100 Finnish games
Aapeli is the first digital gaming device in Finland.
Aapeli was built by the Mathematics Committee that constructed ESKO, Finland’s first computer. The junior engineers in the group gave it to Rolf Nevanlinna, the leader of the committee, for his 60th birthday. Aapeli played Nim, a strategy game that was commonly adapted to early computers. In Nim, the players remove the desired number of sticks from rows of different sizes. The player who gets the last stick loses the game. Originally, the device was simply known as “the Nim machine”. The new owner, Suomen Kaapelitehdas, renamed it Aapeli in the 1960s.
AirBuccaneers, a very personal modification that was created by a research unit at the University of Oulu, was published nearly ten years later as a standalone game.
AirBuccaneers was initially a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004 and it took third place in the international Make Something Unreal contest in 2004. Soon, this unique game of cooperation gathered a group of loyal fans. In this game, which requires seamless teamwork, a group of players guides a hot air balloon and fights against other teams. The game’s background story builds on Finnish traditions and nature with a fresh approach.
Angry Birds, which expanded from games into versatile entertainment, is the most talked-about brand in the Finnish game industry.
Children all over the world love Angry Birds and its expressive birds. Over the years, the simple puzzle game has developed into a brand that is known for its extensive product selection. To many, the name Angry Birds brings to mind the different seasonal and thematic variations as well as the merchandise that ranges from sweets to wall clocks. The computer animated Angry Birds film released in 2016 was an international box office success.
Afrikan Tähti (“The Star of Africa”) is a Finnish classic and a game experience that brings generations together.
Designed by Kari Mannerla when he was 19 years old, Afrikan Tähti has been translated into 16 languages and it has sold over 3.6 million copies – half of them internationally. The game was inspired by Humphrey Bogart’s films and the fascinating names on a crumpled map of Africa – not so much by the reality of Africa. Over the years, the game has been criticised for its colonial view of the world.
The delightfully simple word explanation game Alias is known by most everyone, but few people know that it is from Finland.
Mikko Koivusalo, who is known as an author, composer, lyricist and musician, already designed different board games when he was young, but Alias is his only successful game. The name comes from the Latin word alias, meaning “in other words”. Several different versions of this popular game have come out over the years, and it is also well-known in Estonia, the Netherlands and Russia.
ANKH draws on Finnish mythology and, for many, it was the first contact with role-playing games.
ANKH was designed for Nelostuote by Pasi Janhunen, then in his twenties, and it was probably the most ambitious Finnish release during the role-playing game boom in the 1980s. The fantasy adventure featured art by Petri Hiltunen and it relied on the mythology of the Kalevala. It was targeted at novice role-players. Nelostuote also sold the game at grocery shops. However, ANKH did not reach its sales goals and the planned expansions were never published.
Badland is an easily approachable puzzle adventure that stands out due to its personal appearance.
Badland represents a game industry dream come true. Frogmind, the company behind it, started as a two-man indie studio in 2012 and was able to achieve an international hit on the highly competitive mobile game market with its first game. The success of Badland can be largely attributed to the industry experience of Johannes Vuorinen and Juhana Myllys, who had previously worked at RedLynx and Universomo, for example.
The beautifully illustrated Bliaron tells about the growing ambition of the Finnish role-playing game publishers.
The sales figures for Finnish-language role-playing games have been modest, but, nevertheless, more and more games are being made and published. Bliaron focuses on magic and its use, and it was inspired by Uoti Huotari’s Vaeltavat Klaanit (“Travelling Clans”). Polishing it for publication took five years. Bliaron has later on received several different adventures and a reference book. The game is also available as a free PDF.
The magical world of the family role-playing game Astraterra has activities for all ages.
Those who grew up during the role-playing craze are happy to introduce their offspring to the genre. Perhaps the most popular family game is Astraterra by Miska Fredman. The children of their family also participated in its design. The heroes of the game are explorers on a quest to survey and investigate a wonderful world where steam machines, solar wind sailboats and strange creatures are everyday encounters. A crowdfunding campaign enabled the game to be printed as an impressive four-colour book.
BatMUD is Finland’s longest-running online game and it is famous for its active player community.
BatMUD started as a hobby project for the students of the Helsinki University of Technology, and it has been bringing players together for over 25 years. As the name implies, BatMUD is a “Multi-User Dungeon”, and the game is known for its strong community. BatMUD still has around 5,000 active players from everywhere in the world. The game’s social dimension is also visible in the player meetings, where the friendships and partnerships created through the game are deepened further.
The chess game Chesmac is the first commercially published computer game in Finland.
Chesmac was made for the Finnish Telmac kit computer, and it was originally a hobby project for Raimo Suonio. Suonio wanted to demonstrate that the low processing power of the Telmac is sufficient for chess. In the end, the game was sold by the Topdata store in Helsinki. The other side of the tape had two versions of John Conway’s Game of Life simulation (1970), both written by Suonio. Chesmac sold 104 copies in total. Suonio received all the profits from the game.
Clash of Clans took the Finnish game industry to the top of the world.
In a few years, Supercell has become an institution that creates headlines in the gaming press as well as on the finance and culture pages. In Clash of Clans, Supercell did two things right. Firstly, it combined a deep strategy game with casual playing, which attracted a large group of different players to the game. Secondly, Supercell was one of the first to combine a free game with profitable micropayments in a manner that made playing fun both with and without real money.
Crayon Physics Deluxe proved that international hit games can be made outside of the game industry’s mechanisms.
The game started from a challenge that Petri Purho set for himself: he would create a new game each month all by himself. Crayon Physics (2007) was a new type of puzzle game, and it became so popular that Purho started polishing it into a commercial version. This created Crayon Physics Deluxe, a pioneer for small-budget indie games. It was one of the trailblazers of the international indie game trend and among its first hits.
Cities: Skylines took over the top spot of city building games from the SimCity series that had reigned supreme for decades.
The developer, Colossal Order from Tampere, is known for its high-quality work, and its carefully constructed city building game arrived on the market at the right time. Although Colossal Order had achieved success before, its third game Cities: Skylines quickly became an international hit and a critical success. In particular, its versatile support for player-generated content has received praise. The game has also been used as a tool for actual city planning, both in Finland and internationally.
