8 Video Game Classics Developed in the Midlands

The Midlands has been a vital hub for video game development, with many classic games developed in the region. The video games development sector continues to grow, with the West Midlands boasting the largest concentration of game developers outside of London, responsible for over a quarter of all video games output in the UK.


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What video games companies are based in the Midlands?

Video game controllers

Leamington Spa, which is less than 20 miles from Access Creative College in Birmingham, has established itself as a major hub in the UK gaming industry, with dozens of studios in the town. These include Ubisoft, Playground Games and Third Kind Games. In Birmingham itself, Codemasters are a major player. Established in 1987, the company was sold to Electronic Arts in 2021 for a staggering £1.2 billion. The city is also home to Facepunch Studios, the home of Garry’s Mod and Rust.


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What are the best video games developed in the Midlands?

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Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider has become a full-scale media juggernaut. Alongside the 18 video games released as part of the franchise since 1996, you can also find Tomb Raider branded comic books, films, novels, and even theme park rides. Tomb Raider was developed in Derby by indie studio Core Design, featuring the iconic central character Lara Croft. The combination of absorbing story-telling, a strong female lead character, intuitive gameplay, and all-out action made Tomb Raider a huge hit, with estimated sales of 75 million copies. Lara Croft is also one of Derby’s most distinctive cultural icons and a source of pride for the city and the Midlands region.


Garry’s Mod

Garry Newman (not to be confused with the legendary 80s singer) started Garry’s Mod as a side project alongside a different game he was developing in his bedroom while living with his parents. It would go on to sell more than 20 million copies and become one of the most-played games on Steam, the biggest online game marketplace. Garry’s Mod is one of the first examples of a ‘sandbox’ game, where players are free to build and experiment with different materials without worrying about meeting specific game objectives or sticking to a storyline. While incredibly successful in its own right, for many players, Garry’s Mod laid the ground for other sandbox games including the gargantuan Minecraft – currently the best-selling video game of all time with global sales of 300 million.



Another product of Facepunch Studios, Rust took the sandbox template from Garry’s Mod and added a gripping survival element. Dropped in the wilderness with only a rock and a torch, players must survive by finding food and water, building shelter, and by defending themselves from attacks by bears and wolves. However, Rust is only played as a multiplayer game, and the biggest threat comes from other players who you encounter on the giant online landscape. The idea of the game is to slay your opponents and steal their hard-earned belongings, either on your own or in groups. Rust is one of the most-streamed games on Twitch and continues to garner critical acclaim.


Sea of Thieves

Developed by Rare in Leicestershire, Sea of Thieves allows players to experience life on the high seas as a pirate. Another example of a game with no linear narrative, players work together to sail ships, explore worlds, and attack enemies. An innovative feature of the game is that artefacts and treasure don’t ‘power up’ characters, meaning that a new player is as powerful as a more experienced pirate. This ‘horizontal development’ means that the game is accessible to all, and fosters teamwork and the development of soft skills in order to succeed. With over 40 million players to date and an upcoming release on PS5, the game has been an unqualified success.


Viva Piñata

Gardening may seem like an odd premise on which to base a video game, but Rare, the makers of Viva Piñata, took this concept and developed a game that is now considered a classic. Players create and tend to their garden on Piñata Island using tools such as spades and watering cans, and as the garden grows it attracts colourful Piñatas. Players then care for their Piñatas and their garden, fighting off weeds, ruffians, and sour pinatas, who love to destroy gardens and generally cause chaos! Developed in Leicestershire, the game was an instant success when it was released in 2006 on Xbox 360, selling half a million copies in one year. Viva Piñata has also aged well, with modern critics heaping renewed praise on this unique game.


Conker’s Bad Fur Day

At first glance, Rare’s colourful platformer featuring a cute squirrel character bears all the hallmarks of a game aimed at children. However, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is most definitely an adult affair, with graphic violence, tobacco and alcohol use, crude humour, and witty pop culture references all featured heavily throughout. Playing as Conker the squirrel, the premise of the game is that he needs to get home from a magical kingdom that he has stumbled into after a night of heavy drinking. However, progress is hampered when King Panther sends his servant to go on the hunt for a squirrel to replace a broken table leg in his palace (yes really!). Chaos ensues, and Conker must fight enemies, overcome obstacles, and solve puzzles to make it home to his long-suffering girlfriend Berri. Although the game didn’t sell well on release in 2001, it was very popular with critics and has since developed a devoted cult following. 


Forza Horizon

Building on the Forza Motorsport series, Playground Games developed Forza Horizon at their studio in Leamington Spa. Released in 2012 the game was a commercial and critical success, spawning three direct sequels. Horizon allows players to race in realistic settings, but points are accrued by completing races in style, so drivers are encouraged to drift, jump, or get their car onto two wheels. Players can then sell or upgrade their cars to up the ante even more. It’s always tough to build on an already existing franchise, but the games in the Horizon series are now considered by many to be some of the best ever made.


Imagibots – Save Eden Green

Finally, this award-winning demo game was developed by former Birmingham Access Creative College student Aysheq Hussain. Aysheq won a BAFTA for Imagibots at age 15, and after enrolling on the Games Development course here at ACC, he learnt the skills he needed to turn Imagibots from a concept into a real-life game demo. In 2022, the year Aysheq left ACC, the game was a finalist in the game-making category of the BAFTA Games Awards, giving Aysheq the second of his three BAFTA nods (another of Aysheq’s games, Backyard Racing, would also go on to be a BAFTA game making finalist). Aysheq has since set up his own studio, Playtime Games, and after achieving top grades on his Games Development course here at Access Creative College, he progressed to Staffordshire University where he is in the final year of the prestigious Computer Games Design BSc degree programme. Aysheq is also an intern at Tencent Games, one of the world’s largest gaming studios, and regularly pops up at gaming events all over the world.

Do you want to follow in Aysheq’s footsteps and learn how to create games? If you’re passionate about gaming and want to kick-start a career in the sector then our Games Development and Games Art courses can give you the skills you need to be a part of this exciting industry. Apply online today!

Last updated on: 20th June 2024