The Legend of Zelda - Series Sales

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This page is meant to highlight how each game in the The Legend of Zelda series has sold to date. It sources information from a variety of business-focused publications and catalogues the last-known sales figure for every game in the series. Please note that some of this information (particularly for the older games) may be out of date, as a number of older Zelda titles have been re-released through Nintendo's Virtual Console (or equivalent services), and the company does not share digital sales data for these re-releases. Please do not edit this page if you are not confident in what you are doing and express your concerns on its talk page instead. Finally, if you would like a deeper understanding of why each game performed the way it did, please refer to The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History.

The Legend of Zelda - Series Sales

Understanding Sales Data

This section lists the last-known global shipment figure for every mainline game in The Legend of Zelda series. The information in this section has been sourced from a variety of financial publications, events, and developer keynotes including those held by Nintendo.

Q1. What is a global shipment figure?

The "global shipment" for a game refers to the total number of physical copies shipped by its publisher to retail stores (Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy etc.), plus the total number of digital sales to customers via console storefronts (in this case, the Nintendo eShop).

Q2. What is the difference between global shipments and sales?

When publishers use the term "sales" they are are often referring to global shipments (ie; sales to retailers). So, in the event that you hear a publisher talking about sales, it usually means global shipments.

Q3. What is "sell-through"?

Sell-through is the number of units that were actually sold through to consumers by retailers. For example; a publisher ships 10 copies of a game to Amazon and only 8 of those 10 copies are purchased by customers. That means your "sell-through" was 8 copies. (Or a sell-through rate of 80%) Very few publishers ever reveal sell-through or sell-through rate, but it plays a very important role in gauging long-term demand for a game.

Q4. Does this mean global shipments are not an accurate way to measure a game's success?

No, it doesn't mean that. Shipments are based on demand. If a publisher ships more copies of a game, it means there was more demand for it from retailers because it had a high sell-through to customers. Conversely, if a publisher ships fewer copies of a game, it means demand was less because sell-through from retailers to customers was low.

Q5. What happens if a game has a large number of shipments but low sell-through?

It depends on the region. In North America, retailers hold a lot of power. If a publisher over-ships a particular game and the retailer finds it isn't selling, the publisher can be made to buy back the extra copies. This is done because shelf space and warehouse space is valuable, and retailers don't like to hold on to excess stock if they feel it isn't going to sell. (They would much rather stock a different, more successful product instead)

In Japan, the situation is slightly different. Retailers don't have as much power in Japan as they do in North America, and are generally more careful and conservative when placing their orders. Getting publishers to buy back unsold copies is a more difficult prospect in Japan, so if a game isn't selling, the retailer usually puts a steep discount on its price and passes it off as a second-hand copy instead, to help get rid of it.[1] This is colloquially referred to as putting a game in the "bargain bin".


