was reasonably priced, fans liked the touchscreen pen, and the games were top-notch. The biggest flaw was a less than impressive launch, but Nintendo overcame that by making Game Boy Advance games backwards compatible.
If that wasn’t enough, Nintendo had everything from remakes of classic games like Mario 64 to major JRPGs available on their console. Unfortunately, part of the reason for the console’s success was how easy it was to hack and run homebrew apps and games on it. But with 154 million consoles sold, Nintendo still made far more money on the console than they lost.
NEXT: 10 Super Mario Easter Eggs That Must Be In The Movie