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Killer App

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"It is the same thing with Crash Bandicoot — those original games made by Naughty Dog were the reason that I wanted a PlayStation in the 1990s."
Company Man, "Activision - Why They're Hated"

Short for "killer application", a killer app is a piece of software so good that it's considered a must-own if you have the system it's released for, and is in fact a reason in and of itself to buy said system.

When you buy literature, you get a single self-contained experience: the book contains all there is to this particular adventure. When you buy a ticket for a film or a stage show, you get two hours of drama, and that's all there is to see (until the inevitable sequel, that is). But electronic hardware isn't like that. Music players, movie players, computers, video game consoles, tablet computers... They all require software to run, and each piece of software delivers a different experience: a photo-editing suite can't be used to balance your checkbook, for instance, or vice versa. As such, hardware and software are separate yet interlinked categories, and one is used to judge the other: the same piece of software might run much more efficiently on one computer than another, and you'd factor that in when deciding what hardware or software to buy. And, just to add to the confusion, a fair amount of software is exclusive to one piece of hardware, or family of hardware: for instance, Microsoft for the longest time resisted releasing its "Office" suite of productivity software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc) for iPad, to keep their competing "Surface" tablets relevant.

And that's where we get to this trope. A "killer app" is a piece of software that validates the hardware. It provides such an excellent user experience that it justifies buying the hardware.

The term is primarily used within the world of video gaming, but originated outside it: it was used, especially during the '90s Internet boom, to describe the mythical invention that everyone in America needed and which would make its developers — and their investors — rich beyond their wildest dreams.

The term can also be used on a more serious context, used to refer to a very useful application which immediately becomes a "must-have", which is, in fact, the original meaning of the term. It was first applied in 1979, when the first spreadsheet application, VisiCalc, was released for Apple ][, and became a must-have virtually immediately, spawning hordes of clones and imitations on numerous platforms.

And, indeed, when the term is applied in this manner, only a very few applications apply, including word processors, spreadsheets, database management programs, email clients, and web browsers. The only thing everyone agrees on is that any new hardware attempting to launch itself should have a Killer App at hand, especially if the hardware itself is a video game console—that business is more software-driven than any other, and backward compatibility being less present, a new system has to rely even more on dedicated software.

While most products that attain killer app status are extremely successful and popular, it should be noted here that "creating a true killer app" is akin to "writing the Great American Novel": everybody wants to, but nobody has yet created (or is likely to create) the definitive killer app.

Note that a killer app is more than just a good game. A game can be good, great, critically acclaimed, even an all-time classic... and still not be this (conversely, not all killer apps are great by modern standards; some of them seem quite dated today). A killer app is insanely popular in its own time, enough so as to single-handedly drive sales for its system (hence the alternate term "System Seller"). The examples that follow, then, are not just the games that tropers loved, but rather the games that everyone loved; the ones that made their respective systems.

Arguing over which killer app provides the most bang for its buck is a large part of the Console Wars. If an anticipated game shares the same genre as an existing Killer App, it may be called a [Insert Game Here] Killer, however this often puts unrealistic expectations on the upcoming title.

Compare Star-Making Role (equivalent for actors) and Breakthrough Hit (equivalent for creators).

Not to be confused with the GameBoy Advance game TRON 2.0: Killer App, nor the TRON 2.0 Xbox port of the same name.


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  • Space Invaders was a major system mover for the Atari 2600, quadrupling its sales. This is the first widely agreed example of a Killer App, thus making it the Trope Codifier.
  • Atari was counting on both Pac-Man and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to be killer apps for the 2600, and had each produced in wildly optimistic numbers; in fact, more Pac-Man cartridges were produced than there were Atari consoles, on the assumption that the game would be so popular people would buy consoles just to play it. As it turned out, they were only half-right, as they did help to kill the Atari 2600, and very nearly the entire industry. Despite this, both the games did still sell millions. Ironically, the Atari 2600 had a fantastically faithful version of Ms. Pac-Man, but by the time it was released, the 2600 was on its way out.
  • Super Breakout for the Atari 5200; Galaga for the Atari 7800.
  • Star Raiders was a bona fide killer app for the Atari 8-Bit Computers; many people bought the computer just to play the game.
  • Blue Lightning and Klax for the Atari Lynx.
  • Alien vs. Predator and Tempest 2000 were this for the otherwise ill-fated Jaguar.
  • On the computer side of Atari, the presence of MIDI ports was what made the Atari ST the go-to machine for electronic musicians.

  • Coleco's competitive acquisition of the console license for Nintendo's Donkey Kong is the main reason the ColecoVision console was a contender in the second generation Console Wars. It is rumored that the company released an intentional Porting Disaster for the Atari 2600, just to make their own system look even better by comparison.

  • B-17 Bomber, as it was the reason people bought the console's voice module.

