10 Most Pirated Games Of All Time

James Bruce 31-07-2011

While we would never endorse piracy, it’s fair to say that the best games get downloaded more than others. In fact, games that are well pirated generally mirror their performance in the retail world – so in the absence of reliable sales figures, we look towards the download counts.


It’s with great pleasure that I hereby introduce you to the top 10 most pirated games of all time.

1. Call Of Duty: Black Ops – 4.27 million downloads, Nov 2010

free pirated games

The most recent addition to the incredibly successful Call of Duty series, which began way-back in 2003, originally based on the Quake III arena engine. Arguably the best multiplayer FPS available today – it’s the most played game I’ve personally owned for sure. Black Ops is the standard by which other FPS games are judged, and frankly there are so few that come even close. Why is it so good, then? The multiplayer has been tweaked and developed so much over the years that a 10 minute game is likely to release more adrenaline into your body than most people will experience in a year *. With an incredible degree of customisation, fantastic array of weapons and constant reward mechanisms, it’s a formula that’s likely to keep this game on top – at least until October 22nd, when the next instalment of Battlefield is released!

* Officially made up factoid.

2. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – 4.1 million downloads, Nov 2009

pirated games


To be honest, there isn’t all that much to differentiate this and Black Ops, other than it was produced by a different studio and was slightly less developed in the levelling-up / rewards tweaks. Gameplay was very similar, and multiplayer was fantastic, but the sequel to this fork of the franchise has ended in lengthy legal disputes resulting in Modern Warfare 3 being jointly developed by two studios that are completely new to the franchise. Will it result in slow painful death of the series? Doubtful, but only time will tell.

3. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 – 3.96 million downloads, Mar 2010

pirated games

Another FPS, Battlefield tends to take a wider look at gameplay, rather than focussing on upfront and personal combat. To that effect, Battlefields strong point has always been the inclusion of vehicles, and game objectives are based on area capture and hold rather than straight out kills. Instead of customising various aspects of your soldier, you pick a base class – such as medic – and build up from there. Emphasis is given to having a varied team and being able to work together utilising the different skills. Battlefield 3, due out October this year promises not only the most incredible graphics seen in an FPS yet, but also a breathtaking damage system that will buildings crumble around as they are shot to pieces Definitely worth checking out if you think the straight-up finger-twitching combat of Call of Duty will be a little too much for you.

4. Mafia 2 – 3.55 million downloads, Aug 2010

pirated games


Mafia seems to have completely passed me by, so I’ve had to refer to external sources for this one I’m afraid. With obvious narrative content, the gameplay centres around a simple mix of shooting, driving, and close combat – though it isn’t particular outstanding in any of them. Facing a variety of critical reviews, the worst being from Eurgamer thant give it a 4/10. 2KGames refuses to release the actual sales figures though, so your guess is as good as mine as to how commercially successful this game really was.

5. Mass Effect 2 – 3.24 million downloads, Jan 2010

most pirated game of all time

A unique game in so many ways, the Mass Effect titles are science-fiction open-world RPGs, with a smattering of FPS thrown in for funsies. A completely new IP, the original game was flawed but presented a strong storyline, the likes of which no other game in this list can parallel. Mass Effect 2 fixed those shortcomings and showed fans what a fantastic game it really could be when given the chance to shine. Not for everyone perhaps, but a star quality game that will be remembered in gaming history.

6. Sims 3 – 3.2 million downloads, June 2009

most pirated game of all time


Though appealing to a somewhat different audience than the rest of the games here, The Sims has undoubtedly been one of the most influential games of the decade. It’s hard to describe it even as a game really – it’s more like an elaborate virtual dolls house. The latest iteration takes your Sim out of the confines of the family home, and let’s them travel to various locations around the city. The sheer level of freedom allows the game to appeal to a wide variety of people – wether they be attracted to making a dream home version of themselves, or perhaps living out an alter-ego fantasy.

7. Starcraft 2 – 3.12 downloads, Jul 2010

most pirated game of all time

The most eagerly anticipated sequel, ever – Starcraft is a pure top-down strategy game with a truly epic following of fanboys – though personally I was always a Command and Conquer kind of guy. Starcraft 2 ignored any evolutions the strategy genre has seen, and chose to take the whole experience to a level of epic retro, with fantastically better graphics and gameplay that’s just as addictive as is always was.

8. Prototype – 2.35 million downloads – Jun 2009

10 Most Pirated Games Of All Time prototype


Finally, an original IP in the top 10! An open world game GTA-style with an intriguing storyline and varied missions. For many, the strength of this game lay in the fact you could drive a tank around and throw cars – others liked the unique gameplay opportunities offered by being able to take the shape of other characters in the game. If you merged with a soldier, for example, you could declare someone an enemy combatant and have them taken down, or even call in a limited number of aircraft. Certainly one I’ve added to my LoveFilm rental list.

