Museums in Videogames
The staff missed the Centre very much over lockdown, and so were spending time reminiscing about their favourite museums that are in video games.
Our museum collection contains over 13,000 video games, but how many video games contain museums?
Some of the team have put together a pretty comprehensive list...
Katrina: Design & Communications Officer & Serial Point-and-Clicker
In Sam & Max Hit The Road I suppose you could call the giant ball of twine a museum - or was it just an attraction? The Mystery Vortex had a museum gift shop so that definitely counts! I can remember that section being the hardest part of the game for me to make sense of, with the changing perspectives and light puzzles. I’ve seen trailers for Superliminal, a new perspective-shifting game for the Switch and that actually reminded me of this!
Hello Kitty no Magical Museum for Game Boy Color is an incredibly simple yet charming little puzzle game, released exclusively in Japan in 1999. Fortunately for me, you don’t need much Japanese understanding to play. As you complete levels you unlock a new piece of art to look at on your tiny screen. (Does that make it an art gallery as opposed to a museum?)
Mystery Files: Secret of Tunguska on Nintendo DS is a game that I’m currently playing through, it starts in a traditional museum where your father works as a scientist and goes missing under suspicious circumstances. I’m enjoying how this game allows you to pick up loads of items so the puzzle is really more about how to use them with each other than finding things. Sometimes you use the same item more than once, which to me is quite unusual for a point-and-click type game.
Guide du Louvre I had to mention this... One day I will get a physical copy of the guide book for The Louvre on 3DS. They launched this in 2013, and still offer 3DS console rentals for this on entry to the museum currently! I do wonder why they made a different copy for each language, and didn’t make one universal game cartridge, though. I don’t even mind which language, I just want it in my collection!
On the topic of the Louvre, it’s also a bus stop location in the Paris level of Snakeybus, a wacky 3D game based on the Snake game we all loved on our early Nokia phones. You drive in levels, some loosely based on real-world locations, getting a longer and longer bus as you pick up more passengers at each stop. There’s also an entire level called Museum, but it’s just a weird figure-of-8 maze without any exhibits.
In Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, you visit a museum set in the future. One of the items you need to retrieve - perhaps your Smokey the Fire Engine lunchbox - has been stored as an exhibit and you need to find (in this case) a food receptacle from a different era to replace it. This game actually randomizes the puzzles each time you play so it could be your calculator which you need to replace with an equivalent exhibit, or your history essay!
We are all very new to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but you collect and donate fossils, bugs, and fish just as before, but paintings don’t seem to be present (yet?). I’ve got my eye on the stairs at the entrance that appear to lead to nowhere at the moment. I’m hoping that space will open up soon and perhaps I can curate my own exhibits there just like in New Leaf!
Dan: Learning Coach and Farming Simulator enthusiast
Uncharted 3 - The second stage of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 3 is a flashback to when Nathan Drake was a child, looking in a museum in Colombia for a ring that belonged to his ancestor, Sir Francis Drake. It just so happens to be the museum where Nate met his mentor and life-long friend, Sully. Not much of a fan of the series, truth be told. Always loved the exploring and puzzle solving, just found the combat bored me to tears.
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness - Lara Croft sneaks around the Louvre in search for a painting that might just clear her of the murder of her mentor. It’s a Tomb Raider game devoid of any tombs, which went down as well as could be expected. The Louvre seems to be a running theme in videogame museums…
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars - American tourist George Stobbart stops off at Musée Crune on his Europe-wide quest to solve the mystery of a cafe bombing. Classic point and click adventure, with only mild moon-logic puzzle solutions (the goat, anyone?).
Picross 2 - Now, I’m not entirely sure that this is set in a museum, but Mario is dressed as an explorer going from room to room excavating pictures from stone slabs. Don’t much care as it’s just an excuse to talk about my favourite puzzles games of all time! Do love me some nonograms, and the Jupiter/Nintendo collections are pretty much the greatest.
Bart Vs the Space Mutants - Level four of this wacky (bad?) NES platform game takes place in the Springfield Museum of Natural History. As a big Simpsons fan as a kid I had to have this game. Turns out, it wasn’t that great. Playing it again to get the screenshot caused significant rage.
Resident Evil 2 - Before becoming the headquarters for the Raccoon City Police Department the building was actually a museum, which goes some way to explaining all the random steps necessary just to open doors.
Jude: Archivist and follower of Blathers
Stardew Valley - Unlike Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Pelican Town's very own Museum/Library is at least already built when you arrive, but has nothing in it until you start digging up artefacts and lost books. As a reward for eventually filling half of the exhibition space, cowboy-hatted curator Gunther inexplicably gives you a key to the town sewers. Thanks, Gunther. Glad I dug up all those worms sites, now.