In general, Nintendo has about a dozen Cash Cow Franchises that can reliably be counted on to move systems when new entries come out, the most notable being Super Mario Bros., Pokémon, Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Smash Bros.. The first two franchises also happen to be the best-selling video game series in the world. A similarly common scenario is the funding of more niche games whose fanbases are so niche they drive sales of consoles despite their limited total sales compared to the above.
  • Nintendo Entertainment System:
  • Game Boy:
    • The explosive success of the Game Boy is widely attributed to Tetris being released as a pack-in game for the system. Tetris was already incredibly popular before the debut of the Game Boy version, appealed to an extremely broad audience outside of traditional gamers, and its gameplay was the perfect fit for a portable system. It would go on to be the most popular Puzzle Game of all-time.
    • Super Mario Land became the first Mario platformer on a handheld system, further popularizing the Game Boy with 18 million units sold. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins followed suit three years later, selling 11 million units.
    • Pokémon Red and Blue debuted late in the system's lifespan, single-handedly revitalizing sales of the handheld. The game's fast rise to success in North America also helped sales of the Game Boy Color, which would be released a few months after Red and Blue hit shelves there in time for Christmas 1998.
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System:
    • Super Mario World, was packaged with most SNES units. It would later become the most modded game of all time as that community began to grow. Super Mario All-Stars was released three years later, being a updated compilation of the NES Mario gamesnote  that proved the viability of the Updated Re-release concept, and would also become popular with modders, though not to the extent of World.
    • SimCity's SNES port is almost unanimously considered to be superior to the original PC game, featuring better graphics, an advisor (Dr. Wright, who is based off of Sim Series creator Will Wright), background music, reward buildings, and even featuring appearances from Nintendo characters like Mario and Bowser. The game was also present in many SNES advertisements and commercials from early in its lifecycle, and sold around two million units overall.
    • The SNES also floated high on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Star Fox, both of which sold over 4 million units each and becoming instant hits with fans. A Link to the Past is widely credited with codifying the modern formula for The Legend of Zelda, with every other games in the series following the conventions it first laid down. Meanwhile, Star Fox launched an entire franchise and was widely acclaimed for being one of the very first console games to achieve 3D polygonal graphics, thanks to Argonaut Software' Super FX technology.
    • F-Zero was a launch title for the SNES that showcase Mode 7 graphics in their entirety for the very first time, and ended up selling nearly 3 million units across its lifetime, and it was then followed up on by the monster success of Super Mario Kart, another showcase of Mode 7 marked the beginning of the most popular Mario spinoff series with Mario Kart.
    • Capcom remained a firm supporter of Nintendo going into the Console Wars with the port of Street Fighter II, which was packaged with the console in some countries. Combining the sales of each version of Street Fighter II released on the SNES averages out to around 12 million copies, making it the bestselling third-party game for the system and the bestselling game for the platform behind Super Mario World. Other Capcom classics for the SNES include the Final Fight trilogy (which directly took on Sega's own Streets of Rage games), Mega Man X, and Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts.
    • The Donkey Kong Country series was massively successful, and allowed the SNES to retain popularity and relevance into the 32-bit era, while Sega stumbled with the Sega CD, 32X and Sega Saturn confusion. After years of Sega's aggressive marketing against the SNES, Donkey Kong Country shocked everyone by achieving pre-rendered 3D models on a 16-bit console, and received much acclaim for its gameplay, music, and visuals, leading it to sell a whopping 9.3 million units on the SNES and revitalizing Donkey Kong after the series was overshadowed by Mario for nearly a decade.
    • Rare's Killer Instinct, created in response to the accusations that Nintendo was too "kid friendly" in comparison to Sega (namely because of Nintendo censoring the SNES release of Mortal Kombat (1992)) and boasting graphics on par with Donkey Kong Country, sold very well and was critically acclaimed, being praised for its faithfulness to the arcade release and lauded for its complexity. Decades later, and the despite the change in ownership, the franchise still has a very dedicated following and is unanimously considered to be one of the greats in the Fighting Game Community.
    • Squaresoft's exclusive support for the SNES was another boon for the console, producing classics like Final Fantasy IV, V, and VI, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario RPG. Couple that with Enix's Dragon Quest series also being exclusive to the SNES, and you have one of the main reasons why the SNES reigned supreme in Japan over the Sega Genesis.
  • The Virtual Boy didn't really have much going for it, but those who have played Virtual Boy Wario Land agree that it was the one game truly worth playing on the console.
  • Nintendo 64:
  • Game Boy Advance:
  • Nintendo GameCube:
    • Super Smash Bros. Melee is the GameCube killer app, being one of the most anticipated games for the system when initially announced. Considered by some to still be the best installment of the franchise, it's still being played competitively more than 15 years after its release: a shockingly long life for a Fighting Game that is surpassed only by Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which was released just one year earlier, and Street Fighter III Third Strike a year before that. Among non-fighting multiplayer games, the hottest seller for the GCN was Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, with 7 million units sold.
    • Metroid Prime, a First-Person Shooter take on a then-dormant Action-Adventure/Platformer franchise surprised many Metroid fans with its high qualitynote  and mature feelnote . The game went on to sell 2.8 million copies, making it the 7th best-selling game on the system and the best-selling entry in the franchise until Metroid Dread; it was also the most critically acclaimed video game in the sixth generation of game systems. The "Top 10 GameCube Games" video from ScrewAttack sums it up well:
    When this game was first announced, we thought it was going to suck. How wrong we were. How wrong we were.
    • Resident Evil 4 was intended to be this, as it was released as part of the "Capcom 5": a deal to bring five new, exclusive games to the GameCube to support the platform. Unfortunately, one of them (Dead Phoenix) was never released, three of them (Resident Evil 4, Viewtiful Joe, Killer7) were eventually ported to the PlayStation 2, and the only game to remain a GameCube exclusive (P.N.03) didn't sell many copies and was critically panned. Resident Evil 4 was a big seller on the GameCube, but didn't do much on its own to help its market share.
    • Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2 was considered the system's Killer App at launch and even held this title after Super Smash Bros. Melee was released a couple months later. When the console was released in Europe, Rogue Squadron 2 was its top selling game, beating out Nintendo's own first party titles.
    • While not a system seller like the other games listed, Soul Calibur II was one of the few Multi-Platform games to sell better on the GameCube than on any other platform, because its version's Guest Fighter was Link, which single-handedly became the selling point for that version of the game.
    • Sonic Adventure 2: Battle was the first Sonic title to be released on a Nintendo platform, and was responsible for causing a Newbie Boom of Nintendo-loyalists that were curious to see what the hype about the hedgehog was all about. It also helps that Battle is more or less considered to be the definitive version of the game, coming with extra content not available on the original Dreamcast version.
    • Tales of Symphonia was one of the few JRPGs of its generation to not prioritize the PS2, rather instead being released with the GameCube in mindnote . It sold around one million copies on the GameCube as a result, and is considered to be where the series first broke through in the west to become one of the more popular JRPG franchises on the market.
  • Nintendo DS:
    • The system's surprise success was pushed by more casual games such as Nintendogs and Brain Age just as much as it was by new entries in established Killer App franchises (New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart DS, and two generations of Pokémon). Pokémon Black and White became the fastest-selling games for the platform as well, despite coming out towards the end of the system's life.
    • Animal Crossing: Wild World was an even more popular sequel to the GameCube installment, retaining the crown as the best-selling game in the series for thirteen years.
    • The remake of Final Fantasy III wasn't a system killer app, but denoted the start of major third-party support for a gaming system the rest of the industry was skeptical of. Similarly, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days was another third-party exclusive from a major franchise that gave the DS more focus from core gaming audiences.
    • DSiWare had Photo Dojo, a fighting game where you could take pictures/sound recordings to create fighters, including yourself. Also, you could make your own stages this way.
    • Much like with its predecessors on the NES, Dragon Quest IX served as this in Japan once again, being released exclusively for the DS and selling over four million copies in the country, with an additional one million being shipped overseas. Aside from that, Scribblenauts, Cooking Mama, Professor Layton, and Ace Attorney were other third party series credited with pushing sales of the console.
  • Wii:
    • Similar to the Nintendo DS, much of the Wii's success is the result of more causal games. The "Wii" franchise of games (started by the pack-in launch title Wii Sports) is the 5th best-selling video game franchise of all-time at 201.8 million copies sold between the various Sports, Play, Fit titles.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Despite being released on both the GameCube and Wii, it was reported that three out of four Wii purchases sold alongside the game during its first week, received acclaim from audiences and critics, and went on to becoming the bestselling Zelda game (as well as one of the bestselling action-adventure games) until Breath of the Wild surpassed it more than a decade later.
    • The biggest third-party games for the Wii were Just Dance and LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, with the first two Just Dance games being outright exclusives for the Wii and 3 being the bestselling third-party Wii games of all time, while a third of Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga 's overall sales from the Wii, averaging out to around 5.5 million units on that platform alone out of the 15 million units sold across all platforms. Just Dance was so popular on the Wii, that it was regularly released for the platform until 2019, well after the seventh generation had concluded.
    • Super Mario Galaxy was for several years the best-selling 3D Platform Game of all-time, being eventually surpassed by Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch. New Super Mario Bros. Wii became the third best-selling platformer ever, beaten only by other entries in the Super Mario series, and is seen by some as the start of the genre's resurgence on consoles. Similarly, Mario Kart Wii was for the longest time the best selling game in the history of the racing genre until Mario Kart 8 Deluxe took over.
    • Super Smash Bros. Brawl, released on the Wii in 2008, was the top seller for its series and most impressively the fighting genre, until Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch surpassed it.
    • As time passed, the Wii also gained more traditional games that also proved to be bestsellers, such as Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Monster Hunter 3 (Tri), Punch-Out!!, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Sonic Colors, and Xenoblade Chronicles.
  • Nintendo 3DS:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D served as this for the system, which was struggling to gain traction. Within two weeks of its Japanese release, it had sold over 600,000 copies, or over 20% of the install base. It raised 3DS sales by over 50% the week it came out as well, despite not being released in the West until the following week.
    • Notably for a Nintendo console, the system was announced during its reveal at E3 2010 to be receiving exclusive games from major third party franchises. These included Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], Resident Evil: Revelations, and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, denoting strong third party support for Nintendo's handheld, which was a boon in distinguishing it from their other consoles.
    • The Monster Hunter franchise serves as this, though mostly for Japan, with each entry selling at well over 2.5 million in its home country alone. Monster Hunter Generations is the best-selling installment on the system, at over 4 million units.
    • Super Mario 3D Land sold over five million copies in just two months worldwide, outselling games like Gears of War 3 and Skyrim on the Xbox 360. Mario Kart 7 sold 4.3 million in 5 weeks. Put together, the two Mario games represent a third of 3DS software sold in 2011. Combine those Mario games with Ocarina of Time and Nintendogs + cats, you have over one half of all 3DS software sold through 2011.
    • Animal Crossing: New Leaf sold two million copies in Japan alone in less than six weeks, and eventually went on to sell more than City Folk on the Nintendo DS. This success and the game's nature as a life sim also did much to push Nintendo's attempts at publishing major titles digitally through the eShop.
    • Pokémon X and Y ended up selling four million copies in its first two days of sales and became the fastest-selling 3DS game of all time...until Pokémon Sun and Moon released a few years later and completely broke those recordsnote  to quickly become the third best-selling game on the system, less than half a million copies behind X and Y and a million behind Mario Kart 7. Meanwhile, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire sold 3 million copies in its first three days.
    • Super Smash Bros. for 3DS sold a million copies in its opening weekend in Japan alone.
    • Fire Emblem: Awakening, despite selling much less than the previously-mentioned games, was the best-selling game of the franchise (by a wide margin) until its sequel was released three years later. It's also notable in that was not only successful enough to increase the franchise's popularity in the West, but also prevent the series' cancellation, as declining sales meant Awakening was intended as the final game.
    • Kid Icarus: Uprising, while selling much less than the others like Awakening, was one of the most popular games of the early 3DS library and was credited by Nintendo as one of the reasons for their increased profits alongside Awakening, successfully revitalizing interest in the Kid Icarus franchise alongside Pit's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition was a minor one for the 3DS very early in its lifespan, being a launch title for the system, and also the first game on the 3DS to pass a million units sold.
  • Wii U
    • New Super Mario Bros. U launched with the Wii U and is the second best-selling game on the system, but the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2 just months earlier is considered to have diminished its impact. In that respect, the following year's Super Mario 3D World is considered the first real system-seller.
    • Nintendo pushed Mario Kart 8 as this, to an almost aggressive extent. In addition to releasing a premium Wii U bundle in many regions note , they also had a program where every copy that had been purchased in the two months after the game's release —including those that came in the bundle— could be registered on Club Nintendonote  and redeemed for one free Wii U game of your choice. North America had 4 options to choose fromnote , while Europe and Australia got 10note . As a result, Mario Kart 8 sold 1.2 million copies in its first weekend alone and boosted the console's sales in every region. Wii U sales in Europe, for example, rose by 666 percent. The game would go on to be the best-selling game on the system, with a 3:5 attach rate.
    • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U managed to sell 490,000 physical and digital copies sold during its first three days of availability alone, despite the availability and success of a 3DS version which was released two months prior.
    • There's also EarthBound (1994) being released for the Wii U's Virtual Console, which became one of the top downloaded titles for the service. Not bad for a game that was an Acclaimed Flop when it first came out. EarthBound Beginnings was also received with similar praise, and quickly raised to the top of the downloads charts. Not bad for a game that wasn't released outside Japan before then.
    • Splatoon became a Sleeper Hit, selling over one million copies worldwide in less than a month and eventually becoming the best-selling Wii U game in Japan despite the shooter genre not being all that popular in the region.
    • Super Mario Maker sold 1 million copies in its first two weeks of availability, thanks to months of hype and promotion.
    • Two Ubisoft games, ZombiU and Rayman Legends, were positioned as killer apps for the system by Nintendo (who even specifically requested Ubisoft to make the former for them), with ZombiU being available on launch day, and Rayman Legends coming out during the launch window. However, the financial failure of ZombiU prompted Ubisoft to make Rayman Legends a Multi-Platform game, and the release date ended up getting delayed so that they could port the game to other systems.
    • Bayonetta 2 was another third party title that Nintendo tried to make into a killer app (even funding the development of the game, thus earning exclusivity rights for it), and while it didn't become a giant system seller, it nonetheless increased interest in the failing console and was acclaimed by critics and audiences, and Nintendo was satisfied enough with the game's sales that they ported it and the first game to the Nintendo Switch, as well as funding a second sequel exclusively for that console. It also helps that the game received a Colbert Bump thanks to Bayonetta being added as DLC to Smash on the same console.
  • Nintendo Switch:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, despite also seeing release on the Wii U. Nintendo reported at the end of the launch month that they'd sold more copies of Zelda for Switch than they did actual Switches — there were significant amount of people who had bought Breath of the Wild for a Switch they didn't yet own. After a year, the combined sales of the Switch and Wii U versions have made Breath of the Wild the best-selling game in the franchise, surpassing Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess by a wide margin. As of December 2022, the Switch version sold 29 million copies.
    • Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continues to be a killer app even beyond the Wii U, as it's the bestselling Switch game to date, being listed at around 52 million copies sold as of December 2022, meaning that combined sales of both versions of the game equal to around 60.5 million copies being sold in total.
    • Splatoon 2 sold 671,000 physical units during its Japanese release weekend alone, outselling literally every other game on the Switch in the process. Even two years after release, the game was a mainstay on the Top 10 in Japanese sales charts (occasionally regaining the #1 spot), remaining the best-selling Switch game in the region until Super Smash Bros. Ultimate surpassed it five months after its release. Splatoon 3 could also be considered this as of its release in 2022, selling nearly 8 million units in its launch month alone, and 10 million by the end of 2022.
    • Super Mario Odyssey received universal acclaim from both critics, casual audiences, and longtime Mario fans, and managed to sell two million copies within its first three days. Almost immediately, it ended up reaching more than a quarter of the install base for the Switch. Within two months it became the best-selling game on the console, reaching heights of nine million. It held the title of the bestselling game on the Switch until little more than a year later, when it was surpassed by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (more on that below). It since has been become the best selling 3D Mario installment with 25 million copies sold by the end of December 2022.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 sold less than other titles, similar to Kid Icarus: Uprising on the 3DS, but it managed to surpass one million units in just one month, and was released within the first year of the Switch's life, allowing for it to fill a void for JRPG games that had yet to be filled by other titles at the time. It ended up becoming the bestselling game made by Monolith Soft, elevating the Xeno series from being acclaimed flops to being one of Nintendo's and Monolith's most valued franchises. Notably, the Torna DLC received a physical release, a rare occurrence for a Nintendo game, and a remake of the first game was announced in 2019 for a release the following year, with Xenoblade Chronicles 3 following up on the successes of 2 and Definitive Edition in 2022 by surpassing the amount of units sold in either game's launch month.
    • Octopath Traveler managed to surpass two million units sold on the Switch, and was generally one of the more talked-about exclusives for the Nintendo Switch in 2018 despite the fact that said exclusivity was only temporary. Like with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, it was mainly helped by the lack of JRPGs available on the Switch during that period of time, but also appealed to many turn-based RPG fans that had been otherwise underwhelmed by Square Enix's other output in the recent years drifting more towards the Action RPG end of things.
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is not only the most successful installment in the Super Smash Bros. series, but also the fastest-selling Nintendo game yet for its time, moving over 12 million units in its first month (Pokemon Sword and Shield dethroned it). For comparison, the lifetime sales of the previous best-selling Smash title (Brawl) is 13.29 million. By its first year in the market, it eventually became the best-selling fighting game in history, and dethroned Melee as the Smash game for tournament play in the Fighting Game Community. By December 2022, it has sold 30.44 million copies.
    • Tetris 99, a Battle Royale Game-themed variation of the Tetris formula, follows in the footsteps of the original game for the Game Boy by being one for the Nintendo Switch Online service as a result of Tetris 99 being given away for free to its subscribers. Nintendo credited it as boosting user engagement with the Nintendo Switch Online service, with over a quarter of NSO subscribers signed up to the service playing it.
    • Fire Emblem: Three Houses marked another breakthrough for the Fire Emblem franchise, receiving lots of attention and advertising from Nintendo, leading to it becoming the bestselling game in the series at 2.29 million copies sold in its first three months alone, introducing a very sizable amount of new players to the series. and winning the Player's Voice Award at the Game Awards 2019, the only award that is 100% decided upon by the fans. Bear in mind that it went up against Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Death Stranding in order to win that award, and that was only in the final round.
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield broke a new sales record for the Switch, with 6 million copies sold worldwide on its opening weekend. Unsurprising as Pokémon is always a system seller for Nintendo, though this is the first time it did so with a home console (or at least a portable that can function as one). The Switch saw a significant sales jump upon Sword and Shield's release too, suggesting that many people bought a Switch just for it. It quickly dethroned Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as the fastest-selling Nintendo game ever. As of December 2022, it has become the second-best selling game in the series at 25.68 million copies.
    • Luigi's Mansion 3 sold more than five million units in just two months. In comparison, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS was reported to have sold five million copies four years after its initial release, which says a lot about the game's success. The game itself is also considered to be an Even Better Sequel to the two games that preceded it, and has elevated the Luigi's Mansion games from being a Cult Classic to a mainstream success, hitting 12 million copies at the end of December 2022.
    • Astral Chain. While not selling as much as other games, it has still managed to sell over a million copies, which is a great number by PlatinumGames' usual standards, especially since their largest successes have been licensed IPs, so seeing an original title like Astral Chain succeeding bodes well for them. Its status as a Nintendo-funded and published exclusive has otherwise managed to influence a non-insignificant number of people to buy a Switch, namely fans of Nier: Automata and Metal Gear Rising who otherwise had no interest in getting the console. In short, it's not a "killer app" in the sense that it's a blockbuster, but one in the sense that it attracted a good portion of non-Nintendo gamers and usually finds itself on a list of "must haves" for the console.
    • Ring Fit Adventure ended up being a surprise Sleeper Hit for the Nintendo Switch, only being announced one month prior to release and still being an exercise game after the casual game craze of the Wii had died out - yet it managed to sell 15 million units across its lifespan and ended up appealed to both dedicated gaming audiences for its Role-Playing Game mechanics and to the same casual audience that was responsible for the massive success of Wii Fit a decade prior.
    • Animal Crossing: New Horizons was the long-awaited followup to the series after 2012/2013's New Leaf for the 3DS. It lead to the Switch's best sales outside of the holiday season, with sales in the US during March 2020 being the best for any console for the month of March. As of December 2022, it was the second best selling game on the Switch at around 41 million copies, second only to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
    • Monster Hunter: Rise followed in the footsteps of the 3DS installments by selling a whopping four million copies in the first three days of sales, thus making it the undisputed bestselling third-party game on the Switch, surpassing titles like Among Us, Octopath Traveler, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and managed to reach seven million units in only two months.
    • As the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S made their way into the market from 2020 onwards, the Nintendo Switch was still able to maintain relevancy despite being dwarfed in power thanks to high-profile releases like Metroid Dread, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Kirby and the Forgotten Land, the aforementioned Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Splatoon 3, Bayonetta 3, and Fire Emblem Engage, some of which became the bestselling games of the series, and especially The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which sold 10 million units within three days.

