Japan’s Top 20 Biggest Selling Games Of The 21st Century

Nintendo Games Still On Top

Super Mario Bros

The Wii U might be stumbling right now but as I seem to mention on every Nintendo related post – never count the big N out!

Want proof? Today Japan’s veteran Famitsu revealed the top 20 selling games of the 21st century and amazingly practically all of them are Nintendo first party games:

  1. New Super Mario Bros (DS,)
  2. Pokémon Diamond/Pearl (DS)
  3. Pokémon Black/White (DS)
  4. Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire (Gameboy Advance)
  5. Animal Crossing Wild World (DS)
  6. Brain Age 2 More Training in Minutes a Day! (DS)
  7. New Super Mario Bros Wii (Wii)
  8. Monster Hunter Portable 3rd (PSP)
  9. Dragon Quest IX Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS)
  10. Mario Kart DS (DS)
  11. Pokémon Heart Gold/Soul Silver (DS)
  12. Brain Age Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! (DS)
  13. Animal Crossing New Leaf (3DS)
  14. Wii Sports (Wii)
  15. Friend Collection (DS)
  16. Mario Kart Wii (Wii)
  17. Wii Fit (Wii)
  18. Dragon Quest VIII Journey of the Cursed King (PlayStation 2)
  19. Wii Sports Resort (Wii)
  20. Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green (Gameboy Advance) 

That’s all of the Top 5, 8 out of the Top 10 and 18 out of the Top 20. Nintendo truly is a powerhouse in Japan. And you’ll see it’s the same franchises that appear again and again: Mario, Brain Training, Animal Crossing and of course licence-to-print-money Pokémon.

When these long-running series still continue to perform so well can you really blame Nintendo for relying on the same franchises every generation?

It reminds me of the situation with Marvel where the company is experiencing great success but with IP that was created decades ago. There is very little IP on this list that is less than 10 years old.

Also note how many of these titles are for handheld systems. Lack of space in houses and a young, mobile, active use base means Japan is moving away from consoles and embracing mobile and handheld platforms in a big way. A lot has been said about the so-called Japanese decline over the current generation. I agree with this to an extent but perhaps the argument could be made that Japan isn’t in decline but simply doing something different instead. You could say its apples and oranges (or consoles and handheld in this case).

It’s easy to think of them both as just gaming platforms but really there is a huge difference between the two. And as we bemoan the lack of drop in quality in Japanese console gaming, the same can’t really be said for Japanese mobile gaming where developers are constantly trying new ways to incorporate the benefits of mobile devices into the game play experience.

The mobile market in Asia is booming. It’s expected that the next 1 billion mobile users will primarily be based in emerging markets in the East. Will Japanese developers move away from the highly insular style that defines them and capitalise on this expanded member base or will enterprising developers in China, Korea and India emerge as powerhouses?

Time will tell.

Incidentally here are the Top 10 selling games in Japan from the 20th century. A little more varied but Nintendo is still central:

  1. Super Mario Bros (NES)
  2. Tetris (Gameboy)
  3. Super Mario Land (Gameboy)
  4. Dragon Quest VII: Warrior of Eden (PlayStation)
  5. Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)
  6. Super Mario Bros 3 (NES)
  7. Super Mario Kart (SNES)
  8. Dragon Warrior III (NES)
  9. Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation)
  10. Super Mario World (SNES)

As for Nintendo’s future, the question right now is will they be able to bring the same level of past success to the present and the Wii U. There’s still time – this is a long-term battle after all. Let’s talk again in a year’s time when we’ll have seen some high-profile AAA titles for Wii U.

The battle for the next-gen is just getting started!

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