Franchise: J.B. Harold
Launch Year: 1986
Approx. Units Sold Worldwide To Date: 20 million
This one likely exceeded your sales expectations because you may have never even heard of it, and how can a franchise you’ve never heard of have numbers comparable to Castlevania, Diablo, and Prince of Persia? What is especially more astounding about the success of the little-known (outside of Japan) J.B. Harold is that the murder mystery adventure game series only saw three installments released in the U.S., one of them being a recent iOS port of the original game – J.B. Harold Murder Club – with the other being DOS and the TurboGrafx-CD. In fact, prior to said iOS remake, the most recent installment in the mostly Japan-only series (it hasn’t even been released in Europe or anywhere else) was a 2008 Nintendo DS installment, and prior to that, not since 1991.
Launch Year: 1994
Approx. Units Sold Worldwide to Date: 45 million
You may not be sure whether or not this number actually surprises you, but it will when you consider that the entire Street Fighter franchise has only racked up 36 million, Mortal Kombat 32 million, and Tekken’s arguably more beloved successor Soul Blade/Edge/Calibur has only managed 14 million across almost as many home console installments as Tekken has had. Not to diminish Tekken‘s impressive sales figures, but much of that was likely due to the huge 3D fighting game boom of the late 90’s where any and all halfway-decent 3D fighters could sell well on the PS1, a bubble that may have actually popped following the release of Soul Calibur for Dreamcast and saw a steep decline after that – which would certainly account for Soul‘s rather low comparative numbers.
Franchise: Crash Bandicoot
Launch Year: 1996
Approx. Units Sold Worldwide to Date: 50 million
Again, you have to look at Crash’s contemporaries to appreciate just how amazing that number is, namely Donkey Kong, who only has that beat by about 6 million units and had far more games to do it (and that number includes all Donkey Kong Country games and all home ports of the original Donkey Kong, among various other DK titles). Kirby and Rayman would have to literally combine their total lifetime sales numbers just to equal Crash’s – alone they each only half it. And Spyro the Dragon, Crash’s former contemporary and the Jak to his Ratchet, has only sold 20 million (not counting Skylanders).
Franchise: Winning Eleven / Pro Evolution Soccer
Launch Year: 2001
Approx. Worldwide Units Sold To Date: 87 million
It may not be surprising that a soccer game has sold more than most U.S.-focused pro sports games. However, it is only topped in that area by Madden, and only by 12 million, which is all the more startling given that Madden has had nearly 20 years and an appearance on over 40 platforms to do it, whereas PES did it in half the time and on half the platforms. But for a more direct and fair comparison, there’s EA’s FIFA franchise – although PES impresses there, too, with FIFA managing 100 million but needing 22 years and double the platforms to do so. Is it any wonder that Konami doesn’t seem to care about Castlevania or Hideo Kojima or basically any of its other video game franchises anymore? PES keeps them in the black almost single-handedly, and it requires far less of a budget to do so.
Franchise: Need for Speed
Launch Year: 1994
Approx. Units Sold Worldwide to Date: 150 million
You would be insulting Need for Speed to only compare it other lowly racing game franchises – it is more on the level of all-around heavy hitters like Super Mario, Call of Duty, Pokemon, Grand Theft Auto, The Sims, and Sonic the Hedgehog, all part of the elite 150 million+ club. As a matter of fact, its closest four-wheeled competitor is Gran Turismo, and that hasn’t even brought in half of NFS’ total take. Other attempts to compete with NFS, such as Midnight Club and EA’s own Burnout – only scored 18 million and 15 million, respectively. Is it any wonder that not long after EA tasked Burnout developers Criterion with also creating NFS games, they seemed to stop making Burnout games altogether? EA marches to the beat of cash registers. And I apparently still apparently march to the beat of 1992 when a reference to cash registers would’ve been relevant.