The 8 Best Games Set In The ’50s
Here’s a game-worthy scenario. You steal a time machine and travel back to the 1950s. Anticipating your first glimpse of Marilyn Monroe, you are shocked instead to see grandpa and Nana as baby boomers, hunched over ancient CRT monitors, blazing away at the latest electronic game!
Yep, the 50s were not only a pivotal time in US and world history because of post-WWII wealth, fears of alien invasion, the cold war, and civil rights. They were also the beginning of the booming (see what I did there?) video game industry we enjoy today.
The great thing is, you don’t need to have lived in this period to experience it. Through the magic of gaming, you can, today, see the world through grandpa’s eyes. So, if you are keen, take a walk through a time not so far gone with this guide to the best games set in the 50s.
Destroy All Humans!
The 1950s were rife with rumors of an imminent alien invasion. It is this mass hysteria that developers Black Forest Games and Pandemic Studios, and publishers THQ Nordic capture so aptly in their 1959 setting Destroy All Humans!
Destroy All Humans! was released in 2020 and is available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, and Google Stadia.
The game is a worthy reimagining of the original Destroy All Humans! Which was released in 2005. That first game of the alien action-adventure franchise was also a product of the Pandemic Studios/THQ Nordic combo.
One thing you won’t stop doing while playing Destroy All Humans! is laughing, because the cult classic takes the whole alien invasion jitterbug to ludicrous levels. It has a little bit of so many different ideas, evidenced by the fact that it is considered to be one of the best superhero games on Switch.
You play the really mean Cryptosporidium-137 (Crypto-137) who’s here on earth to, well, you guessed it, destroy all humans and recover little bits of themselves and their tech that your ancestors left with the humans a long time ago.
As the short green fella, to achieve that tall order, you will be relying on superior alien technology, psychokinesis, and of course your trusty flying saucer.
For the total victory of your new galactic empire, you will also need to bust up ol’ Uncle Sam (the US government), and harvest as much human DNA as you can from the pitiful humans.
This open-world adventure also allows you to explore American cities of the 50s in an over-the-top blast from the past style. What’s not to love?
What better period to set an espionage-themed, rambunctious fun game in than in the 1950s? In the 50s, both the cold war and the famous James Bond 007 franchise were not too far off.
This was following on the heels of other espionage classics like The 39 Steps and North By NorthWest.
It’s not surprising then that developer Necrophone Games and publisher Adult Swim Games rightly plunked Jazzpunk smack in the middle of this most infamous spies’ period.
Jazzpunk was released for PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, and macOS in 2014. The single-player adventure video game will have you taking on the role of Polyblank, a super spy that is every bit as capable as Double ‘0’ Seven, except way funnier.
Operating from the spy network HQ at Darlington Station, Polyblank needs to wade through cold war suspicion, cyborgs, robots, and all the other ingredients of a hyper-realized cyberpunk alternate 50s reality.
Love a gag? This game is chock full of them, and they are really good too. One great way to experience Jazzpunk is to make it not so much about the missions but also hunt for the latest joke. You won’t need to go far.
Period-wise, it’s a merger of the dying 50s and the awakening 60s, further enhanced by the retro 50s soundtrack, which has more than a dash of cyberpunk pop culture.
If you like playing ‘what if’, then Jazzpunk is the ultimate what if for a game set in the 50s.
So, first of all, Mafia II was first released in 2010 as the sequel to 2002’s Mafia I. Both games were developed by 2K and published by 2K Games, 1C Company, Feral Interactive, and Connect2Media.
Mafia II was initially released for PlayStation 3, Windows, and Xbox 360 back in 2010. Since then, it has become available on PlayStation 4, macOS, and Classic Mac OS. It’s not the newest game in the series, but is one of the best mafia games on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.
The first thing that strikes you about Mafia II is the impressive recreation of America in the 1940s and 50s. While the first game did a good-but-not-great job, this stand-alone reiteration presents a truly lived-in America of the period.
Sure, it’s the well-traveled mafia story: Italian immigrant Vito Scaletta comes back from WWII, hoping to get praise for being a hero. What he gets instead is the shock-discovery of his dad’s huge debts.
The loan sharks mean to collect and are not playing around. What is a Sicilian to do other than to toe the ancient and time-honored traditions and commit crimes for the Mob, to get paid?
Every crime successfully completed leads to more opportunities and goes further into paying up Daddy Scaletta’s debts.
It helps that the character Vito is one that a player can identify with. Sure, he’s a mobster but you get the feeling that he is basically a nice guy forced by circumstances to do bad things.
50s trappings here include mob slang, which does not always hit the mark but helps in its own way to sell this 50s-setting game’s story.
My Child Lebensborn
What could be more 1950s than a hunt for Nazis? However, in the social RPG My Child Lebensborn, you get to raise one instead.
Developed by Teknopilot and published in 2018 by Sarepta Studio and East2West Games, this game was released on Android, PC, and iOS.
As you play the game, recognize that one of the more disturbing aspects of this RPG is that it’s a chilly instance of fact meeting fiction.
The Lebensborn program was responsible for thousands of children being born in Europe, particularly in Norway, as Hitler and SS boss Himmler tried to initiate their Aryan master race.
It must be noted that this game might not be for everyone. As the guardian of a Norwegian Lebensborn, you must undertake a task that is simultaneously disturbing as well as rewarding. Your duty is to make sure your young ward grows up to be a healthy child, protected from the inevitable bullying that arises because of his parentage.
