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NES Turns 35 in North America, Top 10 Best-Selling NES Games

NES Turns 35 in North America, Top 10 Best-Selling NES Games - Sales

by William D'Angelo , posted on 01 November 2020 / 5,733 Views

The Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as the NES (and Famicom in Japan), launched 35 years ago on October 18, 1985. It is the console that helped turn around the dying video game market in North America after the crash in 1983. 

The console at first was only available in the biggest market in the USA, New York City, as a test market to see how successful the console could be in the nation before getting a full North American release in 1986. 

The NES is the 13th best-selling video game platform in history. It is also Nintendo's seventh best-selling platform with 61.91 million units sold lifetime and third best-selling Nintendo home console, behind the Wii and Switch. However, the Switch is a hybrid of a console and handheld.

The NES proved most successful in North America, but also sold exceedingly well in Japan and decently in Europe. It sold 33.49 million units in North America, 19.35 million units in Japan, and 8.30 million units in Europe. It has also sold a combined 0.77 million units across the rest of the world.

NES Turns 35 in North America, Top 10 Best-Selling NES Games

78 games for the console managed to sell over one million units, 31 games sold more than two million units, and three sold over 10 million units.

Super Mario Bros. is the biggest hit on the platform with 40.24 million units sold. The game was heavily bundled with the console.

Duck Hunt comes in second place with 28.31 million units shipped, followed by Super Mario Bros. 3 at 17.28 million units sold, Super Mario Bros. 2 at 7.46 million units, and The Legend of Zelda at 6.51 million units. Tetris is the one other game to have sold five million units. 

The rest of the top 10 includes Dr. Mario with 4.85 million units sold, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link with 4.38 million units, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with 4.17 million units, and Excitebike with 4.17 million units.

NES Turns 35 in North America, Top 10 Best-Selling NES Games

A life-long and avid gamer, William D'Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel dedicated to gaming Let's Plays and tutorials. You can contact the author at or on Twitter @TrunksWD.

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Mr Puggsly (on 19 October 2020)

TMNT... fuck that game.

  • +8
Cerebralbore101 (on 18 October 2020)

Hiroshi Yamauchi had balls of steel, trying to sell this thing in the USA after the 1983 crash.

  • +6
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Cerebralbore101 Cerebralbore101 (on 18 October 2020)

Yeah they did. Nintendolife did an article on it a while back.

  • +2
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javi741 Cerebralbore101 (on 18 October 2020)

Nintendo was close to striking a deal with Atari to market the NES in NA under the Atari name. However, Atari initially threatened to back out once they saw a port of Donkey Kong running on a Coleco Computer when Atari owned the exclusive rights to Donkey Kong on the PC. Nintendo slammed Coleco for doing this and eventually worked things out. However, the CEO of Atari was fired soon afterwards without any papers being signed for the deal, and talks went no where. Nintendo later found out that Atari only wanted to strike a deal with Nintendo to do research on the NES hardware rather than sell the NES.

  • +3
TruckOSaurus (on 19 October 2020)

TMNT sold because of how popular the franchise was at the time. I did own that game and it was so terrible.

  • +2
The_Liquid_Laser (on 18 October 2020)

Happy Birthday to greatest video game system ever made!

  • +2
2zosteven The_Liquid_Laser (on 19 October 2020)

amazing system, still have 1 that works great.

  • +2
Jaicee (on 18 October 2020)

Ten of my personal favorites for the NES today include, in no particular order, the original Metal Gear, The Guardian Legend, Maniac Mansion, Star Tropics, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Baseball Stars, Castlevania 2, Super Mario Bros. 2 (the U.S. version), and Ninja Gaiden.

  • +2
The_Liquid_Laser Jaicee (on 18 October 2020)

That is a pretty good list. My top tep would be something like this: The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros 3, Ultima: Quest for the Avatar, Zelda 2, Punch Out!!, Metroid, Final Fantasy, Castlevania 3, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden.

  • +2
Jaicee Jaicee (on 18 October 2020)

Good call on Ultima! Now I wish I could change my list from before.

  • +2
catofellow (on 20 October 2020)

And here is the earliest evidence of why 3rd parties later abandoned Nintendo. It wasn't the lack of a CD drive years later with the Nintendo 64. Nintendo consoles exist to sell Nintendo published games.

  • 0
TheBraveGallade (on 18 October 2020)

apparently everyone wants to mooch off of nintendo hardware... its the same thing sony did later.

  • 0