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What Are The All-Time Best-Selling Games Of The Late 90s?

Everybody likes best-seller lists, right? How about we take the way-back machine back to a decade or two and find out what sold well back in the day and what trended really well.

I’m curious because US game industry analyst Mat Piscatella tweeted the top 10 best-selling games for the following video game consoles that were all the rage during the 90s. I’m talking about the Sega Saturn, the Sony PlayStation, the Nintendo 64, the Game Boy Color, and the Sega Dreamcast.

Let’s start from the first system of the bunch to the last. Keep in mind that these stats are for the US market from 1995 to 2018, but can be considered a good indicator for trends in gaming that last for more than a decade.

Sega Saturn (1995)

  1. Madden NFL 97
  2. Nights Into Dreams
  3. Virtua Fighter 2
  4. Daytona USA
  5. Virtua Cop
  6. Tomb Raider
  7. Sega Rally Championship
  8. Sonic 3D Blast
  9. World Series Baseball
  10. Panzer Dragoon

I suspected the Sega Saturn’s arcade ports would take over the top 10, and I was right. You have the usual suspects there: Virtua Fighter 2, Daytona USA, Virtua Cop, and Sega Rally Championship. The beauty of the Sega Saturn was marketing how it handled arcade ports and made it the go-to place to play your new arcade games. Pity about the price back then.

While the ’97 NFL was the hottest thing ever during those years, we should not discount the fact that fan favourites like Nights Into Dreams and Panzer Dragoon made the top 10 list.

PlayStation One (1995)

  1. Crash Bandicoot
  2. Gran Turismo
  3. Final Fantasy VII
  4. Gran Turismo 2
  5. Crash Bandicoot: Warped
  6. Tekken 3
  7. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
  8. Metal Gear Solid
  9. Crash Bandicoot 2
  10. Driver

The power of the “US$299” price tag works wonders. So do new IPs at the time: Crash Bandicoot took over three spots in this legacy top 10. I do wonder why they’re not on the PlayStation Classic.

Despite that, the best-sellers are the franchises that still have relevance up to now: Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, Tekken 3. Driver and Tony Hawk 2? Well the brands suffered gruesome fates as years went by.

Nintendo 64 (1996)

  1. Super Mario 64
  2. Goldeneye 007
  3. Mario Kart 64
  4. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
  5. Pokémon Stadium
  6. Donkey Kong 64
  7. Star Fox 64
  8. Super Smash Bros.
  9. Diddy Kong Racing
  10. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

It’s good to know that Nintendo embraced the 3D age with open arms. Games like Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007, and The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time proved that the company can keep up with the times despite still developing their games on cartridges during the period where CDs are slowly taking over.

But did Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire really deserve being in this top 10 list? Goes to show that Star Wars games can indeed make their mark on a major console somewhat.

Nintendo Game Boy Color (1998)

  1. Pokémon Silver
  2. Pokémon Gold
  3. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
  4. Pokémon Pinball
  5. Pokémon Crystal
  6. Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Duel
  7. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
  8. Donkey Kong Country
  9. Pokémon Trading Card Game
  10. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages

The Game Boy Color not only had, well, colour, but it redesigned the form of the console so that it’s smaller and easier to put into your pocket. It also was the main console for one of Nintendo’s biggest JRPG series: Pokémon.

That’s right, Pokémon Silver and Pokémon Gold were the top dogs and killer apps that made children all over the world recite the expanded Pokémon roster more than their schoolwork. The DX version of one of the best portable Legend of Zelda games made an appearance, and so did the Capcom-made Legend of Zelda title. But overall, the Pokémon brand dominated this top ten, showing the strength of cute creatures and their marketing potential.

Sega Dreamcast (1999)

  1. NFL 2K
  2. NFL 2K1
  3. Sonic Adventure
  4. NBA 2K
  5. NBA 2K1
  6. Crazy Taxi
  7. Soulcalibur
  8. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing
  9. Shenmue
  10. Resident Evil: Code Veronica

Ah, the Dreamcast: the Sega system that could was it not for the company’s hubris. 4 big sports titles dominated the Sega Dreamcast, the NFL and NBA 2K titles. The arcade-perfect ports of Crazy Taxi and Soulcalibur were also in the top 10. One of the best Resident Evil games also made its mark on the console that could.

What We Can Learn From This List

-Sports games sold then; they still sell gangbusters now. Back then it was just NFL and NBA. Today, we have FIFA and its Ultimate Team card-based long-term mode taking over the world. Sports fans and gaming fans don’t want to just stick with watching matches on the television or cable; they want to also live out their sports-based dream by buying a console and getting the latest FIFA game.

Pokémon = portable power. Any gaming handheld worth their salt knew that without something like Pokémon, they had no chance of competing. With Pokémon Let’s Go: Eevee/Pikachu coming soon, it’s not hard to figure out that Nintendo was already on a confirmed goldmine since 1997 with this brand. Even with the Gamecube fiasco, Pokémon will still remain.

-Graphics matter. Most of the games on this top 10 list are marketed to show off their graphical capabilities; to see how far games can go to recreate realism and high polygon count. This still hasn’t changed one bit. No one wants to play a game that looks basic, but the way studios are allocating too much money on graphic tech these days can get really scary and desperate.

Don’t get me wrong; there was still a lot to prove back in ’95, but the leap was much further from then onwards instead of now where it takes precedence over gameplay most of the time.

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