Have You Played… Hotline Miami?

It seems so familiar now, with a sequel and several imitators behind it, but at the time Hotline Miami was so exciting. What a mix of things! A superb soundtrack, lightning-speed precise controls, a built-in rythym powering the action, a palpable sense of disorientation, breathlessly nasty violence and a throughline of rare subversion.

A thing about games journalism: no-one really wants to write a level guide (let alone a full-game guide). They’re long, fiddly work, and they suck the fun out of a fun thing. Hotline Miami is the only game for which I have voluntarily written a level guide. Because it was a trophy, a victory lap for something which had challenged me and which made me burst with pride when I did it.

Hotline Miami is flow and precision and adrenaline set to an evil disco beat. Hotline Miami 2, crueller and far more self-important, made me fall a little out of love with it, but maybe now it’s time once again.

Or maybe we just need a new game to pull a Hotline Miami, something else that cleverly subverts while still being rapturously tight in its controls and its aesthetic.


  1. keefybabe says:

    All time classic. One of the few “hard as nails” games that always made me feel I was a whisker from winning.

  2. Unsheep says:

    A mini-game that was fun for 15 minutes. Definitely not for me.

    • xyzzy frobozz says:

      Same for me, although I am willing to admit that I didn’t give it more than about 15 minutes.

      Perhaps I should give it another chance.

  3. Premium User Badge

    The Almighty Moo says:

    Yes! My absolute favourite eighties themed top down murder spree simulator. Ultraviolet zen mode.
    The second one made me see why some people hated the first but I lived it. Treat respawning as your super power rather than as failing to progress and it makes sense. Loved the scheming, the planning, the panic.

    A friend played it for the first time and the level glitches the last bad guy so he couldnt finish. So i replayed the whole level, without taking a hit (including the briefcase scene) and passed the controller back, not even realising what I’d done. Amazing how much better you get at games like that.

    May have to get the vinyl soundtrack, though I missed the kickstarter.

  4. UncleLou says:

    I’ve played it, I played the sequel, I’ve finished both, I have the soundtrack. I can honestly say that Hotline: Miami is one of the best games I’ve played since I started gaming in the (very) early 90s.

    And I bought it more out of boredom/curiosity than because I ever suspected it was a game for me, let alone would become a favourite of mine.

    • UncleLou says:

      That’s very early “80s”, not 90s. I wish I was 10 years younger! :)

    • piedpiper says:

      Have same feelings. Was always wondering how can someone hate HM.

  5. cpt_freakout says:

    One of my favorite games in life. Everything many people found alienating, from the ultra-violence to the repetition and the pretentiousness, is exactly what makes it so great to me. There’s so much going on in its cruel discipline it’s really a joy to interpret and over-interpret. Few are the games that manage something like this, IMO!

  6. piedpiper says:

    I like the second one no less than the first one. Even more, maybe due to characters, plot and ending. And OST. I visited Perturbator gig last month – it was amazing how many people went there only because of this game. And how different they were. Some wore masks, one guy had jacket “50 blessings”. Who would’ve thought a simple game like this can bring together so many different people?
    PS. Also going to Carpeneter Brut gig this fall. Can’t wait. The glorious Prison Escape from Hotline Miami 2.
    PSS. Note to self – stop being such a fanboy.

  7. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Yes. One of the best games of the last decade and one of my all time favourites. In every way it looks like a game that is style over substance, but you play and of my, what substance. And substance abuse? Unsubstantiated. Like Deus Ex, you’ve mentioned it now so I must play it again.

  8. fearandloathing says:

    Totally fell in love with the first, not so much with the second. The hospital level and the music (scattle – flatline), wuw such memories! As a eternal metalhead, the game was the only thing that made me love techno,disco,dubstep or whatever you call it.

  9. Laurentius says:

    I thought it is not for me for a long time and only took a really try at it after beating Hotline Miami 2. So HM is good but HM2 is better game in evrey aspect.

  10. Faldrath says:

    It’s the only game I bought just for the soundtrack. The game itself, I played for less than 5 minutes. Still money well spent!

  11. Just Endless says:

    I’m gonna be annoying and express an opinion this site seems not at all into, but Hyper Light Drifter _IS_ that game. The one you’ve asked for.

    I’m not a backer, or particularly fanboy-ish person (the HLD map is trash and they should either fix it or remove it entirely and leave you map-less); I’m a guy who watched a youtube video and was like, alright. I think it has the best Hotline Miami-esque combat I’ve ever experienced, including Hotline Miami.

    Way less cool aesthetic though.

    • Flit says:

      Huh, I hadn’t drawn the parallel between the two games but you’re absolutely right. They both have rapid combat that plays out like a puzzle, rewarding you for thinking ahead and learning from countless deaths. For me Hotline is one notch above Hyper Light Drifter for its compulsive replayability, but Hyper definitely achieves a similar glorious “flow state”.

      Also they both have killer (completely different!) soundtracks.

    • dirtrobot says:

      Hmm the key diff for me is HLM has me stalking waiting for the perfect moment to take out 5 guys with exquisite chain hit timing. HLD has me zipping all over and over and over chipping away at enemies. HLM requires ultimate commitment, HLD requires more concentration over longer periods of time and is far less satisfying.

  12. Risingson says:

    I did, and I loved it. The fast crazy pace of it is what really stands out

  13. onodera says:

    Unfortunately, HM2 was not as good as the original. HM was about improvisations, you could jazz through the level, freely mixing up your tactics, even though the right part of the sauna level was hard to beat without an assault rifle. Only one Biker mission forced you to take out the goons in a specific order.

    HM2, on the other hand, has lots of levels like the cargo ship and that goddamn mafia skyscraper which made me abandon the game, where there’s one path to victory and you cannot make a single mistake along the way.

  14. baozi says:

    Yep, one of my favorite games. I think it should be #1 on the RPS 25 Best Action Games.

  15. E_FD says:

    I loved everything about Hotline Miami except the actual gameplay, which is an excruciating slog.

    Which is a shame, because aesthetically it’s phenomenal.

  16. aoanla says:

    Yeah, this for me, too – it seems that a reasonable chunk of the comments section bought it for the music (I certainly did), but didn’t really get the game itself (I found it far to reliant on reactions which I simply don’t have, and trial and error gameplay for me to get past the first few levels).

  17. LogicalDash says:

    Hotline Miami didn’t subvert shit. It called attention to its own up-fuckedness and the viewer’s complicity and that made people feel bad about enjoying it, which in turn made them feel better about enjoying it, because critical detachment.