aka: Classic Elite, Elite Plus
Moby ID: 1324
Conversion (official) Conversion (unofficial) Included in See Also

Description official descriptions

Elite is a free-form space trading and combat simulation, commonly considered the progenitor of this sub-genre. The player initially controls a character referred to as "Commander Jameson", starting at Lave Station with 100 credits and a lightly armed trading ship called Cobra Mark III. Most of the game consists of traveling to various star systems, trading with their inhabitants, gaining money and reputation. Money can also be gained by other means besides trading; these include undertaking military missions, bounty hunting, asteroid mining, and even piracy. As the player character earns money, he becomes able to upgrade his ships with enhancements such as better weapons, shields, increased cargo capacity, an automated docking system, etc.

The game utilizes pseudo-3D wire-frame graphics; its world is viewed from a first-person perspective. It has no overarching story, though a race known as Thargoids play the role of antagonists: their ships will often attack the player-controlled ship, forcing the player to engage in space combat. Combat is action-oriented, taking place in the same environment as the exploration. The player must use various weapons the ship is equipped with, as well as manoeuvre the ship, trying to dodge enemy attacks. The player can also choose to attack neutral ships; doing so will decrease the protagonist's reputation, eventually attracting the attention of the galactic police.

Elite is notable for its expansive game world, consisting of eight galaxies and 256 planets. The player is free to travel to any of these planets, provided his ship has enough fuel for the trip (the ship's fuel capacity is limited for a journey to the distance of seven light-years).

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Credits (BBC Micro version)

5 People

The Dark Wheel Author
Copy protection
Front cover illustration by



Average score: 88% (based on 44 ratings)


Average score: 3.4 out of 5 (based on 132 ratings with 4 reviews)

probably the most immersive non-roleplaying game of it's time

The Good
What's so special about Elite? Sitting hour after hour, day for day in front of a computer, reading a book, drinking coffee, every now and then throwing a glance at the monitor, to look for potential threats or the space station.
Well it's a little bit paradox, but I think in Elite the repetitive gameplay adds to the immersion.
You start out so inexperienced and poor and struggle to earn your first credits, cargo bay, beam laser, ... . And while struggling you learn how to handle your ship. And with time passing, suddenly you are a flying killer machine, shooting whole armies of pirates, before they even leave their one pixel state. And you feel rather cool doing so :-).
Add in unrestricted freedom to do what you want (be it mining, or piracy, trade or ...) and you have one of the greatest all time classics ever developed.

The Bad
After a long, long time it really get's boring.

The Bottom Line
How to make a living with a space ship or a 3D-space-action-shooter-trading-game placed in a universe of 6000(?) star systems.

DOS · by Zzap (56) · 2000

One in a million!

The Good
This game in my opinion still holds me glued to a computer screen today, its not the fancy graphics or limited sound capabilities it was the sence of freedom i had and having faith in my Cobra MKIII could always get me out of a tight spot. Many places to explore unique traders selling there wares, Bounty Hunters after your hide, or that once in a lifetime special offer for the last speices of tribble.

After those first load up screens no other clone came remotely close save one but still it wasn't Elite.

The Bad
I if there is only one thing i didn't like about this game and that is with all good games time takes it's toll and many games companies try to update the game only to make a real hash of it and sometimes this is a good thing as it makes the original all the more valued.

The Bottom Line
Its an easy game to play but difficult to master, your ship maybe wireframe but she's cool, loads of trading opportunities places to go just fly in space and do your own thing.

Amstrad CPC · by Paul Wildman (2) · 2008

Explore the galaxy on one 5 1/4 Floppy.

The Good
Really the ultimate 80s space combat game. Addictive game did not have any plot, instead you'd just fly around roasting pirates and trading goods to different planets while trying to get the cash to upgrade your ship.

