10 Best Selling NES Games From The Console’s Lifetime

Some of the best selling NES games on the Retro Dodo background

Let’s take a trip back to the 80s as we discover which are the best selling NES games of all time!

I bet you won’t believe some of the sales figures I’ve listed below; gaming might be big now, but those early NES games fair shifted some units!

In many ways, these were the games that cemented Nintendo as gaming kings, the titles that knocked other companies like Atari into the dust.

Giant killers, some might say.

So, without further ado, let’s check out the best-selling NES games of all time!

1. Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Super Mario Bros game case for the NES held by Seb
  • Total sales – 40,240,000
  • Bundled with console

With a staggering 40,240,000 copies sold, Super Mario Bros. is the best-selling NES game of all time.

It was the game that started everything off for the NES, and the fact that this game shipped with the console itself probably helped sales too.

Nah, I shouldn’t say that. This game would have been just as revolutionary had it been a stand-alone release. It’s pixel-perfect and played like a dream, especially for 1985.

Nintendo’s ethos has always primarily been about family-friendly gaming, and this title brought generations old and new to the gaming world.

I would go as far as to say that in the entire golden age of gaming, this game is the most important title.

And with sales numbers like that to back it up, I reckon I might well be right!

2. Duck Hunt (1984)

Brandon holding the Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt double game cart
  • Total sales – 28,310,000
  • Bundled with console

Duck Hunt officially takes the second place position in our list of the best-selling NES games with a whopping 28 million sales.

We all wanted that arcade feel in our living room, and playing with the NES Zapper, one of the best NES accessories, is still one of the fondest moments I have of spending time with my Uncle before he passed.

You’ll need a CRT TV to play with the Zapper too!

So Duck Hunt isn’t exactly Call of Duty (even though it sold way more copies than most of the CoD games). Still, it’s super addictive and a legendary classic.

Point a gun at the screen, shoot ducks, and chuckle along with the laughing dog.

That’s all there is to it, but trust me, you just don’t need anything else!

3. Super Mario Bros 3 (1988)

Seb holding Super Mario Bros 3 for the NES
  • Total sales – 18,000,000
  • Bundled with console

Super Mario Bros. 3 sold almost three times more than Super Mario Bros. 2.

For me, this is the game that got the formula spot on and laid down the guidelines that would go on to form the essence of every other Mario title.

It still sold way less than the first Super Mario Bros., however, though I imagine we’ll get onto that soon enough.

I think this is the game that really nailed Mario’s look down too, his characteristics and mannerisms in the game as well as the move sets too.

I know it’s hypocritical to say that this is the best Super Mario Bros. game on the console when it wouldn’t even exist without the original title, but damn, this title is pretty much near perfect in my humble opinion.

4. Tetris (1989)

Tetris game case for the NES
Credit: Nintendo
  • Total sales – 8,000,000
  • Stand-alone release

Do I really need to talk about Tetris? This is the granddaddy of all puzzle games, the template for every block-drop title you’ve ever played and an absolute tour de force in the brain-teaser department.

Heck, Tetris has long since transcended the realm of being ‘just a game’ and is an institution, a bloomin’ way of life!

I find it hard to believe that anyone hasn’t played Tetris before now. Even people living off-grid in Tiny Houses have a bash every now and again; it helps with stacking the storage boxes up under the stairs.

Admittedly this version is a little harder to follow because of the blocks basically all being the same colour, but the general premise and shape principle is the same.

Put down your DMG copy and get in on the NES action!

5. Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)

Super Mario Bros 2 game case for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Credit: Nintendo
  • Total sales – 7,460,000
  • Stand-alone release

It was always clear that the main Super Mario Bros games would be in this list of the best-selling NES games of all time, and Super Mario Bros 2 is the first of the bunch.

Specifically, this is the international version of the game and stands totally different to its Japanese counterpart, which only sold 2,650,000 copies.

In this version, Mario opens a dream door into another world and battles weird and wonderful creatures.

Turns out that Mazza and his mates actually enter that dream word in real life the next day and have to save it from an evil wizard.

Play as either Mario, Peach, Toad, or Luigi, using unique seed and jumping abilities as you collect coins and defeat bad guys.

