The Legend of Zelda: A Sales History

by William D'Angelo, posted on 19 June 2012 / 11,331 Views

Welcome to this week’s edition of “A Sales History.” This week we will be taking a look at the sales history of The Legend of Zelda franchise, which was requested by user SangheliZealotX last week. To clarify one thing, the sales will be for the main games released on consoles, otherwise the charts would be too cluttered.

Last week we looked at sales history of Super Smash Bros. and the week before that Battlefield. If there is a particular franchise (no matter how obscure) you want to see the sales history for, requests are always welcome.

History of the Game

The Legend of Zelda franchise is an action-adventure series based in a fantasy world known as Hyrule. Hyrule is inhabited by elven humanoids called Hylians. The main character Link, as well as the princess Zelda are Hylians. The protagonist Link is a reincarnated Hylian youth who wears a green tunic and pointed hat. Link is often given the task of rescuing Princess Zelda who has been captured by Ganon, or other antagonists.

The original game was released on the NES on February 21, 1986 in Japan. The game was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. It was the first game in the series to feature the Triforce, however it only had two pieces, Wisdom and Power, as well as the main characters Link, Zelda and Ganon.

The gameplay features a mix of action, adventure, battles, puzzles, exploration, and quests. While the basic elements have remained the same over the years, the series has gone through refinements, with the biggest transformation coming in the way of 3D with the release of Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64.

Sales Overview

The Legend of Zelda Sales History

In the chart above, the Legend of Zelda franchise for consoles has sold 38.90 million units. Looking at the release dates the majority of the games were released in the 2000’s, four. With one released in the 1980’s, two in the 1990’s, and one in the 2010’s. There was one main game released on the NES ( VGChartz does not have any sales figures for The Adventure of Link), one for the SNES, two for the Nintendo 64, three on the game GameCube and two on the Wii. Twilight Princess is the only mainline console game to be released on two consoles.

Twilight Princess with both versions combined is the bestselling Zelda game, but if you separate the two than Ocarina of Time is the bestselling. Twilight Princess has sold 6.51 million units on the Wii and 1.59 million units on the GameCube. Four Swords is the clear outlier, not even selling a million units.

The Legend of Zelda Sales History

Looking at the bar graph above it is easy to see that The Legend of Zelda franchise has not had consistent sales over its lifetimes. One thing that does stick out that on the platforms with more than one Zelda game is that the first game is always the bestselling. Ocarina of Time outsold Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker outsold Four Swords and the GameCube version of Twilight Princess, and the Wii version of Twilight Princess outsold Skyward Sword.

The Legend of Zelda Sales History

Looking at the sales for each console in a pie chart (Twilight Princess sales have been split up), the NES sold 6.51 million units, the SNES 4.61 million units, N64 10.96 million units, GameCube 7.00 million units, and the Wii 9.82 million units. The average sales per game on each console is 6.51 million on the NES, 4.61 million on the SNES, 5.48 million on the N64, 2.33 million on the GameCube, and 4.91 million on the Wii.

Weekly Sales

The Legend of Zelda Sales History

Looking at the weekly sales of Twilight Princess for the Wii and Skyward Sword shows that while Skyward Sword had a much bigger launch, its sales quickly fell after two months of being on the market. Skyward Sword had sold 2.03 million units after four weeks on sale, and passed three million after nine weeks. It took Twilight Princess eight weeks to pass two million units sold and 27 weeks to pass three million. Twilight Princess has had much stronger legs averaging between 30,000 and 40,000 units sold on a weekly basis six months after release, while Skyward Sword is only averaging around 10,000 units sold per week. Skyward Sword is not looking likely that it will reach four million sold.

Predictions for Future Releases

There is nothing definite about future releases in the series. However Nintendo has hinted at an HD The Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U. They have confirmed an original title for the 3DS and are thinking about a remake of Majora’s Mask. Predictions for future titles are only speculative at best when it comes to The Legend of Zelda, because their sales and release dates have been sporadic.

