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The 10 Best Selling Video Arcade Games Ever

Updated on October 20, 2011

Welcome to another one of my hubs, in this one we look at the 10 best selling arcade games ever. these rankings are based on the number of arcade hardware units sold to retail outlets and video arcades instead of the general ranking of games (amount of units sold/revenue from game).

So sit back relax and enjoy the 10 highest selling arcade machines of all time.

Just in at 10 - Donkey Kong Jr saving the big ape
Just in at 10 - Donkey Kong Jr saving the big ape

10. Donkey Kong Junior

Release Date: 1982

Hardware Units Sold: 35,000

Originally made as an arcade machine, Donkey Kong junior's success led it to be transferred to home consoles as well. A member of the enormous and ever popular Donkey Kong franchise, its place in the top 10 is well deserved.This is also the only game that Mario plays the villain.

Game plot: Mario has now captured DK and imprisoned him in a cage. Its up to Donkey Kong Jr. to save his Dad from the cage guarded by Mario.

Galaxian Machine
Galaxian Machine

9. Galaxian

Release Date: 1979/1980

Hardware Units Sold: 40,000

Galaxian is a fixed shooter game that built on the concepts and ideas of the earlier released Space Invaders, the idea of the game is to destroy all the aliens in the level to proceed further and onto boss levels, however it added an element of drama by having ships make kamikaze like dives at your ship. This was the first game to have all of its graphics in RGB colour and it was an early example of using levels and boss encounters.

Game Plot: The only plot that was behind this game was the dialog "WE ARE THE GALAXIANS / MISSION: DESTROY ALIENS" at the title screen of the game. A good example for modern games that story is not needed to make a game that will be remembered and loved for years to come.

Williams hit Defender
Williams hit Defender

8. Defender

Release Date: 1980

Hardware Units Sold: 55,000

Defender was Williams first attempt at making an arcade machine after making a name for their pinball machines. inspired by asteroids and space invaders, Defender was commercially successful and became Williams best selling arcade game. It was also ported across to several other game platforms and has been remade and had sequels made of it since.

Game Plot: This is a side-scrolling shooter game with the aim being to destroy alien ships whilst defending astronauts that are on the uninhabited planets surface. Astronauts that are not saved are abducted by the alien ships and if this happens too many times the planet becomes overrun with them and explodes, leaving you waves of mutants to kill before the planet is restored once again.

Street fighter 2
Street fighter 2

7. Street Fighter II

Release Date: 1991

Hardware Units Sold: 60,000

At 7th is Street Fighter 2 part of the ever-popular franchise that is still creating games to this current day. i doubt much explaining needs to be done for this but i'll do a bit anyway. For Street Fighter it all began on the arcade machines, after its release in 1991 it was eventually ported over to the SNES in 1992 and was named Capcom's best-selling consumer game of all time as of 2010.

Game Plot: Not really a plot as such, more that there is 8 playable characters and 4 computer only bosses for you to beat the living hell out of in a best of 3 match either alone or with a friend.

Donkey Kong - enough to send you apesh- can't write that...
Donkey Kong - enough to send you apesh- can't write that...

6. Donkey Kong

Release Date: 1981

Hardware Units Sold: 60,000+ (can't find exact figure)

Donkey Kong is just a game everyone knows and has probably played at somepoint in time. whether it be on the original arcade machine, emulators or one of the many console versions that have cropped up as a result of its success. One of the earliest examples of a platform game, Donkey Kong was also the first platform game to feature jumping.

Game Plot: The aim of donkey Kong was to get to the top of the level by avoiding barrels thrown at you by jumping over them and by climbing ladders, so that our hero Jumperman (renamed Mario in the next game) could get to the top and save the princess. The 2 main characters on this game Mario (Jumperman) and Donkey Kong have since become 2 of Nintendo's franchises and the characters are recognised worldwide.

Asteroids - Blowing up rocks has never been so fun
Asteroids - Blowing up rocks has never been so fun

5. Asteroids

Release Date: 1979

Hardware Units Sold: 70,000

Asteroids is another one of those classics that damn near everyone has played due to its popularity and the amount of time its been around, and is said to be one of the must influential and successful games of the Golden Age of Arcade Games. It makes use of a vector and 2-D display to allow you to move round the screen and blow up asteroids and spaceships without being hit by debris or counter fire.

Game Plot: not really a plot so much but the aim of the game is to stay alive whilst destroying incoming asteroids from every direction the problem being once you blow them up smaller pieces then roam the screen which ultimately are even more dangerous. later on spaceships also appear as enemies to destroy however they fight back adding more of a challenge to the game.

The rather more pink Ms Pac-Man
The rather more pink Ms Pac-Man

4. Ms. Pac-Man

Release Date: 1981

Hardware Units Sold: 115,000

Originally made as an enhancement to Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man was released in north America as an unauthorized sequel before later being adopted by Namco as an official title. Not much is different in the game play of it but there are a few differences, namely that clyde's name is now sue, there are now 2 sets of tunnels not one and the ghosts movement is more randomised to stop you learning the pattern of the game.

Game Plot: the aim of the game is to collect all of the dots on the screen without being hit by any of the ghosts. there is also the bigger dots to turn the tables so you can eat the ghosts temporarily and occasionally fruit appears which you can collect for bonus points.

Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition Gameplay
Street Fighter 2: Champion Edition Gameplay

3. Street Fighter II: Champion Edition

Release Date: 1992

Hardware Units Sold: 140,000

Pretty much the same in every way as Street Fighter 2 (see 7th) except the updated version included the 4 computer bosses being added into the game, now playable characters and the balancing of the characters so that overall game play was much fairer than the original. However the 4 previously computer controlled characters weren't scaled at all leaving them as some of the most powerful characters in the game.

Game Plot: again the game is really a case of best of 3 games of beating each other senseless (always fun), but there were a couple of key game changes. This version added the ability to fight mirror matches (same character fights) by adding in a colour palette to show which player was which and consequently, from this the single player went up to 12 fights from 11.

Pac-Man Arcade Machines
Pac-Man Arcade Machines

2. Pac-Man

Release Date: 1980

Hardware Units Sold: 350,000

The single-handed reason i did no work at college, Pac-Man is an absolute classic that you still find everywhere to this day whether it be still in an arcade somewhere, online versions, or on one of several consoles that it has been adapted to. Originally called Puck Man bally changed the name to Pac-Man due to concerns that people would vandalise the machine and change the P to a F. Released into a time where space shooters were all the rage, Pac-man took the market by storm and sold an amazing 350,000 machines in its first 18 months (something ain't right with these figures but hey lets roll with it). It has also been named the highest grossing video game of all time.

Game Plot: the idea of the game is to collect all of the dots on the screen without being hit by any of the ghosts. there are 4 ghosts name Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde which are constantly on the move to try to stop you in your epic quest to eat everything on the screen. there are 4 bigger dots on the screen which are used to change the ghosts colours so that you may temporarily eat them for extra points. Finally there's fruit that appears twice a level on the screen which if you can eat, will give you bonus points. there is supposed to be an unlimited amount of levels within the game, however there is a glitch that means the 256 level is unplayable and therefore reaching it makes the game unplayable. This is believed to be because the internal level counter is stored in a single byte, so when it rolls over from 255 to 256 it actually resets to zero making the game glitch beyond any point of playing the 256 level.

Space Invaders Gameplay
Space Invaders Gameplay

1. Space Invaders

Release Date: 1978

Hardware Units Sold: 360,000

And The Winner Is:

That's right Space Invaders is deservedly and unsurprisingly the top selling arcade game of all time. Definitely one of the most memorable games you can play to this day i'm pretty sure there's no one who hasn't heard of it. One of the earliest shooting games, Space Invaders has been named the top arcade game by the Guinness World Records and has made Taito over $500 in profits since its release. I feel like i should write a lot more about this as its #1 but hey if you haven't ever heard of or played this, you've probably been living in a cave.

Game Plot: The aim of this ridiculously addictive game is to destroy the invading waves of aliens using nothing but your ship, its gun and the 4 shields along the bottom (see picture) which you can use as protection or to fire through to keep you covered and kill them at the same time. the invaders move horizontally across the screen and drop down a level closer to you when they reach the opposite side. As you get increasingly further into the game the waves of ships speed up and so drop towards you at a much faster rate, meaning you need to keep on your toes i you want to stop the invasion. If they get to the bottom of the screen it's game over.

Thanks For Reading.

so there you go, with some seriously good games in the list you can see why they are all still available to this day in many different forms and there may have been some unexpected ones amongst it that you never would've thought of. At the end though its oldest machines that have stood the test of time and still come out on top.

Hope you enjoyed the hub and thanks again for reading.


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    • trusouldj profile image

      LaZeric Freeman 

      3 years ago from Hammond

      I miss the good old days where an arcade was on almost every corner. I have an emulator on my laptop with Colecovision games on it. After reading this, I feeling like some Donkey Kong Jr. tonight. Or maybe I'll challenge my 11 year old to some Pac Man on Playstation 2.

    • SEOjoe profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      @EJ Lambert

      looking at some details on MK2 it didn't miss the list by a long way, within 3-4 years of it's release it had managed to sell 25,000 units so it's up there amoung the best of its' era.

      The thing here in my mind is it's such a different kind of game to the Street fighter series, its always been known for the excessive blood and violence and although it may be a complicated game to master, it's still in a different league to street fighter, which due to the tiering systems of characters (and the unlimited potential with anything considered out of top tier or 2) makes it a massively competitive game that is balanced to allow a high level of tournament play (something few games even now manage to do successfully).

    • Tygher41 profile image

      Megan Carroll 

      5 years ago from Boynton Beach, FL

      Great Hub! I can't wait to play my Atari Collection when I get home tonight, ha!

    • EJ Lambert profile image

      EJ Lambert 

      5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      I'm stunned Mortal Kombat isn't on this list. It came out when Street Fighter was at its peak and eventually blew it out of the water in popularity. Fascinating.

    • Skylanders profile image

      Suzanne Kirkhope 

      5 years ago from California

      Great hub and a trip down memory lane. Growing up my parents had a small hotel, and we had Space Invaders, but it was one of those sit down glass table ones. I still had to pay to play!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • SEOjoe profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom


      Thanks, if i can help it id rather do lists like this. apart from anything else most of these you see are done on personal preference and it leaves people wondering why some of the favorites aren't there.


    • RolyRetro profile image


      6 years ago from Brentwood, Essex, UK

      Great hub, focusing on the facts rather than personal preference! I personally am a Defender fan, loved that game.

    • SEOjoe profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      thanks will, glad you enjoyed the blast from the past.

    • Will Apse profile image

      Will Apse 

      6 years ago

      This is a great collection. I was drowning in nostalgia.


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