Coloris renewed the puzzle game genre and it was praised by the Finnish press, but it never achieved the success that was originally forecast.
When it came out, Coloris was well received by the magazines and, in 1990, it was advertised as “Avesoft’s best product”. Jukka Tapanimäki, who was writing game reviews for MikroBitti at the time, also gave it a top score. Coloris is often compared to Tetris (1984) due to the similarity of the idea. However, it was not Tetris that stopped the international success of Coloris. Instead, its similarity to Columns (1989) was feared to result in legal action against Coloris.
Sami Laakso is a one-man game factory that published Dale of Merchants with the help of a crowdfunding campaign.
Dale of Merchants is a card game where merchants compete for their position within a magnificent guild. It has been especially praised for its game mechanics that spice up the traditional deck-building formula with a few original solutions. Dale of Merchants was designed in English from the ground up, since its crowdfunding campaign was aimed directly at the international market. The game is a good example of the growing international game expertise in Finland.
Damage is a shooting game that aimed to shock players with its violence and blood. For a time, it was well-known in the Amiga scene.
Damage was made by Suomi-Peli, a group of hobbyists with a demoscene background. They wanted to make a game that nobody would dare to publish. The result was Damage, a shooting game full of violence and political incorrectness. The game took four years to develop, and by the time it was completed, the Amiga was only popular among a small group of hobbyists. Damage sold fairly well for an Amiga game of its time and it is still remembered for its violence.
Death Rally is remembered as a shareware game that had great multi-player features.
Remedy, a cornerstone of the Finnish gaming industry, started from a demo group known as The Future Crew. The group’s expert digital artists wanted to try their hand at making games, and Death Rally was their first published release. Death Rally took its inspiration from games on the Commodore 64 and Amiga. It originally came out on PC, but a version for smartphones is also available.
The colourful block puzzle Drop Mania spread to Finnish homes through the Kotijäätelö ice cream vans at the turn of the millennium.
The developers behind Drop Mania got the idea for selling the game through ice cream vans when browsing through one of their advertisements. Kotijäätelö liked Drop Mania’s take on Tetris (1984) and ordered 50,000 copies. The new marketing strategy and low price paid off, and Drop Mania was sold out. The cooperation between Ninai Games and Kotijäätelö gave rise to other games later on.
De Blob is a colourful example of Universomo’s wide range of games.
Universomo from Tampere was one of the earliest success stories in the Finnish mobile gaming industry. In the early 2000s, it created several important licensed games for mobile devices and turned the hit games of the era into mobile versions. De Blob originally came out for the Nintendo Wii and was modified for mobile devices by Universomo. Controlling the character by tilting the phone was not universally liked, but you can also move the character with the touchscreen. Universomo merged with the American publisher THQ in 2007 and closed three years later.
Deluxe Ski Jump is a ski jumping game that is very true to the original sport.
Jussi Koskela released the first version of Deluxe Ski Jump on MBnet just before leaving for his military service. He offered a free trial version and sold the complete game for a fee. It was clear from the beginning that a game like Deluxe Ski Jump that simulated ski jumping in a credible manner would be in high demand. The success of the series has resulted in a total of four games that have been sold to over 50 countries.
Eclipse received international critical acclaim and renewed the board games designed for hobbyists.
In Eclipse, the player’s task is to make their civilisation the rulers of the galaxy by expanding their empire by any means possible. The game is suitable for up to six players and it created a positive buzz even before its release, thanks to the advance marketing performed by its designers at international game events. After its release, Eclipse quickly gained popularity both in Finland and internationally. In particular, the reviews praised the speed and straightforward nature of the resource management-based game mechanics.
Developed as part of a long-term research project, Ekapeli is a series of learning games that supports the development of reading, for example.
Ekapeli, which has been developed by Professor Heikki Lyytinen in cooperation with Niilo Mäki Institute and researchers from the University of Jyväskylä since 2004, is a series of different learning games. The games in the series can recognise the learner’s skill level and adjust the tasks accordingly. Separate games have been prepared for teaching mathematics, foreign languages and reading, for example. The international version of Ekapeli is known as GraphoGame and it can be used to learn Swahili, Mandarin or Greenlandic, among others.
FlatOut’s popularity can be attributed the groundbreaking physics model that makes the player feel every crash and bump.
FlatOut is based on the sport of folkracing and offers a high-speed demolition derby with destructive environments and drivers flying through the windscreens. The precise modelling of car and track physics is one of Bugbear’s trademarks. It was already present in their first game, Rally Trophy (2001). The success of FlatOut gave rise to several sequels. In total, the series has sold over three million games.
Furry Dragons is an unpublished game project from Housemarque that was given a new lease on life as a comic.
Furry Dragons was going to be a game for all ages where you could fly with dragons, explore a large game world and collect jewels. The aim of the game was to grow new dragons and develop their characteristics. Although Furry Dragons was never published, the game world and characters were developed further in Lopunperän Tarinat, a comic drawn and written by Miha Rinne. It was published in Koululainen magazine between 2006 and 2010.
Habbo is a virtual online community for young people that gained immense popularity in the early 2000s.
The story of Habbo begins in 1999, when Sampo Karjalainen and Aapo Kyrölä developed a virtual world called Mobiles Disco in order to promote their friends’ band. Over the next years, this popular meeting spot became Habbo, which was played in over twenty countries at one point. Although Habbo is more of a virtual world than an actual game, it includes several games and game-like features that appeal to teenagers all over the world.
Electra is an international electric game innovation from a hundred years ago.
In Electra, the idea is to connect the right question and answer with electric wires. If the answer is correct, a light will turn on. A game based on electricity was unheard of in the early 20th century. Electra quickly spread all over Europe. Most likely, the game originates from Germany. A Finnish version was also quickly created. It contains questions in Swedish and Finnish.
Fortuna was an educational game that turned into an export success. It is the oldest Finnish game that is still in production.
