The NPD Group’s analysis of the video games industry in 2018 is one that tells quite a story. Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 was the No. 1 selling game of the year-but it was another huge, record-breaking year for Nintendo as well, thanks in large part to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
According to a release from NPD analyst Mat Piscatella, the games industry sold $7.1 billion in console, portable, and PC games in 2018, a 7% increase over 2017 and the highest total since 2012, which saw $7.5 billion in sales. October’s Red Dead Redemption 2 led the list of best-selling games for year, followed by Call of Duty: Black Ops IV in second, NBA 2K19 in third, Madden NFL 19 in fourth, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in fifth. Marvel’s Spider-Man, Far Cry 5, God of War, Monster Hunter: World, and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey made up the rest of the top 10, in order. NPD’s report does not include individual sales numbers.
While Red Dead racking up the most sales of the year is indicative of the huge following enjoyed by Rockstar, the story of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. might be even more impressive. Piscatella writes that Smash Bros. set the record for launch month sales for an exclusive title in December 2018, eclipsing Halo: Reach’s launch all the way back in 2010. With just one month worth of sales, Smash Bros. managed to take fifth on NPD’s list for 2018-and the analysis firm notes that its figures don’t include digital sales of the game, which it currently doesn’t track. That means Smash Bros. smashed Reach’s record, and eclipsed other major releases, based on physical sales alone.
And while Red Dead Redemption 2 took the top spot for game sales, that position isn’t without caveat: NPD doesn’t currently track PC digital game sales for Black Ops 4. Piscatella took to Twitter to make note the lack of PC digital numbers, saying it «made all the difference to the rankings.»
The race to the best-seller position in Software was very close. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 digital sales on PC are not currently tracked by The NPD Group and made all the difference to the rankings.
– Mat Piscatella (@MatPiscatella) January 22, 2019
Smash Bros. wasn’t the only console exclusive to have a huge year in 2018. Sony charted twice with two big games that were only released on its PlayStation 4: God of War, from Sony Santa Monica, at No. 8 for the year, and Marvel’s Spider-Man, from Insomniac Games, at No. 6. Piscatella wrote that Spider-Man was the best-selling superhero game in more than a decade, since Spider-Man: The Movie 2 grabbed the No. 5 sales spot back in 2004.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Top 20 list for 2018 has some interesting additions. Rockstar’s latest entry in another monolithic series, Grand Theft Auto V, managed to be the eleventh best-selling game in 2018, despite releasing in 2013. Nintendo charted with three of its older Switch games: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe came in at No. 12 for the year, Super Mario Odyssey was No. 15, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was No. 17. All three games came out in 2017. Those big hits helped Nintendo become the publisher to generate the highest software revenue of 2018-a title the company hasn’t enjoyed since 2009.
The full rankings lists for December and all of 2018 are below, ranked by dollar sales. You might also check out GameSpot’s choices for Best Games of 2018 to see how they stack up with NPD’s top sellers.
2018 Top 20 Games
* indicates digital sales are not included.
^ indicates PC digital sales are not included.