  • Sega Genesis
    • The Sonic the Hedgehog series on the Mega Drive/Sega Genesis was an instant smash hit, with kids flocking to the ultimate Mascot with Attitude (who provides the page image), while wowing gamers with its speed-and-momentum-based platforming, dazzling graphics and frame rate, and incredible music. It was the first true massive Nintendo-rattling hit for the system to the point it's often mistaken as a launch game (the system had been out for two years when the first Sonic game was released).
    • Electronic Arts was an early heavy supporter of the system, which coincided with their pioneering of the sports-simulation genre, snapping up licenses to professional sports leagues and players and incorporating more realistic gameplay that wasn't possible on previous technology (leading to their famous EA Sports slogan, "If it's in the game, it's in the game"). As a result, series like Madden NFL and NHL Hockey became system grabbers for adult males whose sports fandom was tapped directly into by those games, and became dorm-room and multiplayer staples during the generation.
    • The Genesis port of Mortal Kombat (1992) didn't look as good as the SNES port and was missing a lot of the sound. What it did have was all the famous blood, gore, and bone-crunching intensity that hooked players in the arcade and was missing from the sanitized SNES port.note  The Genesis port outsold the SNES version over three-to-one, and coupled with the continued popularity of Sonic and the system's sports games, gave Sega a lead in the market share by 1993. Nintendo was so taken aback by the success disparity of the Mortal Kombat ports that they allowed Acclaim to go against their censorship policies and release Mortal Kombat II fully uncensored, requiring only a content warning label on the box (as it pre-dated the ESRB by a couple of months).
    • The Genesis port of Strider (Arcade) was also one of the system's earlier killer apps. In addition, the game holds the distinction of being the first game to be released on an 8-megabit cartridge.
    • Michael Jackson's Moonwalker gave the Genesis a big push, thanks to the novelty of being able to play as the King of Pop, himself.
    • The Genesis version of Aladdin, made by Virgin Games in partnership with actual Disney animators, was the 3rd best selling game for the system, and this version did not come to the SNES, due to Capcom still holding the rights to make Disney games on Nintendo systems at the time.
    • When Lunar: The Silver Star was released in Japan, it sold almost as many copies as the Sega CD. That and Sonic the Hedgehog CD were, if not killer apps, the nearest thing the Sega CD/Mega CD had.
  • Sega Saturn:
    • The Virtua Fighter games sold many Sega Saturn systems in Japan, and were acclaimed for pioneering 3D-fighters long before Tekken or Dead or Alive came along. They were popular enough to the point where Sony advertised Battle Arena Toshinden as being a "Virtua Fighter and Sega Saturn killer" - though Tekken later took that role for them.
    • The Panzer Dragoon series are killer apps for the Saturn, despite the fact that the first was the only one that sold well. Panzer Dragoon Saga in particular was created as an answer to Squaresoft's killer app for the PlayStation, Final Fantasy VII.
    • NiGHTS into Dreams… served as a primary reason to buy a Sega Saturn. Other games for the system with massive popularity include Virtua Fighter and Saturn Bomberman (often referred to by reviewers as the best game in its series).
    • Sakura Wars was the other Saturn killer app in Japan. The first and second games recorded the biggest sales as a Saturn original title, and was ranked #13 place in the Famitsu's 100 all-time favorite games list, leading the series to become one of Sega's most successful franchises.
    • Die Hard Arcade, initially known as Dynamite Cop, was acclaimed for being a near-perfect port of the original arcade version on the Saturn, and it helped that the western version of the game made use of the Die Hard license to make it more marketable to audiences.
    • The high quality ports of Capcom's fighting games, such as Darkstalkers, Street Fighter Alpha, and X-Men vs. Street Fighter helped distinguish the Saturn from the PlayStation, being closer to the original arcade versions than the PS1 ports.
    • Grandia was another, coming out directly as the JRPG craze of the fifth generation had begun, and became one of the most acclaimed games on the Saturn, as well as one of the most imported from overseas thanks to word of mouth.
  • Sega Dreamcast:
    • Sonic Adventure was a big seller, being the first fully 3D Sonic game. Tragically, its sequel was released too late into the console's short run, but was nonetheless considered an excellent Swan Song for the Dreamcast. Its rerelease, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle could be considered this for the GameCube, being the first Sonic title to release on a Nintendo platform.
    • The beyond-the-arcade port of Soulcalibur was the best-reviewed game of the year — and remains one of the best-reviewed games of all-time — and was able to break from a pack of other fighters on the system at launch, helping cement the Dreamcast as a system with excellent games out of the gate as opposed to the Saturn and assisting the Dreamcast to Sega's most successful launch sales ever.
    • The biggest seller at launch, though, wasn't Sonic or Soul, but NFL 2K, whose eye-popping graphics, impressive sound (including several hours worth of Announcer Chatter), and natural-looking branching animation was several quantum leaps over what sports games could even remotely offer up to that point, coupled by strong first-year gameplay that justified the bells and whistles. It was an important title to also fill the void left by EA, who refused to publish games for Dreamcast when Sega rejected EA's proposal of Madden being the only football sim on the system. The following year, NFL 2K1 was this for the launch of Dreamcast's online service, SegaNet, allowing an even more polished football game to be taken online well before Madden would enter the realm on later consoles.
    • Shenmue had generated considerable hype for the console, and is widely considered the best game on it, but its huge budget eventually led to it becoming a financial failure despite solid sales.
    • Resident Evil – Code: Veronica, at the time considered the first "next generation" RE gamenote  to follow on from the original Playstation trilogy, was a big draw to gamers, as Resident Evil was the biggest survival horror franchise in gaming and Code: Veronica was (at the time at least) a Dreamcast exclusive.
    • The Dreamcast continued the Saturn's legacy of being a home for Arcade Perfect Ports of fighting games, such as the aforementioned Soulcalibur, Power Stone, Dead or Alive 2, and especially Marvel vs. Capcom 2, to the point where it's even been this after both the Dreamcast and the game have gone out of circulation, due to the Dreamcast version being the standard for tournament play. Beyond fighting games, Crazy Taxi was another well-done port, and popular enough that one of its sequels was console-only.
    • Phantasy Star Online was successful enough that the Dreamcast version's servers were kept up for years and years after the Dreamcast was discontinued, whereas it was originally meant to last for two or three months. Years later, it would even receive a sequel in the form of Phantasy Star Online 2, albeit multiplatform, since this was years after Sega left the hardware business.
    • The Dreamcast also holds the distinction of being home to the best version Quake III: Arena, utilizing online play in an FPS setting long before Halo: Combat Evolved made it mainstream, and even featured crossplay with PC players. It's popular enough that servers for the Dreamcast version of Quake III are still up to this day.

  • When the TurboGrafx-16's CD add-on came out, NEC's marketing division, TTI, was quick to promote the two CD Shoot 'Em Up titles available for it, Gate of Thunder and Lords of Thunder, as being its flagship titles, even ahead of console mascot Bonk. Ys Books 1 & 2 was also highly lauded. In Japan, the first big game produced for the CD-ROM unit was Tengai Makyou: Ziria, but neither it nor its more popular sequel was ever exported.
  • Similarly locked to Japan was the SuperGrafx, which boasted arcade-perfect ports of Ghouls 'n Ghosts and Strider.

