What is it about?

This article looks at how seemingly escapist digital games set in the past can relate to the present. We chose four French retro mystery games as examples. These are: “Meurtres sur l’Atlantique” (1986), “Le Manoir de Mortevielle” (1987), “Maupiti Island” (1990) and “Croisière pour un cadavre” (1991). In these games, we found references to the Vichy State during World War II and to anxieties about the rise of the nationalist National Front in the 1980s France. Those anxieties were present in analyzed games with varying degrees of intensity.

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Why is it important?

Our findings have shown that there was an equivalent of the cinematic trend called “mode rétro” in French mystery games. This trend challenged the myth of widespread Resistance in France during World War II. In the games studied, ambiguous themes of unrequited war trauma and nostalgia typical of the “mode rétro” appeared. The current was dictated by the need of the moment because at the time of the National Front's heightened popularity, all four games from 1986-1991 had won awards at industry festivals. After 1991, the current ceased to be essentially present.


In our opinion, digital games, as if they were not escapist, always say a lot about the present in which they are created. The games studied might be purely considered a manifestation of unintentional nostalgia for times gone by, but behind them lies some truth about the dark times of the release.

Filip Jankowski
Uniwersytet Jagiellonski w Krakowie

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This page is a summary of: La mode rétro: French mystery games – Between nostalgia and historical revisionism (1986–91), Journal of Gaming & Virtual Worlds, March 2021, Intellect,
DOI: 10.1386/jgvw_00027_1.
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