9. Need for Speed: Shift – 2.1 million downloads, Sep 2009

10 Most Pirated Games Of All Time nfs shift

Taking the series back to it’s racing roots, NFS:Shift represents a midway point between racing realism from the likes of Grand Turismo and joyriding arcade nonsense of BurnOut. Is it the best racing game out there? I doubt it, but that didn’t stop millions of people downloading it to see what all the fuss was about.

10. Street Fighter IV – 1.85 million downloads, July 2009

free pirated games

An arcade classic, Street Fighter IV brought vastly improved graphics and not a lot else in my experience. Cue the hate-mails – I’m sure the underlying button mashing techniques were tweaked, but it felt the same to me.

Personally, I was sad to see not a single Grand Theft Auto game make it into the top 10, despite GTA4 breaking the Guinness World Records for “highest grossing video game in 24 hours” in May 2008. Are there any games you think were a glaring omission here? Don’t forget to check out all our other regular gaming articles too.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Related topics: First Person Shooter, Software Piracy, Strategy Games.

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  1. smirch
    December 4, 2018 at 2:56 pm

    where the hell is skyrim and fallout

  2. Snatchermkii
    September 1, 2011 at 3:00 am

    I was expecting Duke Nukem Forever, considering that the game finally came out after all these years of switching game engines, but I guess that I'm wrong.

    • James Bruce
      September 1, 2011 at 7:20 am

      Given how shockingly bad the reviews were, I doubt anyone even bothered to pirate it. I know I didnt ;)

  3. James Bruce
    August 10, 2011 at 11:26 am


    I don't think the numbers here are totals from all over though, just representative. The numbers kotaku had, no idea where they are from. I think if pokemon diamond was torrented from regular sources it would be on this list too though. 

    Thanks for your comment though, PSP and DS piracy is indeed quite rampant. I guess thats what happens when you charge stupid money for those silly little games ;~)

  4. BuddyB
    August 5, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Apart from Sims and Need For Speed, has anyone else notice a killing theme running through the top 10?  What does this say about users?

    • James Bruce
      August 8, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      It says to me that most people enjoy playing video games about things which aren't acceptable to do in real life, and for which most of us would never dream of actually doing, yet which provide an adrenalin rush none the less. Presumably, you would like to see the list full of games such "Knitwear 3", "Walking the Dog: Down The Lane Version" and "Dinnertime Time in Front of the TV: a Family Fun Night". 

      Personally, I'd rather they played video games about killing or war than actually owned a real gun. Video games don't kill people - people with real guns do. 

  5. IJas
    August 4, 2011 at 9:31 am


    • James Bruce
      August 4, 2011 at 11:28 am

      Oh, thats on next weeks list of 10 SUCKIEST GAMES EVER MADE

  6. Anonymous
    August 4, 2011 at 3:41 am

    I use a pirated windows Solitaire lol just a joke :p

    nice one mate, gave me an opportunity to know new games which are in top. I personally think Cricket 2007 could be amongst the list in top 20. I see it in every other computer/laptop and cyber cafe here in India

  7. James Bruce
    August 3, 2011 at 7:46 am

    A well researched and good reply Andre, thank you, it's rare to say that much thought put into comments here, so I really appreciate that. 

    However, I still think you're looking back with somewhat rose-tinted spectacles. I think that given that neither us have any actual statistics on pirate downloads for pre-torrent days, we need to establish a base line we can agree on. 

    I think we can both agree that sales and piracy are strongly correlated, and that the correlation between the two has changed very little over the years. That is to say, a game that sold well in 2000 would be pirated just as proportionately as a game that sold well in 2010 - for arguments sake, let's say that for every person who buys the game, 1 person will pirate it - using whatever means are available to him at the time, whether that be old-skool p2p like Kazaa, copying the game from tape-reel to tape-reel (yeh, piracy was on the amstrad too), or torrents, or buying a cd duplicate in china. I hope we can agree on that, yes?

    If we can establish that, then we can move on to the next point. That is, sales figures will therefore indicate piracy stats too, so in the absence of decent piracy stats, sales figures will suffice. So what do we have? Well, wikipedia has the following to say:
    Quake II - 1 million
    Simcity 3000 - 5 million
    Star Craft - 11 million
    The Sims - 16 million
    Black Ops - 18 million

    So there you have it. The simple fact is, as much as we would like to reminisce about the good old days of games and when piracy began (it was always there), it is only with the flow of time and the proliferation of computers and social gaming that games actually sold (and therefore, were pirated) more, by a mass market audience.

    Remember, its only recently that games have actually been widely accepted as an art form by many - before they were the domain purely of geeks, losers, and the rich. The only real argument you could possibly have against this reasoning is that piracy used to be a greater percentage compared to sales. Even if that were true, for it to hold true that Quake II was the most pirated game of all time, you would need to show that:

    Quake II was pirated by 20 people for every 1 who bought the game

    Black Ops was pirated by only 1 for every 20 people who bought it. 

