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October 10, 2013

Top 10 video games developed in the UK

Grand Theft Auto, Lara Croft and James Bond were all born in the UK.

By Claire Vanner

Thanks to the recent surge in attention on video games (mostly from the release of GTA 5) some light has been shed on the video game development industry in the UK. The UK games development sector contributes around £1 billion to UK GDP per year, and employs more than 9,000 highly skilled development staff.

Up and down the country from Edinburgh to Guildford, legendary characters including Lara Croft and Donkey Kong have been designed, re-designed and programmed before being bought to our screens.

1. Grand Theft Auto series


It was hard not to notice the launch of the latest Grand Theft Auto game. GTA 5 sold out fast after some enthusiasts took the day off work to play the game after queuing for days to get their hands on a copy. It shifted 15 million units in the first three days alone and has gone on to be one of the 12 highest selling games of all time and top five most financially successful games.

That’s just the fifth installment of the controversial car-jacking game (there are five standalone games in total). The series was born in Scotland, the brainchild of Rockstar North video game developed based in Dundee. The GTA franchise has now sold more than 135 million copies.

Originally DMA Design, the company released the first GTA game for PC in 1997 in the style of a top-down 2D game of cops-and-robbers. Causing controversy from the start, the Daily Mail called for game to be banned for its violent content. They had no idea what was to come for one of the most successful game franchises of all time…

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2. Tomb Raider series

Lara Croft

Now probably the most recognisable video game heroine ever, Lara Croft came from humble origins of Core Design in Derby when development started in 1993. Eidos bought out core in 1996 – the year Lara was first revealed to the world after three years of intensive development.

The Tomb Raider series has now been overseen by Crystal Dynamics since 2006 when they released the Tomb Raider: Legend Game. The series has gone on to sell more than 35 million units in total.

The British archeologist was re-branded and re-launched this year in the Tomb Raider game that sees a young Lara on an origin journey after she is shipwrecked, explaining how she turned into the pistol-toting action heroine that we know and love today.


3. Football Manager series

Football Manager

These days it seems that almost as many people enjoy playing football video games as they do participating in the sport itself. Thanks to Sports Interactive, a creative studio based in Central London, anyone can be a Championship-winning football manager.

The game began life as Championship Manager in 1992, but the break-up with Eidos Ineractive meant they lost the naming rights, so the name was re-branded to Football manager under new publishers Sega.

Sports Interactive went on to thrive under Sega, releasing a new game every year since 2005, as well as the Handheld and Live editions. The series has sold a total of more than 7 million copies.


4. GoldenEye 007


There have been several successful video games of everyone’s favourite British spy. But GoldenEye 007 holds a special place in many people’s hearts. First released in 1997 for Nintendo 64, the game has since be re-released as GoldenEye 007: Reloaded for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

The Nintendo 64 game was developed by an inexperienced team at Rare (based in Twycross); eight of its ten developers had never previously worked on video games. But despite their inexperience, the game went on to win the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Games Award in 1998 and the BAFTA for Best UK developer.

The game is frequently listed in ‘greatest games’ lists in publications and has been very influential for future first-person shooter games such as Halo and Call of Duty. So gamers owe a big thanks to James Bond and the team at Rare.


5. Worms


Worms has come a long way since its first release in 1995 as a PC game to the latest smartphone app Worms: Clan Wars. The artillery strategy computer game was developed by Team17, lead by Andy Davidson, when it was originally called Total Wormage in reference to Total Carnage.

The main series has more than 20 games, with additional spin-offs such as Onlineworms and Worms Crazy Golf. The game has progressed from basic 2D to 3D (Worms 3D was released in 2003). It has been widely praised as a strategy game and also for its originality in bringing a different take to the strategy game genre. The series has sold a total of over 14 million copies.


6. Harry Potter Series

harry potter

Being a British legacy, it is unsurprising that the Harry Potter games were developed in the UK. It’s not just the books and films that were successful: the game series has gone to sell more than 40 million copies in total.

Developed by EA’s Bright Light studio in Guildford, the team successfully turned the stories into enjoyable game play. Movie-tie in games are often just a money-spinner and would be unsuccessful as standalone games, but Bright Light shook the trend and produced a series of successful semi-open world and third-person action shooter games, which later extended to Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move. Sadly, the Bright Light studio closed its doors in 2012.


7. Lemmings


Another popular export from Scottish developers Rockstar North, Lemmings was an original platform puzzle game from DMA Design, published by Psygnosis in 1991.

The cute, albeit suicidal, critters have left a legacy since their first appearance, and have been hailed as one of the best video games of the early 1990s. Programmer Mike Dailly has published a detailed history of the development of Lemmings in The Lemmings Story, in which he explains how the concept of the gameplay came from being able to create an animated character in an 8×8 pixel box.

Those miniature animations have gone on to sell more than 20 million copies with later editions for PSP, and PS2 being released to critical acclaim, with spin offs such as Christmas Lemmings and Lemmings Paintball.


8. Driver series

Driver is the most successful development from Ubisoft Reflections Interactive in Newcastle upon Tyne, which is also responsible for the latest Far Cry installment. The first Driver game was released in 1999 after designers were inspired by 70s cop shows like Starsky and Hutch and decided to mimic car chase films.

The Driv3r installment was very popular, with its story following FBI agents, the game was in development for around three and a half years as Reflections worked to bring the cities to life and develop the physics of the game to make vehicles respond to damage and act realistically.

Widely hailed as one of the best racing games, the Driver series has sold more than 16 million copies.


9. Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong

Mario may be the mascot and star of Nintendo, but if it weren’t for Donkey Kong, we wouldn’t have Mario. The little red plumber first appeared in the 1981 Donkey Kong platform game as Jumpman, who had to rescue a damsel in distress from a giant ape.

Nintendo partnered with British developer Rare in 1994 in a quest to create a 3D CGI game featuring the angry ape. The result of this partnership was Donkey Kong Country. The game was a critical success and sold more than 8 million copies worldwide, making it the second best-selling game in the SNES library.


10. TimeSplitters


The quirky first-person shooter game was developed by Free Radical Design, now Crytek UK, with the first TimeSplitters game released in 2000 as a PS2 game.

Several members of the successful GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark development team left Rare to form their own company in Nottingham: Free Radical Design, to embark on their first project: TimeSplitters, focusing on action-based gameplay.

The time-travel theme game is popular for its various gameplay elements, including MapMaker, Story mode, Arcade Mode, Challenge Mode, Time crystals and the Monkeys introduced in TimeSplitters 2 and 3.

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