  • PlayStation:
    • Ridge Racer's console port was available on day one of the system, and was enough of a success to begin a generation-long partnership between Sony and Namco. It proved to be so popular that it was specifically used in 2006 to highlight the PSOne Classics line of games for the PSP and PS3 (or as more infamously remembered, the part in Sony E3 2006 press conference when Kaz Hirai said "Riiiiiidge Racer!"). Speaking of Namco titles, the console port of Air Combat was a launch title for the PlayStation in the west and was released early in its lifespan in Japan, eventually shipping 2.23 million units overall.
    • Within Japan, Arc the Lad was one of the first games released to sell over one million units, with its sequel also becoming a million unit seller. However, the Arc the Lad trilogy was never localized outside of Japan despite demand from western audiences for SCEA to bring the series overseas, up until the Collection rerelease that came out for the PS1 two years after the PS2 was released, thus minimizing the impact Arc the Lad made on western audiences compared to other JRPGs.
    • Battle Arena Toshinden was hyped as the first killer app for the system, a "Virtua Fighter Killer". It took at first, but the quality of later games overtook it and now it's currently forgotten and considered to not have aged well at all. The first big killer app ended up being Capcom's Resident Evil, with the Tekken series, Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy VII, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, Spyro the Dragon, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater following up to make the PlayStation a viable contender against Sega and Nintendo. The system's sheer number of killer apps is the main reason it was able to take the video game throne from Sega and Nintendo in the mid '90s.
    • The buzziest game for the system was Final Fantasy VII, with SquareSoft's decision to develop it for the PlayStation over the N64 playing a huge role in Sony's victory over Nintendo during the 32/64-bit era. Upon release, it became the best-selling PlayStation game (until it was surpassed by Gran Turismo) and increased the PlayStation's install base substantially, helping it beat the N64 worldwide as well as the Sega Saturn in Japan (where the Saturn was leading up until then).
    • The best-selling game on the system was Gran Turismo, whose astonishing attention to detail and realism pushed forward what could be done on current systems, while still remaining accessible and fun for even non-gearheads, and spearheaded the sim-racer genre. Its sequel wound up as the third-best-selling game on the system, with the Turismos sandwiching Final Fantasy VII.
    • In the United Kingdom, Wipeout was far and away the most popular title from the PlayStation's 1995 launch lineup. The game's fast pace, mutli-player gameplay and hip techno soundtrack made it massively popular with the young adult and twenty-something demographic that Sony wanted to attract to their system. It was the best selling game in Europe for the PlayStation in 1995, and nearly sold on a 1-to-1 basis with systems in the UK through its first Christmas season and well into 1996.
    • Ape Escape was one for the DualShock controller, being the first game to explicitly require it due to utilizing both analogue sticks. Because of that, it was acclaimed as being one of the most revolutionary games on the platform, and to this day is still considered to be one of the best games on the PlayStation.
    • To a lesser extent, the Twisted Metal, Parappa The Rapper, Legacy of Kain, Hot Shots Golf, Tenchu, Syphon Filter, and Medal of Honor series.
  • PlayStation 2: Thanks to its long lifespan and large library, much of which is highly acclaimed, the console had a number of titles that resulted in huge sales spikes:
    • The PS2 launched with five well-received best-sellers out of the gate: Madden NFL 2001 (whose audiovisual jump instantly made other versions of Madden obsolete), Ridge Racer V, EA's SSX (which was a sleeper hit that launched a very successful franchise for the system), Midnight Club: Street Racing (which launched another successful franchise and marked the beginning of Sony and Rockstar's partnership for most of the PS2's lifespan), and Tekken Tag Tournament.
    • The ability to play DVDs. At a time when dedicated players were nearly as much as a PS2 itself, the idea of being able to get a DVD player that was also the hot new PlayStation console made it an easy sales pitch. In fact, maybe too easy; for the first few months, Sony actually had some internal panic over consoles sales dwarving software sales, indicating people were buying it only for the DVD playback capability. However, the cavalry would soon arrive for the system as seen below.
    • After a relatively dry post-launch spell, the system received many killer apps later in 2001, including but not limited to: Onimusha (the first game to reach one million units on the system), Dark Cloud, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Twisted Metal Black, Red Faction, Final Fantasy X, Everybody's Golf 3, Devil May Cry, Dynasty Warriors 3, Silent Hill 2, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, Grand Theft Auto III, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. Coincidentally — or perhaps not — this coincided with release of two of its competitors' consoles, the GameCube and Xbox. And due to the anticipation generated by its pre-release hype, Metal Gear Solid 2 is credited for the PlayStation 2's victory over the Dreamcast before the game was even released. The game then went on to being one of the top 10 best-sellers, with over 7 million copies sold.
    • The Grand Theft Auto series of games had been killer apps for the PlayStation from Grand Theft Auto III onwards (especially San Andreas, which was lauded for its huge scale of territory and gameplay variety, as in you get much more to do than in previous games)note  until Microsoft pulled a major coup and convinced Rockstar to make Grand Theft Auto IV a multi-platform release on day one.
    • The Kingdom Hearts series was already bound to be a massive success, being a crossover of Final Fantasy and Disney Animated Canon that featured fun and flashy Action RPG gameplay. The first game is the tenth-bestselling PS2 game, which more than the likes of Ratchet & Clank, God of War, and Jak and Daxter.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is widely considered one of the PS2's best games (if not the best), and also one of the system's top 10 to top 15 best-sellers.
    • Also of note is the Ratchet & Clank series, which was so successful, Ratchet ended up becoming the new face of Sony after Crash and Spyro went third-party.
    • The PS2 had so many killer apps lined up that God of War doesn't make this list simply because it just flat-out wasn't needed.
    • Shadow of the Colossus is another game that can fit the category, with its ability to push the capabilities of the PS2 far enough for the sake of Scenery Porn.
    • Singstar was one of the PS2's killer apps in Europe and Australia, credited to the same mainstream appeal that the Wii would later capture.
    • The Other Wiki lists Soul Calibur III and Tekken 5 as being this for the PS2 on its own page about this phenomenon. While the former is a debatable example, since its sales numbers were never reported on, the Tekken series has been this for PlayStation consoles in general, even after it went Multi-Platform with 6.
    • SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs and Final Fantasy XI were online-heavy games that allowed for the PlayStation 2 to keep up with the Xbox in terms of online play, with Sony even publishing Final Fantasy XI, and SOCOM being Sony's initial premiere online shooter, before the likes of Killzone and Resistance came along, with SOCOM even releasing alongside a custom headset for the PS2 that players could use to communicate with each other.
  • PlayStation Portable:
  • PlayStation 3:
    • Resistance: Fall of Man was available on day one and eventually sold around 2.5 million units, though it wasn't a major killer app, rather only keeping the PS3 from being dead on arrival after the backlash surrounding its reveal and release. Motorstorm was another title released early on in the system's lifespan that helped it remain relevant in wake of the Wii and Xbox 360.
    • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots was the biggest killer app for the system, and what ended most of the hate for the system. What's most notable is that Snake's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, specifically his own stage, has a massive amount of Foreshadowing for this game. Foreshadowing on the killer app of a direct competitor.
    • God of War III, though not hurt by being released at the time the price cut was taking effect.
    • The Uncharted series has been this, but it has never been more apparent than with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, which sold 3.8 million copies during the first day of release, something rarely heard of for console exclusive games.
    • Killzone 2, which is essentially the Halo 3 for the PS3.
    • Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII were clearly meant to be this, as they were revealed at Sony's E3 2006 press conference, plus VII and X were killer apps for the first two home PlayStation consoles respectively. However, an Xbox 360 port of XIII ended up being announced before release, and the game itself saw mixed reviews from fans and critics. As for Versus XIII? That didn't even come out until the next generation of consoles, and instead became Final Fantasy XV.
    • The Last of Us has sold 6 million in less than a year, making it the 2nd best-selling exclusive behind Gran Turismo 5, and 3rd best-selling PS3 game overall. It is almost unanimously seen as the defining game of the PS3, if not the entire seventh generation. Its Updated Re Release on PS4 is this too, for those who didn't play it on PS3 but bought a PS4.
    • LittleBigPlanet's Level Editor helped set it apart from other side-scrolling platformers, and acted as a major reason to get a PS3. After the PSN blackout of 2011, it was offered to PSN subscribers as a free game as part of Sony's "Welcome Back" program to compensate users.
  • Play Station Vita:
    • Gravity Rush became this for the Vita as it was offered for free for Playstation Plus members for the better part of two years since its launch release.
    • Tearaway is this too (despite not being released on the PS Plus line-up). It also uses most, if not all the console's features in many, creative ways.
    • Persona 4: The Golden is this for the Vita in Japan, which was lagging behind. It sold 137 thousand copies along with 34 thousand units. This later proved true for the Western market as well.
    • IGN once posed the question of whether or not Soul Sacrifice was the Vita's killer app despite Sony never claiming it to be.
    • The Vita ports of the Danganronpa series in the West, due to the PSP versions being a case of No Export for You.
  • PlayStation 4:
    • Bloodborne. After 16 months since the console released, this is the first non-Nintendo game from the Eighth Generation to be acclaimed by both critics and players. Driveclub is this to a lesser degree in the UK, becoming the best-selling exclusive of 2014. However, the game was bundled on a relatively cheap Black Friday bundle.
    • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was this as the next big title. It reviewed even better than Bloodborne and became the console's best-selling exclusive title, with over 8.7 million copies by the end of its release and over 16 million copies by 2019.
    • Horizon Zero Dawn was critically acclaimed and sold over 2.5 million copies within two weeks of its launch, subsequently becoming Sony's biggest launch of a new IP during the console's lifetime. It maintained this record until 2020, when it was beaten by Ghost of Tsushima. By 2019, it sold over 10 million copies.
    • 2018 saw not one but two major Killer Apps for the PS4.
      • God of War (PS4) was this not long after its release, becoming the highest-rated PS4 exclusive in the proccess. In the month of April 2018, the PS4 outsold both the Xbox One X and the Nintendo Switch.
      • Spider-Man (PS4) picked up the slack later in the year, driving console sales and even managing to outsell God of War. This only got better when Sony released a $200 Black Friday Bundle that included a PS4 and a copy of the game, boosting sales of both and helping push the console to over 90 million total sales during the 2018 holiday season.
    • Persona 5 was this to a lesser extent, as was its Updated Re-release and Final Fantasy VII Remake; the latter two releasing during the console's final year as Sony's main platform.
    • Astro Bot Rescue Mission and BloodAndTruth are this to Sony's VR headset. Releasing in 2018 and 2019 respectively, the former is Sony's highest-rated VR title as of 2020, and the latter was heavily praised for its blockbuster-like quality. Iron Man VR is this to a lesser extent.
  • PlayStation 5:
    • Astro's Playroom is this for the console's controller, the DualSense. It has been nearly universally praised for selling the concept of the controller's gimmicks and innovations.
    • Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Bluepoint Games' remake of Demon's Souls were billed by Sony as as the marquee titles for the platform's launch, the former being a spinoff of Insomniac's highly popular Spider-Man (PS4), while the latter was a complete remake of a game locked to the PS3. Though Miles Morales was also released on the PS4, it was marketed for its PS5-specific features. Both titles were very well-received.
    • Returnal was a bright spot in what was otherwise considered to be a slow first year for the PlayStation 5, winning many accolades and becoming a Sleeper Hit that many people point to as being the first game to properly show what the PS5 is capable of. It also doesn't hurt that it's not on PS4, thus making it a more appealing purchase than multiplatform games.
    • Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, being the latest installment in a long-running and beloved franchise that returns to the series' main continuity after the divisive 2016 re-imagining, and unlike Miles Morales, it was exclusive to the PS5. It ended up being a critical and commercial success, further justifying the PS5 after only having Returnal and Demon's Souls.
    • Deathloop and Ghostwire: Tokyo were clearly meant to invoke this, due to Sony nabbing both of them as timed exclusives for the PS5. However, it was only a few months after that announcement in which Microsoft announced their acquisition of Bethesda, leading many to choose to wait for their Xbox ports instead, and when both of them did release, they weren't as acclaimed as Returnal or Rift Apart.
    • Horizon Forbidden West ended being a milder example. While it was favorably received by audiences and critics, and sold a fairly decent amount of units, it ended up being overshadowed by the much-anticipated Elden Ring, which released a week after Forbidden West came out and ended up selling extremely well, while reviewing even better with critics and audiences.
    • God of War Ragnarök saw a release on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, but it became a much more straight example than Forbidden West was - it sold 5.1 million units during its launch weekend and received universal acclaim from critics and audiences, as well as many awards from industry shows (rivaling Elden Ring in that regard), and easily became Sony's biggest game for 2022, thanks to Forbidden West being overshadowed by Elden Ring and Gran Turismo 7 being controversial for its microtransactions.

  • Xbox
  • Xbox 360:
    • Upon the Xbox 360's release, the most purchased title was Call of Duty 2 (with a port from the PC version, in contrast to the watered-down ones the previous generation got), with Perfect Dark Zero and Condemned: Criminal Origins also being launch exclusives that sold significantly well. Then in the next two years there was Gears of War and BioShock (the latter, like Call of Duty, also available on PC upon release). Cliff Bleszinski revealed that he and Epic Games convinced Microsoft to incur a billion dollar loss to upgrade the 360's capability so it could run Gears. And to top it all off, Halo 3 was the most anticipated game for the Xbox 360 at the time, becoming the bestselling game of the year and the bestselling game in its series, rounding off the trilogy that began on the original Xbox.
    • Dead Rising was an exclusive from Capcom, and proved to be widely popular by being a Denser and Wackier take on the Survival Horror genre with a hint of musou-styled crowd combat gameplay, having the player go up against hordes of zombies. It was so popular, that protagonist Frank West was eventually introduced to the Capcom vs. series to duke it out with other Capcom legends. Similarly, the console ports of Valve's Left 4 Dead duology were exclusive to the Xbox 360.
    • The Elder Scrolls continued to be a bestseller on Xbox platforms with Oblivion, which was a timed exclusive for the Xbox 360, and Skyrim, which sold 13 million units on the Xbox 360, the most ever out of all the consoles its been released on. Skyrim was even sold with Xbox 360 consoles and Forza Motorsport in a holiday bundle, despite being a third-party release.
    • Crackdown was this, though that was mainly because it was the game that people needed to buy in order to access the Halo 3 demo, then the most anticipated game on the console - though it did help that Crackdown was considered a damn good game on its own anyways, and was successful enough to spawn two sequels, though neither are as well-liked or enjoyed as the original was.
    • Mass Effect, published by Microsoft and developed by BioWare, was released as an exclusive for the Xbox 360, and received near-universal adoration for its scale, both in terms of exploration and storytelling, and is regarded as a landmark in the WRPG genre, completing BioWare's rise to superstardom that began with Knights of the Old Republic, and the game remained exclusive for years even after BioWare was acquired by Electronic Arts.
    • Fable II completed the trifecta of system-selling Western RPG games for the Xbox 360 that was started by the aforementioned Oblivion and continued with Mass Effect. Considered to be a great improvement over the original Xbox game, Fable II was the bestselling game on the console during the week of its release, and is still considered to be one of the standout role-playing games on the system overall.
    • In a non-gaming example, Netflix streaming was this to the Xbox 360 for a time. Hard as it may be to believe nowadays given Netflix's ubiquity on numerous platforms, but the Xbox 360 was the first, and thanks to an exclusivity agreementnote  between Netflix and Microsoft, only non-PC device that could stream Netflix.
    • Team Ninja continued their support for the Xbox brand into the 360 era with Dead or Alive 4 (which even featured a female Spartan from the Halo series as a Guest Fighter), and Ninja Gaiden II, the Bloodier and Gorier sequel that Microsoft handled publishing duties for instead of Tecmo. That being said, those were also the last exclusives Team Ninja released for Microsoft's consoles, due to Tomonobu Itagaki leaving in 2008.
    • Like the Game Boy Advance, Xbox Live Arcade has sold mainly on a stream of solid indies, the most notable of which were Geometry Wars, 'Splosion Man, Limbo, Braid, and Super Meat Boy. And in Japan, the Killer App is The Idolmaster, even if it isn't for the 360 itself. On the release of the Xbox 360 version, Microsoft sold over four times as many Microsoft points as they had in the past. THE iDOLM@STER singlehandedly resparked the sales for the Xbox 360 in Japan. The success was so great that in some stores they had to close the doors early in the morning because they were sold out.
    • Grand Theft Auto IV was the first Multi-Platform title in the series, with Microsoft paying a hefty fee for Rockstar to bring it to the Xbox 360 on day one. The gamble paid off significantly, as not only did IV sell better on the Xbox 360 than it did on the PS3, but Microsoft also received timed exclusivity on the game's two DLC campaigns, The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. IV's success as a multiplatform title also changed Rockstar's strategy going forward, with mega-blockbuster titles like the Red Dead series and Grand Theft Auto V all having multiplatform launches from that point going forward.
    • This trope is mostly inverted when it comes to Japan, as they have not taken to either system much like its competition. So far, the closest the 360 has to a killer app there is a hit game that boosts sales for a week or so then they fall back to just selling a few thousand a week until the next hit game. These "boost" games include Blue Dragon (Akira Toriyama's involvement helped, too), Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, Tales of Vesperia (which is the best-selling 360 game in Japan and was even sold with 360s for a while, so it was a Fanboy issue when it was later ported to the PS3) and Star Ocean: The Last Hope.
  • Xbox One:
    • Titanfall was the game that kept the Xbox One from dying on the vine in its first year, being a desired "exclusive" for the consolenote  'til Halo 5: Guardians was released. Oddly, it wasn't a blockbuster, just a game that kept interest alive in the then-controversial system. Respawn Interactivenote  however, treated it like it was a killer app and foolishly had Titanfall 2 compete with Call of Duty and Battlefield, resulting in poor sales, despite being available for the PlayStation 4 as well as the Xbox One and PC.
    • Ori and the Blind Forest and Ori and the Will of the Wisps by Moon Studios were widely-acclaimed, being Metroidvanias with a beautiful animated style reminiscent of Ghilbi films, and are generally well-received for being exclusives published by Microsoft that aren't just another Halo, Gears, or Forza, something which helps it stand out on the console. The original was popular enough to warrant a port to the Nintendo Switch years later, and the second game saw its Switch port in the same year as its original release.
    • Rare Replay, a collection of various Rare games from all across their history, was very well-received, with many comparing it favorably to The Orange Box by Valve.
    • The 2013 reboot of Killer Instinct is probably the Xbox One's best-remembered launch title, still boasting a fairly active competitive scene years later, and receiving three seasons of post-launch support.
    • Rise of the Tomb Raider tried to be this, by being an entry in the iconic series exclusive to Xbox and even had Microsoft handling publishing duties for it. However, the announcement of it being a timed exclusive drew a large amount of backlash, due to Lara Croft's multiplatform history (and generally associated more with Sony than with Microsoft). Nevertheless, the game did sell at least one million units on the Xbox One, but it's clear that this wasn't the juggernaut either Microsoft or Square Enix expected it to be.
    • Cuphead became a critical and commercial darling upon release, being praised for its Nintendo Hard difficulty that brought to mind old school shoot 'em ups like Contra and Metal Slug, and coupled with an aesthetic inspired by the golden age of animation, made it one of the most unique indie titles to be released in recent years, as well as one of the most unique Xbox One games.
    • Forza Horizon 4, in part due to its presence on Game Pass (see below), has become a major hit and led to it being seen almost as an Author's Saving Throw for the Xbox One in general, with a number of outlets describing it as the best racing game ever made and one of the few exclusives worth buying an Xbox One to play.
    • Gears of War 5: After years of struggling with the perception that the Xbox One platform lacked any noteworthy exclusive, Gears 5 released in 2019 to a very positive reception and lots of media hype. In addition to serving as a killer app for the Xbox One hardware, it also served as one for Microsoft's Game Pass subscription, being a high-quality AAA game to be available from day one on the service.
  • Xbox Game Pass (and to an extent Xbox Game Pass Ultimate) has become so popular that smaller games get a Colbert Bump just from being on it. The Coalition and Splash Damage stated Gears Tactics would have never been made without it. Other games such as Sea of Thieves remain viable do to having a stable player base because of it. With all first party games arriving day one on Game Pass, Microsoft has revealed the service makes more money for the company than hardware, so much so that they instituted Smart Delivery; games which have the designation means Xbox One games are automatically free and upgraded for Xbox Series X. Not only that, but the All Access programme allows customers to buy an Xbox One/One X console and Game Pass in instalments with no down payment, giving many an impetus to join the ecosystem of a console that had started off its life with much controversynote  and had been lagging behind the PS4 up until that point.
  • The xCloud streaming service allows Ultimate users to turn the Xbox One and 9th gen consoles into Nintendo Switch-like systems — the Razor Kishi controller even turns cellphones into a Switch-like screen controller.
  • Xbox Series X|S:
    • Originally, Halo Infinite was meant to be the system's marquee launch title, but its delay after the Tainted by the Preview reaction it got from audiences in response to the first footage of gameplay shown otherwise dampened excitement in the system, though not entirely. Instead, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which had console exclusivity in the west for the Series X|S, ended up making up for some of the traction lost.
    • As for GamePass, the announcement that EA Play would be offered for GamePass subscribers at no additional cost became a big boon in the Series X|S' favor, effectively widening the library of games available for owners of the system.
    • Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 was initially announced be released on both the Xbox Series X|S and the Xbox One in terms of consoles, but it was later announced to be headed to the Series X|S as a console exclusive, even though it was already available on PC beforehand.
    • Announced unexpectedly at E3 2021 and released in November the same year, Forza Horizon 5 is widely viewed as one of the first true Killer Apps of both the Xbox Series X|S and Game Pass, gaining over 6 million players in a matter of days and outclassing its similarly-acclaimed predecessors.
    • Hi-Fi RUSH: After a long drought of new games throughout 2022, Hi-Fi RUSH became a Sleeper Hit (after its surprise reveal and simultaneous release, no less) for Microsoft as a desirable exclusive for not only Xbox Game Pass, but is also a console exclusive to the Xbox Series X|S - finally giving the platform a game that isn't on also on the Xbox One, thus averting a major complaint about the The Ninth Generation of Console Video Games in general. The fact that it's also a Japanese-developed exclusive also did much to endear it to players, as Japanese developers in the years prior had gravitated towards the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation line of consoles, whereas Hi-Fi RUSH is guaranteed to remain exclusive to Xbox platforms by virtue of Microsoft owning it.

