With entertainment options limited at the moment, many people are turning to video games to keep their brains ticking over during lockdown.
According to a recent report, vintage games are proving especially popular as people seek to rekindle old favourites from simpler times.
Here are my top 15 London retro games from the 1980s. They are all set in London and most can now be played online via emulators.
This early game offers players the chance to drive around six different cities, one of which is London.
As you can probably guess, the aim is to locate, pick up and drop off passengers. Not an easy task considering how migraine-inducing the graphics are.
It’s not surprising that, for a game this old, the map of London is incredibly basic- if the streets were this simple in real life, the Knowledge of London which trainee cabbies have to learn would be a doddle!
London Blitz (1984)
As the blurb on the back of its box states, this game is for anyone who wants something other than “a dot chaser or frog and monkey game.”
It’s 1940 and bombs are dropping all over London. Some however don’t explode on impact. It’s your job to locate these UXBs, race through a maze and then diffuse them. Very tense, even when it is from the comfort of your own home…
This typing adventure (imaginations were required back then) begins with your character dumped in a disgusting flat on the lowest rung of society.
The goal is to escape this life and claw your way up to a swanky new one in leafy Hampstead.
There’s nothing fun about traffic, especially London traffic. But in this game you get too play the city’s Head Traffic Controller which certainly beats sitting in the jam itself.
After a digitised clip of Big Ben’s chimes plays, you’re thrown into the action. It’s up to you to keep the cars, buses and taxis flowing.
Perhaps TFL’s current planners should give this game a go. They might learn something.
Heathrow International Air Traffic Control (1984)
What’s more stressful than controlling road traffic? Controlling air traffic of course! Heathrow International Air Traffic Control is apparently a faithful simulation of what it’s like to direct aircraft at one of the world’s busiest airports.
A text-based adventure in which you play the world’s most famous fictional sleuth.
Sherlock begins in London and you soon find yourself travelling down to the Surrey town of Leatherhead with Watson to solve a murder.
The Baker Street detective has featured in many more games since.
Give my Regards to Broad Street (1985)
Based on the much lambasted film of the same name, this game has you play Paul McCartney.
The aim is to drive around London (gloriously devoid of traffic in 1985 it would seem) to pick up fellow band members from various tube stations and then rush them to Abbey Road Studios to finalise a recording.
The Rats (1985)
Based on James Herbert’s 1974 horror novel, this game has you fighting for survival in a London which is gripped by panic; the cause of which is a plague of giant, killer rats.
Given the current climate, this scenario feels all the more chilling today…
Ghettoblaster- aka Street Beat (1985)
Before i-Pods there were ghettoblasters; hefty boomboxes which could get a party going on any street.
In this game, you have to sprint around the city with your ghettoblaster encouraging Londoners to dance whilst avoiding the police and other obstacles- including a psychotic murderer.
Ghettoblaster is believed to have been inspired by someone who used to carry such a device around Battersea Park.
Southern Belle (1985)
The Southern Belle was a luxury Pullman service hauled by steam in the early 20th century. In this simulator you get to drive it from London’s Victoria station, down through Battersea, Clapham and Balham and on to Brighton.
City Slicker (1986)
In this game, you play ‘Slick’ who has been tasked with defeating a terrorist plot to destroy the Houses of Parliament (masterminded by the rather un-pc named character, ‘Abru Cadabra’).
In order to do this, you have to scour London for a number of components which, when put together, create a device for diffusing the bomb.
During the task, Slick gets to travel on the tube and has to dodge attacks from Beefeaters and aggressive London pigeons.
Werewolves of London (1987)
No doubt inspired by the classic 1981 horror-comedy, An American Werewolf in London this game has you playing a character who alternates between human and werewolf form. In both of these guises, you get to roam around the tube, Hyde Park and various other parts of the capital.
My favourite of the 1980s London retro games, here the aim is to hunt down the eight aristocrats who placed the lupine curse on you. And then eat them!
Jack the Ripper (1987)
Released just before the 100th anniversary of the Ripper’s bloodthirsty spree, this adventure was text-based but featured several unsettling digitised images.
Needless to say it was stamped with an 18 certificate, said to be one of the gaming industry’s first.
Dracula in London (1988)
Fallen Angel (1989)
Compared to today, the tube was a pretty rough place in the 1980s.
However, the way it’s portrayed in the last of my 1980s London retro games: Fallen Angel, in which every single commuter wants to punch your lights out, is a bit exaggerated!