Video Games [Heart] Chicago

A few months ago we wrote about how driving through downtown Chicago is an option in the new video game Need For Speed 2 Shift Unleashed.  After that was published, some of you wrote in to note that Chicago was featured in other racing games like the 1999 Microsoft game Midtown Madness.

Now Loop North News has a story about Chicago being featured in the new Ubisoft game Watch Dogs.  Here’s a video of the game in action:

The game was actually made in Montreal, but does a very good job of depicting modern-day Chicago.

It’s surprising that Chicago isn’t featured in more video games, considering its long history as a home of major video game studios like Williams Electronics (formerly on the Near North Side, now in Waukeegan) and Bally/Midway (recently bankrupted as Midway Games).  Back in the heyday of video gaming, Williams brought us Defender, and Midway introduced America to Pac-Man.

subLogic Flight Simulator IIPerhaps the best showcasing of Chicago in video games was in the 1980’s with subLogic Flight Simulator.  Its default airport was Meigs Field (CGX – now Northerly Island).  Millions of people learned how to pilot simulated planes by racing up and down the lakefront and looping around Chicago’s downtown skyscrapers. In 1984, before I ever learned to fly a glider, I cut my teeth on subLogic Flight Simulator on the Commodore 64.  That’s Meigs Field on the left in the screenshot.  Decades before anyone ever heard of al Qaida, legions of teenage boys thrilled their friends with what seemed like harmess “throttle – flaps – yoke down – hard left – Hancock Center – crash!”

At some point years later the game was eaten by Microsoft and Meigs Field was replaced as the default starting point.

Rampage video gameBut my first exposure to Chicago in electronic form was the 1986 Bally/Midway arcade classic Rampage.  When I got my Atari Lynx three years later it was the first game I bought.

The goal of the game is to destroy cities Japanese style, by controlling a giant lizard, ape, or werewolf.  The first city you get to conquer is Joliet, Illinois.  After that you can move on to pillage large cities, including Chicago, which is the first city you encounter with a train.

I recently bought the iPhone version (see the screenshots), and while it is visually and audibly identical to the original, a touch screen is no substitute for a big knobby joystick.


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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