What do you believe to be the most popular game and franchise in the racing game genre? What position do you think the major players have in the overall scheme? The answer might surprise you, not to beat a dead horse that has already passed away, been cremated, and been reborn as a clickbait website editor. These are the top racing game series with a few other best-selling games thrown in.
152 million copies of Mario Kart
Put those Forza forecasts away for the moment and broaden your horizons. The Mario Kart series is about as far away from realistic simulations driven by graphics as you can get. The revenue this business has generated throughout the years is unbelievable, and it effectively buries Forza ten times over.
Over 152 million units of the Mario Kart series have been solid overall. Of all the racing games, Mario Kart may have the most ‘playful’ appeal to all people. Yes, it has a longevity to its advantage—as of August of next year, it will be 30 years old—but each title sells in significant quantities. With 37 million copies sold during its eight years of availability on Nintendo Wii U and Switch, Mario Kart 8 is the best-selling racing game of all time. Eight top 20 best-selling slots are occupied by Mario Kart games, claiming the first four spots on the list of all-time best-selling racing games. Yeah…
150 million copies of Need for Speed
Need for Speed, which is (slightly) more realistic, isn’t far behind, having sold just over 150 million copies throughout its 27-year existence. Once more, it benefits from the duration of tenure. Before the first Forza game was released, NFS had been active for more than ten years.
Naturally, NFS games take up a few slots on the list of best-selling games. Seventh place goes to Most Wanted, which sold 16 million copies. With 15 million and 7 million units sold, Underground and Underground two rank ninth and sixteenth, respectively. Totaling five spots, NFS is among the top 21 best-selling titles.
85 million copies of Gran Turismo were sold
Naturally, Gran Turismo is the next. As a franchise, it’s a little bit younger than the one mentioned above, with the first installment arriving in 1997, three years after the debut of Need for Speed. The Gran Turismo franchise has sold over 85 million units during its 25-year lifespan. With the slogan “The Real Driving Simulator,” it was maybe the first racing game to fully embrace simulation, realism, and graphic detail. In 2021, there will be more realistic driving sims available, but GT still holds the top spot and, for many, always will.
The top 20 selling racing video games include seven Gran Turismo games. Each GT4 and GT5 sold over 17 million units, placing them fifth and sixth on the list of best-selling models, respectively. The fact that most Gran Turismo games are on the top-sellers list, except a few peripheral games, may reflect how highly the franchise is held in fans’ hearts and minds.
19 million copies of Driver
The 22-year-old Driver series ranks fourth among racing game franchises in terms of sales. The Driver was first released in 1999 and catered more to the action movie side of driving. Imagine GTA with some genuine automobiles and none of the heavy R-rated content. Do you think it would be enjoyable to cruise around San Francisco in a Pagani Zonda Cinque? Us too.
Despite having 19 million in total sales, this is the first series on our list of the top-selling franchises that don’t have individual entries in the top 21 best-selling games. This may reflect the historical hegemony the original “big three” video games—Mario Kart, Need for Speed, and Gran Turismo—have had. Driver: San Francisco, released in 2011, was the series’ most recent significant installment. Although there have been rumors of sequels, it is generally accepted that the Watch Dogs series is a recycled version of the work initially done for the New Driver games.
18.5 million copies of Midnight Club
Midnight Club, like Need for Speed, is regarded by gamers as a crucially important game in the development of street auto culture. These games and the NFS Underground games showed a generation how to use their cars to express themselves. Midnight Club has been a dormant brand since its previous entry, much like Driver.
Midnight Club: Street Racing, which debuted in 2000, marked the start of a decade in which groundbreaking racing games sold over 18.5 million copies. Grand Theft Auto was a huge success for Rockstar Games, the firm that created it, and we’re not sure why they haven’t given it a new lease on life. Oh, that’ll be because GTA brings in all the cash in the world.
16 million copies of Forza
Finally, we get to Forza, which in 2021 may be the racing franchise that gamers of all ages are most familiar with. With Forza Motorsport as its debut title in 2005, the franchise has now split into racing and open-world categories, with eleven Forza-titled games being released in the past 16 years.
Why have just 16 million copies been sold? We may argue that the Xbox exclusivity works against it, but the Gran Turismo series, which is exclusive to the Playstation, has amassed over 85 million… In all honesty, we would focus on the franchise’s relatively young. It is undoubtedly the most successful item on this list right now, and with a major revitalization on the horizon (pun intended), we’d wager that it will move up the list a few more spots.
Best among the others
What else is part of the group with over 10 million copies? The groundbreaking Burnout series, which showed a generation how fun it could be to wreck imaginary vehicles in imaginary places, is trailing Forza by a million units. Since the amazing Burnout: Paradise, it has been dormant and is currently unable to defend its seventh-place ranking in the best-sellers against…
Asphalt. This is the only racing game available exclusively on mobile, ranking ninth if you exclude some of the titles on this list that have mobile versions. Asphalt has sold over 10 million downloads, and its most recent installment, Asphalt 9: Legends, was released in 2018.
The ten million franchise’s last member? Possibly the best rally franchise in the early 2000s was Colin McRae Rally. It might be said that it continues to exist in the DiRT series it gave rise to.