japan games

In a recent article from Famitsu, the weekly video game magazine considered by many Japanese gamers to be the authority when it comes to their medium of choice for entertainment, a list showing the current total video game sales for all platforms in Japan between January 1, 2001 and September this year caught the attention of gamers both at home and abroad. Aside from the fact that the number of games sold in Japan over the last decade or so is simply staggering, Nintendo’s dominance in its home territory when it comes to total software sales is quite remarkable.

Join us after the jump as we see Japan’s 10 most popular video games of this century so far, and how, with a little help from some clever pocket monsters, Nintendo is absolutely raking the cash in.

10. Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS): 4,003,000 copies

mario kart

Image: Yahoo! Japan

With more than 4 million copies sold in Japan since its arrival in December 2005, this Mario-themed portable racer manages to best even its bigger, sleeker Wii brethren, Mario Kart Wii, and all without the need for a silly plastic steering wheel. We have to admit it’s still one of our absolute favourites, too.

9. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (Nintendo DS): 4,156,000 copies


Image: coffeewriter

Proof positive that Japan simply can’t get enough of blue slimes and hundreds of hours of fantasy RPG action, Dragon Quest IX lands, rather appropriately, in the ninth spot for total sales to date this century. We just wonder how many of the people who bought this game actually finished it

8. Monster Hunter Freedom 3 (PSP) 4,503,000 copies


Image: gamememo

From dragons to… other dragon-like monsters, it’s the series that finally gave millions of gamers a reason to buy Sony’s first handheld console. Affectionately known as “Monhan” here in Japan, the portable versions of the game are especially adored by younger players, who gather together to play in near silence for hours on end.

7. New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo Wii) 4,568,000 copies

mario wii

Image: web-mihon

Following on from the success of its DS title New Super Mario Bros., Nintendo brought the 2-D platforming action to its then flourishing home console in 2009. With the help of some clever marketing, including hiring a bunch of Japanese celebrities (and Nozomi Ohashi, the kid who sang the theme tune to Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo), the game was a huge hit, and is still one of the most fun and chaotic multiplayer Mario experiences that can be had.

▼ Just for fun, here’s that old commercial featuring a very young Ohashi

6. Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training 2 (Nintendo DS): 5,082,000 copies

brian training

Image: Amazon JP

Known as Brain Age in North America, this is arguably one of the key series that put Nintendo’s twin-screened portable on the map, with thousands of older “non-gamers” discovering a title that they felt was worth their time and money. With more than 5 million copies sold to date, we’re expecting some pretty sharp sudoku skills from Japan’s adults!

5. Animal Crossing: Wild World (Nintendo DS) 5,239,000 copies

animal crossing

Image: Dena

In at number five, it’s everyone’s favourite wander-around-decorate-your-house-and-go-fishing-’em-up. First appearing on Nintendo 64 back in 2001, Animal Crossing, or Doubutsu no Mori (lit. “Animal Forest”), has also appeared on Gamecube, DS, Wii and 3DS so far. Each successive outing offers more to see, do and customise, but its critics argue that Nintendo has done little to improve the overall gameplay since its humble beginnings. Regardless, Japan can’t get enough of this cutesy community simulation, and we’re sure we haven’t seen the last of it.

4. Pokémon Ruby / Sapphire (Nintendo Game Boy Advance): 5, 337,000 copies


Image: wikia

Back in 2002, before the PSP and Nintendo’s own DS, we had the Game Boy Advance. Essentially a SNES in your pocket, it was the last of the Game Boy brand (aside from a couple of remodels, such as the miniscule Game Boy Micro), but was home to a number of absolute classics. And, just like today, Pokémon was positively flying off the shelves.

3. Pokémon Black / White (Nintendo DS): 5,489,000 copies

pokemon black and white

Image: electricsistahood

Another console, another Pokémon smash. This time on Nintendo DS, Pokémon Black / White was the first of the “fifth generation” of Pokémon games and remains one of the best-selling to date. But not quite as good as…

2. Pokémon Diamond / Pearl (Nintendo DS) 5,827,000

poke dia

Image: Nintendo

When we look at these sales figures, we keep having to remind ourselves that these are only for Japan, whose population stands at around 127 million. Almost 6 million copies of Diamond / Pearl have been sold in this country alone since it was released in 2006. It really is little wonder that the head honchos at Nintendo seem so calm all the time, even while critics are pointing to the decidedly underwhelming sales figures of its latest home console…

1. New Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo DS): 6,424,000 copies


Image: gameforfun

Launching in May 2006, New Super Mario Bros. took Mario back to his two-dimensional roots. Being the first new side-scrolling platformer starring everyone’s favourite mustachioed hero since 1992’s Super Mario Land 2 on the original Game Boy, Japan went understandably nuts. We’d enjoyed being the bad guy while playing as Wario, thrown eggs as Yoshi, and even learned how to platform in three dimensions with the likes of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, but New Super Mario Bros. at once brought older gamers the formula they knew and loved, and younger, less experienced players a title that they could handle.

Pretty much every Japanese Nintendo DS owner has played a copy of this game at some point in their portable gaming career, and the game still sells well today. Sure, it lacks the chaos of the Wii and Wii U versions’ four-player multiplayer, but there was just something so simple, so satisfying about guiding Mario through those old-school (albeit with a lick of paint and some 3-D character models) levels that clicked with the public, putting New Super Mario Bros. right at the top of this century’s game charts so far. Now we wonder how many more years the portly plumber will stay up there…

Source: Famitsu via NeoGAF
Top image: Obsoletegamer

NeoGAF reports that total software sales listed in Famitsu’s article do not include download sales for PlayStation Network or Xbox Live, but do include download cards (e.g. for 3DS titles and the like) and games bundled with hardware.