20 Biggest Surprise Successes in Video Games

Some video games are expected to be successful, whether through marketing or being attached to a big name series or publisher. Others are not necessarily sure things. Here's a list of 20 games that far exceeded what anyone could have expected in becoming surprise hits among fans.

20. Katamari Damacy

INSIDE is the spiritual successor to Limbo, a 3-D puzzle platformer game released by Playdead. A lot of the success with the game comes from its interesting puzzles and plot, which left players busy with their own theories about the ending or what the game itself meant. It received multiple awards since its release and was met with critical acclaim. 

18. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

The doubt surrounding this game wasn't from the developers, but from fans. Players didn't believe the game would be entertaining to play, let alone make enough to be considered a success. The game had generally favorable reviews and sold two million copies

17. Splatoon

Nintendo's shooter game was published for the Wii U in 2015, and it still has an active player base. The game was up for the Best Shooter award and Best Multiplayer at The Game Awards and snubbed it from staples in the shooter-game community, like Halo, Destiny, and Call of Duty. 

16. Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is an indie game developed by  Eric "ConcernedApe" Barone. It was released for PC, and later ported for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android, and the PlayStation Vita. The game takes inspiration from Harvest Moon was became a hit among players. 

15. Rocket League

Rocket League was released for the PlayStation 4 and PC, with ports for the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One released after. It received extremely positive reviews from critics and was later adopted as an esport -- where competitions for professional players are held through the Rocket League Championship Series. 

14. Demon's Souls

The game was not planned for release in North America, according to developers at FromSoftware. But was pushed for a release after Atlus USA took notice. Its success later marked it a spiritual successor to the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne, which were both massive hits. 

13. Deadly Premonition

Deadly Premonition was not a booming success like Mario or other games, but it developed a massive cult following and still currently holds the Guiness World record for "Most Critically Polarizing Survival Horror Game." It received decent reviews since its release and sold rather well.  

12. Grand Theft Auto III

There are only some games that make as big of an impression in the world as Grand Theft Auto III did. The game received critical acclaim upon its release, but there was also a lot of talk about the controversial topics in the game. It is still cited as one of the best games of all time by critics and is a hallmark in the Grand Theft Auto series. 

11. Resident Evil

Resident Evil was created as a remake of an already released horror game by Capcom, Sweet Home. The newly named remake didn't just become Capcom's best selling video game franchise, with 85 million copies sold, but it also helped pave the way for the horror genre in gaming. 

10. Mortal Kombat

It is one of the most popular and also one of the most controversial video game franchises of all time. Martial arts actor Jean-Claude Van Damme wanted to star in his own game, but the deal eventually fell through. The small team decided to work on the game anyway -- and it became a major success. It has earned 10 entries in the Guinness World Records. A new Mortal Kombat game, Mortal Kombat 11, is set to release in April. 

9. Street Fighter II

Although Street Fighter was a success, Street Fighter II was the game that made the series. Developers of the game added the "combo" system in Street Fighter II, believing it was a highly overlooked feature. It became a success and later a traditional easter egg hidden in the Street Fighter games that followed.

8. Minecraft

Minecraft became the second biggest selling video game of all time, with 154 million copies sold. The game received critical acclaim and won numerous awards. MineCon, a convention dedicated solely to Minecraft, was created as a celebration of the game, and its influence and relevance is still seen in social media today. 

7. Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go was a major hit among fans new and old. The free mobile game was released for smartphones and allowed players to catch Pokemon in their day-to-day life. When the game was released in 2016, adults, teens, and young children with smart phones would be seen walking around or even running to catch rare Pokemon and fill up their PokeDex. 

6. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight started off with a crowdfunded kickstarter, asking for $75,000 to create the game. The goal was met and surpassed, with people donating over $310,000 to help create the game. The game was met with praise, released on other consoles, including the Nintendo Switch, and also received a special Shovel Knight Amiibo. 

5. Undertale

The game wasn't created by Nintendo, or even any of the other major companies in video games, but instead by indie developer Toby Fox. He was known for creating the music in popular webcomic Homestuck and later launched a kickstarter to help fund his independent video game. It went on to become a hit among internet users and would later become released for the PlayStation 4, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. 

4. DayZ

DayZ began as a mod for ARMA 2, but had more than a million users within a day of its release. Once its popularity rose, many fans rushed to Steam to purchase Arma 2 -- three years after Arma 2 was released -- just to play DayZ. The standalone game was later released for PC in 2018 and will see a console release in 2019. 

3. Flappy Bird

The mobile game took the world by storm in 2014, almost eight months after it was released. Flappy Bird was apparently making almost $50,000 per day through advertisements and sales. Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen designed Flappy Bird to be a game played to ease stress, but he removed the game from the iOS Store after seeing how addicted people were to it. Phones or iPads with the game installed before its removal are still sold on websites like eBay for thousands of dollars. 

2. Final Fantasy

Square Enix would not be where it is today without Final Fantasy. The company was facing bankruptcy before Final Fantasy's release, and developers apparently believed Final Fantasy would be the last game it would release. The game was a hit, as it turns out, and multiple sequels and spin-offs were released.

1. Tetris

Tetris was imported from the Soviet Union in 1984 to the United States and became a massive hit. It currently holds the title as the top selling video game of all time with nearly 500 million copies sold. The game was ported for the arcade, for cellphones, for handheld consoles, for the PC, and more. 

Cover photo courtesy of Midway