    Then you would have a marginally correct statement. I think you clearly see that wont be the case though.

  8. Andre Kidd
    August 2, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    No dude, P2P was defined and hence around long before Torrents - Gnutella network and its various clients like Kazaa, Morpheus and Limewire et al ("in late 2007, it was the most popular file sharing network on the Internet with an estimated market share of more than 40%"), newsgroups and of course websites (like! etc.

    40% was alot then, but then your data will also show that internet proliferation, usage, awareness and/or acceptance was less and there naturally was more fragmentation (who uses what apps/services), which is not to say that torrents made p2p more accessible.  eg: seed boxes and encrypted traffic cant be counted in your figures, and the virus's people got from some services put them off from using them.  iTunes also suits people who cant be bothered with finding good clients/peers/non-virus infected songs (or whom are just plain honest :) ), and prefer a few clicks to buy a song (how many app/music stores are there on the net now?)

    In the days of the games that "Mad Ato" listed, Torrents didn't exist (and when they did co-exist, they werent the most popular means of obtaining files), and the aforementioned did.  Diablo 2 is around 10 years old and the designers followed with star craft, WoW etc.  People downloaded and still download that game illegally.  Infact, Blizzard offer it for free on their site (although you still need a CD key to play it online) as people were ripping the CD and hosting it anyway.

    Even when Torrents were invented, it took a relatively long while for them to gain significant, then majority market/traffic share.  if you review the annual internet traffic figures for the last 10 years you will see this. (the same type of data the analysts found out what the impact of Netflix, bbc iplayer and youtube was on the ISP's)


  9. h00x
    August 2, 2011 at 7:01 am

    What about newsgroups/local sharing/hard copies being shared?

    I meant I hate Halo... but I'm sure if you taken into account hard copies ( but your never going to know numbers) Halo would be up there.

    Just going off torrents is not a perfect way. It gives a good indication of torrents but not the wider picture.

    • James Bruce
      August 2, 2011 at 10:07 am

      Good point.. but I think the number of torrent downloads far eclipses any forms of p2p and other sharing that happened pre-torrent days. The fact is that torrents made p2p accessible to the masses, and hence torrent downloads are just far greater than any other piracy method before. 

  10. Shane Linden
    August 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    "Arguably the best multiplayer FPS available today"

    Stopped reading right there.

    • James Bruce
      August 2, 2011 at 6:37 am

      Whatever. The numbers don't lie - being the most sold game, and most pirated game ever. There's nothing wrong with jumping on a bandwagon you know, if the bandwagon is awesome and on the right track. I'm guessing you hate Macs too...

  11. Cell Travis
    August 1, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    These download numbers are testament to the fact that anti-piracy technologies and counter measures have still to keep pace with the explosive growth in gaming technology, title releases and the digital download environment. While torrent sites do have some fingers in the proliferation pie, the malaise runs deeper among the legions of leechers and freebie seekers.

  12. mad ato
    August 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Uh yea. I love how people throw around "OF ALL TIME" and actually mean this year.

    All time would be a different list entirely.

    1. Doom 2
    2. Diablo II
    3. Quake2
    4. Warcraft 3
    5. Starcraft
    6. Counterstrike
    7. Unreal Tournament 2004
    8. Red Alert 2 / Tiberian Sun Firestorm
    9. Pokemon Pearl/Diamond
    10. GTA Vice City

    • James Bruce
      August 2, 2011 at 6:35 am

      No, actually the list you just made is "10 games I really like", and actually has nothing do with "pirated games". This list was made using figures from the last 5 years, though only the last 2 or 3 made it in because the number of downloads were such much higher as piracy proliferates. Sure, I pirated Quake2 back in the day too, awesome game, but it still was but a speck on black ops. 

      • Thomas Mifsud Bonnici
        September 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

        The increase in internet speed and affordability is a determining factor here

      • Dylan Miller
        October 26, 2011 at 1:25 am

        Here I thought I'd enjoy trying the gaming section of MUO, since I use it for all its other sections. This just puts the nail in the coffin. James, do you enjoy trolling the comments on your own article?

        Feel free to pull the, "it's my article, don't like it? Leave." card. Because I won't be reading your articles ever again :)

    • Aibek
      August 2, 2011 at 6:50 am

      thanks for the input

    • Dennis Primm
      August 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

      Yeah, I would have thought that Doom 2 would have been in there somewhere...

  13. fershers
    August 1, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Ew Black Ops.

  14. MDC
    July 31, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    and how did you get to count the total downloads? i mean where did you get those stats? :)

    • James Bruce
      July 31, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      Sorry , I must have cut that during editing. The download count is from annual download reports, tallied together for all years available so far.