In 1923, the teacher Juho Jussila started a carpentry shop for manufacturing the wooden educational games that he had developed. Fortuna, which became the company’s largest success, was also designed to be educational: the scoring of the game teaches mental arithmetic. The game was exported from the very beginning and, in the 1930s, it even attracted the interest of the British Royal Family. The carpentry shop started by Jussila is still operational and Fortuna is its most successful classic.
Galilei was a TV character who resumed his adventures in two Finnish licence games.
The Galilei series started with a children’s show that was broadcast on Yle TV2 in 1996–1997. Viewers could call in and solve different tasks with their telephone. The show utilised real-time 3D graphics, which were completely new at that time. The TV show had two licence games where Galilei and his friends continued their adventures. Unlike most games at the time, both Galilei ja kadonneet lelut (“Galilei and the Missing Toys”, 1997) and Galilei 2: Seikkailujen saari (“Galilei 2: Island of Adventure”, 2000) were in Finnish.
Hertan maailma (“Hertta’s World”) has been one of the most popular games on the web portal for the children’s show Pikku Kakkonen for nearly ten years.
In line with the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s innovative approach, Hertan maailma the game was launched together with the TV show of the same name. Niina Grönholm, who created the character of Hertta, had a vision of a safe and playful digital environment for children. The game series focuses on the everyday things in the world of children and it has been among the most popular online content of the Pikku Kakkonen web portal since its release. Later on, Hertta’s adventures have also been turned into colouring books and picture books.
The TV game show Hugo, hosted by Taru Valkeapää, gathered entire families in front of the screen in the 1990s.
Hugo combined games and entertainment and it was originally a Danish concept, where viewers could call in and use a tone-dialling phone to control the character on the screen. The game spread to 40 countries and later on it also came out on home computers and game consoles. Hugo the Troll made some witty remarks, but Finland mostly remembers him from the TV screen, since Taru Valkeapää, the first host for the show, charmed an entire generation. To this day, she is still asked how Hugo is doing.
Hup-peli is one of the oldest educational games in Finland and it was commissioned by alcohol retailer Alko’s adverse effects education unit.
The goal for Hup-peli was to use a computer game to question the glorifying attitudes towards alcohol. Despite the educational goal, it is an entertaining and varied adventure game. The game was developed by Tietotoimisto Erkki Haaramo and it is one of the earliest educational games in Finland. It followed in the tracks of Epeli (1986) from the same developer. At the time, the price for Hup-peli was astonishingly high, FIM 700 (approx. EUR 215 adjusted for inflation), since it was targeted towards schools and organisations.
Hill Climb Racing was one man’s creation that came out of nowhere and took the top spot on the mobile app store download lists.
Toni Fingerroos’s free-to-play, super-likeable Hill Climb Racing was suddenly launched to the top of the download charts in late 2012. The simple game idea combined with a continuous rise in challenge was a recipe for success that brought Hill Climb Racing over one hundred million downloads. The game also generated a lot of revenue through advertising and in-app purchases. Fingersoft has grown since these early days, and it currently publishes projects from other game studios alongside its own.
Several generations of children have played Hullunkuriset perheet (Happy Families) as one of their first card games.
Hullunkuriset perheet can be played with a regular deck of cards, but the game was finally made popular by the special decks that were released. The first Finnish cards for Hullunkuriset perheet were released in 1900, but a Swedish-language version was available before that. Hullunkuriset perheet is reminiscent of Musta Pekka (a variant of Old Maid), since in both games the aim is to collect families by trading cards with other families. The only difference is the “Pekka” card whose holder loses the game.
Hyper Manly Rainbow Chesthair Shooter is a vivid example of the Game Jam culture.
In Game Jams, developers and hobbyists gather together in order to create new games over one weekend, for example. Hyper Manly Rainbow Chesthair Shooter was born at the Global Game Jam arranged in Kajaani in 2012. The game was brainstormed, tested and finished within 48 hours. The developers wanted to create a control system like never before. The result was a high-speed shooting game where you use a guitar controller while moving on a dance mat.
Inva-taxi is a freeware game that makes fun of people with disabilities. Is this really something to laugh at?
In Inva-taxi, the driver transports disabled people and tries to make sense of what they are saying. Åkesoft were a group of teenagers who published games using pseudonyms. This was done for a reason, since they were also responsible for other questionable software. The game Bepa Quest was particularly notorious. It was used for bullying one of their schoolmates, and it resulted in a court case that ended Åkesoft’s career. In its time, Inva-taxi was distributed via BBS systems and, for many, it still symbolises the authority-disrespecting attitude of 1990s games.
The ice hockey game Kiekko.tk started as a simple browser application and has gathered an active community around it.
In multiplayer Kiekko.tk, each player controls one member of an ice hockey team. The first version only allowed 15 simultaneous players, but the number can be up to 1,500 currently. Over the years, several unofficial leagues, such as “Kiekkoliiga” and “Eliittiliiga”, have been created around Kiekko.tk. On April Fool’s Day, Kiekko.tk may become an entirely different game. The April Fool’s joke for 2007 gave rise to an entirely new soccer game, Socceracy (2007).
Kirppupeli (Tiddlywinks) has been teaching children precision and strategic thinking for decades already.
Kirppupeli is an English invention that arrived in Finland in the 19th century, but Sarvis Oy made it especially popular from the 1920s onwards. Sarvis manufactured buttons from milk-based casein plastic, and soon found that the same process could also create game tokens. The goal for Kirppupeli is to get your own “fleas” into the box and to stop your opponent by landing your fleas on top of their tokens.
Interactive TV/mobile games like Katapultti (“Catapult”) were the state of the art in Finnish game industry expertise in the early 2000s.
Katapultti was one of the first TV/mobile games, and it was shown on MTV’s channels after the other programming had ended. Katapultti was played by sending a text message that contained instructions on the desired direction and speed for firing the rocks. The idea was to hit the other players and the dinosaurs. The Finnish companies RedLynx, Outer Rim and Sofia Digital were among the pioneers of interactive TV/mobile games in the early 2000s. They also exported the game technology internationally.
Kimble is one of the classics of Finnish board games and originally a licensed version of the American game Trouble.