Global Sales

Main Series


Year Platform Game Global Shipments Type Source Relevance to the Brand
1986 NES The Legend of Zelda 6.51 million Top-down
[2]
The first game in the series; designed to be the polar opposite of Mario. (Learn more)
1987 NES The Adventure of Link 4.38 million Top-down
[3]
A side-scrolling game developed by a different team than the first. (Learn more)
1991 SNES A Link to the Past 4.61 million Top-down
[4]
A return to the top-down style; introduced a number of the brand's core elements. (Learn more)
1993 GB Link's Awakening 3.83 million Top-down
[5]
The first game in the series that emphasized story and eccentric characters. (Learn more)
1998 N64 Ocarina of Time 7.6 million 3D
[6]
The first 3D game in the series; laid the foundation for future 3D Zeldas until Breath of the Wild. (Learn more)
2000 N64 Majora's Mask 3.36 million 3D
[7]
The first Zelda directed by series handler Eiji Aonuma; the most different from the rest of the series. (Learn more)
2001 GBC Oracle of Seasons / Ages 3.99 million Top-down
[8]
The start of a co-development partnership with Capcom. (Learn more)
2002 GC The Wind Waker 4.43 million 3D
[9]
A controversial game whose poor sales would lead to Nintendo re-examining the franchise. (Learn more)
2002 GC Four Swords Adventures Not available Top-down A multiplayer game that sold poorly (<1 million) due to the requirement of a GameCube and multiple GBAs. (Learn more)
2004 GBA The Minish Cap 1.76 million Top-down
[10]
The final Zelda developed by Capcom, with its director joining Nintendo afterwards. (Learn more)
2006 Wii / GC Twilight Princess 8.85 million 3D
[11]
The second-most successful game in the series, owing to its mature visual style and horseback exploration. (Learn more)
2007 NDS Phantom Hourglass 4.76 million Top-down
[12]
Introduced a number of new users to the series through its intuitive touch controls. (Learn more)
2009 NDS Spirit Tracks 2.96 million Top-down
[13]
A less popular follow-up to Phantom Hourglass; involves Zelda accompanying Link all throughout. (Learn more)
2011 Wii Skyward Sword 3.67 million 3D
[14]
Designed to be less sprawling and more dense; its poor sales led to a second re-examination of the series. (Learn more)
2013 3DS A Link Between Worlds 4.16 million Top-down
[15]
Demonstrated that Nintendo could develop a non-linear Zelda and helped re-build faith in the brand. (Learn more)
2015 3DS Tri Force Heroes 1.34 million Top-down
[16]
Another multiplayer game. It performed better than Four Swords Adventures but still sold relatively poorly.(Learn more)
2017 NSW / Wii U Breath of the Wild 21.43 million 3D
[17]
[18]
NSW: 19.74 million + Wii U: 1.69 million. The new template for Zelda for the foreseeable future. (Learn more)


Interesting trends to note:

• The eleven top-down Zelda games have sold a total of 38.3 million units worldwide. The six 3D Zelda games have sold a total of 43.77 million units worldwide.

• The three best-selling games in the series (Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess, and Ocarina of Time) all feature the ability to explore a large world, with Link riding on horseback. In addition, they all feature realistically-proportioned characters—including Link himself.

• The lowest-selling Zelda games focus on something other than the exploration of a large world. These include Tri Force Heroes, The Minish Cap, Spirit Tracks, Majora's Mask, and Skyward Sword. Each of these games was structured to be a smaller or more linear experience and the marketing for them focused on traits other than exploration.

Zelda games that are released towards the end of a console's life cycle tend not to perform well. These include Majora's Mask, The Minish Cap, Spirit Tracks, and Skyward Sword. (That having been said, each of these games also possessed other traits that led to their lower sales)

• Multiplayer Zelda games tend not to perform well. Four Swords Adventures sold poorly and Nintendo has not publicly revealed sales figures for the game. Tri Force Heroes has sold just over 1.34 million units globally and is presently the second-weakest selling game in the series behind Four Swords Adventures.


Remakes

Note: "Remake" in this case refers to a remaster or ground-up remake of the game in question. Re-releases through Virtual Console (etc.) do not count.

Year Platform Game Global Shipments Source
1998 GBC Link's Awakening DX 2.22 million
[19]
2002 GBA A Link to the Past & Four Swords 2.82 million
[20]
2011 3DS Ocarina of Time 3D 6.22 million
[21]
2013 Wii U The Wind Waker HD 2.31 million
[22]
2015 3DS Majora's Mask 3D 3.28 million
[23]
2016 Wii U Twilight Princess HD 1.13 million
[24]
2019 NSW Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch 4.38 million
[25]


Interesting trends to note:

• While Twilight Princess is among the highest-selling games in the series, Twilight Princess HD is the lowest-selling of all the remasters. Presumably, this is because The HD remaster of Twilight Princess wasn't as visually striking as the remasters for Ocarina of Time or The Wind Waker, both of which featured significant visual upgrades. Twilight Princess HD was also released on an already unsuccessful platform, towards the end of its life cycle.

Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch is the only Zelda remake/remaster to sell more than the original game it was based on. This is partly because it was released after Breath of the Wild (which introduced a large number of new players to the series) and partly due to the strengths of the Switch as a software-selling platform. Finally, the game also features the most significant visual upgrade of any Zelda remake to date.


