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Game on! The 9 most important Finnish video games in history

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These days, Finland rules when it comes to mobile games. And yet, many people are surprised to learn that Finland’s gaming culture it a lot older than they think. In fact, the history of Finnish gaming, and the roots of today’s success can be traced all the way back to the early 80s.

With the introduction of home computers, many tech-savvy Finns found a new hobby in creating games for the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64. Programming for these computers was easy, and unlike the games of today which require huge teams, a single person was able to create gaming magic. Counterfeits of popular games were common, but there was plenty of originality and experimentation to be found in games of this era.

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The spirit of individual experimentation evolved into a thriving demoscene, which laid the groundwork for commercial success. Many of Finland’s rising stars, such as Terramarque and Bloodhouse, got their start in the tight-knit demoscene. Once Nokia’s mobile devices hit the scene in the late 90s, Finland’s position within the game industry rose exponentially, and the rest is history.

But, which were the games that helped put Finland on the map? Let’s take a trip down gaming memory lane and have a look.




Chesmac, 1979

Trying to pin down the “first video game” can be a tricky task, if not an impossible one. Chesmac, however, is a strong contender for the honor of being Finland’s first commercial video game. Published in the spring of 1979, Chesmac was a chess simulation game for Telmac TMC-1800. It was created by Raimo Suonio during a period of unemployment. He began working at Topdata soon after, and made an agreement to have the game published. Chesmac sold a whopping 104 copies – which may not sound like a lot now, but it was certainly nothing to scoff at back then.

Sanxion, 1986

Sanxion was a horizontal shoot’em up that was, according to some game historians, the first Finnish game released to the global market. Published for the Commodore 64 (or kuusnepa, as Finns called it) in 1986 by British game company Thalamus, the game was developed by Finnish game programmer Stavros Fasoulas. Sanxion also has two more claims to fame: its award-winning music by Rob Hubbard, who was one of the most renowned early game music composers, and the very first use of John Twiddy’s Cyberload loading system which contained the now infamous message “hackers fuck off and die”.

Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle, 1986

Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle (Uuno Turhapuro moves to the countryside) won’t ever be remembered as one of the best games in history, but it’s still an important milestone in Finnish games history (yes, really!). Based on the popular Uuno Turhapuro movies from the 80s featuring Finland’s favorite lovable tramp, Uuno Turhapuro muuttaa maalle was the first licensed video game for a Finnish film. The C64 game was a huge success, and many consider it to be a starting point for Finnish commercial games – although another candidate might be Painterboy, a 1986 C64 game advertising paint for paint company Tikkurila.

UnReal World, 1992

UnReal World is a roguelike RPG that garners quite a bit of praise, and has even been named one of the best RPGs for PC. But that isn’t why it made our list – what amazes us about UnReal World is that it has been in development for over 25 years. It was originally released in 1992 by developers Sami Maaranen and Erkka Lehmus, who have been continuously updating the game ever since, making it one of, if not the, oldest running roguelikes on PC.

Slicks ‘n Slide, 1993

Four players, one keyboard – what could possibly go wrong? Slicks ’n Slide was a top-down racer shareware released in 1993 for DOS, in which up to four players could race one another using the same keyboard. It could get hectic with too much keyboard mashing, but that’s what was genius about the game and why so many players remember it fondly as one of the best DOS racers of all time.




Snake, 1997

Of course our list wouldn’t be complete without Snake! The game, which came preinstalled on Nokia devices starting in 1997, sparked a new era of mobile gaming. It wasn’t the first mobile game (a 1994 variant of Tetris on the Hagenuk MT-2000 claims that title), but it was arguably the most influential mobile game and the first mobile gaming phenomenon, paving the way for Finnish mobile games to dominate the market.

Max Payne, 2001

Remedy’s megahit Max Payne has been acclaimed for its gameplay and revolutionary bullet time, but most fans remember it fondly thanks to its storytelling. Its gritty noir style and superb dialogue earned it a spot as one of the most-loved cop games of all time, and the main character has become one of the most iconic video game characters in history.

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Angry Birds, 2009

The rise of smartphones, with touchscreen controls and the debut of the App Store, opened up new doors for mobile gaming. Finnish companies like Rovio were quick to jump on board. Angry Birds, released in 2009 for iOS, was a huge hit worldwide and remains the most popular mobile game of all time. It was downloaded 12 million times after its release, effectively establishing mobile gaming as viable platform for developers.




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Clash of Clans, 2012

When Clash of Clans was released for mobile in 2012, the game quickly dominated download charts around the world. Millions of players worldwide brought in millions of dollars daily for Supercell, making it one of the most lucrative mobile games ever. Its success helped skyrocket Supercell to the top of the Finnish games industry and cemented Finland’s position as a world leader in mobile games.

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There you have them, 9 awesome Finnish games that made their marks on gaming culture. Needless to say, we couldn’t include every game that deserves a spot on the list, so be sure to tell us which ones we missed. Supreme Snowboarding? Netherworld? Habbo Hotel? Maybe even Invataxi? Leave it in the comments below!




14 replies
  1. Flavia
    Flavia says:

    I remember playing a primitive version of Snake on my uncle’s MSX during late 80’s (it had a different name but same principle). And it was in Brazil, not in Finland. Does Nokia (have) claim(ed) to be the creator of that game?

    I don’t question the importance of nokia’s version, but I question the original game being made in Finland (unless the original programer is a finn, then we can disregard this comment :D)

    Reply
  2. Gambler
    Gambler says:

    Tapan kaikki and Areena (as mentioned), Supreme Snowboarding, Rally trophy, Flatout, Hill Climb Racing, Pro Pilkki to name a few that were left out from this list (and in my opinion should be there).

    Reply
  3. Simo
    Simo says:

    Reading this gets me all nostalgic. Pretty good list. I only wish that Stardust and Alan Wake got some love as well 🙂

    Reply
  4. GG
    GG says:

    Trine series, Legend of Grimrock series, BadMUD, Cities Skylines, Pathway to Glory, Resogun, Triplane Turmoil, Hay Day, Boom Beach, Driftmoon, (Habbo Hotel)…

    Reply
  5. Antti
    Antti says:

    @Seppo: Since you mentioned Mine Bombers you might be interested to check out Gun Bombers on Steam. It’s very much based on this awesome classic!

    Reply

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