The top 10 most iconic war machines in videogame history

With the retail version of World Of Tanks in stores today, Harry looks back over the most iconic combat vehicles in gaming...

With the boxed version of World Of Tanks rumbling into shops today, its historically accurate column of mobile artillery trailing back further than the eye can see, we decided it was a good time to take a look back at some of gaming’s most iconic machines of war. They might never have existed, and some of them might not be tanks in the traditional sense, but they’re still part of our gaming heritage, fictional or otherwise.

Metal Gear – Metal Gear series

Or, as it’s more accurately pronounced, “Metal Geeear!?!” The maguffin in Hideo Kojima’s legendary sneak-’em-up series, the Metal Gear tanks have taken many forms. They’re usually bipedal, single manned death walkers that can spray nuclear death on anyone stupid enough to take them on in single combat. Just because a tank is a metaphor for the arms race, doesn’t mean it can’t be iconic, and that’s why the Metal Gears get a chance to stomp around on this list.

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Di Cokka – Metal Slug

Serious tanks are all well and good, but nothing beats a cartoon sprite firing balls of fiery doom at anyone foolish enough to walk near it. Metal Slug has a vast wealth of tanky vehicles, but the most famous of them has to be the original Di Cokka from the first game. Unable to rotate its turret, the Di Cokka was the perfect weapon against hordes of side-scrolling army sorts. And it had one of the best death animations of the 90s.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Tank – Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Nothing says agile, sure footed assassin like a giant, rotund tank. Based on an actual design Da Vinci made, which was never produced, the tank is a heavily armoured battle machine that looks like a crashed Martian spaceship. To say the level is incongruous within the free running, stealth-murdering confines of the rest of the series is something of an understatement, but what would third-person action and adventure games be without vehicle sections? Better.

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The Scorpion – Halo 3

There’s something joyous about the Scorpion, something utterly tank-like and wonderful. It’s exactly what you’d expect a futuristic tank to be, a giant, bludgeoning thing that fires huge shells and rolls over cars like they weren’t there. It’s the sheer size of it, that and the big boomy noises it makes when you pull the trigger, that makes the experience so fulfilling. Heavily armoured super soldiers are one thing, but heavily armoured super tanks are way cooler.Flame Tank – Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars

It’s a tank with a flame thrower on it, what’s not to love? The Command & Conquer games are full of tanks, walkers and other units that make you smile gleefully when you send them out to destroy your enemy, but the Flame Tank beats them all, simply because it’s such a ridiculous idea. Tanks aren’t supposed to get up close and personal, they’re supposed to be aloof and distant, hammering out long range murder rockets. The Flame Tank likes its infantry close, and well done.

Tanks – Micro Machines

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Micro Machines was a brilliant racer in its own right, fast, furious and featuring some of the best same-screen multiplayer of its age. What made it even better was that sometimes you got to control tiny tanks, which in turn had tiny cannons. They may have been slow compared to the hot rods and speed boats, but that wasn’t the point, these were little weapons of minimal destruction. Winning feels good, but winning at the last second because your cannon fire found its mark and pushed your opponent off the edge of a breakfast table feels absolutely glorious.

Brumak – Gears Of War 2

Gears Of War 2 is a tough old cookie, especially when you get to its endgame. There is, however, light at the end of the tunnel, and that light comes from an enormous, heavily armoured killing machine known as a Brumak. You’ve fought them throughout the game, probably sworn when one stomped into view, but right at the death, you get to control one yourself. Stomping through the Locust stronghold, firing volleys of rockets and cackling like a lunatic, you’re a giant amongst subterranean invaders, and you can’t help but smile. 

Tanks – Tank!

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Tank! Was an arcade game (remember them?) built by Kee Games and released in 1974. It saw two players working their way around a maze, shooting their cannons at one another in a bid for supremacy. What set it apart was the way it was controlled. You had two levers, one for your left tracks and one for your right tracks, much like the real controls on a tank. It also featured excellent use of the exclamation mark, which is no bad thing.

Vertical Tank – Steel Battalion

The Vertical Tanks themselves weren’t the real stars of the show in Steel Battalion, which you might think is strange, with them being enormous stompy bipeds with huge guns and massive armour plating. Well, they were outshone by the controller the game shipped with, a behemoth with over 40 buttons, foot pedals and twin joysticks. There’s a starting sequence, an eject button, and lord knows what else going on amongst the dials and sticks. This is the sort of madness that only the videogame industry can get away with, and it just about worked too. The controllers are now collectors items, as you might expect.

The Tank – Left 4 Dead

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Okay, it’s not a tank in the traditional sense of the word, but let’s look at it from a different perspective. Is the Tank a heavily armoured weapon of destruction? Yes. Does it spread fear into the hearts of any on-foot enemies in its vicinity? Yes. Does it have a large bore cannon capable of delivering armour piercing rounds at long distances? Shut up, that’s not the point. The Tank shows how gaming plays with ideas and terminology, and further cements concepts through new iterations. It’s also a big smashy zombie who throws people about like they were rag-dolls, so win-win, I guess. 

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