Some of our forum regulars out there may have seen, or indeed participated in, the latest rating thread to surface in our General Gaming forum. I know what you're thinking, and you're right - these threads pop up frequently and almost always contain games you either hate, or simply never played. Or worse, were released exclusively for the Macintosh.
It's rare to agree with another person over what is essentially a matter of intense personal preference, and believe me, I don't expect to change your mind with what you're about to read, but as I've picked up a new soapbox it'd be a shame not to climb on it and make some sweeping statements.
Those expecting technological tour-de-force titles like Crysis or Unreal Tournament will be disappointed. Some of these games don't even require 3D acceleration. They all require a great attention to detail however, and each offers virtually limitless gameplay.
In a departure from conventional list etiquette, these games are presented in chronological order, oldest to newest.
Originally released in 1984 for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron computers, Elite drafted, proof-read and then printed the rulebook for every space trading sim that came after it. Released two decades before Freelancer and occupying about as much disk space as this article, Elite elevated you to the position of Commander aboard a Cobra Mk III inter-planetary trading vessel, stationed at Lave spaceport.
Written by just two men - David Braben and Ian Bell - Elite took two years to develop. Braben and Bell both were undergraduate students at Cambridge University during this time, and presumably being computer enthusiasts in the early 80's they would have had their pick of the ladies. But instead, they chose to avoid distraction and code what would become one of the most popular multi-platform games ever; Elite was eventually released for the Acorn Archimedes, Acorn Electron, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, BBC Micro, Commodore 64, IBM PC, MSX, NES, and ZX Spectrum.
The reason Elite holds so many fond memories is that I played it on my first real computer, a BBC B Micro. Incidentally, they actually sold more than 150,000 copies for this platform, which worked out to be more copies of the game than there were BBC B computers, giving rise to the theory that technologically illiterate people were purchasing the game without actually realising a computer was required.
Sadly, I never made it to the status of "Elite", although I'll never forget the first time I docked with a space station instead of hitting it, exploding, and redistributing the contents of my ship over deep space. Next time you fire up a game of EVE Online, you'd do well to remember not necessarily where it all started, but where it was first perfected - in the wire-framed, 8-bit world of a Cambridge computer class.