Spin-offs

Year Platform Game Global Shipments Source Notes
2008 Wii Link's Crossbow Training 5.79 million
[26]
2014 Wii U Hyrule Warriors 1 million
[27]
2019 NSW Cadence of Hyrule Not available
2008 NSW Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity 3.5 million
[28]

Japanese Sales

Important facts to know about sales data from Japan:

• All figures account for retail sales only. No digital sales data is available. However, digital sales make up a fairly small portion of Japanese videogame sales. (About 10% on average for popular games)

• All Japanese sales data has been provided by videogame publication Famitsu, which tracks games sales across a wide range of Japanese retailers. (Archived by Game Data Library)

• Unlike global sales data, this data represents sell-through to actual customers, not just shipments to retailers.

• Some of the ancillary notes mentioned against each game are from a separate sales tracker, Media Create.

• The Japanese videogame market is much smaller than North America or Europe, which is why sales appear so low in comparison. Over 70% of Nintendo's revenue is from overseas.[29]


Main Series

Year Platform Game First Week Sellthrough Life-to-Date Sellthrough Notes
1986 FC The Legend of Zelda Not available 1,690,000
1987 FC The Adventure of Link Not available 1,610,000
1991 SFC A Link to the Past Not available 1,160,000
1993 GB Link's Awakening Not available 540,000
1998 N64 Ocarina of Time 386,234 1,143,570
2000 N64 Majora's Mask 314,044 601,542 Marketed in Japan with the tagline "This time there's a fear in Zelda."[30]
2001 GBC Oracle of Seasons 190,029 372,690
2001 GBC Oracle of Ages 191,802 373,352
2002 GC The Wind Waker 287,346 742,609 The first Zelda impacted by "gamer drift," the ongoing decline of the Japanese games industry.[31]
2004 GC Four Swords Adventures 54,782 127,399
2004 GBA The Minish Cap 92,882 235,400 Released late in the GBA's life, a month prior to the Nintendo DS.
2006 Wii Twilight Princess 145,068 624,109 Lower long-term sales in Japan due to the Wii audience being largely made up of casual players.
2006 GC Twilight Princess Not available 70,000 The GameCube only sold 4 million units in Japan, and Twilight Princess was released very late in its lifecycle.[32]
2007 NDS Phantom Hourglass 288,282 902,386 Sold better than most Zelda games in Japan due to its accessible touch controls. Popular with women.[33]
2009 NDS Spirit Tracks 320,940 740,109 Was greatly over-shipped in Japan and quickly bargain-binned by retailers.[34]
2011 Wii Skyward Sword 194,894 349,143
2013 3DS A Link Between Worlds 225,418 425,729 Saw a conservative first shipment after Spirit Tracks was over-shipped and Skyward Sword saw low sales.[35]
2015 3DS Tri Force Heroes 58,594 156,544
2017 NSW Breath of the Wild 193,060 1,672,847 Designed for the west, but a major success in Japan as well, owing to word-of-mouth and its portable nature.
2017 Wii U Breath of the Wild 45,052 128,450 The Wii U only sold 3.3 million units in Japan, hence the low sales of most Wii U software.[36]


Important facts to know about the Japanese videogame market:

• In the early 2000s, Japan's videogame industry began to decline. This phenomenon was referred to as "gamer drift"—audiences drifting away from playing games. (Learn more)

• Nintendo has pointed to gamer drift as the cause behind persistently low sales of Zelda and other games in Japan, starting with The Wind Waker.

• Throughout the Wii era, Nintendo was under the impression that Japanese players didn't enjoy getting lost, which led to more linear games designed to combat gamer drift.

• In reality, the situation isn't quite as simple. Of all the Zeldas, Phantom Hourglass and Breath of the Wild have been the most effective at combating gamer drift.

• Despite being a sprawling and fairly open-ended adventure, Phantom Hourglass was popular due to its accessible touch controls and by being on the Nintendo DS.

Breath of the Wild succeeded in Japan due to a combination of its exciting, new structure combined with ease of portable play on the popular Nintendo Switch.

• Over the last two decades, the only platforms that have consistently managed to combat gamer drift in Japan are portables (Nintendo DS, PSP, 3DS, and Switch).

• The vast majority of Japan's hardware / software sales in the videogame space have come from these portable platforms during this period.