    PC (Windows/Mac/Linux) 
  • The original classic Macintosh's killer app was its four channel sampled audio, a feature very nearly nixed by Steve Jobs. The feature went on to become the Mac's selling point in the US, as the feature meant that the Mac could have "talkie" games that were technically unheard of in the era. The demonstration of MacinTalk during its launch was one of the major selling points. This, combined with the fact that early '90s Macs were the also the first computers to ship with CD-ROM drives as standard equipment, cemented its status as an edutainment machine in schools and as the all-rounded family multimedia machine in homes in the '90s. Of course, it helped that Myst was one of the killer apps for the platform, appearing for the Mac first before being ported to Windows note . Macs also had another technical edge in the '80s and early '90s: greater screen resolution than PCs. The original Mac, even though it had only a black-and-white screen, had a resolution of 512 x 342 at a time when PC games ran at 300 x 200. This made text and black-and-white graphics look crisp. This advantage later eroded when Windows became popular in the '90s.
  • Doom. The biggest Killer App in all of PC gaming history, with over 4 million copies sold. Before Doom, PC games were a niche hobby, a small subset that was to consolenote  players what video games were to the general populace. Doom made PC gaming mainstream, and let the world know that those computers they were using for their essays and spread sheets could do something that not just matched, but even surpassed what those boxes next to their TVs could do. To call it the Super Mario Bros. of PC gaming is an understatement; it singlehandedly made the PC the new Nintendo, and only after its success can you watch a movie or TV show and see anybody playing video games on their computers as opposed to sitting by the television playing on a console. Even to this very day, it's the first (and often only) title that comes to non-gamers' minds when they think of PC games, with Call of Duty only recently supplanting this honor.
    • Doom was indirectly the Trope Maker for Windows as a serious gaming platform. Prior to Windows 95, you were limited to Solitaire and Minesweeper and the occasional more advanced title like Myst. And then Bill Gates read the result of a study that found that Doom was installed on more computers in the world than Windows was. Intent on remedying this, Bill made damn sure that Windows 95 would have its own natively compatible version of Doom.
  • The final straw that made Windows into a viable gaming platform, and the only place to play games on PC, was DirectX. Prior to DirectX, developers often had to roll their own graphics code, and if they wanted to take advantage of graphics and sound cards, they usually had to make a different version of their game for each brand of card. DirectX remedied this by giving developers an Application Programming Interface of pre-built graphics functions that could run on any supported third-party graphics hardware (which was most if not all of them). Given that it was exclusive to Windows, it also had the side effect of largely killing off the gaming scenes on other computer platforms, which were already quite small by this time thanks to the IBM Personal Computer's overwhelming market share.
  • Windows 3.0 as a whole for mice in the PC market. Before Windows 3.0, most PC users only had a keyboard, and mice were deemed to be "for DTP pros". Coincidentally, point-and-click adventure games from Sierra and LucasArts also started appearing around that time, which bolstered mice sales even more.
  • The most important game on PC in terms of actually selling hardware was Links 386 Pro, a golf game of all things. This game actually forced owners to upgrade to 386 processors just to play it.
  • Quake spurred many a gamer to update to Pentiums. The game performed so much better on Intel's Pentium processors to the point that prospective PC gamers upgrading from the old 386 and 486 would steer away from AMD and Cyrix alternatives to the point that it's commonly speculated that Cyrix's relatively poor FPU performance at the time, and thus Quake performance, put Cyrix out of business. Not even the Nintendo 64 could hold 60 FPS at just 240p with its Quake port; the PlayStation and Sega Saturn stood no chance, further cementing the sheer advantage PC gaming had over console gaming.
    • When GLQuake was released, 3dfx Voodoo Graphics accelerators started flying off the shelves, now that people could suddenly play it at 640x480 resolution (at a time when people were content with 320x200 on the software-rendered version because higher resolutions were too demanding) and still maintain liquid-smooth frame rates!note  GLQuake was allegedly developed to run on id Software's workstations with no intentions of running on consumer PCs, but by coincidence, the 3dfx Voodoo Graphics card handled it very well, and so they made it available to consumers anyway. The rest is history.
  • Try thinking of a PC game before King's Quest. Outside of the Zork series of Text Adventures, it's not a very easy task. The colorful, imaginative adventures that Sierra brought to life gave gamers something appealing that console games, with their straightforward running and jumping and shooting, just couldn't offer: an interactive, immersive world you could get lost in as it unfolded in vivid graphics, text details and cutscenes. It also popularized the Tandy 1000/PC Jr. graphics mode, which allowed PCs to display all 16 colors of the CGA standard at once instead of just palettes of 4, which finally made the PC into a viable gaming platform. Even if they aren't exactly vivid by today's (or even the latter half of the decade's) standards, it was enough to convince a lot of people why you would want to play video games on the "homework machine".
  • Bungie seems to make killer apps wherever they go. Mac's killer app? The Marathon Trilogy. The Xbox's? Halo.
  • The Ultima franchise was the crown RPG of early PCs. So much so, it had a profound effect on NES RPGs for a long, long while. Like other series, it forced some users to upgrade their hardware to play Ultima VII.
  • In the same vein as Doom, Half-Life and its sequels pushed the success of PC games even further, with their slick design and fantastic presentation bridging the gap between "casual" gamers raised on mascot platformers and Japanese RPGs and "hardcore" gaming formats. It was, after all, the computer equivalent to GoldenEye (1997) in shifting the FPS scene from "Doom clones" to an actual genre.
    • Counter-Strike was, ironically, both the killer app for the early 2000's golden age of 'real world' LAN Gaming cafes/centres, as well as the reason they crashed in popularity from 2004 onwards, when the Source remake became the killer app for Steam and home-based online multiplayer.
    • Valve did it again with Team Fortress 2 in 2007, which is, to this very day, their most successful game of all time, and was tied with DOTA 2 (also by Valve) as the most popular game on Steam until it was finally overtaken by PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds a decade later.
  • Star Wars: Rebel Assault was THE killer app for CD-ROM, although some say that the time of CD-ROM had dawned and Rebel Assault was just the first major game.
  • There are two candidates for the cross-platform killer app for both CD-ROM drives and sound cards: The 7th Guest and Myst, both often bundled with "multimedia upgrade kits"note  PC people bought in order to play them, and these games were also often sold bundled with a Macintosh. Unlike many of the other games on the list, they currently have a "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny status.
  • Attempts had been made for ages to sell 3D accelerators, and while 3dfx's Voodoo made a good argument, it was a combination of GLQuake and Unreal that caused people to pour hundreds of dollars into enough system upgrades to see them rendered through Glide.
    Note that GLQuake is not the first 3D-accelerated version of Quake; that honor goes to VQuake for the Rendition Verite cards. Incidentally, its proprietary RRedline API (remember that Direct3D and OpenGL were not mainstream at the time) caused John Carmack to swear off vendor-specific APIs afterward, and it was just by coincidence that 3dfx had a card that could run the subset of OpenGL that GLQuake required at a fraction of the cost of a professional 3D graphics workstation, such as the ones by Silicon Graphics.
  • Crysis was a boon for graphics card manufacturers, as even years after its release, hardcore computer gamers have been working hard to build systems that can render its incredible graphics at full detail without dropping frames. It was also important because at the time, other developers who weren't abandoning the PC altogether were making ports that were vastly inferior to their own contemporary Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions for no good reason — not taking advantage of the more powerful hardware available to PCs, sometimes not even acknowledging that PCs could have different hardware by letting you change the graphical settings), making little effort to properly port the controls from a controller to keyboard and mouse, ignoring existing bugs and often introducing new ones that would also go ignored, et cetera. Some say that this game single-handedly saved the platform and jump-started its renaissance.
  • Since Macs have historically had few compatible games, every gamer who owns one is essentially required to get certain games. Some examples are Myst (which was originally developed using QuickTime and HyperCard, both Mac OS-exclusive technologies), the Marathon Trilogy and anything else released by Bungie, and anything made by Blizzard Entertainment, Ambrosia Software or Pangea Software, the last of whom often had their games bundled with new Macs.
    • Preemptively, Valve releasing Steam and the Source-based games on Mac (Portal 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 in particular) have caused a huge jump of interest in Mac gaming. The same thing has happened to Linux since the announcement that Valve would be porting Steam to Ubuntu.
  • The Sims can be credited with kicking off the resurgence of casual gaming of the 2000s (along with internet games).
  • The Age of Empires series, Age of Empires II in particular, was one of the most successful and well crafted PC RTS games of its time, and still maintains a large player and modding community despite being a decade old.
  • Linux has several applications that could count as killer apps for the platform:
    • The LAMP server (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) let people build servers using off-the-shelf PC hardware, giving Linux a huge boost in its early days. Along with powering much of the Internet, it quickly became the standard for individually-owned game servers.
    • Samba enables Linux servers to share files and printers with Windows machines, as well as serve as Active Directory domain controllers. Samba and Apache increased acceptance of Linux in the enterprise, to the point where Linux servers have displaced many legacy Unix and Windows NT servers due to Linux's nonexistent licensing fees.
    • Linux also became popular in scientific computing due to the historical use of Unix in academia and the ability to build clusters to do complicated calculations on inexpensive PC-class hardware. Now all the major supercomputers run Linux.
  • Windows XP only really started to die off in favour of Windows 7 when Battlefield 3 was announced to be Windows 7/Vista exclusive. Call of Duty: Black Ops II making the same announcement a year later likely helped as well.
  • 64-bit versions of Windows were slowly gaining speed by the start of The New '10s, and multiple games coming out from a few years into the decade have been requiring 64-bit OSes to even run, but it's most likely the PC port of Grand Theft Auto V that's been the biggest cause for people to upgrade.
  • Telltale Games singlehandedly resurrected the Adventure Game genre.
  • While NetHack is a multi-platform game, just about any serious Unix or Linux user has a copy installed, as it's one of the few decent games available.
  • Looking for decent games on the Windows 8 store? Look no further than Gameloft's games (except the My Little Pony game—that's a different story), which even have their own collection easily visible on the front page of the store.
  • Because Chromebooks are available on dirt-cheap hardware, are centrally managed and there's no real software to manage, they've become popular in schools.
  • Due to the decline in the popularity of flight/space simulators, alongside Freelancer's controversial decision to support keyboard and mouse at the total expense of joysticks, the joystick largely fell out of favor amongst PC gamers — until the duo of Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen releasing at roughly the same time not only reignited the space simulator genre and PC gaming in general, but surged a newfound demand for HOTAS setups generally reserved for only the most hardcore Falcon BMS and Digital Combat Simulator players. To top that off, Star Citizen runs on the same engine as the aforementioned Crysis, but highly upgraded!
    This even escalated to a new market for dual-stick setups with a left stick in place of the throttle as a strafing control (remember that both games support six degrees of freedom), and in Elite's case, Virtual Reality support. Indeed, Elite: Dangerous is one of the earliest killer apps for the Oculus Rift, even before the Touch controllers were released!
  • The CentOS Linux distribution, a free, community-developed version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux with the Red Hat branding removed, is popular with particle physicists because it offers a standard base for experiments. It's the distribution of choice for most supercomputers and clusters. So much so that CERN sponsored the development of a version specifically for physics called Scientific Linux for a while before moving back toward vanilla CentOS.
  • WordPerfect was the leading word processor in the 1980s before being overtaken by Microsoft Word in the 1990s, but remains popular in the legal profession because it was the first to implement numbered paragraphs, which is important in legal documents.


