Elite: 1984 / BBC Micro and Acorn Electron / Joystick or keys
Originally created in 1984 by David Braben and Ian Bell for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron home computers, but released on all the popular platforms of the era shortly thereafter, Elite is a seminal 3D space-trading, combat simulator in which the player travels the galaxy in search of action, adventure and profit. Starting out with a basic spaceship and a meagre 100-credit bank balance, the objective is to amass a financial fortune by engaging in activities such as asteroid mining and the trading of goods from star system to star system, or more risky pursuits such as piracy, bounty hunting and military missions. Success in any of these endeavours earns credits that the player can use to buy increasingly more powerful and sophisticated spaceships, enabling them to partake in even more perilous adventures with the ultimate goal of reaching the game’s top- most rank of ʻEliteʼ.
Dizzy: 1987 / ZX Spectrum / Joystick or keys
The brainchild of a pair of very young coders, Andrew and Philip Oliver – better known to gaming fans as the Oliver Twins – Dizzy is a whimsical platform game starring the titular character, an anthropomorphic egg. The objective of this much-loved piece of British software is to guide Dizzy through the fairy-tale land of Katmandu and search for a variety of magical items which, when combined in a magic cauldron, can be used to defeat the evil wizard Zaks. This might sound like a straightforward task, but Dizzyʼs mission is impeded by a variety of fiendishly tricky riddles and object-orientated puzzles that he has to solve – all while avoiding the dangerous denizens that inhabit the game’s many screens. Dizzy is a notoriously difficult game but that didn’t stop it from becoming popular with players when it was released by Codemasters in mid-1987 for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC home computers.
Populous: 1989 / Commodore Amiga / Mouse
What would you do if you were a deity? That was the question posed by Populous’ designer Peter Molyneux and his team at Bullfrog Productions when they created the first-ever ʻgod gameʼ in 1989. Players of this highly original piece of software assume the mantle of a divine being charged with overseeing the health and well-being of their followers. To this end, the player uses their supreme powers to cultivate the land so that their followers can prosper, growing in strength and numbers to eventually overcome their enemy – another group of followers who have their own god looking out for them. The player can unleash earthquakes, swamps and floods on the enemy to set back their development – but the opposing god can do likewise, resulting in an apocalyptic battle where there can be only one victor...
Lemmings: 1991 / Commodore Amiga / Mouse
The product of a Commodore Amiga Deluxe Paint animation experiment, Lemmings was created by DMA Design’s Mike Dailly and David Jones. The action-puzzle game, which plays out over a number of increasingly difficult screens, requires the player to safely guide a group of lemmings to the clearly marked exit. Sounds simple? It is anything but. Each lemming continually walks in the direction it is facing, meaning that it will unwittingly stroll into any hazard in its path – of which there are many – from precipitous drops to pits of fire. To prevent that from happening, the player assigns different skills to the lemmings, such as a blocker that will make other lemmings turn around, climbers that will create steps over hazards or diggers that can burrow through the landscape. All must be used together to create a safe route for the lemmings to reach the exit, in order to move onto the next, more challenging level.
Micro Machines: 1991 / Sega Mega Drive / Joypad
Initially conceived in 1989 as an original racing title called California Buggy Boys, Codemasters subsequently struck a deal with US toymaker Galoob in 1990 to licence its popular Micro Machines toy-car line and turn the game into a fully endorsed product. The result was an absolutely terrific viewed-from-above racing game that met with a rapturous critical reception when it was released the following year. The gameʼs objective is simple: players take control of a miniature car and race against computer-controlled opponents to be fi rst past the finishing post. The action is fast and furious, taking place on tracks in a variety of household settings, such as on a breakfast table, a pool table and in a tree house. However, each course is packed with many humorous hazards, making the racing both challenging and fun.
Sensible Soccer: 1992 / Commodore Amiga / Joystick
Football video games have been consistently popular since the start of the computer age. Initially simple in nature, these games grew in graphical and gameplay complexity throughout the 1980s until, in 1992, Sensible Software created what many believed was one of the fi nest digital iterations of the sport. Featuring a zoomed-out, top-down view of the field, Sensible Soccer incorporates an innovative and highly responsive control scheme that delivers slick and smooth football action. The highlight of the game is the playerʼs ability to bend and lift the ball after they kick it, resulting in spectacular banana shots and inch-perfect curled passes. With its fiercely competitive gameplay between two players, Sensible Soccer was an instant hit and continues to be seen as the classic arcade-style football game.
Wipeout: 1995 / Sony PlayStation / Joypad
Take a trip to 2052 and compete in the F3600 Anti-Gravity League in this phenomenal racing game. Developed in Liverpool at Sony Psygnosisʼs offices, Wipeout features a fleet of super-fast floating rocket-like craft that players use to race along tight, twisting tracks that wend their way through a series of futuristic cityscapes. The action is highly competitive; even more so when you consider that participants can pick up a variety of weapons such as missiles, bombs and mines to use offensively against their fellow competitors. As well as featuring excellent racing action, Wipeout boasts one of the first fully licensed gaming soundtracks, headlined by leading electronic dance music artists of the mid-1990s such as The Chemical Brothers, Orbital and Leftfield. Add to that notable visual touches created by famed graphics company The Designers Republic, and you have a game that looks, sounds and plays brilliantly.
Worms: 1995 / Commodore Amiga / Mouse
Created by Andy Davidson, Worms started out as a home-brewed entry for a magazineʼs programming contest. The game didn’t win the competition but was signed up by Team17 a few months later after Davidson showed it to representatives of the long-running British software publisher at a computer trade show. The game is very simple but highly addictive. It tasks the player to take control of a squad of armed worms and use them to eliminate an opposing group of worms situated on the other side of the screen. Each worm is equipped with over 20 different weapons and tools, all of which have their own unique functionalities. It is up to the player to decide how best to use these items to destroy the opposing army of worms, which adds an element of puzzling to the artillery-orientated action. With its cartoon-like graphics and amusing sound effects, Worms is a highly original game that proved very popular during the mid-1990s.