Remakes

Note: "Remake" in this case refers to a remaster or ground-up remake of the game in question. Re-releases through Virtual Console (etc.) do not count.

Year Platform Game First Week Sellthrough Life-to-Date Sellthrough Notes
1998 GBC Link's Awakening DX 49,513 314,309
2003 GBA A Link to the Past & Four Swords 84,107 293,989
2011 3DS Ocarina of Time 3D 182,998 636,571 Saw a relatively small first shipment in Japan, possibly due to the way Spirit Tracks was over-shipped and quickly discounted. As LTD sellthrough shows, though, the game went on to have a long tail.[37]
2013 Wii U The Wind Waker HD 31,154 63,786
2015 3DS Majora's Mask 3D 236,536 448,258 Sold very similarly to A Link Between Worlds in Japan, both in terms of pre-orders and sales figures, indicating an overlap of audiences.[38]
2016 Wii U Twilight Princess HD 53,620 89,809
2019 NSW Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch 141,375 274,208


Spin-offs

Year Platform Game First-Week Sellthrough Life-to-Date Sellthrough
2008 Wii Link's Crossbow Training 89,879 227,621
2014 Wii U Hyrule Warriors 78,773 126,700
2016 3DS Hyrule Warriors Legends 54,856 107,312
2018 NSW Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition 21,064 54,021