    Other Systems 
  • NewTek's Video Toaster was the one selling point of the Commodore Amiga that made said machine popular at video production houses and film studios. The ability to genlock (or synchronize video timing signals) made it easy to overlay text on video, thus making the Amiga the go-to machine for Fan Subs.
    • Deluxe Paint was another program that sold Amigas, as it showed off the Hold-And-Modify (HAM) graphics mode that could let the Amiga display all 4096 colors the OCS/ECS chipset permitted on screen at once, usually with an image of King Tut. DPaint was easily the Amiga's answer to the Macintosh's Photoshop, predating the program by over half a decade.
    • In terms of games, Cinemaware was responsible for a lot of Amiga killer apps, such as Defender of the Crown, It Came From The Desert, Wings and the TV Sports games, with Psygnosis also providing its fair share such as Shadow of the Beast and Lemmings.
      At a time when your typical IBM Personal Computer had CGA or maybe EGA or Tandy graphics with a laughably one-note square wave PC speaker or Tandy 3-voice sound and the Apple Macintosh was monochrome only, a lowly Amiga 500 would handily kick both their asses as a gaming computer for less than half of the price, before Commodore lost their lead going into The '90s, when the PC and Mac overtook the Amiga's multimedia capabilities.
    • Earl Weaver Baseball, with its physics-based gameplay and voice-synthesizer, was the premiere sports game for a short while, even though it wasn't an exclusive.note 
  • TowerFall was the closest thing the Kickstarted Ouya console had to a killer app before Towerfall: Ascension came to PS4 and PC. A similar game, Duck Game, also followed TowerFall to other platforms.
  • The BBC Micro was guaranteed good sales in the education and office market thanks to being Backed By The Government.note 
    But without sales of Elite, it's unlikely they'd have made much if any headway in the home computer market, much less become as iconic in British geek culture as they are.
  • The first five Touhou games spurred Western interest in the PC-98.
  • The built-in modem of the TRS-80 Model 100, one of the first affordable portable computers, made it popular with journalists filing stories from the road.
  • Google Stadia was slow to get off the ground, but Cyberpunk 2077 helped it to get more acclaim, as the Stadia version was at least on-par with the PC version while providing an option for players who were otherwise limited to the launch models of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, where the game's performance was much more rough.

  • Popcap Games was the king of the casual genre before the era of mobile game. Most casual games are tweaked knockoffs of Popcap's efforts, which in turn are just variations of match-3, spot-the-difference, time-management and various simple luck/skill-based physics minigames. Doesn't matter. Popcap owns the entire genre. There are still entire blocks of people who would never call themselves 'gamers' who are obsessed with Bejeweled. Popcap then cemented its hold with Peggle — then gave it a strangehold for good measure with Plants vs. Zombies.
  • Its position has been significantly eroded by King, maker of Candy Crush Saga among others (which, in the minds of many, has displaced Bejeweled as the name most synonymous with the Match 3 genre). It became a Cash-Cow Franchise due to its Allegedly Free Game business model, and one of the main killer apps for Facebook and casual gaming on smartphones.
  • d3, on the other hand, looked at Bejeweled and decided it would be a good RPG combat mechanic with Puzzle Quest, which led to innumerable copycat game apps on iOS and Android.
  • Club Penguin was the face of children's casual Massively Multiplayer Online Games until its closure, in which that its rival, Animal Jam took over.
  • Team Fortress Classic was, for the longest time, THE online shooter. After that Counter-Strike took over the market. Both the old school and Global Offensive games still hold a large amount of players today.
  • Guitar Hero turned Rhythm Games from weird J-Pop things (in the eyes of many) to a major western phenomenon.
  • Though it had less casual-appeal than the above, DanceDanceRevolution kept the arcade scene afloat single-handedly, and no doubt was an inspiration for the physicality of gaming aspects that would become part of the Wii's appeal. Years later, Just Dance would turn dancing games into a genre in its own right, and incidentally helped Ubisoft become the Wii's biggest supporter outside of Nintendo.
  • Do you like Real-Time Strategy games? Then you must have tried two of Blizzard Entertainment's best games: Starcraft and Warcraft III. Or the Command & Conquer series. In the following years, the Dawn of War series or Company of Heroes also count.
  • Similarly, do you like turn-based 4X? If so, then at least one of the Civilization games is probably in your library. That's assuming you even know there are other 4X games.
  • For MMORPGs, World of Warcraft. It's the one everyone's heard of, and at its peak it had slightly more players than the previous two biggest (Guild Wars and Knight Online) put together. And for browser MMORPGs, it's Runescape.
    • With subscription-based MMORPGs becoming a dying breed, the only two viable games left were WoW and Final Fantasy XIV, which took its spot over time.
  • Do you like Japanese RPGs? You probably have a Pokémon, Final Fantasy, or Dragon Quest game. In fact, Dragon Quest is such a killer app in Japan that even Salarymen will take a day off and students from the most prodigious schools will cut class just to buy a copy on the day it becomes available for sale. To prevent things like this, Square-Enix has even made a promise to the Japanese government to release new games in the series exclusively on weekends.
  • While still relatively obscure overseas (except for the Persona series,) Shin Megami Tensei is right up there with Japanese role-playing games in Japan.
  • Do you like Western RPGs? You've probably played The Elder Scrolls, series or Baldur's Gate. Alternately, if you like Western RPGs but high fantasy's not your thing, you've probably got at least one Fallout or Mass Effect game in your library.
  • Professional Wrestling has really only had one game that could be considered a killer app — WWF No Mercy for the N64. No Mercy had a big roster, an in-depth storyline mode, a very detailed for the time create-a-wrestler function, many different types of matches, and good multiplayer. Even people who don't like professional wrestling often like No Mercy, and the game still has an active modding community today. The next closest example would probably have to be WWE Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain.
  • Fancy yourself a fan of fighting games? Then you must have played a Street Fighter game. In fact, Street Fighter II introduced many fighting game mechanics that persist to this day. Among 3D fighters, Tekken still reigns supreme.
  • Fans of the collect-a-thon and platformer genres will have likely played at least one Super Mario Bros. game. Other series of note are Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot, Banjo-Kazooie, Rayman, Mega Man, and Spyro the Dragon.
  • Metal Gear was this for the Stealth-Based Game genre, and remains top dog to this day, even after competitors like Splinter Cell, Syphon Filter, Tenchu, and Assassin's Creed came along.
  • How about Stylish Action games? Most fans of that genre are likely fans of its codifier, Devil May Cry, or are fans of PlatinumGames, who specialize in that particular genre through games like Bayonetta and Astral Chain.
  • Not only is Resident Evil is the progenitor of the Survival Horror genre, but Resident Evil 4 also helped popularize the Third-Person Shooter genre alongside Gears of War from the following year.
  • Fortnite is the biggest battle royale game, period. Its immense popularity with younger kids gave it a foothold on the market that no other BR game was able to top. For the older audience, though, it's Player Unknowns Battlegrounds in China, and Apex Legends for everywhere else.
  • Genshin Impact is this for the entire gacha game genre. Before Genshin, the majority of gacha games were derogatorily mocked as a bunch of jpeg images on a slot machine that barely counted as a game; most of them only had a presence in the East with very few even garnering a blip on the global radar. Not Genshin however. The combination of it not only being free to play, but having an open-world system with triple-A levels of graphical fidelity, combat mechanics and music quickly made Genshin the biggest gacha game in terms of content, fanbase and revenue in history. Moreover, its (relatively) tame levels of fanservice and being accessible on multiple platforms further increased Genshin's demographic accessibility, allowing it to quickly achieve global status that other gacha games couldn't even come close to. Just to give some context on how massive Genshin is, it cost miHoYo USD $100 million to develop the game in a few years. It generated a billion dollars within six months. And, in 2022, it is estimated that the game has over 63 million active monthly users. The Genshin formula, or at the very least its aesthetic, has proven to be so popular, that several gacha games afterwards have copied it in some way, with other rivals like Tower of Fantasy trying to replicate its success but coming nowhere close. To say that this game is often compared to World of Warcraft in terms of its impact on its entire genre is not an exaggeration.

