Ranked: The best-selling video game consoles of all time

In 1972, the very first commercially available home video game console hit the market: the Magnavox Odyssey. Players of the Odyssey had a choice of two built-in games that were stored directly on the device and used a joystick and dials as a controller.

Video game consoles have come a long way since then, and the console market has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to reach $72.67 billion in value by the end of 2022.

This graph of Enrique Mendoza uses data from VGChartz to show the industry’s market leaders, highlighting the best-selling video consoles of all time, as of May 8, 2022.

Nine generations of video game consoles

Before diving into the best-selling consoles, it’s worth taking a step back to discuss the evolution of home consoles to show how they’ve changed over the years.

We dug into the literature on the history of video game consoles and found that most articles and blog posts on the subject quote nine different generationss of appliances.

Here’s a breakdown of each generation and some of their most notable systems:

1972: Gen One, Where It Began

The first generation consoles had pre-built games that were stored directly on the device. They include the Magnavox Odyssey and the Atari Pong.

1976: the second generation emerges

In this generation, games were sold separately, rather than programmed into the device. Consoles of this generation include the Fairchild Channel F and the Atari 2600.

1983: Gen Three, the “8-bit generation”

Consoles of this era typically had 8-bit processes which allowed for more advanced graphics for the era. A few notable consoles during this generation were the Sega SG-1000 and the Nintendo Famicom, released outside of Japan as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

1987: The fourth generation elevates portable gaming

Home consoles were released with 16-bit systems, which meant the audio and graphics got even better at this time. But arguably a bigger moment for this generation was the emergence of the Nintendo Game Boy.

1993: The 3D debut of generation five

This generation saw the abandonment of pixels in favor of 3D polygons. Some consoles like the Sony PlayStation started using CD-ROMs instead of cartridges, which stored more data at lower cost and changed the industry.

1998: The sixth generation and the Internet

At the start of this generation, the top three players in the console space were sony, Segaand nintendo. In the end, Sega would be replaced by Microsoft launching the Xbox and helping to popularize console gaming online.

2005: Gen Seven HD graphics and motion controls

On one side of the market, Microsoft and Sony were competing with high definition graphics, faster processors and different forms (Blu-ray or DVD). But Nintendo’s motion-sensing Nintendo Wii arguably defined this generation, and the handheld Nintendo DS also swept the market.

2012: Gen Eight modern consoles

Consoles from this era began to have increased connectivity and processing power, with Full HD expectation. It was also an extremely long generation, starting with Nintendo’s failed Wii U and ending with the ultra-successful Nintendo Switch, widely considered the first hybrid console with three different ways to play: TV mode , portable mode or table mode.

2020: Gen Nine and beyond

So far, this generation has brought improved graphics (up to 8K resolution), larger games, and game streaming capabilities. Devices from this generation include the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5, both of which use solid state drives to increase speed and performance, while Nintendo has yet to introduce a 9th generation device.

The best-selling game consoles

The best-selling video game console of all time is Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2). More … than 157 million systems have been sold worldwide since its launch in March 2000.

Rank Console Maker Global lifetime sales (millions)
1 PlayStation 2 (PS2) sony 157.68
2 Nintendo DS (DS) nintendo 154.90
3 Game Boy (GB) nintendo 118.69
4 Playstation 4 (PS4) sony 116.97
5 Nintendo Switch (NS) nintendo 107.21
6 PlayStation (PS) sony 102.50
seven Nintendo Wii (Wii) nintendo 101.64
8 PlayStation 3 (PS3) sony 87.41
9 Xbox 360 (X360) Microsoft 85.8
ten Game Boy Advance (GBA) nintendo 81.51
11 PlayStation Portable (PSP) sony 81.09
12 Nintendo 3DS (3DS) nintendo 75.95
13 Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) nintendo 61.91
14 Xbox One (XOne) Microsoft 50.57
15 Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) nintendo 49.10
16 Nintendo 64 (N64) nintendo 32.93
17 Sega Genesis (GEN) Sega 29.54
18 Atari 2600 (2600) Atari 27.64
19 Xbox (XB) Microsoft 24.65
20 GameCube (CG) nintendo 21.74
21 Playstation 5 (PS5) sony 7:32 p.m.
22 PlayStation Vita (PSV) sony 16.21
23 Xbox Series X/S (XS) Microsoft 2:32 p.m.
24 Nintendo Wii U (Wii U) nintendo 13.97
25 Game Gear (GG) Sega 10.62
26 Sega Saturn (SAT) Sega 8.82
27 Dreamcast (DC) Sega 8:20 am
28 Atari 7800 (7800) Atari 4:30

Despite the fact that the PS2 has been discontinued since 2013, no other game console has managed to surpass it – in fact, the next closest actively selling consoles, the PS4 and Nintendo Switch, are each more than 40 million units behind.

One of the main success factors of the PS2 was its built-in DVD player. At the time, DVD players were very expensive, and in many places a PS2 was a cheaper and more effective alternative. It was also one of the first devices to be “backward compatible”, meaning users could play most of their PS1 games on the PS2. This meant gamers didn’t have to buy a whole new library of games when they upgraded to a PS2, and Sony could tap into its existing customer base.

But while Sony’s PS2 is the top-selling console on the list, Nintendo has more top-selling consoles on the list – nearly half of the consoles on the list are made by Nintendo (11), while just seven are manufactured by Sony.

What will it take to sell more than the PS2?

As the PS4 has begun to overtake the PS5 in sales and promotion, the current most likely contender for the top-selling console crown is the Nintendo Switch. At the start of 2022, it was the fastest console to sell 100 million units.

With a lot of hype surrounding the possibilities of AR and VR, it will be interesting to see what new features come with the next generation of game consoles.

Will future devices ever beat the PS2 sales record? Time will tell us. But for now, the 22-year-old console continues to hold its well-deserved place at the top.

This article was published as part of Visual Capitalist’s Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite creators from around the world.