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Elite (1984): The Game That Defined a Genre

Elite is a classic space trading and combat game developed by David Braben and Ian Bell and first released in 1984 for the ZX Spectrum. It quickly became one of the most popular and influential games of its time, spawning sequels, imitators, and a dedicated fan base that endures to this day.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Elite and explore why it remains such an important and beloved game.

The Story of Elite

Elite (1984): The Game That Defined a Genre

Elite is set in the year 3125, in a vast, procedurally generated universe filled with star systems, planets, and space stations. The player takes on the role of a lone space pilot, with a starting ship and a small amount of money.

From there, the player is free to explore the galaxy, trading goods, fighting pirates and other enemies, and upgrading their ship with new weapons, equipment, and other enhancements.

The ultimate goal is to become an Elite-ranked pilot, by earning enough money and reputation to gain entry into the exclusive Elite space club.

Elite ZX Spectrum Gameplay Mechanics

Elite ZX Spectrum Gameplay Mechanics

Elite’s gameplay mechanics were revolutionary for their time, combining elements of space simulation, trading, and combat to create a truly open-ended and immersive experience.

Players had to navigate through the galaxy using a map, plot their own courses, and manage their ship’s systems, including fuel, shields, and weapons. The combat system was also ahead of its time, featuring Newtonian physics and realistic weapon types.

Players had to navigate through the galaxy using a map

Graphics and Sound

While Elite’s graphics and sound may seem dated by today’s standards, they were groundbreaking for their time. The game featured wireframe 3D graphics that gave players a sense of being in a vast, three-dimensional universe.

The sound effects and music were also memorable, with a haunting, minimalist soundtrack that perfectly captured the feeling of being alone in space.


Elite's open-ended gameplay and procedurally generated universe made it highly replayable

Elite’s open-ended gameplay and procedurally generated universe made it highly replayable, with players constantly discovering new star systems, planets, and stations to explore.

The game’s random encounters, such as pirate attacks and other hazards, also kept players on their toes and added to the replay value.


Elite was a highly innovative game for its time, introducing many concepts that are now standard in modern video games. Its open-ended gameplay and procedurally generated universe inspired other games, such as No Man’s Sky and Elite Dangerous.

Elite was a highly innovative game for its time

The game’s complex trading system and combat mechanics were also highly influential, paving the way for other space trading games, such as EVE Online.


Elite remains a classic and highly influential game that defined a genre and inspired generations of gamers. Its open-ended gameplay, innovative mechanics, and immersive atmosphere continue to captivate players today, more than three decades after its initial release.

Whether you’re a fan of space trading and combat games or just looking to experience a piece of gaming history, Elite is a game that’s well worth playing.

FAQ About The Elite ZX Spectrum Game



Elite was a groundbreaking game when it was released in 1984, and it still holds up today. The open-world gameplay and non-linear progression were revolutionary at the time and still provide a unique experience. The game's graphics and sound are dated but still charming, and the innovative gameplay and high replayability make up for any shortcomings. The game's storyline is minimal, but it is not the focus of the game. Overall, Elite is a must-play for any retro gaming enthusiast and deserves its place in gaming history.

  • Immersive gameplay: Elite's open-ended gameplay allows players to explore the galaxy at their own pace, trade goods, and engage in combat
  • Revolutionary graphics: The game's wireframe 3D graphics were groundbreaking at the time of its release, and still hold up today
  • Rich lore and universe: Elite's universe is filled with interesting factions and characters, making it easy for players to become invested in the game's world
  • Replayability: The game's open-ended gameplay and random encounters make each playthrough unique and replayable
  • Influence on the industry: Elite's success influenced a generation of game developers and spawned numerous sequels and imitators
  • Steep learning curve: Elite's complex gameplay systems and controls can be overwhelming for new players
  • Lack of direction: The game's open-ended nature can lead to confusion and frustration for players who aren't sure what to do next
  • Limited variety: While Elite's universe is expansive, there is a limited variety of ships, weapons, and equipment available
  • Tedious grinding: The game's emphasis on trading and resource gathering can become repetitive and tedious over time
  • Outdated interface: The game's interface can be clunky and difficult to navigate by modern standards

Game Review

Gameplay: The gameplay mechanics, controls, and overall enjoyment factor 9
Graphics and Sound: The quality of the game's visuals and audio 7
Replayability: The game's ability to keep players coming back for more 10
Storyline: The quality of the game's plot and storytelling 7
Innovation: The game's ability to introduce new ideas to the genre 9

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