A Look at Nintendo Systems’ Sales Over the Years, From 1989 to 2020

Nintendo has been around for a while and is one of the pioneers in the video game space. It has developed/published hundreds of fantastic games and has created successful (and some not so successful) consoles over the years. Recently, a post on Visual Capitalist showcased a timeline of Nintendo's consoles and handhelds — along with their total sales, giving us a visual representation of just how well each piece of hardware performed — and it's absolutely fascinating.

The post features an infographic starting with the original Game Boy in 1989, covering all the systems from then until 2020 with the Nintendo Switch. What's interesting is that not all of the company's systems sold exceptionally well. In its current state Nintendo is viewed as a wildly successful company, but you might not know it based on some of the sales of its consoles. Here's a look at the infographic in full.

20 years of nintendo console sales

And here's a breakdown of the sales figures for each Nintendo system from 1989 – 2020 (to date):

  • Game Boy — 118.5m
  • SNES — 49.1m
  • Nintendo 64 — 32.9m
  • Game Boy Advance — 81.5m
  • Nintendo GameCube — 21.7m
  • Nintendo DS — 154m
  • Nintendo Wii — 101.6m
  • Nintendo 3DS — 75.9m
  • Wii U — 13.6m
  • Nintendo Switch — 68.3m

While there's a lot to take in with this infographic, there are a few highlights we should make note of.

Particularly, the Nintendo DS is an absolute beast of a handheld, reaching 154 million units sold, which makes it nearly the bestselling system of all time, trailing only the PS2 at a staggering 155 million total sales. Other highlights include the Wii, surpassing 101 million units sold and becoming one of the most popular consoles ever. It was a machine that catered to a broader audience, leading to tremendous sales. “Even grandma could play!” was something people said when the Wii was popular.

But for every successful system like the DS or Wii, Nintendo has had its fair share of duds. Specifically, if you were a Nintendo fan from 2012 – 2016, things were bleak due to the Wii U. All in all, that console only reached 13.6 million units sold and is widely regarded as a failure for the company — despite the console being home to an excellent offering of first-party games. Nintendo tried to bank on the success of the Wii, but ultimately shot itself in the foot, as many consumers weren't even aware it was a brand new system.

Nostalgia Rose Tinted Glasses

Nintendo 64 with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Surprisingly, nostalgic systems like the Nintendo 64 or GameCube aren't as successful as you might think — at least compared to other Nintendo systems. At 32.9 million and 21.7 million units sold, respectively, these two systems were outpaced by their competitors at the time: The PlayStation and the PlayStation 2. Nonetheless, the N64 and GameCube featured some of the greatest games of all time including Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker, and Resident Evil 4. Though it's clear that even great games aren't enough to sell systems, unfortunately.

That brings us to the Nintendo Switch — a system that is a complete departure from the disastrous performance of the Wii U. In just under four years, the Nintendo Switch has managed to outsell the SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii U, and is well on its way to outperform the Game Boy Advance and 3DS. The Nintendo Switch currently sits at a comfortable 68.3 million units sold, which might not sound like a lot (comparatively speaking) but what's impressive is that it has managed to reach that number in record time.

Keep in mind, all of these stats are lifetime sales figures, meaning the Switch has gotten to this point way faster than many had anticipated. This includes the base model Switch (along with the slightly upgraded version with a longer battery life), and the Switch Lite — a handheld version of the console hybrid. If the Nintendo Switch continues at this pace, it could be well on its way to becoming one of the bestselling Nintendo systems ever.

All of this is to say that even a company as important as Nintendo has had its ups and downs over the years. It has come a long way since being a card and toy company when it was founded in 1889. And though not all of the company's products have been successful, the video game industry would not be where it is today without Nintendo.

Source: Visual Capitalist

Joseph loves Nintendo and horror games. When he's not writing about video games he can usually be found petting his cats and listening to some Progressive Metal. He thinks Meshuggah is tight.