With no announcement for any Zelda game at E3 2012, the earliest we should expect to see a new game is during the holiday 2013. But with Skyward Sword just released this past Fall, don’t expect to see Zelda on the Wii U until well into 2014. That would give Nintendo three years to develop the game. For the 3DS, while Ocarina of Time 3D was released roughly a little over a year ago, it was just a port of the N64 game. A Zelda 3DS game should come out before the Wii U game. Let’s say a release in Fall 2013.

Predicting the sales will be even harder. With neither game being a launch title should help sales at launch. First week sales should top one million units worldwide for both games. Also lifetime sales for both games should easily be over three million units. The 3DS game will most likely sell between Spirit Tracks and Phantom Hourglass which sold 3.10 million units and 4.93 million units respectively. That would put lifetime sales in the 3.5 million to 4.5 million unit range. The Wii U game could top out at around seven million units, but will more than likely sell in the five to six million unit range.

Contact VGChartz at wdangelo@vgchartz.com


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20 Comments

Mensrea (on 19 June 2012)

Metroid sales history. Make it happen cap'n.


Metroid33slayer (on 19 June 2012)

Zelda II Adventures of link?


Michael-5 (on 20 June 2012)

Wha..... I'm sorry this sales history was terribly done. You didn't include any handheld iterations despite games like Phantom, Hourglass, A Link the The Past, Minish Cap, and Oracles of Seasons/Ages being direct story entries...


NobleTeam360 (on 20 June 2012)

I don't know if this one has been done but how about Final Fantasy.


jamesmarkus87 (on 19 June 2012)

I fail to understand why people hate Skyward Sword so much. It's my second favourite Zelda game, behind Ocarina of Time.


usrevenge (on 20 June 2012)

its not bad on its own. when orcarina of time came out it was ground breaking, but when you have epic stories like mass effect and dragon age, and you have epic open world games like skyrim. it just doesn't compare.
its a bad game because it doesn't compare the the competition, not to mention the motion controls

many people pirated the game and run it though PC to avoid the motion controls of the wii.
original zelda is my favorite, just staying. first game with "save" iirc.


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duckypwns (on 20 June 2012)

Not sure if this site allows picture links but:

http://i47.tinypic.com/2w514aw.png

Truest thing I have ever seen about the Skyrim / Skyward Sword debate. (ignore the dildo joke, I'm not insulting anyone I just agree with the point the picture is making)

They're not even really competitors. Skyrim is an ARPG, while Skyward Sword is more of an action adventure game that focuses more on combat, equipment variety, enemy / boss variety, etc.

In Skyrim there was no reason to use your weak attack. It was just what you did when you were waiting for your stronger attack to recharge. There's really no depth to the combat whatsoever, can't even be considered two dimensional. You just do the same thing over and over again.

The motion controls in Skyward Sword were done very well and honestly I feel like it's the only game in the entire Wii library that proved that motion controls could be worth something. (Haven't played Wii Sports 2 which I heard is also very good.) Swinging the sword is very precise and is utilized in unique and interesting ways on different enemies / bosses.


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duckypwns (on 20 June 2012)

SS and Skyrim aren't even really competitors. SS is an action adventure game that focuses on giving you new equipment incrementally as you proceed through the game (thus giving you a new gameplay mechanic; a new puzzle solving possibility). It focuses much more heavily on combat variation, and enemy / boss variety than Skyrim does. I also feel like it was the only game on the Wii that proved that motion controls could be worth something. It was always very precise and it was satisfying to kill enemies in a new way for once. It was interesting having to actually watch what your opponent was doing, how they were holding their weapon, and responding accordingly.

Skyrim is an open world ARPG where you do the same attacks over and over again. There is no reason to use your weak attack. It's just what you do when you run out of stamina for your strong attack. Thus, the combat system really can't even be considered two dimensional.

Regardless of whether you prefer SS or Skyrim... We can't deny that they are very different. To say that Skyrim is flat out better is very silly. Go read the comment I left on the Skyrim article a while back (near when the game came out).