  • Myst was the killer app that transformed the CD-ROM drive from a mildly interesting computer curiosity into an absolute must-have feature.
    • Myst was a killer app for the Mac, as was originally written for the Mac and appeared around the time CD-ROM drives first started becoming standard equipment on Macs.
    • When the game was eventually ported to the PC, it also made sound cards a must in every PC. One must have a sound card to fully enjoy the game, and after the title, any PC that doesn't have a sound card is considered a poor man's PC. Prior to that, sound cards were largely considered a luxury peripheral that was unnecessary for mainstream gaming. It also helps that all sound cards made back then had a built-in proprietary CD-ROM port, which is needed if you're going to add a CD-ROM drive to the PC because all CD drives manufactured at that time only either supported the SCSI interface (mainly because Macs, Amigas and Atari STs back then used SCSI for the hard disk and CD-ROM drive, and thus SCSI came as standard on them) or a non-IDE proprietary interface.
    • A major non-gaming killer app among techies for CD-ROM was Linux distributions, where floppy-based installs were already becoming unwieldy by the mid-90s. Most people also had slow dialup internet connections. There was a cottage industry of people selling Linux distributions on CD-ROM for little more than the cost of the media. This made installing Linux much easier than trying to download it over a phone line and having to go through several boxes of floppies. Linux also proved to be a major reason to get a CD burner when they became affordable.
  • Common for home video formats:
    • The Matrix is widely acknowledged to be the killer app for DVD. Nearly every store had the hallway assault and the rooftop bullet time sequence playing on their display demo loops showcasing the superior picture and sound quality DVD had over VHS, and many people bought their first DVD player with a copy of The Matrix that the movie might as well have been bundled with the player. It was the first DVD million-seller.
    • The ability to blow through entire seasons of TV shows in a weekend was also a major selling point for DVDs. The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Firefly proved that DVD series box sets were both financially lucrative and did not ruin reruns of regular TV; Family Guy in particular became the household name it now is almost entirely based on the DVD sales. VHS box sets of TV seasons had existed before this, but they were unwieldy and extremely expensive, and that meant they didn't appeal to anyone outside of the biggest fans of a show. DVD didn't have those issues.
    • DVD itself proved to be the Killer App for home theaters that LaserDisc had hoped to be. In addition to noticeable picture improvements over VHS, DVD also brought high quality surround sound that encouraged the sales of multichannel speaker systems.
    • The original DVD-by-mail incarnation of Netflix was also an early killer app for the format. Many people found the idea of virtually unlimited movie rentals without the need to drive back to the store, pay late fees, or deal with the potential lack of selection at a video rental store irresistible.
    • The Blu-ray format had a similar Killer App: Avatar sold 1.5 million copies on its first day, 6.2 million after three weeks. It's also not surprising that the PlayStation 3 was the most popular Blu-ray player.
    • Planet Earth, one of the first nature documentaries entirely shot in HD and one of the first television series to take advantage of the new format. Unsurprisingly with all the Scenery Porn it contained it quickly became a chart-topper back in the early days of the format, and some stores even bundled a copy of the Planet Earth box set in with new Blu-Ray players.
    • Animated family movies in general seem to be this on every home media format. The reason? Kids love watching the exact same movies over and over again, and the formats make that possible, even without internet access. Add on the fact that physical media is rather fragile and can start working improperly from repeated use or damage from rambunctious youngsters, and that means a lot of replacement copies are sold. Disney releases in particular are huge sellers in the marketnote , with the five best selling movies across every format all being films of theirs.note 
  • Pornography has been a killer app for EVERY new form of communication, from the printing press to the camera to the VCR to the internet. An oft-repeated (and fairly shaky) urban legend claims that Sony's refusal to license porn films on their proprietary Betamax format was the deciding factor in Betamax losing to VHS in the videocassette format wars of the '80s; it was actually VHS' longer recording time and substantially lower price that helped it beat Betamax despite inferior video and sound quality, and the porn studios likely went with VHS because that's what all their customers were using. Still, the legend was persistent enough that Sony decided not to make the same mistake again with Blu-Ray.
  • Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source were responsible for Steam's success today, and the popularity of digital distribution as a whole, though that might have something to do with the games requiring Steam to play.
  • For the storefront, if it is not The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then it is Heroes of Might and Magic III that serves as the main reason to use the store. This is thanks to the store having the original complete collection whereas Steam has the more recent HD re-release which is often seen as inferior to the GOG version.
  • The Compact Disc format had three albums that helped boost it to the forefront as the premier physical format for music over the course of the '80s:
    • The earliest release to seriously entice people towards CDs was The Nightfly by Donald Fagen. Recorded and mixed digitally and based in a genre that leaned heavily into audiophilia, the album's rich, clear sound made it a popular demonstration title and a must-buy among audiophiles. So much so, in fact, that Warner (Bros.) Records had trouble keeping up with the demand and initially sourced CD copies from safety tapes, to the consternation of buyers and even engineer Roger Nichols. After Nichols published a scathing essay against this practice, Warner started using the digital master for CD reissues of The Nightfly in 1984, which, again, quickly became popular among audiophiles.
    • Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon was also a killer app for CDs, as the album's high sound quality had long been used to demonstrate audio equipment, being part of another genre that leaned toward audiophilia. At one point in The '80s, EMI had an entire CD plant dedicated to churning out copies of Dark Side of the Moon, and this was when there were only two CD pressing plants in the entire world! Dark Side was also a killer app for the high-definition Super Audio CD format when it was released on it in 2003, ultimately selling 800,000 SACD copies by June 2004. Pink Floyd's back catalog overall proved very popular on CD.
    • What The Matrix was to DVDs, Dire Straits' album Brothers in Arms was to CDs, as it was the first album to sell over a million copies in the format and the first to outsell the LP version. The album's insanely high sound quality — which, like The Nightfly, is credited to a mix of its digital recording & mixing and frontman Mark Knopfler's audiophilia — showed off what those shiny little discs could do.
    • The ability of early CD-ROM-based gaming consoles and CD-ROM-equipped PCs and Macs of the era to play audio CDs was also a killer app, as despite the expense they were seen as a better value than standalone units. After all, you could game on both of these devices, plus do spreadsheets, write reports, or surf the web on a multimedia computer. This process would repeat itself for later optical formats as well.
  • Back in the early 2010's, Angry Birds become one of the most popular games for many formats, but especially for iOS devices.
  • Netflix is the killer app for a lot of streaming set-top boxes, including Apple TV and Roku, as well as many game consoles with those capabilities. For many people, the only reason to get a Netflix account was to see their original programming. One show of theirs in particular has become a true killer app: Orange Is the New Black. A couple of years later, Daredevil (2015) came in to fill the action niche and a year later, Stranger Things has done this for science fiction.
  • The resurgence of vinyl's mainstream popularity was spearheaded by Beck's Guero (2005) and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium (2006), both of which were intentionally mastered much better on vinyl than they were on digital formats. Many bought turntables just to play them. Another killer app of the vinyl revival is, you guessed it, a reissue of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.
  • Although cassette tapes had been selling steadily since their introduction in the '60s, with playback improvements helping them overtake 8-track sales in the late '70s, it was with the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979 that the cassette format really took off. The Walkman let people take their own music with them, hastening the demise of the 8-track. Prerecorded cassettes finally overtook LPs in sales in the middle of the '80s before the CD boom around the turn of the decade.
  • Anime was a killer app for LaserDisc on both sides of the Pacific. In Japan, LaserDisc became the main video format, and many OVAs were released on the format. In the U.S., anime titles were often only released on LaserDisc, and fans also appreciated the higher video and audio quality as well as the ability for clean freeze frames that low-end VCRs of the era didn't have. Even after the demise of LaserDisc in favor of DVD, American anime fans still like to collect LaserDiscs due to the large number of titles that were never released on DVD or never released in the U.S. at all. The lack of Region Coding combined with the compatibility of U.S. and Japanese TV systems means that American fans can watch Japanese discs on American players, which can be found cheaply second-hand, as long as they don't mind not having an English track or subtitles on them. This is one reason that anime also became the killer app for Westerners learning the Japanese language.

    TV and Streaming 
  • For Cartoon Network, What A Cartoon!/World Premiere Toons and later Cartoon Cartoon Fridays both proved to be this, as it was a launching pad for the network's original series. And within the network itself, Toonami is credited with ushering in the mainstream Japanophilia boom of the early-to-mid 2000s, primarily for introducing the anime phenomenon to the West with shows like Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z.
  • If one goes even earlier, you can credit Voltron for anime's expansion in the USA. Its most notable and innovative (at the time of course) feature was the Stereophonic Soundtrack that GoLion, its original version, lacked. This feature made it THE show to air to showcase the Stereo capabilities of most affiliate stations and systems.
  • In America, I Love Lucy, Texaco Star Theater, the Army-McCarthy hearings, and the 1960 Presidential debates were television's Killer Apps. In Britain, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was this.
    • The moon landings were this in, of all places, South Africa. When the people of South Africa realized that they were the only people in the Western world who couldn't watch Neil Armstrong take his one small, historic step on the surface of the moon, they pressured their government to end its ban on television programming (which it viewed as a morally corrupting influence). They finally lifted the ban in 1975.
    • Ironically, for Japan, which was still only barely out of the post-war devastation and overwhelmingly poor (it was worse there than in North Korea, actually) it was also the Elizabeth II coronation. People were taking out five-year loans with ridiculously rip-off rates just to be able to watch it.
  • In Britain, the killer app for colour TV was snooker. The 1969 BBC show Pot Black, which showed a single frame of snooker each week, was made to increase the sales of colour TV sets. Although it was really more of a Demo App showing what could be done with colour TV that wasn't possible with black and white. People didn't rush out to buy colour TV sets just to watch the snooker — it took until 1977 for the number of households with colour TV to exceed those with black and white. The series also produced the all-time infamous quote from commentator Ted Lowe: "And for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is by the cushion next to the green".
    • In America, Star Trek: The Original Series was the killer app for color TV. This was an interesting sort of chicken-or-the-egg case where one helped the other and vice versa, with color TV more or less being the reason why the original Star Trek stayed on the air as long as it did. While NBC had wanted to cancel it, their parent company RCA wanted to keep it for two reasons: they owned the patent for color TV, and Star Trek was the primary reason Americans bought them. RCA made more money selling color TVs to Star Trek fans than NBC lost by not giving its time slot to something else.
    • In Brazil, it was The World Cup in 1974 that led many to purchase color TVs.
  • The 1991 Gulf War was proverbially the killer app for 24-hour cable news, specifically CNN. Where national networks had to eventually return to their regularly scheduled programming after Iraqi phone lines were cut off, CNN had previously had a permanent line installed and continued broadcasting round-the-clock. Four years earlier, the "Baby Jessica In The Well" story was another killer app for CNN, and possibly the Trope Maker for the whole "24-hour breaking news" concept.
  • For the YouTube Red premium service, it was Cobra Kai. The idea of a Sequel Series to The Karate Kid (with original actors reprising and all) of all things sounded like instant poison for a service that already had a difficult premise to sell (most people weren't eager to pay to view videos on a site whose main selling point is letting you watch videos for free), but instead its nearly-impeccable care to be a love letter to the original film translated to many good reviews and an order for a second season before the first week was over, as well as many people deciding to jump on the band wagon. Unfortunately for YouTube, the series jumped to Netflix for the third season.
  • MTV was the killer app for cable TV. For sports fans, the killer app was ESPN. MTV was also the killer app for the music video format in general, taking it from a quirky British thing to one of the promotional standards of the entire music industry. So successful was it that often the success or failure of a music video mattered more to the song's chart success than anything the song did. Among its animated shows, Beavis and Butt-Head, Ćon Flux, and Celebrity Death Match.
  • Comedy Central:
    • South Park was this for a long time. When it was picked up, channel viewership was mediocre among cable networks, and there were still cable providers who didn't provide it in their basic package. It created a boom of overall channel viewership and a demand for Comedy Central. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are also credited with building and keeping audience, but not quite in the same numbers or rate as South Park.
    • Chappelle's Show; considered one of Comedy Central's best programs and popular enough to still be aired years after it ended (and despite its short run). Much like South Park, it also has its fair share of imitators.
    • During the early-to-mid 2010s, Key & Peele was one of the network's most popular and acclaimed original programs, often airing new episodes alongside South Park. Like Chappelle's Show, it still gets reruns after it ended.
    • Drunk History; while not quite to the same extent as some of the other shows, it's still very popular and gets regular airtime, unlike some of the network's other current original programming. Some of its segments have gone memetic too.
  • Fox:
    • Married... with Children and The Simpsons were the killer apps that let the Fox TV network break into the Big-Three-Plus-PBS channel roster that had dominated American broadcast television for decades, paving the way for The CW and the countless specialty-networks that would proliferate with the rise of cable. COPS and America's Most Wanted also significantly increased the fledgling network's profile during the tail end of the 1980s into the early 1990s, and effectively served as the killer apps that respectively drove reality television and true crime programming into popularity in subsequent years.
    • Getting the National Football League's NFC coverage from CBS (as well stealing some of their staff) turned Fox from a group of stations that aired The Simpsons and Married... with Children into something that its ancestor DuMont couldn't: the Fourth Network of American Television.
  • PBS had several in its early days that established it as an alternative to American commercial networks:
    • PBS' own killer app was Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark, the first true event program for the then-fledgling network, chronicling the rise of Western civilisation from the Dark Ages to the modern day. It was popular enough to be rebroadcast in full the very next season, and its original run's time slot went on to be taken over by Masterpiece Theatre, which remains a popular mainstay on PBS to this day.
    • Another early Killer App for PBS was coverage of the Watergate hearings, which created enough demand for in-depth news programming that PBS created The Robert MacNeil Report, which then evolved into The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and PBS NewsHour.
    • For entertainment programming, member stations were the first in America to air Monty Python's Flying Circus in the mid-70s, after it had finished its run in Britain. The show attracted a younger, countercultural audience to PBS. The success of the series also established British series as staples of PBS programming.
  • The Attack on Titan anime was one for Crunchyroll.
  • Unquestionably, HBO's flagship TV series of the 2010s is Game of Thrones. Many people subscribe to HBO just to see it. The Sopranos and Sex and the City preceded this for the 1990s and 2000s.
  • Most people know AMC as the channel with The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. And maybe Mad Men. When people watch AMC, it is to see one of those two or three shows.
  • Rick and Morty has become this for [adult swim], having reached a level of mainstream success and notoriety in three seasons that most of their other shows haven't. The majority of programming on the block is aimed towards a more niche audience.
  • Upon the release of Disney+, many people were certainly drawn for the exclusive Star Wars show The Mandalorian. And less than a year later, the live recording of Hamilton led to a huge increase - on the weekend it came out, over 250,000 people downloaded the Disney+ app. Once Mulan (2020) was relegated to an exclusive of the streaming service, it also led to a weekly spike (the fact watching the movie required a $30 premium pass also skyrocketed the in-app purchases). WandaVision joined the line-up in early 2021, and every new live-action show based on Star Wars or Marvel Comics is expected to lead to a big boost in attention. For pre-existing content, the big draws are the Disney Animated Canon, Pixar, Disney Channel, Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and The Simpsons. Later on, Bluey became a massive success for them.
  • For Disney Channel, the absolutely monster double whammy successes of High School Musical and Hannah Montana that made the mouse-branded television station into the behemoth it is now.
  • HBO Max got a boost from the simultaneous release of Wonder Woman 1984 for those who couldn't or wouldn't go to theaters amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic, tripling the overall views on its premiere day compared to the previous month, though many subs the service got from it didn't last long.
  • The first Mexican TV show to be broadcasted in other countries was El Chapulín Colorado. Its resounding success allowed for all kinds of Mexican shows to get screen time in foreign channels.
  • Ted Lasso, and to a lesser extent CODA, are considered this for Apple TV+.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power broke any record for most viewers and brought more Prime Video sign-ups than any other previous work for the stream service, being one of the main reasons for the platform overtaking Netflix in the US in December 2022.