Seek out those invincible stars too; you’re going to need them!

6. The Legend Of Zelda (1986)

Seb holding his Nintendo Switch playing The Legend of Zelda on the NES Player
  • Total sales – 6,510,000
  • Stand-alone release

Finally, one of the best Zelda games of all time jumps into the fray. Not only is it one of the best-selling titles for the NES, but also one of the best-selling Zelda games, coming in at 4th place behind Ocarina of time.

There are a lot of Zelda games out there, but this game was the very first, and it’s phenomenal from start to finish.

Ok, it’s so far away from BotW now, but come on, it’s the classic that kicked everything off and brought Link to the masses.

Final Fantasy is all well and good, but the LoZ is an RPG with a difference.

Shigeru Miyamoto’s creation has touched the hearts and minds of millions of gamers all over the world, and back in 1986, this first Zelda game brought tonnes of innovative new ideas to the genre that would change fantasy games forever.

While we’re waiting for a Zelda Ocarina Of Time Switch HD remake to drop, give this original classic a shot.

7. Dr. Mario (1990)

Dr Mario game box for the NES
Credit: Nintendo
  • Total sales – 4,850,000
  • Stand-alone release

There’s no wonder Dr Mario made this list; it should come with a Class A substance addiction rating.

No wonder he’s always so happy in when he sees all those pills.

The aim of the game is to clear the screen and kill all the virus characters. Match up coloured ends of tablets to make them disappear.

If you’ve ever played Tetris, Columns, Beehive Bedlam, or any such game, then you’ll have no trouble picking up Dr Mario. It’s so simple that anyone of any gaming ability can get stuck in straight away.

Especially once you change the speed… though you could be really unkind to your granny and ramp it up to high!

If only getting rid of Covid could have been as easy as matching up coloured virus characters and making them pop out of existence. Maybe Dr Fauci should give this a go?

8. Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link (1987)

The Adventure of Link on the Nintendo Switch Online platfrom resting on a copy of Hyrule Historia
  • Total sales – 4,380,000
  • Stand-alone release

Now, you all know how much I love the Legend of Zelda. It’s my favourite series of all time, so believe me when I say it’s hard for me to admit that this game is a little disappointing.

After the success of The Legend of Zelda, I guess fans were just itching for more of the same. This is the only direct sequel in the Zelda canon, and the side-scrolling action just felt a little out of place.

Top-down or nothing for me when retro Zelda is concerned!

Still, plenty of other people loved it, and with the appearance of characters such Dark Link for the first time and many other characters and features that would be pivotal in future games, I guess you could say it was a crucial title for the series as a whole.

And to be honest, if there weren’t more than one Zelda game in this list, it would probably be tantamount to Hylian heresy.

The Hero of Time would be turning in his grave.

9. Excitebike (1984)

Excitebike game box for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Credit: Nintendo
  • Total sales – 4,160,000
  • Stand-alone release

If we’re talking about sports titles, Excitebike is one that I can firmly get behind. It might have been ported to multiple Ninty consoles since the NES days, but the original is still the best.

You see, the NES championed games that took a bit of brain power. Winning isn’t just the only thing that matters in this game. You’ve got to make sure you don’t overheat or hit other players too.

Seriously, you’ve got to keep your wits about you; the courses might be simple, but they pack a punch!

Players can pull off death-defying jumps and test their mettle on five courses Rank high enough to enter the official Excitebike Championship and beat the target times in each race.

Like any racing game, time is of the essence. Land a jump poorly or overheat, and you get a time penalty. Don’t fall off either as you’ll have to waste time running back to your bike.

Basically, don’t be rubbish, and you’ll be fine

10. Golf (1984)

Golf for the Nintendo Entertainment System
Credit: Nintendo
  • Total sales – 4,010,000
  • Stand-alone release

Golf rolls into the clubhouse at Number 10 with just over 4 million sales.

Back in the day, a game with two 18-hole courses where players could tee off in their living rooms was a massive revelation.

Choose your club, change your footing, control your swing… this was the real deal alright!

With multiple views including an overheard perspective to look at the whole course, Golf is the perfect strategic sporting game on the NES.

So long as you’re into Golf, that is.

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