Combat was the heart of this game and it was fast and furious. Fights involved many ships and made you do lots of dodging and weaving as you tried to line up your Military Lasers or avoid that missle when your ECM was out. The battle to destroy the Constrictor was a worthy challenge in its day.

In addition to the combat, what really drew me into the game was the trading and upgrading you could do. I hadn't played any game at this time that mixed combat and trading like this. It was really satisfying when you managed to make your run through a pirate infested anarchy world because you knew you would finally have the cash to get that fuel scoop upgrade you've had your eye on.

Also was the large universe to explore, there were 5 galaxies to with maybe a 1000 systems to visit in each, everyone who played this game knows the name Lave. Each galaxy had a special mission which was activated after doing a lot of space jumps. The first one involved tribbles, in the second galaxy you had to hunt down a stolen prototype ship, I never made it to the 3rd mission.

The game really left a lot to your imagination as there was no plot. Instead you had to fill in your own details as you pursued careers as a trader, bounty hunter, pirate or asteroid miner. Unlike in its sequels, careers other than trader were enjoyable although not as profitable. There was plenty of neutral ships for would be pirates to attack and asteroids were easy enough to find a mine.

Modern gamers are used to being able to save anywhere they like and this game you could only save in ports. I actually like that in this game because it made trading runs to dangerous systems that much more tense.

The Bad
Graphics aren't that good on the IBM, but they never were that hot an any system. The Commodore 64 version was essentally black and white wire frame graphics, so at least this one filled in the ships!

You can only fly one type of ship.


The Bottom Line
A classic and influential space combat/trader game. Newer games might have better graphics, sound and game options but NONE, including this games own sequels have had the magic of the orginal.

DOS · by woods01 (129) · 2001

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Label vs Owner Trypticon (11021) Apr 2, 2013


1001 Video Games

Elite appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


The book Game On! From Pong to Oblivion: The 50 Greatest Video games of All Time contains a chapter on Elite.


A World Championship was organised by Acornsoft in 1985, with a £1000 prize, the final held at the Electron & BBC Micro User Show in 1985. 17 year old student Paul Shonk of Croydon was victorious, against 11 opponents, nine of them teenagers, and all from the UK despite the 'world championship' moniker (unsurprisingly given that, when the competition was launched, the BBC Micro was the only version released)


Elite's two creators, Ian Bell and David Braben, were not on the best of terms for a long time, ever since development on Elite 2 was cancelled. This erupted into open confrontation during 1999-2000 when Bell decided to release all versions of Elite as freeware. The dispute was settled and all files relevant to Elite and Braben's version of the matter can be found in Ian Bell's website.

Copy protection

The ZX Spectrum version used Lenslok as copy protection. Lenslok was a physical device with a lense unique to the game which had to be used to decipher a code (more information here). The first few hundred copies of the game were delivered with a faulty Lenslok device, rendering the game unusable.

DOS version

Two versions were supplied with the DOS release, Shaded and Line Drawn. At the selection screen this message is displayed regarding the shaded version: "...but unless your machine is powerful (6MHz 80286 or greater) it will not run very quickly and you should select the line drawn version."


The package came with a novella about how your father sacrificed himself and saved you by dumping you in the lone escape pod in the ship, and how you managed to "acquire" this ship that you are driving at the beginning of the game.


Many of Elite's original releases are now available on Ian Bell's (one of the game's developers) homepage. These include hard to find MSX, NES and BBC Micro versions, to name a few.

Fan club

This was apparently the first game, or among the first games, to have a fan club.

Game On exhibition

Elite is being exhibited as part of the "Game On" exhibition in places like the London Science Museum. David Braben also gave a lecture as part of the exhibition in 2006.


Ian Bell's brother, Aidan Bell, enjoyed a spell of success writing for musical theatre; sooner or later his muse led him to his brother's enormous success story, which (believe it or not) resulted in 1989's completion of Elite: the Musical, furthering the storyline set forth in Robert Holdstock's novella The Dark Wheel. The book and lyrics, with mp3 recordings, (c) Pink Hippo Productions Ltd, can be perused.

