Britain's best TV game shows

Blog > Flashback
5 Jul • 6 min read

They may have the word in their name, but our nation's best loved game shows are often anything but a game. When done right, these shows can cement themselves into British pop culture for an eternity. As a matter of fact, even when something about these well thought out games isn’t quite on the money, they can be just as - if not more - memorable. Cough, cough.

Alongside the unpredictable weather, and of course - a good old cuppa, game shows underpin what it means to be British. From Wheel of Fortune to the Weakest Link, these innovative programmes have created some of the most iconic moments in British TV history - we take on the impossible task of naming the top 5.

5) The Weakest Link

On the back of comedian Romesh Ranganathan being revealed as the host of the imminent reboot, this is perhaps the most topical inclusion. Talk about big boots to fill. In its pomp, The Weakest Link was the standard bearer for British game shows. Exciting concept, simple execution, and a brilliant catchphrase. Every great show needs a catchphrase.

It remains to be seen if the rerun can reach the dizzy heights of the Anne Robinson-led original. That’s not to say that the new guise can’t offer something completely different altogether though. Failure to do so however, and it could be a very swift “goodbye”.

4) Total Wipeout

Admit it - there’s something hilariously sinister about this well-thought out, utterly bonkers show. If you’re not familiar with it - it’s best explained as watching a bunch of hapless contestants attempt to tackle your favourite obstacle course, but with the difficulty cranked up to 11. It’s an intense test of anyone’s skill, and half the time when watching, the prize seems like a complete afterthought. But we still love it! There’s a frantic chaos to Total Wipeout that is simply irresistible.

For obvious reasons, the show doesn’t have the longevity on its side like many of its peers. What it lacks in longevity though, it unquestionably makes up for in the sheer unbridled joy at seeing very ordinary looking folk getting pinballed about, before belly-flopping into the often murky looking water. Totally priceless.

3) Supermarket Sweep

Now this really is one from the archive. A wonderful concept for a show that’s been inadvertently replicated in supermarkets up and down the country long before - and long since. This was bloody brilliant.

Aside from a relatable idea, every great game show needs a great host. And it’s hard to think of anyone more apt for the joyful ridiculousness of the show than the late, great Dale Winton. Not only did he offer the perfect amount of pizzazz for a show that could easily have come across as underwhelming, but he had a fantastic knack for appearing to be just as haphazard as his surroundings, while having a perfect grip on proceedings.

2) The Chase

A modern classic, it’s as simple as that. Where other gameshows prioritise knowledge above all else- the Chase’s focus on head to head comparisons and the pressure of outperforming the expert makes it a dramatic,compelling watch.

You could be forgiven for finding the format a little too convoluted - we’ve been fans since day one and we’re not sure we can explain it in a sentence. But, once you get it, you love it. Remember what we said about great shows needing great presenters? Well, The Chase really smashed it out the park with Bradley Walsh. Charisma in abundance and cheeky enough to bite back at the Chasers without disrupting the flow of the show too much.

The Chase has successfully nailed that “after-school” slot in the afternoons and regularly notches up some very impressive numbers. We really see the best of both worlds with this: there’s enough entertainment for casual watchers to certainly lap up, while consistently managing to scratch the competitive itch with some pretty tricky questions.

1) Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

To be honest with you - we’re not sure it gets much more iconic than this. Talk about a British institution. Not only that, the show is responsible for the most iconic moment in game show history. We just couldn’t have anything else at number 1! Controversy aside though, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire takes the purest essence of a game show and dials up the tension to the maximum. The result? A stone-cold classic.

Despite the dodgy revival with Jeremy Clarkson at the helm, fans fondly remember the show’s heyday with Chris Tarrant. 16 questions and £1 million at stake. The reason it sounds too good to be true is because it usually is…

We can already hear the outrage in our comments section. Narrowing these down to just 5 was almost impossible, so we couldn’t leave without giving a few very (very) honourable mentions:

  • Pointless
  • Eggheads
  • Deal or No Deal
  • Bullseye
  • Catchphrase
  • Countdown

Have we got this right? Or are you outraged by us missing your all time favourite off the list? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter, or if you have more to say, email us - we'd love to hear from you!