The name Kimble comes from the popular American TV show The Fugitive (1963–1967), where the main character was Dr. Richard Kimble. In addition to the peculiar name, Kimble is remembered for its unique Pop-o-Matic dice system. Nelostuote, currently Tactic Games, was established for the purpose of manufacturing Kimble. It has since grown into Finland’s largest board game publisher. Kimble’s continued popularity is manifested in the Finnish Championships that have been arranged several times.
Kuninkaiden aika (“The Age of Kings”) shows that role-playing games are also suited for teaching historical and religious topics.
Kuninkaiden aika was created to support the youth workers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and it guides young people and children in the events of the Old Testament. In the game, the Age of Kings described by the Bible is presented as a fascinating environment that can teach players about biblical events and characters. Despite the topic, Kuninkaiden aika is a simple and easily approachable game that is well suited for beginners and short gaming sessions.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a terrifying return to the dawn of role-playing games.
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is somewhat peculiar for a Finnish game. James Raggi was born in the United States but currently lives in Finland and publishes games for the international market. Raggi’s flagship product Lamentations of the Flame Princess relies on the old role-playing tradition, and it is compatible with the old editions of the Dungeons & Dragons games, for example. Instead of medieval fantasy, the game draws its inspiration from horror, alternative history and heavy metal.
Over the years, the worm shooter Liero has turned into a fan-maintained legend.
Originally a two-player modification of Molez (1997), Liero attracted players with its fast-paced, fun action. The development of this Finnish freeware classic was officially halted some years ago, but Liero has not been forgotten. Eager fans took over the development and they have produced good results. In addition to the original Liero, there are also the fan-made OpenLiero and lierolibre that correct problems and introduce new features.
Nearly lost in the mists of time, LORD is one of the first computer games based in the universe of The Lord of the Rings.
Paavola programmed LORD for the DEC-20 while studying at the Helsinki University of Technology in the early 1980s. The game takes place in Middle-Earth as created by J.R.R. Tolkien, although it has also taken influences from other sources. LORD’s Middle-Earth offers the player an astonishing 550 locations. The game was preserved in Paavola’s own archives and now the general public can play it for the first time.
Legend of Grimrock brought the traditional dungeon adventure back into the limelight.
Legend of Grimrock was Almost Human’s debut game, and it reached the number one spot on the Steam online service immediately after its release. The founding members of the studio had previously worked at Remedy and Futuremark. As a game, Legend of Grimrock is a complete return to the roots of computer gaming, since its level of difficulty also echoes the old grid-based RPGs. Unlike many modern games, the game offers no help or advice; the players have to work out the solutions to the puzzles themselves.
Lohikäärmepuu (“Dragon Tree”) is a unique piece of the Finnish history of gaming and radio.
Lohikäärmepuu was broadcast on Radio Mafia, and it was a role-playing game that listeners could play over the phone. The hosts described the game world on the live radio broadcast, and the callers tried to solve problems by coming up with their own creative solutions. The show was known for its high level of difficulty, and it collected a group of enthusiastic fans during its lifetime. The script for Lohikäärmepuu was prepared by drawing maps and diagrams of different events, but the final story was created during the interaction with the caller. The show’s success is largely attributable to the improvisation skills of Pilke and Pauna.
Lustfärd till Avasaksa (“Pleasure Trip to Aavasaksa”) is probably the oldest commercial board game in Finland.
The game board consists of 52 squares that describe 19th-century tourist attractions. The manual provides the explanations and instructions for each square. The illustrations are made by Hilda Olson, an artist from Nykarleby. The designer is not known with certainty, but Olson is known to have published dice games with her own designs and illustrations in the 1860s. It is likely that Lustfärd till Avasaksa is entirely her work. A Finnish version of the game, Huvimatka Aavasaksaan, was made available during the year of its first publication.
Matopeli (Snake) was the first mobile phone phenomenon that spread like wildfire in the late 1990s.
Matopeli was first introduced in the Nokia 6110 and found its way onto hundreds of millions of mobile phones. Nokia even arranged the Finnish championships for Matopeli at the peak of its popularity in 1999 and 2000. Internationally, Matopeli is known as Snake. It is based on a classic game from the 1970s. Originally, Taneli Armanto ended up making the game by accident, since the Nokia 6110 team thought that he was an experienced game developer. However, he was confused with his relative, T. Armanto, who had made a few computer games.
Mehulinja (Juice Belt) is a likeable game innovation from the early ages of Finnish digital gaming.
The VIC-20 game Mehulinja, originally called Juice Belt, places the player at the helm of a juice factory. It is the second commercially released computer game in Finland. The publisher AmerSoft and developer Ojaniemi started cooperating after Mehulinja achieved success in a programming contest. It soon turned out that Ojaniemi had written several games that were ready for release, so in 1984 he brought out three more: RahaRuhtinas, Herkkusuu and Myyräjahti.
MinecraftEdu turned the immensely popular Minecraft into an educational game for classroom use.
MinecraftEdu is a licensed version of the Swedish Minecraft (2009) that is intended for use in schools. In MinecraftEdu, the creativity nurturing environment of Minecraft has been modified for teaching by offering the teachers a selection of tools. The aim of TeacherGaming was always to create an educational game that retains the fun and inspiration of the original Minecraft. When MinecraftEdu was purchased by Microsoft in early 2016, it was already being used for teaching in over 40 countries and tens of thousands of schools.
Lydia deals with alcoholism in the family and shows that games are capable of telling difficult stories.
Led by journalist Juho Kuorikoski and cartoonist Henri Tervapuro, Platonic Partnership tackles a very personal topic: domestic violence and parents’ alcoholism. The team behind the melancholy game has received multiple awards, including game developer of the year. Alko later published a mobile version of Lydia, returning to the path laid by the 1980s educational titles Promille and Hup-peli.
Max Payne, the first big-budget action game from Finland, revolutionised the action genre by slowing down time.
The film noir-like cinematics, time-slowing effects and visual novel sections were unprecedented for 2001. Max Payne quickly gathered a reputation and appealed to players worldwide. Since then, the game has gathered several industry awards and, in 2008, it was used as the basis for a Hollywood action film starring Mark Wahlberg. With Max Payne, Remedy rose to the top ranks among the international game studios.