References

  1. "In that case, these copies sit on store shelves for a short while. If retailers notice they aren’t selling, they cut their price very quickly and toss them in the used games section. (See next question for related details on this topic.) However, sometimes, depending on the size of the retailer and the game publisher in question, the retailer might be able to make the publisher buy all these extra copies back. However, this practice is far less common in Japan than in North America." —Ishaan Sahdev (Where Does Videogame Sales Data Come From?)
  2. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  3. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  4. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  5. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  6. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  7. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  8. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 242
  9. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 241
  10. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 247
  11. "『ゼルダの伝説』シリーズ最多の、世界累計販売本数885万本(※)を誇る『ゼルダの伝説 トワイライトプリンセス』が、フルHDとなってWii Uで甦ります。" — Nintendo, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, Nintendo.co.jp, published 2015, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  12. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 241
  13. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 243
  14. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 242
  15. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 242
  16. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 249
  17. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 247
  18. "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 19.74 million pcs." — Nintendo, Top Selling Title Sales Units, Nintendo Investor Relations Information, retrieved November 7, 2020.
  19. Eiji Aonuma, The Evolution of a Franchise: The Legend of Zelda, GDC Vault, published 2004, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  20. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 243
  21. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 240
  22. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 243
  23. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 242
  24. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 251
  25. "The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: 438 (units in ten thousands)" — Nintendo Co., Ltd., Fiscal Year Ended March 2020 - Financial Results Explanatory Material, Nintendo Investor Relations Information, published May 7, 2020, retrieved August 25, 2020.
  26. 2020 CESA Games White Paper (CESA) pg. 241
  27. "Hyrule Warriors, the amalgamation of the Legend of Zelda and Warriors franchises, has shipped 1 million units globally on Nintendo’s Wii U console, Koei Tecmo have announced. The vast majority of that shipment is presumably from the U.S., where Hyrule Warriors sold 190,000 units in its first week. In Japan, the game saw a far slower debut, selling just 100,000 units in its first full month."Hyrule Warriors Ships 1 Million Units Worldwide!, Siliconera, retrieved August 21, 2020.
  28. "「ω-Force」ブランドでは、任天堂株式会社の『ゼルダの伝説 ブレス オブ ザ ワイルド』 の世界観を継承した『ゼルダ無双 厄災の黙示録』(Nintendo Switch用)を11月に発売いたしま した。12月末までの累計出荷本数は350万本を突破し、「無双」シリーズとして1タイトルで最 高の出荷本数となりました。" — Koei Tecmo Holdings, 令和3年3月期 第3四半期決算短信〔日本基準〕(連結), Siliconera, published November 24, 2020, retrieved November 29, 2020.
  29. "Nintendo distributes its products globally with overseas sales accounting for more than 70% of its total sales, and the majority of monetary transactions are made in local currencies. In addition, the Company holds a substantial amount of assets in foreign currencies; fluctuations in foreign exchange rates have a strong influence not only when accounts in foreign currencies are converted to Japanese yen but also when they are revaluated for financial reporting purposes" — Nintendo Co., Ltd., Annual Report 2020 for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2020, Nintendo Investor Relations Information, published July 20, 2020, retrieved August 21, 2020.
  30. "I don't know what the marketing copy was in the US, but in Japan if you translate the phrase that Majora's Mask was marketed with it means 'This Time There's a Fear In Zelda.' That was a phrase that our past president had thought up. It was basically this idea that Majora's Mask was darker. Maybe darker is not the right term. But there was this weird vibe to the game and a strange mystery to it that was really different from what you experienced in other Zelda games." —Eiji Aonuma (Interview: Eiji Aonuma)
  31. "The need to innovate gameplay was not limited only to Zelda. Nintendo recognized the problem of gamer drift and our philosophy was a new style of gameplay was needed to breath life into the market. Our answer to this was the invention of a certain system. As you are all aware, the system we called 'Connectivity' linked the Game Boy Advance to the Gamecube, allowing the Game Boy Advance to be used as a controller with its own screen. We implemented this system of Connectivity in The Wind Waker as the Tingle Tuner, and several other titles took advantage of Connectivity as well. However, there wasn't any one title that used Connectivity as its central game mechanic, and Miyamoto felt no one had conveyed to gamers just how much fun Connectivity could be. So, work began on a multiplayer Zelda game that used Connectivity as its main game system, and I was made producer on this title." —Eiji Aonuma (Reflections of Zelda)
  32. "2007"Hardware by Platform: Nintendo GameCube, Game Data Library, retrieved August 22, 2020.
  33. "And actually, if you look at the registration on Club Nintendo, although The Legend of Zelda series has traditionally had more of a male audience, on the Nintendo DS, it seems as though lots of women are also enjoying it." —Satoru Iwata (New Puzzles and Drama)
  34. "Once again, A Link Between Worlds demonstrates the lesson Nintendo and retailers learnt from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, which was released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS. Spirit Tracks received a shipment of over 600,000 copies, but only went on to sell through half that amount at launch. Due to the number of unsold copies sitting on store shelves, over the next few weeks, the game’s price dropped considerably, going as low as 2,000 yen in less than two months at some stores." — Ishaan Sahdev, No, Zelda Isn’t Dead In Japan… But It Could Do Better, Siliconera, published January 10, 2014, retrieved April 14, 2020.
  35. "By the game’s second week on store shelves, A Link Between World’s total sales were at 297,215 copies, with sell-through at 96.84% (as of January 5th, 2014). Presumably, Nintendo have sent a second shipment out to retailers since, and judging by the sell-through percentages, the game appears to be doing well, relative to expectations." — Ishaan Sahdev, No, Zelda Isn’t Dead In Japan… But It Could Do Better, Siliconera, published January 10, 2014, retrieved April 14, 2020.
  36. "2017"Hardware by Platform: Wii U, Game Data Library, retrieved August 22, 2020.
  37. "Following a rather bitter experience with The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Nintendo sent out a substantially lower number of copies of Ocarina of Time 3D to Japanese game stores for the game’s launch last week. Going by sales tracker Media-Create’s report, their estimates were right on the money. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D sold 164,110 copies in its first week in Japan. Media-Create say this amounts to 90.02% of all copies of the game that were sent out to retail shops for selling." — Ishaan Sahdev, How Did The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D Do In Japan?, Siliconera, published June 24, 2011, retrieved August 20, 2020.
  38. "Majora’s Mask 3D saw 79,000 pre-orders while A Link Between Worlds saw 75,000. Additionally, Majora’s Mask sold through 85.92% of its shipment at launch, while A Link Between Worlds’ sell-through was 83.47%. Given the similarities in the pre-orders and launch sales for both games, one can assume that Majora’s Mask 3D has successfully captured the Zelda fanbase in Japan." — Ishaan Sahdev, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D Sees A Strong Launch In Japan, Siliconera, published February 24, 2015, retrieved August 20, 2020.