5 Halo: Reach (Xbox 360) — 6.1 million sales
Microsoft believed so hard in its flagship sci-fi title the company trotted out the largest marketing budget ever (gamewise, that is), and with good cause: this prequel to the Halo story raked in over $200 million on its opening day alone. One main introduction was the game’s armory function which let players customize armor in all sorts of specific ways, which to a 13-year old with little to no freedom, goes a long way. Obviously more than just high schoolers shipped off on this awesome space mission, and the story ended on an appropriately adult, somber note. Make sure to stick around after the credits, where players take on the role of Reach’s last remaining soldier, as she/he falls at the hands of Covenant forces, inspiring the future cavalry of Halo and beyond.
4 Red Dead Redemption (360, PS3) — 6.6 million sales
It’s about time Westerns got some video game love, but what sets this sandboxer apart from lesser cowboy outings was its attention to video games as an artistic genre. Original, stirring music, quiet scenic rides, and a tragic ending that calls into question the very violence it took to get there, all helped land Red Dead on tons of Game of the Year lists. Also, you could tie people up and leave them on train tracks. But hey, not everyone cares about that kind of thing, so it’s understandable why this didn’t make it higher. Still, fingers crossed for that Brad Pitt movie everyone keeps hoping for.
3 New Super Marios Bros. (Wii) — 6.7 million sales
Man there is just no keeping Mario down. It wasn’t enough to be one of the highest grossing games of last year, the squat little plumber had to dominate 2010 too? If nothing else the Wii version of the world’s favorite pipe-cleaner confirmed that basically everybody loves it when Princess Peach gets kidnapped (maybe Mario is in on this too?) It’s nice to know that hundreds of years from now, parents, grandparents, and robo-great-grandparents will all be able to bond over whatever iteration of Mario is still definitely being sold.
2 Madden NFL ’11 (PS3, Xbox360)
Football fever is a serious ailment that, in 2010, affected the whole nation. Madden has always been the go-to franchise for gridiron shenanigans, but perhaps it was this 24th installment’s advertised “Simpler, Quicker, and Deeper” elements that earned it mass appeal. Or maybe the ability to play online as a team boosted ‘11 to the #2 spot, but one thing’s for certain: football is awesome. Go long!
1 Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360) — 9.4 million sales million sales
Still soaring off the insanely well-received Modern Warfare 2, Call of Duty dipped back into its World at War series for this 60s era Cold War adventure with excellent results. Players explode their way through Russia, Cuba, the Arctic Circle, and various other locales, encountering such historical names as John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro along the way. In fact, since no post-Modern Warfare Call of Duty title is complete without causing some sort of cultural freakout, this installment rankled Cuba for a mission that had gamers assassinating a body-double of the Communist country’s leader. Yeesh Castro, it’s just a game! As consolation, a co-op mode pit the likes of Castro, Nixon, JFK, and famed military strategist Robert McNamara against everyone’s favorite bullet-holders: zombies. Can’t go wrong with zombies.
Honestly, video games in 2010 really came correct. Like, if aliens happened to drop out of the sky and instantly wanted to play something cool, any entry in the aforementioned list would keep those potential overlords from vaporizing planet Earth. They might be offended by Halo though — and that’s when we strike! Sure these are the best selling, but what do you think this list should have looked like?