Best Selling Sports Video Games of All Time

Sports fans of a certain age don’t quite understand the importance and influence of video games in today’s culture.

Sure, Millennials and Gen Zers kind of get it. They’ve come up during the era of esports. But everyone older than that, not to mention Millennials in their 30s themselves, don’t always grasp that video games are more than just a leisure activity. They’re becoming a pro-sport industry all their own.

Look no further than real-life sports franchises themselves. Professional teams have founded and purchased their own esports squads. And these organizations operate like other pro franchises. There are drafts, free agency, player contracts, playoffs, championships and all that. Scroll through online sports betting reviews of the top websites, and you’re bound to find esports offerings mentioned right alongside those for live sports.

First-person battle games are among the most popular used for esports tournaments and leagues. In recent years, though, the games modeled after live sports themselves have burst onto the scene. In particular, the NBA 2K league has gained a ton of steam, with some of the squads directly partnering with NBA franchises themselves.

And with this genre of esports on the rise, it makes sense to take a look at the best-selling sports games of all time. So, we’ve compiled a list of those that have flown off the shelves and drawn the most downloads. Please note that all sale numbers refer to the game franchises themselves rather than a specific edition, and they’re accurate as of the end of 2020.

1. FIFA (260 million)

It should come as no surprise that the FIFA franchise leads the way.

Soccer is, after all, the world’s sport. That means FIFA is catering to an inherently larger market than many of its competitors. It also doesn’t hurt that its list of licenses grows every year, so the game is constantly adding new teams.

More recently FIFA has drawn praise for its own version of Career Mode, in which users can run a franchise and manage it over a long period of time.

"FIFA 2016" by EASports is licensed under CC BY 3.0

2. Madden (130 million)

Madden checking in at No. 2 proves two things.

First, it helps nod to FIFA’s dominance. Though Madden finishes in second place, it has sold approximately half as many units as the first-place FIFA. That is wild.

Second, this also proves that the United States’ interest in football is second to none. So many people get caught up in baseball being America’s pastime. Really, it’s football. That is by far and away the U.S.’s most popular sport.

Anyhow, Madden’s game franchise is the standard-bearer for pro football, mostly because it’s the only one in town. EA Sports alone has maintained licensing rights, though some other brands have recently started to make a push.

Madden’s top feature is considered Franchise Mode, where users get to be the GM of their own team and follow an entire career arc. Interest in this game continues to grow each year, despite many reported glitches.

3. Pro Evolution Soccer (107 million)

Yet even more evidence of soccer’s dominance.

While Pro Evolution Soccer doesn’t have the licensing rights that EA’s FIFA does—it’s a source of jokes in the gaming world—people continuously flock towards it for the novel experience. It has a backyard sports feel to the experience.

Plus, Pro Evolution Soccer’s version of Career Mode has been deemed more extensive, since it can be enacted as part of online gameplay rather than just remotely.

4. NBA 2K (90 million)

This seems like a no-brainer on the surface, but it’s not. Gamers have other options if they want to invest in basketball. Both the NBA Live and NBA Jam franchises have enjoyed their day in the sun.

Right now, though, there is no holding a candle to NBA 2K. They have created one of the most in-depth MyPlayer experiences.

In this format, users don’t control the team. Instead, they create their own player and manage his career path every step of the way—including the draft and free-agency processes. They are even tasked with handling off-court tasks, as well. NBA 2K’s Myplayer has been touted as one of the most immersive experiences in the sports gaming industry, and it’s not hard to see why.

"NBA 2k" by 2K is licensed under CC BY 3.0 

5. Gran Turismo (80 million)

A PlayStation brand game, Gran Turismo has been around for nearly a quarter-century after debuting in 1997. No other game is more synonymous with racing, not even Xbox brand’s rival Forza Motorsport.

In Gran Turismo, users get to drive different races using cars that are modeled after actual real-life automobiles. The graphics continue to improve with each version, and the controls themselves are immersive, forcing players to really think during gameplay rather than just steer.

There is no perfectly simulating what it’s like being behind the wheel of a race car, but Gran Turismo is the next best thing.

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