Miekka ja Magia (“Sword and Magic”) is the first commercially published role-playing game in Finnish.
Risto Hieta, known as Nordic from his “Peliluola” (“Game Dungeon”) column in MikroBitti magazine, was a key figure in Finnish gaming in the 1980s. Hieta became interested in role-playing games, but since very few international releases were available, he decided to publish his own game. The personal approach of Miekka ja Magia was born without a deep knowledge of the role-playing classics, which means that its take on role-playing is somewhat special. Miekka ja Magia was preceded by Acirema (1985), a self-published game that Hieta sold by mail order.
Mordheim takes place in the popular fantasy world of Warhammer. It is a personal miniature game with a cult following.
Mordheim started Tuomas Pirinen’s long career in the game industry. The game features skirmishes between armies of 5–20 miniatures. The battles form campaigns during which the skills of individual miniatures develop. Miniature gaming involves the players assembling and painting their models themselves and building suitable set pieces for the games. In addition to testing their skills at the game during tournaments, the hobbyists also often compete to see who has built the most imposing army.
The unforgiving car building simulator My Summer Car already became a worldwide phenomenon when the first gameplay videos were released.
My Summer Car is an ode to 1990s rural Finland in the form of a game. The family company Amistech Games has created an extremely detailed simulation of both car building and life in the fictional municipality of Alivieska. The game depicts, with a nearly religious eye for detail, the basic pillars of the Finnish experience that the country brand committees tend to neglect: drinking beer, swearing and, above all, working on the “Satsuma” inspired by the Datsun 100 A.
Nero 2000 (“Genius 2000”) is a delightfully clumsy computer version of the classic trivia quiz that has gained a cult following.
Published for the Commodore 64, MSX and PC, Nero 2000 challenges players with four sets of questions. The answers to the questions are written on the computer keyboard. This means that the player may be stuck with trying to guess the correct word or spelling for the response, since they are not always obvious. The questions involve current events in the 1980s, which also presents a challenge. In part, Nero 2000 is a classic because of the number of grey hairs it has caused.
Speden Spelit made Nopeustesti (“Speed test”) a reaction game that everyone in Finland knew.
Speden Spelit was a game show hosted by Pertti “Spede” Pasanen that conquered the small screens at the turn of the 1990s. Celebrities playing games also caught the attention of Coinline’s Harri Mononen. Mononen offered Nopeustesti, which he had built with Seppo Korhonen, to Spede for use on the show, and it was approved after a short testing period. With the help of Speden Spelit, Nopeustesti became a huge gaming phenomenon in the early 1990s. Nearly every service station had a machine like this.
Muukalaisten yö (lit. “Night of the Aliens”) is the first point and click adventure game published in Finland.
Muukalaisten yö is an adventure game known for its unique humour and witty wordplay. It follows the struggle of teenager Benjamin “Ben” Richards against an extraterrestrial threat. Finnish adventure games are few and far between, and the clever puzzles make Muukalaisten yö one of the best ones. The game was also published in English under the name Alien Incident and, for a long time, it was the only Finnish adventure game to be published internationally.
Möllit attracts preschoolers as well as adults with its puzzles.
The free game Möllit has been a part of the websites of the children’s shows Pikku Kakkonen and BUU-klubben since 2015. In the game, you control four wacky slime monsters who solve puzzles together while looking for their lost members. Möllit’s developer Zaibatsu Interactive wanted to offer a game for the entire family, so the puzzles in Möllit are challenging to children and adults alike. Möllit was also published on the international market as Elder Goo.
Netherworld by Jukka Tapanimäki deserves its place among the Finnish Commodore 64 classics.
Jukka Tapanimäki was one of the best-known Finnish game developers in the 1980s. He was also one of the few people who published their games internationally. For Netherworld, Tapanimäki drew inspiration from Boulder Dash (1985), which he admired, but the end result is completely unique. The music for Netherworld was composed by Jori Olkkonen. Tapanimäki also worked as a game reviewer for MikroBitti and C-lehti. Until his premature death in 2000, he was one of the key figures in Finnish gaming.
Writing adventure games like Paha Juttu (Bad Thing) was a basic skill for home computer hobbyists in the 1980s.
Text-based adventures like Paha Juttu were written for the Commodore 64 everywhere in Finland, but unlike most others, Paha Juttu was distributed. The game and its three sequels were published in Floppy Magazine, a magazine distributed on floppy disks by Protocol Productions. Publishing a total of six episodes of Paha Juttu, each one more complicated than the last, paved way for the authors’ success as anti-virus pioneers at F-Secure. The game on display is the first of the series.
Pathway to Glory was a major production for the Nokia N-Gage that is remembered for its excellent multiplayer mode.
The World War II strategy game Pathway to Glory was a show of force for RedLynx. It was the largest mobile game production of its time. Thousands of locations were photographed for it and the animation of the characters utilised motion capture technology, which was highly advanced at that time. Over 500 lines of dialogue were recorded for the game in eight different languages. The much praised multiplayer mode worked over Bluetooth or the Nokia N-Gage Arena. To this day, Pathway to Glory is generally considered the best game for the N-Gage.
Porrasturvat (Stair Dismount) is an oddball of the gaming world where unique game mechanics meet twisted humour.
In Porrasturvat, the objective of the player is to push the simple stick man down the stairs in a way that will injure him as severely as possible. In the game’s background story, the super hero Spector is trying to claim tax benefits by proving that he was injured while working. The player needs to inflict these injuries on him. Porrasturvat is one of the first games that used the built-in physics engine as a core gameplay component. There is also a mobile version of the game called Stair Dismount (2009).
Painter Boy was Finland’s first digital advergame and it was published as part of a campaign for the paint manufacturer Tikkurila.
The heroes in Painter Boy are the painting duo Master and Son, seen in Tikkurila’s advertisements at the time. Although the game is based on the TV and magazine advertisements, the actors did not participate in its creation. The voices were recorded by the game’s 16-year-old programmer, Teijo Pellinen. In addition to regular sales, Tikkurila also distributed the game at its own events. Nevertheless, pirate copies were the most common form of distribution.
