Cold War, as a historical period spanning from approximately 1947 to 1991, has been popular in movies and literature, but there were far fewer attempts to represent it in computer games.

Well-known cold war strategy games include:

  • Balance of Power (1985) – Turn-based strategy game of diplomacy and proxy wars between USA and USSR, famous for the game over screen in case of a nuclear war outbreak
  • Terminal Conflict (2020) – Turn-based wargame featuring retro terminal, nuclear warfare, historical leaders and events
  • Cold War Era (2016) – Real time strategy following board game approach to the Cold War period
  • ICBM (2020) – Short, multiplayer-focused, strategy game relying on direct nuclear conflict
  • Kremlingames series (Ostalgie, Collapse, Crisis in Kremlin, China Mao’s Legacy) – Strategy games focused on Eastern Bloc during the Cold War with retro graphics and unique gameplay mechanics
  • Twilight Struggle (2016) – Digital version of classic board game, in which two players compete for influence over countries all over the world

Common Patterns

Representation of the Cold War in video games is usually characterized by:

  • Focus on bipolar conflict of USA and USSR
  • Prominent role of nuclear war, usually in the form of threats, without simulation of the actual nuclear strikes (often to the point of game over in case of the war, following famous “the only winning move is not to play”)
  • Game-theoretic approach to mutually assured destruction
  • Distillation of technological progress into the space race
  • Proxy wars as the main agency of players
  • Simplification of the conflict to negative action (usually: coercion instead of support)