The first-person shooter has been among the most popular video game genres for nearly a decade. As a result, studios have pumped out scores of top-notch titles that let players go to war against computer opponents and each other. Although the shooter has surged in popularity in recent years, the roots of the genre stretch back to the days of 8-bit gaming. And if the sales trends continue, first-person shooters aren’t in danger of dying out anytime soon.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the five most popular first-person shooters of all time. The sales figures come from VGChartz, a site that tallies up sales figures for games and consoles, and lets you view the information in a number of ways. For the sake of having a diverse list, we’ve roped together several series of shooters that have many high-selling installments, placing them in rank by the highest-selling individual title. Read on to see if your favorite shooter made the cut. (1/23/15: Changed to reflect updated sales numbers.)
5. GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye 007 might not be a pretty game, and it might not control very well by today’s standards, but in its day, this was the only multiplayer shooter you needed. The campaign of this Nintendo 64 exclusive let you play as everyone’s favorite martini-drinking spy, but it was the multiplayer mode that kept fans coming back for years to come. The split-screen multiplayer mode let you and three buddies gather around the television and chase each other through a variety of environments, pumping bullets into one another with glee. With a variety of gameplay modes, a large cast of characters, and plenty of maps to use as a playground, GoldenEye 007 was the only first-person shooter you needed in the late ’90s.
The game sold 8.09 million copies, landing it at number five on the list.
4. The Halo Series
Halo is kind of the grandaddy of console shooters, because it’s the series that proved once and for all that you could control this type of game using a game pad. Once other game developers caught on, the genre exploded in popularity. The series is set in the distant future, and stars a group of superhuman soldiers called Spartans, who try to fight off an alliance of alien races called the Covenant. The lore goes deep, and the games continue to sell like hotcakes. A collection of the first four Halo games came out late last year for Xbox One. That, along with Halo 5, which is expected to release this year, could push the series into even higher rungs of popularity.
All told, the Halo series has sold over 56 million copies, with an average of 8.09 million per game. With Halo 3’s 12.01 million sales, the Halo series comes in at number four on the list. Here’s a breakdown of sales by title.
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection — 1.92 million units sold
- Halo 3: ODST – 6.29 million units sold
- Halo: Combat Evolved – 8.78 million units sold
- Halo 2 – 8.57 million units sold
- Halo 4 – 9.38 million units sold
- Halo: Reach – 9.7 million units sold
- Halo 3 – 12.01 million units sold
3. The Battlefield Series
The Battlefield series has seen 11 installments so far and is still going strong. Set during a number of different wars and time periods, these games tend to have sprawling multiplayer maps and a heavy focus on vehicles. You can hop behind the wheel of a jeep, tank, helicopter, or bomber plane — or you can stay on your feet and do your shooting from the ground. The games are a major moneymaker for Electronic Arts, with yearly installments coming out like clockwork each fall — except for 2014, as Battlefield: Hardline has been pushed back to this year.
Taken together, the recent installments of the Battlefield series have sold over 36 million copies, with an average of 12.07 million per game. The 17.05 million sales of Battlefield 3 put the series at number three on the list. Here’s a breakdown of sales by title.
- Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – 7.05 million units sold
- Battlefield 4 – 12.12 million units sold
- Battlefield 3 – 17.05 million units sold
2. Duck Hunt
While it’s not a first-person shooter in the same sense that the others on this list are, Duck Hunt has outsold just about every modern shooter out there. The way it did that was by coming bundled in with with the enormously popular Nintendo Entertainment System (it came on the same cartridge as Super Mario Bros.). To play Duck Hunt, you aimed a light gun peripheral at the television and shot at moving targets, like ducks or clay pigeons. Although it has always been overshadowed by Mario, Duck Hunt has carved out a place in gaming history, and lands in the second slot on the list of the most popular shooters of all time.
The game sold 28.31 million units in its lifetime, which easily lands it in the number two slot on the list. (1/23/15: Corrected the sales to reflect millions of units sold.)
1. The Call of Duty Series
Landing at number one on the list of most popular first-person shooters of all time is a behemoth so mighty it seems almost unstoppable: the Call of Duty series. Like the Battlefield games, this series has hopped between many time periods, from World War II to modern times, and many fictional conflicts in between. Each new installment has a bombastic campaign that could be straight out of a Michael Bay movie, plus a robust multiplayer component that many people pour hundreds of hours into. To keep up with demand, Activision has three development teams who take turns bringing out a new installment every fall. For their part, gamers keep buying the titles in record-breaking numbers.
For the titles listed below, the Call of Duty series has sold over 191 million units, bringing the average sales per title to 23.87 million. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Black Ops both topped the sales of Duck Hunt, bringing the series in at number one on the list. Here’s a breakdown of sales by title.
- Call of Duty: World at War – 17.37 million units sold
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare — 17.6 million units sold
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – 17.91 million units sold
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – 24.74 million units sold
- Call of Duty: Ghosts – 25.28 million units sold
- Call of Duty: Black Ops II – 28.07 million units sold
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – 30.11 million units sold
- Call of Duty: Black Ops – 30.17 million units sold