BAFTA Best British Game Award: what we've learned from every winner from The Room to Hellblade

Last week, BAFTA announced its nominees for its forthcoming BAFTA video game awards. Celebrating the best of the industry in a range of categories, the awards provide an opportunity to take stock of the past year in games and identify those that had the most impact on us.

One of the awards that particularly interested us though is the award for Best British Game. Providing an award to the game that the BAFTA judges felt was the best out of Britain that year, the award - which has run since 2012 - gives us an interesting insight into the shape of our industry.

So, which games did win the Best British Game Award? And what can we learn from them? Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Room (2012)

The winner of the first ever award for British game in the BAFTA Game Awards was Fireproof Studios’s The Room.

At the time, it was rightly considered to be a delightfully innovative independent title. The game’s gorgeously detailed puzzle boxes could only be picked apart and pried open with careful considered touches, something that proved particularly revelatory in the emerging age of tablet gaming.

Since then, The Room has gone from strength to strength. It has spawned numerous highly rated sequels, including The Room: Old Sins – which has been nominated for a BAFTA in time for the April 2019 awards. 

Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

Rockstar’s monumental crime masterpiece Grand Theft Auto V is possibly the least surprising winner of a BAFTA in history.

Retrospectively, it’s clear to see the impact of the Take 2 published mega hit. GTA V has gone on to become one of the biggest games of all time, breaking retail sales records and generating billions in revenue through GTA Online. Not only that, but it has been crowned the most financially successful media product of all time, after raking in over $6billion in global revenue. If that’s not enough, it’s also the best selling game of all time in the UK.

But in 2013, GTA V’s epic sweeping single player crime opera captivated players and the BAFTA committee – taking it to the second title of Best British game. 

Monument Valley (2014)

After the blockbuster success of GTA V, 2014 saw another premium mobile game claim the title of Best British game within three years of the award starting.

Monument Valley’s hypnotic, meditative and gentle puzzle mechanics offered something thoroughly different to the industry norm. By carving its own path, ustwo’s game was able to beat illustrious rivals such as Forza Horizon 2 and Alien: Isolation to the Best British game crown.

And if you did want to hear more about that success, Dan Gray from ustwo spoke to us about what it meant to him on the 30 Years of Play podcast here.

Batman: Arkham Knight (2015)

Rocksteady’s Batman series was one of the first video game franchises to ‘get’ what it meant to be both a super hero and – more importantly – Batman in particular.

The combination of meaty combat, stealth take downs and plethora of gadgets helped bring the Dark Knight to life. And in 2015, the third entry in the series was rewarded with the title of Best British Game.

Arkham Knight might be set in a fictional city in the US, boast leading international voice acting talent and feel like a DC comic. But it was proudly created in North London, explaining how it walked away with the prestigious Best British game title.

Overcooked (2016)

Is there more of a British game than Overcooked? From featuring a wise cracking dog to embracing multiplayer game play that practically forces people to say ‘sorry’ to each other, the cook ‘em up has always felt quintessentially British.

 This is one of the reasons that it felt like a natural winner of Best British game. Developed in a house in the north of Cambridge by a small indie team and published by British institution Team 17, Overcooked feels as British as a tasty roast dinner on a Sunday.

It also happens to be a brilliant game too, which helps. And you can find out more about its creation – again – on the 30 Years of Play podcast here. 

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)

Ninja Theory’s decision to release Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was brave. Though it was wrapped in what seemed like the typical trappings of Triple A video games – including its darkly beautiful aesthetic and all encompassing audio design – its subject matter was brave. 

Placing the player in the shoes of a character suffering from psychosis, Hellblade wasn’t just a game; it was an uncompromising – yet sensitively handled - look at mental health that educated as much as it entertained.

This is what helped it earn the BAFTA for Best British Game Award.  But it also earned the inaugural BAFTA Game Beyond Entertainment award for its work in bringing the plight of psychosis sufferers to a wider audience. And as anyone who has played Hellblade would attest, its portrayal is considerably more impactful because it can be played, rather than simply viewed.

2018 - To be confirmed

So, which game will be considered the best British game of 2018? Well, we’ll find out on Thursday 4th April at this year’s BAFTA Game Awards.

But there are a few familiar names for us to keep an eye on. Overcooked 2 and The Room: Old Sins both make the list, years after the original games in the series walked away with the awards. There’s also another nomination for the Forza Horizon series in the guise of Forza Horizon 4, which must be well placed to win given its quintessentially British setting.

However, there are some new games that could potentially emerge at the front of the pack. Two Point Hospital, spiritual successor to British hit Theme Hospital, could come forward. And the fascinating 11-11: Memories Retold could be about to bring sensitive tales of the First World War to a wider audience.

But whoever wins, its another opportunity for the public to discover the range of games that are made in the UK. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from this piece, it’s that British developers are capable of creating everything from epic enormous open world experiences to perfectly contented independent adventures.

And that is certainly worth celebrating at this year’s BAFTAs and beyond.

George Osborn