Piiritystila (State of Siege), or Halat hisar in Arabic, is a Palestinian and Finnish live-action role-playing game that deals with life in an occupied nation.
In the starting scenario for Piiritystila, Finland is occupied by the fictional nation of Uralia. The scenario is in many ways reminiscent of the current conditions in Palestine. The script for Piiritystila was mainly written by the Palestinian participants, with the Finns playing the citizens of the occupied country, while the international guests played foreign journalists and aid workers. The game was originally arranged in Parkano in 2013 and remade in Mikkeli in the summer of 2016.
The role-playing game Praedor offers players the opportunity to dive into a fantasy world that is known from comics and literature.
Praedor draws upon a world that Petri Hiltunen created for his comics. Ville Vuorela created this acclaimed role-playing game in cooperation with Hiltunen. In addition to the comics and the game, there are also two story collections, two novels and a reference book about the Praedor adventurers and the other dwellers of this world. Praedor encourages adventure and exploration, and it has become an international sales success and one of the milestones of Finnish RPG publishing.
Propilkki is an institution in fishing games that stands out for its annual World Championships.
Propilkki’s simulation-level accuracy is made possible by the authors’ lifelong interest in ice fishing and Happo’s studies in biology. As a result, the game is more approachable to experienced ice fishers than first-timers. The freely distributable Propilkki also has a more advanced sequel, Propilkki 2, that was released in 2013 after fourteen years of development. Propilkki is currently also available as a mobile game.
All cultural spheres have their own traditional games, such as Päskksiõrr which is played among the Skolt Sámi.
The traditional games of the Sámi people are very nature-centric. Päskksiõrr is played with the small bones of a reindeer’s leg. In the game, two or more players take turns grabbing a fistful of bones and dropping them on a level surface. The bones that stand on four “feet” are the reindeer, the ones on “two feet” are the herders. The game goes on until all the bones are either reindeer or people. The player with the most reindeer wins.
Punaisten ja valkoisten taistelu Suomessa 1918 (The Battle of the Reds and Whites in Finland, 1918) was published for the Christmas market after the Civil War.
Punaisten ja valkoisten taistelu Suomessa 1918 is one of the few games that deal with the Finnish Civil War. The game is designed for two players, one of whom assumes the role of the Reds and the other the Whites. Even though only a few months had passed since the end of the war, the events of the Civil War are handled in an amazingly balanced manner. Both sides have the opportunity to win, even though the rules, which were written in verse form, praise the heroism of the Whites in particular.
Rajakatse (“Border Gaze”) is the oldest Finnish live-action role-playing game. It has been played since 1995.
Since the beginning, Rajakatse has been a low threshold game where everyone is welcome. Its world draws on medieval themes and fantasy and is very down to earth. Most events are centred around the Vanha Pipari Inn located in Hollola and the scheming that goes on there. There are usually a few dozen players in each game. The games form a continuum that attract players to Rajakatse time and time again. There have already been approximately one hundred games.
RAY’s 50-penni Pajatso, once a familiar sight at service stations, is an undeniable part of Finnish gaming history.
The first pajazzo-type machines were brought to Finland from Germany in the 1920s. As a result of the monopoly on gambling machines that the Slot Machine Association received in 1938, many pajazzos shifted to RAY from private entrepreneurs. RAY also started its own pajazzo production at the same time. The classic 50-penni Pajatso was born in the late 1960s. Long into the 1970s, pajazzos were the only gambling machines in Finland. RAY has been arranging the Pajazzo World Championships every other year since 2003.
Ristikontra was a card game invented at log cabins. The loggers spread it all over Finland.
Ristikontra is a tricks game and one of the few card games originating from Finland. Ristikontra is played by four people in pairs. The objective of the game is to get as many points as possible by winning tricks. A trick refers to a round where every player plays one card. The specialty in Ristikontra is that the player who last played the same number of card as the starter gets all the cards.
The nationalistic Sampo board game was published during the first period of Russification in Finland.
Sampo has illustrations in the National Romantic style and it takes the player to the plunder of the Sampo, from the national epic Kalevala. The game was illustrated by Samuel von Bell, who is also known as the illustrator of Kalevala-themed postcards and educational posters. Story-like descriptions escort the players on their journey to Pohjola. The winner is the first player to get back home on the shores of Finland. Footnotes explain the key characters, locations, items and beings in Kalevala to players who are unfamiliar with the national epic.
The “double up” music in RAY Pokeri (Poker) is embedded in the Finnish subconsciousness.
The idea for building a video poker machine came when RAY’s product development brought over a similar device from Las Vegas. Most of the technology in the machine known as RAY Pokeri was designed and built in Finland. Nowadays, RAY Pokeri is best remembered for its “double up” tune, composed by Kimmo Koskinen. The game and its music were so fondly remembered by the players that once the machines were removed from service, there were numerous requests to bring them back. The wish came true and the original RAY Pokeri returned in 2015.
Finland’s first game console, the Salora Playmaster, is a regular-looking TV that contains a simple sports game.
Salora Playmaster came to the market when the first game consoles had only been sold for a few years. The home consoles mostly played Pong (1974), where the player controls a paddle that hits a ball. Pong was based on a single microchip, which was also included in the Salora Playmaster. It can be justifiably called Finland’s first game console. Experiments with televisions containing the Pong game were also made in other countries in the 1970s.
Home-made miniature games like Reijo Paulus’s Sotapeli (“War Game”) have a long history.
In post-war Finland, the teenager Reijo Paulus was inspired by board games and war history. He and his friends developed several different rule sets that were played with attractive miniatures. The naval game that Paulus called Sotapeli was expanded to contain aircraft and ground troops. The game board that covered approximately four square metres has been lost over time, but the mostly wooden miniatures and the rules of the game have survived. The complex game made innovative use of Modulex blocks for the fuel and ammunition totals.
Sanxion by Stavros Fasoulas is the undisputed classic of Finnish Commodore 64 games.
