Are these the 20 best British games?

Are these the 20 best British games?
Or are we way off the mark?

As part of a Brit flavoured week of content we wanted a celebration of iconic UK games. After a host of rows within the team we decided to make it the problem of veteran game journalist Adam Hartley. We know lots of you will not agree with the list - so we're dying to hear your angry arguments about whythe likes of Cannon Fodder, Micro Machines or LEGO Star Wars should have made the grade.

How to begin to sort the wheat from the golden wheat of the last 40-odd years of belting videogames designed and developed in the UK?

What follows is a list of what some would suggest are the top 20 Britsoft games of all time, the result of (often heated) conversations with developers, veteran gaming journalists and the true hardcore fraternity in the office.

So many of the devs, publishing execs and games writers we quizzed about their favorite Britsoft titles responded with the same basic question: "where the hell to begin?"

"This is actually quite a tricky one to answer, as I've got many favourite games of all time, just as I have favourite albums of all time," explained Stewart Gilray, CEO of Just Add Water. "Games are almost a 'soundtrack to my life' - so going back to the 80s, it was Brian Bloodaxe on the ZX Spectrum, in the early 90s it was Eliminator, by John M Philips on the Atari ST. Then in the mid 00's it was Grand Theft Auto IV on the PS3. So it's not an easy answer to give."

Jamie Sefton, ex-editor of PC Zone and now Managing Director at Game Republic echoed the same sentiment, telling us that it was "so difficult to choose – so many great British games are worthy of the top 20.

"I was obsessed with the brilliant open-world Elite on the BBC Micro in the 1980s, and fell in love with Rare's GoldenEye and Banjo Kazooie in the 1990s. However, I still play Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto III now – a satirical, funny, violent, addictive masterpiece."

And with that, we begin our journey through what may very well be the top 20 British games of all time.


Elite - Braben and Bell's literal game-changer

Elite - Braben and Bell's literal game-changer

Elite first appeared on the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron back in 1984, justifying the purchase of these costly brown boxes for a generation of lucky young boys. So were you an intergalactic drug dealer and gunrunner? Or were you a little more morally upstanding in your space-trading habits?

"Elite was a truly brilliant game by David Braben and Ian Bell which showed that games could take place in a sandbox world," recalls TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson. "A deep slice of space exploration that remains an undoubted classic."

"David Braben and Ian Bell took the themes of the 1974 classic Star Trader, where you trade stuff as you voyage between planets, stars and galaxies, and turned it into probably the most influential British videogame of all time," adds Automata founder Mel Croucher.

"The use of 3D wire-frame graphics for the spaceship was the first rung on the ladder to all today's eye-melting, ultra-realistic graphics. For that alone, Britain can claim to have invented modern videogaming, but there's more. Elite saw the first dedicated launch event, which took place at Thorpe Park and was organised chaos on a grand scale!"

Elite was also one of the first games to feature a special edition package, with a fan novella called The Dark Wheel. The game sold over half a million copies, which might not sound like a great deal now, but was completely unheard of back then.

"Yet despite all these achievements, Elite tops our list of great British video games simply because it generated a planet named Arse," laughs Croucher!

Mark Baldwin, Community Manager at New Star Games and a Britsoft veteran of 16 years standing adds: "It's really only since I became a community manager that I realised what a massive impact certain British brands have had and still have on people and how culturally important they are to us.

"Elite was a game that just blew you away with the possibilities, nothing else had come close to allowing so much freedom in a game," adds Baldwin. "You really could play it how you liked and it was a game without a defined story or ending and that's what made it stand out at the time and it's what so many games aspire to these days.

"Not many games give you the same sense of wonder that Elite gave you and I just hope that the new kickstarter project lives up to the huge expectations. I think games like Minecraft follow this great rule of creating a universe that is fun to be in and then let the player entertain themselves, you don't need to get all hung up on crafting a brilliant story, just create something where the player can get lost in their own stories and that's why I love Elite."

It is the fact that Elite actually broke a lot of modern day games design rules that still amazes Phil Gaskell, Creative Director of Ripstone.

"The game begins incredibly hard, forcing you to manually dock into space stations by matching their rotation. Slog away shifting minerals and luxury items (or be a naughty boy and trade in slaves and narcotics) and you soon afford enough credits to buy a docking computer. Suddenly life is so much easier! Modern games wouldn't have allowed this early difficulty spike yet it didn't affect the popularity of the game one iota!"

Grand Theft Auto

GTA - a gaming goliath

GTA - a gaming goliath

Controversy ahoy! GTA extended sandbox gameplay massively in a compelling way. Everybody that plays games has their favourite GTA title and moment. If you don't, then you are nothing more than a casual gamer. Fact.

"GTA is an amazing series and it just keeps getting better," says TIGA's Richard Wilson. "People used to dream of this kind of stuff but GTA III made it reality. It's gritty, but it's also tongue-in-cheek and it's about as good a commentary on American life as any other form of media."

"I purchased my first ever 3D card for my PC (a Voodoo 3DFX card) just to play this game in its fully rendered top down glory," adds Phil Gaskell, Creative Director of Ripstone.

"More than 15 years later and I'm still giddy at the thought of GTA V coming out. It's one of those games that clearly has a lot of love and attention spent on it. Dan and Sam Houser's direction and passion for the game is always evident, as is their wicked sense of humour.

"Top Brits Ricky Gervais, Phil Collins, and even Shaun Ryder have all lent their voices to the game. So it's powerfully motivating to know that it was made in Britain, continues to break all sales records on launch, and still drives US lawyer Jack Thompson crazy!"

Adam Hartley