Hotline Miami in retrospect: OVERVIOLENCE

Do you enjoy hurting other people? You will now answer this question with “no” straight out of the box – at least when it comes to real life. But what about in the context of video games? Even if you leave your inner arch-conservative at home and look at the gaming landscape soberly, you quickly notice that the majority of the games that have a reputation today are Violence contains. Often against people.

We often talk about “successful hit feedback”, “powerful close combat” or one “great gunplay”, when it comes to the brutal components of a game. If you break it down to its essence, then what we really mean by it is the satisfaction we get from virtually injuring and killing someone – or not?


This unpleasant and exciting question is at the center of Hotline Miami (buy now ). The 2012 twin-stick shooter is one of the most iconic indie games of the last decade, with a style that still resonates today. Even twelve years after the release, we only have to hear the first bars of one of the songs from the soundtrack and we are immediately transported back to the abyss of Miami.

Back to a game that could almost be classified as a psychoactive substance, full of driving beats, exhilarating gameplay and blood-soaked pixels. Hotline Miami is a trip that stays in your memory. But how does it actually do that?

Hotline Miami | RETRO | Bloody indie legend


From the Swedish living room to millions of screens

Hotline Miami is largely the work of the two Swedes Dennis Wedin and Jonatan Söderström, who together form the studio Dennaton Games. Before Hotline, Söderström worked as a freeware game developer, Wedin played in a metalcore band. The two's first project was called Keyboard Drumset Fucking Werewolf and was a promotional game for this band.

When their next game ran out of juice in the development phase, money was needed quickly. The two were rummaging through Söderström's archives of discarded prototypes when one of them caught Wedin's eye: Super Carnage. A name that describes the entire content. This is all about killing enemies. From a top view, with various weapons and in a look that is reminiscent of all the far too brutal flash games that used to be played secretly in computer science classes.

The two decided to bring the prototype out of obscurity again. While Wedin, as a gameplay purist, was already convinced of the dull basic principle, Söderström wanted to give the game an additional level. One that does more with violence than just depicting it.

Inspired and inspiring

For the project that would later become Hotline Miami, they were inspired by a few films during development. In addition to Miami Vice, the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, which deals with the drug milieu of Miami in the 80s, also served as a model.

The cult thriller Drive with Ryan Gosling has the most parallels to the finished game: audio-visually, the film is a product of the 80s, it is uncompromisingly brutal and shot in a style that is downright hypnotizing. Drive is credited with playing a big role in this decade's pop culture revival, just as Hotline Miami popularized blisteringly violent escapades with a synthwave soundtrack. Anyone joining today Katana Zero, Ghost Runner 2 or OTXO picks up his adrenaline shot, he can thank Hotline Miami for that.

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Driven by the fun they had with their creation, the two assembled Hotline Miami in Wedin's apartment in nine months. The result ended up in the hands of the then unknown publisher Devolver Digital and proved to be a real crowd-pleaser not only at gaming trade fairs, but also at the store counters. In the years following its release, Hotline was ported to all sorts of platforms and has become a significant contributor Success of Devolver Digital contributed. We can still understand it today!