Unlike other games in this series of best games set in the 50s, your character lives in Europe. The challenge lies mostly in making everyday decisions. This borders on issues like whether you can afford luxuries, as well as food, or trying to find the child’s real parents.
My Child Lebensborn represents a grimmer side of living in the 50s but does not lose its value in any way on account of this.
Conway: Disappearance At Dahlia View
Child abductions are unfortunately as much a part of our present-day reality as they were in the 50s. Based on that fact, Conway: Disappearance At Dahlia View could have been set at any period really.
The 50s setting does not particularly add to the game unless you want to factor in that the same period gave us such great detective thriller writers as John Le Carr.
Conway: Disappearance At Dahlia View is nonetheless an excellent puzzle game developed by White Paper Games and published by Fireshine Games in 2021. The game is available for Microsoft Windows PCs, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and PlayStation 5.
Again, like the previous game on this list, it’s set in Europe, this time England. You play Robert Conway, an invalid virtually living in a wheelchair beside the window of his upstairs flat in Dahlia View Terrace.
Rob is also a retired PI, and when an 8-year-old goes missing, he grabs his camera to investigate the highly suspicious neighbors for clues about the child abduction.
The puzzle game is evenly divided into four chapters as Robert investigates his four neighbor suspects. As mentioned before, the 50s setting does not influence the game, except, for instance, in terms of technology.
All Robert Conway has going for him is his old camera and less than maneuverable wheelchair as he leaves his upstairs perch to take the investigations to the suspects below.
Summarily, this is a smart and entertaining whodunnit that’ll cause the hours to pass quite nicely.
From the same minds that brought us Until Dawn, comes the prequel, The Inpatient, a VR horror single player that takes place in 1952, some 63 years before the events of Until Dawn.
Following game development by Supermassive Games, The Inpatient was published in January 2018 by Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe and Sony Interactive Entertainment. It was released straight to Sony’s PlayStation 4 platform.
The horror VR takes place in Blackwood Pines Sanatorium, an off-the-beaten-track rehabilitation center in Canada. Following a mine accident, patients have been admitted to the facility to aid their recovery from trauma-induced amnesia.
You are one of these inpatients and can choose your character from options that allow you to select between ethnicities.
From normal-looking circumstances, as you try to piece your forgotten past together, you begin to sense that the facility has quite a few dark secrets. Secrets you need to solve before your total descent into nightmarish insanity.
The Inpatient’s Canadian lonely locale is perfect for its haunting subject matter. The 50s setting also certainly adds to the overall ambiance. In as much as it is part of a past when institutions could get away with less-than-stellar goings on, compared to the openness of social media speeded access today.
Sony’s VR headset and DualShock controller make the game a more immersive experience, as do features like using your actual voice for voiceovers.
This horror VR is one of the most disturbing game adventures you can get on PlayStation but in a good way.
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea
I’m of the strong opinion that BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea does for the Bioshock game franchise, the same service that the End Game movie does for the Avengers universe: That is, firmly tying up the loose ends and making the narrative that much clearer and understandable.
The two-episode BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea was developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games in November 2013 and March 2014 respectively.
This expansion to BioShock Infinite was first available on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC, before its release for Linux and macOS.
The single-player shooter has you playing Booker Dewitthe as usual, helped (sometimes anyway) by Elizabeth. All in the Underground City Rapture, pre its destruction, on New Year’s Eve, 1958.
In this game, Elizabeth has Booker Dewitthe hunting for a missing girl. Booker is a detective here, by the way, and has absolutely no knowledge of the events in BioShock Infinite.
As per her non-disruptive AI helper brief, Elizabeth continues health-tossing and tear-making and is just as smart, but don’t expect her to kill any enemies still.
At least one new weapon and some variations in gameplay make this as on-the-edge as you would expect. One thing to beware of: you won’t get enemies cleared rooms in this game as was possible in Infinite. So, there will always be a bad guy lurking about.
Rapture in the 50s is every bit as breathtaking as Columbia before it, which adds a lot to the allure of this DLC. For a game set in the 50s, it’s a beauty.
9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek
9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek makes up for in story what it lacks in game design and graphics aesthetics. While the former’s predictability is acceptable due to its sweet attempts, the latter ultimately does little to help this hidden object puzzler.
However, that is not to say that 9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek is a bad game. No, merely, an unpretentious one that does what it advertises: provide a few hours of low cerebral entertainment.
On occasion, it may even surprise you.
The adventure video game was developed by Artifex Mundi and Tap It Games. It was first released to PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One in November 2013 by publishers Artifex Mundi, G5 Entertainment, and Viva Media.
Set in the 50s, this paranormal adventure captures the noir style of cinema made popular in the 40s and 50s by Hollywood classics such as Strangers on a Train (1951) and Touch of Evil (1958).
You play a paranormal private investigator on a quest to save her journalist friend, Helen, after a frantic call from the latter. When you arrive at Serpent Creek, it is to meet a curious snake-like being, snakes all over town, and no Helen.
In the process of piecing together puzzles, you will uncover a serpentine plot to awaken the snake god and have him take over the world – if they can get through you first.
Small town USA of the 50s comes alive quite well in Serpent Creek, and it offers a lot to anyone who’s looking for a fun gaming experience from that time period.