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duckypwns (on 20 June 2012)

Sorry for double post. I assumed it deleted my original because I put a tinypic link so I typed a similar post to the same effect without the link.


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Turkish (on 20 June 2012)

Because it doesn't have the old magic of say Ocarina and Majoras Mask or Windwaker. It feels outdated somehow.


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cusman (on 20 June 2012)

This is why Nintendo should do everything in it's power to make Zelda a launch software. I fully believe that was a big reason for the Wii's early success which lead to shortages which lead to media hype and free press and lots and lots of Wii Sports exposure.


Squall_Leonhart (on 20 June 2012)

I would like to see either Final Fantasy or Crash Bandicoot next :)


Conegamer (on 20 June 2012)

I think Skyward Sword will reach 4mil easily. It deserves to, perhaps the best Zelda.


Gilgamesh (on 19 June 2012)

Link to the past still an awesome game! Do Gran turismo next


LinkVPit (on 19 June 2012)

Sonic sales history would be good! Loved Skyward Sword, not quite the Wind Waker though!


trunkswd (on 19 June 2012)

That is a good one to do, thanks. I'll stick with the console games though when I do it.


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Mad55 (on 19 June 2012)

Man Skyward sword sales are a bit disappointing. Though Hopefully the wiiU zelda can pick up steam


LinkVPit (on 19 June 2012)

I'd think they released it too late in the Wii's cycle! Shame its an amazing game!


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FujiokaMidori (on 19 June 2012)

It's because the game is mediocre that players don't care anymore. Neither Batman nor Skyrim have droped that bad (other contestants for Game of the Year) Next Zelda will be a true game, and will sell far better, so don't worry (:


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AceRandum (on 22 June 2012)

Twilight Princess is my favorite Zelda ever, and to me probally the best so far.


BasilZero (on 23 June 2012)

Twilight Princess 4 lyfe ;p


Aidman (on 20 June 2012)

My top 5 zelda games is : 1. Skyward Sword 2. A Link to The Past 3. The Wind Waker 4. Ocarina of Time 5. Link's Awakening. Skyward Sword is a masterpiece.


Araknie (on 20 June 2012)

In the article you talk about other Zelda games not included in the list, and don't talk me about spin-off stuff and what not, because in any other sales history they were included. Plus Zelda II isn't a spin-off.


FujiokaMidori (on 19 June 2012)

Skyward Sword may reach Link to the Past... but that's as far as I expect it to go. SO MUCH interest has been lost by players... it's not even in Japan's Top 100 selling games, nor in Europe, and keeps droping in the US and the rest of the world.


Araknie (on 20 June 2012)

It's been out for months on an underrated system, i think that's normal.


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LinkVPit (on 19 June 2012)

Didn't ocarina Of Time 3D do nearly 2.5 million?? where's that on the chart?


Chuva (on 19 June 2012)

Read the article before commenting please.


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Nem (on 19 June 2012)

Odd that this doesnt feature Zelda 3D for the 3DS. It would make Ocarina of time sell more than twilight princess.


the_dengle (on 20 June 2012)

Not odd at all. Twilight Princess was released (more or less) simultaneously on two consoles. Ocarina was remade 13 years after its original release. Note that A Link to the Past's sales don't include the GBA remake.

Think of it this way: in a Metroid sales history article, you wouldn't "combine" the sales of Metroid for NES and Zero Mission for GBA. Not the same game, not the same release, not the same sales. The sales of the two versions of Twilight Princess were clearly affected by the dual-release.


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duckypwns (on 20 June 2012)

Could it be that TP only sold so well because it was both on the Gamecube and the Wii? Not sure why it did so well... It wasn't that great. Also the two best 3D Zelda games are near the bottom, MM and SS.


Mnementh (on 20 June 2012)

Probably because it was on the best-selling home-console of Nintendo and a launch-game.


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Fusioncode (on 19 June 2012)

Skyward Sword was mediocre, not surprised to see it's sales.


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