5 Top-Grossing Video Game Characters

AAA

Not so long ago, the idea of a video game franchise selling five million units would have been unthinkable. With the explosion of gaming worldwide, now a single game in a popular franchise can expect to move well over 10 million units. As with Hollywood films, there are stars that can move more units than others. Here we'll take a look at the colorful characters that propelled these games to success.

Methods and Measurement
Unfortunately, Mario has never filed a tax return, although he has held jobs as a plumber, adventurer, race car driver and professional tennis player. This makes it a little difficult to measure the earnings of any one character. Instead, we'll go for the less-ideal method of using the total sales for video games featuring these high-powered stars.

Furthermore, we're going to make a big assumption about the relative worth of the video games sold. In order to factor out the fact that inflation has made the value of a single video game much higher than back in the '80s, we will assume that all video game units are equivalent, so the only important measure is how many units these characters have sold. Now that the technical talk is over, let's get to the rankings.

Link

The "Legend of Zelda" series by Nintendo stars green-clad adventurer Link, and establishes a theme for the top five: longevity. The long history of the Zelda series, started in 1986, has helped sell more than 59 million units, as of April 2010. Like another elite star, Link is almost always seeking his princess and defeating whatever foes he meets along the way.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Introduced by Sega to compete with a certain Italian plumber, "Sonic the Hedgehog" shot onto the scene and quickly powered its way up the popularity scale. To date, the game's high-powered hedgehog hero has sold more than 70 million units, often in games where the primary goal is to rip through level after level in a blue blur. Because the colors flashed so rapidly on this game series, it is believed that it may have triggered seizures in susceptible children. But despite the risks, Sonic is still around even though Sega's days as a console maker are over.

John Madden

Former NFL player John Madden's career as a TV commentator ended in 2009, but his flamboyant delivery lives on in the "Madden NFL" video game series by Electronic Arts. Currently, sales for the series are roughly 94 million units sold. As with many video games, the Great Recession has taken some of the steam out of the market, but it seems that gamers are coming up with the cash to live out their football fantasies, complete with Madden's trademark tones.

Pikachu

With a name combining the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparkling and the sound a mouse makes, Pikachu is the most recognizable character in the "Pokemon" franchise, which is owned by Nintendo. At roughly 200 million units sold, Pikachu is bigger than just video games; its vast interests include games, shows, comic books, figurines and much more. This electric mouse-like creature's unusual business earned Pikachu a spot on the Forbes list of top-earning fictional characters. A list, coincidently, led by another yellow fellow with a penchant for honey.

Mario

Mario has had the longest, most successful video game career in history. This tiny plumber with the 12-foot vertical leap has been getting Princess Peach out of scrapes for years, as well as taking on different roles in more than 200 appearances. This has helped him move roughly 262 million video game units. And don't assume the little guy's gut is slowing him down either - the latest version of "Mario Kart" for the Nintendo Wii was one of the top-selling games in 2008 and 2009.

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    How To Game The Video Game Industry

    Investopedia explores the business, current developments, future trends of video games industry and how the overall industry makes money.
  2. Investing

    How The Video Game Industry Is Changing

    Video game creation has become increasingly complex, and the cost of creating a game to run on one of the major consoles has risen with this greater complexity.
  3. Trading

    Are Big Budget Video Games Dead?

    More people seem to be gaming on tablets and smartphones over consoles, which means this could be the end of big budget console games.
  4. Insights

    The 6 Most Famous Failed Video Game Makers (KING, ZNGA)

    The video-game industry pulls in $100 billion in revenue annually. Failed companies offer a cautionary tale.
  5. Investing

    Nintendo Releases "Pokemon Sun and Moon" Starter Video

    Pokemon fans went crazy on social media this morning as gaming company Nintendo released a starter video for its latest game, which goes on sale for Christmas 2016.
  6. Markets

    Analyzing Porter's Five Forces on Electronic Arts (EA)

    Explore Porter's Five Forces as they apply to video game producer Electronic Arts; learn which external forces pose the biggest threats to EA's business.
  7. Insights

    Can Games Make You A Better Investor?

    As investing is a great example of an activity that draws on a wide range of mental and emotional skills, it is worth exploring how to improve this skill set.
  8. Insights

    3 Ways Companies Profit From Virtual Goods

    A report released in late 2011 predicts that the market for virtual goods will reach $2.9 billion this year.
  9. Markets

    The Basics Of Game Theory

    Break down and examine the potential consequences of economic/financial scenarios.
  10. Investing

    Will Smartphones Replace Video Game Consoles?

    As graphics and power improve and makers develop games compatible with smartphones, it seems inevitable that hardcore gamers will embrace portable gaming.
Hot Definitions
  1. Brazil, Russia, India And China - BRIC

    An acronym for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. It has been speculated that by 2050 these four ...
  2. Brexit

    The Brexit, an abbreviation of "British exit" that mirrors the term Grexit, refers to the possibility of Britain's withdrawal ...
  3. Underweight

    1. A situation where a portfolio does not hold a sufficient amount of a particular security when compared to the security's ...
  4. Russell 3000 Index

    A market capitalization weighted equity index maintained by the Russell Investment Group that seeks to be a benchmark of ...
  5. Enterprise Value (EV)

    A measure of a company's value, often used as an alternative to straightforward market capitalization. Enterprise value is ...
  6. Security

    A financial instrument that represents an ownership position in a publicly-traded corporation (stock), a creditor relationship ...
Trading Center