  • For the Apple ][, the killer app wasn't a game at all (though there were an awful lot of those): it was the first electronic spreadsheet, VisiCalc. And for the IBM PC, it was the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3. Because 1-2-3 was written in assembler and used specific hardware tricks to run faster, it was a de facto test of clone compatibility.
    • Spreadsheets seem to get a lot of this: Excel, for example, is Microsoft Office's Killer App. It also helped two WIMP platforms get off the ground: first, it was one of the killer apps for Macintosh, and a couple of years later (1987) Excel became the main reason to use the fledgling Microsoft Windows. Spreadsheet programs attract the killer app label because the complex financial and statistical functions they enable are exponentially more difficult—sometimes functionally impossible—without the visual/computational assistance of the spreadsheet. Think about how headache- and eyestrain-inducing a complex spreadsheet is (unless you're into that sort of thing). Then imagine ALL the same information presented in a hard-copy ledger. Killer. App.
    • VisiCalc alone was selling more Apple ][ than all of its games combined, actually, and its need for a screen real estate and RAM was a real driver for the Language Card (which added more memory) and 80-column Card (self-evident), and a real reason why both these upgrades were later officially incorporated into the motherboard design. IBM took notice, and they made sure that there was a port for the IBM Personal Computer when it launched two years after VisiCalc in 1981. Apple would eventually have its own killer app for the //e (and its ProDOS operating system) with AppleWorks, one of the first integrated software packages (combining a spreadsheet, word processor, and database). Apple didn't even advertise it heavily at first, because they didn't want to step on the toes of their third-party vendors (nor overshadow their own AppleWriter), but it still sold so well that it even outsold Lotus 1-2-3 for a while. Its later-generation versions, however (sold by Apple-spinoff Claris, spun off to dodge accusations of antitrust violation under the product name ClarisWorks, on both Mac and PC, were eclipsed by Microsoft Office and by Corel's iconic word-processing product WordPerfect.
  • Almost all of the killer apps for macOS are made by Apple. Half of them come with the system.
    • Apple originally made a number of killer apps directly on the original Macintosh's launch — MacPaint, MacDraw, and MacWrite — that have been the gold standard ever since for WIMP GUI image editors, drawing programs and word processors. But it was the first WYSIWYG page layout program, PageMaker, that made desktop publishing possible and guaranteed the Mac's most lucrative niche. PageMaker was also a killer app for Microsoft Windows when it was ported over, before Windows became really popular.
    • Apple's OS is the killer app of the Macintosh, and recently, Parallels is a very good killer app for Intel Macs since it makes the "you can't play as many games on a Mac" argument obsolete.
    • The other reason the Mac has a virtual monopoly in graphic design is the ColorSync utility, which makes sure that the colors of designs remain consistent when translated from the screen to print. This is especially important as screens and printers make color in different ways.
  • The addition of GPS has been a huge mover for handheld computers. Presumably the medium as a whole is based around the want for calendar and contact programs.
  • Taxi work seems to be the Killer App for hybrid cars. No fuel is consumed idling in dense city traffic or waiting for fares, the battery packs are barely affected by massive mileage and indeed seem to thrive on constantly being in use compared to being parked 22-plus hours a day like most personal cars, and both the financial and environmental cost/benefit ratios increase compared to private use.
    • The same thing served that purpose for diesel cars from the 50s to the early 80s. While private customers were turned away by their bad performance and work culture, those things did not matter too much in taxi work, while the high mileage that cabs get made the benefits of diesels' better reliability and lower fuel consumption more sizeable.
    • The fuel efficiency of Japanese cars is what caused them to take off in the U.S. during the oil crisis of the 1970s. It's no accident that the Toyota Prius became popular during the high gas prices of the '00s as well.
  • The Internet had been around in a form similar to what we use today since at least the early 1980s, but it was NCSA Mosaic, the first easy to use web browser available for PCs and Macs, that made the network a must-have for computers.
  • Bittorrent is the killer app for consumer internet download speed, download caps, and hard drive capacity. YouTube was also a killer app for broadband.
  • UNIX's killer app, as with macOS, was originally the platform itself, with the ability to redirect input and output at the shell. Another killer app was Usenet, a precursor to modern social media. The real killer app for Unix was the C programming language. While C itself is portable, a lot of C developers tended to assume a Unix environment. Even on non-Unix systems, compiler makers try to emulate as much of a Unix environment as possible, inluding tools like make. Fortunately, it was relatively easy to port Unix to new hardware. Software development is the biggest non-server use for Unix and Linux systems.
  • Twitter, Facebook and other social media services are the killer apps for smartphones and tablets.
    • Blackberry messenger was a killer app for Blackberry phones, unfortunately for them that changed once cross platform messaging apps appeared in Android and iOS.
  • The Bible was the killer app for the printing press, and with it mass literacy, compulsory education in the Western world, and the Protestant Reformation.
  • Guns were part of the reason for the development of interchangeable parts and mass producing.
  • Travel. There are some places every tourist will go when traveling to specific cities or countries. Examples include the Eiffel Tower for France and the Statue of Liberty in New York.
    • In the past, pilgrimages provided a killer app to make the risks and expense of travel worthwhile — plus saving your immortal soul! Pious people would make pilgrimages to holy springs, sites of martyrdom, even all the way to the Holy Land — so in a way, The Bible inspired a Killer App for travel in medieval Europe.
    • And, of course, Muslims took pilgrimages to Mecca (and Medina and Jerusalem) before it was cool.
  • Some people have suggested invoking killer apps when it comes to buying new electronics, namely by testing the hardware by using something that would prove its quality. Specifically, in one article about buying a new television, the reporter suggested taking a DVD of Moulin Rouge! to the electronics store with you, saying that if a TV could stand up to its fast pace and bright color palette, it can handle almost anything.
  • Film making and television has had a few productions that changed how the entire system can be approached.
    • Bonnie and Clyde deliberately filmed far away from Hollywood to avoid Executive Meddling, and its success utilizing such violence is what broke The Hays Code forever.
    • Easy Rider was made on a shoestring budget, later sold for distribution and became a huge success and the definitive counter culture movie.
    • Before sex, lies, and videotape film festivals were more about showing classic movies and local talent, afterwards Sundance and Cannes became the prestigious festivals to showcase your ambitious independent movie.
    • House of Cards revolutionized Netflix as producing original programming with A-list actors like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and dropping an entire season's worth of material at once, letting its audience decide when to watch. It made headlines to realize that in terms of numbers it was technically the most watched series in the world. It paved the way for shows on regular TV to go to Netflix and other online streaming sites, including Arrested Development, The Clone Wars and Community. And then came a second killer app in Orange Is the New Black.
  • The original Superman stories were this to comic books in general, turning the medium from 5 cent newspaper strip compilations into an independent and profitable storytelling format.
  • Fantastic Four and Spider-Man were the reasons that kids and teens in the sixties bought Marvel Comics, taking the company from perpetual number two to a legitimate rival for DC Comics.
    • For most of the eighties and nineties, X-Men was the book to buy. It was popular to such an extent that a good chunk of the Marvel Universe was comprised mostly of X-Men books for a time.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man and The Ultimates for the Ultimate Marvel line. For The Ultimates, Volumes 1 and 2 in particular.
  • Gmail and Google Maps were showcases for AJAX. No one had seen a web page that could be dynamically updated without reloading before. They showed it was possible to build web apps that worked as well as desktop apps did, heralding Web 2.0.
  • The Sound Blaster card, introduced in 1989, was not only compatible with the existing Ad Lib card, which already had support for a number of MS-DOS games, it also supported digital sound. The real clincher was the inclusion of a joystick port, and the necessary proprietary CD-ROM interface connector for hooking a CD-ROM drive up to, back when CD-ROM drives required a proprietary connectornote . This meant that only one card was needed to turn the boring, business-focused IBM Personal Computer into a game machine. Combined with the then-new VGA graphics standard, it was also an Amiga killer, at least in the U.S. Despite widespread support from developers, the card needed a killer app on its own. PC buyers weren't exactly keen on playing games on a joystick outside of flight sims and the price wasn't really tempting. It wasn't until Myst was ported to the PC that the card, along with a CD-ROM drive, became a standard feature in PCs. The Sound Blaster itself was soon made obsolete thanks to clones, IDE (later SATA) CD-ROM drives, DirectX and generic sound chips from a myriad of semiconductor manufacturers, but that's another story.
  • In the 50s and 60s highways/motorways proved to be examples of this trope for 6-(Europe) or 8-cylinder (America) sedans. Before them, the roads were either speed-limited or too bad for getting the cars to top speed, so customers who weren't buying their cars for racing stuck with 4-(Europe) or 6-cylinder (America) cars. But motorways/highways were places where drivers were able to legally get their cars to their top speed, so that the benefit of having a bigger engine became noticeable.
  • ZFS a super-fast, super-reliable file system developed by Sun Microsystems before it was gobbled by Oracle, is one for FreeBSD and specifically a derivative for file servers called FreeNAS. Licensing issues prevent ZFS from being used with Linux but the BSDs are a lot more permissive about open source licensing that ZFS can be integrated just fine.
  • Turbocharging and direct injection served that function for diesel engines in the 90s. Previously, those engines were fuel-efficient, but severely underpowered and because of that, not really fit for passenger cars. The aforementioned technical advancements made diesels more powerful, while keeping the fuel economy better than in petrol engines and making diesel engines viable alrernatives to gas-powered ones.
  • Antenna TV, a digital subchannel showcasing in classic TV from The '60s to The '90s, wasn't really well-known until it purchased the rerun rights to Johnny Carson's old The Tonight Show episodes; they were then rewarded with 26 new affiliates and now share with MeTV the distinction of being the classic TV digital subchannel. Digital subchannels like Antenna TV have sparked a resurgence of interest in over-the-air TV programs, particularly among "cord-cutters" trying to avoid paying through the nose for satellite and cable TV programming. In large markets, the number of digital subchannels can make the number of available over-the-air channels comparable to basic cable offerings.
  • Pokémon GO is cited as the cause of a sudden spike in smartphone sales in several countries. Additionally, it is also often cited as the main reason "power banks" (external battery packs) are now selling like hotcakes.
  • FM radio really only took off in the U.S. in the 1960s when FCC regulations forbade AM radio stations from simulcasting on FM. At the time, most FM radio programming consisted of classical music, Muzak-style background music and "educational" stations that later evolved into NPR. Scrambling for content to fill airtime, they turned to Psychedelic Rock, where fans of the music appreciated the sound quality and the ability to hear music that wasn't played on the Top 40 stations of the era. By the '90s, almost all music stations had migrated over to the FM dial.
  • NetBSD's support for a dizzying array of hardware platforms and more liberal licensing terms of the BSD license compared to the GPL that allows developers to keep any modifications proprietary has made it popular for embedded systems development. There's a good chance your Wi-Fi router is running it right now.
  • The iPhone spurred the growth of HTML5 because of something that it didn't run: Adobe Flash. Web developers rapidly moved to HTML5 and hastened the death of Flash.
  • Fitness was the killer app for wearable devices. Hyped up as a game-changer in the early '10s that would be the Next Big Thing in tech after the smartphone, it ultimately turned out that most people weren't willing to spend hundreds of dollars on devices that not only looked fairly dorky (the Google Glass was a notable bust), but didn't do much that their smartphones couldn't do, and in fact needed their smartphones to do much of anything beyond tell time. Until somebody realized that you could easily use a smartwatch to measure one's heart rate, in a way that you couldn't do with a smartphone by itself. These days, most owners and users of smartwatches use them for fitness and medical purposes, to keep track of how many calories they're burning as they work out, and most smartwatches are designed with this in mind to the point where many are explicitly marketed as "fitness devices".
  • One Piece, being the wildly popular Long Runner that it is, is this for Weekly Shonen Jump.
    • Dragon Ball as well, during it's original run. So much so that sales actually went down for a while after it ended.
    • One of the first major killer apps for the magazine was Fist of the North Star.
    • For the American monthly Shonen Jump magazine that ran throughout the 2000s, Naruto was the big seller. Before Naruto's grow in popularity, it was Yu-Gi-Oh! that sold copies, especially issues that came with promo cards.
    • For most of the 2000s, there was "The Big Three": One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach. Though it's worth pointing out that in Japan, Bleach, while popular, was successful but not to the point of "Big Three" status like it was in the States, with it's slot usually being filled by Dragonball (even though it had ended years ago, because it's fame and success is just that long-lasting) and for a while Toriko.
    • My Hero Academia is this for the Weekly Shonen Jump app on Viz's site.


Alternative Title(s): Must Play, System Seller