Whether or not this musical has ever been produced on the off-Broadway stage is unclear, though one figures the chances are slim to nil.


Elite (as of 2009) holds fours Guinness World Records. These are for the most format releases for a space trading game, being released on 25 different formats, the first space trading game, the first game to use Lenslok copy protection (the ZX Spectrum version) and the first space game to use procedural generation.


  • The docking sequence is borrowed from the movie 2001 - A Space Odyssey. Also, the music ("On the beautiful Blue Danube") used in this sequence is the same as in the movie. The only difference is, that the space station looks different, but the one who played the sequel to Elite, namely Frontier: Elite II, knows that this got corrected...
  • The second worst pilot rating, "Mostly Harmless", is an obvious reference to Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" book series. In the books, "Mostly harmless." is the entire contents of the Hitchhiker's Guide article about Earth. One of the books is also called "Mostly Harmless", though it was published after Elite hit the shelves.


Most of the ships, which can be cycled through in start-up with F9/F10, in the game are named after snakes. There's a few exceptions such as the Moray and Gecko.

ZX Spectrum 128K version

Enhanced version for ZX Spectrum 128K was released which introduced three new missions and fixed a number of bugs.

Game Art Beyond

In 2018, Elite was selected as one of the biggest classics on the Commodore 64 by the creators of the C64 graphics collection Game Art Beyond. Elite was honoured with a high resolution title picture (based on Atari ST title screen artwork) in a special C64 graphics format called NUFLI, along with a new, much extended C64 interpretation of the C64 Elite theme and docking computer music.


  • Amiga Power
    • May 1991 (issue #00) - #75 in the "All Time Top 100 Amiga Games"
  • Commodore Format
    • February 1991 (Issue 5) - listed in the A to Z of Classic Games article (Great)
    • July 1993 (Issue 34) - Modern Classics: FRP & RPG
    • March 1994 (Issue 42) Heaven – The Path to Righteousness: 20 Essential Games
    • November 1994 (Issue 50) – #6 The All-Time Top 50 C64 Games
  • Computer Gamer
    • 1985 - Game of the Year
    • February 1986 (issue #17) - Included in the list Spectrum Collection (the best Spectrum ZX games since 1985 by editorial staff choice)
  • Crash
    • 1985 - Best Game Overall
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 03/2013 – One of the "Ten Best C64 Games“
  • Golden Joystick Awards
    • 1984 - Best Original Game
  • Happy Computer
    • Issue 02/1986 - #2 Best Game in 1985 (Readers' Vote)
    • Issue 04/1987 - #12 Best Game in 1986 (Readers' Vote)
  • IGN
    • 2000 - #12 Top PC Games of All Time
  • Next Generation
    • 2008 - #1 Best Game of the 1980s
  • Retro Gamer
    • October 2004 (Issue #9) – Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)
  • Telespiele (trade show)
    • 2007 - One of the 16 Most Influential Games in History
  • Times Online
    • 2007 - #3 Most Influential Video Game Ever

Information also contributed by Kasey Chang, Pseudo_Intellectual, SDfish, sgtcook, SharkD, Silverblade, woods01 and FatherJack


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Will D.

Acorn 32-bit added by Jo ST. SAM Coupé added by ZeTomes. Amiga, Commodore 64 added by Makitk. Tatung Einstein added by Kabushi. NES added by totalgridlock. Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, MSX added by Martin Smith. BBC Micro, Apple II added by Terok Nor. Amstrad CPC added by cafeine.

Additional contributors: Rebound Boy, Kasey Chang, woods01, Indra was here, Chentzilla, Sciere, Martin Smith, vedder, Coreus, Zeppin, Patrick Bregger, mailmanppa, Malte Mundt, Rwolf, Jo ST, FatherJack, ZeTomes.

Game added April 13, 2000. Last modified May 5, 2024.