Skyrim - The fifth main instalment in the Elder Scrolls universe is stuffed with the culture and history inherited from the previous games. There are two notable museums: Museum of the Mystic Dawn in Dawnstar, run by a cultist who wants you to put the bits of a legendary weapon back together for his nasty god; and the Dwemer Museum in Markath, housing the golden relics of the Dwemer, the extinct race of dwarf-like engineers who died out, leaving their soul gem-powered automatons switched on and still wandering around their underground cities eons later.
Fable III - In the third of Lionhead's Fable series, while trying to complete the rare book collection for Samuel at the Brightwall Academy, you find a museum in a basement in Old Bowerstone featuring memorabilia from the previous games, including a complete set of the collectible Hero Dolls and the last remaining bit of Lady Grey from Fable II.
Adrian: Collections Officer & (young at heart) Animal Crossing God
The museum in Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS is a fun way to display all the bugs, fish, fossils and paintings that the player collects during their time in the game. Curated by an owl called Blathers, when a player finds the above items, they can be taken to him for appraisal. If the player donates these items, they are then moved into their galleries with descriptions. When all the artefacts have been collected, Blathers rewards the player with a model of the museum they can place in their house. Bugs are amusing to take to Blathers as he cannot stand them and is genuinely repulsed when one is handed to him! Paintings are probably the hardest to collect, as you often come across fakes. The museum is also the home of the Roost Coffee shop, and an observatory run by Celeste, Blathers’ little sister, where the player can create their own star constellations. The observatory hasn’t appeared in subsequent Animal Crossing games, leaving many fans disappointed. I do have a twinge of regret that I wiped my town in Wild World when I bought New Leaf. On Christmas day 2014, myself and a friend counted down from ten and then it was all gone!
Animal Crossing: New Leaf - on first appearance, the museum in New Leaf is not much different to the one in Wild World. The player will collect fish, bugs, fossils and paintings, as well as new artworks such as statues. Things get far more interesting when the second story of the museum is added. Now the player is given access to four more rooms they can rent at the cost of 10,000 Bells each. These can be decorated however the player wants them to be. Celeste is also on this floor, and will sell the player various cabinets and display cases. My own museum is a collection for all my Bug and Fish Trophies, and all the items won from rescuing Gulliver from the beach, a fair amount of my 500+ hours on the game have been spent furnishing the museum, and I’m still not finished yet!
Condemned 2 has a Museum level where the player explores a crime scene. This one is strictly for the over 18s, as the player has to go through the museum’s corridors and galleries, killing a lot of people, including a medieval gallery, in which the display cases need to be destroyed to collect and use the ancient weaponry. It is amazing at the start of the level, you are being as careful as possible in the museum, but in the heat of battle, that goes out of the window, along with the bodies and artefacts!
The Saboteur - Drive a tank round the outside of the Louvre museum in Paris, searching out and destroying a transmitter on the premises. My memory of this is just trundling round, getting increasingly frustrated at where I was supposed to go. The Louvre is a big place!
In Grand Theft Auto IV the player controls Niko Bellic, who is sent to a diamond deal in the Libertonian museum, where he is ambushed and has to fight his way through the museum to finally escape.
Escape the Museum for DS, stars Susan Anderson, the Curator, who has to escape from the fictional Natural History Museum after becoming trapped by an earthquake, there are 37 levels to the game, and mixes adventure style puzzle elements with items having to be found and used in the right order or place.
In Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, there is a level called An Evening with Infinity Ward, who were the authors. The player has to fight through a fictional museum. It is an interesting level as an epilogue to the game, as it features artefacts and characters from every other level in the game, including scaled-down models of vehicles. There is a red button in each of the three rooms that say 'do not press'. If the player does press, as of course I did, all the characters in the room come alive for as long as the player stays in the room, and they are vicious and relentless!
Namco Museum - These compilations are some of Namco’s oldest and most loved games, that are in software packages, but presented in such a way as to be interactive museum pieces, the original arcade cabs can be explored, and there are extensive notes on the history and development of the included games, after playing the games for years it was fascinating to find out about the thought processes that went into creating them. Taito, Midway and Activision have also produced interesting collections in this way.
As well as this, many of us are looking forward to the release of Mondo Museum, a museum simulator for PC! We’re not sure we can make computer museums in it, but we’ll see what we can do!
Did we miss any? Let us know!
Related Items in the Collection:This web page has a reference ID of CH57346. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.