Top 10 Surprising Video Game Success Stories


Sometimes, a successful video game can come completely out of the blue. Here are ten video games that were so successful it surprised even their creators.

For many, it's easy to pick out which video games are likely to be successful, be it commercially or critically. Each annual Call of Duty release, for instance, is essentially a sure-fire sales champion, and even though Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare has suffered in comparison to other games in the franchise, it has still sold extremely well. Meanwhile, few were expecting anything but the best from Uncharted 4 when it released earlier this year.

However, sometimes a hugely popular or profitable game will appear out of nowhere, defying the expectations of not only gamers themselves but even its own creators. Here's Game Rant's list of the most surprising success stories in video games.

10 Final Fantasy


The Final Fantasy series is the most well-known JRPG franchise in video game history, and the Square Enix series has been a huge factor in gaming for decades. However, this has not always been the case, and even though the series holds a huge place in gaming, its success at the outset was much less certain than its current status may suggest. What's more, it was all written out in the game's name.

The first title in the series is named Final Fantasy because the game's designers believed that it would be the last game that Square created. According to composer Nobuo Uematsu, the company was facing bankruptcy prior to Final Fantasy's release, meaning that the game would literally have been Square's final fantasy story. Thankfully, the title was a tremendous success, and the rest is history.

9 Undertale


Not every game has the same clout as the Final Fantasy series, but that doesn't mean that the successes of smaller projects are any less impressive. One such example is that of Undertale, the quirky, retro-styled RPG that launched in 2015. Barely heard about prior to its release, the game quickly became one of the most talked about games of the year.

Mixing together a unique story, original characters and gameplay, and a fabulously tongue-in-cheek look at how old-school RPGs worked, Undertale found an audience almost immediately. Understandably, that turned into both excellent sales and a stellar critical reception, with Undertale seen as one of the best indie games of 2015.

8 Flappy Bird


Not every game's success is necessarily earned. That's certainly the case with Flappy Bird, the mobile sensation that became a must-have app back in early 2014. The title became a pop culture phenomenon due to its frustrating but simple gameplay, and was one of the most talked about games of the year.

It's still not exactly certain why Flappy Bird became such a huge deal, but long-term success has not exactly been found. On the back of criticism, and feeling guilty about the addictive nature of the game, developer Dong Nguyen removed the game from the app store. That didn't stop others from taking advantage of the game's must-have status, though, as phones with Flappy Bird installed suddenly went for huge money on sites such as eBay.

7 Pokemon GO


Flappy Bird is not the only mobile title to take the world by storm, however, and this year its place as perhaps the most unexpected mobile game hit was quite easily displaced. This is down to the launch of Pokemon GO. Although many expected Pokemon GO to be successful, it's the level of popularity that the game has received that has been so surprising, beating Candy Crush to become the biggest mobile game in US history.

This, of course, had some very positive results for Nintendo, with a stock price jump despite the fact that the company did not even develop the game. The game's biggest proof of success, however, is the way in which gamers have reacted to the title, from stampedes in New York's Central Park through to to accidentally crossing country borders.

6 Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight Amiibo Confirmed, Unlocks Co-Op Mode - Shovel Knight and other characters

Although the crowdfunding of games has sometimes been a controversial topic, as seen with the disappointment of Mighty No. 9, sometimes sites such as Kickstarter have managed to fund some incredible games. One of the biggest success stories of crowdfunding is Shovel Knight. The retro platformer had a modest funding target of $75,000, but ended up reaching $311,502 by the end of its campaign.

The end result was seen by many as one of the best 2D platformers of recent years, and a wonderfully-crafted love letter to gaming of yesteryear. Since its release, Shovel Knight has also gone from strength to strength, releasing across multiple platforms and even seeing its own amiibo.

5 Five Nights at Freddy's

Five Nights at Freddys

Prior to the release of Five Nights at Freddy's, developer Scott Cawthon had hardly received a good reception from the gaming masses. Cawthon had released a wide variety of games before he struck gold with the horror title, but none of the games had received positivity from players. Instead, some of the criticism had been vocal, in particular with regards to the unnerving features of the characters Cawthon had created.

Rather than giving up, Cawthon instead decided to build upon the criticism he had received, turning the uncanny fear he had accidentally struck upon into something much more tangible. Five Nights at Freddy's went on to become an overnight sensation, resulting in multiple sequels and a devoted (if sometimes controversial) fanbase. Meanwhile, there's still the possibility of a Five Nights at Freddy's movie on the horizon.

4 Minecraft

Minecraft cover

Although creator Notch may now live in a multimillion dollar mansion, the Minecraft developer had much more humble beginnings. Indeed, the game itself started off in the most inauspicious of ways, with gamers welcomed to purchase the title while in its early access form. Of course, that wouldn't last for long, with the game eventually becoming a huge phenomenon

Minecraft became a gaming smash, with fans loving the freedom and sense of ingenuity that the game instilled. This was enough to turn the head of Microsoft, which promptly purchased the property for $2 billion in 2014. Now, there is even a Minecraft movie being produced, with Steve Carell reportedly in talks to star.

3 Braid


Built with love and a modest budget, Braid has become synonymous with the creativity that can be found within the indie game circuit. Merging together a beautiful art style, a haunting story, and mind-bending puzzle gameplay, the title from Jonathan Blow captured the hearts and minds of many gamers upon its release in 2008.

By 2015, Braid had resulted in a revenue of nearly $6 million. Rather than resting on his laurels, however, Blow instead put that money into his next game, The Witness. This title, too, would prove to be incredibly popular with gamers, and is seen by many as one of the best games of 2016 so far.

2 Demon's Souls


When Demon's Souls was released in 2009, the PS3 exclusive flew in the face of the current trends of AAA gaming. Combining an otherworldly story with extremely high difficulty, the title had 'cult smash' written all over it, but a great critical reception helped propel the game to the next level.

This, in turn, allowed From Software to push the boundaries of this gameplay style even further, and before long both the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne were released. In short, From Software's unique gameplay style had managed to not only find itself a niche in gaming, but instead become one of the biggest names in action RPGs.

1 The Sims


It's hard to think of The Sims as anything other than Electronic Arts' money-spinning life simulation series. It's somewhat surprising, then, that the publisher was dubious over exactly how successful the original title would be. Maxis' original The Sims was only given an initial sales projection of 160,000 copies sold, with some concern over how much interest the game would have.

Instead of floundering, The Sims would beat this estimate 100 times over, selling 16 million copies and grabbing itself a world record for PC sales in the process. The series has gone on to become one of the most important franchises under EA's belt - even if the publisher shut down Maxis in 2015.

That brings to an end our pick of the most surprising successes in video game history. Do you have any others to add? If so, drop us a comment below!

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