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Unreal city: Digital versions of Berlin in video games

Enter a low-resolution Berghain, sneak through U-Bahn tunnels or tear across Tiergarten in Mario Kart. Berlin has formed the backdrop for some great video games, but which is your favourite?

In Real Racer 3, you can speed around Tempelhofer Feld in an e-vehicle, just like those kids on scooters. Photo: Youtube

With its iconic buildings and rich history, it’s probably inevitable that Berlin caught the attention of people looking for places to set their video games, but which of these digital recreation of Berlin do you like best?

Berghain – Minecraft

Panorama bar in Minecraft. Photo: Youtube

If you don’t want to wait in the queue or, like Elon Musk, they simply won’t let you in, you can always hit up Berghain in Minecraft. Wever created this has excellent attention to detail, but there is something a little sad about it. Heading into the deserted building, wandering the deserted halls, chilling upstairs in the deserted panorama bar… it’s like the pandemic all over again. 

Berghain / Tresor – Hitman 3

Which club is this meant to be? Photo: Youtube

In this game, you play a tattooed guy who wears a lot of black while trying to sneak around clubs doing illegal stuff in dark corners: so just your average Berlin weekend, really. The only difference this time is that the illegal activity isn’t speed or ketamine, it’s murder.

It’s hard to say exactly which club Hitman 3 is trying to recreate in Berlin. It’s a Berlin club (so maybe Berghain?) that used to be a nuclear power plant (a nuclear Tresor??) but it’s out in the forest and the door policy seems pretty chill, so who knows. 

HKW or the Pregnant Oyster – Mario Kart Tour

The pregnant oyster sounds a bit like a Mario Kart weapon already. Photo: Youtube

The congress hall of the HKW was built by the US in order to showcase the progressive values of the West. And whatever its provenance, it’s a beautiful building, with a distinct sloping roof. Berliners gave its unusual form the nickname of the Schwangere Auster, or the pregnant oyster.

Weirdly, that makes it sound quite appropriate for Mario Kart, where all sorts of turtles and sea creatures throw brightly coloured shells at each other. Just imagine the pregnant oyster all blue and spikey. 

Weltstadt Germania – Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order, released in 2014, is set in an alternate history where the Nazis won the Second World War and so, while this game doesn’t quite model a real place in Berlin, it could have been.

Weltstadt Germania was the name for the new World Capital Hitler wanted to create in Berlin. He made grandiose architectural models of it, but the truth is he only got so far as making a giant concrete cylinder (which sank deeper than it should have into Berlin’s sandy ground). That giant dome you can see in the screenshot above was going to be the Volkshalle, or people’s hall: a building so massive that clouds would have formed inside.

Tegel airport – The Bus

It’s raining! Photo: Youtube

Who needs fun when you can have realism? In this simulator, gamers can choose to drive one of Berlin’s distinctive yellow buses around the city. Start at Tegel airport (RIP) and head to Alexanderplatz. To make it more interesting you can alter the conditions! More rain? Yes please! Collect fares, pick up passengers, do your job: it’s a busman’s holiday!

Tempelhofer Feld – Real Racing 3

The vast space of Tempelhofer Feld has had a number of different roles over the years, from a grazing place for animals, a military rallying ground, an airport, park, temporary home for refugees – and even a racing track. In Real Racing 3 you can drive electric vehicles next to the former airport building. It’s a good thing they’re electric though – Tempelhof Sounds festival was recently called off for 2023 due to it being too loud for the new wave of refugees living in the airport building this year. Fair enough.

Mitte / Museum Island – Mata Hari 

Mata Hari was a famous erotic dancer, courtesan and spy and this game allows you to tour European cities having affairs and collecting military secrets. The Berlin section of the game seems to take place somewhere near Museum Island, where Hari is trying to gain admittance to a Grenadiers club. Having affairs? Trying to get into clubs? Some things in Berlin never change…

East Berlin – Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War

East Berlin – and the DDR in general – is an underrated setting for video games, which have overwhelmingly focused on the Nazi period, but everyone’s favourite propaganda for the military-industrial complex – Call of Duty – went there in their 2020 outing: Black Ops Cold War. Here, you start a mission on the U-Bahn, explore some tunnels, then check out Checkpoint Charlie and sneak around some nicely fitted out retro Ossi apartments. Nice game! Shame about all the obligatory murder. 

Tempelhofer Feld..ish – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

This is one of the earliest video games on the list, and so we’ll have to forgive it for seemingly having no idea what Berlin looks like. You play Indiana Jones on his hunt for the Holy Grail – and in the Berlin section you arrive in a city that looks more like a pre-war Nuremberg and meet Hitler, who quite bizarrely signs an autograph, before heading to an airfield and taking a zeppelin out of the city. Not depicted in the game is the part 10 years later where Indy sells that autograph to a suspicious Argentinian bloke for a small fortune. 

The River Spree – Don 2: The Game

This might be our favourite. Don 2 was a 2011 Bollywood action film whose video game spinoff was one of the last games ever released on the Playstation 2, and the imaginatively titled Don 2: The Game has a Berlin section in which you can speed along the river Spree and shoot enemies chasing you on speedboats of their own.

Maybe if they even get around to making Don 3, they can add a low-speed section on the Landwehrkanal in one of those inflatable rubber dinghies.