Sanxion’s side-scrolling space shooting action uses an exceptional split-screen view that shows the player’s ship from the top and the side. Splitting the screen had not been used in this genre before. No wonder, then, that the journalist Niko Nirvi called Sanxion author Fasoulas “the Paavo Nurmi of computer games”. In addition to the unusual view, Sanxion is remembered for Rob Hubbard’s award-winning music.
Slicks ‘n’ Slide has retained its status as a classic of multiplayer racing games for decades.
Slicks ‘n’ Slide is the uncrowned king of Finnish shareware games. It is especially remembered for its pulse-racing multiplayer mode that separates the drift kings from the Sunday racers. Before Slicks ‘n’ Slide, the Kauppinen brothers had designed and developed a Formula 1 game. Experience from this game helped in the implementation of their next car game. Timo Kauppinen spent years developing Slicks ‘n’ Slide further, which allowed players access to firepower in the later versions, for example.
Stardust for the Amiga came from the demoscene, and it still remains the epitome of Finnish game development skill.
The space shooter Stardust was originally a hobby project for Harri Tikkanen, but it was gradually worked into an ambitious shoot ’em up classic. Like many game developers in the 1990s, Tikkanen and the other members of Bloodhouse had their roots in the Finnish demoscene. The sublime quality of Stardust was already praised on its year of release. The Super Stardust series has carried on its legacy since 1994. It was developed by Housemarque, Finland’s oldest developer of digital games, which was created in the merger of Bloodhouse and Terramarque.
Shadow Cities is based on player location and it was one of the trailblazers for location-based gaming.
Shadow Cities blurs the lines between reality and the game world. When it was introduced, it attracted a lot of positive attention and was seen to represent the future of mobile gaming. Similarly to Pokémon Go (2016), the game is based on GPS location and the player’s actual location affects the game. Shadow Cities also included drawing runes on the touchscreen. However, the game was too far ahead of its time and did not reach enough players. The Shadow Cities servers shut down in 2013.
The philosophical adventure game Sokrates turned the CD-ROM environment into an acclaimed multimedia experience.
Sokrates is a CD-ROM designed for teaching philosophy at schools. It introduces the player to the philosophical concepts and way of thinking. In the game, the player solves a murder and learns about different philosophical views. The player chooses one of the six philosophies – Platonism, scepticism, Christianism, Marxism, atheism or ecosophy – and follow its path to the end of the game. The philosopher Pekka Himanen was involved in the design team for Sokrates, and the game draws extensively on his book Himeros (1996).
Supernauts relied on the creativity of the gaming communities and wanted to revolutionise the interaction between players.
In the world of Supernauts, the continental glaciers have melted and the players need to build a new home for the people in space. The free-to-play game was in development for three years and it mostly focused on building innovative space stations. Supernauts was based on micropayments. It focused on social interaction between players, which resulted in an enthusiastic reception among women and players in their thirties, in particular. Ultimately, however, the game did not reach the desired number of players and it was closed in 2015.
Supreme Snowboarding was the first Finnish video game to sell over one million copies.
The technologically ambitious Supreme Snowboarding was the first large-scale success of the Finnish gaming industry. It was only overtaken by Max Payne (2001) a few years later. Supreme Snowboarding was later on used as the basis for Transworld Snowboarding (2002), the first Finnish game for the Xbox. It was based on a licence from a snowboarding magazine of the same name. All the athletes, clothes and snowboards are identical to their real-life counterparts. The music was composed by the rock group Apulanta.
Talebans demonstrates that not all games are about having fun.
A game of Talebans is impossible to win. The more you bomb Afghanistan, the more aggressive the terrorist attacks get. This thought-provoking idea demonstrates that games can also be used to discuss problems in society. The game turned out to predict the US attack on Afghanistan, since it was completed before the terrorist attacks in September 2001. Talebans was on display at the Kiasma contemporary art museum during the Terror 2.1 Utopia exhibition by the ROR art collective. It also toured international art exhibitions later on.
Suunnistussimulaattori (“Orienteering Simulator”) is both a fascinating game and a training platform for future orienteers.
Suunnistussimulaattori is one of the few games that manage to faithfully recreate the northern coniferous forests that Finns love. Antero Pulli has been developing the simulator as a hobby since 2004. Suunnistussimulaattori carefully models the terrains based on real-life areas and the running speeds, which Pulli has confirmed by running across the scenery appearing in the game several hundred times. The game’s weekly virtual contests support the training of Finnish orienteers.
Talvisota 1939 (Winter War 1939) renewed the strategy game genre. It was the first digital game published in the Pirkanmaa region.
Talvisota 1939 describes the conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland in an innovative manner by using two entirely different approaches. The first part includes troop movements and probability-based battle modelling which are typical of the strategy games of the time. The second part is the battle news section where the player needs to assess the effect of different news on the Finnish war effort. In addition to the MSX home computers, Triosoft also planned to release the game on the Commodore 64, but it never materialised.
The fantastically simple Tower Bloxx paved the way for the Finnish mobile gaming revolution.
Tower Bloxx is a clever puzzle game where the goal is to stack the blocks in order to create a tall tower. The game was released on multiple different platforms, such as Nokia phones and, later on, the iPhone. Sumea was a developer from Helsinki that also created other internationally successful mobile games. It merged with the US company Digital Chocolate in 2004. Sumea became the Finnish branch of Digital Chocolate, but it was closed down in 2013. Mikko Kodisoja, who was involved in the development of Tower Bloxx, is currently the Creative Director of Supercell.
Trine combines a colourful fantasy world with brain-taxing physics puzzles.
Frozenbyte had been working on the idea for Trine for years, until it was finally built on the game engine from Shadowgrounds (2005), the studio’s first game. The puzzle-solving is based on utilising the strengths of three different characters. Initially, it was not very fluent, since you could only switch between characters at save points. Frozenbyte, a company that started in a garage, has also created the Trine sequels Trine 2 (2011) and Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power (2015).
TurboRaketti II, made for the Amiga, was Finland’s first cave-flying game and the start of a long tradition.
