Bestselling Online Multiplayer Games in History
Video games are bigger than Hollywood, and the biggest selling franchises are serious business. Here are some of the bestselling games ever made.
Minecraft is one of the most unusual and staggeringly successful games of all time. Like most entries on this list, it has both single and online multiplayer modes and was created by the small Swedish developer Mojang Studios. It was so successful that the game’s primary creator (Markus Persson, also known as Notch) sold Mojang to Microsoft for a cool $2.5bn.
The sales total of Minecraft is a comically enormous 238,000,000, which makes it the bestselling video game of all time, and over 80,000,000 ahead of the second-placed Grand Theft Auto V. The active monthly users alone number around 140,000,000 (more than every other game’s sales excepting GTA V). But why is this particular game, created by a very small team, such a massive hit?
Minecraft’s success lies in the near-total freedom of being the ultimate sandbox experience. It’s not a game of high-powered graphics or voice actors from Hollywood getting a huge salary. It’s about letting the player do exactly what they want in a procedurally generated and, for all intents and purposes, infinite landscape. As far as escapism, and a time sink, goes, Minecraft is unbeatable. There’s a survival mode for those who want a bit more challenge, and multiplayer can occur both locally and online through servers that allow players to share worlds. It is fair to say that the single-player aspect attracts at least as many as the multiplayer approach, yet Minecraft remains by far and away the biggest selling multiplayer online game in history. It came out in 2011 and even now sells tens of millions of copies every year.
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Grand Theft Auto V
Like Minecraft, GTA V has been around for a long time, first launching back in 2013 (back when pandemics were things belonging to sci-fi and history books). Rockstar’s latest entry in the long-running series proved to be the most successful to date, beating every other game for sales excepting the mighty Minecraft. The single-player campaign features a trio of protagonists, while the multiplayer mode (Grand Theft Auto Online) allows up to 30 players to have fun together online at the same time.
GTA has always been known for a sense of chaos, violence, and freedom (as well as being controversial). Multiplayer action can occur through free form exploration or competitive and cooperative game matches. Despite great sales and success, the initial launch of multiplayer mode was fraught with difficulties, and it received as many mocking accolades as genuine awards. One especially popular update came in 2015 when heists were added. These were a quintet of multi-phase missions to be completed by teams of four players. Updates have been added continually to refresh and renew player interest, and in 2021 eight stunt races, seven new arenas, and seven new maps were introduced.
PUBG (more formally PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) was the first smash hit of the battle royale trend that became highly popular, before being supplanted by Fortnite. It still remains a huge online multiplayer success, with 70 million sales thus far. Unlike other entries on this list, PUBG is a strictly multiplayer affair because even if you’re playing solo that means competing against other individuals. Other team sizes include pairs and teams of four, with friends able to play together (although, as always, you can opt for the roulette of teaming up with random players and seeing what you get).
Like many similar games, PUBG features a continually shrinking safe zone, compelling players to keep moving. But the gameplay style is such that a hail of gunfire can easily wipe out a whole squad, creating constant tension between the risk of moving (and getting ambushed) and the need to move (if the safe zone is not kind to you).
Pro-tip: try the murderbush strategy. Sometimes, you can hide perfectly in a bush and take out anyone who foolishly wanders close enough to the fatal flora.
Mario Kart 8
When it comes to gaming figures and franchises, Mario is probably the single biggest beast in the worldwide jungle. The biggest success in sales terms enjoyed (to date) by the mustachioed plumber came with Mario Kart 8, the 2014 installment in the side series of karting starring our eponymous hero. There is a single-player mode, although most people get their kicks from thrashing their friends (blue shells permitting) in multiplayer. It became the bestselling game on the Wii U and also has impressive sales on the more recent Nintendo Switch hardware (for which the Deluxe edition was released in 2017). With more than 47 million sales so far it’s the bestselling racing game ever made.
Hang gliders, underwater racing, and customizing vehicles are all present, and new features for Mario Kart 8 included anti-gravity racing along ceilings and walls, new items such as the piranha plant, and new characters like Pink Gold Peach. Local and online multiplayer are both possible, with the latter allowing up to 12 players to compete at once.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
It’s not the biggest seller on the list, but Call of Duty: Modern Warfare did come out the most recently, so to rack up 30 million sales already is pretty impressive. The 16th part of the ongoing CoD series occurs in a realistic setting, pairing a CIA officer with a SAS team in the single-player campaign. Multiplayer is accessible in a cooperative format through the Special Ops mode that builds on the campaign, and through the Warzone mode, and was good enough to win the Best Online Multiplayer accolade at the Game Critics Awards in 2019.
From shooters to racing, the chaos of GTA to the unstoppable freedom of Minecraft, the top-selling videogames have shifted a ton of units in recent years.
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