Danielle has been in love with video games ever since her older brothers handed down their PS1 instead of buying her a Christmas present. She grew up fighting her way through epic JRPGs. Now, you're more likely to find her destroying her Sim's lives, causing absolute mayhem over in Azeroth, and slowly paying off her debt to Tom Nook.
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We love a good indie game as much as the next gamer, but sometimes we can’t help but pay attention to the statistics. Through the noise of all the thousands of PC games out there, some really push through and break the mold. We’re talking the best selling PC games of all time. But, what makes them so popular and how did they reach this coveted status?
When we look at the list of best-selling PC games, there are a couple of trends that are easy to spot. Making a game that can break these kinds of numbers can’t be an easy feat, but there are definitely commonalities between many of these titles.
A lot of titles in the top 15 are subscription-based games that receive regular updates to keep them fresh and up to date for players. In a world where PC gaming hardware is constantly evolving alongside the graphics quality in games, having a game that can keep up to date with that is essential.
There is one stand-out franchise in the top 15 games that has multiple entries, and it’s one of my favorites – The Sims. This is a timeless classic that is now in its fourth iteration but has been a popular title since the original released in 2000. Each game comes with a multitude of expansions alongside it, making it a real mammoth of a game that has been entertaining players for over 20 years.
Aside from The Sims, a lot of other titles in the top 15 are also members of popular franchises like The Elder Scrolls, World of Warcraft, Doom, and Star Wars. Relying on a well-known franchise name is an easy way to attract more gamers but to land a spot in the best selling list, these games had to do more than that. They had to actually be good as well.
So, let’s dive in and take a look at the best selling PC games of all time, or at least the top five. For the purposes of this list, we’re looking at the titles that have sold the most PC versions of their games. Titles like CS:GO have sold more game copies overall, but with so many of those sale son consoles, they didn’t make the best selling PC games list.
If you want to check out more video game statistics like these, make sure to visit our mammoth Video Gaming Stats page that gets updated regularly to bring you the latest and greatest statistics for all areas of gaming.
Best selling PC game stats from Statista (2019)
Blizzard’s Starcraft II has been the most popular real-time strategy game on PC for a while now. Offering both single and multiplayer game modes, as well including the first few levels as free-to-play. Having the introductory levels available like that will surely have helped get people hooked so they invest in the game itself. Strategy games have long been popular, but Blizzard has managed to corner the market with Starcraft II.
Flight simulators have been popular for a long time now. People love the chance to feel like they’re piloting their very own plane, seeing beautiful landscapes around the world. Granted, when Microsoft Flight Simulator first launched back in the 1980s, the graphics weren’t what you’d call “beautiful” but they did the job.
Nowadays, the flight sim genre has really taken off, and you can deck yourself with an amazing simulation setup to make it feel as real as possible.
Another title for Blizzard in the top five (and, spoilers, not the last one) we have Diablo III in 3rd place. This epic ARPG utilizes expansions to keep the game fresh and interesting for long-term players. The base game allows you to play as one of five “hero classes” through the first four acts of a story. Additional expansions add more classes and more acts to keep the story going. In the eight years since it’s release, it has continued to remain one of the most popular titles in the genre.
Unsurprisingly, the most popular MMORPG of all time made its way onto this list, even if it did miss out on the top spot. World of Warcraft first released in 2004 and still has millions of players to this day. A big part of this is due to the constant release of new expansions and game updates to keep it feeling fresh and adding new content for long-time players. Some of the World fo Warcraft expansions increase the top level you can reach too, meaning that even if you’ve been max-level for a while, there will always be room to grow more.
While The Sims games have always been a favorite for me, they weren’t always as popular with such a large crowd. When The Sims 3 hit the shelves, all this began to change. The changes and updates made in this game made it more accessible for more people as it added more story elements to it. These changes made the game feel less grindy, especially when compared to the original Sims game where your Sims never aged.
The new aspiration systems, the improved dialog options, and the addition of personality traits all helped to make this a stand-out game. Your Sims now had more nuanced personalities that affected the way you played them, and the aspiration mechanics gave you guidance for your play, as well as a reward system that helped you feel more accomplished for taking steps in the right direction.
So, those are the best selling PC games of all time according to the numbers – but do you think they deserve their spots? Were there any games you were surprised didn’t make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!