For the first time in a long time, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console has managed to unseat the Nintendo Wii from the top of the monthly sales charts, driven by the power of the Master Chief.

According to NPD Group sales data, total videogame sales worldwide experienced a 74 percent jump in September to $1.36 billion; console hardware sales saw the greatest increase, with a 188 percent rise to $418.6 million in sales, while software sales climbed to $550.5 million, a 64 percent jump.

The arrival of the Master Chief helped Microsoft sell 527,800 Xbox 360 units over the month, followed closely by the Wii, which sold 501,000 units despite having no noteworthy game releases in September. In third place, with sales of 495,800 units, was the hand-held Nintendo DS system. Solidifying its grip on third place (which also happens to be last place), Sony’s PSP sold 284,500 units, while the PlayStation 2 continued to mercilessly and ironically pummel the PlayStation 3, 215,000 unit sales to 119,400. The PlayStation 3 did manage to avoid coming in dead last, however, by beating Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance, which sold 75,000 units and is suspected by some sources to still be in production primarily to facilitate jokes about Sony.

Halo 3 had a very big and significant impact on 360 hardware sales,” NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in an interview with “Consumers always tell us that the availability of the games they want to play is the #1 reason why they purchase any given hardware system, and when you have a game of this magnitude, the effect of compelling content on driving hardware acquisition is evident.” Frazier also predicted Microsoft will carry its strong run into the holiday season, saying, “We should continue to see strong sales for Halo 3 into the holidays and that will definitely help keep the momentum going for the 360. Not only that, but those new owners are going to be looking for some more content to play so it’s a cycle that feeds itself.”

According to NPD figures, the three versions of Halo 3 combined to dominate software sales in September, selling 3.3 million units; second on the software sales charts was Wii Play, with sales of 282,000.

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