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The games that sold consoles
'Great games,' the saying goes, 'make consoles great.' It’s an inescapable truth that wonderful games machines have been sacrificed on the altar of rubbish games, and one title can make a whole world of difference between a console making the grade or tipping the bar at the crucial moment.
When people talked about the PS3, a few of the criticisms struck a public chord – too expensive, too delayed – but the one that is almost definitely pushing the Sony’s latest baby into third place behind the Xbox and Wii is the lack of a genuinely brilliant game that you simply HAVE to play.
Whereas the Xbox 360 hit its stride with Gears of War, and the Wii’s packaged Wii Sports became an instant classic – none of the PS3’s launch titles had that ‘must have’ quality that could have buoyed the console on – and appealed to an already widespread PlayStation fan base.
It’s something of an irony that Sony, after their past PlayStation incarnations benefited from the likes of Guitar Hero, Grand Theft Auto and of course the Gran Turismo series, didn’t have the oft-called ‘killer-app,’ and are out on a limb waiting for a hero-title to save them.
So we thought we’d take a look back at some of the best games ever made for prior generations of consoles – and the impact they had on the machines they were played on.
KOJI SASAHARA/AP/PA Photos
Gran Turismo – PlayStation
The doyen of racing games; the amazing graphics and sound, combined with the painstaking accuracy of the models and effects, made Gran Turismo the stand-out seller for Sony’s original PlayStation, with many people buying the console on the strength of what they saw as the greatest driving game of all time.
Gran Turismo (Italian for Grand Tour) sold over 10.5 million copies worldwide, with people drawn in by a game that rewarded progression with faster and more customisable cars through race winnings and passing driving ‘tests’.
With only Final Fantasy VII competing for sales, GT is joined in the top three by its successor GT2, which continued in the same vein but brought enhanced graphics and more cars. Filling out the final two spots of the top five are Tomb Raider and its sequel – both of which were major hitters in selling consoles.
Super Mario Bros – NES
Although you could argue that the seminal Donkey Kong was the NES’ first stroke of genius, in terms of impact it is difficult to look beyond Super Mario Bros – a game which influenced a generation of gamers and programmers, selling an astounding 40 million copies (many of these because it came bundled with the console).
A sideways scrolling platform game, which saw Mario running and jumping his way through the mushroom kingdom to save a princess, it was the incredible playability of this title that made it a global hit and influenced the likes of John Carmack – the genius behind Doom.
Mario mainly got rid of his enemies, evil mushrooms called Goombas and turtle soldiers known as Koopa Troopers, by jumping on top of them and then kicking them out of the way into other bad guys, collecting coins and special power-ups as he went to aid his passage through.
Sequels Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 sold 10 million and 18 million respectively as NES owners reaped the benefits of Mario’s superlative adventures.
Other major sellers for the NES included the awesome Legend of Zelda and its follow up.
Halo – Xbox
Microsoft knew that to launch themselves into the console world with their Xbox development, they would have to count on top-quality titles. Fortunately for the Redmond based company, Bungie studios’ Halo was just that – a first person shooter with a superb storyline, great graphics and the wow factor that made the console cool to own.
Again, part of the success was the integration of a first person shooter onto controllers rather than the mouse and keys used for PC games of the same ilk. Players took on the role of Master Chief – attempting to shoot their way around a ring world with a mysterious secret.
The game sold more than 5 million copies – and was surpassed in the selling ranks only by Halo 2 – a follow up that built on the huge success of the original but was not such a critical success. Halo 3 is slated for the release on the Xbox 360 later this year. Other big sellers for the Xbox include Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – a tactical shooter and Project Gotham Racing – a driving game.
GoldenEye 007 – Nintendo 64
Although it was only third in the all-time best sellers list for the N64 (behind, you guessed it Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64), this first person shooter was such a critical and public success that it became perhaps the most memorable game for the console.
The hero was James Bond, licensed to kill, and the development company Rareware had worked wonders in bringing the first person shooter – the mainstay of the PC gaming scene because of the ease of using a mouse to aim – to a console with traditional controllers.
Fast paced, with a good multiplayer and the incorporation of things like stealth into the action, GoldenEye 64 used and extended real sets from the film, and added cinematic quality that was well received.
The game sold in excess of 8 million – not far behind Mario Kart 64’s estimated 8.5 million sales, but some distance from the 11 million Mario 64 units sold. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time – one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time is in fourth place with 7.6 million sales.
RICHARD DREW/AP/PA Photos
Tetris – Gameboy
One of the most iconic games of all time, Tetris came bundled with the Gameboy – and remains one of the most cloned and played games across the planet.
Based on the simple concept of creating lines of blocks from different shapes as they dropped from the top of the screen, Tetris was originally created by Alexej Pajitnov in the mid 1980s, and it was available on several other computer systems before it truly broke through on the Gameboy.
The game was subject to an increasingly complicated copyright row, with several companies claiming the patent, but the major loser appears to be Pajitnov, who is believed to have made little money from inventing one of the undisputed gaming classics.
Other major sellers on the Gameboy included the Pokemon series – an immensely popular role-playing game involving collecting and battling with ‘pocket monsters’.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega MegaDrive
Another iconic video game character was responsible for shifting masses of Sega’s impressive MegaDrive as it competed with Nintendo.
Sonic was all about speed, using the side-scrolling format that had become the norm, but putting an emphasis on speed and fluidity rather than puzzles. The blue hedgehog made his appearance on 6 million MegaDrives in his original adventure – and also holds the second best selling prize with his sequel, which shifted 4 million.
PAUL SAKUMA/AP/PA Photos
Grand Theft Auto 3 – PlayStation 2
Another game that was surpassed by its successors in the numbers game – but was probably the most influential in terms of selling consoles - was Grand Theft Auto III (GTA3).
Grand Theft Auto had been a mildly controversial, top down mission based driving game that had proven relatively popular, but after one similar sequel, developer Rock Star rocked the gaming world with GTA3.
Suddenly people were given what felt like a completely open world to run and drive around in – with Rockstar mixing in a healthy dose of adult humour and cool music.
GTA3 came from nowhere to become one of the biggest computer games franchises ever. The PS2 biggest sellers list has GTA San Andreas in top spot with 14 million sales and GTA Vice City in second with 13 million. GTA 3 is in third with 11 million sales, but will always remain a PS2 classic.
Super Mario World – SNES
Another Nintendo and another Mario game – a trend that has been repeated through console history. Super Mario World sold 18 million copies – and introduced lovable dinosaur Yoshi to the series.
The princess is captured again and Mario and brother Luigi set off to rescue the careless royal, again battling Bowser’s underlings. Nintendo stuck to the side scrolling formula that had served them so well on the NES, but the increased graphics capacity of the 16-bit SNES and stereo sound enhanced the game.
Mario could now pick up and throw the shells, as he has been able to in SMB 3, but he could also throw them upwards in SMW and this added another dimension to the gameplay.
Mario also featured in another of the SNES’s breakout games – Super Mario Kart, a racing game that brought the cartoonish graphics and breakneck speed of a platformer and brought them to a new realm. Another old favourite Donkey Kong also made a comeback – this time as a hero – in Donkey Kong Country which sold over 8 million copies.