The first cave-flying games were seen in the arcades in the 1980s, but in Finland, the genre rose to popularity with TurboRaketti II, known for its excellent playability. Heikki Kosola, who developed TurboRaketti, never released the first part in the series, so TurboRaketti II is also simply known as TurboRaketti. The later cave-flying games, such as AUTS (1995) and Wings (1996), are more or less indebted to TurboRaketti II.
UnReal World is a life’s work for Sami Maaranen. Its development has continued without interruptions since 1992.
The survival game UnReal World is placed in a fantasy world that is reminiscent of ancient Finland. The game’s detailed hunting simulation is based on experience, since the developers have studied the secrets of ancient hunters. This makes the game a very lifelike representation of how Finns may have lived in the Iron Age. Lately, UnReal World has also started to achieve even more of the international attention it deserves.
Trials was the definitive international breakthrough for RedLynx, and the series has become a classic in skill-based racing games.
The series started from a browser game called Trials in 2000. Over the years, the series has grown from browser games to big-budget console games, the first of which was Trials HD (2009). From the beginning, the games have centred around changing the driver’s position and the effect it has on the bike’s behaviour. The games in the series are known for their challenge and excellent playability. The Trials series has become a benchmark for skill-based racing.
The multi-player airplane battle Triplane Turmoil is one of the most well-loved Finnish games from the 1990s.
Numerous classic games were written in Finland during the 1990s and, similarly to Triplane Turmoil, most of them never found a commercial publisher. Triplane Turmoil takes place in a conflict resembling the First World War, and it is especially remembered for its excellent multi-player mode where ace pilots from Germany, Great Britain, Finland and Japan test their mettle. Triplane Turmoil still has a passionate fan base that continues to develop the game as an open source project.
Tähti (“Star”) is a role-playing game with an unusual topic. Exceptionally, it was also available at magazine sales outlets.
Tähti by Mike Pohjola tells about the life of a Maoist mutant girl band in Finland in the year 2017. The characters are teenage band members, and the game focuses on human relationships and the band life. Pohjola wanted to keep Tähti’s rules very light, so the players turn to fortune cookies in case of problems. In practice, the players interpret the prophecies from the fortune cookies together and apply them to the situation in the game. Tähti ended up being sold at magazine outlets alongside the Roolipelaaja magazine, which is also published by Riimuahjo.
Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle (“Uuno Turhapuro Moves to the Countryside”) was the first licence game from a Finnish film, and it is remembered for its extreme level of difficulty.
Written by Pasi Hytönen, a high school student at the time, Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle is the best-known mid-1980s game release from AmerSoft. Hytönen feared that the game was too easy and raised the difficulty level by a notch just before its publication. This may have been too effective, since completing the game requires a near-perfect performance. Uuno sold approximately 2,000 copies and it is currently a desired collector’s item.
VecSports Boxing is a hobbyist-created sports game for the Vectrex console that had been released twenty years earlier.
Vectrex is a 1980s game console that the general public has mostly forgotten about. Since there are very few original games for the Vectrex, many of the available games are made by hobbyists. One of them is the work of Manu Pärssinen, a member of the Pelikonepeijoonit collective. VecSports Boxing is one of the few sports games for the Vectrex. The system’s vector screen was originally not considered suitable for this genre.
The flight simulator Jet Rocket is an electromechanical game; this means that it contains no video screen. The terrain is on a roller inside the machine, and a mirror is used to project its image to the player. The roller is illuminated with a blacklight. The mirror is tilted in order to create the illusion of banking.
The original Space Invaders (1978) was an enormous success in Japan. Taito sold over 350,000 units in two years. Part II is nearly identical to the first version, but it includes a real colour screen, whereas the original game used a colour film on top of a black and white display.
Hyper Olympic, inspired by the 1984 Olympics, is a typical sports game that also requires quick reflexes and good physical condition from the player.
The simple tennis game Pong was the first successful coin-operated digital game. Its developer Atari sold manufacturing licences to others, and the Midway Winner is one of these officially licensed products. Pelikonepeijoonit purchased the machine in a very poor condition, and it has been restored with the help of funds from the crowdfunding campaign for the Finnish Museum of Games.
When Defender was first introduced at a trade fair, many people felt that it was too complex for an arcade game. In the arcades, however, it was an immediate hit, and skilled players could play it for hours with a single credit. The game is considered as one of the most influential products of the “Golden Age” of arcades.
Race Drivin’ was the sequel to the successful Hard Drivin’. It contains more tracks, different cars and a more complex physics model.
The SNK Neo Geo was the most popular arcade system with interchangeable games. It allowed for using different games in a cabinet without replacing the entire game board, since the games used cartridges. Puzzle Bobble is a classic puzzle game where the objective is to combine three balls of the same colour.
The game is based on off-road track racing, which is popular in the United States. The game is a spiritual sequel to Atari’s Sprint series that offered multiplayer racing already in the 1970s.
Several player surveys have voted Twilight Zone as the most versatile pinball machine. It represents the final “Golden Age” of pinball before a long dry spell that only ended in the 2010s. This machine was purchased for the Finnish Museum of Games with funds received from the crowdfunding campaign.
Truck Stop is the first pinball machine manufactured after Williams and Bally merged their operations. This is also indicated by the traffic sign “Williams/Bally Merge” on the playfield. The machine mixes components from both manufacturers, which makes it slightly challenging to maintain.
The Outrun series had several games, such as Turbo Outrun and Outrunners, but it took until 2003 for Yu Suzuki and his team to create an actual sequel. Outrun 2 changes the original game mechanics by introducing drifting, but it retains the branching routes, general Outrun feel and the Ferrari licence. This SP version introduced in 2004 includes more tracks, a special “15 Stage Continuous” mode and music from the original game, among other things.
The game simulates alpine skiing and its controls resemble skis. This machine is a donation from the Ski Museum. The objective is to complete the course.
From the beginning, arcades were built to offer experiences that were impossible at home. When home electronics developed, the arcades also needed to up the ante. Not many people had a moving flight simulator like Top Landing at home, for example. The objective is to take-off and land with different aircraft. You can follow the gameplay on the external display.