Early sales of Nintendo's new Switch console -- and its best launch title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild -- have broken plenty of sales records so far. But how does it compare with the great Nintendo consoles of the past?
To celebrate the Switch launch, we've ranked the last 31 years of Nintendo consoles and their games based on total worldwide sales so far. And Nintendo's top console is ...
The 8-bit Nintendo Game Boy was a smash success for Nintendo, establishing the company as the dominant player in the handheld gaming market.
Its 160x144 monochrome screen looks dated today, but in 1989, gamers just couldn't get enough. Nintendo sold 118.69 million units of the handheld.
Caption byFox Van Allen
/ Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestoft, Corbis / Getty Images
Game Boy launch title Tetris -- the first piece of USSR-developed software to be released in the US -- was so addictive that the Chicago Tribune joked in 1988 that the game could be "part of a diabolical plot hatched in the Evil Empire to lower worker productivity in the United States."
Diehard Nintendo fans, such as this man, camped out in front of stores for days -- literally -- just to be the first to get their hands on the console. It remains the company's most successful home console to date, selling 101.63 million units since its November 2006 launch.
Caption byFox Van Allen
/ Photo by Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images
Though Mario made earlier appearances in both Donkey Kong and Mario Bros., this is the game that made the Nintendo character a true star. Roughly 40.22 million cartridges have been sold since its 1985 release.
Though the 16-bit Sega Genesis had a one-year head start on the 16-bit Super NES, a steady stream of gaming hits (Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Kart, Final Fantasy II and III, Super Metroid, etc.) pushed Nintendo's console over the top in terms of sales.
The Super Nintendo Entertainment System sold 49.1 million units, about 18 million more than Sega Genesis.
It's a bit early to be ranking the Nintendo Switch here, we'll admit. But the early numbers look very promising.
According to Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime, Switch had the strongest two-day launch in Nintendo history, even outselling the Wii. Nintendo is forecasting sales of 2 million units through March; IDC analyst Lewis Ward says the Switch is on pace to sell 8 million units through Q1 2018.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been getting tremendous reviews since its March 3, 2017 launch. Critics are largely divided into two camps: Those who think it's the best Zelda game in decades, and those who think it's the best Zelda game ever. (The game currently has a 98 rating on Metacritic.)
Nintendo isn't releasing specific sales figures for the game yet. Fils-Aime did share this bit of info, though: Breath of the Wild the best-selling stand-alone launch title in Nintendo history, beating Super Mario 64.
Virtual-reality gaming is the new hotness, but for Nintendo, it's nothing new -- the company came out with its first VR console in 1995.
Unfortunately, the tech was not ready for prime time then. The 32-bit Virtual Boy was so heavy, it couldn't be worn on your head. And the red monochrome images projected on its screens were notorious for causing severe headaches.
The console was a huge flop for Nintendo, selling just 770,000 units. It was discontinued less than a year after its launch.
Only 14 games were released for the system in North America, the best selling of the bunch being Mario Tennis. That shouldn't come as a surprise, though: The game was bundled with every $179.95 Virtual Boy console sold.